Friday, December 16, 2011

Iraq and I Roll - Open Thread

I normally hate these "open threads", but, frankly, I wanted to hear from the other drunks in this joint; so now that the Third Gulf War is "officially" over (it's not, let's not kid ourselves, but the U.S. has declared victory, so let's make a note to file...) what was the takeaway of the group.

I did think that it was...ironic? Intriguing? ...that this week also featured two other events that seem to carom off the entire Iraq circus;

1. The official recognition by the U.S. Congress of what seems to have been the functional reality inside the Beltway for some time; that "We Are At War", and that war - where it is, who is "fighting" it, how it is "fought" - is whatever the U.S. Executive branch defines it to be, and

2. The passing of one of the most vocal, and certainly the most acerbic, of those who loved the Gulf War; Christopher Hitchens.

I sorta wish we had ol' Hitch this side of the dirt for this one; his opinion would be sure to jump-start the conversation.

Anyway, rack 'em up, as Clint Black would say.


  1. Chief,
    When will the Victory Medals be distributed?

  2. This week's events provide confirmation of the desperation of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex. In order to keep the ice cream cone licked, they need a serious "enemy". The problem, of course, is that there are no credible candidates. Therefore they have to yell louder in order to cover the fundamental weakness of their arguments.

    The internet has broken the information monopoly and the established control mechanisms are not very effective.

    Fasten your seatbelts, its going to be a bumpy decade.

  3. Hitchens had a gift for words and wit. But then he used them cheerlead the Iraq invasion and to lambaste Mother Teresa. Isn't Hitchens the guy who coined the phrase 'Islamofascism'?

    But you are right Chief to want to hear his words now. Since Iraq is now under the domination of the Iranian Ayatollahs nowadays, you have to wonder whether old Hitch, the defender and friend of Salmon Rushdie, would recant his position on the Bush feud against Saddam????

  4. I'm just glad we're out of there.

    Sorry I haven't been around much, but we are about to PCS to Florida and with the holidays and all the other crap going on, I don't have much free time.

  5. @mike

    I never was a follower of Hitchen's writings and opinion, and I thought in my admittedly biased opinion that he was a contrarian who used the resulting publicity to promote himself, to keep his name atop the bubbling stew of the Babbling Horde of Opinionists.

    Biased, because the only reason I would look over his writing was from criticism from other writers I respected.

    The Cream of the Crop of Babblers, IOW. :)

    The legacy of OIF is that the worst elements of our society came to the top.

    The Yellow Journalism of Rupert Murdoch's Empire and the failure of the "respectable" ( at least in name ) media for the most part to counter it.

    The laziness or Hubris of the Bushies once in power to ignore the warnings of the previous administration about the rising threat of terrorism against this country and even credible warnings from our intelligence given during the summer of 2001.

    The failure of the leadership in the opposition party against the Republicans in the early 2000s, and yes, even in that ill-fated November 2000 national election right up to the SCOTUS making the decision to install Dubya into the White House.

    The accelerated shredding of our Constitutional and Civil Rights from the "search now ask a judge later" activities of the 90s through the mis-named Patriot Act to the present indefinite military detentions in the NDAA, that our "liberal" present president will refuse to veto.

    The irresponsibility of the "we don't need to raise no stinkin' taxes" philosophy of national finance taken to new levels in the Credit Card Wars of Aghanistan and Iraq, and then to the immorality of cutting the tax-burden of the wealthy of the country and thereby shifting the cost of maintaining the necessary requirements of basic human life upon the middle class and poor.

    War Crimes given the political "imprimatur" of our ruling and legal class and employed in the Phony War On Terror (tm), crimes against which the civilized world fought just a little more than a half century before.

    The needless deaths and permanent maiming of thousands on our side and the tens of thousands on the other. Gen. Odierno was on Colbert's show last night, giving his version of the good of the Iraq War. He said that the extermination of a ruthless dictator who was the cause of thousands of deaths, mass graves, was a good thing, and the elimination of a major disruptive element in the Middle East.

    The Irony!

    Meanwhile, I saw an article about giant methane emissions from the Arctic permafrost and seabed, which is several times more transforming to our climate than CO2, caused by the warming of the climate.

    Like the release of the Mythical Titans from Tartarus.

    Soo, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All!

    Ending on an upbeat note . . . .


  6. For the record, I honestly think that the "big picture" outcome of all this will be...


    I mean, look at southwest Asia circa 2002; Afghanistan a bloody cockpit, sullen Iraq divided with a rebellious Kurdish de-facto state in the north and an unruly Shiite mob growling in the south, U.S. troops hunkered down in Kuwait and Saudi looking uneasily northwest, while the usual suspects gyred and gimballed in the neighboring Arab states; AQ cadres and wannabes, Palestinian guest workers, repressive regime thugs, petrosheiks and their larcenous entourages...

    Fast-forward to 2011 and what has changed..?

    Well, instead of a secular Sunni kleptocrat in Baghdad we have a Shia one who is loosely allied with Tehran rather than a sworn enemy.

    We have an openly-Shia "Iraqi Army" arresting and torturing Sunni internal enemies instead of a largely-Shia Iraqi Army arresting and torturing Shia internal enemies.

    We have an Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    But otherwise..?

    Not so much.

    I'll continue to suspect that someone, either Maliki or some IA type, will openly become the tyrant in Baghdad sometime within the next 5-10 years, thus proving that there's a ruthless dictator in Baghdad because ruling Iraq calls for a ruthless dictator regardless of the nameplate on the desk.

    And here in the U.S. catastrophic failure and criminal misbehavior haven't caused the rogues and knaves involved to miss so much as a meal.

    Nope. Betcha that the entire thing is a footnote by this time next year, except for the poor sons-of-bitches that have to live there. For them, it's probably a toss-up which is worse; the kleptocratic dictator they had versus the kleptocratic anarchy they have.

  7. And I'm sorry to disagree with you, Andy, but given the immense embassy, the "contractors", the strings we've attached to the IA...we're a long way from out of there. I wish. I'm afraid that we'll be paying the rent for this party boy for years to come.

    What a goatscrew.

  8. Hi all, reading Chief's post brought this blast from the past to mind . . .

    ". . . To 'declare war' on terrorists, or even more illiterately, on 'terrorism' is at once to accord them a status and dignity that they seek and which they do not deserve. It confers on them a kind of legitimacy. Do they qualify as 'belligerents' ? If so, should they not receive the protection of the laws of war? This was something that Irish terrorists always demanded, and was quite properly refused. But their demands helped to muddy the waters, and were given wide credence among their supporters in the United States.

    "But to use, or rather to misuse the term 'war' is not simply a matter of legality, or pedantic semantics. It has deeper and more dangerous consequences. To declare that one is 'at war' is immediately to create a war psychosis that may be totally counter-productive for the objective that we seek. It will arouse an immediate expectation, and demand, for spectacular military action against some easily identifiable adversary, preferably a hostile state; action leading to decisive results.

    "The use of force is no longer seen as a last resort, to be avoided if humanly possible, but as the first, and the sooner it is used the better. The press demands immediate stories of derring-do, filling their pages with pictures of weapons, ingenious graphics, and contributions from service officers long, and probably deservedly, retired. Any suggestion that the best strategy is not to use military force at all, but more subtle if less heroic means of destroying the adversary are dismissed as 'appeasement' by ministers whose knowledge of history is about on a par with their skill at political management.

    "Figures on the Right, seeing themselves cheated of what the Germans used to call a frisch, frohliche Krieg, a short, jolly war in Afghanistan, demand one against a more satisfying adversary, Iraq; which is rather like the drunk who lost his watch in a dark alley but looked for it under a lamp post because there was more light there. As for their counterparts on the Left, the very word 'war' brings them out on the streets to protest as a matter of principle. The qualities needed in a serious campaign against terrorists - secrecy, intelligence, political sagacity, quiet ruthlessness, covert actions that remain covert, above all infinite patience - all these are forgotten or overriden in a media-stoked frenzy for immediate results, and nagging complaints if they do not get them. . . "

    Sir Michael Howard (WWII Italian Campaign veteran, military historian, strategic thinker, translator of the most popular version of On War) 31 October 2001

  9. Chief:

    You miss the biggest failure of OIF: Opportunity cost.

    On Dec 31, 2001, the USA was top of the world. It had no peer threats and the evil terrorists had been defeated in a just, swift and righteous response.

    Things could get back to normal. The USA could use its dominance to continue the fumbling progress towards a binding international order which would constrain the actions future competitors like China and India when the USA inevitably declined relative to these future superpowers. In that future world the USA would still be able to punch well above its weight much like the UK does today.

    Instead, the budding international order was shattered as the USA did whatever it wanted. The end result was to piss away a whole *decade* while ensnared in trap of its own making.

  10. Chief,

    For all intents and purposes, we're outta there. The military is almost gone and the state people will get cut back too after a year or two. The contractors? Who cares. They've got no legal protections and if they want to try to make some money in Iraq doing what will be very dangerous work, why should I care?

  11. I guess my thought is, Andy, that we've seen this before in Iraq, in Fallujah, where contractor fuck-ups ended with the forces having to go "back in" to restore our honor or some damn thing.

    I'm with you, frankly - if you want to risk your ass for cash don't be miffed if my ass (which gets payed a hell of a lot less for doing my country's bidding) isn't excited about rescuing yours if it gets wedged in a crack.

    But I'm not sure that the U.S. government is going to be able to play it that way. Look at our recent involvement in Libya and the calls for our involvement in Pakistan and Somalia and points East based on more indirect "threats" than that.

  12. Ael: I think that that sort of calculation never really gained any traction in D.C., and I can sort of see why. I mean, the thing about soft power is that it's so nebulous; your tomorrow is predicated on so MANY things, many of which you can't "leverage" directly. So that tomorrow may come too late, or come with unexpected baggage, or not come at all.

    While killing people and breaking shit is so...definite. Conclusive, y'know? Add to that the unfinished business that the Bushies had with Saddam and the possibility of a US-led "new world order" was pretty much a non-starter...

  13. Seydlitz: And I think Howard's money graf is "To declare that one is 'at war' is immediately to create a war psychosis that may be totally counter-productive for the objective that we seek."

    My personal opinion is that the single MOST lasting wound from this jolly little war is the bipartisan mesmerism around the "We Are At War!" concept currently codified by the latest Defense Authorization. The degree to which this has become utterly unexceptional was the almost discussionless passage of the bill; the mere notion that the President - no, not even the President, but a panel of appointed advisors in some beige-panelled office deep in some federal office building somewhere - can decide that you, or me, here or there, if we are determined to be Enemies of the State...surely, surely for GOOD reasons, patriotic reasons, unquestionably unselfish and altruistic reasons intended purely for the protection and greater security of these good citizens and our great nation...and should be taken from our homes, or a street, and from thense to a place of imprisonment and there kept for the remainder of our natural lives, if that is in the Interests of the State is no longer a firebell in the night.

    And that is, truly, a very big step for the Land of the Free.

  14. And y'know what we DIDN'T get out of this fucker?

    Hot Iraqi war brides.

    Grandpa came home with sturdy British heifers, blonde German frauleins, sultry Italian sirens, and exotic Japanese geishas.

    Dad brought his Vietnamese hootchie mama or his Cambodian B-girl back to Chino with him.

    What the hell did this generation get?

    I'll bet that we don't even end up with a decent Baghdadi kebab shop out of it.

    What a fuckin' swiz.

  15. I do recall a story from the early days of our Grande Marche into Iraq, an Iraqi woman, a doctor, and obviously ( to me anyway )desperate to get out of the country, was interviewed on TV with her GI husband to be, obviously ( to me anyway ) a hick from Arkansas still wet behind the ears and first time out of his home state.

    I wonder how they're doing now.

    The Iconic Image of the war, the "Marlboro Man" was interviewed in 2008:

    I can’t identify with “home” any more. You drift from place to place, searching to find the one place you do feel comfortable that you can stick around, you can stay. It’s like your looking for that one place that gives you peace of mind.

    America’s always been looked at as the world’s police. And we’ve done that for a long time. There’s nothing wrong with helping people out. But when it comes down to, you know, okay, in order for us to do this, we’re gonna run your country, it doesn’t work like that. There’s a fine line between helping someone and you know, more or less taking over. And I feel that we do that. And I think we’ve really crossed that boundary with Iraq.

    When I look at the picture, I don’t see much of nothing. Make of it what you want, what you will. I was just doing what the hell I was told at the time. I didn’t ask for it, never did want nothing to do with it,


  16. Off topic, but I hope you'll find my thinking interesting. I’ve been thinking a little bit about the OWS movement and have come to some conclusions on which I’d like some feedback.

    Any number of commentators have been puzzled by the OWS movement and its goals and have predicted its failure. If my thoughts are correct, I suspect they may be wrong in multiple dimensions.

    The first and most important question about OWS is “what is its goal?” Most commentators believe it attempts to influence the government to act in a way that benefits its supporters and that its actions poorly support its goals.

    While it certainly could have started that way, I think it quickly morphed into something else, potentially much more powerful. I believe that the OWS movement is now about rejecting a government that is “of, by, and for the wealthy” and is about rallying supporters and resources while experimenting with establishing opposition governments.

    There was never any attempt to establish a unified set of demands and present them to the government. Instead they mostly spent their time and energy making sure that their members were safe and cared for. This the goal of local government, not a protest movement. A lot of the successes of the OWS, like the human microphone, left people feeling energized, empowered, and wanting more of what they had just experienced.

    Although I never visited my local OWS movement, I spoke with a number of people who did and they were in an almost religious ecstasy immediately after taking part and spoke quite strongly in its favor for weeks after even a single visit. I literally cannot imagine how the experience has rewired the brains of the people who were there day after day. But I can safely say that a lot of new connections were forged in the OWS camps that will have an impact for a long time.

    The locations chosen by the most successful local OWS movements were very central, accessible, and legal. This caught the media’s eye and they followed it obsessively day after day, which vastly increased its support and resources.

    The most successful OWS movements sought to accommodate the daily needs of the police while still achieving their goals. This made them very obviously NOT lawbreakers and increased the willingness of the police to let the camps continue to exist as long as possible.

    The protest season is over now that winter has arrived, at least in the northern cities. But I’m sure there are a great many discussions going on about what worked and what didn’t and planning for next year’s season. It wouldn’t surprise me if the OWS becomes more about ignoring the official government and taking care of the increasingly large number of American citizens who feel (justly or not) that they are no longer supported by the American government.

    “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” – Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

    What happens when the governed peaceably remove their consent from the government?

  17. Andy - "The contractors? Who cares. They've got no legal protections and if they want to try to make some money in Iraq doing what will be very dangerous work, why should I care?"

    Do you know how many people work at the US embassy in Iraq? NPR says 15-16,000. I suspect most of them are contractors. That would be about a division's worth, right?

    Do you know who's paying for them? WE ARE!

    Do you know who's going back to Iraq to support them if some of them die in the wrong place at the wrong time (think Fallujah)? WE ARE!

    What are the odds that some overpaid, overly aggressive, poorly trained, poorly equipped contractors are going to die in the wrong place at the wrong time? TOO DAMNED HIGH!

    Iraq ain't over until we get our embassy staff down to 1-200 and get the contractors out altogether.

  18. Andy,
    if yoy pass Tallahassee pls stop and visit.

  19. Pluto,
    I spent some time in Houston with the OWS movement and, as you said, came out of it with an almost religious sense, a feeling of being among the best that humanity has to offer. My middle-class friends would have nothing to do with the protest, so, without a car, getting there involved a 20-mile round trips by bicycle. But headwinds and all, it was a kind of joyful pilgrimage.

    Yeah, Pluto, something's happening the likes of which that we have not seen since Martin Luther King walked with us.

  20. Andy: The contractors? Who cares. They've got no legal protections and if they want to try to make some money in Iraq doing what will be very dangerous work, why should I care?

    Is there a time limit for my trying to come up with a reason for anyone to care? Big mistake from the start, big mistake at the "finish". Who benefited the most? Probably the contractors.

    Did the Iraqis benefit? Only they can say, and with the number of killed and injured civilian casualties, I doubt they will award a "Liberation Medal" as did the Kuwaiti's.

    For our troops - I'm comforted that there is currently one less cess pool where they will be sent to and shot at. All for?????

  21. FDChief-

    Howard's is an amazing article considering he wrote at the end of October 2001. No getting around that. Some very sound strategic theory here . . .

    In terms of strategic result, Iran is the big winner - a great strategic victory for Iran.


    Interesting description. Mine from a Clausewitzian strategic theory perspective would make two points:

    First, agree with Paul. There is a(n) (un)conscious MLK element here. If anyone cares to check my MLK as strategist post . . .

    Here, I'm only referring to King's concept of "tension".

    So what is that? It's a conflict of values within a political community, whereby the majority (in terms of "power") exercise domination over the minority also in the same terms of power. For MLK the tension was the treatment of US blacks, particularly in the South, and how it conflicted with not only basic American values but even modern assumptions in terms of legal/political rights. This value conflict actually connected both sides in the South since their common Christian values could not be reconciled with their policies once black people were effectively shown to be at least equal to whites. In basic human terms, all those black folks singing in those jailhouses after having been knocked to the ground from fire hose water . . . had at least some effect. Everyone involved was "in", no one professing Christian values was excluded. Even the white Segregationists had to believe that all God's creatures were equal in God's eyes.

    Of course today, in our 21st Century world, such ideas could be dismissed as poppycock, although King would have argued otherwise imo. Religious or spiritual values challenged into political causes. At this level we're not really dealing with humans as individuals simply making their own choices, but of communities caught up in conflict, where a different logic applies.

    Which is one of your comment's connections with the Iraq war . . .

    So, the question from this first point would be, where exactly is the "tension" here within the US political community today? In this view is everyone "in" or are there those "out"?

  22. Basil: Well, there will have been a handful, certainly - there always have been. When I was posted to Panama back in the 1980's one of my troops had a Panamanian girlfriend (who, I think, eventually married him). Same-same as your Iraqi doctor and her hillbilly spouse. Dougie was a real honest-to-god North Carolina backwoods goober; nice boy, but you could tell he was going to be a 14-year-old his entire life. Noris was stone-gorgeous, bright, ambitious...everything he wasn't. I think if they had been able to actually talk to each other (her English was better than his Spanish but both were pretty rough) they'd have run away from the relationship in a heartbeat. But he realized in his dim fashion that he'd never deserve such a beautiful intelligent woman under any other circumstances, while for her he represented a way out of the borderline-Third World poverty that was Panama.

    And much as I joked about it, many of the war brides from earlier wars were in the same boat. I'll bet a lot of the marriages in the late Forties and Fifties were pretty grim. Hopefully the couples managed to find something there...but, like so much that emerges from war, the resulting marriages must have had a lot of truly awful negatives all over...

  23. "This value conflict actually connected both sides in the South since their common Christian values could not be reconciled with their policies once black people were effectively shown to be at least equal to whites."

    Sure they could; racists have never been deterred by religious strictures. The Boers lived by one of those horrible Calvinist religions and were among the most savage racists on Earth. The racists in the U.S. never had to admit that blacks were "equal" to whites; in their eyes you could be one of God's creatures but still not the Elect - in fact, American slavery was justified for generations (and Jim Crow for generations more) through the selective use of biblical texts to justify the rule of whites - the Chosen of God - over the dusky Sons of Ham.

    So I don't see how there HAS to be some sort of acceptance here in the U.S. that "those people" are "people" in the same sense as the "people who matter" are people.

    We saw this with Iraq; part of the toxic legacy is the institutionalization of the rhetoric of "treason" and "traitors" applied by those who knew that they were fighting God's Fight against Islamofascism to those who had questions whether or not the fight was even sensible on a dollar basis, let alone the idea of re-invoking the religious wars of the 12th Century.

    So, IMO, OWS represents the same schism; the "outs" - those Americans who believe that codifying the transfer of power to the powerful and wealthy is a bad idea for the majority of Americans who are NOT powerful and wealthy - are attempting to use the tools they have to pressure the "ins" - the insular village of pundits, legislators, contractors, executives, and their various hangers-on - to back away from going Full Oligarch.

    I cannot see this working. There is no percentage for the oligarchy in reversing the ongoing consolidation of power any more than there was a percentage for (much) the same group that did well for itself in Iraq. The antiwar marches, the feeble attempts to question the AUMF in Congress, the Wikileaks...all weak sauce compared to the war-propaganda steamroller of corporate media, executive privilege, DoD PAO slickness, bought-and-paid-for think tanks, and the hard core of bipartisan support for the "American exceptionalism/national greatness" worldview.

    One would think - one would hope - that the wretched failure of our Most Excellent Iraqi Adventure would have produced the sort of public rejection and revilement that losing WW2 produced in the German and Japanese publics for the war-lovers. One would hope that the very notion of toxic swine like Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz, Judy Miller, Hanson, et al being given so much as a nanosecond's of television exposure other than as for an abject apology would be laughable.

    It's not, it never will be, and that alone tells you all you need about the domestic political consequences - none at all - of the pointless waste this whole business turned out to be...

  24. FDChief-

    I just simply responded to Pluto's comment with my own agreeing with Paul. There is a MLK element here and I've identified it as "tension" which is King's concept. He obviously believed it existed at the time, although one could argue that he came closer to Malcolm X's view towards the end of his life.

    Of course "hardline racists" wouldn't be swayed by religious values, that is as individuals, but we're not talking about individuals here but an entire political community in conflict and the values that hold that community together, which is the source of the "tension" . . . which is brought to the surface and exposed for what it is as part of a Non-Violent Direct Action strategy . . .

    In the South today, those same religious values remain if even in a diluted form, whereas Jim Crow is dead, which I think would prove King's point.

    My question remains: what could this "tension" be in regards to OWS . . .

  25. FDChief-

    One additional point for clarification. Of course the US blacks were "out" in terms of power, but that is not what "out" means in terms of "tension". Since tension involves the shared values of the political community in question which included both blacks and whites (including most segregationists). Tension is necessary for non-violent direct action to work, otherwise the majority can simply ignore, or even liquidate the minority which is perceived as outside the political community, that is an "enemy" . . .

  26. Chief,

    I think the key difference is that both Germany and Japan had been reduced to rubble by the war whereas the mess in Iraq for most people is something that is in line with an episode of whatever action series is currently in favor: Something you watch on TV in the evening. How many people in the US feel directly affected by it? Not many more than the military personnel, their next door neighbors and some journalists who have been there. When you're marching through your own city's ruins, it has quite a different effect. In post-Iraq-war US, being traumatized by it is still the exception, as far as the general population is concerned. In post-WWII Germany, being traumatized was probably more the rule than the exception. Add to that the very visible changes on the map, which led to Bertolt Brecht's quote about Carthage from 1951: "Great Carthage fought three wars: It was still mighty after the first one. It was still habitable after the second one. It was nowhere to be found after the third one" (And even there, plenty of people remained that dreamt of setting up another army as quickly as possible...)


    I think if there is a lack of tension then it is because a lot in the elite know that they pay lip service only to the values they profess to follow. But if you compare some of the actions and behaviors with fundamental Christian teachings, a lot of them seem to restrict their Christianity to going to church on Sunday... There is, after all, a reason why in Europe, the Church of England did a u-turn on evicting the Occupiers from the doorsteps of St. Paul's Cathedral - here the occupiers could use precisely the point that their demands are perfectly in line with fundamental Christian values, stating that the Church should be on their side. It remains to be seen, however, how openly the various Christian demoninations take a stand. My expectation is that especially with the more centralized churches, the higher-ups in the hierarchy are way too cozily settled in their Bishop's seat to dare shake at the status quo.

  27. bb - I hope you did not take my comment on Hitchens' wit and wordsmithing as an endorsement of his thoughts. Your opinion of Hitchens matches mine.

    Pluto - How many of those 15,000 at the US embassy in Iraq speak or write Arabic or Kurdish? Or Farsi for that matter, since Iraq it seems now is part of an Iranian Empire? Less than one tenth of one percent I would wager. I wonder also, did NPR say how many of those 15,000 were American citizens? I am guessing a of the great majority of the contractors are foreign nationals.

    Chief - During 22 years in the green machine I saw a great many marriages of young military men to ladies from Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, and the Dominican Republic. Some ended badly as you suggest, but most were solid marriages, with the same or perhaps even lower divorce rates than the norm for military matrimony. The marriages that did fail though usually failed much more appallingly than marriages to American girls. Being an abandoned war bride with hostile in-laws, in a country with a completely different culture than you were brought up in was probably pretty damned burdensome, and many did not fully yet speak the language. If Peggy Sue broke up with her soldier, sailor, marine or airman she could easily go home to Mommy, that option was not so easy for Yoshiko or Nguyen Thi Hue. I almost took the plunge myself when I was an 18-year-old jarhead and had a sweet tooth for a teenage senorita from Manila. Her family alas had better plans for her than a penniless Pfc. Not all of them wanted to go to the land of the big PX.

  28. seydlitz: OK. I think, though, that the Civil Rights analogy doesn't really hold. In the Fifties and Sixties I don't think that the civil rights groups had any hope that social opprobrium, religious values, or political "tension" within the hardcore Southern segregationist faction could or would be resolved by non-violent direct action (let's call it NVDA for short to avoid having to spell it out every time.

    What I think they wanted, and they got, was the effect on a combination of "in" groups - Southern elites whose commitment to racisim was weaker than their commitment to profits, wealth, and power and who feared economic sanctions and federal law enforcement more than they did their local crackers, and Northerners who saw the end of Jim Crow racism as something that they could do that wouldn't come back and bite THEM in the ass...along with "out" groups like the foreign press and foreign public opinion as well as the Southern blacks themselves.

    With OWS there really is no empowered "in" group capable of accomplishing the sort of pressure that the Northern Democrats and Eisenhower Republicans put on the racist South. Hell, that coalition (ND+ER+ACLU+SCLC+northern whites in general) couldn't even survive the transmigration of civil rights pressure to the Northern states. As soon as all those eventual-Reagan-Democrats and country-club-Republicans realized that MLK & Co intended those Negroes to actually live NEXT to them, go to their schools, and march in their Fourth of July Parades they dropped the civil rights agenda like a live grenade and moved to the suburbs and instructed their realtors to ensure the darkies couldn't follow...

    There is no real "in"-group constituency for OWS, therefore there is no "tension" within the system that I can see. Oh, sure, the usual fringe players make head-fakes to try and sell the rubes. But I just don't see the actual political throw-weight anywhere nearby. Unless OWS can actually mobilize a substantial proportion of the electorate - which I don't see happening; I think if we get Andy's collapse/catastrophe that it's as likely or MORE likely that we'll see the arise of a Romney-like figure who will argue for MORE "self-sufficiency" and "Keep America America" and will march us under the cross and flag to...well, you know the rest...

  29. Clausewitz: Absolutely. The U.S. public has no more skin in the Iraq game than the U.S. "leadership"; there is and never will be a penalty for failure, and as such I was speaking purely out of my own frustration.

    But I will add that most Americans like to see themselves as an "exceptional" people in an "exceptional" nation and, as such, you'd think that it would take less than an occupation of your nation to drive home the lesson that following knaves and fools into useless wars is a mug's game. But as your Carthaginians proved, that doesn't usually happen...

  30. mike: True, and I know some GIs and retired GIs with silver anniversaries coming up, their Yasuko or Gretel having become a helluva wife, often a mom, and usually an American citizen...

    But you're also right that when these wartime marriages go south it's often hellish for the foreign bride. Fayettenam in the Eighties had a hell of a lot of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, and Thai women working crappy jobs to pay the rent because their marriages had failed.

    My kidding aside, given the problems we in the U.S. seem to have with the idea of "All-American Muslims" it's probably just as well that not many guys came home with Kuwaiti, Iraqi, or Afghan brides.

  31. Claus-

    You bring up some good points, let me think about them . . .


    You've covered the "power" side of it, but the one I mean is the one of conflicted values . . . within a political community. The values provide the theortical fields of attraction that hold the different social elements together.

    I've refrained from giving my own view on my own question because I really wanted to hear another view before I came out with mine.

    So my second point is in regards to OWS, at this point it's basically agitation and propaganda, self-forming a potential political opposition. Mobilization in the most basic sense, that is simply trying to kick start a movement. The tension is within the 99. Showing people what it is in fact they are supporting and facing them with the basic reality of their situation, that they're chumps.

    There are a lot of highly competent, but very angry Americans out there waiting and eager to operate in the political that is the sphere of power, and increasingly power might be simply in the streets.

    The effects of the long-standing fear of this eventuality is obvious . . .

  32. -FDChief

    Indeed, it doesn't usually happen - quite the contrary, _especially_ with a background of feeling 'exceptional', it can create a feeling of having been wronged and looking for a second (third, fourth...) chance at getting even.

    In part, it was understanding this problem that led to the coal and steel community between France and Germany which has by now evolved into the EU: The effort to make the countries so economically interdependent that you couldn't fight a war against each other if they wanted to. Or, as Schuman put it to 'make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible'.

    You've seen this "getting back at them" phenomenon actually even on the Iraq issue. Even though the first invasion, triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was a success inasmuch as its goals were concerned, namely getting Iraq out of Kuwait and ensuring that it would stay out, it was still seen as a failure by some because they did not get to oust Saddam. So they jumped at the chance to "do it right" this time. We know where it ended. In a way, I also think this is part of the danger of not having a clear political goal - or not a single, agreed-on political goal. The more diffuse the "why" is, the more people will be left with a diffuse sense of lack of achievement - and the larger the desire to get another chance at "doing it right".

  33. The tension that Seyditz speaks of can arise from a sense of shared humanity, triggered by seeing our fellow humans suffer. Selma, the fire hoses and police dogs, made the civil rights protesters humanly real for most Americans.
    There is a dynamic here I don’t fully understand, but if you are unwilling to shoot back at your oppressors, to meet violence with violence, then you have to undergo a baptism of fire to achieve dignity in their eyes. Once that dignity is recognized, the oppression becomes an intolerable burden on those who must administer it. Life is, as Dr. King knew, ineffably tragic.

  34. Wasting no time I see:

    "Iraq's Judicial Committee issued an arrest warrant Monday for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who is accused of orchestrating bombing attacks."

  35. In his 1995 commencement address at Harvard, Vaclav Havel asserted that, when it comes down to it, we humans “have respect for what transcends us…respect for our neighbors, for our families, for certain natural authorities…for human dignity…”

    Evidence of that core, wired-in morality can be seen in the lengths we go to distance ourselves from our oppressions. We invent necessities or pretend to some sort of special sanction. The more sensitive among us hire surrogates and devise ever longer ranged weaponry.

    These defenses work in the abstract, but can crumple in an instant. In an alien crowd, in some god-forsaken slum, you look up and suddenly become one with a stranger. The connection is fleeting, but it is enough.

    This, the potential for human contact, is the tension that Seyditz speaks of. It is the rationale for non-violent resistance in all of its forms.

  36. Thanks for your comments Paul.

    Something that gets to the heart of what V. Havel was about and what his movement was not about . . .

    Is there also a Charter 77 "element" to OWS?

    Glenn Greenwald goes after Panetta's clueless comment in regards to the Iraq war, Hitchens and the Detention Bill . . .

    Does anyone else have that "fast forward" feeling? Like history is moving under our feet, that we are rushing towards something, or even are being sucked in by something, something big, something very unpleasant? A large dark room and the door will soon slam behind us . . . ?

  37. Yes, I've had that feeling for the last 5 years or so. I'm not sure if it is being caused by the speed with which my sons are growing up or if it is something bigger than that. Is there anything bigger than that?

  38. The first time I had it was in 1989, then again in 1991, but strange enough not in 2001 (9/11) . . .

    As to the children getting older, that's how I measure time in a way. They've changed a lot and having adult women can me "Daddy" is kinda different, but very satisfying since that is what the plan was after all . . .

  39. It all began with a question...

    "Aren't you proud to be an American?"

    Why would I be proud, I asked back.

    "Because, America is a great country!"

    Militarily? or you referring to something else?

    The answer I got was a blank look.

    I wagged my head, and all I could say to him was..."welcome to the twilight zone."

    I had to explain to this foreign national that anybody with a machine-gun can act like a god till the magazine empty's, but then what?

    So, here it is, and the song that Chief linked just made me wag my head..."I'll fight to defend my freedom!"
    My freedom was never in jeopardy from Osama Bin Laden...and herein is the issue I think we need to learn to decouple from the talking-points that our illustrious poobah's in government like parrot.

    Freedom, and life are not synonymous words, or definitions.
    Was my life in jeopardy from Osama Bin Laden...well, in the grand scheme of things, I guess if he had a shot at me he would take it without blinking an eye, so yeah, I'll be liberal with that question and say yes, yes my life would be jeopardy with Osama.
    But my freedom?
    Freedom is how I choose to live my life, choose where I go, whom I relate too, what I do (within the limits prescribed of law), and whom I sleep with. Osama Bin Laden was never a threat to that...ever...even in his wildest dreams Osama could never even come close to threatening my freedom.

    we're just another punk ass kid on this block of history that has the street held enthralled to our whim...and sooner or later, some country is going to be playing David to our cocky Goliath and take us down...

    "You hear that sound, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability."

    So, where does our greatness come from?

    I think it is time we emphasize the difference between great vs. powerful.

    The United States abandon greatness for power...the power to wage war, to destroy nations, to crush whomever it decided to break...and even then, we find we're not so powerful after all because our nation is incapable of deciding whether it is a conquering empire or a force of nature.

    So, no...we're not even powerful anymore, nor are we great.

    No, for us now, on the world stage, great is an adjective to describe our lower orifice tucked between the folds of historical fact, and documented certitude, in that warm, moist area called...the twilight zone.

  40. Very well stated sheer. But sad.

  41. Children are probably a truer measure of time than calendars or medical tests. The seven I have (most of them adopted) are now in late middle age. Some have been fortunate, others not. And one or two I love even more than when they were little.

    Not to say that growing old in the context of children is without awkwardness. One becomes something of a child in their eyes, someone to look after, to chive into wheelchairs at airports. And cussing or telling dirty jokes loses force. They just nod, and say, “Oh, well, that’s daddy.”

  42. Claus-

    Your comments brought this to mind . . .

    I had a post going a while back on this very subject . . . Solov'ev brings up many interesting questions in regards to his two aspects of evil . . .

    But couldn't finish it . . .

  43. Podunk Paul said: "...suddenly become one with a stranger..." and "...the potential for human contact..."

    That's the difference between the Tea Party and OWS. The TP's issues were always easy TV soundbites. It took the humanity away and made the TP just another news story. No one person in OWS ever put out a soundbite that that stuck.

    As far as imagery bringing it home, the campus officer spraying pepper spray in the faces of immobile, and docile students is about as close as you can come to fire hoses.

    I think that we can hope that OWS brings some betterment to the 1%. Some introspective thought. The realization that bleeding every last drop of profit, regardless of the human consequences, is morally wrong. Maybe even that some of the sentiment sticks to the youth in the movement so that when they are CEO's they'll make better decisions.

    I don't see much happening politically. Too many politicians are putting their fingers in their ears and shouting, "LA! LA! LA!"

    Eh, here's hoping maybe we ain't so fucked!?

  44. What I'm afraid I see, seydlitz, is just the slow and painful fraying of the industrial societies; I suspect that we won't see a dramatic door slamming, but a thousand thousand little doors closing; doors of houses as formerly middle class families get evicted, doors of schools and universities as education once again becomes the privilege of the wealthy, doors of industries, doors, eventually, of nations as the neofeudal elites retreat within their enclaves and leave the favelas to the rest of us.

    I think we'll look back on the last fifty years of the Twentieth Century as a time of great troubles for the West, but also as the great watershed of the "mass middle", a time when the average Westerner had a more comfortable, more secure, more hopeful life than ever before or since.

    I think the next 100 years will be a time of increasing uncertainty and increasing fear. That the elites - the 1%, the oligarchs, call them what you will - will be able to finally break out of the illusion of captivity they've had to tolerate for the fifty years between the 1930s and 1980s. And I think that we, most of us, will be too busy scrambling to avoid penury, avoid blacklisting, avoid being labelled "traitors" and "enemies of the state", avoid the looting of our savings and the diminution of our lives.

    I'm hopeful that the cycle will turn again in another half-century or so. But right now what I see looks bleak, very bleak, and the potential for nepenthe very far away.

  45. "I think the next 100 years will be a time of increasing uncertainty and increasing fear."

    I think that Obama is not helping this with the National Defense Authorization Act...if ever there was a document that allows unconstrained power it is this NDAA.
    I'm not sure how Congress could vote for such an despotic document without a gun being held to their collective heads...and yet, somehow, I think there was.

    I think we're going to be seeing a very rough few years for the next decade....maybe a couple of decades. I just wonder how bad it will get before it all blows up in a massive revolution.

  46. Chief: "I'm hopeful that the cycle will turn again in another half-century or so. But right now what I see looks bleak, very bleak, and the potential for nepenthe very far away."

    I see one potential hole in your argument. The elites really LIKE being in charge of the worlds largest economy. Taking this sort of action would put them in charge of the new Russia (or more historically, the new India or the new Mexico). They'd be increasingly in charge of a large corrupt backwater and less and less able to influence events in the rest of the world.

    Which do you think they want? A superpower under their control with a relatively small (50%) piece of the pie or total domination and 95%+ of the pie?

    I lean towards the first; which means they need to keep the infrastructure going, having enough educated people in the right places (more than the number they can provide from their own generally childless class), and avoid abolishing the middle class altogether.

    Another concern if they do go for the 3rd world backwater route is that both Mexico and India tended to have local separationist warlords popping up on a very regular basis.

  47. "...which means they need to keep the infrastructure going, having enough educated people in the right places (more than the number they can provide from their own generally childless class), and avoid abolishing the middle class altogether."

    But I think we are going to see just exactly how minimal both the physical extent and the social breadth that the inner bailey can be reduced to. Our old ideal of U.S. society, with a broadly based "middle class" distinguished by relatively open-ended social and economic choices is IMO going to come to a slow but sure close. The remainder of the "middle class" will be really no more than the janissaries or mamluks of the elites; technicians, policemen, soldiers, the dramatically shrunk managerial class, and a smaller group of upper-level blue-collar folks.

    It will be, in fact, much more like the feudal structure prior to the industrial revolution - that's why I'm calling it "neofeudalism". They'll hope to use a combination of force, enticement, and bribery to coopt the local warlords overseas and the vise of a largely ruined economy and physical infrastructure at home to keep the serfs in our places...

    I'm not saying we're gonna be living in hovels with pigs running in and out; I can't see things going as far as that. But I think that you underestimate the degree to which the people on top REALLY don't see how badly this could go, and how far they're willing to push things to retain or regain their privilege.

    The folks at the top in 1917 and 1789 didn't get it until too late, either...

  48. As the lights go out one by one, the best personal response may be as it’s always been – live frugally, build solidarity with family and community, take care of your health, scrupulously tend to small tasks, and try not to dwell upon what might have been. Freud says somewhere that the best one can hope for is “ordinary unhappiness.”

    Meanwhile, whatever happened to the book discussion theme? If it’s still viable, I would suggest, Luttwak’s “The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire.” The mind cast described here is radically different than what we associate with the modern military.

  49. I've got "The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire" in my "to read" stack . . . so it gets my vote . . .

  50. Sorry to hog the comments section, but here goes:
    Fr. John Dear, S.J., a long time peace activist, wrote,

    “The harassment reached a peak in November 2003, when the entire unit of the 515 National Guard, about 75 soldiers leaving for Iraq the following week, paraded up to my rectory in Springer, N.M., at 6 a.m. After marching around the block and chanting war songs for an hour, they gathered at the front door of the old house and started shouting their battalion slogan, "One bullet! One kill!" It sounded like, "Kill! Kill! Kill!

    "What to do? I put on my coat, walked outside and told them in no uncertain terms not to go to Iraq, but to disobey orders to kill and to start loving our enemies as Jesus commanded us. I thought they might kill me then and there, but they laughed and mocked me and dispersed. To have a local military battalion march on the home of a private citizen shows how far our country has changed. I think we're heading toward fascism.”

    I had no love for the Army and got out barely ahead of a general courts marshal, but, goddamit, somewhere deep down, underneath the bureaucracy and chickenshit, there’s something of dignity and value in the Army, or was. Now we have this. And, as per the National Defense Authorization Bill, it appears that the Army is fixing to be our jailers.

  51. I was checking something and came across this post that I had written up last year . . .

    Community and justice . . . today in the USA we have essentially neither. I don't really think this has been the case - to anything like this extent - in our past, so we're dealing with something new. What exactly is it that holds us together? Self-interest essentially, and perhaps sloth.

    One sees the trappings of community - we still volunteer an awful lot and there's ever soooo much happy noise at Christmas, but if push came to shove?

    What if the government decreed that all "enemies of the state" forfeited all their property . . . and the "loyal patriots" could divvy up the spoils?

    What would follow that?

    Not that THAT could ever happen . . . just like torture as state policy, or the military conducting domestic info ops, or the NSA targeting the American people, or US citizens (and their children) being targeted for assassination without any due process, could never, NEVER, happen in the US of A . . .

  52. Seyditz,

    Each time I visit the States, the mood seems darker, uglier. And over it all, an apprehension that worse is to come. The hushed conversations, the dismissal of victims from the mind, the hard looks people give Mexicans, the way Fox News blares from televisions in public places...

    Too bad, it used to be a such a fine country.

  53. Fear is an overpowering emotion. Stimulating fear is a very effective political and social tool. 19 guys with box cutters managed, with the help of the press and power hungry politicos, to strike fear into the minds of enough Americans to create the oft quoted "Post 9/11 World". What leaves me cold is that it has become quite the thing to to create "Enemies" for the system to harass (e.g. Hispanics) so that others can be "Victorious". After all, to be a "Victor", you have to have a "Victim" - someone must be "Vanquished".

    Oh how I wish I had bookmarked or downloaded an insightful article on the Religious Right by a sociology prof at a major univ. He addressed the concept of how "Good" was simply an opposition to "Evil". The more absolute the "Evil" the greater the "Good" one claim claim as one's own. Not a willingness to lift a finger or sacrifice to create "Good", nor giving of one's own to ameliorate suffering, just opposing "Evil". Not putting one's self in harm's way to defeat "Evil", but simply supporting (verbally is enough) sending others into harm's way to defeat "Evil". And, of course, from this mindset arises the need to always have an "Evil" to oppose, since, by their definition, the only manifestation of "Good" is the opposition of "Evil".

    So, guys, simplify your lives. Find an "Evil" to oppose, simply verbalize your opposition, and become "Good". Sure is a hell of a lot easier than lifting a finger to help feed your fellow human being, a stray dog or an injured bird.

  54. Y'know the other thing that gets me?

    If not for this fiasco the "Arab Spring" might have started in Baghdad.

    With a little help from the covert American pals the Iraqi resistance might have just managed to overthrow ol' Saddam theirownselves. Instead of a brutally inept, stage-managed kleptocracy we might have a genuine native revolutionary government in Baghdad. Brutal? Probably. Undemocratic? Why not - this is Iraq, after all; it spawns violence and brutality because of what it is, it isn't violent and brutal because of who its rulers are.

    But instead we the U.S. public pissed away who will ever know how the hell much on this fucking fiasco only to get probably about twice the ineptitude and corruption we'd have gotten if someone other than the moron-grade doofuses we didn't elect in 2000 had been in charge in 2001...

    And to think they'll never lose a moments sleep over that...

  55. "If not for this fiasco the "Arab Spring" might have started in Baghdad."

    I've been thinking about this. International politics is a pretty complex thing even in more stable times, and these times are anything but stable, so maybe it took the disasters of the last ten years to set the stage for what we see now.

    "moron-grade doofuses"

    I'm not going to argue against that, but would only say that Bush II is an adequate representation of the current US political elite, in fact he may be even more than that. We may be dealing with a person who actually sets his imprint on all that follows. Compare him to Reagan, who since his death during W's first term has been transformed into something of a Right Wing nihilist saint.

    I think RR had his strong points, one being his diplomacy, but it is difficult to square the reality of his eight years with the mythic stature that is accorded him by the radical (and even not so radical) right today. He was essentially a bust after Iran Contra broke and came across as confused and disinterested, except in his foreign policy dealings. So much of the hype is post-facto RR added on by his hagiographers after he had left office.

    Now consider W. His immediate successor ran on a platform to overturn most of what he had done, but once in has done roughly the opposite, giving W's questionable actions the seal of bipartisan support. Obama is very much a Bushist president and it is likely that his successor will be as well. How far back do we have to go in US history to find someone with that level of influence? FDR?

    Bush, as much as the arrogant, woefully unqualified, squandering disaster for the country he was, has set the path for his successors to follow . . . which explains ever soooo much.

  56. seydlitz: It does seem like what we thought was a bug with Dubya has become a feature with the U.S. governing class, doesn't it?

    But the whole Reagan myth sort of comes from the same smoke factory. I remember him much like you do, as a sort of half-assed wingnut whose administration had more than it's share of Nixon retreads, liars, and scammers. Iran-Contra was just the final product of a whole bunch of underhanded doings overseas. Other than his good fortune in being there when the USSR imploded, his legacy was a couple of nasty medded in the Middle East and Central America.

    But his partisans on the Right have beavered away since then to make his goofy policies look good in retrospect and put the shine on them as part of the same damn New American Century sort of project that their splendid little wars of the past decade have been part of. And those of us on the Left, sadly, have had little success in reminding the nation the the jellybean-gobbling gomer did as much or more harm than good...

    So in a sense I think your analogy of Bush as FDR works better with Reagan as FDR; both of them were the figureheads of the seismic shift in the politics of their days; FDR as the New Deal Era, the generation-long rejection of the crony capitalism of the GOP...and Reagan as its return. It's hard to tell whether FDR would have been as aggressive overseas as the Reagan Era U.S. has been - the economy and the post-WW1 public wouldn't let him - but he was definitely an internationalist and an interventionist when he could.

    So in this scenario Dubya becomes Reagan's Truman only without the brains.

    But whoever the main actors, I agree with you that the US as a nation and our governing class as a group is in the grip of a genuine rightward, militaristic, paranoid shift in fundamental political thinking.

    Where this all ends I have no idea, except as the characters say in George Lucas' films "I have a bad feeling about this..."

  57. Speaking at the annual Policy and Strategy forum at the Naval War College in 94 (IIRC), Richard Armitage said, "Let's be honest. The US did not defeat the USSR. We simply awoke one morning, and it had effectively fallen of its own accord. We may have outlasted them, but at the rate at which we were spending, I'm not sure how much longer we could have continued."

    Of course, RR was at the helm when this inevitable collapse occurred, most people can't stand the idea that we didn't actively "defeat" the USSR, so RR is the "Glorious Victor", ripe for being sainted by the Right.

    I guess the worrisome parallel is that we may not outlast the ever mounting cost of fearing the threat of "terrorism".

  58. FDChief: "My kidding aside, given the problems we in the U.S. seem to have with the idea of "All-American Muslims" it's probably just as well that not many guys came home with Kuwaiti, Iraqi, or Afghan brides. "

    Actually, that would have helped quite a bit, over the next few decades - makes it hard to pull the full Hitchens when there are a couple of 'them' at the family table married to your sons/nephews (or even better, to your daughters and nieces).

  59. Pluto: "I see one potential hole in your argument. The elites really LIKE being in charge of the worlds largest economy. Taking this sort of action would put them in charge of the new Russia (or more historically, the new India or the new Mexico). They'd be increasingly in charge of a large corrupt backwater and less and less able to influence events in the rest of the world.

    Which do you think they want? A superpower under their control with a relatively small (50%) piece of the pie or total domination and 95%+ of the pie? "

    That's assuming that 'they' think like this, anywhere near aligned. If each member and faction of the 1% is simply trying to grab as much as they can, while making those changes that they see helping them now and in the middle term, we could well end up as neo-Russia.

  60. Chris Hayes ( msnbc "Up ) had a decent conversation going Saturday AM on Iraq with ret. Adm. Joe Sestak, an Iraqi ( ? missed the opening introductions ) woman, an Army captain who served there, and a Professor from a NY college.

    I don't have the link at hand.


  61. Wourm: "That's the difference between the Tea Party and OWS. The TP's issues were always easy TV soundbites. It took the humanity away and made the TP just another news story. No one person in OWS ever put out a soundbite that that stuck. "

    More importantly, the Tea Party's positions were those which the elites wanted. Notice how the MSM treated a bunch of whining right-wingers who took to the (parks) a few months after losing power, who b*tched that the other side had f*cked up the country.

  62. Barry-

    Agree as the MSM: Their function in the current system/shambles is anesthetizing the rubes, removing any painful doubts or feelings that the mob (using H. Arendt's term here) may not get everything the mob wants . . . but that's approaching the end of its effectiveness, since even when dealing with an infantalized, atomized mass as we have in what passes for America today, there will come a time imo when naked force is the emphasis instead of propaganda-Wurlitzer-provided mood music.

    I would suspect that there will be subtle indications of this shift, becoming ever more blatant as time goes on and the need to arouse even the most somnolent presents itself. At that point we'll have shifted from Huxley's dystopia to Orwell's . . .