Monday, April 28, 2008

When Did Iran Start Beating Its Wife Again?

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld created the Office of Strategic Influence shortly after the 9/11 attacks to bolster support for the Bush administration’s war on terror. Air Force Brigadier General Simon P. Worden, OSI’s director, envisioned the organization as having "a broad mission ranging from 'black' campaigns that use disinformation and other covert activities to 'white' public affairs that rely on truthful news releases."

The furor over his establishment of what amounted to an Orwellian Ministry of Truth caused Rumsfeld to disband the OSI in February 2002, but he later promised that when it came to manipulating public perceptions to suit his agenda, “I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.”

There’s one nice thing you can say about Rumsfeld: he keeps his word.

Media Medusa

Before its timely end, Rumsfeld’s OSI spawned an assortment of covert propaganda caliphates. We only recently learned of the clandestine operation that uses retired military officers to place administration war propaganda in news network programming, a stratagem that began with the run up to the Iraq war and is still in place. The Office of Special Plans (OSP) helped cook the intelligence on Iraq and create the case for invading it, and the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) peddled the invasion to the American public.

In June 2006, journalist Larisa Alexandrovna and others exposed the Iranian Directorate, a spin-off of the OSP that delivered cherry-picked intelligence on Iran to Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. For evidence that the Iranian Directorate is still in action, one need look no further than an April 26 New York Times article titled “Questions Linger on Scope of Iran’s Threat in Iraq.”

Though the article ostensibly refutes the Bush administration’s claims of Iran arming and aiding militia groups in Iraq, it actually repeats and reinforces those accusations.

“Shipments of arms” continue to flow from Iran to Iraq, according to the article. Iran seems to be focusing now on “training Iraqi Shiite fighters inside Iran.” The Iranians provide “weapons to militias fighting the Shiite-led government in Baghdad as well as to militias supporting that government.” “American commanders” now have “a clearer picture of how Iranian weapons have entered Iraq.” “Iran’s Quds Force” has developed “a formal and sophisticated training program.”

By what burden of proof did these condemning allegations earn their way into America’s newspaper of record? Why, by the brave new world order’s highest standard of bedrock evidence: the testimony of anonymous “officials.”

That’s What Everybody Says So It Must Be True

Dick Cheney is the post-modern master of feeding “background” information to the press to create a one-man echo chamber. To review his technique: Cheney gathers his press retinue in a room and shuts the door. Some time later the door opens and the retinue rushes out and writes multiple stories that cite a White House source and a senior official and a confidante of the president and so on, all of whom spoke under condition of anonymity because all of them are Dick Cheney. If you get four or five “officials” pulling the same number Cheney pulls, by the time lipstick neocons like Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham start chanting the talking points on the floor of the Senate nobody questions what they say because, Heck, everybody already knows that!

The authors of “Questions Linger”--Mark Mazzetti, Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker-- directly or indirectly quoted unnamed officials an astounding 30 times, which must be an unofficial record for a single newspaper article:

Officials say…intelligence and administration officials said…American officials have publicly portrayed…military, intelligence and administration officials showed…officials said…some officials said…a senior official familiar with the intelligence about Iran said in an interview…officials said…top American officials in Iraq have portrayed…none of the officials interviewed disputed…officials said…the officials offered an assessment…statements by Mr. Bush and other officials…officials declined to detail publicly…one of the officials said…according to two senior administration officials…those and other officials said…A senior administration official described…the officials said…the officials said…the officials said…a senior official said…the officials said…the official said…the officials said…a senior official familiar with the intelligence reports on Iran said in an interview…according to other officials…the officials said…officials said…according to a senior American official…

When you read the entire Times article, please don’t confuse what the “senior official familiar with the intelligence about Iran said in an interview” with what the “senior official familiar with the intelligence reports on Iran said in an interview.” Those were two completely different senior officials from two completely separate interviews, I’ll bet you a wet new dollar bill they were. Also, don’t worry about what the difference is between an administration official, an intelligence official and a military official, or about who among the three of them is the most reliable, and whatever you do, don’t try to figure out just how senior all those senior officials are, or if any of them are as senior as top American officials; you’ll just get more confused.

And if it seems to you that the article essentially says that Iran hasn’t stopped beating its wife like it promised to, but that’s okay because Iran’s not beating her as bad as we thought, but it also seems like the article never quite shows that anybody ever proved Iran was beating its wife in the first place, you’re in good company.

But gosh, it’s all so official sounding, isn’t it?

Related article: “When Did Iran Stop Beating Its Wife?

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword .

"So we can play war…"

"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

View the trailer here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pavlov's Dogs of War Propaganda

It turns out that James “Spider” Marks, retired Army general and military analyst, was pushing the Bush administration’s war propaganda on CNN under the guise of objective journalism for fun and profit.

Say it ain’t so, Spider.

“Shoeless” Barry McCaffrey and “Clueless” Ken Allard were also among the ranks of retired officers who cashed in on their military experience to shill young Mr. Bush’s woebegone war on the major news networks, according to an article in last Sunday’s New York Times by David Barstow. Many of the faux analysts who spoke with Barstow were so contrite they sounded like they were trying to put their hands on a Get Out of Hell Free card. Allard was especially amusing, seeming to want us to think that it took him five years or so to figure out that he was being duped by the Pentagon, but now that he’s on to their little charade, boy he’s hoppin’ mad about it.

It’s difficult to believe Allard could have been that dumb for that long, but keep in mind that he’s a former intelligence officer, and that the average intelligence officer is no more intelligent than the average fighter pilot, so he might have been.

A Few Bad Men

Allard, McCaffrey, Marks and many other network military analysts have been part of an extensive Pentagon information campaign designed “to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance,” according to Barstow. The effort “began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day.” Not surprisingly, “Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.”

Allard told Barstow the campaign amounted to a “sophisticated information operation.” “This was a coherent, active policy,” Allard said. He would know. If Irony were alive and with us, it would cackle knowing that Allard has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, yet now wants to portray himself as a hapless victim of Pentagon spin merchants. “Night and day,” Allard said, “I felt we’d been hosed.”

Gee, Ken. Imagine how the rest of us feel.

You Can’t Panhandle the Truth

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told Barstow it is “a bit incredible” to think retired military officers could be “wound up” and turned into “puppets of the Defense Department.” Yet what the retired officers have done is no less unimaginable than the behavior of their still on active duty counterparts.

Air Force General Richard B. Myers was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2001 to 2005, and one of the administration’s most avid and visible echo chamberlains. It was during his tenure that a bitter debate arose within the Department of Defense over the ethic and legal implications of Donald Rumsfeld’s programs for planting disinformation in the news media. In the summer of 2004, then U.S. commander in Iraq General George Casey approved merging his public affairs and combat information operations into a single “strategic communications office.”

Myers issued a memorandum that warned commanders like Casey about the risks of merging public affairs with things like psychological operations and operational deception, but that didn’t forbid them from doing so. Casey and the other commanders promptly ignored the memo. Did Myers really expect his generals to follow an order he didn’t actually give? Well, he is a fighter pilot, after all, which, as we discussed earlier, makes him as dumb as an intelligence officer. Our late friend Irony might wonder, though, if Myers is so dumb, how did he manage to earn graduate degrees and certificates from Auburn University, the Air Force Command and Staff College, the Army War College and (ahem) Harvard?

Now retired, Myers seems desperate to distance himself from another disgrace of his tenure: torture. Myers has gone and gotten himself a ten dollar lawyer named Philippe Sands who’s apparently smarter than an intelligence officer and a fighter pilot put together. Sands says Myers was “hoodwinked” by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney into allowing waterboarding and other torture techniques to be practiced at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. While JCS chairman, Myers aggressively defended the GITMO camp’s existence and the interrogation techniques practiced there. Lawyer Sands says Harvard graduate Myers was “confused” about the decisions that allowed torture to take place, and that he thought the interrogation techniques Rumsfeld approved came from a U.S. Army field manual.

I’ll bet you cash money that a copy of that field manual was laying around somewhere at the Pentagon back then, and that if Myers had really wanted to know what it said about interrogation techniques, he would have had one of his little helpers read it for him and tell him all about it. I think Myers already had a pretty good idea what it said but he didn’t want to know for sure, because then he would have had to stand up to Donald Rumsfeld, and being an Air Force fighter pilot he didn’t have the body parts it takes to do that.

Irony would be delighted to hear that following his retirement, Myers was named as the Colin Powell Chair of Character, Leadership and Ethics at National Defense University, and it would tickle Irony pink that Myers now serves on the boards of Northrup Grumman, one of America’s largest defense contracting firms, and John Deere, which makes the kind of heavy construction equipment that comes in so handy in countries that are trying to rebuild themselves after being blown to smithereens by the United States.

Where Do We Find Such Men?

A good friend who taught at the scandal plagued U.S. Naval Academy once told me that Annapolis is a place where plebe freshmen spend a summer learning a million senseless rules and then spend the next four years learning to break them without getting caught. That the Academy’s curriculum includes an honor code and a required course on ethics would satisfy Irony to no end.

Given the moral incubation the Academy provides the naval forces’ officer corps, it is little wonder that the semi-official motto of naval aviation’s fighter community is “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Toward the end of my career, the Navy launched its “Moral Sailor” program, the watchwords of which were, “Moral sailors do the right thing even when nobody’s watching.” On the deck plates, this bromide swiftly morphed into “Smart sailors only do the right thing when nobody’s watching because that’s the only time they can get away with it.”

The naval services hardly have a monopoly on moral hypocrisy. The Air Force has produced its share of generals like Richard Myers. Irony would likely say, though, that the Army broke the mold when it manufactured General David H. Petraeus.

The moment he took over as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Petraeus began living up to the assessment of his boss, Admiral William Fallon, who reportedly called him "an a**-kissing little chickens***." One of Petraeus’s first acts in his new billet was to meet with and re-indoctrinate the news channel military analysts like Barry McCaffrey and Spider Marks and Ken Allard.

Petraeus is a master of ends-justify-means media manipulation when it comes to promoting his mission, his agenda and himself. The most atrocious example of his showboating was the Baghdad outdoor market shopping spree he put on for pro-surge Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham in April 2007, a propaganda event made possible by more than 100 U.S. troops who provided security.

The security detail wasn’t just the standard red rump window dressing you deck out whenever VIPs show up. Real danger was involved. The Shorja Market, where Lindsey Graham bought five carpets for a dollar each, had been bombed at least six times since the summer prior to the McCain retinue’s visit. 61 people were killed there the previous February. At least 60 people, mostly women and children, died during a suicide bombing in another Baghdad market the Thursday before McCain’s party arrived. The day after McCain’s shopping excursion, 21 Shiites who worked at the Shorja Market were ambushed, tied up and shot to death.

Any way you want to slice it, Petraeus put the lives of more than 100 soldiers under his command at risk in order to convince the American public his surge was “working,” to promote John McCain’s presidential candidacy, and to grease the rails for his own retirement career in politics.

Lovely guy, huh?

Irony wouldn’t get its hopes up that America’s military can somehow reverse its trend of rewarding self-promoting yes men with its top leadership spots. The man the Army brought in from the field last November to preside over its brigadier (one-star) general selection board was one David H. Petraeus.

This was the same David H. Petraeus, Irony would add, who young Mr. Bush just nominated to move up and take over Central Command.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword .

"So we can play war…"

"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

View the trailer here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Running a Risk with Iran

Predicting what might happen in a shooting match with Iran is a perilous errand. The Clausewitzean concepts of fog and friction apply to modern war every bit as much as they do to the conflicts of bygone eras. For all our fantastical weaponry and information gizmology, stuff still breaks at the worst possible time and the information is often as not wrong.

Nonetheless, we can do a back-of-the-envelope operational analysis to estimate whether any conceivable benefit of attacking Iran can justify the risks involved.

Wild Purple Yonder

I noted last week that it would be difficult to bomb Iran back to the Stone Age because so little of it has evolved even that far. That remark has nothing to do with the people or culture of Iran; Persian civilization dates back to 4000 B.C. Geographically, however, the vast majority of Iran is as it was before monkeys learned how to use sticks and bones to kill each other. Iran is slightly larger than Alaska, but less than 10 percent of it is arable. The other 90 plus percent is mountain and desert. I don’t know of a smart weapon that can turn sand back into rubble, and doubt whether they’re working to develop one. They are designing something to make molehills out of mountains, but they’re having trouble getting permission to test it on a major population center in Nevada.

Roughly a third of Iran’s population of 66 million lives in eight cities. We could put a serious dent in the Persian race by doing a Dresden number on Tehran, but Iran hasn’t done anything to warrant a measure that extreme, and regardless of what Dick Cheney’s Likudnik pals say, it isn’t likely to.

Whatever parts of Iran’s nuclear industry we can take out from the air the Russians can rebuild in a timely manner, and Iran can afford to pay them to do it because another thing we can’t bomb back to the Stone Age is Iran’s oil reserves.

Our land and carrier based air forces can rapidly establish air supremacy over Iran, but air supremacy is meaningless unless your bombers can use the freedom of action it provides to accomplish something operationally significant, and as we just discussed, our bomber crews can’t do much over Iran besides rack up Air Medal points. Plus, all the air supremacy in the world won’t keep your engines from flaming out just when you’d rather they didn’t, and bad guy’s rocks can kill you just as dead as his fighters or surface-to-air missiles can. My mission calculus says that bombing sand doesn’t justify the risk of getting a B-$2 Billion shot down by a mountain.

20,000 Pogues Under the Sea?

A matchup between the navies of America and Iran would be asymmetric warfare exemplified: a global reach power projection navy versus a sea denial force optimized to fight in its backyard pool. If you put the battle space in the middle of the North Pacific the Americans have the overwhelming advantage, in no small part because Iran’s fleet will run out of gas or sink from natural causes before it gets there. Unfortunately for the U.S. Navy, tables turn in the confined waters of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

The Navy’s tasks in an operation against Iran would include projecting air power ashore (from the carriers and cruise missile shooters), keeping the Strait open, and deterring or stopping another tanker war like the one that broke out in the 80s during the conflict between Iran and Iraq. To do all those things, the Navy pretty much has to go into the Gulf, and it has to go through the Strait to get there.

In the bathtub, defense in depth becomes nearly impossible to conduct. The state of the art anti-ship weapons Iran recently bought from the Russians—the SSN-22 Sunburn missile and the rocket torpedo—are bad news. One school of thought says the only way to defend against them is to stay tied to the pier stateside, but it’s not just the latest generation of ship-killers we need to worry about. Any time you find yourself in a point defense situation against a homing weapon designed any time after 1970 or so your whole day just became irretrievable.

I rather doubt that anything short of extra terrestrial intervention could actually sink a 100,000-ton Nimitz class carrier, but a rocket torpedo up its stern could send it out the Strait under tow. That would be an unmitigated nightmare. Even if not a single member of the ship’s crew were killed or injured, for a minor power like Iran to have knocked one of America’s preeminent instruments of military might out of action would be a strategic catastrophe for the U.S.

Committing two carrier strike groups to a combat operation in the Gulf would place about 20,000 American sailors at risk. I can’t imagine a scenario that takes the lives of every one of them, or even a large portion of them. Six or eight Sunburns in the side of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, though, could kill almost 400 of them in the blink of an eye. Given that the air power naval forces would contribute wouldn’t accomplish much, and that the Iranians won’t have a reason to close the Strait or start a tanker war if we don’t bomb them, putting a single one of our sailors at risk in a hot war with Iran doesn’t seem to make a molecule of sense.

Hills, Dales and Halls of Montezuma

In its only armed conflict, Iran’s land force waged trench warfare along the Iran-Iraq border. It was unable to score a decisive victory against Saddam Hussein’s army, and we all saw, not once but twice, how good Hussein’s army was against a real army. Iran’s army presents no danger to U.S. ground forces in Iraq.

The threat that Iran’s ballistic missiles pose to our troops Iraq is negligible; it is even less than the threat Hussein’s missiles presented in both Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

The Bush administration might justify an Iran strike based on its accusations that Iran is behind Iraqi militant attacks on American troops, even though it has shown no conclusive evidence to date that verifies those accusations. On the other hand, fairly ironclad data and analysis indicate that General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, has been directly responsible for arming and aiding both the Shiite and Sunni factions in Iraq’s Hobbesian civil war.

Our Israeli friends like to remind us of the danger Iran presents to them, but between the two nations, which one is the more dangerous? Iran is too far from Israel to bring its air, sea or land forces to bear against it. Iran might be able to lob ballistic missiles at Israeli cities, but any warhead it throws at Israel would pale in comparison to what Israel throws back (remember, Israel’s the nation with nukes, not Iran). Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said something or other in Persian about how “Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” which some have translated as "Israel must be wiped off the face of the map." Whatever he actually said was pretty stupid, but as I also said last week, if we’re going to start blaming a whole nation for the stupid things its goofy president says, we’re drifting into pot-and-kettle territory.

From an analytic perspective, attacking Iran would be such an irrational course of action that only a hatch full of boobies would contemplate taking it.

Sadly, "a hatch full of boobies" precisely describes the people in charge of the United States just now.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword .

"So we can play war…"

"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

View the trailer here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Iran Hits the Fan Says Buchanan

You can rest easy. Political pundit and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan predicted on Sunday that there is a "fifty-fifty chance of U.S. air strikes on Iran by October." I just love the all out commitment involved in making a fifty-fifty prediction: there’s a hundred percent chance you’ll be right. Of course, the very fact that Pat Buchanan mentions something might happen means the odds are that it won’t.

Don’t get complacent, though. Just like the cataclysmic natural disaster that strikes every century or so, once in a blue moon it turns out that Pat Buchanan knew what the hell he was talking about.

Similarly, we might expect that the Bush administration knows that attacking Iran would be the worst imaginable thing they could do—for the Bush legacy, for U.S. foreign policy, and for stability in the Middle East. A strike on Iran would be an act of sheer lunacy; so the Bush administration might just try it.

Back to the Stone Age

Since World War I, airpower fanatics have claimed that their brand of armed force makes all other forms of warfare obsolete. The Kosovo conflict is the closest any nation has come to a pure airpower victory, but it didn’t really win us anything, and an Army guy—General Wes Clark—ran the show, and a Navy carrier strike group was involved, so it didn’t really count.

Now that our escapade in Iraq has demonstrated the obsolescence of land power as a means whereby a hegemon can subjugate a smaller state, the U.S. Air Force figures Iran is its big chance to get back in the game, to make itself the permanent darling of the neoconservative elite. In all probability, though, the only thing the USAF would do with an air operation against Iran is bomb itself in the foot.

It wouldn’t be terribly hard to bomb Iran back to the Stone Age. Aside from the capital city of Tehran, much of Iran is still in the Stone Age. Our air planners won’t have much trouble coming up with a way to level Tehran. They won’t even need to use nukes. They’ll wipe it out the old fashioned way, the way we wiped out Dresden in World War II, with incendiaries.

If we do a Dresden on Tehran, we’ll take out a sizable chunk of the Persian race. We might have trouble justifying that. We could say it was revenge for the holocaust, I guess. Except, yeah, that’s right, the Iranians weren’t responsible for the holocaust, were they? They just said stupid things about it. Darn. And if you’re going to split hairs, it wasn’t the Iranians who said stupid things about the holocaust per se; it was their goofy president, and if we’re going to hold a whole nation responsible for the stupid things its goofy president says, we’re drifting into pot-and-kettle territory.

We can probably get at most of Iran’s nuclear industry, but not the parts that matter most to us, which are the parts that are a) buried real deep underground and/or b) the parts we don’t know about. The parts we can get at the Russians can replace reasonably quickly, and Iran can afford to pay Russia to replace them because no matter how clever our air planners are, they can’t figure out a way to bomb Iran’s oil reserves to rubble.

Good News, Bad News, Ugly News

We can take out a huge chunk of Iran’s navy with air strikes, but as with the nuclear facilities, Iran can buy a new navy from Russia about as fast as Paris Hilton can buy a new wardrobe. That’s more or less what happened after we whapped their navy in the 80s during Operation Praying Mantis.

One thing the U.S. Air Force does right, it does air superiority. If shove comes to biff, Iran’s air force would be on the canvas before the bell stops ringing. Come to think of it, Iran’s air force is already on the canvas. The only places Iran can get spare parts for its F-14 air-to-air fighters are eBay and Craig’s List, and if by some miracle they manage to get one if their Tomcats airborne, we’ll likely shoot it down before its pilot can raise its landing gear.

Air superiority is only an enabling objective in warfare, though, never an operational aim. It does little good to own the skies over bad land if the bombs you drop on it accomplish nothing strategically or politically, and it doesn’t take a world-class air defense system to bring down our most sophisticated combat jets, as the February crash of a B-2 (Billion) bomber reminded us. For practical purposes, losing both engines over an enemy’s desert is the same as getting shot down by a camel.

Maritime superiority is another matter. It can get hard to sort the good guys from the bad guys from the bystanders in the air, but on water, especially in congested areas like the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, it can be impossible to tell Grandma Moses from Snow White’s evil stepmother. Iran crafted its naval force to have asymmetrical advantages in its home environment against sea control visitors like the United States Navy. Iran’s patrol boats, diesel subs, outboard craft, shore batteries, maritime aircraft and so on couldn’t hold a candle to our Navy in a toe-to-toe battle in the middle of the North Pacific. Moreover, Iran couldn’t put a multi-carrier strike group on the bottom of the Gulf, but it could cause us a heap of strategic embarrassment. Heaven help us if the USS Abraham Lincoln ever needs to limp through the Strait to safety because of damage done by an SSN-22 Sunburn missile.

My pretty good guess is Iran could close the Strait too, even if only for a little while. There’s no real telling what that might do to the price of oil, but regardless of crude cost, Dick and Dubya’s buds on the board of Exxon/Mobil and its major shareholders will make out like, uh, bandits.

Buchanan beat the war drum again on Wednesday, April 16, this time in the San Francisco Chronicle. Pat thinks General David Petraeus’s scapegoating of Iran at his recent congressional hearings indicated that, “The neoconservatives may yet get their war on Iran.”

I’d like to think the neocons understand what a bad idea it would be to start a hot war with Iran. I want to believe they’re diabolical enough to know that their first best destiny is to keep up the pretense of the Iraq war being a proxy war with Iran so they can cover their real objective of establishing a century long second Cold War with Iran serving as a proxy for Russia and China. That, of course, would create their ideal post-modern Orwellian (Rovewellian) world order: justification for U.S. military occupation of all parts of the world that aren’t parts of Russia or China, and for borrowing ever greater sums from the Chinese to spend on weapons to fight a war with them that they have no intention of fighting or even arming themselves for.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword.

"So we can play war"

"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

View the trailer here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Enemies Foreign, Enemies Domestic

“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” – from the U.S. military officer oath

In an April 10 speech at the White House, Mr. Bush stated that, “two of the greatest threats to America in this new century” are “al Qaeda and Iran.” For once in his presidency, Mr. Bush is probably right. Al Qaeda and Iran, in fact, may be America’s only two remaining foreign threats.

Russia and China won’t try to beat us militarily; they’ll take us down economically. Europe doesn’t even need to take us down economically because it already has: The European Union’s gross domestic product surpassed ours by about $600 billion in 2007. Australia’s happy the way it is; Japan won’t rock the boat. South America is too corrupt. Africa is far too hot and Canada’s too cold, as the song by Randy Newman says.

Yep, as far as significant foreign enemies go, Iran and al-Qaeda are about it: a country with a gross domestic product and defense budget barely six percent of America’s, and an “organization” with no economy or navy or air force at all, and no proper army to speak of.

Mr. Bush was telling us, in the Freudian fashion he so often utilizes, that the enemies we really need to worry about are of the domestic variety.

Enemies Within

In his speech, Mr. Bush admonished that those who complain about the cost of his woebegone wars forget that “during other major conflicts in our history, the relative cost has been even higher.” He noted that our defense budget consumed a higher percentage of America’s GDP during the Cold War than the current level of “just over four percent” (it’s about 4.06). Mr. Bush noted, “the imperative of stopping Soviet expansion justified this expense,” and compared the Soviets to today’s “enemy that is not only expansionist in its aims, but has actually attacked our homeland--and intends to do so again.”

Comparing al Qaeda to the Soviets is equating apples and elephants. The Soviets were a peer military competitor; al Qaeda never will be, nor will Iran for that matter. That a properly sized defense budget must be a certain percentage of the overall economy is a long standing neoconservative mantra, but it makes even less sense that most neocon rhetoric. If the GDP metric were a true measure of a nation’s military might, America would be at the mercy of such notable powerhouses as Qatar, Eritrea and Swaziland (10, 6.3 and 4.7 percent respectively).

The military industrial complex has met and exceeded President Dwight Eisenhower’s dire prediction. No longer merely a potential danger, the “disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist” for as long as regional American economies and political careers wholly depend on defense spending.

Perhaps the most glaring example of runaway arms expenditures driving security strategy amok is our use of nuclear submarines to assassinate terrorists. Maybe I should say our attempted use of nuclear submarines to assassinate terrorists. The last time a nuclear submarine tried to employ its cruise missiles to rub out a terrorist in Somalia, it missed the terrorist but killed at least six other people not known to be terrorists instead. There’s buck-for-the-bang defense spending, huh?

Pavlov’s Dogs of War

Mr. Bush also said in his speech that he has “accepted” the recommendation of General David Petraeus to stop the reduction of troops in Iraq when the five surge brigades redeploy at the end of July. The notion that a four-star general should be dictating foreign policy to a president and Congress upset a few people. Juan Cole remarked that, “Bush has now turned over the decision-making about the course of the Iraq War to Gen. David Petraeus. So Congress abdicated to Bush. Bush has abdicated to the generals in the field. That is not a Republic. That is a military dictatorship.”

America is not a military dictatorship exactly. It’s a more of a militaristic oligarchy with a fascist overtone and a theocratic undercoat. It’s the civilian leaders, not the four-star generals, who want to drag us into war everlasting. American generals like Petraeus are domesticated pets of the truly powerful: the politicians and the one percent of the population that owns the politicians. Petraeus is among the Bush administration generals who rose to four-star rank and operational wartime command by following a revered tenet of military tradition; he found out what the boss wanted and gave it to him. Someone is dictating policy and strategy to George W. Bush all right, but it isn’t David Petraeus. Petraeus gives Bush the advice Bush advises him to give or he wouldn’t be in a position to give Bush advice.

Though the Petraeuses of this world won’t overthrow civilian government, we have much to fear from them. Since taking over as Mr. Bush’s “main man” in Iraq, Petraeus has lived up to his reputation for grandstanding and self-promotion in pursuit of selling America on the notion that his surge is “working.” Among his most deplorable stunts was the Baghdad shopping trip he staged in spring of 2007 for surge supporters and Bush loyalists John McCain and Lindsey Graham, a propaganda event made possible by the 100 plus heavily armed soldiers and five Army helicopters that provided security.

You have to be looking an ostrich in the eye to not see that congressional shopping spree for what it was: a commander putting the lives of his troops at risk to pave to the path to his retirement career in politics. You might think that Petraeus would be reviled among the military officer corps for being, in the reported words of former Central Command chief Admiral William Fallon, "an a**-kissing little chickens***," and you might expect that like Fallon, most officers would “hate people like that."

But no. Petraeus has a cult-like following in the officer corps. Granted, many of his acolytes are the sort of folks who like to brag about how few teeth they have left and who doubtless feel more allegiance to the Republican Party and the Confederacy than they do to the American flag or mom or apple pie. I hear from these yahooligans all the time. One of them, after giving me the standard admonition for disparaging the general’s honor, gave me a lecture about the officer’s oath that I could only follow well enough to figure out that the yahooligan didn’t understand what the oath actually says.

Unlike the oath administered to enlisted personnel, the officer oath says nothing about obeying “the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.” Officers merely swear or affirm that they will “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” This ensures, among other things, that officers have no moral obligation of obedience or loyalty to any individual in their chain of command--including the commander in chief--that trumps their duty to the Constitution.

The oath also admonishes officers to “well and faithfully discharge” their duties, something Petraeus can hardly be said to have done when, in support of the Bush administration’s disinformation campaign, he blames the Iranians for arming Iraqi militant groups even though he himself was directly responsible for distributing weapons to both Sunni and Shiite factions in Iraq’s Hobbesian civil war.

Petraeus has put his troops at unnecessary risk and deceived the American Congress and public in order to further his ambitions, and supports the policies and strategies of a president who has exercised imperial authority in violation of the Constitution. Some of Petraeus’s supporters within the military, like the one I described earlier, possess insufficient sentience to understand this; but many of the general’s followers are every bit as brilliant—and ambitious—as he is, and share his evident capacity to compartment and rationalize. I’d still like to think that the vast majority of military officers are men and women dedicated to their people, their service and their mission and who put duty above their personal priorities. Lamentably, few of these individuals ever wear stars on their collars, and if David Petraeus becomes the “model” officer, everyone who ascends to the rank of bird colonel or higher will be stamped from his mold.

When that happens, our military will have become a praetorian guard, and the shapers of American policy will be neoconservative elites like Frederick Kagan, who wasn’t elected or commissioned by anyone and who never took an oath of any kind.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword.

"So we can play war…"

"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

View the trailer here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Proxy War with Iran, Google and Me

Back in the good old days when global nuclear annihilation was a real and present danger and not just something Dick Cheney talked about to scare people, the United States fought its proxy wars with superpowers like the Soviet Union. Today, to hear neocon echo chamberlains tell it, our quagmire in Iraq is a proxy war with Iran, a country with an economy and a defense budget that are barely six percent of America’s.

That, my fellow citizens, is what became of your Cold War peace dividend.

I was captivated by this revolting development in the history of my country, and decided to take my trusty sidekick Google on an adventure to figure how out how and when such a Monty Python caliber phenomenon got started.

Their Pet Scapegoat

We traveled back to 2004, which was a tough year in young Mr. Bush’s woebegone war on terror. The tallest Arab ever wanted dead or alive by a U.S. President was still at large, and things were coming unraveled in Iraq. Falluja, Najaf and Baghdad went up for grabs, Abu Ghraib blew up in our faces like a joke shop cigar, and oh yeah, remember those weapons of mass destruction we supposedly invaded Iraq over? 2004 was the year we found out there weren’t any.

Bush and the neocons needed a distraction. They needed an excuse. Most of all, they needed a scapegoat. And one was parked right next door. Convenient, huh?

On August 13, 2004, shortly after the price of crude oil reached the first of many record highs to follow, Juli Stahl, Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the conservative Cybercast News Service, posted an article titled, “Iran Fighting Proxy War against U.S. through Iraqi Shiites, Hizballah.”

“Iran is using the Hizballah and Iraqi Shiites linked to Muqtada al-Sadr to fight a proxy war against the U.S.,” Stahl wrote, “in order to strike back against American efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.”

Stahl used a number of shaky methods to support her claims. Nearly everyone she quoted, for instance, had an identifiable ax to grind with al-Sadr. One of her sources, Israeli counterterrorism specialist Dr. Ely Karmon, said that, "The Shia Islamic revolutionary council was trained and supported by Iran for 20 years."

I am not a counterterrorism specialist, and had never heard of the “Shia Islamic revolutionary council.” Google had never heard about it either, but we’d both heard quite a bit about the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), the Iraqi Shiite political party that until recently called itself the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

The SIIC nee SCIRI must have been what Dr. Karmon meant when he referred to the Shia Islamic Revolutionary council, because the SCIRI was formed in Iran in 1982. The SIIC has a military force called the Badr Organization that used to call itself the Badr Corps or the Badr Brigade back when the SIIC called itself the SCIRI. Google confirmed something I thought I remembered, that it was the SIIC’s Badr baddies who where who were funded, trained and equipped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), not Sadr’s Mahdis.

Google reminded me of something else. It was in 2005 that former Badr Brigade commander Bayan Jaber of the Interior Ministry was accused of recruiting large numbers of Badr militiamen into Iraq’s security forces and of tacitly allowing them to form death squads that targeted Sunnis. I also remembered correctly, Google informed me, that back when it was the SCIRI, the SIIC had joined Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Daawa Party to form a Shiite political coalition called the United Iraqi Alliance that opposes Sadr and his followers.

And it was Jabr’s Iranian funded, trained and equipped SIIC Badr bubbas in Iraq’s security forces who Maliki maneuvered into Basra to crush Sadr’s Mahdi militamen, and who U.S. forces had to bail out of trouble when Sadr’s Mahdis started beating the Badr’s behinds back to Baghdad instead.

Oddly though, when the Mahdis shelled Baghdad’s Green Zone in reprisal for the Badrs launching an offensive against them, General David Petraeus, young Mr. Bush’s “main man” in Iraq, accused the Iranians of having funded, trained, equipped the Mahdis, not the Badrs. Funny how a guy like Petraeus could get things all turned around like that, what with everybody saying how brilliant he is and all. The people who cooked up this story about the Iranians and Sadr’s Mahdis in the first place must be some mighty clever dis-assemblers; that was my thinking, anyway, so I had Google drop me off where we started, at the 2004 story by the Israeli gal who quoted the Israeli doctor who’s not that kind of doctor but a PhD in terrorism or some such thing.

And I ran into this paragraph:

Iran and other regional players, such as the Iranian-backed Hizballah in southern Lebanon decided that the only way to fight America was to let it enter Iraq, believing that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would fight the Americans, which did not happen, said Karmon.

Iran let America enter Iraq? Jesus, Larry and Curly. That’s lock-‘em-up crazy people talk. And yet this reporter gal and this terror doctor are still walking around in the general population talking crazy about Iran, and it seems that General Petraeus has been listening to them and taking them seriously all this time.

Google and I found more than 99 thousand articles on the web that referenced “petraeus iran proxy war,” and it looks like the General has been trying to connect Sadr’s Mahdis and Iran’s IRGC ever since his tenure as the U.S. commander in Iraq began looking shaky and he started needing somebody to blame for things like him not being able to defend the Green Zone from a mortar attack after more than a year of “success” with his surge strategy.

I don’t know what Google thinks, but I get the definite impression that Petraeus hasn’t been confused by anybody, that he knows good and well he’s telling fibs and that he’s trying to fool people into believing things that aren’t true.

Here’s another thought: you don’t suppose folks like the general and the reporter gal and the terror doctor might be taking advantage of the fact that the average American doesn’t know SIIC from SCIRI or a Shiite from a Sunni or Sadr from a Badr or a Mahdi from a Saudi, do you?

I tell you what. Google and me will bet you a shiny new penny that’s exactly what they’re up to.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword.

"So we can play war…"

"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

View the trailer here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Spin One for the Gipper

by Jeff Huber

I have to say it again: If the Bush administration put a fraction of the effort it spends on spinning its wars into winning them, it wouldn’t need to spin them.

The current clash between Iraqi Shiite Cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s security forces took root last year when Sadr told his forces to take an operational pause for resupply and recuperation. That reduced violence levels enough to allow U.S. commander David Petraeus to claim his surge strategy was working even though it didn’t accomplish its intended political objectives. One might have expected a supposedly smart guy like Petraeus to leave well enough alone, but no. George Bush’s “main man” had to poke his pistol into the hornet’s nest, raiding selected elements of the Mahdi Army in Baghdad’s Sadr City and Shiite population centers in southern Iraq.

The Sadrists warned for months that they would retaliate if the harassment didn’t stop. Petraeus must have been too busy escorting John McCain and Lindsey Graham on shopping sprees in Baghdad to listen, because he kept at it, using both U.S. forces and elements of the Badr organization, one of Sadr’s rival Shiite political groups whose members dominate Iraq’s security forces.

It was not too long after Dick Cheney’s surprise visit to Baghdad on March 17 that Maliki launched his offensive against the Mahdi Army in Baghdad and in the southern city of Basra. The big media were strangely silent about the implications of the timing of the two events. Sadr’s people responded to Maliki’s push with a rocket and mortar attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Petraeus blamed the Mahdis’ retaliation on Iran, but said nothing about why he and the best-trained, best-equipped military in history were powerless to defend the Green Zone well over a year into his “successful” surge, and nobody in the press asked him about it.

The BBC, Fox News and umpteen other major news outlets reported that Pertaeus said he had evidence to back up his claim about Iran, but none of them actually quoted Petraeus as saying he had evidence, nor is there any evidence that Petraeus actually said he had any. But the major media gave up trying to hold Petraeus accountable for anything he says so long ago that it probably doesn’t matter.

On a propaganda whistle stop in Dayton, Ohio, Mr. Bush waxed ecstatic about Maliki’s offensive, calling it a “bold decision” and saying that it demonstrated “the progress the Iraqi security forces have made during the surge.”

Maliki went to Basra to personally oversee the operation. On March 26, he boldly gave the Sadrists 72 hours to lay down their arms or face, as the Washington Post put it, “severe penalties.” Then he boldly extended the deadline by, like, more than a week. (If I have to count to a billion, someone’s going to be in big trouble!)

Then we started hearing reports that almost a thousand of Maliki’s troops had deserted rather than keep fighting. The Bush administration changed its tune, and unrestricted information warfare broke out.

A Horse of a Different Feather

Al-Maliki said he would fight the Mahdi Army “to the end,” warned the Saqdrists to “drop their weapons and turn themselves in,” and vowed he would never negotiate.

On March 30 Sadr offered a deal: he would tell his followers to lay down their arms if the Iraqi government granted certain concessions, including amnesty for his fighters. (Not noted by the media was the fact that Maliki proposed amnesty for militiamen as far back as September 2006. It’s too bad the U.S. didn’t support the proposal back then. Think of all the time, money and lives we would have saved. Oh, well. No use crying over spilled, uh, milk.)

Along with the news of Sadr’s peace offer came the tale of how it came about. McClatchy Newspapers reported that a cornucopia of named and unnamed sources said that “Iraqi lawmakers” had secretly traveled to Iran and had talked a Quds Force commander into talking Sadr into talking his followers into a ceasefire. The story also reported that the Quds had been behind starting the trouble as well, and a bunch of other contentious stuff. A variation of the Vulcan mind meld with the rest of the media’s coverage of this event revealed that four members of Maliki’s Dawa Party and the Badr group with a hard heart for Sadr, the Quds and probably Maliki too went to Iran, did God only knows what, and spun the story to McClatchy using techniques they picked up from Dick Cheney.

Cheney is the master of using off-the-record statements to make his disinformation placement sound like fact being reported by multiple sources. The gaggle of reporters who cover him, ever so grateful for the access they have to the Dark One, write stories that quote a senior government official and a high level White House source and a leading member of Mr. Bush’s inner circle and so forth, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they’re all Dick Cheney.

The same kind of thing happened when Maliki flipped from “turn in your weapons, I’ll never negotiate” to “Sell me your weapons and let’s talk.”

The Snow of Yesteryear

With Maliki’s keister shining like a harvest moon, Bush administration spin merchants stated leaking word to journalists that he had launched “Operation Knight’s Assault” without consulting Washington. Among the reporters who played echo chamberlain in this con operation was Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times, Judith Miller’s partner in crime from Nigergate days.

Gordon was head writer of an April 3 Times story that read “Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker first learned of the Iraqi plan on Friday, March 21.” Crocker was clueless? So what? We’ve known he was clueless since he first became Petraeus’s Sancho Panza in March 2007. Crocker, by the way, praised Maliki for his decision to attack the Mahdi Army in the Gordon piece, but allowed as how the operation ran into "a boatload of problems." Yeah, that Crocker guy. He’s a boatload of something himself.

Interviews by Gordon and his little helpers with a “wide variety” of anonymous pimps, wimps, simps and gimps “suggested” that “Mr. Maliki overestimated his military’s abilities and underestimated the scale of the resistance.” Who needs to remain anonymous over a statement like that? People in the witness protection program?

The claim that Maliki launched a major offensive on his own was laughable at face value. Only one of the dorks in the Pentagon’s J5 planning shop would have come up with a name like “Operation Knight’s Assault.” No wonder so many Iraqi troops didn’t want to fight in it.

But great Caesar’s ghost, only the bull goose right wing lunatics at National Review Online could believe that “the Iraqis independently massed 30,000 troops” in Basra. The Iraqi forces couldn’t take a successful potty break without direct supervision of their American advisers. They couldn’t possibly have conducted an operation of that size without planning and logistic support from Petraeus’s people from the get go. That means Petraeus knew about it all along, and that means Defense Secretary Robert Gates and young Mr. Bush and Lord Cheney knew about it too.

Now we all know that Maliki got his can kicked from Baghdad to eternity and back. Well, all of us except the Bush administration’s favorite former chief bull plucker. While guest hosting Bill O’Reilly’s Radio Factor on April 4, Tony Snowoffered his uniquely styled interpretation of how and why al-Sadr had proposed a truce: “What happened was the bad guys backed down because they were getting crushed!”

Crushed? My very God! Do you reckon that Tony Snow creature is internally conflicted or what?

It’s going to be like Buffalo Bill and the Indians rode into town when Petraeus and Crocker take the stand on Capitol Hill this week. Kids at Christmas got nothing on me. I cannot wait. Word on the street is that Petraeus will revive the meme that says our presence in Iraq constitutes a proxy war with Iran.

Brother. Remember when our proxy wars were with superpowers?

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword.

"So we can play war…"

"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

View the trailer here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Rovewell, USA

I’ve said more than once that America’s most profound strategic casualty in the woebegone war on terror has been its information environment. The recent military operation in Iraq against Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s organization once again illustrates how we have entered a post-modern Orwellian (Rovewellian) age of dissonant dystopia.

The Horse’s Mouthpiece

General David Petraeus, George W. Bush’s “main man” in Iraq, reacted to the March 23 shelling of the Green Zone in Baghdad by doing what he does best: he blamed the Iranians. Petraeus trying to make Iran responsible for his own failures has become so commonplace it’s barely worth noting; but the manner in which the media portrayed his accusation warrants further scrutiny.

The BBC, Fox News, ABC News, Voice of America and other major news outlets reported that Petraeus said he has “evidence” that the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps was behind the Green Zone attack. None of those outlets, however, mentioned what that evidence consisted of, or if Petraeus mentioned what it might be, or whether any of them bothered to ask him about it. In fact, it’s hard to find evidence in any of the reports that Petraeus actually said he had any evidence.

None of the many news sources I found that talked about Petraeus’s evidence actually quoted him as saying he had evidence. They just paraphrased; they said that he said he had evidence. And as best I can tell, all the other paraphrasers were paraphrasing the paraphrase in the BBC story, which read, “The most senior US general in Iraq has said he has evidence that Iran was behind Sunday's bombardment of Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.”

(Please note that in order to illustrate how the media told this cockamamie story, I had to make a verbatim quote of a paraphrase. Yeah. I know. Crazy.)

So all the other reporters got their reportage from the BBC report. From reading the BBC report, it looks like the BBC reporter who wrote it got his reportage from an interview of Petraeus by another BBC reporter named John Simpson.

I grappled with Google for two hours trying to find a transcript of the interview. All I could dig up was the March 24 BBC News story where I originally read about the interview between Simpson and Petraeus and a video of the interview. I watched the three and a half minute video three times. Toward the end, Petraeus makes the accusations about the Quds Force being behind the attacks, but he doesn’t mention anything about having “evidence” to back up his accusations, and rather than ask him for any, Simpson changes the subject to the British pull out from Basra.

My running gag of late has been that the proof the administration has provided that Iran is behind attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq consists of a handful of photographs in a PowerPoint presentation that for we know could have been taken in a) Joe Lieberman’s attic, b) Lindsey Graham’s closet, c) John McCain’s belfry or d) the vault where John Bolton hides his porno collection.

When the administration made Iran its pet scapegoat—around January 2007, the same time they announced the surge strategy—all they had to do was say they had evidence to back up their claims to keep them in the news cycle. Now, the administration doesn’t even have to say it has proof. It just makes the claims.

I really, really wanted to track down the writer of the BBC article and ask him where in blue blazes he came up with the “evidence” line, but I couldn’t, because there was no byline on the BBC story. How about them horse apples?

Four Horsemen

Six days after the BBC and everybody else echo chambered Petraeus’s accusations about the Quds force starting the al-Sadr uprising, Leila Fadel of the McClatchy Newspapers group ran a story saying a Quds Force one-star was responsible for getting al-Sadr to call for his followers to stop fighting.

Fadel’s story was a literary shell game, seemingly infested with a cast of named and unnamed high-level sources who said that a group of yahooligans from Iraq’s parliament went to Iran and talked Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani of the Quds into talking al-Sadr into talking his Mahdi Army into laying down its weapons. The article also blamed the Quds for inciting the Mahdi uprising in the first place, and helped make Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki look like a bigger dolt than he already did.

After about an hour’s research, I figured out that the parliament yahooligans were four guys from the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite dominated coalition that sports a raging tumescence for al-Sadr, would probably like to scrape off al-Maliki like a fat blind date, and seems to have picked up a dose of the of jilted girlfriend flu because Iran pays more attention to al-Sadr’s crowd than it does to the United Iraqi Alliance.

With the McClatchy article, these four guys managed to pull off one of Dick Cheney’s favorite shenanigans: they talked to the press about themselves off the record, and the press cooperated by attributing what they said to anonymous third parties, making their propaganda sound like proven fact. Here’s the article’s piece of resistance:
Ali al Adeeb, a member of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's Dawa party, and Hadi al Ameri, the head of the Badr Organization, the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, had two aims, lawmakers said: to ask Sadr to stand down his militia and to ask Iranian officials to stop supplying weapons to Shiite militants in Iraq.

Tell everybody we asked them to quit doing something we never proved they were doing in the first place, but don’t mention that second part, and don’t tell anyone you heard any of this from us, okay? Man, that’s cold. That’s diabolical. That’s like your wife’s divorce attorney standing you in front of the judge and asking you when you stopped beating her, and when you turn to the judge for help the judge says, “Just answer the question.” Heck, it’s even better than that. It’s like the lawyer getting your kid to ask the question.

Horse Feathers

We have no way to form an accurate map of reality given the distorted information presented to us. The notional leader of the free world blithely lies to support his agenda without regard to known fact or fear of potential censure. Witness his March 20 pronouncement on Voice of America that Iranian leaders have “declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people.” Iranian leadership has declared no such thing, of course. As proliferation expert Joseph Cirincione says, "That's as uninformed as [Senator John] McCain's statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda. Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It's just not true."

The brainwash cascades from the top down. The right wing media beat the neocon war drum relentlessly. We’ve caught the so-called liberal media carrying water for Bush and the Cheney Gang so often (think Judith Miller and Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times) that we can’t trust anyone in the American press. The administration conducts unlimited information warfare with foreign news services, and no imaginable firewall can bar disinformation planted overseas from spreading to the domestic market.

Despotic regimes use cognitive chaos to reduce the populace to a childlike state. We can’t understand anything because nothing makes sense, and we are so small, and the world is so enormous, and we have no choice but to trust our masters, and hope that they have our best interests at heart even though, in what’s left of our rational minds, we know damn good and well that they don’t. We effectively become the Dickensian waif who stays in the orphanage where the sadistic nun beats him after dinner and the pedophile priest molests him after evening mass because he doesn’t know where else to go.

Go ahead, scoff and tell yourself and your friends there’s no way things could get that extreme in the land of the free and the home of the brave. But please consider this: GOP crown prince John McCain has promised us more of exactly what George W. Bush gave us for two terms, and in a March 20 Fox News poll, he was neck and neck with his competition for the presidency.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword.

"So we can play war..."

"Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

View the trailer here.