RANGER AGAINST WAR: October 2007 <

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Torture Light

Frost: So what in a sense, you're saying is that there are
certain situations . . . where the president can decide that it's in the
best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.

Well, when the president does it
that means that it is not illegal.

Frost: By definition.

Nixon: Exactly. Exactly. If the president, for example,
approves something because of the national security,
or in this case because of a threat to internal peace
and order of significant magnitude, then the president's decision
in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out,
to carry it out without violating a law.

David Frost/Nixon interview, (05/19/1977)


David Frost was a wicked boy.

A recent Op-Ed piece in
The Wall Street Journal called on Americans to "stop their moral posturing" vis-a-vis torture. We weren't aware that such high-handedness existed in this administration (Getting Serious About 'Torture', WSJ, 10/22/07.)

Before tuning out seeing as this speaks to a WSJ piece, consider their large audience, and that you are reading their most eloquent defenders. Then consider perhaps the most remarkable part of the piece -- its authorship.

Quoth the Journal, "Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the Justice Department under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and were members of the U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights from 2004-2006." Casting central for the Twilight Zone could not have chosen the authors better.
The legal somersaults involved are impressive. Consider the following:

"(D)efining torture raises complex legal, policy and moral issues, and cannot be done without taking into account all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the use of any particular interrogation technique."

So, sometimes it's torture, but sometimes not. They seem to feel that jurists should subscribe to the wobbly soft discipline's ideas on situational ethics. If it's torture for good (i.e., for us), that's o.k. But that squidginess contradicts the very purpose of having rule of law.

Interrogation techniques can not, and should not, even be mixed into a sentence with the word torture. If an action is considered torture if done to an American, then it is torture when done by or for Americans.

The authors seek to muddy the waters by claiming U.S. military terrorism resistance training subjects soldiers to behavior commensurate with torture, but this is a bald-faced lie.

Nothing in training, even SERE, approaches real torture, as everybody knows the trainers cannot go beyond a certain point. Actual torture sessions are well beyond the borders of normal fears. Most torturers seek to partially destroy the subject before they ask the first question.

Torture and interrogation are not interchangeable concepts. An interrogation elicits information that will be processed into intelligence. The reliability of the source is a function of the intelligence production cycle. Torture does not produce intel; it produces fantasy. Then again, since the Phony War on Terror is fantasy, statements so gathered probably pass for reality-based intelligence these days.

"(F)orcing a prisoner to maintain an uncomfortable posture for a period of time is not cruel, inhuman or degrading, although forcing him to do so while naked, shackled to the floor in near freezing temperatures might be. It is a matter of degree."

Indeed. 34 degrees might be acceptable; 32 is beyond the pale.

"The law defines torture as the intentional infliction of "severe pain or suffering." But, if it's not intentional. . . Echoes of John Cleese: "Sorry, sooo sorry -- just an accident; we can fix that."

To even utter the term "might be" following that description is indicative of moral and legal bankruptcy. If these are the chimes of freedom, don't play them in my neighborhood.

The purpose of torture is not to gain information, but to dominate, humiliate and suppress any humanity left in the prisoner. If we even consider acts which could be considered torture, then we have negated the stated reasons for fighting Nazi Germany, the Japanese empire and Communism, and the very justification for the Iraq escapade.

"(V)arying degrees of coercion are present in many public institutions, including penitentiaries, boot camps for juvenile and adult offenders, police training academies and many aspects of military life. . . All of this suggests that, at a minimum, stressful interrogations consistent with the U.S. military's basic training should be permissible as a matter of course, with other methods to be considered on a case-by-case basis."

According to our standards of jurisprudence, there is no "case-by-case basis." Laws are written to obviate loose interpretations and applications based upon individual legal interpretations. There is no relativity when it comes to the application of torture techniques. Flatly, they are illegal, immoral and not deserving of American interests.

In those cases mentioned, the coercion is not torture, and is court-ordered and possesses a legitimate social function. The people held as terrorist detainees have not had their day in court before they face their front-loaded punishment. America still adheres to the maxim, "Innocent until proven guilty" -- or does it?

The piece ends with the predictable clap-trap about torture saving lives:

"Americans rightfully expect to be protected from attack. But there is no free lunch. Coercive interrogations have been key in preventing post -9/11 attacks on American soil. To preempt future attacks the intelligence agencies must continue to have information that can often be obtained only from captured terrorists.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
That is the most weasely offense (with no offense to actual weasels) committed by these authors, as with most of the designers of and apologists for the Iraq escapade.

Hasn't anyone taken sophomore logic here?

--Jim and Lisa

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Revolution Will Not be Televised

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock news
and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.
--The Revolution Will Not be Televised, Gil Scott-Heron

Never underestimate the power of protest.

One of our local professors has coauthored a recently released book titled,
Books on Trial; Red Scare in the Heartland. It is the story of the arrest and subsequent release of book store owners and Communist party members Bob and Ina Wood in 1940 Oklahoma City.

"While prosecutors claimed that Wood and his cohorts advocated violence, destruction of property and murder, they proved only that he consorted with African Americans and Jews and sold books.

"Protests from 'thousands (if not tens of thousands) of private citizens poured into the offices of the county attorney, the state attorney general, and the governor.' Newspapers across the country editorialized in favor of free speech, free assembly and fundamental civil rights. Finally, in 1943 the Criminal Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s opinion.

"The Wiegands note the parallels between the 'paranoid politics' of that day and the present 'chain of civil liberties violations.' Even with the world at war, when the civil rights of a few citizens were threatened, people across the nation got it—their rights, too, stood in harm's way (Paranoia in Power, review in FSU Research in Review.) "

An animated number citizens was able to secure the release of improperly incarcerated citizens, by voicing their dissent.

It is reminiscent of the lessons from another protest, during an even more repressive regime.

Another FSU professor, Dr. Nathan Stoltzfus, wrote on the Rosenstrasse incident. If you are unfamiliar with it, the link will bring you to a thorough review of the book. It begins:

"Day and night for a week in early 1943, hundreds of unarmed German women did something that was unheard of in Nazi Germany.

"They stood toe-to-toe with machine gun-wielding Gestapo agents and demanded the release of their Jewish husbands from Adolph Hitler’s murderous grip. The men were locked up in the Jewish community center in the heart of Berlin, victims of Hitler’s final roundup of German Jews.

"The women's courage and passion prevailed: As thousands of other Berlin Jews were crammed into cattle cars and transported to Auschwitz, the Jews married to 'Aryan' German women were set free.

"But even today, more than 50 years after the Nazi reign of terror, few Germans acknowledge the significance of protest on Rosenstrasse, the street where the dramatic showdown took place. To admit that unarmed women saved 1,700 Jews from deportation would be to challenge postwar Germany's consensus that ordinary citizens were powerless to curb Hitler's anti-Semitic rampage (The Day Hitler Blinked.)"

The revolution will not be televised.


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Monday, October 29, 2007

A Bee in Our Bonnet

If all the beasts were gone, men would die from
great loneliness of spirit,
for whatever happens to the beasts
also happens to man.
All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth

--Chief Seattle (1854)

Ranger Scatological Thought For the Day:

America is caught between a blow job, a hand job, toilet stalls
kitty litter boxes called Iraq and Afghanistan

Yesterday Ranger watched a documentary on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), causing him to reflect on the larger world that the honeybees inhabit, and its respective collapse.

Honeybees are dying off at an alarming rate. The bees fly from their hives, never to return. One theory is that several factors are affecting their ability to find pollen, resulting in the disastrous cascade leading to the hive's death. The bee colonies are collapsing, with grave implications beyond the hive's honey production.

This led to some free-range thinking away from the hive. Ranger hopes he'll find his way home.

The U.S. is experiencing its own CCD (Country Collapse Disorder), as the things essential to our hive health are being ignored. We are handed a $2.4 trillion dollar war addressing the chimerical fears of domestic terrorism,
when Dear Leader promised Social Security reform. Well, that reforms things right quick, as in erasing creative or generous (I realize, not a term often linked with neo-cons vis-a-vis social programs) options.

In our neck of the woods, the republicans still blame Bill Clinton for being asleep on the watch and allowing Osama bin laden and al-Qaeda to fester into a problem necessitating such an extravagant reaction.

Of course, the facts are more nuanced, as they usually are, and Clinton was well-aware of the threat posed by bin-Laden. But the hypocritical republicans took his attention away from addressing the country's welfare in favor of self-defense over a blow job. You understand this, but there are still a lot of folks who don't.

We know the litany of problems America now confronts: environmental and infrastructure blights, the falling value of the dollar, the job exodus, the dismal housing market. In view of all that faces the average hive-dweller, Iraq and Afghanistan seem distant concerns for the average American taxpayer.

The very real problems facing America are sublimated for a hand-job called the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©). Yeah, GWB is tough on terror, but he's hell on the American public, which is getting jerked off on a daily basis. Perhaps he himself is one of the axes of evil (or as my 10th grade biology teacher/football coach Rudy Rolle might've said, one of the "asses" of evil. Lisa remembers this from his discussion of the earth's rotation on its asses.)

Awful as the republican side is, the democrats offer little hope for substantive change. They've been promising universal health care for as long as Ranger can remember ( a long time). They claim to represent the average Joe, but do they ever deliver? These days, they too only run patrician oligarchs on their tickets.

Where are we? The war has drained the honey from the hive. Iraq may prosper, but America will not do so on any meaningful level for many years to come. The democrats will not deliver a candidate who will unequivocally end this meaningless PWOT.

Both parties are focusing on the welfare of Iraqis, while their own hive is collapsing. Once the worker bees are lost, the queen cannot live.

--Jim and Lisa


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ring of Fire

(Michael) ...Suffering, redemption, and decay!
(Angels) It's a bitch.
--Wishing Window, Leonard Cohen


A well-meaning conservative friend has just sent a series of pictures on the California wildfires under the caption, "Please Pray" (Godtube; it's not all about you.) They are dramatic, and show beautiful homes that look like small Hyatt Regencies going up in flames.

Most of those folks hot-tailed it our in their Hummers, and I found the most affecting photo to be one of two deer in the middle of a round surrounded by flames. The caption reads:

"Pray for all the people that have lost their homes.

Pray these fires die down soon.

Pray for the firefighters and their safety.

Please keep them safe.

"Please keep their homes, pets, and families safe.

Please convince people that
no house is worth their lives,
and that they need to evacuate when asked.

Please keep people off their cell phones

so the firefighters can use the lines.

God, please let them all be okay.

[Well, at least that. Thank God they didn't have to worry about everyone having cell phones during Katrina. If any calls could have been made out, that is.]

But you know, it is not okay.

It is not okay to build such elaborate dwelling in such environmentally sensitive areas.

It is not okay to pray for the safety of such beautiful homes and beautiful people, while ignoring far more dire situations in which a much greater number of people suffer loss on a daily basis.

I received no such requests for prayer vigils after Hurricane Katrina, a debacle from which thousands are still suffering. But a shotgun shack under water doesn't seem to elicit the same pangs of sympathy from the prayer circle folk.

Everyone wants to be the people who are reaping the wind in California. Not that they want to suffer fire, but they want to have that castle in the hills. They can imagine themselves the brother of such a privileged one. Who wants to twin with the single mother of three on public assistance?

As one caller defiantly stated on an NPR call-in program Friday, "The California residents left when they were told," unlike those who abided in the wake of Katrina. The implication was clear: defiant or slovenly people are not treated to the same level of response.

How nice it is to have your own conveyance, and not be at the mercy of public transportation, and to have someplace to go, or the money with which to secure accommodations elsewhere. And the insurance with which to rebuild.



Saturday, October 27, 2007

An "A" for Honesty

Just one look at you
And I know it's gonna be

A lovely day.....

Lovely Day, Bill Withers

From last weekend's Wall Street Journal (10-20/21/07), wisdom, from the mouth of Peggy Noonan (Sex and the Presidency.)

In a column on Hillary Clinton, she mentions the unfortunate fact that women are still patronized by men in some corners. But in a stroke for her demure readers, she says "(c)onservative women tend not to talk about it." Several paragraphs earlier she mentions the ladylike Jackie Kennedy, and we can assume that, although Jackie happened to be a Democrat, Noonan is imputing the same refinement to her conservative ladies.

Now for the truth.

"They [conservative women] don't go public with their complaints because they're afraid it will encourage liberals to pass a law, and if you wanted more laws, or thought laws could reform human nature and make us all nice, you wouldn't be a conservative."

They know better. Truer words were never spake.


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A Few Smart Bad Apples?

Lt. Col. Marshall Gutierrez (deceased)

The Army Times reports today on audits scheduled to begin next week into possible contract fraud at Camp Arifjan, a large logistics and staging facility, in Kuwait. A previous audit describes Kuwait as "an environment ripe for misconduct and malfeasance" (Army Reviews Iraq Contracts for Fraud.)

Next week,

"This team of 10 auditors, criminal investigators and acquisition experts are starting with a sampling of the roughly 6,000 contracts worth $2.8 billion issued by an Army office in Kuwait that service officials have identified as a hub of corruption.

"The office, located at Camp Arifjan, buys gear and supplies to support U.S. troops as they move in and out of Iraq. The pace of that operation has exploded since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003."

This comes in the wake of the recent suspicious death of Lt. Colonel Marshall Gutierrez at Camp Arifjan, a whistleblower who accused Kuwait-based Public Warehousing of rampant overcharging. In what sounds like a set up job, Gutierrez was then charged with extortion of $3,500 by Public Warehousing, ending up in confinement at Camp Victory in Kuwait awaiting a court martial, and then, dead (The Wall Street Journal featured the story 10-21/22/07, "Inside the Greed Zone.")

Publicly traded Public Warehousing is one of the largest transport companies in the world, according to the Journal, and with more than $6 billion in U.S. contracts, "is designated a prime vendor for virtually all food served to U.S. forces in Iraq and Kuwait."

"Investigators suspect the military wound up paying inflated prices for everything from preserved milk to lobster tails. . ." Are soldiers eating lobster tails?

The Journal article mentions a "party house" run by one Saudi catering company, Tamimi Global, where bribes reportedly occur. We wonder if there is linkage to the bin Laden family. If there were, it would point up what a pathetic board game this entire Iraq venture is.

By way of explanation, The Army Times article says, "(s)igns of trouble include contracts continually awarded to vendors without the usual competition and awards that were competed but went to the bidder with the highest price rather than the lowest. A mismatch between the original product to be purchased and what was actually delivered is another red flag."

Cui bono


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Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,

But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,

Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black

Man in Black, Johnny Cash

A thought:

In today's military, which has a sizable ethnic representation, why have the last five Medals of Honor been awarded to white men? Of all of the Silver Stars and Distinguished Service Crosses/Navy Crosses that Ranger has seen publicized, all were awarded to white servicemen.

Further, when was the last time you saw a black Brigade Commander or black General Officer?

Have you seen photos of any black Blackwater operatives? Could they be discriminatory in their hiring practices? Then again, that is seriously doubtful, as they are there to protect American values.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gimme a Break

Today is not the time for truth-telling

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) was censured by his fellows this week and forced into a teary apology for a controversial remark he made about soldiers in Iraq getting "their heads blown off for the president's amusement

The Washington Post called the statement made last week during debate to override the president's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, "a gaffe." But a gaffe is a mistake, and this was an accusatory, intentional statement.

"You don't have money to fund the war or children, but you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people, if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement."

The Post
went on to explain that "House Democrats were furious with Stark for taking them off message on the SCHIP bill." That may be, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi was out of line calling his remarks "inappropriate."

They chided Stark, 75, for "putting his foot in his mouth for years," but you only need to hit one home run.


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Tuesday, October 23, 2007


"Oh, it's been a long journey from Milan to Minsk, Rochelle, Rochelle!"
--Bette Middler song from fictional musical
Rochelle, Rochelle,
featured in Seinfeld


The fictional character Rochelle's voyage seems no less absurd than deputy assistant secretary of defense for coalition affairs Debra Cagan's junket "from Tirana to Skopje, and on to Chisinau and Astana, among other luminous world metropolises," in order to drum up a few more coalition participants.

The Times recently reported,

"In Chisinau - you guessed it; that's the capital of Moldova - Cagan asked for more sappers in Iraq. Moldova currently has 11 bomb-disposal experts there. Yes, 11.

"In downtown Tirana, hub of a 20th century exercise in communist folly and now a place in need of American money, Cagan pressed the Albanians to go beyond their 120-strong contingent in Iraq. Albania is considering another 125 to 150 troops.

"As for Cagan's stops in the Macedonian capital of Skopje and Kazakhstan's Astana, it's unclear what transpired. Macedonia has 40 troops in Iraq; the Kazakhs have 27 military engineers. Other states visited included Ukraine, which may offer a little help in Iraq, and the Czech Republic, which got promises of military equipment."

"The 168,000 U.S. troops already account for about 94 percent of the forces there. The largest other contributor, Britain, is to halve its presence to 2,500 next year."

"Against this fraying backdrop, the strange idea of Pentagon brass spending two weeks hop-scotching a continent to cajole countries - many economically hard-pressed - into sending a platoon or two looks less outlandish. That's where we are seven years into the Bush administration: stretched to the limit."

Not only stretched to the limit, but lacking convincing justification for staying. If the U.S. can get more bodies to hop on, it is the argument from mass: "We can't let down such a convicted juggernaut, can we, now."

It is the same as the fallacious argument from loss: "So many good soldiers have died; we can't let that be in vain." So, we have to let more keep dying, to somehow vindicate the previous deaths, which vindicate the previous. . . It becomes a house of mirrors. A funhouse, which isn't very fun.

"The United States is as isolated in Iraq as a great power can be. A first term spent riding roughshod over friends and vaunting 'coalitions of the willing' over alliances has not been righted by a second term of diplomacy rehabilitation. Wounds linger."

As absurd as this project to prop up the facade of coalition is, the article fails to address the main problem with this diplomacy of desperation, namely:
Why is the Department of Defense (DoD) conducting negotiations that should fall under the purview of the Department of State (DoS)? Negotiations between governments is a State function.

The U.S. -- if it is to remain the U.S. --needs to keep its agencies operating within their charters.

The DoD is not lead agency in the U.S. government in effecting diplomatic relationships and enlisting coalition partners. This is a further denigration the DoS,
the diminution of which has been a hallmark of the administration.

America is not a military nation. The military is but one function of the government, and it does not determine policy when dealing with other nations

The article concludes: "A U.S. administration casting around for soldiering scraps in Moldova and Macedonia should be careful about saber-rattling toward Iran." Not a bad caveat.

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A Fungus Amongus

What if your brain,
Unexpectedly and suddenly,

Picked out things to flip around

And view a lot differently?

Take Me to Your Leader, Incubus

A Public Service Announcement: A friend and fellow blogroll member labrys at Walk of the Fallen has alerted us to a discovery which may help remedy a longstanding health woe of her husband's -- a skin problem which he picked up in Vietnam.

He, as well as Ranger and probably many other Vietnam servicemen, has suffered rashes of unknown etiology for 35 years. Recently, a doctor diagnosed a fungal infection, and he is responding well to oral Lamisil. One must be monitored for liver enzyme function while on the medication, but if it cures, it's worth a go.

Pass it along if you know someone who might benefit.

FWIW: Jim treats his fungal outbreaks with topical Nizoral and shampoo (ketoconazole, generic). It doesn't cure it, but it attenuates the outbreaks. He was fortunate some 15 years on to be diagnosed correctly by a retired Air Force physician in private practice. [The Army doctors never bothered to run a culture, and just told him to scrub better, which only irritated the matter.] The VA system can dispense Nizoral.


Monday, October 22, 2007


Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves

--William Pitt

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land,

it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy

-- James Madison

This ran in our local paper today, but extrapolate the subtext to your neck o' the woods.

Front page, local section:
"The Latest War on Terror Victim: Beauty." Nope, not a soliloquy on the beautiful young people dying in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT©), but rather, an homage to the soon gone big old oaks in front of the Old Capitol Building, which is actually now a museum standing in front of the New Capitol, where business is conducted. The trees will be felled in favor of "concrete security bollards to be erected across the front of the building" by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

Now, it is prudent and correct to take proactive and/or reactive terrorism counteraction. That is, if there is a credible threat based upon reliable intelligence. Absent reliable evidence that the state capital is actually targeted by a group with a potential to execute a credible attack, these plans are foolhardy.

It is absurd to cut down trees to counter a threat that does not exist. Since the PWOT is an absurdity, I guess it is logical to cut down 200 year old oak trees; somehow, it smacks of tilting at windmills. If there is a threat, a spike barrier would be sufficient, and would not be obtrusive.

Realistically, what group could possibly have access to vehicular bombs in Florida?

Taking this to its logical endpoint, why not bring the 124th Infantry of the Florida National Guard into active duty and emplace them in bunkers around the capital complex amongst the azaleas? God knows they have enough experience doing this in Baghdad. Good for Iraq; better for Tallahassee.

In a nod to the green members of society, we could use the logs dismembered from the felled trees to provide overhead cover. The best of greencycling.

Alternately, we could arm the antiwar protesters who march in front of the capitol, as most of them have military experience, with RPGs to neutralize any approaching car bombs. A Private 1st Class could supervise them. Hell, I'll join the group if they give me an RPG, with at least three rounds.

Terrorism counteraction policy must be based in fact, rather than knee-jerk reactions. Realistic threat analysis is the key to all effective action.

What's really going on? The Old Capitol fronts the major thoroughfare through town. So every day, commuters will no longer see the homey domed capitol behind Spanish moss-covered oaks, but rather, "tacky as can be" security bollards," that according to local arborist Sam Hand, PhD.

As with the constant barrage from the media and entertainment outlets, the purpose seems to be to keep the citizens in a continual state of free-floating anxiety. As fear has become the watchword, it somehow makes what the U.S. is doing in the Middle East relevant. We are keeping them occupied with fresh meat over there, so they cannot hop the bollards over here.

The bollards are window dressing and backdrop for the six-o'clock news show.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007


In a barroom the TV is flashing like a fire,
and warning of the future like a prophet from the past,

the radio is blaring like a siren in the corner,

and telling you to prepare for an all out attack,

the newspaper reads like a page from the bible

and tells us a tale of impending doom,

but blind, deaf and dumb are we

and all we really care about is
who can drink the most
before he goes to the bathroom

--Blindsided, The Systematics


It must be the cycle of the moon, but for some reason Ranger cannot flush the obtrusive thoughts of ambushes out of mind.

The present kill ratio is +/- 19,000:3,750. This is an unacceptable figure, indicating U.S. forces are getting killed at an unacceptable rate in spite of upgraded vehicle aand body armor, training and combined arms tactics.

So why the casualty rate? It must be due to ambushes. The IED employments are obviously explosive ambushes, and are deadly killers. Ambushes can be near or far infantry-type ambushes, and further, hasty or prepared. All are deadly if properly employed by the adversary. And obviously, they are being properly employed.

Generally the prepared ambush should be the most deadly and difficult to counter. The main body of the ambush force will create a deadly kill zone. They will have near and far security to seal off the kill zone and to delay reaction forces until the main body leaves the zone of action and returns to their objective rally point.

But the point is the kill zone will be beaten by small arms fire and possibly covered by explosives, and definitely RPG fire. So U.S. forces are always fighting against the odds. The fear factor favors the ambushes and possibly this is why the kill ratio is jacked up.

The U.S. is facing planned ambushes on a frequent basis. They can plan and distribute their fire in the most efficient manner, and can command and control their elements for maximum effect. In other words, they are operating right out of the Ranger Handbook.

If Ranger were an urban guerrilla, then far ambushes planned in advance would be the order of the day, with kill zones in depth. There is nothing secret here.

Only the answer to why the U.S. is electing to sustain these expected and brutal attacks on a daily basis.


A Soldier's Creed

The U.S. Army has posted their latest "Soldier's Creed" on their site, superimposed over the phrase "Warrior Ethos." The page is headed: "The Way Ahead: Our Army at War. Relevant and Ready."

Ranger offers the RAW version:

I am an American soldier.

I represent the citizens of America and myself am a proud citizen.

I serve and protect the Constitution and the citizens of the United States.

I am a professional, and will obey all legal directives of the chain of command.

I am not a warrior -- I am the might and power of America. War is not a creed.

I will not participate in wars of aggression.

I will adhere to the Geneva Conventions.

I will uphold the values of America.

I am an American fighting man.

Comments and additions welcome. We're open to revisions.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Homeland Security

Ripley: These people are here to protect you. They're soldiers.
Newt: It won't make any difference.

Frost: It's hot as hell in here.

Hudson: Yeah man, but it's a dry heat!

Aliens (1986)

A little trip down memory lane:

On 2 Mar 71, Ranger was a young captain and redeployed back to CONUS from RVN. This was the Nixon good-faith move that the U.S. was drawing down the war by taking the vaunted 5th Special Forces Group Airborne out of the equation.

The rub, however, was that only 53 of us brought the colors back home to good old Ft. Bragg. On 2 Mar 71 everybody wearing the Green Beret in RVN merely changed their headgear and became an element of USArmy VN -- USARV. Nice sham.

The SF left RVN, yet all the men remained behind, left in contact with the NVA/VC. Well, it played well in Peoria.

So here we are, 17 Oct 07, and the Army is making much out of drawing down a single combat Brigade. Ranger wonders if all the personnel will make it back to home station, or will they simply be absorbed by other formations? Just something to consider.

In "Military Sets Iraq Drawdown," the following quote reveals a disconnect in CI logic as practiced by today's Army:

The shift in Diyala in December could be a model for follow-on reductions next year, with a redrawing of the U.S. lines of responsibility
so that a departing brigade has its battle space consumed by a remaining brigade. At the same time, Iraqi security forces would assume greater responsibility.

The Army obviously and understandably considers its occupied space as
battle space. . . but, what else? Of course, where else would warriors hang out? Yet miraculously, when our warriors vacate this battle space, somehow it seems to morph magically into something Iraqi security forces can handle. Poof!

Wouldn't it be more instructive to consider this battle space (pardon Ranger, but the term
battle space really cranks up my amps) the country of Iraq, or the city of Baghdad, or "their homeland"? Iraqis live, breathe and occupy these battle spaces. These are their homes and neighborhoods.

U.S. troops would best serve the Iraqis by giving them back their own backyards.

They have had more than enough of U.S. battle space.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Bait and Switch

Nobody can acquire honor by doing what is wrong
--Thomas Jefferson

U.S. Army snipers have a proud tradition of serving in combat arenas that are harsh and deadly. They live by the motto, "One shot, one kill."

The tradition goes back to the Pennsylvania and Kentucky rifles employed in the American Revolution and later, the War of 1812. Rifle marksmanship in the Battle of New Orleans and the Mexican War assisted U.S. commanders execute their war plans, and in the Civil War, Berdan's Sharpshooters were the direct forefathers of today's snipers.

A proud tradition in a once-proud Army. But recent actions approved by the Army chain of command regarding the employment of snipers in Iraq are deplorable, and fall under the category of war crimes.

Specifically, the baiting program developed by the Department of Defense Assymetrical Warfare Group at Ft. Meade, which advocates enticing potential targets by leaving bits of explosives or detonation cord in open view. The presumption is that only -- terrorists (?), combatants (?), hooligans (?) --would be interested in picking up such ephemera.

In addition to the baiting program, the group devised the concept of
kill teams -- groups from the Third Brigade, Second Infantry Division, who would "dig holes resembling those used by insurgents to hide roadside bombs, and to shoot Iraqis who tried to place things in the holes." The kill teams ostensibly were more benevolent than their name implied as they "used the tactic not to kill people, but to wound them with gunshots and then capture and interrogate them" (Snipers Baited and Killed Iraqis, Soldiers Testify.)

Somehow, kill teams do not sound like democracy in action. "Death and democracy" lacks the ring of "hearts and minds," but I guess it suits the new action Army.

So hundreds of years of rifle work have brought us to the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. In conjunction with commander's guidance, these jack-offs shoot and kill and then place "drop" items to designate their kill a legal score.

This makes a mockery of America's claim to be spreading freedom and dignity.

Questions remained unanswered regarding the case of Spec. 4 Jorge Sandoval, who was recently acquitted for shooting and killing an unarmed man upon orders of his team leader:

Assuming the victim was in fact an insurgent without a weapon, did the team attempt to capture him before engaging? If intelligence is the key to defeating a counterinsurgency, wouldn't that be the smartest, most military course of action to take?

A live prisoner is the most valuable combat intelligence asset available to the battlefield commander. It is incredibly stupid to shoot possible sources of combat intelligence, especially if the suspect can be detained via another method.

In addition to Sandoval, two other soldiers,
Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, the sniper team squad leader, and Sgt. Evan Vela, face premeditated murder charges. Sgt. Vela shot an unarmed man who stumbled upon their position, and had thrust his arms in the air in surrender.

"None of the soldiers deny that they killed the three Iraqis they are charged with murdering. . . . the soldiers say the killings were legal and authorized by their superiors." (Snipers Baited and Killed Iraqis.)

"A military panel acquitted U.S. Army Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval of two counts of murder Friday, apparently swayed by testimony from fellow Army snipers that two Iraqi men were killed on orders from a higher ranking soldier" (Army Sniper acquitted of murder in Iraq.)

"After the killing, Flores said
Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley told him (Flores) to place the detonation wire on the body and in the man's pocket, which he said he did."

"In the May shooting, Sgt. Evan Vela said
Hensley told him to shoot a man who had stumbled upon their snipers' hideout, although he was not armed and had his hands in the air when he approached the soldiers."

It seems that the old Nuremberg axiom -- "I was only following orders" -- is back in vogue, and legal justification for shooting unarmed and surrendered personnel.

In WW II, that wasn't good enough to extricate yourself from culpability in a war crime. Apparently in the Phony War on Terror, the "following orders" defense is a legal excuse for violating the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law. What happened to
duty, honor, country?

What a crock.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tortured Justice

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather
a scornful tone,
"it means just what I choose it to mean
--neither more nor less."

Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

During GWB's press conference yesterday, Newsweek's Richard Wolffe asked Bush "a simple question" -- "What's your definition of the word torture?

Bush hedged, saying "That's defined in U.S. law, and we don't torture."

Wolffe persisted, "Can you give me your version of it, sir?

"Bush: No. Whatever the law says.

Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post reads it this way: "Bush has consistently refused to say what he means when he says 'we don't torture,' rendering the phrase essentially meaningless. Saying 'whatever the law says' doesn't clear things up at all. It just means that if we do it, his lawyers have found a way not to call it torture (Torture Watch.)

It has been just over a week since the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal filed on behalf of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who claims he was abducted and tortured by United States agents while imprisoned in Afghanistan (Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Torture Appeal.)

"Without comment, the justices let stand an appeals court ruling that the state secrets privilege, a judicially created doctrine that the Bush administration has invoked to win dismissal of lawsuits that touch on issues of national security, protected the government’s actions from court review. In refusing to take up the case, the justices declined a chance to elaborate on the privilege for the first time in more than 50 years."

El-Masri says he was "detained while on vacation in Macedonia in late 2003, transported by the United States to Afghanistan and tortured while held there for five months in a secret prison before being taken to Albania and set free, evidently having been mistaken for a terrorism suspect with a similar name." We're so sorry, Uncle Albert.

A German court issued arrest warrants 1/13/07 for 13 CIA agents, and the episode has become a public example of the United States government’s program of "extraordinary rendition." Kidnapping and rendition conducted by intelligence agents paid for by your taxes.

"In their Supreme Court appeal, Mr. Masri’s lawyers argued that previous rulings allowed the state secrets doctrine to become 'unmoored' from its origins as a rule to be invoked to shield specific evidence in a lawsuit against the government, rather than to dismiss an entire case before any evidence was produced."

So, all the government need do is invoke
state's secrets, and you have lost the right to sue in federal court.

Where is the system of checks and balances envisioned in the American experiment called
democracy? When state's secrets trump the rights of individuals, then Ranger reckons there is no longer a concept of individual rights that will protect persons from government corruption and malfeasance -- including torture, kidnapping and extraordinary renditions.

And please don't say Mr. el-Masri was not a U.S. citizen. The rights of all persons should be respected in a U.S. court of law. In effect, the court has effectively removed the judicial branch from the equation that provides for checks and balances on our government and protects our way of life. Two legs do not keep a table standing.

The balance of the scales of justice demands the participation of the judiciary. Remember the blindfold? There are no ear plugs.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Sandbox and The Litterbox

Two unrelated items today from the Washington Post struck a personal note

First, Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who started a milblog (the Sandbox) to help get the troops blogging overseas more stateside exposure, released a collection by the same name today (War Dispatches to Doonesbury.) I haven't seen it yet, but it should read like a good epistolary novel, except it's true.

I have had the pleasure of corresponding with one or two of the soldier contributors, and if you haven't already done so, you might find the book or the site of interest.
Slate online magazine also carries the Sandbox feature.

Second, disturbing studies of new drug-resistant strains of the Staph bacteria, methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), were published today (Drug-Resistant Staph Germ's Toll Is Higher Than Thought.)
Statistics show that MRSA kills more people annually in the U.S. than H.I.V-AIDS, Parkinson's disease, emphesema or homocide.

Coincident with the news, a friend was diagnosed and sent to a nearby VA hospital with MRSA, to spend several days on an antibiotic IV drip. These bacteria are resistant to traditional "first-line" antibiotics, and can only be treated with vancomycin, the current antibiotic of last resort.

"'This is a significant public health problem. We should be very worried,' said Scott K. Fridkin, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC.

"It's really just the tip of the iceberg," said Elizabeth A. Bancroft, a medical epidemiologist at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health who wrote an editorial in JAMA accompanying the new studies. "It is astounding."

"MRSA, which is spread by casual contact, rapidly turns minor abscesses and other skin infections into serious health problems, including painful, disfiguring "necrotizing" abscesses that eat away tissue."

Drug companies have not been swift to develop new antibiotics
because the financial incentive is not there.

Another bacterium (Streptococcus pneumoniae) has also become drug-resistant, and
researchers "attributed its resistance to a combination of the overuse of antibiotics and the introduction of a vaccine that protects against (ear) infection.

My friend had just finished spending several weeks in the waters off of our coast, waters with a high human fecal content, sadly
. I won't be testing the waters anytime soon.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

He's No Richard Gere

A Teaching moment from the Master:
"So he said, 'I'll Huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down.'

But the third little piggy said, 'Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin."


I am a little confused. The Washington Post reports GWB met privately with the Dalai Lama today, "despite China's warning that U.S. plans to honor the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could damage relations between Beijing and Washington" (Bush Hosts Dalai Lama Amid Chinese Rage.) Wednesday,

"Bush will attend the ceremony [to award the Congressional Gold Medal] on Capitol Hill, the first time a U.S. president will appear in public with the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. . . whom China regards as a separatist and a traitor."

Mixing her metaphors, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, "We in no way want to stir the pot and make China feel that we are poking a stick in their eye -- to a country that we have ... a good relationship with on a variety of issues." Uh, yeah -- to call a spade a spade, a country floating our economy at the moment.

So why is GWB playing Richard Gere? Why is Laura Bush championing the Free Burma campaign? Why, almost a century after the fact, is Congress pushing for a resolution to recognize the Armenian massacre, guaranteed to cause strife with one of our few (usually) reliable friends, Turkey -- a country which is necessary to help supply the Iraq war effort?

Some or all of these moves seem designed to be either a distraction from, or an irritant fomenting further world strife in a run-up to our next war (with Iran).

At the outset of our hostilities with Iraq, GWB appeared to be a bumbler, and alternately, a venal capitalist looking out for his oil buddies. Now, I am not so sure. I have seen the zeal with which some Christians approach their proselytizing. They are afraid to enter some of their new missionary stomping grounds, like Afghanistan, but still, they go.

Do not scoff: For the true believer, the Rapture is prophesied. Armageddon and Elysian Fields await. Jewish people must control Jerusalem in order for this to come down as they envision it. Sometimes I wonder how deeply the fundamentalist mindset has permeated this administration.


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He Must've Been Absent That Day. . .

Bush: We Don't Torture!

Surprise, surprise: British think-tank the Oxford Research Group [ORG] says "the war on terror is failing and instead fueling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements." They suggest a "re-think" is called for, probably over a nice pot of tea (Report Says War on Terror is Fueling al Qaeda.)

Study author Paul Rogers described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq as a "'disastrous mistake' which had helped establish a 'most valued jihadist combat training zone' for al Qaeda supporters."

The article concludes with the report's caveat to America not to engage Iran next.

"Going to war with Iran," Rogers said, "will make matters far worse, playing directly into the hands of extreme elements and adding greatly to the violence across the region. Whatever the problems with Iran, war should be avoided at all costs."

Sad the day that a democracy must be reminded thusly.
War should always be the last option, after all other options have been proven futile. Iraq was not an intractable problem until GWB decided to make it one. Iraq did not pose a threat to U.S. national security until after the U.S. invaded.

Due to GWB's bum rush, many U.S. citizens still cannot disentangle the concepts
Muslim from Iraqi from terrorist. It remains a confusing welter, and all such good citizens can do is put up yellow ribbons, maybe send off care packages of needed toiletries to troops and obey a president who must know more than they.

Of course, it should be intuitively obvious that any foreign invasion of an Arab country will force all moderates and peaceful Arab advocates into an untenable position. Invasions provoke extreme reactions; this does not require research. A simple reading of history will show this.

Invasions lead to unconventional guerrilla wars of resistance. Here at Ranger, we are embarrassed to say such an obvious thing.
What would Americans do if we were invaded by a superior military force? A middle school history book will reveal the answer.

Why are U.S. leaders oblivious to the obvious?

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By George

Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn.

The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn.
Where is the boy that looks after the sheep?
"He's under the haycock, fast asleep."
Will you wake him? "No, not I;
For if I do, he'll be sure to cry."
--Little Boy Blue, Mother Goose

You make me run from god
You make me terrified

I pray the lord your soul to keep

I hope you wake before you die

Evil is So Civilised, Boy George

Retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez added his name to the lengthening list of retired officers who have miraculously found the courage to speak out against the flub-up that is the Iraq War, once their retirement pay is secured ("No End in Sight" in Iraq.)

"There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight,"
Sanchez said.
He broadly criticized the State Department, the National Security Council, Congress and the senior military leadership "during what appeared to be a broad indictment of White House policies and a lack of leadership to oppose them." [Lt. Gen. Sanchez would be among the last cohort he blamed, but this may have escaped his notice.]

In fact, the Commander is responsible for all that the troops do or fail to do. In the Iraq goat-screw, substitute Commander-in-Chief for commander.

Take away all of the other ancillaries, and you are left with the one person to blame: Boy George.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Taking the Low Road

Ranger Question of the Day:

Is it possible that Justice Roberts and Justice Alito
paid for their Supreme Court seats by agreeing

before nomination not to review torture, habeas corpus

or rendition cases while GWB is still in office?

A Faustian bargain, bought and paid for.


Oh! ye'll take the high road and
I'll take the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye
--Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomand, traditional Scots tune

"Getting home" sounds nice, but in this song it just means you're dead.

The New York Times' Frank Rick penned a good column this weekend on the complicity in torture endemic to this administration (The 'Good Germans" Among Us.)

"Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: “This government does not torture people.” Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of “torture” is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.

"By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago."

One must wonder why U.S. Army snipers can gun down unarmed suspects and then beg off by citing the "only following orders" explanation. It is clear and obvious (even to a Ranger) that all the miscreants tried and found guilty at Abu Ghraib were only following orders, also.

Why does that defense work now, but didn't back then? In light of current adjudication, the West Virginia posse should be released. Either all should be prosecuted equally, or none should be.

The entire shooting match is a legal joke. The Abu Ghraib trials prove one thing: the system will find a soldier guilty if the C in C needs a scapegoat. As always, soldiers are expendable, especially if they are hillbilly reservists.

"I have always maintained that the American public was the least culpable of the players during the run-up to Iraq. The war was sold by a brilliant and fear-fueled White House propaganda campaign designed to stampede a nation still shellshocked by 9/11. Both Congress and the press — the powerful institutions that should have provided the checks, balances and due diligence of the administration’s case — failed to do their job. Had they done so, more Americans might have raised more objections. This perfect storm of democratic failure began at the top."

While this encapsulates the con job, it does not address the underlying problem, namely, WHY?

Why is our system incapable of stopping a steamroller run up to a phony war? Why are we as citizens powerless to stop it? Why is Congress sitting on their collective hands? "As the war has dragged on, it is hard to give Americans en masse a pass. We are too slow to notice, let alone protest, the calamities that have followed the original sin."

Rich goes on to mention the armor procurement problems, the failure of Walter Reed and other military hospitals and the problems with the contractor corps' frontier mentality:

"We first learned of the use of contractors as mercenaries when four Blackwater employees were strung up in Falluja in March 2004, just weeks before the first torture photos emerged from Abu Ghraib. We asked few questions. When reports surfaced early this summer that our contractors in Iraq (180,000, of whom some 48,000 are believed to be security personnel) now outnumber our postsurge troop strength, we yawned. Contractor casualties and contractor-inflicted casualties are kept off the books."

Ranger sees the "stringing up" of the four Blackwater employees in 2004 as a backlash by Fallujah residents who had reached a saturation point following contractor abuses and malfeasance. This was not terrorism, but neighborhood street justice. Why did the crowd mete out such barbarous behavior which would seem to exceed the norm?

"We ignored the contractor scandal to our own peril. Ever since Falluja this auxiliary army has been a leading indicator of every element of the war’s failure: not only our inadequate troop strength but also our alienation of Iraqi hearts and minds and our rampant outsourcing to contractors rife with Bush-Cheney cronies and campaign contributors. Contractors remain a bellwether of the war’s progress today. When Blackwater was briefly suspended after the Nisour Square catastrophe, American diplomats were flatly forbidden from leaving the fortified Green Zone. So much for the surge’s great “success” in bringing security to Baghdad."

Exactly. If the surge is so successful, why can't embassy staff travel freely in the new people's democratic republic of Iraq?

"Last week Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq war combat veteran who directs Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, sketched for me the apocalypse to come. Should Baghdad implode, our contractors, not having to answer to the military chain of command, can simply 'drop their guns and go home.' Vulnerable American troops could be deserted by those 'who deliver their bullets and beans.'”

I have not seen this eventuality discussed by the pundits or the administration. What does happen if there is a general uprising, Mogadishu-style? Will the contractors risk their bacon to deliver the beans? Ranger somehow doubts it, unless of course the bonus packages keep coming.

"Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those 'good Germans' who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo."

Our treatment of the occasional dissenters is damning. Lt. Commander Matt Diaz went to prison for leaking the names of the Black Hole of Gitmo disappearees. He was true and righteous in this action, and the system pounded him into the ground. Not a good omen if we wish to escape the epithet of the hypocritical "Good German."

Rich concludes with a call to action to rouse the Congress, to fillibuster all night if need be. "There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name."

What a shame. What a sham.

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