Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Pocketful of Mumbles

 I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles,
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest 
--The Boxer, 
Simon and Garfunkel

 See, in my line of work you
got to keep repeating things over and over
and over again for the truth to sink in,
to kind of catapult the propaganda
--President George W. Bush

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war 
The Moody Blues   

The OCT 2015 -  JAN 2016 Army Echoes, the quarterly newsletter sent to over a million retired soldiers and families, has set for itself the modest proposal of keeping its readers in thrall to Them Terrorists, 24/7 ("Sustaining Antiterrorism awareness -- always ready, always alert," p.5.) Just in case you fail to subject yourself to the ample media sources which should have already brought you to this paralyzed state.

Ranger will deconstruct the money graph, to wit:

"Terrorists can attack anywhere, anytime – the threat is real. Over the recent months the continued threats on social media from the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (ISIL; also commonly referred to as ISIS) and their influence on domestic extremists demonstrates the lengths that terrorist groups take to threaten our nation and our military communities. ISIL has also expanded their tactics to include cyber-attacks and attempts to exploit private and sensitive information of our military personnel and their families. These risks pertain directly to Retired Soldiers, just as they do the entire Army community."

A sophomore creative writing undergrad would recognize the weakness presented here as fact, courtesy the United States Army. The breakdown begins with opening statement: "Terrorists can attack anywhere, anytime."

Is that true? Can you think of somewhere they could not? How about a nuclear (surety) weapons storage area, the protection of which is the job of the Army, after all. So, no -- not anywhere; check one.

Next: "(T)he continued threats on social media from the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (ISIL; also commonly referred to as ISIS) . . . demonstrates the lengths that terrorist groups take to threaten our nation and our military communities." OK -- "social media threats" -- certainly is not a nice thing to do. We call such people "trolls", and what they do is BULLYING. When they act on their threats, they become criminals. 

Bullying certainly has its own corrosive quality, but do WE need to be "always ready, always alert"? Maybe we could just farm out that set of feelings over to the people paid to monitor such transmissions on a daily basis. That IS what they are paid for, after all, and it would cut down on our psychotherapy bills and Unisom consumption, something that would be good for an overworked, over-stressed population, no? 

Aren't Terrorists a Level One threat? If they are out "to exploit private and sensitive information of our military personnel and their families," and "(T)hese risks pertain directly to Retired Soldiers, just as they do the entire Army community," tell us what these tactics entail so that we might be proactive about it. Instead we are fed a vague miasma of fear, riding on the tails of the aura created around terror groups.

Further: the piece is predicated on a falsehood: ISIL is not a terror organization. IS has a military chain of command, their members wear uniforms, carry weapons and attack military targets. They do not conform to the international laws of war.

The last fact does not render them terrorists, but rather War Criminals. Possibly they could be convicted under "crimes against humanity", but the evidence favors war criminal prosecution.

A paragraph full of lies and half-truths, courtesy your U.S. Army. You can sleep well, tonight, despite the fact that rough men stand ready to scare you witless.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar]


  1. Let's face it - 14 years after 9/11 the published opinion (not necessarily the real public) is still gone mad in the U.S. and by extension also to some degree in the UK.

    Hardly anybody takes the errorists seriously in Germany or many small European countries. I knwo for a fact that even several years ago the German intelligence agency BND was more focused on energy security topics than on Muslim errorists.

    The craze about Da'esh is particularly embarrassing; it's obvious they are first and foremost a (civil) war faction. They're a noticeable threat only to Westerners in the Near and Mid East, nowhere else.

  2. SO,.
    It's not a stretch to call the entire scenario unleashed by the PWOT ,in region, as a religion based war.
    The point of my essay, which is TBC, is that the entire ediface is built on the flimsiest of fabric, and it's embarrassing when the CSA reinforces such ignorance.
    Yesterday the news (national) showed a US destroyer in the S. China Sea screwing with the Chinese island building efforts.Here we are right near where the RVN war started(the gulf of tonkin) and here we are sending in puny little sacrificial destroyers.This is meaningful only because we can't solve the IS scenario, but now we're screwing with the Chinese
    If we can't handle IS then how the heck will we handle the Chinese?
    I seriously can't understand our constant need for foreign intrigues.

  3. Just curious jim; that destroyer...it wouldn't happen to have been the USS C. Turner Joy by any chance?

  4. And not to be too cynical, but...for pretty much everyone except We the People there's no downside to this ridiculous fearmongering. I'd love to blame the unhinged C.H.U.D.s of the GOP (and they ARE less sane on this issue, but...) the whole magilla is like candy for power. Authority gets more authority military power gets more military power, spooks get to be spookier, contractors of all sorts get more contracts...and all the while the REAL possibility of harm from these jihadi bozos is virtually nil; we'll lose an order of magnitude more lives to motor vehicles and heart disease than to IS plots. But better seat belts and more salad bars don't help get power and money for those powerful and wealthy.


    1. You're off by several orders of magnitude with your "an order of magnitude" statement.

      The biggest killer organizations on a war against the Western World are the big tobacco companies. They should be outlawed as criminal organizations, with all assets seized.

    2. My guess is that if the climate change models arr correct it's the petroleum cartels that may well end up racking up the body count. That said, yeah, Big Tobacco kinda takes the house cup for "Most Lethally Useless Product Purveyor "...

    3. No way.
      Nothing short of Yellowstone caldera explosion, "the big one" turning California into Atlantis or thermonuclear war is going to come close to Big Tobacco:

      "Cigarette smoking causes about one of every five deaths in the United States each year.1,6 Cigarette smoking is estimated to cause the following:1

      More than 480,000 deaths annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke)"


  5. Chief,
    People who drive and text will kill and disable more US types, by a order of magnitude than will T's.
    I did think of the T. Joy when i saw the news report.
    What are we doing in the south China Sea?

  6. Weirdly enough, jim the whole South China Sea business makes sense to me, in a "Great Power Dick-waving" sense. The PRC is using these fake islands to push the envelope of its sphere of influence and the US is doing what Great Powers often do; pushing back. Think of the sorts of shenanigans the Brits and French used to get up to in Africa back in the 18th and 19th Centuries...same kind of thing as this.

    1. The PRC's insistence on such claims may have a deeper, psychological-historical root.
      Their sovereignty was 'impaired' by the great powers for much more than a century, till at least when Hong Kong returned in IIRC 1999.
      The may be overcompensating now.

      Maybe it's not even a stretch to thing or this destroyer patrol as a later equivalent of gunboats on the Yangtze (that Steve McQueen movie wasn't all fiction). The 1.x billion Chinese have a huge base of many millions of jingoists who apparently think approximately like that.

      It's regrettable that the USN of all navies decided to do this patrol. The USN's patrols for freedom of navigation were all-too often barely disguised bullying patrols, particularly against Iran, and also meant as an intentional provocation of Libya. Strangely, freedom of navigation was never an obstacle when the U.S. was at officially war or even only at war in the neighbourhood (mining of North Vietnamese harbors).

      It would have been so much better if for example the Brazilian navy had done this.

    2. Or the Philippine Navy, given that the PI has a stake in free passage thru the South China Sea.

      I lumped China's actions in the "Great Power Playbook" as well; the 19th Century imperial powers used to do this sort of thing all the time. You can look at this fake island as a kind of watery Fashoda and the destroyer as the naval equivalent of the British patrol sent to chase the Frogs out of "British" territory.

      Problem being, as you point out, that sending a USN vessel makes this look - especially to an already-sensitized Chinese public - more like the imperial jostlings of a Fashoda and less about free passage thru international waters.

      Brazil, indeed...

    3. Or, international naval task forcea, as is addressing piracy and freedom of navigation off Somalia.

  7. Good article on the Navy's Freedom of Navigation Op in the South China Sea over at the Diplomat:


    Although the headline sucks. Lassen Faire!!! Editor must have been a sportswriter in a previous life.

  8. Without a threat, there is no mission, and without a mission, there is no justification for the force structure and operating expense. "Terrorism" is the perfect buggaboo. Slippery and hard to define, but quick to strike generalized fear in the populace. A retired BG friend has a son who is a JAG. As the deployments died down and RC mobilizations were coming to a halt, his son was tasked to assist the USAR, which had no domestic mission, to find same in ways that did not violate Posse Comitatus, to keep the NG from gaining an undue advantage in retaining force structure. Subsequently, USAR units have been assigned to Northern Command for domestic missions in response to possible terrorist acts, and have integrated this mission into their regular activities.

    Follow the money.

    1. Which is just sad...since the USAR mission has always been - in theory - the same as the ARNG; provide the "first wave" of the Army of the United States in a general mobilization for war.

      I prepared to reinforce Germany as a Reservist in the 90s and Korea as a Guardsman in the Oughts. Perfectly good missions, and real cost-effective for DoD.

      The notion that the AR has to invent fictional missions at a time when we're splashing out cash to chase raggedy-assed muj around the Iraqi desert is ridiculous.

    2. Chief- not so much fictional, but a scramble to share the budget and structure gravy train with the NG which has, historically, fulfilled the domestic disaster relief mission. However, the USA Northern Command (a Unified Combatant Command) has a mission to "defend the homeland, to include providing assistance to civil authorities (which included the federal agency FEMA, among others) in response to terrorism and WMD, so the USAR gets a federal domestic mission that doesn't conflict with Posse Comitatus.

      The USAR tried a FEMA connection back in the 1990's post Desert Storm downsizing, to include aligning ARCOM boundaries (renamed "Regional Support Commands") with FEMA boundaries, giving up considerable flag billets in the resulting reduction of ARCOMS. That failed, as their only justification was ease of interstate opns, but, interestingly, the all powerful NG showed that Title 32 was not necessarily prohibited from crossing state lines if the other governor agreed, and FEMA really had no idea of what to do with the USAR that they couldn't already do with the NG.

      And then 9/11 and the PWOT opened new doors for everyone, so why not the USAR? There are more than enough $$$$ to go around when it comes to defeating terror.

    3. The irking historical analogy that comes to mind is the British Army of the last half of the Nineteenth Century

      The "war on terror" of the time was wog-bashing, and by God the British Army would be the imperialists dream when it came to bashing wogs. By 1900 the Brits had devolved into a regimental light infantry and light artillery force that was terrific at force projection and ad hoc colonial operations against primitive enemies

      Which meant that the Boers' tactical sophistication and technical parity (or superiority - their Mauser rifles were more accurate at longer ranges than the British Lee-Metford or older breechloading carbines) meant that the Brits paid in blood for South Africa.

      We are fortunate indeed that we have inherited Britain's military supremacy and topographical isolation; I suspect we would pay dearly for our geopolitical frivolity if not for that...