Friday, June 30, 2006

Stand Up! Stand Down! Fight! Fight! Fight!

(The full article, cross posted from ePluribus Media.)

I distinctly remember, after the fall of Baghdad, all the self-congratulatory backslapping over the fact that we hadn't needed to conduct brutal house-to-house warfare in Iraq's capital city. Since then, we've been doing a lot of urban fighting. Right now, we're doing a whole bunch of it in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar Province. We're been trying to tame Ramadi since Saddam's statue came tumbling down.

The latest operation to take control of what Dexter Filkins of the New York Times describes as "...the toughest city in the most violent of Iraqi regions" launched on June 18th. Filkins reports that "Whole city blocks here look like a scene from some post-apocalyptic world: row after row of buildings shot up, boarded up, caved in, tumbled down." Many parts of the city are out of control of either American or Iraqi forces.

After prior failed efforts to control the chaos in Ramadi, coalition forces are trying something new. Rather than making a full frontal assault on the entire city, they plan to take the city a neighborhood at a time, and they're using a prime tenet of the "stand up/stand down" strategy. U.S. forces seize territory and round up or kill whatever insurgents they find there. Then they establish a secure outpost and turn the area over to Iraqi troops.

But nobody, including the U.S. commander in Ramadi, expects the Iraqis to take charge any time soon. Col. Sean MacFarland says, "I don't think by this winter we'll be quite ready to turn over completely" to Iraqi forces.

The delay in turning the job over isn't so much a function of readiness of Iraqi troops, but of how many Iraqi troops want to do the job.

How Long Will This Be Going On?

Mister Bush has said that Iraq's future is in the hands of its new government. But it appears that the new government's army doesn't want to get its hands too dirty in the course of forging the country's future.

Lieutenant Colonel Raad Niaf Haroosh, commander of the Iraqi battalion in Ramidi, only has 145 of his troops committed to the operation. He left 500 of them back in Mosul. Why? According to Colonel Raad, it's because they fear that they'll create tribal vendettas if they kill fellow Iraqis. "They said, 'We don't want fight our own people.'"

Isn't that dandy? NPR reports that recruits have to pay a $600 bribe to get into Colonel Raad's battalion. If I could serve in a battalion where I didn't have to fight if I didn't want to, I'd pay money to get into it too. Staying back at the base and peeling potatoes beats the heck out of getting shot at.

My time at the U.S. Naval War College and subsequent study of military art tells me there are no absolutes in armed conflict. All wars are the same, and they're all different. But a fairly reliable rule of thumb says that if you're going to conduct a counterinsurgency operation in your own country, your own soldiers are going to have to kill some of their countrymen, including some who are related to those soldiers through blood, marriage, and extended tribal ties. If you can't get your soldiers to do that, you're not going to conduct much of a counterinsurgency. Moreover, if you can only employ a fraction of any given unit to an operation, none of your units will ever be at full combat effectiveness no matter how well equipped or trained the individuals may be.

And as the Times' Filkins points out, this situation is not unique to the present operation in Ramadi. It has been endemic throughout the stand up/stand down process. If this optional participation policy is anybody's idea of "standing up," I'd hate to see what they consider "sitting down on the job." This critical vulnerability in the stand up/stand down strategy won't go away. We can't wave a magic wand and un-relate people.

We've arrived at a point where we're fighting Iraqis because the Iraqis don't want to fight among themselves. How many American troops are in harm's way in Ramadi right now because 500 Iraqi soldiers got to sit this dance out and wax the floors in the barracks instead?

Are we showing resolve in Iraq, or are we being played for chumps? Getting into a bar fight over a girl you just met shows resolve. Waking up in jail the next morning with a black eye and two missing teeth shows how stupid you are.

Iraq has turned into a goat rope tied in a Gordian knot wrapped around a Mobius strip. How did the mightiest nation in human history let itself get into such a bind?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Rumble in Ramadi

From "Stand Up! Stand Down! Fight! Fight! Fight!"
Lieutenant Colonel Raad Niaf Haroosh, commander of the Iraqi battalion in Ramidi, only has 145 of his troops committed to the operation. He left 500 of them back in Mosul. Why? According to Colonel Raad, it's because they fear that they'll create tribal vendettas if they kill fellow Iraqis. "They said, 'We don't want fight our own people.'"

Isn't that dandy? NPR reports that recruits have to pay a $600 bribe to get into Colonel Raad's battalion. If I could serve in a battalion where I didn't have to fight if I didn't want to, I'd pay money to get into it too. Staying back at the base and peeling potatoes beats the heck out of getting shot at.

See the entire commentary at ePluribus Media.

Coming Attraction...

Around noon east coast time I'll be posting a commentary on the operation in Ramadi that analyzes the critical flaws in the "stand up/stand down" strategy.

Check back here for the link.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bush and Cheney Assault the Gray Lady

As of late Monday, young Mister Bush, Dick Cheney and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow had pilloried the "liberal media" for revealing the existence of the Treasury Department/CIA covert monitoring of the SWIFT monetary transfer system.

The administration's anointed echo chamberlains were swift to pick their drumsticks. This from a National Review Online editorial titled "Stop the Leaks."

Every passing week, it becomes more apparent that disgruntled leftists in the intelligence community and antiwar crusaders in the mainstream media, annealed in their disdain for the Bush administration, are undermining our ability to win the War on Terror. Their latest body blow to the war effort is the exposure, principally by the New York Times, of the Treasury Department’s top-secret program to monitor terror funding.

It's pretty funny how anybody who objects to government intrusion on privacy is a disgruntled leftist or an antiwar crusader, and how any effort to check the power rapacious Bush administration is a "body blow to the war effort."

But this NRO vituperative gets even funnier.
President Bush…must demand that the New York Times pay a price for its costly, arrogant defiance. The administration should withdraw the newspaper’s White House press credentials because this privilege has been so egregiously abused, and an aggressive investigation should be undertaken to identify and prosecute, at a minimum, the government officials who have leaked national-defense information.

I'll let the Ann Coulter-like style of this passage go for the time being and jump to its core absurdity. If the administration yanks the NYT's White House press credentials, how will it leak classified disinformation through the Gray Lady via the next Judith Miller?

Speaking absurdity and Ann Coulter, on Joe Scarborough's program last night she compared the Times to Jane Fonda sitting on a North Vietnamese tank. I love how these far right types use their freedom of speech to attack freedom of speech.

Here's where it all stops being funny.

House Homeland Security Chairman Pete King (R New York) wants Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to prosecute the New York Times for running the SWIFT story.

This is scary stuff, kids, because we're talking about a potential major league legal battle, and as deep as the Times' pockets may be, they're nowhere near as deep as the pockets of the United States Treasury.

Here's something else I don't find terribly funny. Cheney tells us that all the administration's secret monitoring programs are consistent with Mister Bush's constitutional authority. And a lot of people are willing to take his word for it.

I am not a scholar of constitutional law, but I've spent quite a bit of time studying the document. I know precisely where it guarantees freedom of speech and personal privacy (Amendments I and IV), but I have yet to find a single passage in the Constitution that discusses the government's right to keep secrets.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Also see Smoke, Mirrors and War Powers.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Fog and Friction of War and Politics

In politics, as in war, the Clausewitzean concepts of fog and friction apply. We can't always see ground truth, and things seldom work out the way they're supposed to.

The similarity between war and politics is a natural occurrence. War is, after all, a political act. But wars don't get much more political than the one we're currently conducting in Iraq, and we've seldom seen this amount of fog and friction in U.S. and global politics.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a GOP backed "non-binding" bill that rejected any withdrawal timeline. Last week, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected two amendments to the defense bill proposed by Democrats that called for things that were described by Republicans as "timelines."

And then…

The Iraqi government announced its plan that calls for, among other things, a timeline for withdrawal of foreign troops.

And shortly after that…

General George Casey, U.S. commander of coalition forces in Iraq, announced his plan for sharp U.S. troop level reductions by the end of 2007.

And Sunday morning on Meet the Press, Senator Russ Feingold (D Wisconsin) said that Casey's plan sounds almost exactly like the amendment he proposed that the Senate defeated.

Are we staying and playing or cutting and running?

The Best of Both Buzz Phrases

In December 2005, Congressman Jack Murtha (D Pennsylvania) said "It is time for Iraqi leaders to take control of the future of their country."

During his surprise visit to Iraq two weeks ago, Mister Bush told Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Maliki that, "Iraq's future is in your hands."

Does anyone else suspect that for all their animosity over the Iraq issue, the Dems and the GOPers are actually pretty much on the same page?

Hopefully, everyone understands by now that there will not be an "end" to our military presence in Iraq for a very long time--probably decades. Most likely, we'll wind up with a posture that looks like a combination of Jack Murtha's redeployment plan and young Mister Bush's "stay the course." We'll keep an over the horizon Marine force embarked on amphibious ships in the Gulf, Army forces in peripheral countries like Kuwait, and some amount of ground presence in Iraq itself.

As for "permanent" or "enduring" bases in Iraq, well, yeah, we'll pretty much have to do that; partly because whatever number of troops we keep in Iraq will need a safe place to stay and partly because if the redeployed troops on the periphery need to un-redeploy, they'll need a place to stage out of.

In that light, despite the pre-election political posturing going on in the U.S., I think the roadmap is already drawn.

There are, however, two major bumps in the road that political types in both America and Iraq will need to navigate around. Malaki's proposed 28 point deal with Iraq's internal insurgent groups seeks to embrace them and isolate the relatively small al Qaeda affiliated terrorist forces located in that country. But a couple of those points are sticking in the craw of American politicians from both sides of the aisle.

The point everyone is talking about is the offer of amnesty to insurgents who attacked occupying coalition forces. I'm not entirely wild about the idea, but think that from an Iraqi perspective, it makes a lot of sense. If they're going to form a true unity government, they're going to have to make some concessions to factions that acted, at least from their perspectives, as "freedom fighters."

The other contentious point that's still flying under the radar is the one that promises an end to coalition anti-terrorist operations in insurgency strongholds. That essentially puts the U.S. military commander under control of the Iraqi government, limiting his freedom of action. He can only conduct offensive operations sanctioned by the Iraqis or purely defensive operations in defense of his own troops. When our force's primary mission is to defend itself we're back in a Beirut situation. The troops are in harm's way with no objective, and shouldn't be there.

The Moral of the Story

Senator Chuck Hagel (R Nebraska) is talking to Wolf Blitzer, saying that the future of Iraq is up to the Iraqi people, and that his party's "cut and run" rhetoric is self defeating palaver. Good for him.

I'm of the camp that says whatever moral obligation we had to the Iraqi's for breaking their flowerpot has been met. If they want to descend into an internal Hobbesian war, that's on their moral scorecard.

Protecting Iraq from an external invasion is another matter. Having taken their country down to parade rest, we certainly owe them protection a coordinated attack by, say, Syria and Iran . But such an attack is highly unlikely. Having observed the mightiest nation with the mightiest military in human history bog down into a quagmire in Iraq, why would any third-rate country care to repeat the experience? If Iraq comes under the influence of neighboring countries like Iran, that influence will more likely be of a diplomatic and economic nature.

Even if Iraq's neighbors turn irrational--which I don't believe they will, however often the war hawk right may describe them as psychopaths--and consider bringing military force to bear against it, the kinds of peripheral troop redeployment that Murtha describes will be more than enough to deter such an action. (Keep in mind that over the last few decades the Middle Eastern nations have decisively illustrated that when it comes to conducting combat operations, their militaries suck.)

Expect to see a lot more political vitriol on what to do about the Iraq situation. But don't expect to see anything done about it that looks a whole lot different from what Jack Murtha proposed in December of 2005.

It's just a matter of how much more political fog and friction the American public is willing to put up with before the inevitable happens.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Iraq and Roll

Have we really recognized Iraqi sovereignty? The coming months should tell, because as the UK Times reports, that country's government wants to set its own timeline for foreign troop withdrawal, and a few other things besides that the Bush administration isn't likely to be all peace, love and understanding about. (Thanks to beachmom at Kos for the steer to the Times story.)

According to the Times, highlights of the 28-point plan the Iraqi government is offering to resistance groups include:
--A schedule for coalition forces to withdraw

-- General amnesty for prisoners “who have not shed innocent Iraqis’ blood”

-- A halt to “anti-terrorist operations” by coalition forces in insurgent areas

Young Mister Bush may well be reluctant to swallow this horse pill.

Iraq intends to work with the UN on the withdrawal timeline. So the international body that didn't throw in with us on the invasion will be part of the plan to throw us out.

The amnesty offer, in essence, forgives any insurgents who attacked U.S. troops. As the Times states, "[O]ne big potential obstacle is whether the US would be willing to grant an amnesty to insurgents who have killed US soldiers but who are not members of extreme groups such as al-Qaeda. The Bush Administration is thought to be split on the issue." The Bush administration may be split on the issue, but they don't have spit to say about it--unless, of course, they want to come right out and admit that the new Iraqi government they've been crowing about is nothing more than a U.S. puppet.

By halting coalition anti-terrorist operations, the Iraq government will be telling U.S. forces what they can and cannot do. Talk about putting a burr in our commander in chief's saddle.

The Iraqi government's intent is to isolate Iraq's native insurgent forces from the external al Qaeda terrorist fighters. The proposed deal also promises to crack down on Shiite militias and death squads and to review the "de-Baathification" process by which thousands of Sunni government workers lost their jobs after the fall of Baghdad.

This is a brilliant piece of statesmanship. Stand by to watch Condi Rice step in and put the kibosh on it.

Heck, we can't have the Iraqis making their own domestic policies, can we? The next thing you know, they'll want to sell their oil for cheap to somebody other than us.

We're Still Being Had

The paper trail of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) makes it abundantly clear that key members Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis Libby and others planned to make an invasion of Iraq the cornerstone of American foreign policy years before George W. Bush became the GOP presidential nominee. They did, in fact, intend to take control of the Middle East by military force even if Saddam Hussein was no longer in power. It's little wonder that the administration and its GOP lapdogs in Congress have time after time rejected any call for a coherent exit strategy or any resolution that the U.S. will not seek to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.

I don't think we'll be leaving Iraq while the neoconservative cabal remains in power, and the way things are going, that might well be a long, long time. The Democratic Party, always a somewhat disorganized political entity, is unlikely to defeat the well-oiled GOP machine until the majority of the electorate decides it's had enough.

That sort of shift in public opinion may be far off. Increasingly, the major information media outlets have knuckled under pressure to pander to the right. Conservative pundit Monica Crowley is now a "news anchor" on MSNBC. Dick Cheney continues to castigate the press for disclosing "vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people." That sort of stuff "offends" him, and thereby offends his loyal followers as well.

The very existence of "loyal Dick Cheney followers" should give you an idea of just how bizarre the America political environment has become. Cheney epitomizes the Orwellian, neoconservative "fear and loathing" strategy that put and kept the present administration in power. Yes, recent polls indicate that a minority of Americans buy into the Bush bilge water anymore, but enough of the majority of voters may well remain frightened enough of the Rovewellian boo noise to keep this totalitarian regime in power come November.

If that happens, stand by for continued imperial shenanigans. And stand by for America to dig an even bigger foxhole in Iraq.

When the Iraqi government objects to that, will we hear about it in the U.S. press?

Not from the likes of Monica Crowley we won't.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Monica Crowley on MSNBC

I'm beyond shocked. Monica "Bush Girl" Crowley is on MSNBC right now, masquerading as an honest to goodness "news anchor."

And what did I just say about the information environment becoming more and more bizarre as the November elections approach?

Fox's Fighting Father Jon

Father Jonathan Morris of Fox News gives another lecture on the "moral justification" for staying the course in Iraq.

"Beware of sweeping moral judgments on the Iraq war — pro or con —," he says, "based solely on new findings of weapons of mass destruction. It's not so simple."

In "WMD Found in Iraq," Father John gives us snippets of the announcements by Senators Rich Santorum (R Pennsylvania) and Pete Hoekstra (R Michigan) that yes, we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He then adds the disclaimer by the senior Defense Department official that "These are not the WMDs for which this country went to war."

Father John neglects to mention that we've known about the presence of old WMD left over from the Iran-Iraq war for years. The September 2004 Director of Central Intelligence report on Iraq's WMD program stated "While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991."

But that makes no never mind, according to Father Jon, because "Whether the decision to enter Iraq in March of 2003 was a good one has little to do with the good work our soldiers are doing right now."

Well now, that's just not true. Whatever the reasons were for invading Iraq--and for me the overwhelming burden of evidence says the motivation was oil, bases, and Israel--we did not go there so our troops could paint schoolhouses and play soccer with Iraqi kids.

"Those who say we should leave now because we should never have entered in the first place are acting out of emotion or for political gain, but certainly not based on sound principle. Packing up and leaving from one day to the next, as some are requesting, would be an irresponsible and selfish act of cowardice on the part of the allied forces," the good Father says.

Morris has mastered the Rovewellian art of the straw man attack. Why we went there and why we should leave, though both important issues, are separate ones. No one in the political arena, including John Murtha, is suggesting that we "pack up and leave from one day to the next." They're suggesting that we formulate an exit strategy based on "sound principle." Judge for yourself on the morality of Father Jon labeling Murtha, Kerry, Reid, and those who support them as "selfish cowards."

And it's interesting that while Father Jon accuses those proposing a sane plan for withdrawal of seeking "political gain," he has nothing to say about the political timing of the WMD announcements by Santorum and Hoekstra.

But he does use the "new findings" of WMD to conclude that "We now know more about Saddam's diabolic regime" (we didn't already know Saddam used chemical weapons on Iran?) and that "We question again the efficiency of the many years of United Nations' weapon inspections" (Father Jon doesn't bother to mention that UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix raised concerns over the whereabouts of the Iran-Iraq War chemical weapons prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq).

Oh, There's an Election Coming Up?

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is about to give a press conference on the "home grown" terrorist cell indicted in Miami.

Ah, here's 'Berto, talking about "a new brand of terrorism" and referring to the cell taken down earlier this month in Toronto.

Does anybody else wonder why these cells are just now being discovered?

In another timely story, General George Casey says that Iran's central government is aiding Shiite terrorists in Iraq.

Look for the fear factor to grow as November approaches, and don't be surprised when the tallest Arab ever wanted "dead or alive" by a United States President turns up sometime in August or September.

I'll leave it to God to make the ultimate moral judgment of Father Jonathan Morris, but my worldly assessment is that this self-styled "ethicist" is a right wing political hack trying to hide his agenda behind a clerical collar.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Iraq, Raptors, and Congressional Rapture

Watching the Senate and House debates on Iraq and the defense budget over the past two weeks, I've asked myself time after time Is this really happening?

You probably know by now that the debates on Iraq in both chambers were bald-faced media events designed by the GOP as an opportunity to re-echo the top ten Karl Rove talking points.

Jon Kyl (R Arizona) was in my opinion one of the most blatant and artless offenders, especially in his address on the Senate floor today. The specious references to the Gettysburg Address that infer a comparison between Lincoln and young Mister Bush. Bogus comparisons or Iraq to World War II. Victory. Victory. Victorious. Evil doers. Evil doers. Evil doers.

We owe it to the troops to stay in Iraq.

Yeah. We owe it to the troops to keep them in Iraq forever with no clear plan so George W. Bush can save face.

The terrorists can't beat us militarily.

So? We can't beat them militarily either, so why keep fighting?


John Warner (R Virginia) said that we must honor our commitments.

Our commitments to whom, Senator? Iraq? The troops? Or to George W. Bush and the neoconservative cabal that took over your political party?


Both Kerry's and Reid's amendments just got defeated. No surprise there.

The Defense bill, by the way, calls for $518 billion, a four percent increase from last year.

For all the good our military spending is doing in the war on terror, we might as well be shoveling it in the furnace.

Heck, for all we're spending to try to get control of Middle East oil, we may as well have Detroit develop cars that run on dollar bills.


Saxby Chambliss (R Georgia) is on the Senate floor now, pushing for an amendment to further fund the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter. "It's not about spending money," he says, "it's about saving money."

No, Saxby. It's about spending money onto a flat rock.

The Raptor is an albatross. Chambliss says something about an F-22 probably protecting the skies over D.C. right now. There's a compelling argument. Just what we need in our war on terror is a $361 million per copy air-to-air fighter to protect our capital from hijacked airliners.

What's really happening is that our GOP controlled Congress is so willing to make political hay out of untold amounts of tax dollars on defense initiatives--be they wars or star wars weapons systems--that contribute little if anything to countering the real threats to our national security.

How much longer will we let them get away with it?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

For more of Jeff's views on the military industrial complex and its influence of foreign and domestic policy, see In an Arms Race with Ourselves.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Moe, Larry, "Curly John" Warner

We have still further proof of the failure of neoconservativism: Afghanistan, once the "crown jewel" in our so-called war on terror is officially going to hell in a handbag.

From USA Today:
In their biggest show of strength in nearly five years, pro-Taliban fighters are terrorizing southern Afghanistan — ambushing military patrols, assassinating opponents and even enforcing the law in remote villages where they operate with near impunity.

"We are faced with a full-blown insurgency," says Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil & Fundamentalism in Central Asia


Even before fighting heated up this spring, Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, warned Congress that the insurgents "represent a greater threat" to the pro-U.S. government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai "than at any point since late 2001."

One has to wonder why General Maples bothered to tell Congress. They sure weren't going to do anything about it.


The disaster in Iraq is so obvious that even conservative icon William F. Buckley admits that our excursion to that country "didn't work."

And yet as recently as Monday, young Mister Bush, in an address to the graduates of the Merchant Marine Academy, claimed that the U.S. and its allies have fostered an "historic transformation" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If this kind of self-delusion is what comes from not drinking, Mister Bush needs to jump off the wagon.


Of North Korea's apparent preparations to test launch a missile that could conceivably reach the west coast of the continental United States, State Department Sean McCormack said, "Together, our diplomacy and that of our allies has made clear to North Korea that a missile launch would be a provocative act that is not in their interests and will further isolate them from the world."

How much further isolated from the world does McCormack think North Korea can get?

Next question: how on earth did a guy like McCormack get to be a spokesman for the State Department?

Oh. Yeah. Bush administration. Silly Question. Never mind.


In a new global poll conducted by the BBC World Service, more than half the people surveyed said Bush's reelection has made the world a more dangerous place.
Most negative feelings were found in Western European, Latin American and Muslim countries.
They include traditional US allies such as Germany, France, Britain and Italy as well as neighbours Canada and Mexico.


Turkey topped the anti-Bush list, with 82% believing his re-election would be negative for global security.
The result is bad news for the president as Turkey is a US ally and the only Muslim member of Nato, says the BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels.


Anti-Bush sentiments also appeared to be strong in Latin America. Argentina, with 79%, and Brazil, with 78%, follow Turkey in the list.

As I said in my column from Tuesday, during the Bush administration, we've gone from having no real enemies to having no real friends.

"My" Senator in Action

I'm watching John Warner (R Virginia) on the Senate floor, smacking down the Democrat's proposed defense appropriation bill amendment to conduct a phased redeployment from Iraq. The guy's a total administration echo chamberlain, giving the Polly Cracker treatment to all the Rovewellian talking points on "staying the course" that we've all come to know and love so well.

"We have the momentum," says Warner.

Brother. Somebody do me a favor and rake a cheese grater across that administration stooge's face.

As long as the likes of Warner maintain control of Congress--as proxies of Dick Cheney--America will continue to squander every gain made by the sacrifices and victories gained in the two world wars and the Cold War.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sleeping with the Enemy in the Next World Order

So North Korea appears to be getting ready to test fire a missile that might eventually be able to strike the United States.

And that's small potatoes compared to the rest of our foreign policy problems.

There's not enough good news from Iraq to mask the fact that it is an unmitigated disaster. The Taliban are back in Afghanistan, and warlords there have made the country the world's largest exporter of narcotics. Terrorist groups have become legitimate political parties in Lebanon and Palestine. Something's going on with Iran's nuclear program, we really don't know what, but it's a good bet that whatever is going on there isn't what Condi Rice is telling us.

China is positioning itself to surpass the U.S. economically, and is back in the sack with Russia. Saudi Arabia, our biggest buddy in the Middle East, is also one of the biggest sponsors of international terrorism.

Thanks to the Bush administration's ham fisted use of armed force, America's military has become all but impotent in its ability to achieve our political objectives overseas--which is the primary reason it exists. The U.S. has no peer competitor in the arms arena, yet we continue to throw astronomic amounts of money into fantastical weapons like the F-22 Raptor fighter jet that bring nothing of value to our so-called war on terror.

The Department of Homeland Security, perhaps the single greatest failure in the history of the federal government, tells us that most American cities and states are still unprepared for terrorist attacks.

And the Bush administration still claims "national security" as its strong point.

Irony: Dead and Loving It

PNAC--the Project for the New American Century--appears to be rolling up its carpet. While I'm glad to see that happening, I wish it had happened a long time ago.

The PNAC was the neoconservative "think tank," founded by William Kristol, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others in 1997, formulated the "Reaganite" policy by which the Bush administration attempted to dominate the globe through armed force.

The problem with pursuing Reagan-like policies was that the world was no longer Reagan-like.

As America grew from its infant stage, it gradually adopted the European balance-of-power political model, sleeping with the enemies of its enemies until, by the time of the Cold War, it had pretty much slept around with everybody.

Once the last great opponent was vanquished, America had the opportunity to stop the vicious cycle of changing allies every generation or so and practice genuine world leadership. Some argue that we were headed in that direction during the Clinton era. That may be true. But if so, the neoconservative Bush administration reversed course, setting out deliberately to once again polarize the world, inflaming animosities with "axis of evil" and "with us or against us" rhetoric. Rather than capitalize on the opportunity 9/11 presented to unite the world in a common cause of eradicating terrorism, the neocons chose instead to tell the UN and most of the rest of the world to take a hike.

In just over 6 years, we've gone from having no real enemies to having no real friends.

Reversing course again will not be an easy undertaking. Decisive, favorable solutions to Iraq and Afghanistan do not exist. We cannot regain credibility overnight. And while we don't want to maintain a preemptive military excursion policy, we obviously don't want to completely disarm. Determining proper types and levels of armed force needed to maintain a peaceful world will take some serious soul searching.


I’m watching the debate on the Senate floor on Iraq and Afghanistan. It's already sounding like a replay of last week's pie fight in the House of Representatives. Jon Kyl (R Arizona) is on the floor now, reiterating virtually every Simple Simon talking point the Rove machine has manufactured in the last five years.

America will not become the leader the world needs as long as it continues to cling to failed policies and support them with Polly Cracker rhetoric.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


The Next World Order Series

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Good News from Iraq

An AP report tells us how well the "security crackdown" in Baghdad is going.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A series of explosions struck commercial areas in Baghdad within hours Saturday, killing at least 17 people and dealing a blow to a huge government operation to secure the capital.

The blasts — seven within five hours — brought the death toll around Iraq to at least 23 people. The bombings also wounded at least 72. A day earlier, a suspected shoe bomber blew himself up inside one of Baghdad's most prominent Shiite mosques, killing 13 people.

Two of our soldiers are missing from a checkpoint south of Baghdad.

Car bomb and mortar attacks occurred in the Sunni city of Mahmoudiya.

Other violence.

Here's the item that really caught my eye:
Gunmen attacked the house of Iraqi army Col. Makki Mindil, killing him after engaging his guards in a gunfight.

If that's "standing up," coffee is a cure for insomnia.

Ah, but there is good news.
There has been a slight decrease in the number of Iraqis reported killed since al-Zarqawi died June 7. In the nine days before the airstrike, 307 Iraqis were killed, compared with 262 in the nine subsequent days, according to an Associated Press tally.

So we've got that going for us. But we have to temper our enthusiasm with the fact that on the same day al-Zarqawi was killed, Iraq's director general of the State Company for Oil Projects was kidnapped.

Another Mission Accomplished, Another Corner Turned.

In his weekly radio speech today, young Mister Bush announced his new plan to succeed in Iraq, which consists of "continued sacrifice" and "more patience."

I wonder how much better that will work than the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" he announced in November 2005 at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Or from the plan he announced in May of 2004 in a speech he gave at the Army War College.

Or the plan he announced in February 2003.

Or the plan he made with help of the Project for the New American Century prior to even taking office in January 2001.

And then we have the magnificent, non-binding, stay-the-course GOP "legislation" just passed in the House of Representatives which was nothing more than a piece of pro-Bush cheerleading.

Criticize the left. Pander to the right. Stand up. Stand down. Fight! Fight! Fight!

Yeah. That will do the trick.

One of my hardcore conservative acquaintances who is a Vietnam veteran insists to this day that "We only needed eighteen more months, and we could have won."

"Could have won what?" I ask him

"Victory," he says.

"And how would you have defined victory in Vietnam?" I say.

"Winning," he says.

"So you can't define 'winning' or 'victory,'" I say, "but we'll let that pass for now. Let me ask you this. After ten years, you only needed eighteen more months to defeat a third world country?"

"Hell, we could have done it in six months, if they'd let us."

"If you could have done it in six months, how come you couldn't do it in ten years?" I say. "You know, that whole line of reasoning sounds like a little kid at bedtime, wanting to watch the end of a baseball game on television, saying, 'five more minutes, mom. The game's almost over.'"

The game's already over in Iraq, but if we're not careful, we'll be giving the war hawks another five minutes until another ten or twenty years have gone by.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

HR 861: War Without End, Amen

I spent the morning watching the House debate on Resolution 861, introduced by Henry Hyde (R Illinois). You may remember Hyde as the guy who led the charge to impeach President Clinton for lying about not keeping his pants on. Now, he says we all owe young Mister Bush our thanks for acting in Iraq.

HR 861 is a sham. The Republicans put up a bill full of platitudes, allowing no proposed amendments.

And hidden in the middle of the platitudes is this tidbit:
…it is not in the national security interest of the United States to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal or redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq…

In other words, this bill is a yes/no vote on whether to allow Mister Bush--and his succesor--to keep our troops in Iraq forever.

The whole morning, watching on C-SPAN, I kept wondering how to describe what I was feeling. It came to me. It was like watching my country being assimilated by the Borg.

This isn't a debate on Iraq. It's an orchestrated GOP election campaign circus.


Back from the grocery store just in time to see Murtha speak.

At last. Somebody actually using hard data to measure the ineffectiveness of the effort in Iraq. Hopefully, his speech will be up on his web site. "Rhetoric does not answer the problem," he says. Amen Brother Murtha.

Henry Hyde (R Illinois) follows Murtha. It takes him less than 30 seconds to conjure visions of mushroom clouds, and drones on for roughly ten minutes in praise of Mister Bush.

There's something about Murtha being followed by Hyde that pretty much says for me what America's upcoming election is about--the bluff and honest versus the serpentine.

Hyde finishes his spiel and Murtha comes back to the floor. Iraq has gone on longer than World War I, longer than the Korean Conflict, he says, and reiterates that the metrics belie administration claims of "progress" in Iraq.

Ike Skelton (D Missouri) makes a great point about eating our "military seed corn" in Iraq. I haven't heard it put that way before, but I've long said that one of the greatest tragedies regarding Iraq is that we're grinding our force into hourglass fill in a contest that has little if anything to do with our national security. What happens in two or three years if we really need the military power that we squandered in Iraq?

As Jack Murtha says, China, Russia, Iran, and most of the rest of the world are perfectly happy to see us stay in Iraq until we're powerless to meaningfully engage militarily anywhere else in the world.

Duncan Hunter's at the plate, giving a lecture on how it was okay to have disbanded the Iraqi Army, and lending his expertise on military command, control and discipline. He's also giving a "support the troops" pitch, comparing Iraq to World War II.

Murtha gets up, God bless him, and slaps Hunter down for confusing the difference between supporting the troops and supporting the policy.

Henry Waxman (D California) give a good account of contractor fraud in Iraq. Bravo, he brought up David Brooks, the contractor who sold faulty body armor to the Army and Marines. "We're squandering money on Halliburton at the same time we don't have enough money to protect our troop."


Ah, me.

Peter Hoekstra (R Michigan) makes flatulent noise about "the first war of the information age." Yeah. Like information didn't exist, or wasn't an essential part of war, before the World Wide Web existed.

These rubber stamp Republicans are blithering idiots.

How much longer are we going to let them lead us over the cliff?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Shooting Blanks in the Next World Order

You're a superpower that's already beaten up the rest of the world. What do you do, go to Disney Land or continue to beat up on the rest of the world?

Rome and Napoleonic France are but two historic examples of empires that failed to realize the military power that created them was insufficient, in itself, to sustain them.

If there's something good to come from the Iraq war, it's that perhaps the United States will have learned a lesson about wielding great power in time to avoid becoming a footnote in some other culture's history book.

With an arms budget equal to the military expenditures of the rest of the world combined, the United States represents the most lopsided balance of military might seen in the industrial age. The problem with that kind of dominance is that there are very few instances where armed conflict is altogether necessary, and even fewer where an armed conflict will turn out well.

The Clausewitzean theory of absolute war became all but obsolete with the advent of a bipolar world in which the two superpowers possessed arsenals that could have ended human life on the planet. The Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) theory rested on another of Clausewitz's dictums, that war is political in nature, and that no desired political aim of either side could be achieved through global thermo-nuclear war.

With the fall of the Soviet Union, absolute war became even more moot. The United States could, if it wished, quite literally blow every other nation off the map. But what would be the political purpose in that? (And as songwriter Randy Newman might ask, where would we go on vacation?)

Barring truly extraordinary provocation, America is limited to use of its conventional forces in armed conflict, but even in conventional wars, the power ratio between the U.S. and any opponent is ridiculous. There is no conventional military force in existence that we can't make fairly quick work of (which is one reason no one is seriously trying to build a conventional force that could take ours on). Hence the kind of asymmetric, insurgent style conflict we currently witness in Iraq.

Let's set one thing straight about counterinsurgency operations. There are better and worse ways to conduct them, but there is no good way to conduct them. And you can't design a military that specializes in counterinsurgency because then it wouldn't be good at doing what it's supposed to do, which is fight and defeat other military forces.

Counterinsurgencies get out of hand when the occupying force, frustrated at being unable quell the revolt, starts lining large sections of the population up in front of firing squads. Once you start doing that kind of thing, you wind up killing a whole lot of people--enough that it might have been better to just drop a bunch of nukes on them.

And what's that going to get you politically if you're a sole superpower that insists other nations respect human rights?

(Sidebar: an AP report from late Tuesday says:
Iraq’s new prime minister promised “no mercy” for terrorists Tuesday as President Bush paid a surprise visit to Baghdad on the eve of a security crackdown involving 75,000 troops, road closures and a curfew.

Stand by for this to turn uglier than Frankenstein's baby.)

Being Careful How You Use It

One of the dangers of a sole super power maintaining a standing, all-volunteer military of overwhelming combat force is that it's tempting to overuse, especially when you have an administration in power--like the one we have now--that's predisposed to overuse it.

Back in my active duty days, I wrote to a friend, "Every time our political leaders commit us to major armed conflict, they expose our failure to achieve our main purpose in the post-modern, post-Soviet world, which is to deter armed conflicts."

Under the neoconservative regime, we not only gave up on the idea of deterring armed conflicts, we purposely set out to create them. And, lamentably, we shined our heinies in Iraq by showing the entire world that we're very good at starting "preemptive" wars that by their very natures are not "winnable."

In the Next World Order, America needs to come up with a new calculus of power. The old equations simply don't work any more.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


Jeff's Next World Order Series

Monday, June 12, 2006

Spinning Wars versus Winning Wars

Regarding the recent suicides at Guantanamo, camp commander Rear Admiral Harry Harris said, "I believe this was not an act of desperation, rather an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us."

Hey, maybe Admiral Harris has hit on the ultimate strategy to win the war on terror: convince them all that the best way to defeat America is to commit suicide. It's brilliant! Sun Tzu would approve wholeheartedly.

And what the heck, the suicide strategy makes a whole lot more sense than this "stand up, stand down" drivel we've been fed lately.

The suicide strategy would give the administration and Pentagon spin doctors something they could really sink their teeth into. Forget trying to sell the war to Americans, or blaming every failure in the war on Democrats and the media. Launch a massive, multi-pronged psychological operations campaign aimed at convincing the bad guys to do themselves in.

Such a campaign should follow, at the very least, three distinct lines of operation:

Incentive: "Double Virgin Days" would offer twice the virgins in afterlife to young Jihadists for reporting to U.S. controlled "martyrdom centers." At the centers, prospective martyrs would be offered a wide variety of suicide options, everything from self-immolation to "Allah's little helper" pills.

"Don't delay! This is a limited time offer."

Shame: "Suicide now and avoid the draft."

Don't embarrass your family and friends by being one of those losers who had to be ordered to take your own life. Do the manly thing and volunteer.

Radio Free Islam would run constant spots of Ann Coulter saying "There are two kinds of radical Islamists: suicides and cowards."

Depression: "You're a rag head, your life sucks anyway."

Run spots on Arab television of Rush Limbaugh playing golf, lighting $50 cigars with $100 bills and saying, "The only way you'll ever live like me is by being dead."

If this suicide strategy sounds ludicrous to you, you haven’t been paying attention to everything else that's been going on since we launched our woebegone war on terror.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Winners and Losers in the Next World Order

Like it or not, our present Iraq War is representative of what American armed conflicts will be like in the Next World Order: costly, indecisive, difficult to terminate, and politically counterproductive.

We will never get a straight answer from the Bush administration regarding what the real political objectives of the Iraq invasion were, but they certainly weren't situation we have now. The best-trained, best-equipped, best-financed military in the history of mankind is stuck in a quagmire for which an increasing number of experts agree there is no military solution.

Our military's difficulty in achieving our political objectives is not for lack of investment in them. The U.S. now spends as much money on the Department of Defense as the military budgets of the rest of the world combined. In 2005, according to the CIA World Factbook, U.S. military expenditures exceeded $518 billion. By contrast, the emerging "peer competitor" China spent a paltry $81.5 billion. America's arms expenditures represented 4.19 percent of its purchasing power parity gross domestic product ($12.36 trillion). By comparison, China's military budget accounted for less than one percent of its GDP ($8.859 trillion).

Keep that in mind the next time you hear Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld making scare noise, as he has recently, about China's "increased military spending." Also keep in mind that unlike the U.S., China is making its first real effort to modernize its conventional arsenal since the Korean War.

The Decline of Military Power

As instruments of power go, economy has trumped military might among the states in the upper world order tier nations. And economically, America has embarked on a headlong downward slide.

As of 2005, we were still first among the major political entities in GDP, but not by much. The European Union, at $ 12.18 trillion, trailed us by a mere 1.46 percent. China was behind by 28.33 percent. But those numbers only tell part of the economic competition trend.

The Bush administration has made much of America's economic growth rate, pegged at 3.5 percent for 2005. Wow. That's on par with the growth rates of Arubia, Nambia, Benin, and the Bahamas. The good news is that we're ahead of Denmark, which only posted a growth rate of 3.4 percent. And we're comfortably outpacing losers like Antigua, Mexico, Tuvalu, Mauritius, Guernsey, and Cosmoros, whose economies only grew at a measly 3.0 percent.

Granted, those economies are pretty small, and not all that influential on the overall global order.

But what about China, the number three economy in the world? (And the number two economy among single nations.) Their 2005 growth rate was 9.9 per cent.

Does that get your attention?

Then get a load of this. America's national debt is 64.7 percent of its GDP. China's is 28.8.

And China isn't pouring a half trillion plus dollars a year into the fan on its military like the United States is.

Who is America's number two creditor? China ($ 129 billion). Number one is Japan ($158 billion). We owe our number three creditor, Germany, $120 billion, and $89.3 billion to our number four creditor, Russia.

All of these nations have much to gain by siding with Iran on its nuclear energy position and blowing off Condi Rice and John Bolton.

Are you starting to get the picture? China, Russia, and the European Union sure are. Iran's political leaders sure are.

America's political leaders sure aren't.

Or at least, they're pretending not to.


Jeff Huber's Next Word Order Series


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Cheney Flies Under the Radar

Talk about convenient timing for the Bush administration.

Jammed off the radarscope this week by Ann Coulter's mouth and the demise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the squaring off between Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) and Dick Cheney (unofficial master of the universe) over the NSA domestic spying investigation.

CNN and other news outlets reported Thursday that Specter "sent a stinging letter to Vice President Dick Cheney after learning Cheney had lobbied other Republicans on his committee without his knowledge."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Specter is galled that Cheney's been breaking the legs of other Republican Judiciary Committee members to block subpoenas of phone company executives regarding the NSA domestic surveillance program.

It's difficult to determine whether Specter is actually upset that Cheney has been kneecapping fellow Republicans on Specter's committee, or if he's just upset that Cheney did the kneecapping without telling Specter about it.

Specter's three page letter said, "This was especially perplexing since we both attended the Republican senators caucus lunch yesterday, and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions en route from the buffet to my table."

Is Specter more concerned about buffet table protocol or about whether the Bush Administration is tossing Americans' constitutional rights in the trashcan in the name of "plenary" executive powers?

Whatever the case, the result is the same. The White House's claims to "unreviewable," absolute powers will go unchecked as long as the GOP owns the Senate and the House.

Springtime for Dubya

As I discussed last December in Smoke, Mirrors, and War Powers, the administration has consistently based its claims of supreme executive authority on the Constitution and the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in September 2001 days after the 9/11 attacks.

But the Constitution grants no such wartime authorities to any President. Article II makes him commander in chief--of the military, not the country. And that's it. The Constitution makes no mention of special powers in times of war, declared or undeclared.

Article I gives most of the actual war making powers to Congress.

The AUMF, often referred to as the "blank check," and claimed by the administration to have given young Mister Bush unlimited authority to do darn near anything he wants to the Constitution in the conduct of his war on terror, states that " Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution."

The War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973, says "Nothing in this joint resolution…is intended to alter the constitutional authority of the Congress or of the President, or the provision of existing treaties…"

And there's nothing in the Constitution that gives Congress the power to allow Presidents to exceed their constitutional authority.

We know that we can't trust the administration to check its own powers. And since the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes the law of the land is now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Supreme Court has become, for all practical purposes, irrelevant.

And as long as Dick Cheney controls Congress, there's really no discernable difference between the United States in 2006 and, well, name your favorite historical tyranny.

Like Thomas Jefferson, I'd rather not get into heaven than have to go there as a member of a political party. And as I recall, I've only voted for one Democrat--John Kerry--in my entire life.

But I've more than gotten over my aversion to "Hollywood Democrats." For the foreseeable future, any time I have a choice between voting for a Republican or Porky Pig, I'm taking the pig.


This just in:

Glen Greenwald reports on a bill Specter introduced yesterday that, according to WaPo, "…would grant blanket amnesty to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present law."

Specter's bill would also "…give President Bush the option of seeking a warrant from a special court for an electronic surveillance program such as the one being conducted by the National Security Agency."

So Mister Bush gets an option as to whether he wants to obey the Constitution or not.

Yeah, Senator Specter. Go get 'em, tiger.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Blowing America's Place in the Next World Order

In his speech last Sunday, Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said "That a country has no right to achieve proficiency in nuclear technology means it has to beg a few Western and European countries for energy in the next 20 years. Which honest leader is ready to accept this?"

Easy answer. No honest leader would accept it. And no honest leader of any other nation would ask Iran to accept it.

But then, few people these days will accuse George W. Bush of being honest, so he has an excuse, right?

Clinging to a Failure

Khamenei also said, "In Iraq, you [America] failed. You say you have spent $300bn to bring a government into office that obeys you. But it did not happen. In Palestine, you made every attempt to prevent Hamas from coming to power and again you failed."

True statement, and a darn sight truer than anything young Mister Bush has ever said about U.S. adventures in Iraq and Palestine.

Khamenei on Europe: "Our government has healthy and good relations with European countries. These relations with Europe will be even better in the future, when gas plays a more important role as a source of energy. They need our gas."

Nothing like being up front about things like, uh, realities.

Condi Rice has been telling us that the EU3 is all on board with backing the U.S. policy toward Iran. She's been saying that since early 2005.

According to Khamenei, the "international community" cooperation with the U.S. isn't all Condi cracks it up to be.
Some 116 non-aligned countries supported Iran in its bold move to acquire nuclear technology. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference has voiced support for Iran. Independent governments all support Iran. All those people who have acted as middlemen to repeat America's words to us, under American pressure and out of courtesy, have told us in secret that they have been asked by the Americans to say so and that they do not think the same way.

What Khamenei had the good grace not to say is that one of the countries that support Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear technology is Iraq.

Condi and the rest of the Bush inner circle (and their media echo chamberlains) continue to insist that Iran seeks the ability to produce its own nuclear weapons.

Khamenei denied this on Sunday, as he has consistently, that Iran has any such ambitions.
We have no problem with the world. We are no threat whatsoever to the world and the world knows it...
The other suggestion is that Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb. This is an irrelevant and wrong statement, it is a sheer lie. We do not need a nuclear bomb. We do not have any objectives or aspirations for which we will need to use a nuclear bomb. We consider using nuclear weapons against Islamic rules...
We think imposing the costs of building and maintaining nuclear weapons on our nation is unnecessary. Building and maintaining such weapons is costly. In no way do we deem it correct to impose these costs on the people.

I'm not entirely willing to take him at his word, but I know this: between him and Condi Rice, there's no question as to which one has told the world the most lies.

Big Bang Diplomacy

Over at firedoglake, Pachacutec has a superb analysis of the Iran situation as it stands right now. (BTW, thanks for the plug, Pach.)

Perhaps his most salient point is the extent to which the Bush administration and its GOP yes men in Congress have weakened America.

Aside from the thirty-something percent of the U.S. population that still supports Bush, the entire world sees that our stance on Iran looks and sounds almost identical to the run up to our invasion of Iraq. The only real difference is that this time, we're not even pretending to have any proof to support our allegations about the "bad guy's" WMD program.

Everybody knows the administration is off on another snipe hunt. Everybody knows that when it comes to war and peace track records, the western world makes Iran look like a bunch of hippy dippy peaceniks. (Iran has fought one war in the last 100 years, and that was initiated when Iraq invaded it.)

They know that Iran has every right in the world to develop its own nuclear energy program, a vital component of which must be the ability to refine its own uranium.

They've watched us prove in Iraq that our "best trained, best equipped" military is incapable of creating the kind of world order that the neoconservatives envisioned.

They know that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, etc. are a bunch of megalomaniacal jerks.

And they're perfectly willing to sit back and watch us pull the trigger again and shoot off the last of our toes.

Next World Order Foreign Policy

The neoconservative vision of creating a world order favorable to America at the point of a gun is a proven failure. Never in the history of humanity has so much power been vested in people who were so incapable of exercising it wisely.

In my Next World Order series, I've outlined a political model in which America, if it is to continue to thrive, must find a way to transition from a "failed hegemon" to a "first among nations."

We're not going to be able to achieve the "first among nations" status if we continue to pursue the delusional policies and strategies of the Bush administration. One of the best ways we can reverse course, right here, right now, is to drop our kindergarten position on Iran and encourage its efforts to develop a self-sustaining nuclear energy.

The surest way to create a stable Middle East is for the region to wean itself into the 21st century, and if Iran can emerge as the nation that will lead the Muslim world to modernity, wouldn't that be a good thing?

The Next World Order Series

Part I: America's 21st Century Military

Part II: Network-centric Warfare

Part III: America's Military Industrial Complex

Part IV: The Revolt of the Retired Generals

Part V: What Good is War?

Part VI: Body Count

Part VII: Order in the Next World Order

Part VII: The Cost of War and Peace

Part VIII: Balance of Power

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Dead Skunks, Open Sores, and Ann Coulter

I normally avoid any discussion of Ann Coulter for fear of inadvertently granting any legitimacy to her "contributions" to the national debate.

But her latest attack on the 9/11 widows defies ignoring.

I've said before that Ann Coulter is a perfect example of how far a gal can travel on an Ivy League education, a fourth grade sense of humor, and a broomstick. This darling of the rabid right is so self-absorbed she could suck the sunlight out of summertime.

For her to berate the widows of 9/11 victims of having a political agenda and call attention to themselves is such a jaw stretching pot and kettle act its difficult to imagine how even she could have so little sense of shame.

But then again, she's a hardcore supporter of the Bush administration, and makes a good buck being one.

So she probably figures being shameless is just the price of doing business.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

RIP Billy Preston

I just heard on NPR that he died today.

Nothin' from nothin'...

Played with the Beatles and the Stones.

Was 59 years old.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Worst Secretary of State Ever

From Sunday's New York Times (filed by AP):
Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned Sunday that oil shipments from the Gulf region would be disrupted if the United States attacked his nation, but his threat was dismissed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice…

…Rice told ''Fox News Sunday'' that ''we shouldn't place too much emphasis on a threat of this kind'' because Iran also has an interest in protecting its major source of revenues.

''What we should place emphasis on is Iran's opportunity to find a way out of this impasse,'' Rice said.

If Condi Rice spent half the time and effort conducting honest to God diplomacy as she spends spinning Bush administration poppycock on Sunday talk shows, we might actually be seeing progress in the Iran negotiations. As it is, she's only creating impasses and making other countries responsible for finding their ways out of them.

Iran's leaders have stated time and time and time again that they will not give up their "inalienable right" under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop nuclear energy technologies. So what does Condi offer Iran as the "carrot" for engaging in direct negotiations? That they give up their inalienable right to develop nuclear energy technologies.

If there's a surer way to guarantee that a diplomatic effort fails, I have yet to read or hear about it.

It appears to me that Rice's phony overture is a ruse to push the Iran issue to the UN Security Council, where the U.S. will insist on levying sanctions against Iran.

And guess what's going to happen there. The EU3--England, Germany, and France--may go along with the proposal for the sake of appearances, but do you really think Russia and China will? One might reasonably guess that those two countries are already hacked off at America enough to veto any U.S. sanction proposal, but just wait.

As the issue moves to a Security Council vote, Dick Cheney will go on TV and insult the pants off of those two countries again. And just in case that doesn't do the trick, the Bush administration will insist on locking the Russian and Chinese ambassadors to the UN in a room with John Bolton for twelve hours.

Then Condi will go back on TV to explain that diplomacy, once again, didn't work, just like it didn’t with Iraq, and blame the failure on the UN, the media, the democrats, etc…

Then we'll go boom boom on Iran, Iran will try to go boom boom back, and however that turns out, Condi tell Tim Russert that it was all Iran's fault. Tim, as he so often has, will smile, nod, and ask Condi if she's going to run against Jeb Bush for Commissioner of the National Football League or President of the United States.


Condi's old job as National Security Adviser wasn't actually to advise young Mister Bush on foreign policy and security strategy. Young Mister Bush already had Uncle Dick and Uncle Don and the rest of the neoconservative brain trust around to do that for him.

Condi's job was to tutor Dubya in basic geography. Stand him in front of a map of the world and say things like "the blue parts are water, the green parts are land." Explain to him that no, Iceland isn't really that big, it just looks that way because of how things work out when you draw a sphere on a flat picture, but yeah, Alaska really is bigger than Texas anyway.

Dubya saying, "shoot."

Imagine the scene, Dubya consulting with his new Secretary of State in front of the world map after the Katrina incident.

"No, Mister President, that's Italy."

"That's right, I remember now. Italy's the boot that faces left."

"And Louisiana's the boot that faces right. Clear over on the other side of the map."

"Oh, yeah. The green part up above that blue part that's named after Mexico."

"That's right, sir. You're so smart. You're my best student ever."

Young Mister Bush furrows his brow.

"You know, I just thought me of something. How come that blue part is named after Mexico when so much of it is next to America? Seems like we ought to pass a constitutional amendment to have that name changed on all the maps."

"That's a wonderful idea, Mister President."

"Remind me to take that up with Karl and Uncle Dick next time I see them."

Imagine also, Condi in the oval office, trying to help Bush distinguish between Iran and Iraq.

"They're on opposite sides of that little blue part in the center of the Middle East," she says, "and their names end with a different letter."

Young Mister Bush shrugs, and smirks. "Sounds like nuance to me," he says.


Condi Rice is rapidly consolidating America's all time political trifecta of shame: Worst President Ever, Worst Secretary of Defense Ever, Worst Secretary of State Ever.

She'd be completing a "quadrifecta" except that the Worst Vice President Ever crown is still up for grabs between Dick Cheney, Spiro Agnew, and Aaron Burr.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Political Pedophile Priest of Faux News

I only recently discovered Father Jonathan Morris, a web commentator for Fox News. I have no way of knowing if Father Jonathan genuinely believes the things he writes and says, or if he's simply hiring out his clerical collar in an effort to bestow moral legitimacy on the standard menu of right wing talking points.

That Fox bills him as their "Papal contributor" strongly suggests the latter. Iconoclastic columnist James Wolcott seems to view Father Jonathan in that light as well. In a Vanity Fair column from last fall, Wolcott wrote, "Leave it to Fox News to find the first neocon pinup priest to sign up as an on-air analyst."

I thought the "neocon pinup priest" epithet might be a bit harsh. Until, that is, I read Father Jonathan's recent article on the Haditha incident titled "War is Messy." It's a set piece of Rovewellian propaganda from start to finish.

Blame the Media, Support the Troops

Father Jonathan's article opens with a familiar bit of neoconservative revisionist history on the Vietnam Conflict:
Not long ago our country, led by bad news, betrayed our soldiers. We lost political will and we lost the war. How quickly we forget.

Now, as then, according to this hogwash, if we "lose" the war in Iraq it will be because bad news in the media caused Americans to "betray the troops."

The likes of Father Jonathan never want to admit that now, as then, defeat will come as a result of the acts of bad men who started a bad war for bad reasons and ran it badly. That would be too much like, uh, confessing the truth.

On the subject of the Haditha affair, Father Jonathan tells us that the Pentagon is preparing the public for bad news, but the bad news isn't the "revelation of criminal battle rage of a group of men in uniform." No, the kind of bad news the Pentagon is preparing us for is "bad news reporting, the kind that leads public opinion to betray the very men and women who risk their lives for ours."

And thus we're back to the main theme. The sin wasn't the crime; the sin was reporting the crime, which constitutes a betrayal.

Not content with repetition of his false main premise, Father Jonathan goes on to launch a "double straw man" attack on the media by putting words in the mouth of a general who puts words in the mouth of the collective press.

"Don’t take the bait, mass media," says Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli in the apocryphal speech Father Jonathan writes for him. "The deplorable actions of a few men are not representative of our military. Our soldiers, in contrast to the enemy, know the difference between right and wrong. In fact, it’s part of their training."

I haven't seen a single accusation in any reputable media outlet that suggests "the deplorable actions of a few" are representative of the overall moral behavior of the military. But you can bet a month's worth of collection plate contributions that Father Jonathan's Fox News audience will take his word for it that the entire "liberal" media is accusing every United States soldier, seaman, airman and Marine of eating babies for breakfast.

And just to make sure he's got every block in the anti-media playbook checked, Father Jonathan gets in the obligatory dig about how media reports of bad news "threaten morale," as if the real threat to morale weren't the incompetence and dishonesty of the troops' Commander in Chief, their Secretary of Defense, and the liege-men generals who have made successful military careers out of saying "yes."

As far as I'm concerned, Jonathan Morris has every right to hire himself out as a chorister in Karl Rove's noise philharmonic, but if he's going to do that, he really ought to quit hiding behind his pulpit and passing himself off as a representative of the Pope. As Wolcott put it, "It is not the job of a priest to be a pretty buttboy for the Pentagon and the warmaking powers of the United States."

I won't presume to guess what God makes of the guy, but in my judgment, political whore clerics like Jonathan Morris make pedophile priests look downright "pastoral."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Persian Ploy, Part II

It didn't take long for young Mister Bush to execute step two of the Iran diplomacy stratagem.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a disingenuous offer to join in UN talks with Iran if Iran suspended its uranium enrichment activities. Iran has long insisted on its "inalienable right" to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and that it has no intention of attempting to develop nuclear weapons, despite claims to the contrary by Rice and other Bush administration luminaries.

As I and many others predicted, rejected the offer, describing it--justifiably--as the propaganda it was.

Thursday, as reported by the Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press:
President Bush said Thursday that the standoff over Iran's suspected nuclear program is headed for the U.N. Security Council if Tehran continues to refuse to halt uranium enrichment.

“We'll see whether or not that is the firm position of their government,” Bush said after a meeting with his Cabinet at the White House. “If they continue their obstinance ... then the world will act in concert.”

This Bushism was eerily resonant of something published earlier in the day in a New York Times article: "And while the Europeans and the Japanese said they were elated by Mr. Bush's turnaround, some participants in the drawn-out nuclear drama questioned whether this was an offer intended to fail, devised to show the extent of Iran's intransigence."

The Bush administration continues to use fuzzy rhetoric to blur the distinction between Iran's desire to build a nuclear energy industry and its alleged ambition to develop nuclear weapons.

One of its leading echo chamberlains, David Brooks, repeated that mantra on Imus this morning, stating that having nuclear weapons was a "big deal" for Iran.

Imus said the Iran business is sounding like a replay of the Iraq situation.

You know it's obvious when Don sees it.

Brooks said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a "nut case." Expect to hear more and more of that epithet. Where did this propaganda vector start? Best I can tell, it came from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who last April called Ahmadinejad a "psychopath" and likened him to Hitler.

Remember back when Saddam Hussein was a Hitler-like psychopath?

And how about North Korea's Kim Jong Il? According to one blogger, Jong Il and Hitler actually share a fan club.

Russia's Vladimir Putin has also been compared to Hitler.

David Brooks himself has likened Iraqi Shia leader Moqatdr al Sadr to Hitler, calling him a "thug" and a "brown shirt."

How many Hitlers can you have in any given 70-year period?

Also on this morning's Imus, Brooks praised Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her openness with the American people. "Openness," to Brooks, must mean a willingness to openly deceive, distort, dis-inform, and most importantly, frighten. I'm waiting for her to let "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" slip out again.

Some news sources are speculating that Condi's offer to Iran was made over the objections of Vice President Cheney, who theoretically wants to skip straight to the bombing phase of negotiations.

I'm not convinced that's the case at all. This phony "deal" she's offered Iran is one they almost have to refuse.

If anything, it looks to me like Condi's handing Cheney the excuse he needs to hammer Iran on a silver platter.