Thursday, November 19, 2009

Overdue Process

“It really boils down to one of two decisions, getting out or getting in.”

--President Lyndon Johnson, speaking about Vietnam.

“Soldiers came to school today,” announced the Kindergarten kid. "They only kill bad people. They don't kill good people." This is story comes to us by way of Jon Letman of Truthout. The Kindergarten kid is his five-year old son.

Letman relates that:

In his book The Limits of Power, Boston University history Professor and retired Army Col. Andrew J. Bacevich describes a near future in which the US is in an almost constant state of war. He writes, "Rather than brief interventions ending in decisive victory, sustained presence will be the norm ... The future will be one of small wars, expected to be frequent, protracted, perhaps perpetual." If Bacevich's bleak assessment proves true, it's no wonder the National Guard sees value in chatting up kindergarteners.

The 50-year Long War embraced by the Pentagon and its allies in the military-industrial-congressional complex is by far the most insidious policy ever dealt to the American public from the bottom of the deck. Sun Tzu noted more than two thousand years ago that no nation ever profited from a long war.

Reuters reports that, “U.S. defense spending in coming years must rise roughly six percent on average from the record sum sought by President Barack Obama this year just to meet current plans.” So much for the peace dividend Big Daddy Bush promised us.

War has become America’s top export. Military recruiting is through the roof because of the poor economy. How pathetic it is that the most powerful nation on earth has nothing to offer its youth but war. Even more pathetic is the kind of war the nation has to offer them.

COIN, the acronym for counterinsurgency, has replaced airpower and nuclear weapons as the latest “truth” in American warfare. COIN’s basic premise calls for “effective governance by a legitimate government.” We don’t have effective or legitimate governance in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we’re not going to have it. Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite government will never “unify” with the Sunni and Kurd factions in Iraq, and Hamid Karzai’s Afghan government is a mob of drug dealers and warlords. We’re fighting wars that by our own definition are doomed to fail.

We’re fighting junk wars to prop up junk governments with junk strategies and we’re giving our kids junk body armor to fight them with.

And we’re recruiting children to keep these wars alive for as long as we can.

God help America.

House Minority leader John Boehner and 14 other jackdaw Republicans have written a letter to President Obama about his “long overdue” decision about Afghanistan. “For over two months you have been engaged in a strategy review that has left the country, our military and allies uncertain about your commitment to the war in Afghanistan and unsure about your will to do what is necessary to win this conflict,” the letter reads.

There is no winning our conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq. We can pour national treasure and the blood of our young into those two sinkholes, two of the most corrupt countries on the planet, from now until kingdom come and we won’t accomplish gnat’s whisker’s bit of good.

The New York Times says that the U.S. has spent $53 billion on “relief and reconstruction” in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. The projects in include “tens of thousands of hospitals, water treatment plants, electricity substations, schools and bridges.”

But, but, but, “there are growing concerns among American officials that Iraq will not be able to adequately maintain the facilities once the Americans have left, potentially wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and jeopardizing Iraq’s ability to provide basic services to its people.”

So we have to stay there forever. Jolly old fun.

“Exacerbating the problem,” says the Times, “Iraqi and American officials say that hundreds of thousands of Iraq’s professional class have fled or been killed during the war, leaving behind a population with too few doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists and others.”

Who chased them out? Not Saddam Hussein. He’s deader than a door latch.

We may or may not manage to skulk our way out of Iraq. If the Pentagon has its way, we won’t. Desert Ox Ray Odierno, the American Commander in Iraq, thinks the insurgency in that country may go on for another 15 years.

Underfed and sleep deprived Stan McChystal, our loopy commander in Afghanistan, wants to build a combined force of U.S, NATO and Afghan troops of over a half-million to pull off a nation birthing project that will never end.

None of the wars we’re fighting have anything to do with our national security. Like it or not, the folks who have kept another 9/11 from happening are the folks in our Homeland Security apparatus—the FBI, NORAD, FAA, and the rest of the alphabet soup agencies that should have kept 9/11 from happening in the first place.

That military recruiters are aggressively targeting the Kindergarten generation should alarm all of us. We “don’t kill good people?” Pluck me in the heart. We kill more civilians than bad guys. We create more bad guys than we kill.

We need to shut down the Pentagon’s Long War, and we need to keep military recruiters from molesting children.

If you haven’t seen it already, you must watch the Bill Moyers PBS show on how President Lyndon Johnson got sucked into the Vietnam War. Moyers gives us some extraordinary telephone conversation transcripts. LBJ knew escalating the war was a bad idea, but feared that his Republican opponents, most notably Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, would rain bull poop on him if he didn’t do whatever General William Westmoreland wanted him to do.

Like Mark Twain, I don’t believe that history repeats itself, but it often rhymes. President Obama has an opportunity to avoid LBJ’s tragic mistake. Let’s hope he takes it. I don’t want today’s preschoolers fighting in Afghanistan when they’re teenagers.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. Sorry. Still can't find the link about irrigation projects causing water shortages in other areas. (Note to self: next time, bookmark it!)

    I hope KSM gets justice, and some hole-in-the-wall tribunal behind closed doors isn't going to do it.

    I just wish both Holder and Obama weren't so gung-ho to get on with the execution. Haven't they already prejudiced the trial by their public announcements?

    I feel like Hannah Arendt, though, in wondering exactly what punishment would be sufficient for such a horrendous crime.

    This trial must be above board in every respect. There's no other way.

    Meanwhile Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was captured when he was fifteen, accused of killing a U.S. soldier, although at the time he had two holes through his chest, was blinded by shrapnel, and was buried under a collapsed wall from a U.S. air strike, is being "tried" by the new and improved military tribunal.

    As far as I can tell, the only thing this kid was guilty of was having exceptionally stupid parents, but the cry for blood is out there.

    Our neo-Con prime minister recently showed his concern for children by enacting a law raising the age of sexual consent to sixteen. So, you don't have the maturity to decide to engage in sexual activity at fifteen, but you can make an informed decision on holy war.

    I don't get it. I don't get a lot of stuff. This has more of vengeance than justice about it.

  2. Anonymous6:03 PM

    On a related issue, what do people think about the propriety of President Obama basically stating that KSM will be found guilty and executed. It has been customary for past presidents to refrain from commenting about upcoming trials, least of all predicting guilt and execution.

  3. Anonymous6:32 PM

    Will there be full trials at all?

    As I understand it, all these suspects tried to plead guilty at their military commission trials,
    supposedly with a view to martyrdom.
    Although the authorities would have preferred guilty pleas, so as to avoid embarrassing disclosures about prisoner abuse, in the end it was unclear whether the commissions could legally impose the death penalty on accused who pleaded guilty. Hence the transfer to the civil courts. Apparently a civil court can both accept guilty pleas and impose death sentences. Problem solved!

  4. Anonymous6:44 PM

    There are a couple of "real" reasons for the fascists to be concerned about using federal courts to try muslim prisoners. It may shine more light on the torturers, and cause pressure for prosecuting torturers. If a low-level person is acquitted, that person may end up residing in the U.S., since they are not in the legal limbo land called Gitmo. How inconvenient.

  5. I agree with you totally. There should be criminal trials for ALL the prisoners we hold in Gitmo and the other CIA prisons. It is the only way to fight this terrorism mess. And we need to use some other means than full scale military invasion to combat it. Send in small units of special ops if need be.
    As you have stated many times, good solid police work is what we need to go after the terrorists, not full divisions and more. And stop the idiotic aerial bombing. Good grief, the needless deaths we cause that way is over the top.
    Using small units to capture and then put on trial the terrorists is the best way. It would show how our system is what we claim it to be.
    I remember when we were supposed to be better than the bad guys. It is time to stand up and prove it again.
    Put them on trial, full open public trial.

  6. Anonymous8:38 AM

    Khalid Sheikh Mo.

  7. Good catch, anonymous.

  8. Dave of Maryland5:35 PM

    Trying the hapless KSM for the events of 9-11 doesn't pass the smell test, and everybody knows it. No way two itty bitty planes knocked down two of the biggest buildings in the world, not to mention knocking down a third by mere reflex action (WTC7).

    And how many Upstanding White Guys wanted to stand trial for the murder of Martin Luther King? The Justice Department is to find likely suspects. They are not to bother with thrill-seeking, ego-driven, unrelated volunteers.

    Osama Bin Laden's participation in the plot collapses when we learn he was trained as a civil engineer. A civil engineer is trained to calculate how forces are applied & what the likely outcome of such forces may be. Any such advance analysis of buildings & airplanes results in the conclusion that planes smash to pieces, buildings survive for another day. And since that's true, why bother?

    Smash an airplane into, say, the Capitol dome & it might well collapse. Smash an airplane into the White House, it will most likely burn to the ground. Run an airplane into a World Trade Tower & at most, two floors are taken out.

    So, yes, bring on the show trial. I wanna front row seat for the Show Execution, following immediately after. Gimme that blood & gore.

  9. COIN’s basic premise calls for “effective governance by a legitimate government.”

    There is only one legitimate government in the world.

    Read again in this light, it really says that COIN's basic premise calls for effective governance by the USA.

    Manifest destiny, 2009 style.

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