Friday, July 31, 2009

The Disillusionment of Ranger

--Tell-Tale Heart, Harry Clarke

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give?
--Alfie, Hal David

I won't take all that they hand me down,
And make out a smile, though I wear a frown,

And I won't take it all lying down,

'cause once I get started I go to town
--I'm Not Like Everybody Else
, The Kinks

The entire economy of the Western world

is built on things that cause cancer


This is a story of how Ranger came to his views of the military, and why he has decided there is nothing worth dying for in the U.S Army.

It is a small chip off a large granite mountain. Most long-term soldiers end up in the flakes lying about the base of the mountain that we all tried to scale. That mountain was the U.S. Army, and many young men put their lives, health and minds into that endeavor.

We all thought that what we did or failed to do was meaningful and necessary to our national polity and welfare. As a result, we made a whore's bargain, totally oblivious to that fact. We believe that we are important and we pay our dues while the whore smiles, takes our money and never delivers on her promise. We are taken on a ride, but not the one we signed up for.

The whore has a pimp called the U.S. government, and nobody beats that combination. The higher one rises in the Army, the more indebted one is to the pimp.

Our enemies only do what they are supposed to do. They try to kill us, and we reciprocate or initiate. The problem arises when the U.S. enters battles with hatred as a basis for its actions. All wars are based in this emotion, and soldiers are taught to hate Gooks, Zips, Nips, Nazis, the Boche, Communists and Terrorists as they are evil, and deserve whatever democracy reigns down upon their heads. Philosopher Marcel described this as the depersonalization of war.

This hatred consumes us as a society, as well. Society can be analogized to the U.S. government as it also functions as a controlling body for its constituents.

Ranger's personal history illustrates his perspective. ROTC - RA commission - guaranteed choice of branch. Chose Infantry. All the normal Ft. Benning schools and off to the 8th Infantry Division. First duty assignment a disaster -- career-killing OER.

This was all less than a year after graduating as a Distinguished Military Grad, top 3% of the ROTC graduates. Ranger goes to Special Forces
thinking to pull his nuts out of the fire, but already they were singed beyond redemption. However, young soldiers know naught of these things. We do what soldiers do; we persevere and drive on.

Ranger now moves on to B53/5th Special Forces Group Airborne and sees the Army in action in a real direct action Special Forces war. Ranger stresses that his exposure was light and limited, but it afforded a view of the war from a clear vantage point.

As a strap-hangar/training observer Ranger accompanied a Hatchet Force Unit on a training mission to the edges of war Zone C outside of Ba Rhia. On this mission the troops were inserted using trucks because HELO assets were not available due to restricted usage as the U.S. part of the war was winding down.

Gunships were unavailable and we were not in anybody's Artillery fans, but nonetheless we were inserted to look for enemy contact. Precisely what we would do if we found it was questionable.

On the first day we found a village full of people. The intel brief told us there were no friendlies in the area and we were cleared to kill all life forms. So much for intel -- "What do you do now, Lieutenant?"

We bypassed the village went off into the jungle to set up an ambush on a well-used trail, since this was Hatchet and not Reconnaissance work. In recon, you snoop and avoid contact, whereas in hatchet you look for contact, or so the story goes.

After set-up a large main-force element actually walked through the ambush kill zone, but we did not engage for to do so would have been suicidal. Ranger still marvels at seeing enemy soldiers actually walking down a trail in an administrative movement.
This episode was one of two incidents in which Ranger actually eyeballed NVA soldiers at pistol-range. He carries this memory as a point of pride, as most American soldiers in RVN only saw but shadows and muzzle flashes. This was December 1970.

If we had engaged we did not have an escape route since the area was saturated with North Vietnamese Army (probably 274th NVA Regiment) and we had no artillery or gunship support. Whatever we were to have achieved escapes Ranger, this after 38+ years of contemplation.

Why were we even out there? To what military purpose?

The above story is prologue for another story that would seal Ranger's disillusionment. That story happened 20/21 Jan 71, in which members of MACVSOG 38/Camp Long Thanh/B 53 engaged a strong enemy force and were severely and roughly handled. During that encounter, Ranger's friend, SSG Ken Lovelace, was killed along with some One Zero Recon students.

This story repeats the earlier one: U.S. SF assets put in to do a job that they could not possibly complete successfully, and good men died. The real tragedy was that SF leaders made the decision to engage, and not conventional types -- people who knew better, but did not act better.

Although there were credible reasons for this response, the outcome was predictable. In effect, a team was put into a suicidal insertion with the predictable outcome all but certain. We call this heroism, but Ranger calls it insanity. Men should kill and die only for an achievable purpose.

So Ranger learned a few more things when a young man. The Army will kill you is you give it a chance. He further learned to fend for himself and those around him and damn the Army to hell.

It was a small event in the larger scheme, but after 21 Jan 71 Ranger never again believed the "mission" the Army preached as sacred doctrine; it was but another word for unreasoned death and destruction.

Further down the road, Officers Advanced Course confirmed this belief when the stakes became much larger. Nuclear weapons employment doctrine was based on a fantasy that we would fight the Russians on the plains of Europe using both tactical and strategic nukes. This was equivalent to inserting into an Area of Operations with trucks -- it was unsustainable.

The point is, the people promoted believed the concept of fighting wars with tactical nukes. This terrain was nonnegotiable and contorted Ranger's powers of conception. To accept Army doctrine is to accept insanity. Doctrine is the nice word for death and destruction.

Lisa's friend, Vietnam fighter pilot Forrest Fenn, expressed his awakening this way:

All of the frailties of humankind had manifested themselves in that beautiful place and that terrible situation. Lyndon Johnson had summed it up under the heading of “Saving South Vietnam and all of Southeast Asia from Communist aggression.” I bought into that pretty good. All the pilots did. The endless hours of classroom training and sorties flown on the gunnery ranges around the world, had bred us to it. It was almost umbilical. How faint it seems to me now and how dreadful it must still be for so many others.

After all of the bullets and rockets and bombs had finished flying through the trees and across the skies, there was nothing left for us but the memory of 58,266 Americans whose names have been etched, chronologically by time of death, on that shiny black wall, which is constantly being washed clean by the tears of a million visitors. Another generation or so and most of those names will be but an asterisk in the history of a forgotten war; a curiosity to wonder at, like the Lincoln Memorial. How unfortunate it is that world leaders are constantly bringing war and death to those of us who are relegated to follow.

The afterthoughts of later elected officials all ask the same question and supply the same answer. Why, and never again. Of course they don’t know why, and there will be yet another again.

Many of us have awoken, and though the circumstances differ, the upshot is the same. There is more that completes Ranger's tale, for another day, perhaps. But the action which killed Ken Lovelace was adequate to secure his disillusionment. The enemy could only kill us, but the Army destroyed our lives.

Ranger writes this knowing the Ooh-rah readers will see this as so much sniveling. So be it.

The fact is, soldiers and veterans are disposable and inconvenient facts after the mission.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Triple Amputee Gets Clothes


"A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., has ordered the VA to pay dual clothing allowances to a veteran who lost both his legs and an arm as a result of his military service.

"The precedent-setting decision was the result of DAV's unrelenting pursuit of justice for multiple amputees." says National Service Director Randy Reese. 'The DAV has long sought the elimination of this inequity and fought the VA misapplication of its regulations through the court system.'

"The appeals court decision now allows double or triple amputees to receive dual clothing allowances totaling $1,432 per year under VA regulations, and the court said that bi-lateral amputees would also be eligible for double clothing allowances (DAV Magazine, p. 12, July/August 09)."

This case began in 2003 when the Veterans Administration denied the triple amputee his claim for a dual clothing allowance. It was also denied by the Board of Veterans Appeals in 2005 and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans' Claims in 2007.

All over a request for a $1,432 annual stipend in clothes for a triple amputee veteran.

Ranger's heard it before: "We Value Our Vets!"

File under, "Thanks from a grateful nation."

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By Any Means Necessary

Pavel Constantin, Romania

Man, do not pride yourself on your superiority

to animals; they are without sin,

and you, with your greatness,

defile the earth by your appearance on it,

and leave the traces of your foulness after you

- alas, it is true of almost every one of us!

--Fyodor Dostoevsky


It is illustrative of our national mindset that even the
New York Times thinks it acceptable that Congress would not balk at killing terrorists (actually, Ranger doesn't balk at killing terrorists either, but that infrequently happens):

"The plan was never put into effect, apparently because it was unworkable. But it’s hard to imagine Congress balking at killing terrorists (Illegal, and Pointless.)"

When we talk assassination, we are scrapping the basic tenet of western jurisprudence:
Innocent until proven guilty. This principle governed the Nuremberg trials and should remain the standard. The problem with assassins is, they are judge, jury and executioner rolled into one.

Think of all of those collected in the seine net with the Worst of the Worst in Guantanamo who were never proven to have any terrorist affiliation. Do we simply say "oops" and apologize when innocents are killed?
Do we want out national dignity sullied by having assassins on our tax-funded payrolls?

Does anyone want a torturer or assassin living next to them? Do we even want these people in our society?

The editorial says, "President Bush and his top aides panicked after the Sept. 11 attacks." This panic-stricken group think is a weakness of democratic governments. Panic cannot be the basis of any policy, whether financial
, legislative, military or intelligence-related. When a president panics over an events like those which occurred on 9-11, it is clear this person is not leadership material.

The warrantless wiretapping was not an isolated case of breaking the law:

Once the Bush team got into the habit. . . , it became their operating procedure that any means are justified: ordering the nation’s intelligence agents to torture prisoners; sending innocents to be tortured in foreign countries; creating secret prisons where detainees were held illegally without charge."

The U.S. leadership has developed a callous approach to the question of the value of a human life. The people so in favor of assassination and all the dark side stuff are also those that had their fingers on the nuclear weapons.

Disregard for individual life is alarming, but sitting on thousands of nuclear weapons that are armed and launch ready is terrifying. The U.S. is stuck on verbally attacking North Korea and Iran, when we ourselves pose a great danger to the world.

Forty years ago we put a man on the moon, and today U.S. troops fight in the lunar landscape of Afghanistan.

It really was but a small step for man.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

CIA Sincerity

You and your like are trying to make a war with the help of people who just aren’t interested.

They want enough rice. They don’t want to be shot at.
They want one day to be much the same as another.
They don’t want our white skins around telling them what they want

--The Quiet American
, Graham Greene

The tongue reposes in papyrus pleas,

Surely—magnificent, that "surely"—
goodness and mercy shall follow me all
the days of my life
, my life, forever
, John Updike

This week a federal judge denied secrecy to the CIA in their efforts to shield one of their agents against an eavesdropping lawsuit the agency's "diminished credibility" (CIA Committed Fraud in Eavesdropping Case):

"A federal judge has ruled that CIA officials committed fraud to protect a former
covert agent against an eavesdropping lawsuit and is considering sanctioning as many as six who have worked at the agency, including former CIA Director George Tenet."

"The judge also criticized CIA Director Leon Panetta, saying he's given conflicting accounts about what should be revealed in the case. The ruling led to the unsealing Monday of more than 200 unclassified versions of classified filings in the 13-year-old case.

'The court does not give the government a high degree of deference because of its prior misrepresentations regarding the
state secrets privilege in this case,' Lamberth ruled."

"CIA spokesman George Little offered a brief response to the case, saying that
the agency takes its obligation to the U.S. courts seriously."

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Ranger posits that it depends how one defines the word "seriously," in the Clintonian sense of parsing meaning.

Following the CIA today is like watching a cheesy BBC spoof on government boobs and their various malfeasance.

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Total COIN

Americans think of themselves collectively
as a huge rescue squad on twenty-four-hour call
to any spot on the globe
where dispute and conflict may erupt
--Eldridge Cleaver

Sometimes I wonder if the world is run
by smart people who are putting us on,
or by imbeciles who really mean it
--Mark Twain

LTC (R) Ralph Peters recent article in September Armchair General is vague and muddles historical and military facts (Sound Bites Kill/Crisis watch).

Peters says killing is a measure of success in counterinsurgencies, using Roman and Russian examples to prove his point. However, the wars he refers to were actually rebellions
(which Peters admits.) An insurgency would evolve into a rebellion at some point, if a legitimate government were present.

The British were not fighting insurgents in India because the Brits were not the legitimate government. As the Brits were colonial rulers, the people had the right and obligation to oppose their externally imposed rule much as we did in our American Revolution. In fact, the Indians had the better claim for self-rule.

Revolutions are not insurgencies, although there in interplay between the concepts.

Mao Zedong did not defeat the Nationalists in an insurgency, but rather open, conventional war. Mao's heavy firepower reflects conventional versus counterinsurgency tactics; suggesting otherwise is nonsensical.

Peters says historical records show that defeating insurgencies has been 90% military in concept and execution, but where is his data?
If an insurgency is indigenous and legitimate, then military means will never defeat insurgents. Peters gives no examples to the contrary. Peters cuts police and legal means out of the COIN lexicon, which is non-doctrinal and ignores the realities of insurgencies.

Police action is always a more useful tool than is military action. Police action posits legitimacy if properly employed.

Not all insurgencies are bad. History illustrates U.S. support of insurgencies in Cuba, which led to our involvement in the Spanish-American War. The U.S. further supported insurgents in its acquisition of the rights to the Panama Canal Zone, and supported the Contras in the 1980's.

The word
insurgent is not necessarily bad, and one must bear in mind that U.S. COIN policy is not aimed at insurgencies against the U.S., but now rather against citizens of dubious client states. And to what end?

Peters, like most military types, talks of victory, but without being able to clearly define the concept. He ignores some obvious realities, like the fact that the Roman, British, French, Russian, Ottoman and Habsburg empires have one thing in common: all saw their greatness flicker in large part due to military overreach. It is not so far back in the memory's vault that the Soviet Union fell immediately after their defeat in Afghanistan.

Peters also fails to mention how the U.S. will pay for these meddling COIN operations, but that doesn't trouble his acolytes. For the chickenhawks, such exigencies are of little matter. Peters remains their darling, keeping their battle blood up, which is all that's required.

FOX news recently, Peters called upon the Taliban to dispense with the deserter (in his summary judgment), Bowe Bergdahl, saving the U.S. so very much in legal bills. He is brilliantly feeding off the Hanoi Jane residue, which is alive and well. The preemptive murder, carried out by a proxy -- fits in so well with the U.S.'s new jurisprudence.

It is all so easy from the armchair.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Get Some

Lovers in the Moonlight, Marc Chagall

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy

Down in my heart (Where?)

Down in my heart (Where?)

Down in my heart

--Down in My Heart
, George Willis Cooke

Knock down the old brick wall,

and be a part of it all

--No Matter What
, Badfinger

we long for: joy
before death, nights

in the swale
— everything else
can wait
--Blossom, Mary Oliver

Sunday homily: What is joy? [Cross-posted at Big Brass Blog.]

Not that forced thing that we often mistake for the Real Thing. To be joyful is to be in a state of grace, which is not to say it should be a holy or rarefied state. Joy just is, and can be quiet or boisterous, but it is always accompanied by a genuine smile (even if its only on the inside.) Joy is genuine delight and has an aspect of celebration, though it need not be showy.

Lisa doesn't usually You Tube, but here's an exception. If the
WaPo hadn't fronted it, I'd never have seen it -- Going to the Chapel & We're Gonna Get Jiggy. It's fun, and if this doesn't make you smile, or reminds you of your past two failed marriages, you are too serious or sullen.

What is this joy that we feel when we witness these happy Minnesotans?

Read more here. . .

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Military Pets Foster Project


Just a little PSA for a group we recently came across, the Military Pets Foster Project. Administered through the group NetPets.org, the program seeks to provide free pet housing for service people deployed abroad.

Their website says
they are a "Nationwide & Global network of Individual Foster Homes that will house, nurture and care for the dogs, cats, birds, horses and all other pets for all the Military personnel." The site claims they are recognized by the U. S. Department of Defense as their pet assistance provider, and that they have successfully fostered 8,500 pets to date.

For further info, contact Steve Albin, P.O. Box 563, N. Myrtle Beach, SC, or

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Pulp Fiction

--Cardow, Ottawa Citizen

Any forces that would impose their will

on other nations will certainly face defeat

--General Vo Nguyen Giap

No protracted war can fail to endanger
the freedom of a
democratic country.
--Alexis de Tocqueville

The recently revealed terrorist assassination program considered by the U.S. government is flatly illegal because it follows the intelligence community's "mosaic theory' of guilt, versus any legal standard.

From a
New York Times article on the habeas trials of detainees in federal district court,

"Their Own Private Guantánamo":

The trial judges have also rejected much of the intelligence community’s “mosaic theory,” which calls for interpreting minor facts to suggest a greater threat. Judge Kessler, for example, refused to infer that Mr. Ahmed was an enemy fighter simply based on a “web of statements” that he had associated with enemy fighters.

She acknowledged that the mosaic approach “is a common and well-established mode of analysis in the intelligence community,” but that the legal system required more specific evidence. . .

The mosaic theory does not require specific evidence, so much as a chain of connections, which can be based upon hearsay. Killing people without compelling evidence is not justifiable by a democratic state. Before killing, there must be credible evidence to seal a death sentence.

Intelligence types are neither judges nor juries, and their analysis should not be used to justify executions.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Militarization of Life

Headline for legislation passed by the House last week to reinstate pay-as-you-go (paygo) statutes read, "Bill is Passed to Combat U.S. Deficit."

It seems all areas of U.S. life are now being militarized. If legislators combat the deficit, does this make them warriors? Will it go as well as our wars on crime, drugs and poverty?

Maybe there is another approach, other than fighting. Is it our rhetoric that needs fixing, or our approach to problems? Maybe both.

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Five'll Get You Ten

-- Pavel Constantin, Romania

Why she's neither fish nor flesh
--Henry IV
(III, iii), Shakespeare

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes

Even the losers keep a little bit of pride

They get lucky sometimes

--Even the Losers
, Tom Petty

Federal District Court is hearing the habeas corpus case of six-year Guantanamo detainee, Mohammed Jawad, who was a teenager when captured.

Jawad was accused of throwing a granade, though the judge in the case, Ellen Segal Huvelle, said that 90 percent of the case had been based on his confessions, which were extracted under torture and followed death threats by Afghan officials. Huvelle said, “There is no evidence otherwise”
(U.S. Judge Challenges Evidence on a Detainee.)

The New York Times reports troublingly, "Of about 200 habeas cases in the federal court in Washington, judges have so far ruled that five Guantanamo detainees are properly held and that 26 are not." Only 5 of 31 were adjudicated as being properly held -- about 15% of detainees can be justified legally.

Interesting is that though 26 of these defendents are deemed improperly held, they are not being released, either. So, why did they even get their day in court? If they are still in prison, then they did not win. They are losers, and nobody cares.

Where is America storing its collective conscious?

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Unchilled Life

Opinion »
Happy Days: The Doctor Is Within
Happy Days: The Doctor Is Within
Home & Garden »
The Unchilled Life
The Unchilled Life
Pull out a chair for her, turn on the air for her
And just cool out, cool out and listen to her

--I Used to Love H.E.R.
, Common

Hey friends: Here's the link to my New York Times piece -- The Unchilled Life. They edited most of my finer points, but hey I got the shot, above the fold!

The photographer told me today, "Yeah, they used the silliest picture, huh?" Right-o. He couldn't have sent them one of the glamour shots, could he?!
But I am delighted that when you go to their online homepage, it's me and the Dalai Lama, side by side.

I don't know if that happenstance shall ever occur again.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I happen to be a death-dealing,
blood-crazed warrior who wakes up

every day just hoping for the chance to dismember

my enemies and defile their civilizations.

Peace sucks a hairy asshole, Freddy.

War is the mother-fucking answer

--Generation Kill

That's the way, uh-huh uh-huh,
I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.

--That's They Way I like It,

K.C. and the Sunshine Band


The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) has been rolling down the highway to hell for 8 solid years, yet many detainees have still not had their day in court in the land of the free.

President Obama holds with the Bush administration in allowing these illegal indefinite detentions.
Congress passed the Military Commission Acts (2006), which was just another game of political football; three years later there has still been no significant court action on these cases.

Why does the U.S. even pretend to care about the rule of law? We claimed jailing the
Worst of the Worst was imperative, yet trials for the detained are not exactly blossoming. As a nation, why do we accept such disregard for the rule of law?

The people held at Gitmo, Bagram, et. al.
, are not the worst. They are small fry guerrilla fighters, or at best, low-level military operatives.

The Worst of the Worst are men like Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Yoo, Addington and their ilk. Men who would consider worldwide assassination programs to be valid expressions of democratic action. The people held in U.S. detention are small-fry compared to these world-class criminals.

That they hide behind the veil of national secrecy and wrap themselves in the flag does not erase their blatant criminality.

Ranger guesses the CIA didn't carry out the assassination program because it was transferred and hidden from congressional oversight by
hiding it in the military's black operations budget. In addition, military Black Ops could easily sidestep oversight since there are layers of denial between the shooters and the Congress critters. This is how guys like Boykin and McChrystal get more stars than the Big Dipper.

Soldiers kill people in open combat or even in secret operations, but they are not killers. While they kill, assassins kill in a manner that is not military, and they are murderous. Soldiers are not murderers unless they kill as Private Green of the 101st Airborne Division. Having Top Secret military assassins short-circuits the lines between soldierly and criminal conduct.

Cloaking the program under a secret budget is the way everybody likes it since
it gives everyone plausible denial. There is evidence that General Petraeus and McKean back-channeled normal reporting procedures and violated the chain of command to short-circuit the normal operational procedures during the entire Iraq War. Why?

Why would Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Army Chief of Staff allow this to happen? Since the Army Chief of Staff was hand-picked by Bush, the answer is easy to surmise and probably smutty.

The entire PWOT © has been a denigration of American values, one which continues in both Afghanistan and Iraq. If one can swallow these wars as moral it is easy to accept the unacceptable, which is the physical cost to a nation (that would be ours) that is losing a half million jobs a month while surging in Afghanistan.
Nobody likes a busybody, especially a hypocritical one whose own house is not in order.

Were this a psychiatric ward, the people leading the PWOT would be put in lock-up. In a hospital, they would be nut cases.

In Washington D.C. they are called

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Six Degrees of Separation

It ain't personal.
We don't like you, but it ain't personal

--Dick Powell, Murder My Sweet


Since Ranger last left the topic of Dick Cheney, let's re-visit John Walker Lindh [The American Taliban] and draw a connection.

Lindh was a rifleman for the Taliban, and no proof was given that he engaged in terrorist activity. Nonetheless, he was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for violating the embargo against the Taliban. Twenty years for carrying a rifle and fighting the Northern Alliance. So much for the freedom of religion in the U.S.
Onward Christian Soldiers.

Lindh was shot, tortured, humiliated, kept in solitary confinement, denied medical care and generally treated as if the freedom of America hinged upon his skinny ineffectual ass.

And ineffectual, if not skinny, asses is where we join up with one-each Dick Cheney. Cheney outed CIA operative Valerie Plame, lied about intelligence data and continues to do so, told the CIA to lie or omit facts from their congressional testimony, facilitated torture, assassinations, secret prisons and illegal rendition programs, which included child kidnapping, and more. Just another day at the creepy Veep's office.

The question is: Who is the bigger criminal? Which deserves a 20-year prison sentence? If justice were served, Lindh would be pardoned and Cheney placed in immediate detention, minus
habeas corpus.

It would be fair, but it won't happen because America is living its own real-time version of

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lisa's Story

Normandy Sailing, Leroy Neiman

Men are disturbed not by things,

but by the view which they take of them



Lisa explains herself over at Milpub:

"Each morning as she packed my kit (lunch), she would belt out rousing choruses of war tunes, from both sides: "Over There, Over There / Send the word, send the word, Over There. . ." Her grandfather sat under a portrait of Lord Kitchener. To be English is to have some minor quirks."

Read more here. . .

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Monday, July 20, 2009

$240 Worth of Pudding

Still dreamin' of paradise,
Still sayin' that paradise

Once nearly was mine

--This Nearly Was Mine, South Pacific

I know nothing – NOTHING!

--Oberfeldwebel Schultz
, Hogan's Heroes

The question of Congressional knowledge in the purported CIA assassination program of al Qaeda operatives under former Vice President Dick Cheney is a compelling one. Does Congress really want to know? (Illegal, and Pointless.)

If Congress is briefed that makes them accessory to murder, which is the legal definition of assassination, along with being co-conspirators. Calling it a program does not neutralize the fact that dead bodies would be the end result.

Democracies do not assassinate and disappear people. Plain and simple. This is so simple that even President Bush should have been able to grasp the concept.

However, the major point is the VP Cheney should not have been operationally directing the director of the Central Intelligence Agency to do or not to do anything. The VP has no constitutional authority to direct or order any military/intelligence organization to do anything; that power rests solely with the president.

Has anyone heard of a "Vice Presidential Executive Order"? Any order given by the VP is an illegal order, since he lacks the authority to issue commands or directives.

Somebody's got some splainin' to do.

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On the Cover of the Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone -- wanna see our pictures
on the cover of the Stone

Wanna buy 5 copies for our mothers

Stone -- wanna see my smilin' face

on the cover of the Rolling Stone.

--Cover of the Rolling Stone
Dr. Hook


Subtitle: The Raw and the Cooked.

O.k., not the Stones. But hey, Lisa's gonna front the Home Section of the
New York Times this Thursday, 23 July. It is an article on people who live without air conditioning -- check it out. (You never knew you had such a hippy-dippy chick writing this war stuff, didja?!)

And we always thought Ranger would be the first to find his way into All The News That's Fit to Print. Alas.
He doesn't like to be bested, but this is life.

Lisa will take fame any way she can find it. Who ever thought a feature would follow from schvitzing all summer? She doesn't complain -- it is how she keeps her girlish figure ("It's too hot to cook.") Part of the year she has always been a raw foodist, even when raw food wasn't cool. Summers are so very Blanche DuBois around here.

Will Fame and fortune follow from not having an air conditioner?
Will she find her Knight in Shining Armor who will whisk her away to central heat and air nirvana? Maybe just someone with a walk-up pad in Cinque Terra for the summer?

Stay tuned. . .

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mind the Gap

Es tan corto el amor,
y tan largo el olvido

--Pablo Neruda

Where your treasure is,

there your heart will be also

--Matthew 6:21

An' sometimes I wonder,

Who you'd be today?

Today, today, today

--Who You'd be Today
Kenny Chesney

It will teach you to love

what you're afraid of

After it takes away all that

You learn to love

, Jack Johnson


Sunday Homily: What do you value most?

Most people are programmed to say the typical; family and kids usually head the list. While that may be true, it is not necessarily so. My mother told me, you didn't choose us, so you don't have to love us; you choose your friends.

The Ten Commandments direct us only to respect our parents. The imperative to love is reserved for very few: your enemy, the stranger, your God, your neighbor. But the latter is leavened into a a teaching point -- love him only as you love yourself. There is no commandment to love one's spouse or even one's children.

What do you actually value the most in your life? It needn't be a tangible, even, but just consider the question.

A simple
documentary, The Way We Get By, put me in mind of today's question. It is a small story of senior citizen "troop greeters" who gather daily at the Bangor Airport to thank American soldiers departing and returning from Iraq,

Describing the greeters, New York Times reviewer Catsoulis invokes Milton's "They also serve who also stand and wait." There is something profoundly poignant about this story. People who seek no fame or glory, but seek meaning in this apparent act of altruism.

This is not a film about the work of war, but those who send off and greet the soldiers.
Though their project is decent, it is also tragic, as their raison d'etre is based around the project of killing. And their project of connection will end with the wars.

The film reminds us that among the finest stories we can find to tell about war are the friendships formed. The shared humanity which persists despite the odds. Interpreters who are being shepherded to the states, locals who harbor the wounded; from past wars, friendships which spans the decades.

We read these stories as a parched man reaching for water. It is almost as though we need to know that friendship traverses even the most disparate of people, and the most heinous and cruel circumstances. The impulse to connect is endemic to life itself, and once formed, that connection can perdure.

One might call it commensalism or a biological necessity, but a true friend is like the Proverbs woman, and has a value above rubies (A capable, intelligent and virtuous woman, who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels and her value is far above rubies or pearls, Proverbs 31:10.)
Life can go on in a psychological vacuum, and often does even in some ostensible partnerships, sadly. But what we treasure are the meeting points where another receives us for who we are.

We may find value in work or in solitude, but joy is to be found in true fraternization. Why is the small pub built around a hearth such a safety zone? Because it is a gathering of kindred spirits, sharing thoughts which will be heard, even if not added to. It a zone in which one can be oneself.

One might ask, wherefore our connection -- the blog. Sure, it is a free-fire zone, a place to speak one's truth. But its highest value is when it serves as a spot for dialog and discovery. Like in the t.v. series "Cheers," a place where everybody knows your name, even if it is a nom de guerre. (No name defines us, anyway. A rose by any other name. . .)

Many friends I have not seen in years, but they are as dear to me yet as the last day I spent with them, and always will be. They have my best interests at heart, and their care accrues them no gain, other than the thing itself. There is no tangible proof of their value -- no gift or object which need introduce them. Simply, they are my friends, and I will never own anything which will match their worth.

Stories of improbable friendships bridging seemingly unspannable gaps are the most affecting. The elderly greeters at the Bangor airport exemplify a sort altruistic love, all the more precious for its ephemerality. Maybe it is not altruism, and they are gaining in proportion to their gift.

What matters? Once you get that right, everything else is fairly easy.

--The Potato Eaters, Vincent van Gogh

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Whip Lash

Will I live tomorrow?
Well, I just can't say

But I know for sure

I don't live today

--I Don't Live Today
, Jimi Hendrix

Another tale from the "We Love Our Veterans" crypt:

Last year the Department of Veterans Affairs finally got around to granting fee basis treatment for chiropractic and massage services for service-connected disabilities.

The operant terms here are "authorized treatment," "service-connection" and "fee basis". Ranger has documented parachute-related neck injuries clearly within the purview of the law, and has benefited by the chiropractic and massage treatment which has been authorized for the past year.

In February '09, the DVA cut off massage benefits, explaining that the services were no longer funded through fee basis. This contradicts the law, which has not changed (Ranger verified this through Congressman Boyd's vet rep, Michael Bishop.) Tallahassee and Gainesville VA Clinics are contravening National DVA guidelines.

Five months have passed, and Ranger still does not have massage therapy coverage. His primary care physician at the Tallahassee outpatient Clinic, Dr. Fajer, will not authorize the massage because she claims the policy is not to allow the treatment.

What's a poor boy to do?

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Run, Forrest, Run

Paresh Nath (UAE)

Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun

--Army of Darkness (1992)

The race is not to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong

--Ecclesiastes, 9:11

Mama says they was magic shoes.

They could take me anywhere

--Forrest Gump

By all MSM reports, General Stanley A. McChrystal is the Man With a Plan (instead of the hired assassin he actually is.)

Most press indicates the war in Afghanistan is reverting to Square One, and we will now kick ass and take names. No more of the screw up it has actually become. Been there, done that. General McChrystal will be the New Spartan Messiah, a savior ushering in that smell of victory.

The warm and fuzzy McChrystal stories invariably note that the General runs 10 miles before he begins each busy day, spreading democracy like Neufchatel on toast. (Not too thick, mind, or Afghanistan couldn't propagate the stifling Sharia snatch-and-catch marriage laws perpetuated by U.S. tax dollars.)

But why is the running even mentioned? We had a Joggin' President in Bush, and that didn't seem to help matters much. (As an aside, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked on NPR what she would title Bush's autobiography, to which she answered without a blink,
"Exercise, Exercise, Exercise.")

Could Generals Washington, Knox, Scott, Lee, Grant, Pershing, Eisenhower, Patton, Creighton Abrams or Powell run even half a mile? When did jogging ability equate with the fitness of a Theatre Army level Commander?

Ranger wonders if any of the Taliban leaders ever jog, or can even run a mile. Even so, they can hump their gear and traverse their terrain as their wars with the Greeks, British, Russians and Americans clearly indicate.

General McChrystal can run like Forrest Gump, but that is not going to alter the outcome of the
Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) in Afghanistan. The Taliban leaders are going to persist a lot longer than Runnin' McChrystal. It is not the hare that wins the UW/GW war, but rather, the turtle.

Physicality is not the measure of how one wins wars. Advertising campaigns keep us thinking that the Army of One and the "General-Corporal" idea will keep us Army Strong. It was with General David Petraeus that the idea of physical fitness = success was first pressed upon us.

The Rangers and Special Forces may be able to march 40 miles with a ruck and full battle rattle, with minimum rest breaks. But the Vietcong were skinny little malnourished, malaria-ridden fighters, and they held their own.

Just ask Generals Washington, Sam Houston or Giap. Even Mao Zedong, to keep the spirit of Counterinsurgency thinking alive.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Choose Your Fights

Your conscience awakes
And you see your mistakes

And you wish someone

Would buy your confessions
--Part of the Plan
, Dan Fogelberg

For nothing can be sole or whole

That has not been rent

--Crazy Jane talks with the Bishop,

William Butler Yeats


Everyone accepts that al Qaeda is a terrorist organization with significant Taliban linkages, but let's debunk some presumptions underlying out current wars in Iraq and AFPAK .

As a terrorist organization, al Qaeda would be compartmentalized and would not have shared intelligence with the Taliban on the WTC attacks. Even al Qaeda military operatives would not have had access to the operational plan.

So, if the Taliban was not complicit in those attacks, how have they become an implacable enemy of the U.S.? It is unreasonable to equate the destruction of the Taliban with the the security of der homeland.

It is equally faulty to advocate their destruction as the seminal event in the creation of a to-be democratic Afghanistan.
Since there will never be a democratic Afghanistan, why bother with the destruction of the Taliban?

The conventional wisdom is that both wars will meet a salubrious termination when the respective armies and police forces are recruited, equipped and trained up. However, using our last great counterinsurgency op, Vietnam, as template, this hoped-for ending doesn't necessarily come true.

In Honduras, we have a U.S.-equipped, trained and funded army which has led a successful coup (or whatever one wishes to call it.) Because this is what Armies and militarized police forces do in Third World countries (on the backs of U.S. taxpayers.)

In short, militarizing failed states is not the solution, but rather, the problem.
It is like handing out free guns during the L.A. riots. Why is this so hard to grasp? Perhaps it is not, but the lure of the almighty dollar trumps reality.

Neither al Qaeda, Iran nor North Korea are strategic threats to the U.S., so why are we portraying them as such? In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. has created police forces that will vie with those of any dictator. And in fact, whoever wields their power will be a dictator, despite any showcase elections to the contrary.

We broke Iraq, and cannot impose wholeness. The country will heal in the same way North and South Vietnam did -- after we exit the scene.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Bloodless Boilerplate

Pakistan is not a sovereign state with a military,

but a sovereign military with a state

--Alex Alexiev,
National Review Online

He'll take you up, he'll bring you down,

He'll plant your feet back on the ground

He'll fly so high, he'll swoop so low

Timothy Leary

--Legend of a Mind
, Moody Blues


Respected Tallahassee Democrat writer Bill Cotterell weighed in on McNamara's death last week, discussing his war, but utterly failing to touch on his legacy as seen in today's wars (McNamara Learned His Lessons Too Late.)

He ends,

"President Obama says he'll change the culture of Washington. But McNamara was recruited to the town by a president who was adored by the media, convinced of his own rectitude and able to get by on style over substance.

"We should wonder if President Obama's true believers would give up the salaries, media adoration, White House perks and social whirl of Washington to speak out if they become convinced that his national health care plan or tax policies are doing harm to the country. Loyalty is admirable, but one brilliant, talented McNamara was enough."

Huh? Speak up on "health care plans" or "tax policies"? Nice bloodless boilerplate, but the absence of mention of the current wars is a glaring omission.

Ending the wars would benefit health and tax policies.
The $100's of billions saved would address some pressing economic issues within our borders. Why are these wars being accepted without question or credible counterpoint?

Where is Jane Fonda when we really need her?

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Happy Travails

Fuck you, fuck you very very much

cause we hate what you do

and we hate your whole crew

so please don’t stay in touch

Fuck You Very Much
, Lily Allen

Final PUC installment: The Tacky End.

Ranger feels uniquely honored that two generations in his family have been awarded Presidential Unit Citations (PUC's), and that they were first- and second-generation Americans.

But he remains pissed that his government only sees fit to issue him a 3-cent Kinkos copy of his PUC, poorly reproed at that, where his father has an official presentation copy signed by Secretary of the Navy Forrestal. It's the little things.

Is it that the Navy is a more refined branch of service? Is it that the military in general behaved more respectfully toward its award recipients in the days of yore?

From his Department of the Army letter to "Mr. Hruska": "The Soldier does not receive an individual citation or unit citation." But nowhere in the letter does the DA refer to any Army regulations which dictate this miserly policy. Why not? After all, the Army loves it some regs.

The salve his psyche, Ranger can go online and purchase his own copy of the citation from eBay for $24.95, and they'll even personalize it with his name, rank and serial number. Capitalism at its finest.

Ranger's insults are cumulative. First, MACVSOG was not recognized for over 20 years due to the
secretive nature of the mission. Then, Ranger unceremoniously discovered via reading Soldier of Fortune magazine in a bookstore four years after the fact that the PUC was even awarded to his unit. Finally, he was denied the award until he got Representative Allen Boyd's veterans advocate on board.

Ranger admits he is being bitchy. Anyone should be proud to have a PUC xerox copy for his wartime efforts.

File this under: From a Grateful Nation. Fuck you very much.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Speed of Life

British Home Office poster, ca. WW II

A person doesn't change just because
you find out more
about them
--The Third Man

--Do you think you could follow

an intelligent conversation for a minute?

--I'll try

--My Man Godfrey

I'm bored with sitting around.

I'm a dramatic character. I need forward motion

--The Purple Rose of Cairo

Sunday homily: How do you roll?

Today's homily is not the typical fare. It grows out of a conversation yesterday with a dear friend who lives a rather hermetic life building beautiful vegetable gardens.

We spoke of the pace of media entertainment today, and how it has evolved from the 1980's. We mused upon the question: Could such a quick evolution in media feed have translated so swiftly into an animation of our neural circuitry capable of routing and processing the new speeded up transmissions?

This presumes that people are not sitting idly in front of the screen, and are making some sort of interaction with the story. By extension, if they are able to follow such disjointed presentations, how does this affect their real life interactions? Is life speeded up as a result of the programming, or do the programs reflect an inherent quickness in the viewers? Does art imitate life?

Hill Street Blues was probably the first series that introduced "reality" via quick cuts and vertiginous angles. Now that style seems par for the course for most programming. We both discovered that our brains are pained by attempting to watch such things. We have a desire to gaze at the object, to contemplate its totality, or at least as close to 360 as we can.

The quick cut and zig-zag denies that knowability to the viewer. One must be grateful for what one gets, and not look too deeply.
Characters are unidimensional.

Sure, one could argue the
Third Man had such angles, and My Man Godfrey moved at a good clip. But it was speed with wit and panache, and the vertiginous angles served good purpose in attempting to replicate the experience of character Harry Lime.

Now the shows come out of the gate with camera shifts right and left, quick cuts whirling the head around, shaky shots, at times, to give that on-the-scene videocam look. It all feels like a slick effort at UCLA film night, ca. 2000.

And to what purpose, and what effect?
How, if at all, does it manifest in daily interactions? Does this sort of stupefaction mimicked characterize the daily experience of people as they march through life?

I have witnessed the growing clipped speech in some of my compatriots, and the inability to meditate upon a topic for more than a few moments. Everyone seems after the bottom line, and the bottom line is, "How do I get what I need or want in the most expeditious way possible?"
Game on.

Not saying that sort of achievement is a bad thing thing. But what if it breeds dispassion and impatience in one's closest relations? What if one doesn't even notice this intrusion? The question centers around two ideas: Has this quick evolution in media translated into an evolution in behavior, and is this a bad thing?

The style of shooting could be called "total voyeur," as one is made to feel one is along for the ride, which it usually is as all the shows involve the police in one form or another, or gurneys rolling down the hospital aisles. Except for those moments involved in the soap operatic hijinks of the players.

It's not like Woody Allen should come out a la Purple Rose of Cairo and engage us, but still, I miss the respect that comes from a well-shot, well-thought story. For me, plotline drives a story; predictability is boring, no matter how pretty the package.

Needless to say, neither of us can countenance most programs and movies. We have been out of it for at least a decade. We admit that t.v. has never been much good. There are a handful of fine films each year which give a satisfying experience; at the end of which one can say, two hours well-spent.

That is your Sunday meditation: media and the fabric of our lives.

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