Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The motion has been made and seconded that we stick our heads in the sand.

Oh, what a beautiful mornin'

Oh, what a beautiful day
--What a Beautiful Mornin', from Oklahoma!

Where ignorance is bliss

‘Tis folly to be wise

On a Distant Prospect of Eton College, Thomas Gray

The Tallahassee Democrat (3/29/07, pg. 9A) ran a small sidebar column featuring the "latest news" from the AP out of Iraq. The two juxtaposing blurbs were:

[1] "Shiite militants
and police went on an anti-Sunni shooting rampage, killing as many as 70 men execution-style."

[2] "U.S. Officials remained
cautiously optimistic about the Baghdad security crackdown, now in its seventh week."

How will we know when things take a downturn? What do they call a "Bad Day"?

Does this strike anyone else as incautiously crazy?

The Boys are Back

Guess who just got back today?
Those wild-eyed boys that had been away

Haven't changed, haven't much to say

But man, I still think those cats are great

They were asking if you were around

How you was, where you could be found

I told them you were living downtown

Driving all the old men crazy

The Boys are Back in Town, Thin Lizzy

We are told former Representative Mark Foley (R-FL), maestro of teen e-talk fame, is still under FBI investigation ("Foley Page Investigation Continues.") Florida investigators have "remained tightlipped" on the status of the case. If only Foley had taken their example.

This is the same FBI that still hasn't captured the Anthrax killer of 2001. Also, the same FBI that takes direction from Alberto "Republican #1" Gonzales. Way cool.

Foley's got it made in the shade. Boy Scout summer camps soliciting for counselors should be put on pink alert.

Those Were the Days

Those were the days, my friend
We thought they'd never end

We'd live the life we'd choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days

--Those Were the Days, Mary Hopkins
"A key piece of evidence in the case against alleged terrorism operative Jose Padilla was brought to the CIA in Afghanistan by a man who said he found the document in an al Qaeda safe house" ("Key Padilla Evidence Got to CIA in Afghan Pickup")

According to the CIA description, this document was acquired in a December 2001 meeting.

Ranger senses that this is March 2007, so the government has been sitting on what, if proven authentic, is a key piece of legal evidence that will put the nails in Padilla's coffin.

How could any working legal system allow evidence to sit on a shelf for over five years? What is the shelf-life of unsworn, unverified evidence?

Bear in mind that CIA agents are not federal law enforcement; they are intelligence agents. As such, they are not trained in "chain of custody" regarding evidence, nor are they qualified to evaluate legal evidence. This is a Department of Justice function attended to by government attorneys. Intelligence agents do not necessarily process legal intelligence.

Everybody seems to accept the original documents as legitimate al Qaeda resources, but one should remember that only a trial can determine the relevance and legitimacy of all evidence. It is not reliable evidence without a legal chain of custody.

For example, what were the motives of the person turning in this supposed evidence? Who was he, and from where did he originate? Where are the sworn statements that it indeed came from an al Qaeda safehouse? After 5+ years languishing in a dusty room, this is a questionable item. Further, intelligence agents live and tell lies, yet we expect them to tell the truth when they are in federal court, in disguise?

Somehow it seems overblown to call Padilla a terrorist operative. He may be a terrorist, but he is as pathetic as our government which had supposed definitive evidence, yet failed to bring Padilla to trial. Somehow throwing him in an undisclosed location without habeus corpus and with a good dose of torture is the new, improved version of American justice.

Everybody used to get a fair trial in America. Those were the days.

Friday, March 30, 2007

airborne flash 2


Abu Muslim Australia

And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway

But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared

and they turned all their faces away
--And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, The Pogues

Listen to the Pogues' Waltzing Matilda for another view of war, this one, of the Gallipoli campaign. Different, but the same.

The title and lead in to this article say it is a military trial, but the first sentence calls it "
the first session of the new military commission system set up by Congress," of which the first participant was David Hicks (aka Abu Muslim Australia), an Australian al Qaeda trainee ("Result of Military Trial is Familiar to Civilians," NYT.)

The process being conducted and discussed needs clarification--is this a trial, a military commission, or a military tribunal? It has variously been referred to as all of these in major news coverage. But these terms define different legal entities, and are not interchangeable.

The article tried to make it seem that what goes on in
the commissions--"(t)he first war crimes trials conducted by the United States since World War II"--is not unlike not unlike the procedures in a "garden-variety" legal case.

We are told that Hicks, "pleaded guilty to providing material support to a terrorist organization. It was the military equivalent of a plea bargain, the rubber-meets-the-road moment that makes it possible for courts all over America to cope with caseloads that would choke them if every defendant insisted on a trial."

This description makes it seem as though the situation were a run-of-mill case of legal expediency, much as happens any day of the week in America, with most of the cases on any court docket. Mr. Hicks will soon be returning to Australia, and another one has been dispensed with.

But this situation is extraordinary, and has not been dispensed with all due process, and we must not gloss over the loss of liberty which the U.S. is imposing and has imposed upon these people.

My sorrow does not go out to Gitmo prisoners, but rather to an America that does not seem to care that this Australian is facing a kangaroo court.

Forever and a Day

Gone away is the rumbird,
Here to stay is the gatesbird
He sings the same song,
As Dems go along,
Talking 'Bout George Bush's Blunderland
Talking 'Bout George Bush's Blunderland, fr. the Bushwatch Songbook

The AP reports that Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggests Congress and the Bush administration should "work together to allow the U.S. to permanently imprison some of the more dangerous Gitmo detainees elsewhere," allowing the Gitmo Detention Center (="The Prison With Neither Sentencing nor Parole") to be closed. ("Gates Calls for Bill to Help Close Gitmo, " AP.)

Further, Gates told the House Defense Appropriations subcommittees it may require a new law to "address the concerns about some of these people who really need to be incarcerated forever, but that doesn't get them involved in a judicial system where there is the potential of them being released."

Does Mr. Gates think Americans will accept the token closing of Gitmo, much as the administration thought to erase the Abu Ghraib scandal by closing the prison doors? Are Americans that much in thrall to the grand gesture that high propaganda will remove any uneasy feelings they might have had about the unconstitutionality of the detentions?

In other words, the America that exports more democracy than cars, and more violence than democracy, does not care to export the Constitution. Its words are so sacred that they can only be applied in the continental U.S., and then it seems, exceptions are possible.

It is amazing that Congressmen will listen to Gates' unconstitutional utterances. Where is the progress over Rumsfeld? Dump Gates, Rice and Gonzales and start from scratch. We did it in Iraq; let's do it in Washington.

Ranger has a few more questions:

[1] Doesn't this--the adjudication of Gitmo prisoner's guilt or innocence, and subsequent sentencing--sound like a Department of Justice function? Why is Gates doing Gonzales's job? Surely two wars should be enough to fill his plate.

Aren't these questions usually determined by a judge and jury?

[2] Does this mean that a presumption of innocence is no longer is the basis of U.S. jurisprudence? Usually a trial takes place before guilt is ascribed and punishment is meted out. Are we reverting to the Napoleonic Code? Are we becoming Frenchies? Is that what they want for us?!

[3] Has anybody in the Department of State negotiated with Russia to rent a spare gulag or two?

Surge Protector

Times have changed,
And we've often rewound the clock,

Since the Puritans got a shock,

When they landed on Plymouth Rock

--Anything Goes
, lyrics

If the democratic majority in our National leadership actually were serious about ending our open-ended, non-declared, feel-good war, why don't they simply vote to revoke the authorization allowing GWB to use a military response in Afghanistan and Iraq? And then invoke the War Powers Act.

It is one way to go. I am thinking of protective, prohibitive measures, like those little plastic protectors which one plugs into electrical outlets, thereby preventing children from poking their fingers into a power supply which they surely would misallocate, to their detriment. Motto: No more shocks.

GWB is leading his presidency like a disfunctional marriage partner. He is crazy-making for the sake of holding onto power. And of course, his buddies getting a little booty on the side.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lowell and Me

This is a picture of me taken last month, with Command Sergeant Major (ret.) Lowell Jergens, in Columbus, Georgia (That's me, on your left.)

Your co-writer, Lisa, was along for the visit. She thinks Lowell is "sweet," but I know about those CSM eyes...

Lowell was my First Sergeant at
jump school , and we had a good time doing a good job for the U.S. Army, finding ways to be efficient, while making the tedious work less of a drag. You could say we had a synergy.

I wrote about Lowell (and others) back in this post. All my best to you and your wife, Lowell.

Junkyard Dogs

Behind the ostensible government
sits enthroned an invisible government

owing no allegiance and acknowledging

no responsibility to the people
--Theodore Roosevelt

Criticism in a time of war is essential
to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government
--Sen. Robert Taft, (R) Ohio

And it's bad, bad Leroy Brown

The baddest man in the whole damn town,

Badder than old King Kong

And meaner than a junkyard dog

Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, Jim Croce

For the purpose of this article, let's assume that Jose Padilla is the worst terrorist that ever targeted Americans, and is the spawn of the devil. In other words, he is a really bad guy, and we shouldn't like him, not even one jot. O.k., so now I stand convinced.

Yet there remains an area of disjunction between Mr. Padilla's evilness and his treatment in U.S. custody.

Mr. Padilla was arrested in May, 2002. Yes, Mabel, he was arrested. This is an uncontested legal term, entailing certain actions to follow. Nobody contests the fact or date of arrest. So there is no fog here.

But somehow, in violation of or ignorance of the law, he was transferred to a military brig. To the best of my knowledge, there is no basis in law in 2002 for a federal law enforcement agency to relinquish an arrested individual to the military. What federal code authorized this action?

Federal law enforcement can transfer AWOL and deserters to Department of Defense custody, but Padilla is a passport-carrying U.S. citizen, and his case should be granted dismissal due to denial of a speedy trial. The clock for determining hastiness of trial should start when you are arrested, not when you are released from non-habeus corpus illegal detention.

Yet a federal judge refused to dismiss charges last week, saying that Mr. Padilla's 3 1/2 years isolated in a Navy brig "did not count because he had not been charged" (Judge Reatains Terror Counts for Padilla, NYT, 3/24/07.)

The judge claimed that criminal charges only arose in 2005, when Padilla was added to an indictment here involving terrorism support. "Only then did the clock start for the Sixth Amendment right to a 'speedy and public trial,' Judge [Marcia] Cooke said."

It seems that the function of the court has been perverted to protect the administration, and not the Constitution. Justice and legality no longer seem to be the sole purpose of the federal court system; permitting the agenda of this administration to prevail at any cost, does.

If this denial of rights can be imposed upon Padilla, it can be done to the rest of the boys and girls in the neighborhood, or barrio. In fact, Mr. Rogers himself is also in danger. Cardigans--even mohair ones--don't let you off this hook.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Officer Friendly

Our safety, our liberty, depends upon preserving the Constitution of the United States as our fathers made it inviolate. The people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.

--both quotations by Abraham Lincoln

One of the things that Robert Mugabe, "Hitler" Hunzvi, and Adolf Hitler all have in common is their strong and effective programs of gun control.

Simply put, if not for gun control, Hitler would not have been able to murder 21 million people. Nor would Mugabe be able to carry out his current terror program.

--Dave Kopel, Hitler's Control

If you take Lincoln at his word, we're a country of laggards in the face of grave Constitutional gutting.

But you've gotta love those Iowa guys on the front cover of Brownells gun supply catalog. Such singularity of focus. The message is, if they can do it, any of us can.

I am not anti-gun, nor am I a militia-type espousing craziness, but I do fear the direction this nation has taken concerning gun control, and believe the 2nd amendment has become an illusion.

The military and police, or what we used to call the police, now share a commonality of approach.
I love Brownells and have been a faithful customer for 35 years, but I do not love the continued militarization of our police forces which the Brownells MIL-LE firearms catalog illustrates nicely.

Because of this encroaching, overbearing police posture over the citizens, I contend that the Bill of Rights would be unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers. I do not want to discuss the erosion of the 1st or 4th amendments, or habeus corpus, but will concern myself here only with the assault on the 2nd amendment and its affect upon our way of life.
The erosion is accomplished with the complicity of all our elected officials at the local, state and federal level.

My argument is Ranger-simple: If the police have automatic weapons, then so, too, should the citizenry.

I do not like automatic weapons, nor do I believe anybody needs them, but that is not the point. My argument stems from the fact that the police are not the military. The government fears the citizen's possession of automatic firearms, yet the police possess millions of automatic weapons and employ these in trained and equipped military-type assault teams loosed upon those citizens.

Why are the police armed like military units, and why do we accept this? Don't tell me it is to protect the homeland, or to shoot it out with terrorists. These sorts of shootouts only happen on t.v., and "24" is not modeled after real-life America.

As example, see the Rocky River Arms A-4 rifle directly above, or the VLTOR Modstock Basic Carbine Combo Kit pictured above that (pgs. 2 and 4 in the catalog, respectively.) These firearms are open to purchase by the general public, but they are also the weapons used by municipal police agencies. The only difference is the police agencies can legally convert these to full auto fire.

Who will these military weapons subdue? For recent examples, Waco, or Ruby Ridge should come to mind.

In Waco and Ruby Ridge, U.S. citizens--not terrorists--were obliterated by military-type assault teams that showed little regard for the Bill of Rights.

Waco was a compound full of U.S. citizens accused of violating federal law, and the federal juggernaut rolled over them using chemical agents outlawed in war and tanks borrowed from the Army, and every federal agent for miles around was packing automatic weapons. It should be noted that only one person was named and charged on the warrant served by the federal agents.

Even if every Branch Davidian had a Rambo-type M60, they didn't have a chance. Armed citizens cannot stand up to this overwhelming combat power of the civilian federal authority. The lesson was clear, but seems to be forgotten by our short-term memory citizenry. Bluntly, the government at any level, if they want you, can take out your wife and family, along with your dog, Tyke. Just ask Randy Weaver.

In effect, the Federal Agents used automatic weapons to kill people because the people supposedly had automatic weapons. Bear in mind that fact was never proven, as the evidence was incinerated in situ; what remained for identification was never shown to be automatic. Other evidence disappeared, similar to the missing tape in the Padilla case.

For sure they had AR-15's, probably illegally manufactured, but that shouldn't be a death sentence executed by our tax-supported federal agents. Also bear in mind that the survivors of Waco didn't exactly get what could be called a fair chance in federal court. This is old history, but the Bushes, Clintons, Edwards, Guilianis, McCains, Gores and Kerrys of this world are not in favor of U.S. citizens possessing assault-type weapon.

It is my speculation that local, state and federal law enforcement kill more Americans every year than die as a result of targeting by Islamic jihad terrorists. This, even if one factors in the U.S. soldiers deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This thought does not make me sleep better at night. In fact, I believe I'll order #100-002-670CA Chrome-lined 11 1/2 Heavy Barrel AR 15 for $239.95. I also need to order new 30 round M16/AR 15 mags with chrome silicon springs. Regular springs are so passe.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


As far as military necessity will permit, religiously respect the constitutional rights of all
George McClellan

It may be necessary to use methods other than constitutional ones
--Robert Mugabe

It looks like one of the Department of Justice's top dogs will invoke the 5th Amendment if called before a Congressional committee. How quaint. Since America is being run like a mafia family, it is only fitting that our officials invoke the 5th.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's senior counselor, Monica M. Goodling, yesterday "refused to testify in the Senate about her involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination" ("Aide to Gonzales Won't Testify.")

In a sworn statement she said she will "decline to answer any and all questions" because she faces "
a perilous environment in which to testify" Of course, that is usually what cross-examination is like, as opposed to say a trip to Club Med.

John Dowd, Goodling's lawyer, wrote. "It is the politically charged environment created by the members of the committee ... that has created the ambiguous and perilous environment in which even innocent witnesses would be well advised not to testify" (
"Gonzales Aide to Invoke the Fifth.") I wonder that the attorneys for the Gitmo detainees ever claimed such protective maneuvers on their client's behalf.

In the old, pre 9-11 days, this would signal a deal that would leave immunity on the table. But that was the old days. That was before the President, Vice President, Congress, and the Attorney General and the DoJ had declared that torture is a true and lasting democratic value.

I propose that we take this unwilling witness and show the world that America is not so hypocritical that we won't torture white, Republican DoJ flunkies. Let us torture the witness into speaking in a public television-type open forum. Modernity's take on the pillory.

Let's see the eagle fly. Why limit our torture sessions to poor chicanos and poor bastards snatched up on the battlefields of Afghanistan, or the streets of Italy, Germany or Turkey?
In fact, I'll volunteer to squeeze the thumbs, and share the experience in the blog forum. I'll even have someone hold up the cell phone for a picture--the best of citizen reportage.

It's the new America--Let's Torture The Bastard, or "LTTB" for short. Toby Kieth could pen a semi-official anthem to the policy, which will refine and supersede his "LKTA," or Let's Kick Their Ass.

After all, how many terror suspects in Gitmo invoked the 5th? Torture makes one ignore such niceties.


It is legal because I wish it
--King Louis XIV

When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal
--President Richard Nixon

I had a flashback to Ranger training last night while sitting on the patio of a restaurant.

Smoking is prohibited in restaurants in Florida, and the deck faces a berm where the smokers go to damage their lungs. A young lady tried to go straight up the hillock, at which point she fell right her backside.

In the mountaineering component of Ranger training, one learns to contour a hill to reach the top (or bottom.) The easiest and best route is not a straight line.

So, too, it is with the U.S.'s quasi-legal approach to terrorism, which seeks to address the supposed threat with a ramrod approach, cutting out all of the legal niceties along the way to incarceration. The administration policy would rather have the U.S. fall on its ass than take the longer, safer, time-tried route. The Padilla case is a fine example.

The straight-up-the-hill approach seems easy. Snatch, grab, torture, isolate. But the long way is mandated by the Constitution. Crime warrant, investigation, suspects, charges, trials. That way leads to an America that no longer seems to exist, nor does anyone seem to care about its passing.

As a result we've fallen on our collective ass.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Unwilling to Commit

There are only two options regarding commitment. You're either in or out.
There's no such thing as a life in-between

--Coach Pat Riley

And of course, it is that legal nether region which we have been inhabiting these past five years. Fence riding is a painful past time, and one wonders how long America will remain in the fog of ambiguity.

New York Times reported this week that 15 Britons were captured by the Iranians off their waters. Later, the article reports they were arrested.

Interesting verbiage. When coalition forces get their hands on Iranians, we then
detain them. Since the U.S. military cannot arrest foreign nationals, or even U.S. citizens for that matter, then what is left? Either we capture them, or we detain them.

If there were a quaint document like, say, the Geneva Convention, in effect, then there would be no vacillation; it would be
capture. Unfortunately, the word "capture" implies a legitimacy that we are unwilling to confer upon our adversaries.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, "The charge against them is illegal entrance into Iranian waters," in Persian through a translator at a news conference in New York on Sunday. "In terms of legal issues, it's under investigation."

Whatever the legitimacy or outcome, there is something refreshing about criminal charges being leveled in a timely manner against an alleged transgression.

It seems the U.S. press and military have conspired to use their terms willy-nilly. Detainee is a non-committal, catch-all phrase, which can adhere to the hapless detained one in perpetuity, it would seem. If only our administration would allow our courts and military to be as surgically precise as our bombs are.

Additional thoughts:

If I were the Iranians, I'd hold the British subjects until retired Iranian General
Ali Reza Asgari, kidnapped last month in Turkey, was returned. The Iranians claim negotiation is not their intent, and thus far they have not suggested a swap.

We in the U.S. think it's cute to kidnap, render and put people in secret prisons, yet we get our shorts in a wad when the Iranians do so in a rather above-board manner.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Hey how am I driving, man?
I think we're parked
--Cheech and Chong, Up in Smoke (1978)

I want the truth.
You can't handle the truth.
--A Few Good Men (1992)

Let's go on with the show!
--There's No Business, Like Show Business lyrics

Occasionally the Wall Street Journal runs a very lucid editorial piece. Such is the case with, "An Afghan Policy Built on Pipe Dreams."

It explains how everybody's baby--the Good War--Afghanistan, is as much a fiction as anything else in this Middle East voyaging. The title is a double entendre, referring both to the illusory nature of victory and the opium-induced hallucinations which the national award-winning poppy crop will buy you.

Perhaps even a triple entendre, if you factor in the probable commensurate experiences enjoyed by a young GWB at the end of a pipe or bong. (This is one vice Vice Cheney might not have partaken in. I imagine he'd look just a bit happier if it were so. Then again, the scowl could just betoken some late stage burnout, a la Timothy Leary, and he's feeling like Tiny Tim underneath it all.)

The author details the way that words lead to false conclusions and faulty national policy. Examples given
include such fallacies as, "Afghans are willing partners in the creation of a liberal democratic state," and are part of “the group of people who want to live in peace and harmony with each other, whatever your race or your background or your religion.”

Not bloody likely. It is reminiscent of the RVN policy explored by Robert McNamara in "The Fog of War."

The article continues:

It is not only politicians who misrepresent the facts. Nonprofit groups endorse the fashionable jargon of state-building and civil society, partly to win grants. Military officers are reluctant to admit their mission is impossible. . . No one wants to seem to endorse a status quo dominated by the Taliban and drugs. Humankind cannot bear very much reality, particularly in Afghanistan.

Nothing is what it seems and all is spin. The U.S. talks of democracy and Afghans support Sharia law, which is most definitely not founded upon enlightened democratic principles.

As Ranger consistently argues, both Iraq and Afghanistan are shell games being played by a corrupt, self-absorbed and crony-dominated U.S. national leadership.

The security and defense of America will not be resolved in Iraq or Afghanistan. Fighting local religious wars is counter-productive to the security of America.

Jim and Lisa

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Contra Dict

I recently received a reasoned anonymous comment to an older post which helped me to define my position, and I wanted to expand upon my answer ("No to Drug Traffickers and Homosexuals".)

The letter writer suggested I show a bit more compassion towards former felons, in part:

"(I)f a young man or woman has made one grievous mistake, they should not be punished for the remainder of their lives for it. If that same young man or woman feels they can serve their country and can prove they have led a meritorious life, why should they not be allowed the opportunity to risk their lives for their country? It is they who have the greatest need to prove they are not terrible people, and should be given the chance."

My humanism agrees with anon. I realize that I am most at odds with the hypocrisy of the system.

To explain: the U.S Marine Commandant has issued a recommended reading list on which is listed a book about Thermopylae and the Spartans. The Marines admire the Spartan warrior ethic, but they fail to acknowledge the homosexuality of Sparta's soldiers, and would disallow a homosexual from open service in today's Marines

The U.S. military should not be a social experiment, though we have turned it into one, with women filling the ranks in addition to people with criminal backgrounds.
Yet queers are unacceptable in our new action, social welfare military. This is contradictory.

Either it's no gays and no criminals, or it's open to all. Any measure that is halfway is unrealistically discriminatory. I am thinking of a local buddy and soldier in arms who served in the mud with the Marine on the DMZ for two tours in Vietnam.

He carries his poodle out with him, and occasionally wears pink shirts. As he says, only a tough guy can get away with it. I wonder, would he be shoved in an excluded category, too? He seems to have served their purposes well, when they needed men in the mud.

Military membership is a privilege, and not conferred upon all (just ask Jenna and Barbara Bush.) Any sincere and capable citizen should be given a chance to serve his or her country, and no one should have to die for that country--be they homo, former criminal or choir boy--if the engagement is unnecessary for all, but padding the pockets of the war profiteers.

Inscrutable Iraqis

Cover Image

. I do believe in spooks. I do! I do! I do!
--Cowardly Lion, Wizard of Oz

And you thought the spooks only inhabited your CIA. Seems other people's military personnel can be downright sneaky, too.

This week, two Iraqis, said to be responsible for the attack in Karbala which killed five serviceman, were arrested by U.S. forces.

Military.com reports, "(I)n a major breakthrough against rogue Shiite militants, the military said it captured two brothers 'directly connected' to the sophisticated January sneak attack in Karbala that killed five American soldiers."

Just to set things straight: When U.S. forces sneak into an area and cordon and search, we call that a raid or a military operation. When they do it, it is a sneak attack. It is important to deny the enemy parity at all levels, especially rhetorical, it seems. Any questions?

It's a Pass

Assassination is the extreme form of censorship
The Showing-Up of Blanco Posnet, George Bernard Shaw

Murder most foul, as in the best it is, But this most foul, strange, and unnatural

Hamlet, Shakespeare

Well, it's time once again to blow smoke up our asses and tell us it's sunshine.

The latest installment in the Pat Tillman saga (of course, since he's no longer here, I guess it's someone else's saga now) has the U.S. military sounding every bit as decisive as a United Nations Secretary-General.

The AP reports Army officials as saying, "officers...should be held accountable for missteps in the aftermath of the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman." The investigation "will cite a range of errors and inappropriate conduct as the military probed the former football star's death on the battlefront in 2004" ("Officers Blamed for Tillman Case Errors.")
I know I'm comforted, how 'bout you?

"(T)he report will not make charges or suggest punishments, but it will recommend the Army look at holding the nine officers accountable [for the procedural errors that caused the fratricide to be reported as death by conventional ambush.]"

What a huge smokescreen. This standard administration cover-up completely misses the point.

Forget the cover-up. The question is: why has nobody been punished for this death, which is negligent homicide at best, and murder at worst.

The Army has administered seven slaps of the wrist in the case, "ranging
from written reprimands to expulsion from the Rangers. One had his pay reduced and was effectively forced out of the Army."

Pat Tillman deserves justice. It is the Ranger way.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Injuries Happen

Your second update from the Sunshine State's capital paper: "Local Marine Injured in Iraq":
"It was Marine Cpl. Eric Fletcher's third tour of duty in Iraq and his third injury.

Twice before, the 22-year-old Tallahassee resident had suffered concussions. This time, on March 16th, he was injured from his neck to his Achilles tendon when a grenade went off. A piece of shrapnel lodged in his neck, part of the reason he lost six pints of blood

He has been recovering at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland since Tuesday. Fletcher, who already has undergone several operations, will have at least three more..."
Again, the press gives the administration a pass. This Marine is wounded, not "injured." Injured implies an accident, like a sprained ankle, and this was no accident. And what did Fletcher's wounds buy for America? Why doesn't the Tallahassee Democrat ask that question?

There is a Kansas...

Our day will come,
and we'll have everything
"Our Day, Will Come," Frankie Valli

The sun’ll come out, tomorrow,

Bet your bottom dollar, that tomorrow
There'll be sun

Tomorrow tomorrow, I love you tomorrow,

You're only a day a-way
--"The Sun'll Come Out, Tomorrow," from Annie

Well, as Hemingway's Lady Brett Ashley wistfully remarked, it's pretty to think so. At least we know who Daddy Warbucks is.

Those hopeful but vapid sentiments came to mind after reading an editorial today by John Crawford, local boy made good. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller,
The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell, written in part while he was an infantry soldier in Iraq.

I was impressed with his self-effacing manner when I heard him speak at our local bookstore on the first leg of his book promotion tour. He has since become the state news coordinator for the
Tallahassee Democrat, but he has missed the boat as far as using his voice in effective protest.

His editorial piece today, "There is a Better Way to Protest," is merely cute, trite and utterly irrelevant.

More than 3,500 Americans have fallen in the past five years on foreign shores. Over 7,000 vets have spinal cord injuries, and it's safe to say that they will never rise to become healthy people again. His biggest plea is for "empathy," a quality he imputes even to his baby daughter. But how does Crawford or his baby acknowledge these stark facts?

He speaks of his friend's killing by a roadside IED. But his friend, Spc. Robert Wise, was not killed by an IED. Rather, the cause of Wise's death is an illegal war, and the responsibilities lies with a corrupt and incompetent U.S. National Command Authority which fostered the war.

The IED was merely an instrument. The cause was an elective, preemptive and unnecessary war.

Crawford may have felt the heat leave Wise's body, but he hasn't truly digested the significance. All of us with combat experience should oppose the use of violence in war, unless every other option has been exhausted. This surely was not the case in the constructed rush to war with Iraq.

One can best show the empathy that Crawford calls for fallen warriors by opposing this war through any means possible.

I am a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), and I still oppose the policy that awards plaques to dead soldiers, as we did in the case of Spc. Wise.
My condolences and best wishes go out to Spc. 4 Wise's family; I mourn their incredible loss. Surely America lost a fine man when Wise died. But this posthumous award legitimizes and institutionalizes the war and lends support to the administration's illegal policies.

Fallen soldiers are best remembered if their example of bravery allows the rest of us to have the courage to insure that no soldier receive the Purple Heart, unless the nation is facing an actual imminent threat.

Iraq was a manufactured emergency. And the fallen heroes are expediencies to the process, hailed by all comers for their cause du jour.

For instance, I remember the vacillation of Governor Bush, who took almost two days to decide if the flag could be flown at half-staff following Wise's death. Of course, this indecision is understandable in a family so in want of military experience in its recent generation.

The salient point is, we allowed the Florida National Guard and Army to send this unit to combat without proper training ("compressed") or equipment. W
hy does Florida allow this criminal misallocation of our precious treasure? These are our best, and we're wasting them to no avail.

Good men and women have died in vain
--a concept considered heretical in this must-believe war--and men like Crawford find this acceptable?
Wise is still dead, his comrades still sent unprepared into a war which is still an elective, illegal invasion, one that does not benefit America, writ large, in any way. (Though certain Americans, writ small, are privately benefiting.)

Crawford has a national voice. He could do more, and I hope he does.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

You'll never find your gold on a sandy beach
You'll never drill for oil on a city street

I know you're looking for a ruby in a mountain of rocks

But there ain't no Coupe de Ville hiding at the bottom of a cracker jack box

I want you, I need you

But there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you

Now don't be sad

cause two out of three ain't bad

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad, Meatloaf

That Meatloaf song always was particularly unpalatable to me.

The press has reported over the past week that the military is in a state of unpreparedness, with even the blitzkreig brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division not quite so ready ("Army Brigade Finds Itself Stretched Thin.")

Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's readiness panel, said: "I have seen the classified-only readiness reports. And based on those reports, I believe that we as a nation are at risk of major failure, should our Army be called to deploy to an emerging threat." ("Military is Ill-Prepared for Other Conflicts") Well, at least it's only a risk.

But Defense Secretary Robert Gates says we can fight on a third front if necessary ("Despite Strains, U.S. Could Fight a Third War: Gates.")

"Gates said adversaries should not
think the United States too weak to fight." It is Wizard of Oz advice, because if you don't think it, Dorothy, it won't be true ("I do believe, I do believe.")

"'Our ability to defend the United States despite the heavy commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan remains very strong and every adversary should be aware of that,' he said. He did not identify any specific adversaries."

But Gates did say there would be readiness problems for the Army would if Congress didn't pass the $100 billion in emergency funding.

Little things, like the need to"curtail or suspend some training for reserve forces, slow training of units scheduled to go to Iraq and Afghanistan and stop repairing equipment used in training."
Coat hangars and duct tape do nicely in a pinch. (In homage to gone-but-not-forgotten security czar Tom Ridge. How sad that some folks get consigned to the dustbin of history, which can be so fickle and cruel.)

However, The Post also reported problems.

An unnamed Army official said the Army and Marines are in a "death spiral" due to the increased tempo of war-zone rotations which have "consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand," and depleted our strategic reserve of ground troops.

While the
Times article quotes military sources who said we'd be "victorious" on a third front, but "would have to rely heavily on the Navy and Air Force," the Post's sources admitted "Air and naval power can only go so far in compensating for infantry, artillery and other land forces."

The Army's vice chief of staff, Gen. Richard A. Cody, told the House Armed Services Committee's readiness panel last week, "The readiness continues to decline of our next-to-deploy forces."

"We have a strategy right now that is outstripping the means to execute it," Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

"The Army should have five full combat brigades' worth of such equipment: two stocks in Kuwait, one in South Korea, and two aboard ships in Guam and at the Diego Garcia base in the Indian Ocean. But the Army had to empty the afloat stocks to support the troop increase in Iraq, and the Kuwait stocks are being used as units to rotate in and out of the country. Only the South Korea stock is close to complete, according to military and government officials.

"Without the pre-positioned stocks, we would not have been able to meet the surge requirement," Schoomaker said. "It will take us two years to rebuild those stocks. That's part of my concern about our strategic depth."

I came across a 2003 piece in the
The Washington Monthly on military overstretch which read as uncannily current. Below are a few excerpts:

Today's military is "like a football team playing back to back games in overtime with no practice or rest time," says Maj. Donald Vandergriff, an ROTC instructor at Georgetown University and a leading expert on the military's personnel crisis.

The president has never once publicly called upon young Americans to join the military, an omission that has caused some amount of grumbling throughout the ranks. After all, when the Pentagon can't bring in more recruits, those who've already signed up pay the price.

Three years ago, candidate Bush charged the preceding administration with wanting things both ways: "To command great forces, without supporting them. To launch today's new causes, with little thought of tomorrow's consequences." He should heed his own warning.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Welcome Home...

That'll Clip His Wings

On a clear day
You can see forever

And ever
And ever more
"On a Clear Day," lyrics by Lerner and Lane

John Nichols, author of The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism, blogs in
The Nation on Congressman Kucinich's address to the House regarding articles of impeachment to restrain Bush from a possible impending attack upon Iran. He quotes Kucinich:

"This House cannot avoid its Constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of Executive power.

The Administration has been preparing for an aggressive war against Iran. There is no solid, direct evidence that Iran has the intention of attacking the United States or its allies.

The US is a signatory to the UN Charter, a constituent treaty among the nations of the world. Article II, Section 4 of the UN Charter states, "all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. . ." Even the threat of a war of aggression is illegal.

Article VI of the US Constitution makes such treaties the Supreme Law of the Land. This Administration, has openly threatened aggression against Iran in violation of the US Constitution and the UN Charter.

This week the House Appropriations committee removed language from the Iraq war funding bill requiring the Administration, under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution, to seek permission before it launched an attack against Iran.

Since war with Iran is an option of this Administration and since such war is patently illegal, then impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran."

Even though Speaker Pelosi is working to keep impeachment off the table, Nichols writes,
"bottom line is that Kucinich is right when he says: 'This House cannot avoid its Constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of Executive power.' The congressman deserves credit for recognizing that "impeachment may well be the only remedy" for the Constitutional crisis Bush has created, and for the crises he now schemes to create."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Baghdad Beltway

Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?

Well, they're the people that you meet
When you're walking down the street
They're the people that you meet each day

--Who Are The People in Your Neighborhood?,
Bob McGrath (Sesame Street)


Former secretary of Health and Human Services and possible potential '08 presidential candidate Tommy Thompson, speaking on National Public Radio yesterday (3/20/07), winningly suggested that we poll the Iraqis to see if they really want us to stay. Because that is a question, y'know. And I can certainly understand the confusion.

Because the press has a habit of depicting the violence which does not abate in Iraq as some sort of Teddy Boy crimes between neighborhood toughs who just won't stop encroaching on the other's turf.

The New York Times reports there are "rogue elements of Shia extremists," and a troublesome "Sunni group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia," and it is an "arduous effort to head off" their "sectarian strife" ("Sunni Militants Disrupt Plan to Calm Baghdad.") And somehow, we're caught in the crosshairs. But the overall view is, we're trying to put out fires and be good stewards of our Iraqi clients.

The Times article later seemingly contradicts itself by quoting a November Pentagon report identifying the Shiite Mahdi Army as "replacing Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia 'as the most dangerous accelerent of potentially self-sustaining sectarian violence in Iraq."

As General Petraeus said recently of the car bomb factories his troops are finding in the hinterlands, "we clearly have got to find as many of those as we can to destroy them and then, obviously, to interdict those that are still able to be built." Like so many crack houses, perhaps we can eject the trouble-makers, and maybe successfully convert them into more wholesome enterprises for the locals.

"Although the focus, the priority, clearly is Baghdad, anyone who knows anything about securing Baghdad knows that you must also secure the Baghdad belts, in other words, the areas that surround Baghdad," Petraeus said. How far out do the belts go? Is it, like the ever-expanding waistbands of Americans, with the largest belt encircling the entire country? I see Iraq as a giant matryoshka doll. Baghdad is merely one of the little inside nested dolls.

It's as though we're walking in the fog of bad James Taylor lyrics: "It used to be your town, it used to be my town, too" (Her Town, Too.) Except, it never was our town. And the bloom is off the rose, and it is too late for the sentiments of the wonderful King and I:

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

As Badtux says, "'terrorists' ARE the people of Iraq. They aren't hiding there. They live there (3/17/07)." It is like a bad Sam Kinison routine. People, they don't want you there. I appreciate that Mr. Thomspon, in his best government self, would like a poll on the matter, but the majority of Iraqis polled have already said that it is o.k. to kill Americans. What more do we need to know?


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Who Loves Ya, Baby?

Jim Hightower has reported on which corporations funded whom in the last election (The Logo, part I, Hightower Lowdown, March 2007).

The Federal Election Commission revealed "a record level of corporate money poured into the corrupt system, with the preponderance of it flowing into the coffers of Republican candidates." No surprise there.

Drug makers "got Congress to hand them a multibillion-dollar boondoggle with passage of a Medicare drug bill that was essentially written by their lobbyists."

"Computer Giants have had Congress holding open the visa gates so they could bring tens of thousands of low-wage engineers and programmers from India and elsewhere to the U.S., knocking down the pay scale for these middle-class jobs."

"Meat processors fought off consumers demanding action on mad-cow disease, even getting Congress to stall the simple requirement that food products have country-of-origin labeling."

He offers a Lowdowner's Shopping Guide to the various groups. Some arbitrary picks:

--It's not so surprising when the company that makes the likes of Cheez Whiz and Velveeta, Oreos, Shake 'n Bake and Miracle Whip supports the Reps. (Think Talladega Nights.) But that same corporation (Altria) also manufactures Tazo tea, Seattle's Best and Starbucks. 65% of their $1,264,435 contribution went to the GOP.

--You may think you're being bohemian by drinking Blue Moon Wheat Lager, but really, you're paying Coors, who's paying 83% of their $168,597 campaign contribution to the GOP.

--Your Metamucil may just have just have the opposite effect once you learn that 81% of Proctor & Gambles' contribution--$356,674--goes to the GOP.

--And yogurt, organic at that. You think you're doing the right thing here, but Horizon Organic and Organic Cow of Vermont are owned by Dean Foods, which contributed 71% of their $523,400 to the GOP.

You can feel good shopping at GAP, Costco and Barnes & Noble; not so good at Limited brands, J C Penny and Publix.

Well, if you're hardcore, you'd carry the list with you. Of course there are some companies that everyone knows simply do good--they are green, and they contribute to the campaigns of progressive candidates. One that comes to mind as I'm wanting an indulgence right about now is Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream.

And don't say Ranger never did nothin' for you: Ben & Jerry's has one day each year where ice cream cones are free--as many as you can eat. That day this year is April 20th. Who loves ya, baby?


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Intrepidity Needed

"A promise made is a debt unpaid"
Robert W. Service, The Cremation of Sam McGee

These pictures are from the March/April 2007 DAV magazine coverage of the Center for the Intrepid Rehab Facility in San Antonio Texas.

I hold these brave young men and women in nothing but the highest regard, and stand humbled before their sacrifice. But I cannot be happy at the introduction of this facility nor at its necessity, as I was not happy at the inception of these elective hostilities, as I continue to to be outraged at their continuance.

Even Thomas "F.U." Friedman got his hair up--a little (NYT, 3/11/07):
"You’d think that an administration that has been so quick to exploit soldiers as props — whether it was to declare “Mission Accomplished” on an naval vessel or to silence critics by saying their words might endanger soldiers in battle — would have been equally quick to spare no expense in caring for those injured in the fight.

"Mr. Bush summoned the country to D-Day and prepared the Army, the military health system, military industries and the American people for the invasion of Grenada."

But remarkably--or not--Mr. Friedman is not so much outraged, as he is calling on Americans to throw a giant bake sale of sorts for the boys. At the article's conclusion, Friedman includes the names and addresses of four charitable organizations to which good folks can contribute monies. Says he, "We've got to take first-class care of those who've carried the burden of this war."

This is not Bowling for Dollars or a Prayer Dial-a-thon. This is America, not some unincorporated area outside of the train depot. We have a government which levies taxes, declares wars, and disburses funds appropriately. Or at least, should be.

A faithful reader of this blog recently likened VA health care to welfare. Call it what you will, it's a promise. And if the mega wealthy can have their entitlements and "welfare" which allows them to dodge billions of dollars in taxes each year, then so can the lowly soldier gain the finest health care, which is his or her earned right. That is not asking for the Taj Mahal.

Mr. Friedman's approach may garner some support now, but as those men and women age, the patriotic fervor will have died down, and the bake sales will be less. That is why the government must honor the health care promise made to those whose lives are compromised in the service of our country.

The center is aptly named, however, as these brave young warriors will have to be intrepid when dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs for the rest of their lives.


Did You Hear the One About...

**NOTE 3/21/07: Authenticated via snopes.com. Chaplain Kallerson notes that he never intended his email to become public.

It's the same old story

Same old song and dance, my friend
--Aerosmith, album Get Your Wings

The below is taken from an email sent to Jim by one of his former service mates. I have not been able to corroborate its validity, but it is provocative if authentic. It concerns the Walter Reed expose, and is signed, "Chaplain John L. Kallerson, Senior Chaplain Clinician.Walter Reed Army Medical Center."

"What needs to be addressed, and finally will, is the bureaucratic garbage that all soldiers are put through going into medical boards and medical retirements. Congress is finally giving the money that people have asked for at Walter Reed for years to fix places on the installations and address shortcomings. . .

"Then they (Congress) did this thing called an A76 where they fired many of the workers here for a company of contractors, IAP, to get a contract to provide care outside the hospital proper. The company, which is responsible for maintenance, only hired half the number of people as there were originally assigned to maintenance areas to save money. Walter Reed leadership fought the A76 and BRAC process for years but lost. Congress instituted the BRAC and A76 process; not the leadership of Walter Reed."

So again, we have the story of venal government contractors cutting corners, and again, their profiteering on the backs of your fighting men and women, who are paying by enduring shabby care and facilities.


Monday, March 19, 2007

As Opposed to Helpful Bigotry...

Here is a link to a very reasoned argument supporting gays in the military, by Alan K. Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming from 1979 to 1997 ("Bigotry That Hurts Our Military," Washington Post.)

A few excerpts:

As a lifelong Republican who served in the Army in Germany, I believe it is critical that we review -- and overturn -- the ban on gay service in the military. I voted for "don't ask, don't tell." But much has changed since 1993

My thinking shifted when I read that the military was firing translators because they are gay. According to the Government Accountability Office, more than 300 language experts have been fired under "don't ask, don't tell," including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic...
Is there a "straight" way to translate Arabic? Is there a "gay" Farsi? My God, we'd better start talking sense before it is too late. We need every able-bodied, smart patriot to help us win this war.

The Army is "about broken," in the words of Colin Powell. The Army's chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, told the House Armed Services Committee in December that "the active-duty Army of 507,000 will break unless the force is expanded by 7,000 more soldiers a year."
To fill its needs, the Army is granting a record number of "moral waivers," allowing even felons to enlist. Yet we turn away patriotic gay and lesbian citizens

The Urban Institute estimates that 65,000 gays are serving and that there are 1 million gay veterans. These gay vets include Capt. Cholene Espinoza, a former U-2 pilot who logged more than 200 combat hours over Iraq, and Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, who lost his right leg to an Iraqi land mine. Since 2005, more than 800 personnel have been discharged from "critical fields" -- jobs considered essential but difficult in terms of training or retraining, such as linguists, medical personnel and combat engineers.
Aside from allowing us
to recruit and retain more personnel, permitting gays to serve openly would enhance the quality of the armed forces.

In World War II, a British mathematician named Alan Turing led the effort to crack the Nazis' communication code. He mastered the complex German enciphering machine, helping to save the world, and his work laid the basis for modern computer science. Does it matter that Turing was gay?
This week, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said that homosexuality is "immoral" and that the ban on open service should therefore not be changed. Would Pace call Turing "immoral"?
. . .