Friday, November 20, 2009

The Children's Crusade

“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. This is very alarming. They are indoctrinating our youth to become the warriors for Globocop. It is our Corpotocracy that is to blame for this. WE WERE WARNED [IKE].

  2. Interesting commentary for a cut and re-paste three day storyline.

    Just not THAT interesting...

  3. Anonymous8:59 AM

    It is interesting that the same folks who hate big government because it don't/won't work (truth) for things like improving health care outcomes or attacking global warming sign up fervently to a militarism which doesn't work and bankrupts the US.

    In the latter part of the 19th century a French economist noted that military "investments" were a heavy drag on the economy. The money is always best used elsewhere. In MBA parlance opportunity cost of the MICC is nearly 100%. Better uses elsewhee always.

    In the 20th century from Columbia University Seymour Melman said much the same thing with a economic engineering proof.

    The US is fallen for fear, sympathy (mostly for war profiteers going on the dole) and hate arguments to succor the militarists.

    At what point will the US look like France in 1945?

    But the same small government folk want to send a trillion or so every few years for nothing but big government projects to rebuild the last place the US shock and awe con trrashed.

    Only to trash the US as a result.


  4. Anonymous2:30 PM

    Jeff, Someone has to not only convince those in the military that you are smarter than the entire flock of Generals put together someone has to convince them to take ACTION based on the believe that you are smarter than the entire flock of generals put together. Knowledge not put to use may as well be unknown. Say that might come from the Sufis I hope that does not bother you. hahahahahahahahaha

  5. "Sun Tzu noted more than two thousand years ago that no nation ever profited from a long war."

    Nations, no, governments, yes.

    Somebody surely can profit from their plan. A banker can profit. A government can profit from a long war.

    Jeff, widen your perspective.

    A program of long war is loony only from the perspective of those who would not profit from it, of course.

    How long can we afford to keep assuming they don't know what they are doing?

    We cannot keep assuming George Bush was an ignorant dum-dum. We cannot keep assuming the Warmongery are ignorant dum-dums.

    They smell profit.

    It's not for you, and me, that's all.

    With all respect to Sun Tsu, we cannot continue to assume the profit of a nation is their goal.

    Their goal is selfish profitability, to hell with the nation. They have no interest in the well being of you, me, or the kindergarteners.

  6. I downloaded Bill Moyers' podcast about LBJ this morning. I'll be watching it after I've bothered you with this post and read some more news.

    Big hoo-haw going on in Canada this week over Canadian soldiers transferring Afghan detainees to Afghan autorities where they were routinely tortured. This story came out in 2007, and a diplomat, Richard Colvin, blanketed everyone he could think of in government, defence and military circles with reports.

    The present government and past and present military types all now say they never got the message. Uh-HUH. I believe you. They're also trying to tarnish the name and reputation of this diplomat. Kill the messenger! Throw mud! Anything but admit that they were incompetents and liars.

    Jeffrey Simpson, in the Globe and Mail said this today about retired general Rick Hillier, certainly not missed in any way by me.

    Canada's chief military blusterer, retired general Rick Hillier, who led Canada's military foray into the Afghan mission, predictably dismissed the Colvin testimony, saying the diplomat wasn't “qualified.” Even in Canadian prisons, “somebody can get beaten up. We know that.” It turns out, from Mr. Colvin's sworn evidence, that he served in Afghanistan from April, 2006, to October, 2007 – for three of those months as political director of Canada's provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar. It was dangerous work in a dangerous place where one of his diplomatic predecessors, Glyn Berry, had already been killed by a suicide bomber. It was a lot more dangerous there than at Defence headquarters in Ottawa.

    When he was making one of his visits to Kandahar, a bomb or rocket went off somewhere in the vicinity and Hillier was bundled off double-quick like a piece of precious porcelain.

    The other guys, of course, had to stay and deal with it.

    Armchair generals, thousands and thousands of miles away, are awfully free with other people's lives, I've noticed, as well as the armchair wannabe-generals.

    As for the kids, someone mentioned once (if I repeat myself here, forgive me) that kids who are getting killed in Afghanistan were ten or eleven years old when this all started. What do they want, an entire generation that knows nothing but war?

    Ray McGovern is all for firing McChrystal and makes a mention of NATO head Rasmussen's announcement that the surge was going ahead soon. I think I heard that on the 19th and began looking around for the reason for this announcement. I couldn't find anything, of course.

    It all seems to be about controlling the message now. No one bothers to check the facts.

  7. I just watched the Bill Moyers' LBJ video podcast. The echoes to the present are deafening.

    He spoke of plummeting morale, the choices he had, the way to sway congress, the all-volunteer army, calling up the reserves.

    It actually made me feel quite sick with anxiety. Johnson looked like he had shrunk in the last television broadcast.

    The war footage was much more graphic then. The picture of the young soldier fatally wounded in the legs by rocket fire caused such a stir several weeks ago. Then, people were shot and died before your eyes.

    When is the decision, after your Thanksgiving next week?

    Forget about your next term, Mr. Obama. Just make the right decision now.

  8. @ Filohttp:

  9. Obama's moment of greatness never left Grant Park.

  10. RZ - great post about the Bill Moyers program on your blog.

    Couldn't help but comment, of course.

  11. Sully8:15 PM

    "Underfed and sleep-deprived Stan McChrystal, our loopy commander in Afghanistan,..."

    Jeff- I really liked the way you put this. I wish I could just laugh, but because of the magnitude of the situation, I'm more angry than anything.

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