Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Papieren, bitte.

For those of us who enjoy our foreign travel with a side of surveillance; the U.S. Department of State is proposing to require a completed Form DS-5513, "Biographical Questionnaire for U.S. Passport" be included with a U.S. passport (now required for travel to Canada and Mexico, let's recall).Information required by this form includes;

Mother's residence one year before birth
Mother's residence at time of birth
Mother's residence one year after birth
Mother's name and address of employer at time of birth, and dates of employment
Mother's pre-natal care, including name of hospital, doctor, and dates of appointments.
Document mother used to enter country before birth (if any)
Circumstances of birth including names, addresses and phone numbers of witnesses
Religious or institutional recording of birth (e.g. baptism, circumcision)
All addresses from birth to present
All current and former employment, including name of employer and supervisor, address, and phone number
All schools attended, address, and dates of attendance.

And lest you're tempted to leave out that flop you crashed at between June and August your sophomore year in college, there's this little reminder: "Failure to provide the information requested on this form may result in denial of a United States passport, related documents, or service to the individual seeking such passport, documents, or service"

I rather liked it better in the original German......or Russian.

And the other thing that occurred to me as I was reading the ridiculously exhaustive list of things I needed to know about my mother (her employer's name?) was that if I was baffled by many of them certainly some State Department office pogue would be even MORE baffled.

Our congresscritters are whining and squealing about how we don't have enough money to help people who are sick, or injured, how we can't afford to pay people the pensions they earned, or keep the streets repaired or the park toilets clean.

Where the fuck are we going to find the cash to pay the State Department to check on all this goddamn trivia?

A Country for Old Fools

--Hanoi Hillary?

"Is that a Chevy '69?"
How bizarre, How bizarre

--How Bizarre

For my military knowledge,
though I'm plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General
--The Major-General's Song, Pirates of Penzance

--How'd you sleep?
--I don't know. Had dreams.
--Well you got time for 'em now.
Anythin' interesting?
--They always is to the party concerned.
--No Country for Old Men (1987)
Last night my nightmares returned me to the Vietnam War. Since time had regressed, Hillary had taken Jane Fonda's position, this time on a Libyan anti-aircraft gun, goofily looking through the sights as her assistant gunner John McCain prepared to feed rounds into the piece.

How much more bizarre does a nightmare get?
Fonda was called a dupe and a traitor for supporting the Viet Cong's right to overthrow the Saigon puppet regime, yet McCain has now supplanted her in supporting his heroes, who happen to be the equivalent of his former enemy, Victor Charlie (Sen. John McCain says rebels fighting Gadhafi troops are his heroes during visit to east Libya).

The Libyan rebels and the VC are the same critter: They lack legitimacy, are not in accordance with the laws of their respective governments and are in open rebellion. Does McCain see the high irony of opposing the rebels in Vietnam War yet heralding their moral equivalent as heroes in Libya?

Neither McCain, Clinton nor O-bomb-a can clearly explain why it is incorrect for Moammer Qaddafi's troops and loyalists to attack and kill rebels, while at the same time supporting the "rebels" for doing likewise to Qaddafi & Co.
Where is the sense, especially when a cash-strapped America must get the operational funds to do so at a Chinese Title & Pawn Shop?

In a word, McCain has once again pulled a flip-flop. McCain was bombing the folks of North Vietnam because they were supporting the rebels of South Vietnam. Now, he has done an about-face.

As for Clinton, it is equally difficult to understand her warmonger stance as a former Flower Child of the 60's. Clinton was the picture of a liberal intellectual, so how did she end up taking Jane's seat supporting the rebels?

Ranger wonders why Ms. Fonda keeps her mouth shut these days. Where is her outrage at the U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan? Where is any outrage for that matter?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Heads I win, Tails you Lose!

Many many years ago, I watched Dan Rather interview Ross Perot on the occasion of Perot's becoming a billionaire. Mind you, I have never been a fan of either of them. However, I did have to admire Perot's response. Basically Perot said:

Dan, many years ago, my personal net worth passed the point where my personal needs and desires were met. The point where the amount of money at my disposal covered every use I could conceive of for my own and family benefit. In short, last week, I might have had 198 times the amount of wealth a person could bring to bear in his own life. This week, I now have 201 times that amount of wealth. Are you asking if it is possible to somehow feel different? Now, since I put a lot of my wealth to work in my business ventures, creating jobs, if going from 198 to 201 means I will create more jobs, then yes, I am happier today than last week. But as far as any personal benefit, I passed that point long ago.

Rather obviously didn't catch what Perot was saying, as he asked two or three times again something like, "Yes, but how does it feel to be a billionaire?", and got basically the same answer. Finally, Perot graceful shut down that line of inquiry.

Now, whether or not Perot was honestly answering the question or simply trying to gild his image in immaterial. For all intents and purposes, what he said is probably true. One probably can reach a point where one has so much wealth that it is near impossible to really improve the luxury one can experience, other than bragging rights and greed instincts.

As the Tea Party threatens to block raising the nation debt ceiling, Perot's words came back to me. The Tea Idiots are offering a choice: No more taxes on the wealthiest and reduce programs to help the needy or they will damage the general economy, which will also hurt the needy. To use my late Uncle Sal's favorite coin tossing joke, "Heads I win, Tails you lose."

No matter what choice is selected in the Tea Party plan, it is the bulk of the population that will suffer. The 20% who hold the bulk of the nation's net worth and financial wealth may have to suffer a life style adjustment, while the remaining 80% may have to come face to face with considerable suffering. Joe Schmuckatelli, the wall street broker may have to forfeit one of his homes, while many middle and lower class folks may lose their only home. People currently making over $250,000 may have to forfeit an occasional gourmet restaurant meal, while thousands will have difficulty getting basic nutrition. Sally Joe may have to cut back on her health spa visits and botox treatments, while tens of thousands more will have to skip any doctor visits and prescription medications completely.

That's the wonderful part of our oligarchy. "Heads I win, Tails you lose". And the great unwashed actually believes there's a choice being offered!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Erwin Rommel's First Offensive In North Africa

BMW R75 with a MG-34 mounted on the sidecar belonging to the 21st Panzer Division

This is one of a series of posts on the 70th Anniversary of World War II. April 1941 is remembered as a time of Nazi conquest. Yugoslavia and Greece were both conquered as a prelude to Operation Barbarossa which was to begin in 22 June. While the Spring of 1940 had been a time of defeat for France with the expulsion of the British form the continent, the Autumn brought the Battle of Britian and something of a respite.

North Africa and the Middle East however were something of showcases of British success during this period. The Italians had attacked Egypt from their colony of Libya in September and Marshall Graziani's offensive had bogged down after advancing barely 40 miles into Egypt. The commander of the British Forces in the Middle East was a very competent by unlucky professional soldier by the name of Archibald Wavell. He unleashed his Western Desert Force (commanded by General O'Connor) in December 1940 against the Italians and the Western Desert Force (WDF) was able to smash nine Italian divisions, capture 130,000 troops and drive the rest 500 miles back across Libya by February 1941. In January 1941, Wavell also launched attacks against Italian Somaliland and occupied Ethiopia, both of which surrendered the following Spring.

So in March 1941 things were looking pretty good for the British WDF in North Africa. Enter Erwin Rommel and the Deutsche Afrika Korps. In January the Luftwaffe's X Flieger Korps had been transfered from Norway to provide air support for the Italian Army and had also denied the WDF the use of the port of Bengazi requiring their supplies to continue to be moved all the way from Alexandria along the coast road. The BBC has an interesting animated map of the entire campaign.

Rommel started his unauthorized counteroffensive on 24 March with the newly arrived 5th Light Division "Afrika", later the 21st Panzer Divison, as well as the “Ariete” and “Trento” Italian motorized Divisions along with what remained of the original Italian Army. He smashed the British 2nd Armored Division, advanced across the desert with most of "Afrika" while the Italians advanced along the coast road. He was able to chase the WDF all the way back to the Egyptian border, investing Tobruk along the way, but failed to capture it, which was not surprising since he didn't even have a full Panzer division at the time and the Italians were still strung out along the coast road.

What made Rommel's task easier was that Wavell had been forced against his better judgment to send four divisions to Greece at the beginning of March.

The Die Deutsche Wochenschau from April 1941 describes the landing of the German troops, this advance, as well as their reception in Bengazi with some interesting footage.

While the withdrawal of most of the WDF was the obvious reason for the British defeat, was it the only one, or even the most important?

Let's not limit this discussion to this one operation, but include the entire campaign. This campaign in North Africa while warfare, was unique to World War II in that there were few if any documented atrocities committed by either side.

I have my own view on why Rommel was successful in this instance, which I will share in good time, but I would like to hear what ya'll think. Especially given that these very sands are being fought over yet once again in our own time . . .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


How much pain they have cost us,
the evils which have never happened
--Thomas Jefferson

Had a brother at Khe Sanh

fighting off the Viet Cong

They're still there he's all gone

--Born in the U.S. A
., Bruce Springsteen

No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women

No fun, no sin, no you, no wonder it's dark

Everyone around me is a total stranger

Everyone avoids me like a cyclone Ranger

--Turning Japanese
, The Vapors

There is not much to say about the nuclear meltdown and concurrent problems in Japan. Not much directly, but indirectly it provides entree to a blast from the past, this one pertaining to Japanese terrorism.

The now-defunct international terror group, The Japanese Red Army (JRA) was synergistic and operated and cross-fertilized with other transnational groups, behaviors which elevated them to a significant threat level which they actualized on several occasions. They were a focus of law enforcement throughout the free world, though then, as now, we overplayed their actual threat capabilities.

All the little nasty JRA acolytes -- both active and passive -- were of long-term concern to the average Japanese citizen. However, their actual damage was minimal when compared with a real and imminent threat such as confronts Japan now.

Who would have imagined in 1975 that nuclear power plants would pose a much larger and persistent threat than the national terrorist group which was, in today's parlance, a kinetic as opposed to a static threat? Terrorists are and were a much sexier news story than, say, a concrete nuclear energy plant. Che and Patty (SLA) still grace T-shirts; not so, Three Mile Island.

Who in America would say that BP's Deepwater Horizon "spill" is a greater threat to our well-being than al-Qaeda?

It is by our own heedless negligence and incompetence we wreak more havoc than those who would wish us ill. A recent mid-flight "Hole in Southwest Jet Attributed to Cracks" could have been prevented with due-diligence by the maintenance and inspection teams. If shoe-bomber Reid and crotch-bomber
Abdulmutallab had placed their devices on top of the aircraft, they could not have done as much damage as our own neglect. As friend FDChief says, this shouldn't be happening in an industrialized nation, not in the U.S.

All of the major threats we face are of our own making, and eclipse the threat that we call terrorism.

Monday, April 18, 2011


--Arend Van Dam

It's a weight, a wonder that is wise

I am here, you are there

Love is our cross to bear

--Love is Our Cross to Bear
John Gorka

Dark waters rise and thunders pound

the wheels of war are going round

and all the walls are crumbling

Shelter me lord underneath your wings

--Shelter Me
, Buddy Miller

I've been a dreadful barmaid; please forgive (never mind me, just cleaning the baseboards, thanks.) In honor of National Poetry Month, a poem by Polish poet Julia Hartwig (b. 1921):

Yet We Desire It above All

Freedom does not mean happiness right away
the free world hides more traps than tyranny
mastiffs let loose from chains passions exceeding the horizon
steps entangled in the ropes of old bonds
that try to pull tight again

Freedom both for scoundrels and those
who sacrificed themselves for it
freedom for those who feel as pure as a diamond
and want to cut deeply surrendering passionately
to a new slavery—of hatred
from which the earth cracks like under dynamite
changing the course of rivers

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On a Lighter Note

I haven't put something like this up for a while. For those of us who are fans of JRR Tolkien, shooting has begun on the cinematic doublet, "The Hobbit".

Peter Jackson has started a FaceBook page to keep us fans up to date on the progress of the project.

Very cool 10-minute introduction.


The Speech and Looking for Next Year

I did not watch the "Speech" our president made a couple of days ago, I was working. Which in many ways, I could say, our president has not been doing for us citizens since January 09. However, I did see clips of it on the MSNBC evening shows and the accompanying comments and guest pundits.

I'm taking the Lazy Man's approach to this post, since I just don't have the time to compose my own thoughts on this; so here's "Scarecrow" from FDL, whose thoughts match mine. I am looking for someone to start up a primary against Obama. If I had the magic "Easy" button of commercial fame, anybody with solid and decent credentials ( as discussed below ) but Obama.

I like Dennis Kucinich, a lot.

The Main Event

Where's the president?

FDL's Scarecrow:

By: Scarecrow Wednesday April 13, 2011

In a memorable segment of the movie, American President, Michael J. Fox’s character, Lewis, tells the President that people are so hungry for leadership they’ll crawl towards a mirage and even drink the sand. The cynical President replies that the reason is “they don’t know the difference.”

The reaction of liberals to the President’s speech Wednesday reminds us how thirsty liberals/progressives have been for President Obama to show the slightest hint of courageous and progressive leadership.

So when Obama, who has repeatedly betrayed liberal values cherished by the Democratic Party since FDR, finally said what liberals/progressives have been saying for months, much of the liberal community cheered or at least said, “finally!” But this was easy.

This President has spent the last 18 months undermining liberal values, nowhere more blatant than his repetition of Tea-GOP talking points about deficits and debts, and how government had to tighten its belt because that’s what families do. What gibberish. His convening of the Catfood Commission, whose chair proposals would worsen the distribution of wealth towards the rich, and his partial endorsement of its framing today still hang over Social Security and other safety net programs.

Candidate Obama often told voters that government programs are both legitimate and necessary as a collective response to problems that can overwhelm millions of individuals if left alone. In today’s speech, we heard candidate Obama again, with only a hint of the Obama who’s been our President for two years. Which is the water? Which is the sand?

It was clear by the weekend that the White House was facing a potential revolt among even the more loyal but now wavering followers, so something had to be done. And they sent White House adviser David Plouffe to do it, on four cable/network Sunday shows.

My guess is that Plouffe’s priority was to change the subject. The new topic, which immediately grabbed the compliant media’s headlines, was the announcement that Obama would make a speech on Wednesday laying out his framework for deficit reductions. It would be Obama versus Paul Ryan and the Tea-GOPs. Great theater. Supporters stopped moaning and waited. Political genius? Hardly.

All Obama had to do was beat pitiful Paul Ryan, the Tea-GOP’s budget flim flam man. Ryan not only fixed the numbers, he proposed to dismantle Medicare, the very program the GOP ran on saving from the evil Obama last November. How stupid is that? And he did it with a set of arguments and numbers that were so blatantly dishonest and so easily debunked that he left himself and his party exposed. Even better, Party leaders and numerous Tea-GOP Zombies endorsed Ryan’s budget, making it the official Tea-GOP position.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that even the inept political team in this White House realized they’d been handed a gift. All they had to do was to restate the central premise of American politics since FDR: Americans accept that while we honor individual initiative and freedom, we also share a collective responsibility to take care of each other, especially in individual or collective tough times. And the core programs that honor that belief — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — are sacred. That core human value is not just liberal or progressive, though liberals embrace it without question. It transcends the left-right dichotomy. Every advanced society embraces it. The only people who don’t are Randian nuts and corporate thugs.

So I”m glad Rachel Maddow is happy with the President’s speech; Cenk was ecstatic, and Ed’s all aglow. But their President just made one of the easiest, most obvious political statements one can imagine, given how extreme and radical Paul Ryan and his Tea-GOP Zombies have become. The only wonder is that it took so long for this White House and Dem leaders to make this move. The argument was available before November; it was available in December when Obama gave away what he said today he would never give away again. But it would have taken a bit more courage back then.

So was this a great liberal/progressive statement by a courageous President? Yes, as Rachel said, he made a lot of good points — good for him — but points that have been obvious and unsaid for over a year. He only made them now after Paul Ryan’s radical extremism made them easy to say. What more could a courageous liberal have said?

Ask yourself, where was the proposal to provide additional funding to states to replenish their unemployment insurance funds or to relieve states of their huge Medicaid burden, at least until employment recovers or the expanded Medicaid kicks in in 2014?

Where was the defense of government employees and the sanctity of their pension contracts? Where’s the major jobs program for the 25 million still unemployed or underemployed? Where is the warning that austerity plans are already hurting European economies and could hurt ours too?

Where’s the defense of climate change efforts in the face of the Tea-GOP meat axe to EPA? Where’s the defense of financial regulation or the proposal to tax Wall Street casino deals or clamp down on too easy money flowing into derivatives/commodities speculation? Why was it okay to claim as a “savings” the unused funds for poor women and children merely because the states neglected to seek them out? What about the women who need family planning in DC?

The President got a soft slow pitch and he hit it out. Now, let’s see him hit a fastball and a curve and do it with the game on the line. We’re waiting.

{End of Quote}

Unfortunately, there are millions out there who don't have the luxury of waiting a few months . . . . for yet another cave by a Democratic president to Republican lies and insanity.


Looking through the comments, hardly anyone is persuaded by the "Speech". Here's an example:

dhfsfc April 14th, 2011 at 3:14 am « Anyone else suspicious that this “bold’ statement came one week after the Prez announced that he was running for reelection? He sure knows how to campaign.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011


It was on this day 150 years ago that the United States...weren't. The military arms of the brand-new "Confederate States of America" opened fire on the fortification in Charleston harbor as a way of officially announcing that it was "game on".

Enough ink has been spilled about the blood that was spilled thereafter to make any further effusion on my part somewhere between extraneous and foolish. I may just pick one of the Civil War engagements to talk about this month, although I'm starting to wonder whether anything about that mess of a fraternal slapfight was "decisive", given that we seem today to be as much a house divided, half Fox and half free, as we were back in the day.

But I will make one observation that should really be jim's, since he has gone further down the road towards recognizing that the first step to take when you set out upon resolving your differences through armed force should be to dig two graves, is that the capture of Sumter may well have been decisive in defeating the Confederacy.

Adam Goodheart observes as much in today's NYT:
"It is difficult to see what the rebels would have lost if they had allowed Major Anderson and his tiny Union force to remain indefinitely. Indeed, they could have couched their forbearance as a humanitarian gesture, a token of their peaceful intentions that might have won them allies not just in the North, but also – all-importantly – among the nations of Europe. Certainly leaving Sumter alone would have bought them more time: more time to more fully organize and equip the South’s armies; more time to establish all the ordinary apparatus – a postal service, a stable national currency, a judicial system – that serve to make government a solid fact rather than a speculative figment. Both to its own citizens and to the rest of the world, the Confederate States of America might have come to seem like a fait accompli."
Certainly the man who did perhaps more than anyone to scourge the Confederacy with fire and blood seems to have agreed. "They attacked Sumter," said Abraham Lincoln, "it fell, and thus, did more service than it otherwise could.”

I've always been pretty skeptical about the way we here in the U.S. seem to congratulate ourselves on our national greatness about liberty and equality. It took four years and millions of deaths for us to accept that owning other people like they were Cheeze Doodles wasn't really a good idea. The British, who made us look like pikers when it came to butchering and conquering peoples duskier than most Britons, did the same with a bloodless Act of Parliament thirty-two years earlier.

But, anyway, it was April 13, 1861 that we began our four-year internecine dispute over how the domestic help should be payed. Feel free to discuss.

Update 4/13 p.m.: One good place to start the discussion might be the fact that...
"In the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released Tuesday, roughly one in four Americans said they sympathize more with the Confederacy than the Union, a figure that rises to nearly four in ten among white Southerners. When asked the reason behind the Civil War, whether it was fought over slavery or states' rights, 52 percent of all Americans said the leaders of the Confederacy seceded to keep slavery legal in their state, but a sizeable 42 percent minority said slavery was not the main reason why those states seceded."
...as many as a quarter of us LIKE the idea of "It was OK to believe that black people are ownable, like Cheeze Doodles" (i.e., the "sympathize more with the Confederacy") and almost half of us are lying to ourselves about history, and not in a subtle "well, gosh, the historical record is SO unclear on this" way but a "Gee, I know that Jefferson Davis said that
"The condition of slavery with us is, in a word, Mr. President, nothing but the form of civil government instituted for a class of people not fit to govern themselves. It is exactly what in every State exists in some form or other. It is just that kind of control which is extended in every northern State over its convicts, its lunatics, its minors, its apprentices. It is but a form of civil government for those who by their nature are not fit to govern themselves. We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race of men by the Creator, and from the cradle to the grave, our Government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority."
but that doesn't mean he and all those other rebs committed treason in defense of slavery..." sort of way.

I know that the post hoc does not ergo propter hoc, but the fact that a hell of a lot of Americans STILL believe this crap after millions of people like my great-granduncle Richard died trying to knock the fool-stuffing out of their ancestors' heads makes me even more irritated with the Public as Ass; we often get the nation and the government we deserve.

And the fools that believe this nonsense, well...

Update 4/14: Let me be a little MORE explicit here.

We in the U.S. need to knock this Lost Cause nonsense on the head like a sick cat. Here's a good example of what I'm talking about, from Crooked Timber; the writer explains that he had to take a citizenship test, that part of this test was about U.S. history, and that the part about U.S. history said this about the origins of the Civil War:
"The Civil War began when 11 southern states voted to secede (separate) from the United States to form their own country, the Confederate States of America. These southern states believed that the federal government of the United States threatened their right to make their own decisions. They wanted states’ rights with each state making their own decisions about their government. If the national government contradicted the state, they did not want to follow the national government."
This is the "official" version, funded by your and my tax dollars.

Well, horseshit. The "right" the rebels believed in was the Cheeze Doodle Clause. It didn't have anything to do with how they felt they should be able to spend federal highway funds, or whether the tariff on imported goods was too high or too low.

Would it kill us to drive a stake into the heart of this fucker? To accept, as most Germans today accept abut Naziism and most Japanese accept about the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, that the South broke the Union on behalf of their belief that it was right and proper for one man to OWN another?

I don't believe that we'll ever really get there. But this sort of stuff shows me we don't really even want to start.

So is it any wonder we're discussing stuff like bombing for peace and punching poor people in a depression? Christ, we can't even agree that the Cheeze Doodle Clause was fucked up like a football bat. No wonder we're so ate up.

(Crooked Timber post here: http://crookedtimber.org/2011/04/14/the-civil-war-in-americas-narrative/ - for some reason my computer has decided not to let me link to stuff today. It's probably virused, and I blame it all on Congressional dysfunction.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stone Garden

In the bungling and bellicosity that constitute
the back and forth of history,

worsened by natural disasters and unprovoked cruelty,

humble citizens pay the highest price.

--Paul Theroux

Blessed [are] the peacemakers:

for they shall be called the children of God

--Matthew 5:9

I've got a tombstone hand

and a graveyard mind,

I'm just twenty-two

and I don't mind dying

--Bo Diddley

Understanding that a peacekeeping is not the same thing as a peacemaking . . .

When traveling Ranger sticks to the routes that lead to the small towns; his destination, to find the
heartland in each region. Much as in Europe, most small towns here have war memorials, and it is disquieting when passing through these towns, many of which so faithfully memorialize their war dead, to realize the number of men who were sacrificed for our country.

For the smallest towns it is almost outrageous the number of men who didn't come home -- men not easily replaced, men who were the solid core of a slice of America. The vacuum left behind must have been staggering to all involved, and the losses were not a one-time occurrence.

In one town, the Vietnam KIA's outnumbered the WW II losses; in another, Korea had claim on that honor over the Republic of Vietnam. One town among the many with such memorials is the tidy little enclave of Walpole, N. H., home to documentarian Ken Burns and located in the Monadnock region, childhood stomping grounds of Lisa's mother. The town is very much as it was 70+ years ago, and could serve as a Twilight Zone set of prototypical small town America.

The Walpole war memorial was one block off the downtown square, and was among a small walking area divided according to conflict. The names of the killed were chiseled in stone long after any heart remembered the actual faces -- young men forever lost.

The last chiseled panel was dedicated to "Peacekeepers". Not everyone realizes that peacekeeping can be a deadly pursuit, and many people died from this little town trying to keep the peace in far-flung zones. One wonders what peace they were trying to keep, and how long -- if at all -- it was kept. Whatever the answer, they ended up becoming a memory etched on a cold granite section of wall.

But the peacekeepers recede as one pans to the final panels, for
the town of Walpole has had the foresight to place totally empty panels of granite at the end of the wall, to be filled in as needed, as new wars arise and new dead fall.

Iraq and Afghanistan will be ninth and tenth on Walpole's tally of wars that have gobbled up soldiers as if they were Girl Scout cookies. Now, we can anticipate new work for the chiselers on a wall called "Libya", or maybe they'll go under "Peace-Keepers", depending on how the Men Who Label Wars decide the matter.

But whatever the categorization, servicepeople keep dying and some tourists dutifully witness the names on the plaques. The continuity of such death in a society dedicated to the pursuit of happiness is a thought worthy of consideration.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Border Ruffians

Over at GFT;The Columbus Raid, 9 MAR 1916, March's battle-of-the-month."We left the border for Parral
In search of Villa and Lopez, his old pal.
Our horses, they were hungry,
And we ate parched corn.
It was damn hard living
In the state of Chihuahua
Where Pancho Villa was born."

The Libyan Intervention, or a Nation Bushed? Part II

Day 17 of the Libyan intervention and there are signs that it may succeed in spite of a bumpy ride. The rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) has a website up and is promoting what appears to be a representatively democratic agenda. There are also noises coming from inside MQ's camp that he maybe thinking it's getting close to "exit time". The TNC rejects any negotiation with MQ or his family, so there is a ways to go.

The rebel military force is starting to train its volunteers and in the field is advancing yet again on Brega. There are workable plans for Western support in training these volunteers which there seems to be no shortage of.

So, in all, reasons for optimism and hope that this may still succeed in a relatively short period of time. The goal of the intervention being the removal of MQ's control over Libya and a fresh start for the TNC and Libya in general. Three countries, Italy, France and Qatar have recognized the TNC as representing Libya. I have indicated my reasons for the intervention which have not changed in my mind. They are mostly the same as those mentioned by Nicholas Kristof here.

The center of gravity of this campaign remains MQ's political base, which is seemingly crumbling. We have seen significant figures defect over the last several days as well as members of his military forces deserting to the rebels. While most of the maneuvering has to be at this political level, the military actions on the ground play a very important role as well reflecting the continued support of the rebels by the Allies and denying MQ any chance of defeating the TNC on the ground. A military strategy of persistence is thus called for.

At the same time, and contrary to the goals of the intervention, the US is signaling that they are implementing a strategy of extrication, removing its aircraft from frontline missions and limiting itself to "supporting roles only" (AWACS and C3I, but not combat missions are mentioned). This latest news was a contradiction from the day before when it was said that A-10 and other groundattack aircraft would be on call if requested by NATO. The A-10 is perhaps the best aircraft suited for this type of mission.

I am not arguing that the US should take on the greatest share of the air missions or that we should commit more, but extrication at this point in time is a truly remarkable response, indicating an astonishing level of strategic confusion, of no sense at all of what military force is about. By all means allow the French, British and others to fly most of the sorties, but support these missions as well, especially since there are applicable and ready US forces in theater.

On my earlier thread, the initial part to this one, I posted:

First, it seems unquestioningly obvious at this point in time that the US is still somehow traumatized by what happened during the George W Bush administration, we see military intervention/the use of force in exclusively "Bushist" terms, as either supporting or countering Bush policies. That is policy decisions which have nothing to do with GWB are seen solely in his terms, whether supporting his policies or not. It seems that in retrospect we are very much in the George W Bush era and will continue to be for some time, which includes the simple fact that his policies were essentially a series of strategic disasters for this country. We seem to be unable to break the mindset that he has imposed on us. Which is that any additional use of military power is inherently corrupt and done for unsavory reasons and will end up in disaster, thus we have become a Nation, bushed. . .

This notion of a Nation Bushed, of course leads us to the simple fact that we are unable and unwilling to hold GWB or any members of his administration accountable for any of their corrupt and possibly criminal actions. Not to mention it has become politically impossible to put an end to either of his lost wars (Af-Pak or Iraq) . . . So despite the fact that Americans are scarred by GWB's corrupt polices we lack at the same time any will to confront that reality. Instead we simply abstract those feelings to cover any military action done as part of US policy.

I think this pretty much explains what we are doing. We are not only a nation bushed, we have a thoroughly bushed President, a hopelessly bushed pundit blathering class, and in many ways a bushed military.

Colonel Pat Lang seemingly agrees:

Most people in the US do not want to do anything to help the rebels in Libya. A variety of reasons for this are presented; money, unwillingness to inflict casualties deliberately or accidentally, indifference to MENA affairs except for Israel and oil, etc. In truth this is all about war weariness. The Bush Administration expended the emotional war making potential of the United States. The staffs can "roll up the maps" in the planning shops in the Pentagon. They will not be needed for a long time. One can say (tongue in cheek) that now is the time for Canada and Mexico to exercize whatever revanchist and irredentist inclinations toward the US that they may have. . .

This is a dangerous situation for our country and goes far beyond Libya. The Arab Spring of 2011 has shown the corrupt lie about what has been the cornerstone of US foreign policy since 9/11, that being the Global War on Terror (GWOT) or simply the war against Al Qaida. If any one had any doubts even at this late date, it should be clear now that for the last nine plus years we have been conducting a world-wide struggle against a willofthewhisp. Al Qaida is not so much an entity, as a label we conveniently put on the reactions to our own strategic mistakes, failures and disasters. The real motivation/driving force behind the democratic surge among the Arab peoples is the corrupt nature of the governments who have been our allies in the GWOT. Al Qaida is not the response, it has no influence on the Arab Spring, no presence at all, but in fact only shows up where we in fact create it.

It's time we realized what is at stake in Libya and also what is at stake with our continued strategy of self-defeating/self-serving delusions. Let the success of this intervention and the birth of democracy in Libya bring us to the realization of the mistakes made and the need for a radical correction in not only our foreign, but also domestic policies.

The Washington Rules have been in play for too long. Now is time to formulate a new foreign policy which not only corresponds to our interests and ideals, but also to our current and future reality.


I would like to first of all thank FDChief for being a worthy and brilliant interlocutor on first his own and then my two follow up threads in regards to the Libyan intervention. Also, everyone else as well for their comments and thoughts. It has been a difficult, and for me at least rewarding discussion, and I hope for you as well.

While acknowledging the validity of those arguments against mine, I wish here to attempt to put the Libyan intervention within a larger US political context which I think supports my view however limitedly.

I've compared Obama's actions in regard to Libya to his handling of his Health Care Reform plan (using Glenn Greenwald's argument). Let us consider another important policy, also defining, but in regards to our military and foreign policy.

The official Iraq withdrawal of the US military is set for the end of this year, so Obama says, so it is . . . But we can't forget the rest of the story - we don't really wish to leave Iraq for a whole variety of reasons including having to deal with the strategic consequences of Bush's war, leaving those bases we built and of course "losing" the oil.

Is there still a chance that Maliki might "request 17,000 US troops stay after the end of 2011"? Possibly, but why worry since we are planning . . .

. . . to more than double its [The US State Department] private security guards, up to as many as 7,000, according to administration officials who disclosed new details of the plan. Defending five fortified compounds across the country, the security contractors would operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress, the officials said.

It's just like we never left. A new type of mercenary army? Ask anyone on the street about Iraq and they'll probably (over 60%) tell you - if they are American - that "we won" with whatever qualifications, a result of the "surge to victory" meme, and maybe even that we are no longer there. If you ask any person of any other nationality they will probably (over 60% easy) tell you that it was all a miserable bloody failure and that we're still there.

None of these three Obama policies (Health Care Reform, Iraq Withdrawal or the Libyan intervention) in question have anything to do with being straight with the American people, thinking or acting in the national interest or promoting and maintaining any national honor which we could agree on or even speak of. They are all about protecting and promoting the interests of the Washington Rules and those behind it . . .

In regards to the Arab Spring and this has been perhaps the defining element /question in regards to the Libyan intervention: Two Questions. What should our policy be? And where do we stand in regards to the Arab reform/revolutionary movement? It seems that we have decided. We are now with the reaction. Who in Washington would wish to deal with "Turkey times 5" (walrus's comment on this SST thread)?

William Pfaff seemingly agrees:

The worst outcome is, however, the one that seems most likely: a new American effort to manage the region through chosen political clients and favorites, in the self-deluding belief that this is “democratization” – the identical policy that has already given the region wars in or around Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the threat of war with Iran, and now the Libyan intervention. One must do better.

It makes you wonder in what way would Al Qaida be resuscitated? It would be part of the deal after all . . .

I don''t pity the Libyans, I envy them. Those I support are fighting for what they believe in, their potential deaths for their political and social communities have meaning (following Weber) in their people's eyes, middle class men with families are joining to learn how to fight and defend their people, their families. It's a bloody, mess but it is a bloody mess that they would rather be part of than see go against their interests, their common will for a better future. It is not about loot or plunder that motivates them, but the future of their children. Songs will be sung about them in the years to come . . . .

Saturday, April 2, 2011


According to the BBC, US and Egyptian SF trainers are trying to catch our Libyan rebel kinda-sorta allies up on the classes they missed on Revolution 101.If this hero is an example, they have a lifetime's worth of job security.

Jesus wept. TASF. And W may be SF, as well. We'll have to see.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Serenity Now!


So, is your glass half-full or half-empty?