RANGER AGAINST WAR: November 2012 <

Friday, November 30, 2012

Free Soldier Models

Rock and roll might be summed up
as monotony tinged with hysteria 
--People Persuaders, Vance Packard 

Simple music is the hardest music in the world to play
--One Can Find Love Anywhere, Even in a Guitar, 
--Albert Collins 

I look from the wings at the play you are staging
While my guitar gently weeps 
--While My Guitar Slowly Weeps, 
George Harrison 

Martin Guitars has no qualms about featuring soldiers playing their guitars, but offer a discount?  That's a bridge too far.  Ranger takes exception to this as Martin has a series of military guitars dedicated to the various branches of the military.

Not one to miss a marketing opportunity, Martin Guitar designed their Veterans Model in 2002 to capitalize the early war fervor sales.  In addition to featuring the insignias of each military branch, the guitar features a dog tag-style label.  While there are no discounts to either veterans or active duty veterans, their site claims an UNDECLARED "portion of the proceeds from the sale of each DVM guitar will be donated to a disabled veterans' organization that wishes to remain anonymous" (the link is dead).

Ranger doesn't expect Gibson or any other maker to offer veterans discounts.  It is simply the fact that Martin is using the seals of the military branches on this model and using unpaid for models in the form of Soldiers that galls.  Preying upon the patriotic impulse via these images of service people in dire conditions finding succor in their guitar is priceless advertising that the company has simply appropriated; one would think they would offer a thanks in the form of a discount, at least.

FYI: There are groups which do donate guitars to deployed soldiers -- Operation Happy Note and Guitars4Troops among them.  We salute the work of these philanthropic organizations.

Camouflage looks cool on the free models, but Martin Guitar says, no discount for you, suckers.

Smells like exploitation to us.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CIA Kidnapping, Pt. II

--Freedom for Sale,
Pavel Constantin (Romania)

[continuation ... ]

Would it not be more correct to arrest with police powers after an investigation, and subsequent extradition of the subject for a transparent and correct trial by jury?  Isn't this why there is a United States Department of Justice?

Doing this operation within the parameters of international law would be a slower but surer method of conducting a counter-terror operation, that is, if it is a legitimate operation.

Immunity was conferred upon some members of the snatch-team, "like Col. Joseph L. Romano III, a former Air Force commander who allegedly helped smuggle the kidnapping team onto Aviano Air Base, from which Omar was flown out of Italy," but not for De Sousa.

"Well before her conviction, she lobbied hard for immunity. In May 2008, Jonathan C. Rose, now the chief of the rules support office in the U.S. court system, wrote an angry letter on her behalf to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rose called Rice out for allegedly approving Omar’s rendition at the CIA’s behest. ..."

Curious that Secretary Rice gave State Department approval to execute a kidnapping; can you spell "failed state"?  This should not be State Department function; no one in the U.S. system should be authorized to allow or to conduct criminal activity for any purpose (this includes President Obama's kill lists.) The CIA told De Sousa in '08 that “intelligence activities are not covered by diplomatic immunity.”  If Col. Romano was military operating with the CIA, how then did he invoke diplomatic immunity?

"[De Sousa] is fully aware that some in the Foreign Service believe she is unwilling to deal with the natural perils of their profession. With a mother in India and sisters in Germany and Canada, she says she never would have taken on any assignment that could have jeopardized her ability to travel freely. Her critics, she says, cannot understand what it’s like for an immigrant to be stuck in the United States and barred from visiting family abroad"

Criminal behavior is not a natural peril of intel service.  The U.S. is not Nazi Germany or the Stasi or Bulgarian assassins. How does De Sousa claim to be "stuck in the U.S."?  Apparently the irony of her participation in the deprivation of a man's liberty is lost upon her.  Such a mama's girl for someone willing to aid in a man's kidnapping and certain torture.

Criminal behavior is criminal, even for U.S. diplomats and intel functionaries.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

CIA Kidnapping

So that happened
--State and Main (2002)

[Follow-on from last week's Italian kidnapping verdict (A Faceless Man).]

This could be a fictional Aurelio Zen kidnapping, but it is sadly not.  In a true crime scenario, U.S. Central Intelligence Agents snatched a believed "radical Egyptian Muslim cleric" off the streets of Milan in 2003.

An ex-CIA operative involved in the operation, Sabrina De Sousa, told her mother, “There was an incident in Italy. It involved what the Italians consider a crime.” Imagine the hubris or the denial to be able to be amazed that she was being charged with an actual crime. “It was kidnapping. Don’t worry. I am not a criminal” (Kidnapping Unravels Spy's Career.)

Perhaps De Sousa drank the tea, and thought calling the snatch a "rendition" rendered it legal and permissible. In fact, the Italian Supreme Court found 22 CIA officers guilty of aggravated kidnapping; they will probably never be rendered to Italy for the execution of their sentencing.

The Washington Post notes, "Unlike the other Americans caught up in the case, [De Sousa] refuses to retreat into anonymity." This ostensibly makes De Sousa appear righteous, but in fact her cover has been blown from here to Milan, so there is only personal gain to be had from talking.

The Post continues to get it wrong when it writes, "More than anything, De Sousa’s legal battles reveal the cascading personal toll on a CIA officer when a secret intelligence operation’s cover is blown."  No -- the problem is not the agent's cover being blown but rather the fact that she was involved in the commission of a crime.  Having your cover blown is not a felony.  Kidnapping is, and kidnapping done in the name of freedom and democracy is doubly damning, as it puts icing on a terrorist activity.

Describing the naturalized U.S. citizen who began working for the CIA in the 1990's, the Post writes, "DeSousa's) olive skin and fluency in Portuguese, French, Hindi, German and Italian enabled her to blend into crowds and easily take part in surveillance of suspects.Suspect is a police term -- does the CIA do police work or intel?

Why would an intel agency investigate the cleric?  If he is engaged in terrorist activity and was "under investigation", should this not be a host nation legal and criminal concern?  The CIA  is an intel agency, not law enforcement.

We are supposed to be the Good Guys here.  Note that the kidnapped was an Egyptian cleric, not a Taliban, not a Saudi. When the CIA kidnaps, it is called "counter-terrorism"; when al Qaeda does the same it is "terrorism".

Next: Pt II of CIA Kidnapping

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

On Commo

Knowing that words can complicate 
the wise keep their thoughts to themselves 
--Tao Te Ching, Verse 5

Just a quick Sunday Homily/ Out on the OP-LP entry: On Commo

If you are one of those rare individuals fortunate enough to enjoy the sort of relationship in which a smile and a tilt of the head is enough to convey all, mazel tov on the sublimity with which you are blessed.  For the rest of us, understanding can be a hard slog.

An odd confluence occurred following my reading of two disparate stories: The Oprah of Afghanistan and Director Sam Peckinpah's defense of the extreme violence in his film, Straw Dogs (1971).

Mozhdah Jamalzadah is a young Afghan-Canadian woman who hosts a talk-show in Afghanistan covering such taboo topics as divorce and spousal abuse.  She was interviewed in the British press last year and said she is proud that a few Afghan women have told her things like their husbands no longer beat them or their children after having viewed her program.  She feels she can make if a difference "If I can stay alive."

Jamalzadah's life has been threatened, and she lives under extreme protection.  She is a privileged women who chooses to live like this in the hope of bringing the good news of dialog and some respect to her Afghan sisters.

In typical Peckinpah fashion, Straw Dogs ends in an orgy of violence, but he explains that to him, it was not an endorsement of violence, but rather a purge of obsessions with violence resulting from the human inability to communicate.  He feels that David (Dustin Hoffman), the long-suffering and cuckolded husband, is actually the story's true villain.  He says he "deliberately, yet subconsciously, provoked the violence", and that "his concluding homicidal rampage is his true self."

There is something to be said for the destructive manifestation of repression and passive aggression.  Communication is necessary, especially in fraught situations.  Violence is the probable outcome of the suppressed imperative to speak and to be heard and understood.

Would you like to share any thoughts on commo -- how did you reach clarity or resolution, and when did withholding commo cause a problem.  How was it resolved?

We receive so many conflicted messages regarding commo, and so much today is simply inane Twittering.  "Silence is golden"; "None are so wise as he who does not speak".

What do you say?

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Friday, November 23, 2012

A Faceless Man

In war, as it is waged now, 
with the enormous losses on both sides,
both sides will lose.
It is a form of mutual suicide 
--General Douglas MacArthur 

Who is strong? 
One who turns an enemy 
into a friend  
--Avot de Rabbi Natan 

The first court case successfully challenging the U.S. practice of rendition ended in September '12 with an Italian supreme court decision upholding the convictions of 23 Americans in the 2003 abduction of an Egyptian cleric in Milan. 

Milanese lead prosecutor Armando Spataro said, “It confirms that what happened was incompatible with democracy”
High Court in Italy Backs Convictions for Rendition.)  The money graph: 

"Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was abducted on Feb. 17, 2003, as he was walking to his mosque. Prosecutors said he had been taken to an American air base in Italy and flown to Germany and then on to Egypt, where Mr. Nasr says he was tortured. He has since been released." 

After all of the money, intelligence and effort expended by the United States, Nasr (Abu Omar) was acquitted by an Egyptian court following his rendition from the country, and he has since been released.  This shows the meaningless nature of kidnapping people based upon hearsay or the American fear of terrorism.  How many people like Nasr have been wrongfully kidnapped, both in our peak terrorism years and now? 

"Wrongfully kidnapped" ... Ranger is woefully bemused by his neologism.  Putting aside legal concerns, it is foolhardy to train agents on their prey while allowing them to ignore standards of democratic action.  Kidnapping is not the hallmark of a great nation, nor is assassination.  A nation may not claim to be democratic if it may kill a person who cannot be proven guilty in a court of law. 

Nasr may not be lily white, but if he is guilty of a crime, then the American way is to bring him to trial.  Since when did it become legal protocol to kidnap and incarcerate a suspect, just because the authorities feel they do not have enough evidence to detain and try? Resorting to such extra legal tactics suggests moral bankruptcy and the strategic impotence of U.S. doctrine.  Does the Central Intelligence Agency have adult leadership, and does anyone in the ntaional Command Authority think beyond his nose?

How many people has the United States killed with cruise missiles who ought not have been, just as this man should not have been kidnapped.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving


As a man thinketh in his heart,
so is he 
--Proverbs 23:7

Happy Thanksgiving, Ranger readers.

We hope you are able to find those things within and without that you are most thankful for; we are thankful for you.  It is good to take some time to pause from the often painful issues riding the daily news tide.  If anything good can be gotten from its witness, it is the the realization that we can each fashion our own lives in a healthier and more positive way than those mired in controversy or privations not of their individual doing.

There are many takes on this day, but we will go with Langston Hughes,

Let America Be America Again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Boobytraps ≠ a Win

I am sure there are people that have
a bigger understanding of the war than us little guys.
But at my level. it seems so stupid.
--Pfc. Dillon Guillory, 
Babysitting Afghanistan 

Today Britain recognized the newly united Syrian opposition as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Syrian people and promised it new assistance in the uprising against Bashar al-Assad. (Britain now joins France, and a more moderate European Union.) 

The desperation of Bashar's regime was evident to Ranger in an earlier news story on Syria's recourse to a "modern dirty trick": "salting ammunition supplies of antigovernment fighters with ordnance that explodes inside rebels’ weapons, often wounding and sometimes killing the fighters while destroying many of their hard-found arms." Booby trapping is an act of desperation, as the results are so minimal.

The article also noted "some booby-trapped ammunition may also have entered Syria from Iraq, where during the most recent war the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency secretly passed doctored ammunition to insurgent groups, several American veterans and officials said." (Syrians Place Booby-Trapped Ammunition in Rebels Guns).

Ranger's unit, MACVSOG ("Studies and Observations Group") also planted doctored ammo and munitions in 1970's RVN.  Since SOG used AK-47's, the solution to keep from shooting contaminated ammo was to secure commercial ammo for the AK from LAPUA in Finland (at the time, the only source of commercial ammo.)

Lesson: U.S. troops should never use anything but U.S.-issued firearms and ammunition.

To give the reader some additional inside-the-(cartridge)beltway knowledge:

This article overstates the explosive power of the rigged rifle cartridge.  Ranger doubts the cartridges can be booby-trapped to blow up in a lethal manner.  The rounds will blow a rifle, take out an eye, and maybe take out a shooter now and again, but this would be the exception, not the rule

Placing squib loads in ammo would perform the same function.  The squib load would push a projectile down the barrel to lodge in place.  If the shooter fails to clear the weapon, the next round will blow the bolt -- an easy, cheap and lethal alternative.  Similarly, booby-trapping mortar and RPG rounds would be instantly lethal.  The mortar rounds would eliminate the entire crew and sympathetically set off the rounds near the gun.

The ultimate FB defriending.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Vote, But Quietly

 Example is leadership
--Albert Schweitzer 

Every citizen should be a soldier.
This was the case with the Greeks and the Romans,
and must be that of every free state
--Thomas Jefferson 

Although a soldier by profession,
I have never felt any sort of fondness for war,
and I have never advocated it,
except as a means of peace
--Ulysses S. Grant

The editor of Purple Heart magazine, Russell Smith, notes the sharp downward trend in absentee voting since 2008 among military personnel (the Military Voter Protection Project counted 75% fewer ballots requested in the state of Virginia over the last election, for example.)

Smith writes, "While military personnel are correctly prohibited from partisan activity in uniform, voting in no way undermines the good order and discipline of the United States Armed Forces.  Our service members must be allowed to exercise this most basic right for which they fight," which brings up several issues:

[1] Perhaps service member voting is down because service members know that neither party will address the issue of long wars devoid of any measurable objectives.

[2] Servicemen do not fight for our right to vote since this right is ensured by our Constitution, and is not threatened by any foreign adversaries.  To state such is disingenuous.  Americans have not fought for the right to vote since separating from England.  We secured our right to vote through rebellion; other countries should do the same, especially if they are to cherish and protect it.

[3] Today's servicemen have been fighting to gain the right to vote for Iraqis and Afghanis, an action which is not a military function.  The Department of Defense is not an agency of social engineering.  Moreover, the irony of imposing this democratic action is probably not lost upon the average soldier.

Mr. Smith fails to see the irony of encouraging service members to exercise their basic right to vote while supporting the abridgements of their other basic Civil Rights, like that of free speech. Freedoms granted ordinary citizens are often denied to those who serve in the military.

Why do military men like Smith not argue for the service members' right to have the fullest access to the freedoms guaranteed to all?

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Generals Gone Wild

--A Poem for the Swingers, 
Charles Bukowski
Hey, hey Paula, no one else will ever do
I've waited so long for school to be through
Paula, I can't wait no more for you
My love, my love 
--Hey Paula, Paul and Paula 

I'm looking through you, 
where did you go 
I thought I knew you, 
what did I know 
--I'm Looking Through You, 
The Beatles

Just came across this Charles Bukowski effort and thought to share it.  There will probably be no other good placement on RangerAgainstWar for it, so here it is.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tarnished Stars

 How much is that doggie in the window
The one with the waggly tail
How much is that doggie in the window
I do hope that doggie's for sale 
--Doggy in the Window, Patti Page 

The dame made a curtsey,
The dog made a bow;
The dame said, "Your servant,"
The dog said, "Bow-wow"
 --Old Mother Hubbard 

Say, a doggy is nuttin'
 if he don' have a bone 
All doggy, hold ya' bone, 
all doggy, hold it 
--Who Let the Dogs Out? 
Baha Men

The image is from the cover of this week's The Week magazine, "Intelligence Failure: How Could CIA Chief David Petraeus Be So Dumb?", the implication being, Petraeus should have been more circumspect either in his choice of mistress or his execution of the affair.  To ask how he failed (how was he so DUMB) implies the CIA head conducted himself with aplomb in other matters -- that he was not ordinarily such a dim, nitwit doofus.

However, the question should be, "How could David Petraeus be so immature?", and the answer can be found in the cosseted cult of higher echelon military corps.  The elect "have spent much of their professional lives in cloistered military bubbles," and may have a sense of infallibility not the privilege of the average soldier (Petraeus Scandal puts four-star General Lifestyle under scrutiny).  Maturity, not intelligence, is what is found wanting. The same lack was found in General Stanley McChrystal and now General Allen, et. al.

These Generals exhibited the maturity of a green 0-1 rather than an 0-10, a fault built into our immature soldier state of existence.  The selection criteria for admittance to our service academies, like West Point, rewards immature behavior.  Independent or rebellious thinkers are quickly eliminated. The cadet mentality is carried through many a West Point officer's career -- a mindset of entitlement and privilege.

Our selection and reward system need examination and review.  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced an ethics review Thursday, something said to be in the pipeline prior to Petraeus's resignation, due to a number of recent ethical lapses among other General Officers.

Since the military has now re-branded itself as warriors, this sacred cow will be hard to attack.  However, the arrested development which allows for such poor behavior must be tackled lest we continue to be shocked over such predictable disappointments.

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Out on the OP-LP: Someone's Coming!

I've been waiting for someone new
to make me feel alive
Yeah, waiting for a girl like you
to come into my life 
--Waiting for a Girl Like You, Foreigner

Better late than never. Your agony Aunt is in: Qualms, concerns, insights ... tell us something we don't know, about anything on your mind.  This is your free-fire zone.

Meantime, we at RangerAgainstWar are pleased to be finding more fellow travelers in the media.  For the longest time it was just us and Newt who called Game Up ("Newt's Aboard"). In 2008 the news reported that Mr. Gingrich said the war on terror was "phony". We at RAW had been calling the recent U.S. military efforts the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) since '06, but we were delighted for the company; they say beggars can't be choosers. 

Well, that was four years ago. This week the New York Times ran an editorial, "A Phony Hero for a Phony War":

"The genius of General Petraeus was to recognize early on that the war he had been sent to fight in Iraq wasn’t a real war at all. This is what the public and the news media — lamenting the fall of the brilliant hero undone by a tawdry affair — have failed to see. He wasn’t the military magician portrayed in the press; he was a self-constructed hologram, emitting an aura of preening heroism for the ever eager cameras."

Of course it is not Petraeus alone -- he is just a cog in the voracious military-industrial complex.  But the General's fall, for this moment, allows a few more to peek behind the curtain.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Army Wrong

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line 
--I Walk the Line, Johnny Cash

We're pitiful, self-indulgent cowards
that can't connect with reality
and are ashamed of ourselves 
Scenes From a Marriage (1973)

The rules of fair play
do not apply in love and war 
--Euphueus, John Lyly

[Lisa’s got the 3,000 yr. pop cultural perspective soon. Today, Ranger's effort at Maxim meets SOF -- no sop to feminists.]

As military men, we see everything as mission and objective.  As a result, it is natural to objectify women and subsequent sexual encounters.   The infusion of women into the military fosters and enables this thinking.

The military objectives of warfare and those of sex are similar in many respects, hence this discursion.

What is the purpose of the objective in combat operations?  We attack, defend and delay in order to facilitate future operations.  CGSC teaches us, never plan an operation that does not facilitate future operations.

In short, every military objective serves a purpose; nothing is done just for giggles.  Can or should the same be said about sexual objectives?  Is the latter as logical and coldly calculating as are military objectives?  Or, have military objective post-1963 (post-Vietnam War) become as emotional, haphazard and illogical as the selection of a sex partner at a juke joint's closing time?

Our major religions espouse sex as a divine gift from god for the purpose of procreation; some more radical priests will allow that the act itself can be the consecration (but not all).  The point here is that sex is a contradicted act, both sacred and profane, whereas military objectives are (should be) as clearly-delineated and identifiable as a computer program.

Both activities share the aspect of subterfuge: In combat, it is the ruse or diversionary attack employed to further one's objective; in sex, the ruse is employed to gain any number of advantages, both short- and long-term. Attack, defend, delay, retreat or retrograde, done as a planned or hasty operation for clearly understood and defined reasons.  Both arenas of activity employ similar tactics. 

It gets fuzzy when we act without clear objectives.

We fight a war without military objectives, but no one seems to object; there is little discussion, even when Presidential administrations change.  Strangely, slavering over David Petraeus's sex life has garnered more ink in the popular press than did both the Iraq and Afghanistan surges, including the battles of Fallujah, Kandahar, etc.

Nobody questioned why or how we chose to attack and destroy Fallujah, or the purpose of the brutal combat.  Was this just foreplay for a United States Marine Corps Division?  Was it a platform to win a key objective, or was it merely an act of frustration prompted by hubris and single-minded vengeance -- just to prove we could destroy a city and break the will of the insurgents?

Fallujah and all the battles of the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) are as meaningless as a back seat coupling of drunken fools.  What is gained in either instance?    When our military objectives become as random as sexual encounters then we are rendered impotent.  All of our technology and fancy gadgets are as meaningless as a hand job on prom night, as impressive as an 80-year-old hoping for some Levitra action at the expense of a stroke.

From the military perspective of the expenditure of assets to achieve objectives, the PWOT again fails.  Too many recent battles turn into meat grinders chewing up friendly assets, the final impotent movement, to abandon the fought-for objective; witness Khe Sanh, Hamburger Hill, Dak To, LZ X-Ray, Wanat, Waygul, Marjah, et. al.  This is because there is no military value to the event beyond the flash and gash.

It is the same equation with Petraeus's unfortunate dalliance with Mrs. Broadwell: Petraeus expended his assets breaching an expendable asset. One should never expend assets or attack objectives that have  no value.  Unfortunately, this has been the template for the PWOT.  Ditto indiscriminate, objectiveless couplings that foster or facilitate no present or future benefits (= operations).  It is easy to see the genesis of DP's moral lassitude.

When analogizing sexual liaisons to military operations one must wonder why some objectives are chosen for exploitation and others are bypassed: What factors determine the engagement (consummation?)  After all, the selection of objectives is the key to successful military operations.  Faulty selection leads to catastrophe (= military failure; divorce; nuts in a vice, etc.)

The objective of a successful operation should not be to reach a local penetration but to reach deep targets, which will ensure the commander's control of his battle assets. (In the PWOT, we have never experienced such a deep battle, nor will we.The ultimate goal of one's objectives is to force the enemy to surrender, withdraw or be defeated [take a DIP (Die in Place)].

By performing a local penetration which could not be further exploited, Petraeus was flanked.  He thought he was controlling the battle area, but he was ultimately denied Command and Control of his assets.

General Petraeus obtained shallow objectives that facilitated no future benefit, on both battlefields.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Arabian Knights

If you're down and confused 
And you don't remember who you're talking to 
Concentration slips away 
Because your baby is so far away 
--Love the One You're With, 
Crosby, Stills and Nash

Well, what am I supposed to do? 
You won't answer my calls,
 you change your number.
 I mean, I'm not gonna be ignored, Dan!   
--Fatal Attraction (1987)

Military leadership is not always about success:

  • The March of the 10,000
  • Thermopylae
  • Little Big Horn
  • The Confederates at Petersburg
  • The Lost Battalion of World War I
  • Wainwright at Corregidor
  • The U.S. Marines at the Chosin (with U.S. Army support ☺)
  • The U.S Special Forces at Lang Vei
  • Lt. Murphy in Afghanistan

We are taught that physical courage is the factor that makes us soldiers (err, New Age Warriors), but this only part of the equation. A recent discussion about Shackleton's fraught Antarctic expedition motivated this thinking.

Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton led his crew with fierce loyalty after the loss of their ship (The Endurance).  He set up Camp Optimism in the most unhospiaible climate, and tirelessly motivated his crew to labor and to keep hope alive. Shackleton believed that character and temperament were as important as technical ability, and lived by the motto, "Optimism is true moral courage." 

While physical courage is the hallmark of soldiering, it is not the gold standard for leadership.  Moral courage is supreme, and it the U.S. Army seems weak in this area.  We accepted General MacArthur's vacating his command, leaving General Wainwright and his Army in the lurch.  Contrast this with the loyalty of Luftwaffe Group Commander Erich Hartmann who refused a direct order to avoid Soviet capture by flying to safety in the British sector, as it would have meant the abandonment of his men.

After capture and spending 10 1/2 years in a Soviet gulag, Hartmann said in a later interview, "I could not leave my men.  That would have been bad leadership."  He and many others like him show a moral strength which reaches beyond the physical.  Think of John McCain refusing an offer of early release by the North Vietnamese command -- that is moral courage.

Transition now to the lavish lifestyles of men like Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus -- the plush lodgings and planes in which they traveled were more befitting of the Arabian 1001 Nights.  Their sumptuous offices at CENTCOM and all the other HQs, the limousines, the private command airship companies and all the other bling that kits out the 0-8 through 0-10 caste are far-removed from the lifestyles of their predecessors.

Instead of leadership we now have commanders steeped in West Point Honor Codes, Infantry Creeds, Ranger Creeds and a plethora of feel-good buzz words that are as meaningless as a mouthful of grits.  Witness Petraeus's vaunted "12 Rules for Living": "The only thing better than a little com­petition is a lot of competition. Set chal­lenges for your subordinates to encourage them to excel." The rules are generally insipid pop platitudes not likely to give Tony Robbins a run for his money on the motivational talk circuit any time soon.

Contrast present leadership with that of Chesty Puller at the Chosin Reservoir retrograde.  He gave his Jeep to the weak and wounded and marched out as a simple Infantryman (despite heart problems). On Guadalcanal his Regimental Command Post was in the forward reaches of the battlefield within rifle shot of the enemy.  Compare this with the fights at Waygul and Wanat, when the senior commanders were physically absent.

Leadership has both physical and moral aspects.  None of the U.S. senior officers refused to preemptively invade Iraq; First Lieutenant Ehren Watada is the only junior officer to officially protest the Iraq War by attempting to resign his commission (he was Court-martialed and ultimately discharged from service.)  Did any of our leaders even murmer the word, "Aggressive War"?

It is possible that ethics professor Colonel Ted Westhusing gave protest via suicide during his Iraq posting six years ago.  The Los Angeles Times reported, "In emails to his family, Westhusing seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the US had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military" (General Petraeus's Link to a Troubling Suicide in Iraq: The Ted Westhusing Story). In his suicide note, he wrote, "I didn't volunteer to support corrupt, money grubbing contractors, nor work for commanders only interested in themselves." 

If elective invasions, bombing, Predators and Reapers, secret prisons, torture, open-ended detention and more do not raise any hackles amongst the General Officer class, then a penile thrombosis is very little thing in comparison, which is not to say it is nothing.  It is just a logical outgrowth of a corrupt and entitled mindset.

Amidst moral cowardice on such a scale, how do we even discuss Petraeus's moral lapse?  We have divorced morality from the equation when we adopted elective warfare and assumed the mantle of warriorhood.  Petraeus did what warrior-kings do: he took an Amazon concubine.

--Jim and Lisa

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

General Betrayus

--We think he looks like Alfafa, 
though "Spanky" would be a better nickname

Tell me how this ends?
--David Petraeus

The power of example is very important
to people under stress
--General Sir John Hackett

[We at RangerAgainstWar find the scuttlebutt surrounding the General Petraeus incident interesting and provocative on many levels, and so will examine its implications over the next week.]

Today: Officers, not Gentlemen

Once upon a time there was a military academy called West Point, which held as its highest imperative their Honor Code, a road map for behavior suiting an officer and a gentleman, a man who would reflect the highest moral values of a brave new nation.

Many years later, after the United States failed to win its first two military actions in as many decades (Korea and Vietnam), there came a graduate who would endeavor to restore shine to his nation's military by being a part of  grand plan -- the redefinition of warfare, late-20th century-style.  This cadet, David Petraeus, would write his thesis explaining the new way of war for the United States (the Counterinsurgency) and he would go on to pen the titular FM 3-24 -- COIN -- which promised a new and winning outcome to foreign wars by applying the moral values of America to win far-flung hearts and minds of people less moral than we.

In its moral high dudgeon, the United States tromped off to find its success in the woman-demeaning Middle East, hoping to teach them to not stone women for adultery, for instance.  The now-General Petraeus staked his claim on the success of his doctrine and sought to redeem his country's esteem, but all the Brasso at his disposal could not remove the tarnish he himself would re-apply.

True, he did not (literally) stone a woman, but his adulterous behavior is not consonant with the morals he and his fellows would purport to be exporting. He recognized this (as a CIA report threatened to go public), and correctly removed himself from public office.  It is unknown if the affair began while he was still ISAF Commander; if so Petraeus was derelict and guilty of battlefield cowardice by espousing one set of values with his words and defiling them by his actions. If so, he may be subject to military charges.  Knowing, however, there are different spanks for different ranks.

How can a hypocrite win anyone's heart or mind?  Is it a greater good to export adultery or to disapprove of its punishment?  Should not the man tasked with imposing our belief system upon a foreign land not at least implement the best of that heritage in his personal conduct? Is it any wonder the U.S. is seen as morally bankrupt hypocrites?  Maybe there is a corroding worm that lives within our vaunted freedoms.  Maybe man is destined everywhere to corrupt the good he would do.  How did an honor code become so fuzzy?

If we have no fixed moral compass, how can we expect FM 3-24 with its "panoply" of pretty words to export the thing we cannot manage ourselves?  Stoning a woman for adultery is one step beyond adultery only because we value each human life.  However, seen from a more traditional perspective, all transgressions that threaten to unseat the authority of one's culture and jurisprudence are equally offensive.  Our Ten Commandments are not listed in hierarchical order; killing and adultery are both theological crimes.

Further, on the nuts and bolts level, how was Gen. Petraeus's dalliance financed?  Did our tax dollars finance his "bad decision"?

Counterinsurgency and morality should be complimentary concepts. Why could a major COIN war not produce a Four Star 0-10 that could decisively affect the outcome of the effort? [Generals McKiernan and McChrystal were previously both relieved of duty.] Will it be the moral, tactical or strategic deficiencies which will prove the greatest detractor from U.S. COIN policy? Why is the U.S. Army incapable of producing 0-10's capable of theatre Army command?

General Petraeus has now reached the tail end of his teleological inquiry.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Boring David

 We make her bear and raise our children
And then we leave her flat for being a fat old mother hen
We tell her home is the only place she should be
Then we complain that she's too unworldly to be our friend 
--Woman is the Nigger of the World, Yoko Ono 

Opposites attract 
It's physical 
Only logical 
--What's Love Got to do With It? 
Tina Turner 

Shame he's just this fallen idol 
Shattered like some broken glass 
Shame he's just this fallen idol 
Bits of paper for his past 
--Fallen Idol, The Tears

The saga of General Petraeus is neither surprising, novel, creative, nor sublime.  It is rather boring, sadly common and a mockery of the high-flown concepts like honor codes that supposedly guide the best of us.  It makes life a little more grotty.

It is also incompatible with membership in religious organizations, like Christianity (Though Christianity has a unique "Get of Jail Free" card which may be the loophole through which these "sinners" go; the idea will be developed in a later post.)  When we violate our bedrock codes at whim, what holds?

The story of Mr. Petraeus and his sex partner is nothing special in the pathetic annals of human behavior.  He and his wife will move on, as most people do, their lives a little more lackluster for wear, the weight of misery in the world ever-so-slightly re-weighted.  The sadly amusing thing to me is, religious people (as most Americans count themselves) have recourse to a rule book for good behavior, in this case: Thou shalt not commit adultery.  What would bite is if the good General issues a statement to the effect (as most upstanding people do) that his faith will bring him through this. No-- foul play: You are either All In, or you are out; do not invoke faith when you have forsaken it.

Reading the user comments following media coverage of the Petraeus story one sees the bifurcation in society.  Roughly half charge those who are disappointed in Mr. Petraeus with parochialism: "Everyone does it; get over it."  (There are permutations which alternately blame the wife for not being a pneumatic sex kitten and sympathize with his military life -- "It must get lonely".)  The other half hold up for the sanctity of marriage and the goodness of commitment, trust and all the other things that give comfort and safe harbor from life's storms

Count me with the latter group, parochial and seeking relationships as known quantities.  Not boring, my energy is not gotten from frenetic hook ups and "variety"; that drains me.  Looking at Petraeus or any man like him I think, what you have isn't very good.  Why the age-old impulse to take the swan dive?  Why do so few of us maintain something good? (Roll it back a few steps: Why do we not choose for the good at the get-go, groom it and revel in our good fortune?)

One answer is that The Good is different for all, despite the one-size fits all of religious or doctrinal creed. There are many ways to go in this world.  All that is required is that you make a choice, and that you honestly share that choice if you have a partner(s) running shotgun.  Immaculate honesty is the lubricant which best oils the wheels of any relationship.  

Having intimately known both behavioral styles (secretive versus direct, monogamous versus polygamous), the safe harbor, for me, is honesty.  Again, it all depends on your predilections and temperament.  If you need the hurricane and find the insane whirlwind stimulating, choose for it.  Or go be a deep-sea diver or drive race cars to satisfy your need for speed.  But the thing you do not get to do in good conscience is to take a lamb and behave like a wolf if you belong to a relational system based upon expectations of fealty.

When choosing for adultery your crime is betraying the others trust and rattling her belief system, nothing more, nothing less.  Your god is not surprised; he's already written you off as a sinner.  You have accomplished nothing rarefied or good.  Why not honestly go play in the shallow, crowded end of the pool, where there's fun aplenty and no entangling alliances?  The majority of people do not choose for the (openly) hedonic lifestyle because we have a sense that society would not long stand a majority who live by the creed, "More for me, and damn the rest."  What's good for you, if gotten at the others expense, is destructive.

We know eventually we'd get a stiletto in the back, so many of us make bargains, superficially making commitments that we do not intend to keep.  Those people keep a second and third book of accounts, thinking to hide something, because they have a sense of wrongdoing.  But the salvation for the rest of us is, their game eventually outs, maybe later than sooner, and wreckage will be the harvest.  But the marvelous thing about humans is their resiliency and ability to learn; the next wolf will be easier to spot.

An adjutant thought to this story is my disappointment in the media cabal over the last several years to convince us the marriage is passe, cheating, the norm.  While some of the studies upon which the latter assertion was predicated have been discredited, the stories persist and proliferate.  What is the agenda for downgrading these ideas which have allowed civil society to flourish?  Probably there is a political agenda, but that too is for another discussion.

Good luck to you, Mr. Petraeus.  I won't be looking at your or your lover's book.  And the wonder continues: When will we ever learn?

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans day 2012: Frenemies

--Grief, Dmitri Baltermants

A former Marine of "Edson's Raiders" fame recently told Ranger, "If we lost Guadalcanal, we'd be speaking Japanese now."

It seemed like a stretch, but it got me thinking about the war fought by the Greatest Generation (men for whom Ranger holds the highest respect and admiration) and asking the question: Was the entry of the United States into World War II valid and legitimate?  (It was that war which predicated later U.S. involvement in Korea and Vietnam.)

History must tell its tale, but let us look at the precipitating war in Europe.  While both Hitler and Stalin invaded Poland, the U.S. held Hitler responsible, embracing Stalin as an ally.  At war's end, Poland was left worse by becoming a Soviet satellite state.

The British and French were saved through U.S. largess, but it was French colonialism that led the U.S.into a neo-Colonial war in Southeast Asia.  The European continent was left disastrously divided after the war; the concert of Europe was destroyed.

While the U.S. was attacked by the Japanese in the Pacific theatre, we do not ask why.   Why did the U.S. have a fleet in the Pacific?  Why did the U.S. forebear the depredations of French and English Colonial policy, but deny the same objectives to the Japs?  Did we find white European Colonials more palatable than yellows?  How did U.S. policy turn hostile towards Japan in less than a 50-year span?

Why did the U.S. fight to preserve China from Jap occupation, then fight China in Korea less than six years later?  Why do we now protect Japan from the Chinese?  Why did the U.S. allow the Brits and especially the French to reestablish colonies in Southeast Asia after they collaborated with the Japanese? Ditto the French in Europe.

--Jew Killings in Ivangorad, Kiev (1942)

How did our Soviet allies morph into enemies virtually overnight?

My point is, U.S. wars are portrayed as something other than the exercises in futility which they are.  On Veterans day we honor the vets but we never ask, "Why did they fight?", and "Do the proffered reasons clash with the reality?"  We are as driven by slogans and propaganda as were the people we fought.

Here is a novel thought:  Why not honor combat veterans by eliminating future wars?

We entered WWII after 2,000+ U.S. servicemen were killed in a surprise  attack, while the ensuing war resulted in 400,000+ U.S. combat deaths, with another 670,000 wounded.  Millions of enemy soldiers and civilians were killed.

What did the U.S. gain from WWII?  Were the results worth the efforts?  Why is our response to violence always more violence?

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Happy Veterans Day


Happy Veteran's Day, and a belated "Happy Birthday" to the United States Marine Corps (USMC), and by extension, a recognition of all of our Marine Corps readers.  The USMC traces its pedigree to the American Revolution and was recognized as such by the Second Continental Congress on 10 November 1775 -- Semper Fi!

We will have another post up later in recognition of Veteran's Day.


Thursday, November 08, 2012


Outside of the Republican Bubble,
there are facts
--Bill Maher 

Change your heart
Look around you
Change your heart
It will astound you 
--Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime, 
The Korgis 

Oh, where is my Sandy?
What does she do each day and night?
Well, I follow her behavior
The way she do it just ain't right 
--Sandy, John Mayall

RAW is very sorry that the people already so harshly dealt with by Hurricane Sandy are going through another Nor'Easter before they have begun to recover (Northeaster Adds to Misery, Dumping Rain and Snow).  This is just a small observation on the differing use of the National Guard in the United States during its two most recent devastating storm events, Hurricane Katrina (2005, Category 5 storm) and Sandy. 

In their response following Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard was armed and decked out in combat gear.  Homeland Security hired additional armed para-military contractors from groups like Blackwater.  The remaining population of New Orleans was corralled into a large stadium, in which they could be contained.

In the aftermath to Hurricane Sandy this month in the Northeast, the National Guard did not provide an armed defense.

Why the difference?

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The New Redcoats

The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
When the wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too
'Twas the witch of November come stealin'
--The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, 
Gordon Lightfoot

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich expresses my feelings in his post yesterday, "We the People, and the New American Civil War". The piece concludes,

"So we come to the end of a bitter election feeling as if we're two nations rather than one. The challenge - not only for our president and representatives in Washington but for all of us - is to rediscover the public good."

As mentioned in an earlier post, it is a pity tragedies like Storm Sandy must roll by to provide us perspective and remind us that we all suffer the same fate in the hands of a disinterested natural world. The slings and arrows of fate strike us all, regardless of color or wealth, a fact we would do well to remember when considering national programs aimed at keeping us afloat during the rough periods.  Along with this awareness some find it a bitter pill to realize that the demographic complexion of our nation is inexorably shifting, but it is a fact nonetheless.

The question is, will the majority of us embrace the mission set out for us as a nation 250 years ago and find the needs of the commonweal to be a higher calling than our own vested interests, or will we continue down the mean and petty road of "No, I won't", and "More for me"?

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