Friday, June 17, 2016

Some ideas cannot be killed and yet are too stupid to die.

Apparently there's a nutty little cluster of fuck buried in the U.S. State Department (from CNN via Pierce):
"More than 50 State Department officials signed an internal memo protesting U.S. policy in Syria, calling for targeted U.S. military strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and urging regime change as the only way to defeat ISIS.
The cable says that U.S. policy in the Middle East has been "overwhelmed" by the continuing violence in Syria. It calls for a "judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process."

The memo calls on the U.S. to create a stronger partnership with moderate rebel forces to battle both Assad's forces and ISIS, which would change the tide of the conflict against the regime and "increase the chances for peace by sending a clear signal to the regime and its backers that there will be no military solution to the conflict."

It also warns that as the regime "continues to bomb and starve" Syria's Sunni population, the U.S. will lose potential allies among Syria's Sunni population to fight ISIS. Moreover, it says, U.S. failure to stop the regime's abuses "undermines both morally and materially the unity of the anti-Daesh coalition" and "will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as Daesh, even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield."
It''s hard to tell where to start with this ridiculous level of horseshit.

Maybe here: "judicious use of standoff and air weapons"..? Judicious? How the holy fuck do you use a cruise missile "judiciously"? Tack a get-well card to the nose? Ensure that it has a jihadi-seeking sensor in the guidance package? Who the hell thinks this? State has seen a damn sight of war since 2001. It's been fifteen years of nonstop bombing and shelling and killing-wogs-in-kinetic-ways in the Middle East. Have these people learned nothing from all that so-far-prodigiously-unproductive bombing, shelling, and killing..?


If you can show me a "judicious" way of throwing high explosive long distances I will carry your rucksack from here to the Halls ofMontezuma and kiss your ass when we get there. about this one; "moderate rebel forces"? Moderate based on what metric? 50% less headcutting? 100% How many of their raggedy-ass "fighters" have read Atlas Shrugged? Where are these paragons of virtue? Can anybody find me someone, anyone, who is "moderate" in the damn cesspit of ruin and merciless hatred that used to be "Syria"? Can anybody tell me why I should trust ANYone there to tell the truth about their "moderation"? I mean, any State Middle East hand to believes any local between the strandline of the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf who boasts of their "moderate" credentials should have their fucking head examined.

According to CNN, "The 51 officials who signed the memo are mostly from the rank and file of the department, many of them career officers in the foreign service who have been involved in Syria policy over the past several years either in Washington or overseas." which, frankly, tells me a hell of a lot about why our "Syria policy" has been as fucked up as a football bat.

One thing I will give the last Adminstration credit for; in general it has resisted sticking this country's head further into the Middle Eastern tarbaby. I have often wondered why it has insisted in sticking to the ones it is already attached to. But this idiotic memo is perhaps a good reminder of why it's so hard to stop being stupid.

Because there's always people in critical positions who think that their contrarian idea is contrary because it's too clever for everyone else to recognize how clever it is and not because everyone else realizes it's completely moronic.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Whose Souls Cry Out, and Who is Awakened?

--Nuclear Future, Paresh Nath (UAE)

The tragedy is not that things are broken.
The tragedy is that things are not mended again.
--Cry, the Beloved Country,
Alan Paton

  The West's post-Holocaust pledge that genocide
 would never again be tolerated proved to be hollow,
and for all the fine sentiments inspired,
by the memory of Auschwitz,
the problem remains that denouncing evil
is a far cry from doing good
--We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow
We Will Be Killed With Our Families,
Phillip Gourevitch

Bellum ominum contra omnes
 --Thomas Hobbes

President Obama recently laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in the presence of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His disingenuous proclamation played well to the crowd, but was so much well-scripted fluff. He said Hiroshima was,

 “the start of our own moral awakening”. We come to mourn the dead. Their souls speak to us, they ask us to look inward, take stock of who we are.”

So let's talk about morals and some dead, of the recent variety. When the United States handed Saddam Hussein over to the new Shia-led government, they set on him like a pack of hyenas, snapping his neck with a rough cow rope in a mosh pit of celebration after an amateur show trial.

The U.S. Celebrated in the carnage and joined in the morbid ebullience, despite the fact that Hussein had done nothing to the U.S. to warrant such bloodlust. What had he done that our friends the Saudis or Egyptians do not?

Ditto the grotesque murder of Libyan President Muommar Qaddafi. Our sociopathic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gleefully acknowledged his death-by-mob in the street on commercial television. Her delusions of grandeur were exposed with her petty, "We came, we same, he died."  

And yet life for Libya and its people -- just as for Iraqis post-Saddam -- has grown exponentially worse since Qaddafi was deposed. What, exactly, does the U.S. have to crow about, and what moral direction can it provide?

But to the Japanese empire circa August, 1945. Hirohito was the divine emperor of an operation in which Koreans were used as labor and sex slaves. U.S. and British Prisoners of War were tortured, murdered and used for bayonet practice. Japanese medical officers used U.S. P.O.W.'s in chemical and biological research. The litany of terror goes on (even ignoring the fact that the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into the war.)

The point is: the Emperor was a war criminal of the highest order, and yet the U.S. never bothered to treat him as such. [He reigned until his death in 1989.]

What has changed from 1945 to 2016? Do our recent actions speak of a "moral awakening"? 

Are we listening to the voices of the newly-dead which we have created, and what do we see when we "take stock of who we are"?

Friday, June 3, 2016

General Marshall and the Tree Army

Thanks to FastEddie for sending me down the path to this post when he postulated on the previous post about the relationship between the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and the Corps of Engineers. 

The boys and men of the CCC were not lumberjacks like the Spruce Division or the 20th Engineers.  They were first envisioned as re-foresters (hence the moniker).   
But they also built bridges, fire lookout towers, buildings, truck & foot trails, minor roads & landing fields, and public camps & picnic grounds.  They fought forest & range fires and in Gillette Wyoming they extinguished many subterranean coal fires that had been burning for years.  They did surveying, erosion & flood control, rodent & mosquito control, plus dug wells, and installed telephone poles & thousands of miles of phone line.  They stocked fish, and improved streams, ponds & lakes, built minor dams, and rehabilitated grazing on rangelands.  They even carved a Greek style amphitheater out of solid rock at Mount Tamalpais State Park, California.

When the CCC was proposed by FDR, the Labor Department was to recruit poor unmarried youths betwixt 18 and 25 whose families were on the dole (that 'one-third of the nation' during the great depression that were 'ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished').  The Army was to operate the camps and do some non-military training.  The Interior and Agriculture Departments were to supervise the work.  Harry Hopkins, a previous social worker and FDRs go-to-guy, ramrodded it.  The minority in Congress laughed at it and gave it the moniker of Roosevelt’s Tree Army.  Some called them Soil Soldiers because of their erosion remediation work in the dust bowl.
Bluebloods in the Army bureaucracy in DC were initially against the CCC when FDR proposed it.  Their job was training soldiers to fight. They did not want their officers instructing basic hygiene and a modified form of Army discipline to young men on welfare, or what they considered poor white trash that had only rarely seen soap and never seen toilet paper, and also the blacks, Indians and sons of ghetto immigrants that were volunteering for the CCC.

Bit one Lieutenant Colonel (acting full bird) at Fort Screven in Georgia by the name of George Catlett Marshall thought it a good concept.  He was one of the first to throw himself into the additional duty of setting up seventeen CCC camps in South Carolina and northern Georgia.  Later when transferred to Fort Moultrie as Commander of the full 8th Infantry he set up an additional fifteen CCC camps, staffed them, and supervised the mobilization of the volunteer youth that would fill those camps.  He had them trained and he established remedial education programs, athletic programs and expanded health care services.  He sent most of his regimental officers off to run the camps and ran his regiment with First Sergeants.  

My guess is that Marshall was intrigued with FDRs intent for extremely rapid activation of the CCC as he (Marshall) still remembered the slow mobilization of the AEF in WW1. It had taken a full year after the AEF was formed before American fighting units arrived in France.  The big Army caught on and established thousands of CCC camps across the country.  Those camps never became militaristic.  The CCC did however give experience to many Army junior officers in how to rapidly mobilize for war.  And the camp life benefited the CCC men who in 42 went into the Army as they were offered enlistment as Corporals or in some cases Sergeants.

Later when Marshall was Commander of the 5th Brigade (3rd Division) at Vancouver Barracks Washington, he was responsible for 35 CCC camps in southern Washington and Oregon.  He spent much of his time on the road inspecting those camps.  After one inspection tour in 1937 he was quoted as saying the following regarding his officer’s efforts at remedial education:
“This matter of schooling, outside of the forestry, soil conservation, or other work of the companies, is in my opinion the most important phase of the CCC program at the present time.  The work in the wood, on the trails, or otherwise, is the justification for the camps; but their primary purpose is to fit young men, now out of employment, to become more valuable and self-supporting citizens. On every side it has become glaringly apparent during the past two years of business revival, that hereafter the unskilled man will have a desperately hard time succeeding, much harder than ever before.”

The great majority of the work of the CCC came under the authority and guidance of the Department of Agriculture, and then secondly the Department of Interior.  However, the Army Corps of Engineers did control some of the largest projects of the CCC.  For example in Vermont the Winooski River often flooded killing over 120 people in 1927.  So the Corps of Engineers supervised the CCC in building three major dams on the river and its tributaries.  In Upstate New York the frequently flooded Walkill River ran through a large and rich agricultural valley in the Appalachians formerly known as the ‘Drowned Lands’.  There The Corps supervised the CCC in digging channels and building levees instead of dams.  In addition there was forestry and conservation work done on military reservations and funds had gone towards construction of CCC barracks on military posts which were later put to use as Army barracks when the war started.

Marshall is most fondly remembered for the Marshall Plan, for his leadership as Army Chief of Staff in WW2, and for his Benning Revolution at the Army Infantry School.  Doesn't his foresight and leadership on the CCC program and in making the Big Army see the potential benefits also deserve  credit?