Thursday, March 28, 2013

Where are we going? And why are we in this handbasket?

Remember Sammy the Whiny Seal we talked about back in February?

Well, turns out that that Dark Nexus of infomercials, CNN, has brewed a tempest in...I don't know, something smaller and less significant than a teacup. A shotglass? (Probably appropriate, since the whole damn nonsense makes me want to drink heavily).

I won't bother you with the sissy-fight, something about which sailor put two rounds in Osama's ten-ring. Go read the article at the link, if you care.

But here's what bugs me. Back in the day we fought dangerous people. Seriously dangerous guys, people who controlled entire armies, fleets, scads of big ol' bombers loaded with torpedoes and five-hundred pound blobs of high explosive. Guys who could command the actions of millions of hard-core, well-trained, dangerous sons-of-bitches.

Well, it took millions of us, but we fought them, and won. And then went back to work, making cars, building houses, watching television, electing rubes and gomers, stealthily gettin' busy after the kids went to bed. Y'know, being regular civilians in a nation at peace.

We got over ourselves, is what I'm saying. We seem to have gotten over getting over ourselves, if this ridiculous nonsense over who actually put bullets in the World's Tallest Saudi is any indication. Faced with the saddest lot of raggedy-ass fundamentalist wannabees we have let ourselves become some sort of quasi-Star Wars Empire, farkling about all over the world, torturing and disappearing people, and letting folks who shouldn't be allowed to run a raffle directing our politics and military operations that most of us don't know - or, much care - about. We're at perpetual war, and yet, who gives a shit?

The guy who shot down the aircraft carrying ADM Isoroku Yamamoto, who could have wreaked more havoc in his sleep than Osama could have on his Best Day Ever,
"...joined the 449th Fighter Squadron in China, still flying P-38s. He claimed three further Japanese planes probably destroyed and damaged, but he was shot down on his 139th mission, bailing out near Kiukiang on April 29. He was rescued by Chinese civilians, who treated his injuries and escorted him to safety five weeks later. At the end of the war, Barber attained the rank of major and commanded one of America's first jet squadrons. He retired as a colonel in 1961."
Guy didn't get out with four years to run until retirement. He didn't get into a public pissing contest with CPT Lanphier, the other guy involved in the shootdown.

It was just another day at war. And when the war was over - which We the People WANTED it to be - we got on with the business of getting back to business.

Now, this. It's perfect; the entire business of this ridiculous "War on Terror" in a shotglass. Neverending. Inconclusive. Utterly meaningless. But chock-full of noisy, furious bullshit.

Who gives a shit who "killed bin Laden"? We soldiers were once taught that we were a team; that every one of us was important to completing the mission, from the chancre-mechanic that gave us our plague shot to the guy who drove the truck that took our Class V down to the port of embarkation, to the cooks who mermited our hot chow up to the firebase to the guy who pulled security while we slept.

And, yet, here we are; sitting at home listening to a couple of knuckleheads pissing down each others' legs about who shot some scruffy wog in a dirty house in butt-rump Pakistan. And CNN, which should have a pantsload of better things to talk about (How did Osama manage to sit around Abbotabad - described as location of "...the regimental headquarters for the Frontier Force Regiment, the Baloch Regiment and Pakistan Army Medical Corps and Kakul Military Academy..." - for years without our old pal Pakistan giving us the heads-up..?), that managed to pass the tenth anniversary of the Iraq Debacle without so much as a whimper of discontent that the montebanks, grifters, thugs, and stooges that lied us into that Mess-o-potamia (and comprehensively screwed what was going on in Afghanistan in the process) are still with us, nattering on Morning Joe and Meet the Press as if they weren't as complicit as Bob MacNamara in getting a bunch of Americans killed in somebody else's goddamn civil war.

If that doesn't say something about us, and something not very complimentary, I don't know what the hell it does.


  1. Chief,
    Not only do i not care who shot OBL, i also don't care or believe that he needed to be killed.
    If we could've captured Yamamoto i'm sure that we would have done so. A prisoner is worth a 1000 pictures. It was impossible to accomplish so we did the next best which was to kill him.
    And we killed him in a military manner. No muss , no fuss.
    Killing folks in their bedroom is not heroic stuff- it's laughable.

  2. And yet, jim, here we are; appointing people who covered up torture to head our CIA's Directorate of Operations and arguing about this ridiculous bullshit.

    I mean, I'm not trying to argue that we should be lily-white saints or holy joes who never descend vulgar brawling, but Jesus wept...this stuff makes us look both mean and stupid. I try to look at this from the outside and it just seems to indict us as a profoundly un-serious people.

  3. "Who gives a shit who "killed bin Laden"? We soldiers were once taught that we were a team"

    So you missed the entire "Army of One" campaign?

  4. What's funny, Sven, is that I was still in when DA debuted that ad campaign, and we had endless fun with it. I lost count of the time when someone would respond to some particularly fucked-up situation with some variation of "Well, I AM the Army of One." In particular I recall a morning formation where one of the sections had literally everybody but the section sergeant either on sick call, detached, on detail somewhere, or otherwise not in ranks.

    Given the command "Recieve the report" the SSG saluted, about-faced, stood motionless for a minute or two, about-faced again, saluted, and reported "Four on sick call, eight on detail, six detached, two absent, Army of One present and correct."

  5. Well, I think the whole handbasket not the least has to do with the very concept of "war on terrorism". Terrorism has always been a criminal activity pursued by law enforcement. When the Red Army Faction murdered its way across Germany, they sent the police after them. Heck, they even sent the police after their sympathizers with the Palestinians all the way to Mogadishu. And it was quite clear (at least for a while) that while there might be the necessity to kill the terrorists to ensure the safety of hostages, they do not go there to kill - and in fact, despite the confined space and the difficult situation, one of the terrorists DID survive.

    Ironically, there's plenty of discussions whether in similar situations today, the GSG9 or the KSK should be sent...

    The French and Spanish did not render ETA noneffective by bombing Bilbao, nor by sending tanks there, but by trans-border cooperation in law enforcement.

    When GIA terrorists abducted an Air France flight in 1994 with intentions quite similar to the 9/11 attackers, it was likewise the French police which stormed the plane in Marseille.

    After the 1993 attacks on the WTC, it was perfectly ok to arrest the culprits. But lo and behold, after some people with the same idea are actually successful in destroying the WTC, it's called an all-out war.

    Indonesia, on the other hand, arrested the culprits of the Bali attacks they could get their hands on, inasmuch as they could get them alive and did NOT start a war with Pakistan when that nation at first was less than cooperative in arresting the responsible living within their nation. In the end, persistence and international pressure paid out and a culprit was extradited.

    So what makes 9/11 so different? It was not even the first terrorist attack in the US to cause the destruction of a building. But I guess that especially on the right wing, a lot of people think it's perfectly ok if Americans attack the government, but not if foreigners copy their actions.

    While the nonsense spread by some in the government can be explained away as calculated misinformation to achieve political and economic goals, the widespread support for this is a different story. The obsession about Al Qaida and the acceptance of that argument as justification for just about anything makes me wonder if there is such a thing as a population-wide case of PTSD.

    1. "Terrorism has always been a criminal activity pursued by law enforcement."

      That's far from the case, but I suppose much would depend on how terrorism is defined.

      Furthermore, all the examples you list are domestic problems which can and certainly are handled by law enforcement. We here in the US aren't any different - we aren't bombing our own cities or sending in JSOC. (Where is Zacarias Moussaoui and how did he get there, for example) Law enforcement seems to be working pretty well at catching people in the US who commit terrorist attacks or aspire to commit them. And when they are caught, they are sent to trial.

      Law enforcement becomes, quite obviously, a more limited tool outside national borders. Law enforcement can't be exercised at all without at least a modicum of support from other areas whether it's diplomacy or the support of military forces (what should we think, for example, of all the blood spilled in order to arrest Manuel Noriega?).

      In parts of the world where there is little in the way of what Westerners consider normal legal authority, limiting terrorism as a "criminal activity" to only be dealt with by "law enforcement" is, in practice, a recipe to do essentially nothing. Governments rarely throw up their hands - they will find alternative means to deal with threats, whether perceived or real.

      Now, one might argue that pursing terrorists in these areas is a bad idea, or counterproductive or whatever, but simply asserting that "terrorism" is always and only "criminal" which can only be dealt with through our own Western notions of "law enforcement" (notions which many other people's do not subscribe to) is pretty simplistic and ahistorical.

      That's not to say that law enforcement shouldn't be used where it can and where practicable. In situations law enforcement doesn't work, governments have always and will continue to find and use other methods.

  6. "The obsession about Al Qaida and the acceptance of that argument as justification for just about anything makes me wonder if there is such a thing as a population-wide case of PTSD."

    My guess would be, rather, a national case of WGAS; Who Gives A Shit?

    The way the people who wanted to used this GWOT thing to prosecute their ambitions could only do it if the U.S. public were not affected by actual sacrifice. So there was no draft, no "war bonds", no war taxes, no "scrap a Jap" clapped a yellow magnet on the back of the SUV and off you went...

    And I think this idiotic wrangling over credit for killing one more Arab comes from a big part of that, the function this "war" plays as spectator sport and entertainment. When the guy you kill is one Japanese admiral who leaves behind a whole navy full of big-ass battleships and carriers that's one thing. But when there's no real threat there, when it's all about the publicity and playing to the domestic audience - a sort of "Shooting With The Stars" - THEN publicity is everything...

    1. My point was that there was no such bloodlust and rabid antiislamism after the 1993 attacks. So it seems the success of the 2001 attacks made the difference.

      Likewise, with Desert Storm, DESPITE the fact that it had a UN mandate, it was deemed perfectly ok to bow out or restrict yourself to a financial contribution. With the invasion of Iraq, you suddenly were an enemy of freedom if you didn't participate, "old Europe" and all the other 'nice' stuff they threw at people who were not convinced that Saddam didn't hide any more WMDs. The attitude had shifted dramatically - far from not giving a shit, a lot of people became quite rabid about it. I lived in the US back then, Texas of all places, and it was not precisely an enjoyable stay coming from a nation which refused to hop onto that bandwagon...I was glad that I could get back home before the actual invasion started.

    2. I won't disagree; the fact that the "dangers" of 1991 and 1993 were far removed and very abstract made a big difference. And in '91, in particular, although the Bush 41 made noises about how the war was all about "freedom" I think everyone pretty much understood that it was about power politics and resource access. The cynical end to the war, where the 41's ginned up a rebellion in the Shiite south and then stood by while Saddam bloodily crushed it drove that home quite nicely. It was nearly impossible to foment any sort of real hate-and-fear against the Iraqis under those circumstances, tho it was tried...

      I think, though, that there's a critical difference between the sort of hate-and-fear that the cynical opportunists ginned up in 2001 and the sort of hate-and-fear that were drummed up in 1941, and that the difference shows in the way the wars were publicized.

      The Germans and Japanese of WW2 were genuinely dangerous, and for Americans of that time that hate-and-fear was wrapped up in actual fear and the understanding that Americans - all Americans - had to DO something to prevent those fears from becoming a reality. Whether it was buying war bonds, or saving waste oil, or working in the war plant, or - for almost everyone - serving or having a father, son, brother, or uncle in the service.

      But this "war" was more like '91; hardly anyone actually served or even knew anyone who did. The actual fighting was more of a spectator sport, and I always got the sense that the domestic hate-and-fear were ridiculously inflated. Conscientious objectors and peaceniks in WW2 were often scorned but I don't get the sense that they were reviled the way the "defeatocrats" and the Europeans were after 2001. The propaganda of 1942 seems almost restrained compared to 2003; nobody bothered to rename French fries "Liberty Fries" because of Vichy...

      So I think that the rabidity you saw in Texas was directly proportional to the actual risk those rabid partisans ran of facing an angry Arab.

  7. Back in the late 60's, it was not uncommon to hear s troopie say, "It's not much of a war, but it's the only war we've got."

    The GWOT is not much of a war, but it is the only war we've got. Since, as Chief said above, Americans see war as a spectator sport, gotta fire up those spectators. Add some cheerleaders, endless, mindless commentary and instant replay to PeeWee Football, and you create the illusion of of the SuperBowl.