Monday, December 31, 2007

Chamorro blogger: remnants of colonialism

Along with Iraq and New Orleans, I'm adding the decolonization of Guam and Puerto Rico to my list of pet causes. One blogger, a Chamorro native of Guam, speaks eloquently about this issue and has, through his writings, convinced me to take this cause up with my fellow countrymen back in the continental U.S.

I'll allow you to read his blog rather than attempt to speak from my own limited experience on this island, but my position is that if the U.S. government is not going to offer these neo-colonies independence, then they should at least offer them the same level of sovereignty that the rest of the states are afforded: votes in Congress and votes in the Electoral College. In other words, full statehood and equal standing with the rest of the nation.

This is no small matter. The U.S. has granted suffrage rights to women and racial minorities, but has yet to offer full suffrage to citizens living in U.S. territories. The only solution is to end the practice of keeping territories. The fact that we have U.S. citizens who do not possess the right to vote for President or a vote in Congress on the basis that they live in the wrong part of the U.S. is criminal, and it's hypocritical of us to pretend that we believe in the principle of "all men are created equal" when we do not treat our own citizens equally.

Let me clarify that one point for my haole friends and family back home: the people of Guam are U.S. citizens, but many of you don't even know that Guam exists. This needs to change, and I am going to see to it that it does.

Decolonization Now!

However, I recognize that this type of change does not come of its own accord. The people of these U.S. territories need to demand the change and not take "no" for an answer. This is how women won the right to vote, it's how the labor laws of the early 20th century were passed, and it's how the civil rights legislation of the 1960s was passed. It's also how our territories are going to win, at a minimum, equal standing with the states, if not outright independence.

Power is never given; it is only ever taken. So to my neighbors on Guam I say, "take the power back".

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Update: TCP bringing in contributors.

In light of the Golden Monkeyfist award The Command Post received, I've decided to try to move this little blog out of the basement by bringing on a talented group of contributors. I've invited five fine people to give their input here as they see fit. I'm not placing any restrictions or requirements on them, but rest assured I've chosen each of them for specific reasons which I feel will enhance the quality of this blog exponentially.

Azul has already agreed to come on board as a contributor, and once we get her permissions straightened out, she will begin contributing here shortly.

This does not mean that I will be posting less frequently. It just means that in addition to my normal posting, I'll now have a team to keep the place buzzing while I'm away. This is all to better serve you, the dear reader, and to attract more of you. Finally, this is a way for me to give a platform to people who were not already blogging on their own and who I feel really ought to be heard. Win-win, as far as I'm concerned.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bhutto's Jihadist Enemies - TIME,8599,1698949,00.html?imw=Y

While much has been made about Bhutto's prediction that anything that happened to her would be because of Musharraf, it is conceivable that Al Qaeda, seeing an opportunity to destabilize a government that has otherwise been friendly to U.S. interests, could have taken it upon themselves to kill two birds with one stone by taking out one of their most outspoken opponents and making it appear that Musharraf had a hand in it. Musharraf, of course, has brought this upon himself with his heavy-handed tactics, including the military coup which brought him to power in the first place. Still, this has potential to devolve into a civil conflict in which the only winners will be the jihadists whom both sides ostensibly oppose.

Benazir Bhutto had long been an outspoken critic of Pakistani militants and this made her the mortal enemy of a galaxy of extremist forces inside Pakistan. "Bhutto was the only Pakistani politician willing to stand up and say, 'I don't like violent terrorists,'" says Stephen Cohen, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Many of these groups have intertwining histories and common loyalties — as well as shadowy links with Pakistani intelligence. As the probe into her assassination begins, investigators will have to sort through a morass of violent groups that were gunning for Bhutto. And while all have some historic link to al-Qaeda, they have just as much ideological impetus to act on their own — or at the behest of rogue elements of the Pakistani government sympathetic to Islamic radicals.

In a briefing Friday, the Pakistani government emphasized that al-Qaeda had Bhutto in its sights. "As you all know, Benazir Bhutto had been on the hit list of terrorists ever since she had come to Pakistan," said Javed Iqbal Cheema, the Interior Ministry spokesman. "She was on the hit list of al-Qaeda."

Following the Kennedy assassination, there was a concerted effort by factions of the right to find a way to blame it on Castro, or even the Soviet Union (much the way the Bush administration set about trying to blame 9/11 on Saddam Hussein). The aim was clear: exploit the Kennedy assassination to provoke a final showdown with the communists, something that Kennedy had stood in the way of as President during the Cuban missile crisis. Johnson set about reassuring the public that Oswald had acted alone, out of fear of the disaster that a nuclear exchange would bring. Still, while the CIA may not have been involved in the Kennedy assassination, it's clear that the tactic of exploiting a highly traumatizing event as a catalyst for a policy that would not otherwise be possible is not a new one. If Al Qaeda assassinated Bhutto as a way of sparking a Pakistani civil war, then they are simply taking plays from the CIA's handbook. This is disconcerting for a number of reasons:

  1. Their tactics are growing more sophisticated. In the past, they've focused on large numbers of civilian casualties as a way of demoralizing their enemies. This is a low-grade and very ineffective tactic without annihilating people in the thousands. It's a high-risk, low reward tactic. If they assassinated Bhutto for this reason, then it shows they've learned much about manipulating people in order to meet their ends.
  2. It's unclear precisely what their aim was in the 9/11 attacks, but given their lack of interest in hitting the U.S. in the U.S. since then, one must raise the question: why haven't they? Neo-con pundits like to use this as their trump card in any discussion on the effectiveness of Bush's strategies, but the conclusion may be the opposite of what they like to imply: given that AQ is still active in the world, one may conclude that they have not attacked us because there is no need to. In short, everything we've done has been according to their plans.
  3. If they can provoke a civil war in Pakistan and wait it out until both sides of neutralized each other to the point that they and their Taliban allies can simply step in and take over, then you have a nuclear-armed Islamist state, something that the Iraq War was ostensibly intended to prevent.
  4. Musharraf, far from putting U.S. aid toward combating these extremists, has been building up his arsenal to take on India, another U.S. ally. A civil war which places this arsenal in the hands of bin Laden's allies could result in a nuclear exchange between Pakistan and India, with much of the Middle East siding with Pakistan, and the U.S. forced to come to India's aid. Russia and China, whose backyard this would play out in, would be major wild cards, and might not necessarily side with the U.S. In other words, all of this -- all of it -- has potential to spiral into the World War III that Bush warned of when speaking against Iran. Yet he's been too blind to see the danger to global stability that his BFF Musharraf has played all along.
Al Qaeda's desires are clear: as CSM Kinney pointed out, their desire is to restore the Caliphate of old on the ashes of modern society. Yet U.S. strategy has, to date, played right into AQ's hands toward this end by presenting them with so many openings and destabilizing the Middle East by overthrowing a secular Muslim leader in Iraq, one who would have been a natural U.S. client state had he not threatened our oil supply by conquering Kuwait in 1990. The U.S. could have met all of its objectives in Iraq by simply re-allying itself with Saddam Hussein, but this was made impossible when Hussein attempted to assassinate the elder President Bush. But I digress.

We are being dragged toward a third world war by religious extremists in the Middle East and the U.S., and now an end-timer whacko is leading in Iowa's polls for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, while a short-sighted, opportunistic hawk is leading the polls for the Democratic nomination. "God help us all" is what I would say if I believed in God. Instead, I will simply say that it is imperative that people start paying attention to what's going on and act.

Update: Apparently, Al Qaeda's leader in Pakistan has denied involvement in the assassination:

Frankly, if they were behind it, they would have every reason to deny involvement. Their goal would clearly be to spark a civil war in Pakistan, and that goal would be thwarted if they claimed responsibility.

The reason given for denying involvement is specious, at best. That attacking a woman would go against their tradition? Given their complete disregard for human life, as well as the fact that they've historically killed indiscriminately when attacking civilians in the past, it seems unlikely that they'd be squeamish about putting to death a woman who would presume to ascend to political power. In fact, it would be completely in keeping with their Islamist values.

I don't know if AQ was behind this attack or not, but they have every reason to be, and much more to gain than Musharraf.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Command Post wins an award

The Command Post has been awarded the "Golden Monkeyfist 'Bravo Zulu' Award" for best progressive milblog. Really, if there was an award that could be deemed "most likely to have been tailored for this blog", it's that one, but Monkeyfister assures me that he feels it's still well-deserved.

I'm honored, and I've recommended to him three other bloggers who are worth bumping for the "Au Peer" award he'll be posting. I'll post the three blogs I recommended after the selection has been made.

If you haven't been out to Monkeyfister's blog, it's quite good, and he updates it much more frequently than I update mine. It's definitely worth checking out. However, if this award results in more hits for my blog, then I might have to be a bit more diligent about posting. Not a bad thing, of course.

One point of clarification: Monkeyfister describes me as "highly decorated". I consider this a rather generous assessment of my military career to this point. It's true that I've received some awards and decorations over the course of my career, but my array of ribbons does not include anything higher than an Achievement Medal. For disclosure purposes, here is a complete list of my awards and decs. I am proud of my achievements, but I do not wish to misrepresent them:

Basic Training Graduation Ribbon
Professional Military Education Ribbon
Longevity Ribbon (for four or more years of service; I have 7 1/2)
Air Force Expeditionary Ribbon with Gold Border (x2)
Global War on Terrorism Service Ribbon
Iraq Campaign Medal
National Defense Service Ribbon
Air Force Good Conduct Medal
Outstanding Unit Award
Air Force Achievement Medal (x3)
Joint Service Achievement Medal

John L. Levitow Award (top graduate, Airman Leadership School)
Warrior of the Week (447 AEG, Sather AB, Baghdad, Iraq)

Thank you again to Monkeyfister and all my readers for your support. It means a lot to me.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I feel like you know a person better when you hear what kind of music (s)he listens to. Therefore, I am posting my personal playlist here. Some of it you may enjoy, some of it you may not, but it's all music that I like. It's just my way of making this blog a bit more personable.

(Someone helpfully suggested that I not make it autoplay. I agree, and have made the change.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

RIP: New Orleans, 1718 - 2007

Fury in New Orleans as housing demolition OKd

NEW ORLEANS -- After protesters skirmished with police inside and outside New Orleans City Hall on Thursday, the City Council voted unanimously to approve a federal plan to demolish a vast swath of public housing.

The fate of the 4,500 public housing units has become a flash point as this city struggles to piece itself back together after Hurricane Katrina damaged more than 134,000 homes, many of them in poor, mostly black neighborhoods.

Tents line the Interstate 10 underpass and a homeless camp has settled outside City Hall.

Even before New Orleans' seven City Council members took their seats for the public meeting, protesters were booing and pumping their fists.

"Why y'all standing behind the curtains?" a woman called out to council members who waited at the back of the council chambers for protesters to calm down. "This ain't no stage show! Get out from behind those curtains and tell us why you want to demolish our homes."

Oh, so now the press notices. Greg Palast has been on top of this story for a while now.

[Thurs August 30] "They wanted them poor niggers out of there and they ain't had no intention to allow it to be reopenedMalik Rahim of Common Ground Relief to no poor niggers, you know? And that's just the bottom line."

It wasn't a pretty statement. But I wasn't looking for pretty. I'd taken my investigative team to New Orleans to meet with Malik Rahim. Pretty isn't Malik's concern.

We needed an answer to a weird, puzzling and horrific discovery. Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes. But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing "Blackwater" badges: "Try to go into your home and we'll arrest you."

These aren't just any homes. They are the public housing projects of the city; the Lafitte Houses and others. But unlike the cinder block monsters in the Bronx, these public units are beautiful townhouses, with wrought-iron porches and gardens right next to the tony French Quarter.

If this is the first you've heard of the death of New Orleans, go to Greg Palast's website,, and do a search on "New Orleans". You'll find it quite enlightening. Or else pick up a copy of his book, Armed Madhouse, where you'll have a chance to get current on these types of things (at least current as of 2006). I'm sorry if that sounds snide, but I just watched the city of New Orleans, who is like an old friend, die while the entire nation stood back and did nothing. The city could have recovered right after the storm, but over two years later, the city has been gutted of its core identity. Oh, you'll still be able to go there and get a hurricane or a hand grenade and toss beads to young tarts... but the city's residents were always the city's soul, and that soul has shuffled loose the mortal coil. Go to Mardi Gras if you will, but you'll be dancing on the corpse of a great city which once was. New Orleans is quickly going the way of St. Louis in a matter of years, whereas St. Louis took generations to get to the point it's reached. Many people told me they were tired of hearing about New Orleans. Well, fear not; you'll not hear about it again... ever. The screaming in the video attached to the L.A. Times article was its death cry: residents being hosed down with pepper spray while protesting the demolition of their homes. It's over.

Fare thee well, old friend. I'll not see the likes of you again, I fear.

UPDATE: Here's a few words from someone who was there:

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mike Huckabee: champion of serial rapists

Gene Lyons's column says it all:

Pundits and TV anchorcreatures love pronouncing about politicians ’ “character,” when all they’re really talking about is personality. Hence glib, superficially charming candidates invariably win plaudits in the reality-TV epics we call presidential elections. This year’s GOP Prince Charming is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. When it comes to ingratiating himself, few surpass the one-time Baptist preacher. He’s witty, he’s warm, and doggone it, people like him. Character consists of something deeper. That’s why it’s important to know the truth about Wayne DuMond, the serial rapist and murderer Huckabee freed from the Arkansas penitentiary to kill again. Unfortunately, that’s the last thing you’ll hear from the candidate himself.


Today, Huckabee alibis that nobody could have predicted DuMond’s Missouri crimes. Many people did. Even this column warned that: “Rape’s not a crime of passion; it’s a crime of rage. Violent sex offenders, innumerable case studies show, keep at it until something stops them. If Huckabee doesn’t understand that, he’s got no business getting involved.” Instead of backing off, Huckabee got tricky. He held an improper closed-door meeting with the parole board, several of whom say they’d felt pressured. Last week, Huckabee’s then-chief counsel, Olan “Butch” Reeves, basically seconded their claims. After the board voted to parole DuMond to Missouri, Huckabee wrote a “Dear Wayne” letter stressing “my desire... that you be released from prison” —the proverbial smoking gun he can’t now rationalize or whine away. Angry Missouri cops say DuMond’s victim’s severed bra straps were like a calling card. They found his DNA under her fingernails. Huckabee’s latest book claims that DuMond died in prison before coming to trial. In fact, he was convicted of murdering Carol Sue Shields on Nov. 12, 2003, and at the time of his death was a leading suspect in the murder of a second Missouri woman. You’d think Huckabee might have noticed.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ellen Goodman on Generational Politics

Goodman argues that we need a fighter, not a healer for President. Here's the article:

The '60s opened up huge and important conflicts. It was not all about boxers or briefs, inhaling or not. Issues surfaced around black and white relationships, male and female relationships, gay and straight relationships, all kinds of authority and our place in the world. These still go on. Not because they are relics of old college dorm fights but because they are still important and unresolved. Now we come to the 2008 primary season. Barack Obama is an appealing icon of change. He has the capacity to turn a problem around, roaming across its many surfaces. He gets it. His philosophical frame of mind appeals to the educated elite of the Democratic Party. His largest group of supporters are college-educated. But I am forced to ask, against my own grain, whether Democrats need a philosopher or a combatant.

In his stump speech, Obama says, "I don't want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights. ... I don't want to pit red America against blue America." Neither do I.

Sometimes, I approach politics like a parent watching her children: "I don't care who's right and who's wrong; just stop fighting." But of course I do care who's right, who's wrong, who'll win. What if red America is pitted against blue America?

My problem is that she's addressing the problems that boomer politicians have hit a dead end on. We haven't meaningfully moved forward on these issues during the era of boomer politicians. All the major civil rights legislation was signed while the WWII generation was still in charge. And as far as issues of war and peace, we've been moving notably backwards.

Sometimes the way to stop a fight is to step back and let cooler heads prevail. I don't know if that will work here, but I've grown weary of the back-and-forth finger pointing. More energy is being spent trying to figure out who to blame for the Iraq War than was ever spent on figuring out whether we ought to do it or not.

I'm seeing this adversarial boomer mentality everywhere I go on the Internet, and I'm tired of it. I'm tired of being angry all the time and never accomplishing anything. I'd like a President who will use the Presidency for the betterment of our nation, not as a stick with which to beat the opposition. We've had a fighter in the Presidency for the past seven years; how's that worked out for us?

As long as the debate is framed in terms of, "I'm right and you're wrong" rather than, "come, let us reason together", we will never get anything meaningful accomplished. Maybe that's a boomer thing, maybe it's not; all I know is that it's time for a different type of politics, and we're not going to get that from the same old faces we've been seeing the last fifteen years.

"But I am forced to ask, against my own grain, whether Democrats need a philosopher or a combatant."

The crux of the problem is contained within that statement. I am unconcerned about what the Democrats need. I am concerned about what my country needs. What America needs. I'd like it if my President felt the same way.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Follow up on Boomer politics.

First, I'd like to thank for his kind words. They are much appreciated. I'd like to make one point, however. He said:

I'll argue that most in the Congress are far from being boomers, but that doesn't change my agreement.

I'll argue that they are most definitely boomers. A statistical breakdown of the 110th Congress:

• The average age in the 110th Congress is 57. The average age of House members is 55.9; the average age of senators 61.7.

• The average age of freshman members of the House is 49.3 and the average age of freshman members of the Senate is 54.2,2933,241441,00.html

The generally agreed-upon birth year heralding the end of the baby boomers and beginning of Generation X is 1964, although "cusp" periods can be fuzzy. (Example: Obama was born in 1961, but he's generally considered a member of Gen X, since he was born in a cusp period and that's the generation he identifies with. I myself was born in 1978, another cusp period that places me squarely between Gen X and the Millenials, but I identify more with Gen X.) The average freshman senator was born in 1953. The average freshman congressman was born in 1958. The overall average is even older. Were Generation X stepping up like we should be by now, the average age of the freshman members would be more toward the late 30s and early 40s. It isn't. It's still boomers running for Congress, and lack of fresh blood may be a reason for some of the problems that our current Congress is experiencing.

It'd be easy to blame the boomers for not mentoring us to take over the reigns (and that's something Gen X will have to take upon themselves to do for the Millenials), but we've not, to date, given them any reason to believe that we're interested in taking over the family business. And to be fair, the WWII generation held on for over thirty years between Kennedy and Bush I, so the boomers probably figure they have time. Simply put, as you stated, Gen X have to take the power; it's not going to be given. It may not necessarily happen this coming election cycle, but we need to start getting serious about beginning the generational transition. Part of that will be asserting ourselves in congressional elections, and the coup de gras will be electing a Gen X President. Whether one considers Obama to technically be a Gen X-er or not, he certainly fits the description of our generation. That might be enough.

The boomers often disrespect us rather blatantly, much the way the WWII generation disrespected them. It's only natural. Respect can only be earned, so we need to set about doing that.

Thanks again for the encouraging words.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Attention Gen X: It's time to take the car keys away from the Baby Boomers.

It all started out so promisingly. You may remember; many of us were still in high school or college, perhaps barely paying attention, but the boomers were. Oh, yes they were. The time had come to "take the car keys away" from the WWII generation. The boomers had a persuasive case. The first President Bush had led us into a recession and had posted record budget deficits. In short, it seemed that he was steering the nation into the ditch, so the analogy was apt.

Enter baby-boomer Arkansas governor Bill Clinton. Clinton was going to turn the country around. With lofty talk of universal health care, equal rights for gays in the military, and balancing the budget, it seemed that the time had come for the baby boomers to make the generational transition and take the wheel. And so they did.

Early on, Clinton fumbled his first few efforts. Gays in the military had to accept a half-baked compromise: "don't ask, don't tell". Go ahead and serve in the military, but you'd best pretend you're not gay. Then came universal health care. Again, Clinton fumbled the ball. He handed the task off to his wife, who managed the process poorly. She invited lawyers into her fold and devised a health care plan, as it was put at the time, "by lawyers, for lawyers". It was summarily shot down by the Democratic Congress and never heard of again. Nearly sixteen years after candidate Clinton promised universal health care, America still has 40 million uninsured Americans.

Credit where credit is due: the boomers did balance the budget, but it must be noted that this was for a very short period of time. Clinton also oversaw the largest economic expansion in U.S. history; no mean feat. Finally, he deserves credit for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process, essentially the European equivalent to achieving peace between the Israelis and Palestinians (something he was unable to do).

But if we are to credit boomers for their successes, we need to also address their shameful antics, as well as the abject failures. For Clinton is not the only face of the baby boomers in the 90s: the other is Newt Gingrich.

For the Republican side of the ball, Gingrich represented a new life to the Republicans. He managed a take-over of both houses of Congress. The Republican Congress had a number of accomplishments: welfare reform (which Clinton successfully took credit for) and through work with the President, they achieved the largest budget surplus in American history. But then they took their eye off the ball. Instead of working with President Clinton to bring America into the 21st century, they exacted petty pay-back for Nixon by impeaching him over a consensual affair with a White House intern. The Clinton impeachment would become emblematic of their remaining time in power. Time and again, they would turn their old grudges into the nation's business, as though ending poverty and racism were less important than getting pay-back for various perceived slights. It can be said that the baby boomers peaked early, jumping the shark during Clinton's second term.

Fast forward to 2000, featuring a Presidential election pitting perhaps the most capable and talented politician of their generation against perhaps the least capable and talented politician of their generation. We all remember how that went down. The highly intelligent and experienced Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote to the dim-bulb Texas Governor George W. Bush (with the help of some cheating in Florida, perhaps as pay-back for the cheating that got Sen. Kennedy elected over Vice President Nixon). For the first time in ages, there would be a Republican Congress and a Republican President.

And everything went to shit.

The economy took a dump. The record budget surplus became a record budget deficit. The largest terrorist attacks on American soil destroyed the World Trade Center, ended 3,000 lives, and killed our collective sense of security. Bush invaded and conquered two countries in response, neither of which led to the capture of Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader of the organization named as responsible for the terror attacks. Over 3,000 American soldiers dead in the sands of Iraq. Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast, wrecking Biloxi, MS, flooding New Orleans, LA, and killed over 1,800 people. George Bush ate cake. And now it turns out that Bush was trying to lead us into another war, this time with Iran. The new Democratic Congress hasn't shown the fortitude to stop him, even with his hand caught in the cookie jar, post NIE release. And, of course, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Democratic front-runner shrugs and acts as if voting for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, which contained language which pushed us toward war with Iran, was no big whup, even after her "if I would have known then what I know now" excuse regarding her "Yes" vote on the Iraq War resolution in 2002.

It occurred to me that the remarkable similarities between Iraq and Vietnam are no mere coincidence. The boomers never truly resolved the Vietnam War in their collective minds, so of course they had to fight it out again in the sands of Iraq... and on our backs. If this is the case, then it shows just how important these old political grudges (many, like Vietnam and Watergate, dating back to before I was even born) are to them: they are more important than the lives and well-being of their children and their children's children. Is that too harsh? Perhaps. But it's not as harsh as the conditions they've put our generation into: war without end, deficits numbering in the hundreds of billions, a national debt numbering in the trillions, record oil prices, and...

...what are the Democratic candidates for President of the United States offering us if we vote for them? Universal health care, equal rights for gays in the military, and balancing the budget. A candidate named Clinton. Does this all sound familiar to anybody else? Nearly sixteen years of boomer leadership: nothing gained, nothing resolved. Even the grudges are more pervasive than ever. I've heard more than one Clinton supporter talking of pay-back if she gets elected. Enough already.

I've come to a stark conclusion: the grudges of the baby boomer generation are too all-encompassing for them to overcome for the good of the country, and they render the baby boomers completely incapable of governing effectively. Al Gore, perhaps the greatest hope for the boomers to redeem themselves, has said "fuck it", picked up his ball, and gone home. Beyond that, who do we have? Hillary Clinton? It's like the boomers aren't really even trying anymore and have already been relegated to yearning for the "good old days", which were never really all that good to begin with.

The time has come for Generation X to step up to the plate for the good of the nation... and the world. This is not to say that we don't have our own issues. We are somewhat late to the game, and we frittered away our early years on existential pondering of what our grand purpose in life even was. In that sense, by not acting as our parents' conscience as the boomers did for the WWII generation in their youth, we have some measure of responsibility for how bad things have gotten. But clearly, like father like son, President Bush has steered the country into a ditch, and perhaps it's fitting that, like his father before him, the end of his Presidency hails the advent of a new generation of politics.

Our time has come, and it is my sincere hope that we will rise to the task. As we speak, the first Generation X Presidential candidate is seeking the Democratic nomination, and it is somewhat fitting that he is a mixed-race man who didn't know his father growing up. Generation X was been described as a generation possessing only a hazy sense of itself (is Obama black or white? Does it really matter?). In Fight Club, one of the most influential books/movies of our generation, we were described as a "generation of men raised by women". Obama fits that bill as well. It should be noted that Tyler Durden then said, "I'm wondering if another woman is what we need." It's almost prophetic, really.

But this is not a call simply to vote for Barack Obama, although it fits the narrative. This is a call for Generation X to step up to the plate in all areas of politics. That boomer congressman who's been sitting there collecting pork and kickbacks since 1994? Out. Better yet, run against him. You may be surprised to learn how many Gen X-ers feel as I do, and agree that it's time for us to take the wheel. Tired of being told that we're not good enough, that we'll never be as kewl as the groovy boomers who marched against the Vietnam War, don'tcha know? Do something about it. Above all, we need a generation of leaders who don't have quite so much fucking baggage as the boomers do. Because we're not divided along ideological lines the way the boomers are, we might actually be able to get something accomplished. And remember, the battles we've been fighting are the battles of our fathers, who were never there for us anyway. So how 'bout we stop squabbling for a moment and take the car keys away from Mom and Dad?

For their own good, of course.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Open Letter to Our Would-Be Commanders in Chief:

This past September, I returned to my home duty station from Iraq. I was greeted rather graciously by home unit when I returned there, and by my family when I returned to visit my home town. Was there a ticker-tape parade, or even a letter from some of the fine folks who claim to “support our troops”, whether by supporting our mission, calling for us to come home, or by putting a yellow magnetic ribbons on their SUVs? No, and I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have wanted any of that. When I returned home, all I wanted was to see and be with my family, because that reunion was not, to my mind, guaranteed, and it was, ultimately, the most important thing in the world to me when I was ducking and covering during rocket attacks on our base. Political considerations took a back seat, and I certainly didn’t want to hear a bunch of insincere praise from people who don’t know or care to know who I am underneath the uniform.

But now that the moment has passed and I’ve returned to my duty section and started the process of leaving that all behind me, certain things have crept up, and I’m not sure what to make of them.

I’ve read the story about former Lance Corporal James Blake Miller, better known in the press as the “Marlboro Marine”. He’s been kicked out of the Marines for having PTSD, is jobless, and divorced. He survived the Iraq War, but he’s still given up the life that he had. He lobbied several congressmen on behalf of the National Mental Health Association, but none had any interest in taking up his cause or, in at least one case, even seeing him. They politely shuffled him along and presumably went on to meet with more “important” lobbyists (and we all know what makes someone “important” in Washington, right?)

I read of the homeless vets, how one in every four homeless persons is a vet, and that Iraq War veterans are finding themselves on the street more quickly than Vietnam veterans. I should have been outraged, but instead I simply thought, “maybe that’s where I’ll end up.” I can’t make any sense of these thoughts, but in the past week or so I’ve had a strong urge to simply drop out of society, to just quit. What would be the loss? My frequent moves while I’ve been in the military have kept me perpetually single, so I have no family obligations. Once my term of service is up, I’ll have no further military obligations. What do I do with my life then? I’ve given thought to going into journalism, but that’s driven by a desire to affect change and make the world a better place. I still have that desire, but I’m no longer certain that I have the ability. For all the writing I do, it seems that nobody with the power to act on my words listens to them, and I honestly have a much better track record of “being right” in recent years than the majority of the power brokers in Washington.

I can no longer abide being a mere symbol in some politician’s crusade. “Support or Troops”, as though we‘re a baseball team. “I Support the Troops and My President”, as though the two go hand in hand. “Support Our Troops: Bring Them Home Alive”, as though clever framing amounts to anything but kudos from your fellow peace activists. Every day that passes, more of my brothers and sisters in arms are dying, and every day more of us are asking why. We have not, to date, received anything but platitudes from the people who support the war or excuses from the people who oppose it. “If I would have known then what I know now…” Known what, Senator? That war is hell, and that every battle plan goes out the window the moment the first shot is fired? People have been saying these things for centuries, millennia. These are not new lessons, but perhaps your study of history is limited to the lessons applicable to your ascent to power. To the millions who marched in the streets trying to tell you then what you know now, you turned a deaf ear.

To those who still support our mission? I’ll give you credit for staying true to your convictions, but to what end are we fighting? Can I get a straight answer from you just once? Not just a platitude espousing the virtues of freedom being on the march when freedom in Iraq seems to be synonymous with large explosions, gunfire, and flag-draped caskets rolling in front of me? To borrow a phrase, what the hell are we fighting for? Nobody really seems to know, any more -- even the people who insist that we have to keep fighting.

I’m not talking about politicians, pundits, bloggers, or callers on talk radio. I’m talking about my fellow service members, my fellow Iraq War veterans. Many of us are (were) not quite clear on what we’re doing there, and we’ve more or less resigned ourselves to the notion that it’s out of our hands. The powers that be in Washington are going to do what they’re going to do, and it’s going to have little to do with anything we do, for good or for ill. But is that as it should be?
I question whether you, who would ask for my vote (and my money) based on promises you’ve no obligation to keep, really feel as though you are accountable to us for the decisions you either have made or will make in the future. If I, in the course of my duties in Iraq, made a mistake that cost someone his life, I would rightly have to be accountable for that. You, who made a mistake that cost literally thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis their lives, ask for a promotion. Do you feel that you have at least a moral obligation to stop and listen to what I have to say for a few seconds before you turn around and hit me up for cash? The answer seems to be no, based on the response I’ve received trying to contact various Presidential candidates.

But I am here, and I’m not going to go away. My ranks are swelling, and soon we will be legion. You have only yourselves to thank for that.

What of you, who opposed it? Congratulations, you were on the popular side of this discussion before it was cool. Of late though, I am decreasingly impressed with your prognostic skills. You were only as right as the bloggers and protestors and hippy demonstrators with an internet connection and the attention span to figure out that something didn’t quite add up. Really, in between patting yourself on the back for how right you were, take a moment to ask yourself if you’re aware that there were a whole swath of people in the streets who were just as right, but who’ve never had a microphone put in front of their faces or had the opportunity to have an actual conversation with one of the people asking to be elevated to the highest office of the land. And to have your primary qualification simply be that you were as smart as the rest of us? It leaves much to be desired, congressman.

To what end do I extend my efforts when the people with the true power to change the world only listen to the people who pay for their political campaigns? Perhaps I hope that, like a dog barking in the night, I’ll start a chain reaction of other dogs barking, until so many of us are making so much noise that you can no longer sleep and are compelled to open your window and yell at us to shut up. And at that moment, we will jump in your window, pee on your carpet, eat your food, and tear your house apart. You’ll wonder, stupidly, what just happened and why all these dogs are in your house, but it will no longer matter.

It will be our house.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

President for life?

Ha, ha; funny joke... right? (from Salon)

From this morning's White House press conference:

Reporter: Mr. President, following up on Vladimir Putin for a moment, he said recently that next year, when he has to step down according to the constitution, as the president, he may become prime minister; in effect keeping power and dashing any hopes for a genuine democratic transition there ...

Bush: I've been planning that myself.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Turkey threatens Iraq invasion

Am I the only one who sees the irony of President Bush calling for restraint from Turkey regarding military action in Iraq? I'm guessing not.

Turkey's parliament has given permission for the government to launch military operations into Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels.

The vote was taken in defiance of pressure from the US and Iraq, which have called on Turkey for restraint.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the motion does not mean a military operation is imminent.

But he said Turkey needed to be able to respond to a recent rise in bomb attacks blamed on PKK rebels from Iraq.

Turkish MPs backed him overwhelmingly, by 507 votes to 19.

As the vote was being counted, US President George W Bush strongly urged Turkey, a key ally, not to carry out the threatened action.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

White House sacrifices national security for political gain

I know, this is sort of a "water is wet" variety of statement, but here's the latest outrage:

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.

As ever, political considerations take priority over security considerations. Nothing surprising, but perhaps people need to be reminded that Bush actually does care what people think, just not as much as he cares about money:

Now, Bush is trying to reach out to the party's base and re-establish his credentials as a fiscal conservative, beginning with his veto of a bill that would boost federal spending for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by $35 billion over five years. Bush called the legislation part of an effort to "federalize health care."

Bush also has threatened to veto nine of the 12 appropriations bills that make up the federal budget.

"One of the big lessons from the 2006 election loss was that Republicans have let spending get out of control," said GOP consultant Scott Reed. "I think the White House is focused on a Bush legacy that includes getting spending back under control."

Still, said Reed, "In some states, especially in the Senate races, running against the president on specific issues like this will help the Republican candidate."

Economic and libertarian-minded Republican conservatives suggest Bush's overtures are too little too late to help a despondent Republican party bracing for the possibility that the White House will end up in Democratic hands.

Bush's veto of the SCHIP expansion and other veto threats ring hollow because of Bush's past support for expensive programs like the Medicare prescription drug benefit and his failure to wield his veto pen, said Bruce Bartlett, an economist who was an adviser to Ronald Reagan and a Treasury official during the elder George Bush's presidency.

"Because he was so lax earlier in his term, he has no choice but to overcompensate," said Bartlett. "At the White House, they understand belatedly that they have destroyed the Republican party's reputation for fiscal responsibility. And they are trying to play catch-up."

I've come to the conclusion that Republicans don't consider military spending (whether in Iraq or elsewhere) to be actual "spending", despite the fact that we're rampantly wasting money overseas on these adventures (and while I consider the entire fiasco to be a huge waste of money, I've seen money wasted at unbelievable rates on a more practical level, e.g., buying quick release blades for computer technicians -- my shop purchased these blades for each of us, and we got to take them home. They're nice knives, but we really didn't need them. This type of thing happens over there with alarming regularity. "Fraud, Waste, and Abuse" is a punchline over there.) Pretty much any money that goes straight to American businesses is considered "investment", and any money that goes toward making the lives of poor or middle class Americans is considered "run-away spending". They buy into the supply-side theory that any money pumped into businesses will come straight back to the government in the form of increased tax revenues... and then they cut taxes to compensate, figuring that the money lost on the tax cuts will come back in the form of increased tax revenues. Basically, no critical thought goes into their economic theories at all, and the Democrats somehow can't seem to counter that.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

No fireworks on the Fourth of July

Today I remarked to one of my fellow service members, “I wonder if the Iraqis will shoot off fireworks for us.” He said, “I hope they don’t shoot fireworks for us.” I retorted, “Oh, did I say ‘for’? I meant ‘at’.”

This is what passes for humor in a war zone.

There were no fireworks today, save for a very large controlled detonation by our Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit. Generally EOD sends out a notification before they have a controlled det, but if I happen to be in my trailer (read: asleep) when they make the announcement, I don’t generally catch it. Today was one of those days, and I stopped for a second when I heard it, then kept walking. The crusty old Master Sergeant, who was in the Army a long time back, didn’t even flinch or break his stride. I’m sure he laughs at all of us “newcomers” (I’ve “only” been in the service for seven years) who still jump at every little explosion.

No fireworks, but there were festivities. The KBR-operated DFAC served BBQed chicken, ribs, and some other summer grill staples. There was a “fun run” in the morning and a few other things I didn’t participate in. The main thing I saw was the “pie in the face” contest. Everybody laughs at the pie in the face contest for the obvious reasons, but I find it amusing for its poetic irony. It’s a rather apt metaphor for what the people who run this country are doing to us on a daily basis.

An old Vietnam veteran I worked with back at home station died. He and I had several conversations about war, the Air Force, the Army, how the squadron was run, and how I felt about going to Iraq. We talked about the Iraq War itself and how it only served to line the pockets of the powers that be. He was one of the few people around me who shared my point of view on these things, and I feel like the latent wisdom that he possessed was lost on the people he worked with. He was at a point in his life where such things no longer bothered him, however. He had accepted it as the way of things, and he had accepted that people will generally not listen to people whose world view clashes with their own, especially when they say things that trouble them or force them to think. Somehow, I feel like he knew his time was coming after all these years. When one’s mortality is shoved in one’s face like it is in a war zone, you begin to become much more in tune with your life line.

Do I feel like I learned anything from the time that I knew him? I learned that wise old birds are not heeded by the people who could benefit most from their experience. They are mocked, ignored, shunned. Pretty much the way young people with differing world views are treated. Things never change, and people don’t take you more seriously with age. They believe what they want to believe no matter what anybody else has to say.

War no longer makes any sense to me. The tripe about “defending freedom” and such are complete nonsense. We are defending no such thing out here. We’re not defending anything. We’re invading and conquering another sovereign nation. The use of military force in the past usually bore at least a pretense of a genuine threat to our country. With the initial line about weapons of mass destruction in ashes, they fall back to a sort of reverse domino theory about democracy in Iraq spreading to other Muslim nations. It’s an even weaker case than the one presented to the American people during the Vietnam War. It’s all built on lies, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the case with every war. The people who make the decision to go to war bear no cost, offer no sacrifice; that is left to those they can convince to fight for them. For a powerful nation like America, the decision to go to war comes easily for leaders with no conscience. Victory is assured and they will be hailed as brave heroes by the people at home. The soldiers who bear the actual cost are, and always will be, anonymous faces to the power brokers who push this on us.

I understand why politicians in this country so readily go to war. What I don’t understand is why the people put up with it anymore. Why are people incapable of saying no to war? Do people even believe that they have a say in the matter, or do they simply accept war as the inherent way of things? Do they just not think about it, with it being “over there” rather than in their own back yards? Do they care? About their lives, the lives of their children, the type of world their children and grandchildren are destined to grow up in, without any say as to the gigantic mess that’s been created in all of our names, the hundreds of thousands of corpses and martyrs and family members swearing revenge against the Americans for killing loved ones who, to us, are nameless and faceless unpersons, completely disposable when held against the discomfort and inconvenience of actually fucking doing something about it?

And what of us on the ground? Why do we continue to agree to perform these tasks? Are we incapable of seeing that which is plain when we look at it honestly rather than through the rose-colored propaganda glasses provided to us by our dearly beloved leaders in Washington? Are these glasses glued to our eyes such that we’re incapable of seeing the giant fucking pie in our face that they tell us is our reward for a job well done when it’s really just for their amusement?

Is this the land of the free? The home of the brave? Is it really?

As I was walking back to my trailer at the end of the night, the band that was playing as part of the Independence Day festivities called their area to attention and proceeded to play the Star Spangled Banner. Normally when it begins to play, I snap to attention and salute the flag until it’s done playing. But instead, I kept walking away from the street lights and into the shadows. As I took a few steps, I could no longer hear the National Anthem playing. All I could hear were attack helicopters and gun fire….

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Police station attacked in E Turkey

This ties to Iraq, as well:

Two suspected Kurdish separatists have rammed an oil-filled lorry into a police station in eastern Turkey in a suicide attack, army sources have said.
After the explosion late on Saturday, the station in Tunceli province was attacked by other members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the army counter attacked, the sources said.

The two separatists in the lorry were killed but no other details were available on the death toll.
Hours earlier, thousands of Turks had protested against the PKK on the streets of Istanbul, after a call by the army for a public show of opposition to separatist violence.

Violence in Turkey from Kurdish separatists. Again, how long before Turkey gets dragged into this Iraq conflict? The Kurdish separatists see an opportunity for an independent Kurdish state in Iraqi Kurdistan, and that borders right on Turkish Kurdistan. The Turks have opposed an independent Kurdistan in Iraq for just this reason. Now that their fears have come to fruition, will they make good on their word to use military force to defend their borders?

Lebanon fighting spreads to Tripoli

Lebanese troops have clashed with armed men in the northern city of Tripoli, near the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.
The fighting began after troops raided a house belonging to a suspected member of the Fatah al-Islam group shortly before midnight on Saturday, security sources said.

The Lebanese army has been fighting Fatah al-Islam for more than a month in Nahr al-Bared.

Again, this is why I've started reading Al Jazeera. I've barely heard about this in the American press.

Hospital sources said 12 soldiers from the force that stormed the flat were wounded, including at least one seriously.

Lebanese army units blocked off roads leading to the area and brought in reinforcements, including armoured troop carriers.

The shooting eased some 30 minutes later and sources said the gunmen were holed up inside a building.

It follows a day of more heavy shelling and street to street fighting in the Nahr al-Bared camp.

Four Lebanese soldiers died despite the defence minister's claims of victory two days ago.

At least 176 people have been killed in the fierce fighting between the army and Fatah al-Islam at Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.

This is bad, bad, bad. This kind of in-fighting in Lebanon could easily spill over into Israel, and we could potentially see a repeat of last summer's excitement between the two countries.

More on this as it continues to develop.

FOX News: Former insurgents helping U.S.

BAGHDAD — Two months ago, a dozen Sunni insurgents — haggard, hungry and in handcuffs — stepped tentatively into a U.S.-Iraqi combat outpost near Baqouba and asked to speak to the commander: "We're out of ammunition, but we want to help you fight Al Qaeda."

Now hundreds of fighters from the 1920s Revolution Brigades, an erstwhile Sunni insurgent group, work as scouts and gather intelligence for the 10,000-strong American force in the fifth day of its mission to remove Al Qaeda gunmen and bomb makers from the Diyala provincial capital.

Little so well illustrates the Middle Eastern dictum: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

And as it struggles in the raging heat and violence of central Iraq, the U.S. military appears to have bought into the tactic in its struggle to pull what victory it can from the increasingly troubled American mission in Iraq, under congressional pressure for a troop pullout and a presidential election campaign already in the minds of voters.

Because that's what it's all about, right? Anyway....

The American decision to bring insurgents into the mission has angered Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who told visiting Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week that the tactic — getting too cozy with former enemies — would backfire.

But U.S. officials defend the strategy, first tested in Iraq's once-volatile western Anbar province, where U.S. officials tout success in turning Sunni tribal leaders against Al Qaeda.

"We've given them a little ammo, some flares, but mostly humanitarian aid. We're not arming these guys, we're just changing the direction they're pointing their guns in," said Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the U.S. ground forces commander, who made a one-day visit to the Baqouba battlefield this week.,2933,286408,00.html

One might think that we would be a little skeptical about bringing guys who were shooting at us a few months ago onto our team, but things really have gotten that dire out here. Our leadership is doubtless growing desperate to find something that might help end this conflict, even if it means accepting help from our enemies.

Also, this should outline for those who don't understand that this is a multi-faction conflict, with many different sides pursuing many different ambitions. Clearly, the Sunni insurgents are interested in rooting out Al Qaeda so they can duke it out with the Shi'ites in earnest. And, you know, if they play nice with us re: Al Qaeda, maybe we'll help them out against their Shi'ite enemies. And, you know, maybe if we do that then the eventual ruling Sunni minority (or perhaps majority if we spill enough Shi'ite blood) will let us stick around and keep our hands in the petroleum cookie jar and strategically dominate the region the way the neo-cons have always wanted? I suppose one can dream; it's all the Bush administration has done since the beginning of this conflict.

But I'll give FOX News credit for even running this story, albeit with a positive spin.

Gitmo: Kangaroo courts

Excuse me, but off the record, Gitmo is a complete sham.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- An Army officer who played a key role in the "enemy combatant" hearings at Guantanamo Bay says tribunal members relied on vague and incomplete intelligence while being pressured to rule against detainees, often without any specific evidence.

His affidavit, submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and released Friday, is the first criticism by a member of the military panels that determine whether detainees will continue to be held.

Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran of military intelligence who is an Army reserve officer and a California lawyer, said military prosecutors were provided with only "generic" material that didn't hold up to the most basic legal challenges.

Despite repeated requests, intelligence agencies arbitrarily refused to provide specific information that could have helped either side in the tribunals, said Abraham, who said he served as a main liaison between the Combat Status Review Tribunals and the intelligence agencies.

"What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence," Abraham said in the affidavit submitted on behalf of a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, who is challenging his classification as an "enemy combatant."

Abraham's affidavit "proves what we all suspected, which is that the CSRTs were a complete sham," said a lawyer for al-Odah, David Cynamon.

But I'm sure FOX News has something to say about that:

A teenage girl who was banned by her school from wearing a "purity ring" is taking her case to the High Court.

Lydia Playfoot, 16, is a member of a Christian group called the Silver Ring Thing and one of a number of students at the Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex, who wears a silver ring engraved with a Biblical reference — "1 Thes 434," a reference to St. Paul's Letter to the Thessalonians — as a sign of their belief in abstinence from sex until marriage.,2933,286395,00.html

Or, you know, not (note: I was originally going to just ignore FOX News, but I find it much more gratifying to mock them).

But back to the topic at hand, CNN International has this story:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration is nearing a decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and move the terror suspects there to military prisons elsewhere, The Associated Press has learned.

Both the Pentagon and the White House denied Thursday evening there were any plans to close the facility.

President Bush's national security and legal advisers are expected to discuss the move at the White House on Friday and, for the first time, it appears a consensus is developing, senior administration officials said Thursday.

The advisers will consider a new proposal to shut the center and transfer detainees to one or more Defense Department facilities, including the maximum security military prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, where they could face trial, said the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal deliberations.

This is huge, if true. Moving terror suspects from Gitmo to Leavenworth would eliminate the legal cover for torture and the sort of kangaroo courts we've been seeing from them so far. I'll make sure to keep tabs on this story as it develops.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Kansas City Shuffle

Something has always struck me about "the surge". It's so up front, so brazen, so blatant. Quite simply, any time the Bush administration wants us to be watching something, I immediately question what it is that we're not supposed to be watching. Their forte is the Kansas City Shuffle. While everybody looks left, they move right. Sure enough....

Karzai Decries Civilian Death Toll

The Afghan president has condemned civilian casualties caused by "indiscriminate and unprecise" Nato and US-led operations, which also have resulted in dozens of Taliban deaths in the last 24 hours.

Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that at least 90 civilians had been killed in just over a week, including 52 people in the southern Uruzgan province.

"Attacks causing civilian casualties, as I have said before, is not acceptable for us. It is no longer tolerated," he said in Kabul.

Then there's the Iraq Oil Law pressing ahead that I've only read about on Al Jazeera. Nobody in the west wants us to read about that.

Lesson the first in dealing with international affairs: don't rely on the American press. They're usually the first to fall for the Kansas City Shuffle.

Case in point:

Searchers scour fields, woods, for missing woman

UNIONTOWN, Ohio (AP) -- About 1,000 volunteers turned out to search for a pregnant mother Saturday, the third straight day searchers picked through rural areas of eastern Ohio.

Ned Davis, the father of 26-year-old Jessie Davis, begged volunteers to continue their efforts.

"Please help," he said Saturday in an interview with MSNBC. "Please don't quit. Please don't quit until we find Jessie."

Searching on Thursday and Friday of an area near Davis' home yielded nothing more than a marijuana patch.

My heart goes out to the family of the missing woman, but... honestly. This is local news, not national news. And certainly not the headline story on CNN's main website.

What about FOX News, you say? Glad you asked:

Illegal immigrants are being given Red Bull energy drinks and ephedrine to give them a boost as they scurry across the U.S. border, according to a radio report.

Smugglers are reportedly giving immigrants what is known as a “triple stacker” — an ephedrine pill and aspirin, with a can of Red Bull to wash it all down, U.S. Border Patrol agents told WOAI news radio station in Texas.,2933,286392,00.html

Honestly, I wish I was making this up. But here's the Kansas City Shuffle, right before your eyes.

Look! Over there! It's Paris Hilton!

Paying Paris

We all want to know about the hotel heiress’s time in jail. The question is whether news organizations should give her money to tell us. A media-ethics expert weighs in.

Actually, we don't all want to know. Those of us who are out here in Iraq are all sickened by the obsessive press coverage she and other celebrity-types have received lately. The American press is a joke.

But to the topic at hand: what is Bush concealing from us now? The Iraq Oil Law seems like the most obvious one, given the dearth of coverage in the American press, but that can't be all. I honestly don't think most Americans would think twice about the law. Besides, it's 33 pages long and full of legalese that I haven't even sorted all the way through. No, there has to be something else. Could it be the vote caging issue that Greg Palast has been covering and Rep. Conyers has been inquiring about? Possibly. Could it be upcoming plans to attack Iran, as Sy Hersh has alleged? It almost seems too obvious, too right in front of our faces. But that's how a Kansas City Shuffle works; the answer is right in front of you -- you're just looking the wrong way.

Gen. (ret) Wesley Clark is working to prevent a war with Iran, which I fear may be our next step on Bush's Excellent Adventure. Obviously, I've no desire to see a further loss of life, so avoiding needless war should be a top priority. Wesley Clark's organization is Pay them a visit to learn a bit about the background behind the push to war with Iran, as well as the push back to avoid it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

NATO strike kills 25 civilians

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Suspected Taliban militants attacked southern Afghanistan police posts, triggering clashes and NATO airstrikes that left 25 civilians and 20 militants dead, a senior police officer said Friday.

The militants attacked police and used civilian houses for cover in Helmand province's Gereshk district late Thursday, said provincial Police Chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal.

NATO responded by calling in airstrikes that killed 20 suspected militants -- but also 25 civilians, including nine women, three babies and the mullah of a local mosque, Andiwal said.

Al Jazeera provides a bit more in-depth coverage:

In the afternoon, de Hoop Scheffer privately met Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, in Ottawa, as well as Peter MacKay, the foreign affairs minister and Gordon O'Connor, the defence minister.

Canada has deployed 2,500 troops in southern Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Harper's minority Conservative government has refused to say if it is considering an extension, but managed to scuttle an opposition motion in the House of Commons in April demanding a fixed withdrawal date.

De Hoop Scheffer's request to extend the mission comes one day after three Canadian soldiers died in a roadside blast in the Kandahar region.

Ninety-one foreign soldiers have now died in Afghanistan this year, most of them in combat and about half of them from the US which has the most soldiers in the international operation in Afghanistan.

Wednesday's attack brought Canada's death toll in Afghanistan since 2002 to 60. A senior Canadian diplomat was also killed in an attack.

Things appear to be heating up on both fronts, and this whole two-front war we've been in may be coming to a head. Unless things improve significantly by next year, I don't see these wars dragging on too much longer.

What? Did I just say that? Yeah, I did. I can't see how any President, regardless of party affiliation, can possibly let this continue. It has been a drain on President Bush's legacy, and I know full well that whomever gets elected will want to get re-elected. Regardless of what they think now, once they're in the hot seat, presiding over a war that likely 80% or more of the American public will oppose out-right by the time they get in, they'll want to get this heat off of their backs, no matter what it takes.

The question is: how long will it take said President to realize that it's not salvageable and that we need to cut our losses? Lives depend on the answer to that question.

Maybe I'll feel differently later, but the fact that this is all a complete cluster-fuck has become such a consensus with friggin' everybody that the politicians will have to notice at some point.

Here's hoping.

Discussion at BCF:

Throgg says:
So we'll mark you down for 2 Freidman Units.

All the prominent GOP candidates are pro-war so I don't see how it'll help them to pull out before the election. That would just pull the rug out from under them and leave them scrambling to come up with post war plans on short notice. If anything, Smirk has to stay for thier sake if nothing else. The GOP is locked into this and there's no way out for them before election time.

After that they can do whatever they have to. It won't matter anymore, and if it stands everything they've been saying on it's head so what, it'll be what the people want and they'll be forgiven.

Of course the war itself will make it that much harder for any of them to get elected, but that's the box they've put themselves in.
I clarify my point:
I didn't intend to imply that this administration would pull the plug on it, just that any future administration will have little choice but to withdraw completely within the first two years of their administration. Also, unless "the surge" is the smashing success that none of us expects it to be, Congress is going to incrementally make it more difficult for the President to continue escalating matters. Even a GOP candidate is going to want an "out".

Bush is "staying the course" right now, but I think his intention is to get the oil law passed before he leaves office. That way his potential GOP successor can declare victory and withdraw, and his potential Democratic successor can't screw up his plans for the Big Oil Grab. Naturally, not all of them would screw it up for him, but it's a long primary season and anything can happen.

We're not going to have the strategic military location that this administration wanted, but we can still maintain control of the oil flow. That will constitute victory in of itself.

If a Democrat is elected, I'm sure Bush will do anything he can to piss in the punch bowl before he leaves. Attack Iran, something like that. Legislation putting a leash on him will be necessary to prevent that, but we'll need some significant Republican support in order to pull it off. That or an impeachment if he tries it. Maybe legislation that will give commanders enough wiggle room to refuse the order? They'll know that he's on his way out and that they'll will have to answer to his Democratic successor soon enough. That's our only hope, I think.

But again, maybe I'll feel differently tomorrow.
To add: I don't find any scenario by which the Democrats restrain Bush to be terribly likely, but it's the only way I can envision us not starting something with Iran. Attacking Iran at this point in the game would be stupid, but when has that every stopped these guys?

Draft Iraq oil law makes headway

A draft oil law has been submitted to Iraq's parliament after the government and the Iraqi Kurdistan regional authority resolved differences on the sharing of the country's oil reserves, officials have said.

A spokesman for Iraq's oil minister said he expected politicians to begin debating the draft law in the next few days.

"A deal has been reached and the draft has been delivered to parliament to be discussed... in the coming days. An agreement has been reached covering all disputes," Asim Jihad said.

An official in the Kurdish regional government said an agreement had been made, but did not give further details.

Oil wealth sharing

The draft oil law is crucial in regulating how wealth from Iraq's huge oil reserves will be distributed between sectarian and ethnic groups.

The bill was approved by the cabinet in February but many Kurds opposed it.

The real reason we're still here, naturally.

Article 9: Grant of Rights

A- The rights for conducting Petroleum Operations shall be granted on the basis of an Exploration and Production contract. The contract shall be entered between the Ministry (or the Regional Authority) and an Iraqi or Foreign Person, natural or legal, which has demonstrated to the Ministry or the Regional authority the technical competence and financial capability that are adequate for the efficient conduct of Petroleum Operations according to the guidelines of the Federal Oil and Gas Council and as mentioned in Article 5C Fifth, and in accordance with the mechanisms of negotiations and contracting stated in Article 10 of this Law.


Fourth: All model contracts shall be formulated to honour the following objectives and
1- National control;
2- Ownership of the resources;
3- Optimum economic return to the country;
4- An appropriate return on investment to the investor; and
5- Reasonable incentives to the investor for ensuring solutions which are optimal to the
country in the long-term related to
a- improved and enhanced recovery,
b- technology transfer,
c- training and development of Iraqi personnel,
d- optimal utilisation of the infrastructure, and
e- environmentally friendly solutions and plans.


Sixth: Only pre-qualified companies by the Ministry or the Regional Authority shall be considered in any licensing round. The criteria for prequalification shall be specified in the invitation to bidding according to the regulation and instructions issued by the Federal Oil and Gas Council.

Seventh: Evaluation of pre-qualified applicants shall aim at establishing a short list of successful candidates for negotiations.

Control the flow of oil, get our oil companies a piece of the pie through a rigged bidding process, and let the Iraqi people rot once it's done. We'll stay here until the oil law is passed, and not much longer.

Discussion at BCF:

MadSatyrist says:

Somewhat, yes, somewhat no. Like a lot of things, its mixed.

As far as I'm concerned, the whole Iraq war was about modernizing the oil infrastructure in Iraq. That's why we won't pull out until the country is either peaceful or dead.

Saddam wasn't upgrading, and why should he? He was under low production caps, and the old infrastructure was adequate for that purpose.

So getting rid of Saddam was step one. The second step was putting up a contract process where an outside company would step in and put say 5,000,000,000 up for production and development on a single part of the fields, and that means security of contracts and a guarantee of no nationalization or sudden tax increases. Incremental injections of money over time is different, the huge funds needed to rebuild Iraqi oil fields mean some kind of security. So Bush used the military to provide that security.

France or Russia would have done it under Saddam, and the US would not have controlled the oil. That was intolerable to Bush (and Clinton was ready to invade Iraq several times - this I know for a fact) and to most of our Congress, so they acted on the first excuse for a war.

A nasty business, but not that far outside our common practice in the past. Anyone from South America would recognize the pattern. That we took it on the road to the MidEast is the only unique part of this particular adventure.
More at the link.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

One of the most stupid and pointless endeavors....

...I have ever engaged in. I thought it was stupid before, but now....

The saying by some, that we just "sit around waiting to get attacked" is the best way to describe our current situation. Our big projects tend to be the morale server and a wireless gaming network we're trying to set up. Then, once in a while, we get rockets fired at us. We recover from that, do whatever needs to be done, and go back to our daily affairs.

It is unclear to me what we're fighting for. There was a time I could see that we were fighting to establish a permanent military presence in the region so as to assert military dominance over a resource (oil) that will be key to China's developing economy, but given the on-going and perhaps semi-permanent sectarian violence in the region, I don't see how permanent bases are going to be sustainable without a continued loss of life. Perhaps Bush is simply willing to pay any price in other people's blood to assert dominance over the oil which will eventually be sold to the Chinese at inflated values. Perhaps he is trying to save face. Whatever the case may be, it has become increasingly clear that the price of this occupation is higher than it's worth, never mind the moral reasons for not invading in the first place. That's almost beside the point, now.

The point is that this was our last ditch effort to maintain the dream of the Holy American Empire. Control the oil and you keep a leash on the biggest potential rival in the world. It made sense in an amoral, greed and glory-driven sort of way. We have, however, failed. Our bases in Iraq are under constant attack, even with the ridiculous amount of manpower and resources dedicated to securing them. No one is safe here, and what good is the centralized launching point for operations in the region if we're spending all of our time and money defending our position?

We don't want Iraq to fall into the hands of Islamist extremists. I get that. But there are other ways to ensure that such a government never becomes a threat to us or to its neighbors. Besides, we still have enough carrots left in the garden to entice Syria and Iran to come around and help provide some sense of stability to their ailing neighbor. It certainly couldn't cost us any more money than we've already spent, and we certainly couldn't lose any more face than we already have.

The American Empire has peaked and must now recede in order to survive. Let the Arab states control their own oil. Use whatever economic strength we still have to leverage favorable deals. Work with Chavez to secure a better source to feed our petroleum addiction than this part of the world. GET OFF OF OIL. Let the Chinese fall into the trap that we have (they will need that oil just as badly as we do now) and institute some of the clean tech we've developed. No, it's not enough yet. But we're getting there, and the sooner we become self-sustaining, the sooner we can stop having to bully the entire world.

Here's a thought: the U.S. is capable of producing enough food to feed the entire world. Why don't we? We spend so much money on the military to secure oil to produce... what again? We're importing friggin' food from China, for fuck's sake. Why? Instead of being the world's leading destroyer of nations, why don't we try becoming their grocer? Will people bomb their source of food? I highly doubt it.

Agriculture needs to be big on our next President's priority list. It should be so big that the Secretary of Agriculture will be as important an appointment as the Secretaries of State and Defense.

I got off point, but the absolute stupidity of our current policies has really hit home when I start seeing the costs up close and personal. I also understand why so many troops buy into the propaganda: it's the only way that any of this makes any sense. Who wants to sacrifice themselves for nothing? We're fighting just to fight at this point.

Let the Iraqis sort their shit out themselves. That's how it's going to go down in the end, anyway. Get off the oil addiction; it's the only reason any of this matters to us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sy Hersh's profile on Maj Gen Taguba

If there was a redeeming aspect to the affair, it was in the thoroughness and the passion of the Army's initial investigation. The inquiry had begun in January, and was led by General Taguba, who was stationed in Kuwait at the time. Taguba filed his report in March. In it he found:

Numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees ... systemic and illegal abuse.
Taguba was met at the door of the conference room by an old friend, Lieutenant General Bantz J. Craddock, who was Rumsfeld's senior military assistant. Craddock's daughter had been a babysitter for Taguba's two children when the officers served together years earlier at Fort Stewart, Georgia. But that afternoon, Taguba recalled, "Craddock just said, very coldly, 'Wait here.' " In a series of interviews early this year, the first he has given, Taguba told me that he understood when he began the inquiry that it could damage his career; early on, a senior general in Iraq had pointed out to him that the abused detainees were "only Iraqis." Even so, he was not prepared for the greeting he received when he was finally ushered in.

"Here ... comes ... that famous General Taguba - of the Taguba report!" Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice. The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld's deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials. Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, "I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting."

In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. "Could you tell us what happened?" Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, "Is it abuse or torture?" At that point, Taguba recalled, "I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, 'That's not abuse. That's torture.' There was quiet."

A worthy read. It's a fascinating portrayal of a general officer getting the shaft for doing the job he was assigned to do, as well as our "leaders'" reaction to having the truth exposed.

Iranian crackdown

Iranian students and professors say an unprecedented number of disciplinary cases have been brought against students in the last month.

They say 29 have been arrested in the last two months for political activism and 207 were taken before disciplinary committees in the last 40 days alone.

By comparison, just four students were disciplined a month on average under the last government.

University professors who criticise the government are also losing their jobs.

The right wing fervor sweeping the world isn't going to just end when Bush leaves office. It will take a strong progressive leader to stem that tide. Is anybody up to the task?

Oxfam leaves Darfur refugee camp.

Oxfam is to permanently withdraw from Sudan's largest refugee camp.

The decision is because staff at Gereida in Darfur remain unsafe, the British aid agency announced on Saturday.

In attacks on three aid bases in the camp in December, an aid worker was raped, an Oxfam staff member beaten and others subjected to mock executions.

Since then, most operations have remained suspended in the area controlled by the former rebel faction of Minni Minnawi - the only leader to sign a May 2006 peace deal with the government.