Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mullen's Mulligan

In golf and other sports, a "mulligan" is a second chance to get something right, sometimes referred to as a "do-over." In most sports, one do-over is all you get, and sports are just games. In war, humanity’s deadliest undertaking, the folks in charge of the Pentagon keep asking for another mulligan, and the president, Congress, and the news media keeping saying sure, tee it up again.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen appeared on the Aug. 23 edition of Meet the Press to sell the war in Afghanistan. He couldn’t have asked for a better straight man than David Gregory. Gregory pulsed Mullen "on the question of U.S. resolve." Gregory noted the recent Washington Post/ABC News poll that indicated 51 percent of Americans don’t think Afghanistan is "worth the fight," and he asked Mullen "have the American people lost that will to fight this war?"

"Well, I’m, I’m a Vietnam veteran myself," Mullen replied, and assured the American people that he was certainly aware of "the criticality" of their support. He mumbled and grumbled and said "the president’s given me and the American military a mission," and he went yakety-yak about the "new strategy" and wheezed that it "focuses on al-Qaeda" and blabbed yada, yada, yada about the "original 9/11 attacks" and sniffled that "they still plot against us" and blubbered "in that regard, we’re very focused on executing that mission."

It was a perfect non-answer to a perfect non-question.

Any time you hear talk about the American people losing their will to fight, you’re listening to war propaganda. The "will" stratagem often uses terms like spine, stomach, guts, and other anatomical references commonly associated with courage and bravery. Like almost all war propaganda, the will stratagem is based on a false main assumption: that the war in question is good and/or necessary. Our brave troops will prevail (another common false assumption) as long as the folks back home have sufficient qualities of the proper body parts to stay the course.

Mullen evoked his Vietnam experience right on cue. One of the cruelest lies in the U.S. military ethos says that we lost in Vietnam because the media and Congress lacked the stiffness required to see things though when public support waned. Our involvement there spanned 25 years. At one point over a half million U.S. troops were deployed there, and America spared no expense in supporting their efforts. Yet, incredibly, one still hears old timers in the irascible Right claim "If we’d only had 18 more months." If folks like them had their way, victory in Vietnam would still be at hand.

Mullen learned propaganda techniques like subliminal messaging from a master; his father was a press agent for MGM studios. Mullen’s personal public affairs officer, Capt. John Kirby, has been with him for many years. Mullen and his military did not choose the mission in Afghanistan, the message goes. The president gave it to them. Mullen started playing fast and loose with young Mr. Obama when, during the campaign, he warned in a Joint Force Quarterly article that a Democrat in the White House would have a negative effect on the mission in Iraq (the article has since been removed from the JFQ Web site).

Al-Qaeda9/11they still plot against us: Mullen has the full arsenal of fear mantras on the tip of his tongue. Our intelligence in that part of the world is pathetic. We don’t have a clue what al-Qaeda is plotting, or thinking, or where any of its members actually are or even how many of them exist. Even if we could find a way to run them out of Afghanistan or Pakistan, they’d just go somewhere else. All it takes to plan and execute a terror attack is an iPhone, and they can get one of those anywhere. Why hang out in the nosebleed seats in the Himalayas when they can bask on the Riviera?

The very notion that the 9/11 attacks sprang from Afghanistan is specious. "Mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was operating in the Philippines when he first presented the attack plan to bin Laden in 1996. The six hijackers who controlled the airplanes received their flight training in the U.S., and the "muscle hijackers" came from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

New strategy… focused on executing the mission. The new strategy Mullen referred to is the one National Security Adviser James Jones and his White House war wonks cobbled together from the last eight year’s worth of incomprehensible talking points. It is a compendium of vague tasks and incoherent platitudes. A "mission," in military parlance, consists of a task and a purpose, and without coherent strategic goals, the Afghanistan mission is nothing more than a laundry list of purposeless tasks.

Straight man Gregory introduced the topic of the real purpose of Mullen’s appearance when he asked if Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will "request of this president more troops to fight in Afghanistan?"

Mullen hemmed and hawed and said McChrystal’s assessment wouldn’t "specifically deal with requirements for additional resources," and that Mullen and the grown-ups in Washington would "deal with" requirements in the "normal process" (whatever in God’s name the "normal process" might be at the Pentagon these days).

Gregory, not once but twice, invoked Sen. John McCain, who had been the Pentagon’s tacitly endorsed presidential candidate. McCain says it’s not a question of whether we need more troops in Afghanistan, Gregory explained, it’s a question of how many more: 15,000 or 25,000 or 45,000? "Can you carry out this mission with the troops you’ve got?" Gregory demanded of Mullen.

"That’s really something that we will evaluate over the next few weeks," Mullen answered, satisfied that he’d accomplished the mission of getting Gregory to carry his water for him. Gregory made a show of pushing back later in the interview, but it didn’t matter. Mullen had already delivered the message: Obama didn’t listen when we said we didn’t want any timelines for Iraq. He said Iraq was a distraction from "finishing the job" in Afghanistan. So we’re going to have our "long war" in Afghanistan, and if we say we need more troops there, he darn well better give them to us or it will be his fault we lost there just like it will be his fault we lost in Iraq.

Long-war Mafiosi like Mullen can’t tell us what they hope to accomplish, or even give a compelling argument that what they’re doing overseas is connected to national security. They claim that our military adventurism is keeping us safe from terror attacks even though historical analysis inarguably demonstrates that armed force is by magnitudes the least effective means of combating terrorism. They lied to us throughout the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and have lied to us ever since, and yet they still own the narrative on U.S. foreign policy and our poisoned news media continues to abet them overtly (Rush and Rupert and the rest of the Big Brother Broadcast) or implicitly (just about everybody else).

So no matter how badly they deceive us or how egregiously they fail to deliver results, the warmongery continues to get mulligan after mulligan after mulligan.


  1. On behalf of all the Mulligans out there, I would like to protest. Actually, my name's not Mulligan, but it's close enough.

    The whole body part thing is a bit strange, no? Why would it be more important to have the guts to fight an unwinnable war than the brains not to fight one?

    So guts, stomach, intestinal fortitude, heart or babymakers (one of your usages, Jeff) are okay, but not lungs, bladder, metacarpals or inferior vena cava.

    "Does the American (or Canadian, for that matter) people have the kidneys to carry on with endless endeavour?"

    Nah. Just doesn't work.

    You've done it again. You've made me laugh about things that aren't funny.

    Thank you...I think.

  2. Anonymous9:49 PM

    Cdr., please correct me if I am wrong, but the last time I saw a picture of ADM. Mullen, the gold emblem above his 'fruit salad' was that of an officer in the submarine service, not an aviation officer. So what did he do in Viet Nam?

  3. Jeff,

    Great article. The truth of our failure is evident every time a citizen asks the simple question, "What is the end state in Afghanistan?"

    If answered, Afghanistan looks like some sort of unified, democratic and loving republican state, at peace with its neighbors, respectful of a woman's "rights" and (surely) a friend of the USA.

    In reality, Afghanistan has never been unified nor a state, much less a democratic republic or peaceful. At best, it is a geographically riven backwater, best left unconnected to the greater world -- and the natives like it that way!

    If only the "will" of the American people would get behind the idea of getting out of Afghanistan! Sadly, it will be a long while and many more good maimed/killed citizens before enough "will" says "ENOUGH"!!!

    To anonymous, Mullen is a surface warfare officer, steeped in the tradition of driving, "fighting" and commanding destroyers, cruisers and battle groups. IIRC, his Vietnam service was as a junior division officer on board a surface warship that did some time off Vietnam's shores. He certainly is not a "Vietnam veteran" in the manner of his USNA classmate Jim Webb.


  4. Anonymous - I don't see any dolphins on Mullin's emblem.

    I believe it is a Surface Warfare insignia which means he was probably on a ship off the coast trading shot and shell with North Vietnamese coastal artillery; and/or providing Naval Gunfire Support to Marines, Army, and ARVN off the coast of South Vietnam.

    But I can't get a good look at it, so the emblem could be Special Ops??? Probably not.

  5. I served in Vietnam with the 5th Marine regiment. In my own personal opinion, no matter the amount of guts, balls, intestinal fortitude, or whatever "body parts" these war mongers invoke, "we" would never have won in Vietnam. Those people were fighting for THEIR own homes and land. Hmmm, just like the American patriots did during the Revolutionary war here in the late 1770's. The home team usually wins the types of wars America has been doing since WW2
    The same holds for Afghanistan. "We" can not win, no matter the troop numbers, the length of time our leaders keep them there or any other "metrics" they use. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are lost. Bring our troops home before we kill more and maim countless more human beings what ever their nationality. As General Butler said so clearly War IS a racket!
    Great article again Cmdr! semper fi,

  6. One extra comment from an old former Marine. Every time I see or hear from the "good" admiral Mullen, I cannot help but recall the old cartoon character from the funny pages of the newspaper in my youth, yes I did have a youth once. Remember Moon Mullins? I may not have spelled it correctly. Yep, showing my age there.
    Has a certain "ring" to it though; Admiral "Moon" Mullen.
    semper fi

  7. Commander,

    People like Mullen will never be able to "tell us what they hope to accomplish" in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Never mind that NOBODY, i.e. David Gregory -- would ever think to ask the question.

    And, the beat goes on.


  8. Lavrenti Beria9:23 PM

    You can forget about the franchise, the ruling clique with its hired political help does whatever it will and, short of massive street demonstrations and the general strike, will never be held to account. And then it spits right in your face, today, for example, announcing that the latest addition to the Today Show's reportorial staff is Jena Bush! And that just when you thought our public life couldn't be furher trivialized. Not that I watch Today, I don't. I don't much watch TV. I'm so sickened by what presents itself there that I've recently given myself over to DVDs of old Italian movies with subtitles, great ones like The Bicycle Thief and Ossessione. I like that world so much better than the one I've been given that I've considered learning the Italian language in the hope that I'll survive somehow if I were to spend every waking moment immersed in the world of opera with my back to people like Mullen and his Obamaworld. Please, don't ever vote again. Just hope that the present crisis eventually presents us will real opportunities for a new beginning.

  9. Thanks for the contributions, everyone. Yes, Mullen is a Surface Warfare Officer, and he served on destroyers and cruisers early in his career.


  10. Charlie Gehlen -

    I remember Moon (short for moonshine) Mullins. Probably a good moniker for the Admiral. I was with 7th Marines in 1969. But I did attach to G/2/5 for one operation on Go Noi Island.

    Commander Huber -

    Ever do a tour on the Coral Sea?

  11. Thank you for another great piece of critical thinking/writing. I too, am an old veteran (USCG 65-71). I remember well my last duty station was a reserve training ship out of Monterrey, California. At every port of call on very cruise we went on, protesters would pass out pamphlets on how to jump ship and run to Canada. Mullen's war was a lie and a profit making enterprise (I was to learn just how much profit much later). That we even listen to gasbags like him any more is testament to our countrys' descent into irrelevance.

    BTW - your readers' comments are always among the best!

  12. Mullen has a new piece out on "strategic communications" and Afghanistan. It looks like a critique of our propaganda program but it's really a "stay the course" message.


  13. Commander,

    Mullen is going to have to shout over George Will --- who, this morning, is calling for us to get out of Afghanistan.

    Oh wow! the end is definitely at hand.

    The "silent during the whole Iraq fiasco thing" George Will has spoken.

  14. Yeah, well. George Will. Hate to agree with anything he has to say, but at least I said it first.

  15. Anonymous3:59 PM

    I don't understand phragment of your text from Shiver me neocons which is Failing to hit the beaches of North Africa "will increase the jihadists' contempt for us." If I know on north Africa are situated such countries as Marocco Algieria, Libya Tunesia, so how it's possible that Somalia which is situated near Red Sea suddenly finds on north Africa bydeway good vievpoint even as officer of army about which can be tell that the only thing which they know is how to kill and the only thing which they don't know is how to make welll things which doesn't have connection with war

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