Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Marja Madness

As journalist Gareth Porter said in a recent interview with Real News, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s offensive in Marjah, Afghanistan, is "more of an effort to shape public opinion in the United States than to shape the politics of the future of Afghanistan." Like so much of what we’ve seen in our woeful war on terrorism, the Marjah effort is short on substance and long on Newspeak, Doublethink, and other Orwellian deceptions.

The Washington Post, the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and an unhealthy chunk of the rest of the news outlets are calling the Marjah madness a "test" of "Obama’s strategy" in Afghanistan. Amazingly, nobody is calling it a test of McChrystal’s strategy. Stan the Man is, after all, the maestro who orchestrated the big honking counterinsurgency (COIN) plan with its attendant troop escalation and who then, along with Gen. David Petraeus and the rest of the warmongery, boxed Obama into going along with the scheme through an expansive media campaign that included McChrystal’s September 2009 infomercial on 60 Minutes.

We don’t need to feel sorry for Obama, though. He asked for this during the 2008 presidential race when he decided to show the hawks his baby-makers by saying he’d pull us out of Iraq but he’d "get the job" done in Afghanistan. Pavlov’s dogs of war started frothing when he stepped on that land mine. Obama had a chance to get rid of the war dons – Petraeus, McChrystal, Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, and the Pentagon’s bureaucratic survival savant, Robert Gates – when he took office. But no, President Obama kept them around, despite the fact that they all had publicly criticized Candidate Obama’s plan to establish an Iraq withdrawal timeline. Obama exacerbated things when he named retired Marine Gen. James Jones as national security adviser; Jones had stated for the record in 2007 that an Iraq withdrawal deadline would be "against our national interest."

So, yes, Marjah is a referendum on Obama’s fitness as commander in chief, and it’s becoming clear that the guy is in over his pay grade.

A key component of McChrystal’s hallucinatory COIN plan is an initiative to build up Afghanistan’s security forces to an end-strength of 400,000. He’d be better off paying them all off to go home and keep out of the way.

When 60 Minutes reported on the status of Afghan security forces training in late January, the native troops were literally shooting themselves in the foot and their instructors in the leg. According to 60 Minutes – which means according to what Af-Pak propaganda czar Rear Adm. Gregory Smith told 60 minutes – the Afghan troops were commandos, Afghanistan’s best soldiers, and they were being trained by Green Berets, America’s "best soldiers."

The "specialized" Afghan troops had received three months of "advanced training" before coming under the tutelage of the Green Berets. When they displayed their tendency to shoot everybody but the bad guys, the Green Berets drilled them in the fundamentals of how to load their weapons and hold them safely. When the Afghan commandos couldn’t even perform those tasks correctly, the Green Berets started treating them like raw recruits and tried to instruct them by yelling at them.

Yet somehow Smith and his spin merchants and their dupes in the mainstream media expected us to believe that by late February, Afghan forces were ready to take charge of their country’s destiny. "In Marjah offensive, Afghan forces take the lead," claimed a Feb. 15 headline in the Christian Science Monitor. But by Feb. 20 even the New York Times, the journalistic home of McChrystal idolater Dexter Filkins, had to confess that "Marines Do Heavy Lifting as Afghan Army Lags in Battle."

Bravo to journalist C.J. Chivers, a former Marine, for reporting that the assertion by American and Afghan officials that portrays "the Afghan Army as the force out front in this important offensive against the Taliban" conflicts with "what is visible in the field." By all important measures, "from transporting troops, directing them in battle and coordinating fire support to arranging modern communications, logistics, aviation, and medical support – the mission in Marjah has been a Marine operation conducted in the presence of fledgling Afghan Army units, whose officers and soldiers follow behind the Americans and do what they are told."

I hope the owners of the Times don’t fire Chivers. It would be nice to think that the rag of record has at least one reporter capable of telling the truth.

Another Times contributor, Timothy Hsia, a West Point graduate who has served in Iraq, says in a Feb. 18 piece that success in Marjah will hinge on a "civilian surge." Hsia has, lamentably, bitten off on the jagged piece of crack-pottery that says in order to succeed in Afghanistan we need lots and lots of American civilians to go over there and be policemen and fire dudes and construction workers and so on as part of a Civilian Response Corps. The idea is so ludicrous that its proponents picked Dick Cheney protégé Doug Feith, the dumbest freaking guy on the planet, to shill it in a May 2009 Wall Street Journal op-ed.

We already have a Civilian Response Corps; it’s called the Peace Corps, and it’s been around since before people joined it to get out of fighting in Vietnam. As you might have already inferred, the reason we call it a "Peace" Corps is that it only works in a peacetime scenario. Sending U.S. civilians into a hot war zone, especially one like we have in Afghanistan where there are no front lines, doesn’t accomplish a whole lot except get a whole lot of U.S. civilians killed. The only way to try to protect the civilians is to send more soldiers to the war zone or (aha!) hire mercenary outfits like Blackwater to do the job. Even then, the civilians have to stay holed up in areas where the soldiers or the hired thugs can protect them, so they can’t do what we supposedly sent them for.

But civilians provide a vital layer in the Pentagon’s lame-excuse stratagem. If our military can’t win a war, it’s because we don’t have enough military in the theater of operations. If we have enough military, we don’t have enough military from the country we’re fighting in to fight with us. If we have enough military from the country we’re fighting in but they turn out to be a pack of Gomer Pyles, then we don’t have enough civilians involved. Next, I suppose, come household pets.

Of course, civilians might be able to do one thing that our Green Berets can’t: teach Afghan soldiers how to load and carry their rifles.

Originally posted @ Antiwar.com

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.

Friday, February 19, 2010

On Marja: More Bananastan Bull Feathers

The propaganda continues to pile higher and deeper regarding our war in the Bananastans (Afghanistan and Pakistan, our Central Asian banana republics). The latest piece of manipulation disguised as news comes from Dexter Filkins of the New York Times, who is rapidly supplanting Thomas E. Ricks as the Pentagon’s favorite bull feather merchant.

In a February 15 piece titled "Secret Joint Raid Captures Taliban’s Top Commander," Filkins and co-author Mark Mazetti breathlessly announce, "The Taliban’s top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan." The unnamed "American officials" we’ve come to know so well over the course of our woebegone war on terror say that the prisoner, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, "ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder." Details of the raid are, not surprisingly, "murky."

Baradar’s capture was supposedly a "joint effort" between the CIA and Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence agency (ISI). "Officials" say that the arrest "had provided a window into the Taliban and could lead to other senior officials," including and especially Omar. Yeah, right.

Unnamed officials have told us we’ve captured or killed a number-two evildoer so many times since 9/11 that by now I couldn’t give a number two less. Regardless, Filkins and Mazetti tell us that the unnamed officials tell them Baradar is "the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago." If that were all I had to show for eight years of war, I wouldn’t brag about it, but the propaganda operatives who fed this tripe to Filkins and Mazetti aren’t targeting the sharpest tools in the American shed.

Throughout the article, one senses the hidden, guiding hand of Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, the former Chief of Naval Information (CHINFO) who is now the Director of Communication for the International Security Assistance Force (DIC-ISAF). A career public affairs officer, Smith is in charge of, among other things, General Stanley McChrystal’s "information operations," AKA misinformation, disinformation and deception stratagems.

Filkins and Mazetti describe Taliban leader Omar as "a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks," and note that the Taliban "have so far refused to disavow al-Qaeda." Both statements had to have been cut and pasted from an ISAF press release, and like most of what Smith’s minions put out, are so misleading that they amount to outright falsehoods.

Thanks to Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service and Arnaud de Borchgrave of United Press International, we know that Omar and bin Laden have never been kissing cousins. Porter gives us convincing evidence (including, gasp, sources identified by name, just like real reporters used to do back in the real reporter days) that in 1998 Omar placed severe restrictions on bin Laden in an attempt to prevent him from carrying out plots against the United States. Nine years ago, prior to 9/11, Omar himself told de Borchgrave that he had "offered the United States and the United Nations to place international monitors to observe Osama bin Laden pending the resolution of the case, but so far we have received no reply."

And as Porter also tells us, Taliban leadership in recent months has expressed a willingness to throw al-Qaeda under the caravan, and he notes that "In September, Mullah Omar declared the Taliban has no interest in a global jihadist campaign and in December a Taliban statement said the organization is ready to provide ‘legal guarantees’ against ‘meddling’ in foreign countries – an obvious reference to any al-Qaeda bases – as part of a settlement involving withdrawal of foreign forces."

How much more of a disavowal do we need. What do we want Omar to do, make bin Laden kiss his naked rear end live on al Jazeera?

The Filkins-Mazetti Times article contains a grain of truthiness nested below the headline and lede paragraphs, well past the point where most readers quit reading, which is where our mainstream media most often hide the truth.

The reporters quote Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid as saying the news of Barada’s capture "is just rumor spread by foreigners to divert attention from the Marja offensive." A statement from a Talibani that Barada wasn’t really captured seems hard to swallow, but then again, the guy telling us that went on record, which is a lot more than you can say about the guys telling us Barada was captured. And unlike "unknown officials," Zabiullah Mujahid never talked us into invading another country by lying about its non-existent weapons of mass destruction program.

But half of what Mujahid says you can take to the bank: Gregory’s minions are trying to keep headlines in the U.S. from reading "McChrystal Makes Major Mistake in Marja." The latest news from the front reveals that the best trained, best equipped military in history has been stymied by sniper fire from fighters who likely had to teach themselves how to shoot.

Marja was supposed to be, according to the Karen de Young of the Washington Post, "a key test of Obama’s strategy." I’m not sure Obama has a strategy for Afghanistan except maybe to go along with whatever McChrystal and David Petraeus want, which is to make their Long War last as long as possible. I doubt if even McChrystal has any hopes that the Marja offensive will produce anything more tangible than whatever his publicity people manage to spin out of it.

Ultimately, the Pentagon is shooting for an official narrative that says whatever peace accord comes to pass was only made possible by offensive U.S. military operations. This is the same pile of bull feathers the warmongery blew up the American public’s skirt over Korea, the three-year war that contained two years of unsuccessful peace talks, and Vietnam, where we pursued "peace with honor" throughout the Nixon presidency, and Iraq, where we’ve been brokering a civil war since young Mr. Bush declared "mission accomplished" nearly eight years ago.

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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bin Laden: Dead and Loving It

The tallest Arab ever wanted dead or alive by a president of the United States is still at large. Either that or he’s dead. Again. We’ve been hearing from intelligence sources and the media that bin Laden is dead for a long time. How dead can one evildoer get?

In July 2002 the New York Times carried an op-ed piece that led with "Osama bin Laden is dead." Bin Laden died in December 2001, according to the author, Amir Taheri, an editor of the Paris-based journal Politique Internationale. Both Taheri and his journal have been broadly accused of questionable journalism practices. Taheri’s sources – all unnamed except for then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who "repeated" the information – weren’t any more reliable than Taheri is, but he ultimately based his conclusion on logic. "With an ego the size of Mount Everest," Taheri reasoned, "Osama bin Laden would not have, could not have, remained silent for so long if he were still alive."

And what of all the videos of bin Laden that have surfaced between 2001 and now? David Ray Griffin, whom the BBC identifies as "a former theology professor and member of the 9/11 Truth Movement," says they’re false because "None of them can be proven to be authentic."

These are negative proof arguments, the kind that say, "We can’t prove little green men are flying over Nevada in spaceships, but we can’t prove they aren’t, so it must be true."

Live or Memorex?

As former CIA officer Philip Giraldi noted in December 2009, analysts "inside and outside the government" base their assessment that bin Laden has found sanctuary in the hereafter on non-evidence: specifically, that they haven’t had any solid information about the al-Qaeda leader since late 2001.

That puts our intelligence agencies, which have access to more space-age gizmology than any other spy apparatus in the history of espionage, on par with the likes of the conspiracy theorists at WHATREALLYHAPPENED.COM. According to these folks, bin Laden is dead because unreliable journalist Taheri said so in a New York Times op-ed piece, and because a video released in December 2001 made bin Laden look much older than he did in a photo taken when he was much younger, and because in the video he didn’t move his left side much therefore he must have been suffering from diabetes, and because in November 2001 the UK Guardian revealed that Le Figaro of Paris reported that in 2000 bin Laden had ordered a mobile dialysis machine to be delivered to his base in Afghanistan.

The bin Laden narrative aptly illustrates the extent to which our government institutions have used the big media and polluted the information environment. Rumor begets hearsay. Hearsay begets opinion. Opinion begets unconfirmed facts, unconfirmed facts beget disinformation begets propaganda begets intelligence, and intelligence begets nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

What makes these convoluted yarns successful is something I call the "grain of truth" factor. If one or more of the assertions in a far-fetched fable seem plausible, a certain type of person will accept some or all of the rest of the tale because "there’s a grain of truth in it." There is, of course, grain in every pile of horse manure, but that doesn’t make horse manure easy to swallow, does it?

Having said all that, there’s a fair chance that bin Laden really is dead. If he’s hiding along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border high up in the Hindu Kush mountains where helicopters can’t fly, he could have died of a nosebleed by now. And in November 2008 then CIA Director Michael Hayden said bin Laden was still alive, which adds credence to the argument that he wasn’t.

It doesn’t matter either way. Dead or alive, Osama bin Laden is the greatest strategist in the history of human conflict. With no navy or air force or anything that resembles a formal army, he’s managed to whip the world’s mightiest nation like a rented camel. Our economy is shot, the best-trained, best-equipped military in history has been proven impotent, and our moral standing in the world has gone through the sub-basement.

Speculation about bin Laden’s status vis-à-vis mortality is little more than a smoke screen to keep the American hoi polloi from focusing on a harsh reality.

A tenet of the Dead Osama Theory says that the Bush administration hid the fact that Osama died in December 2001 to justify continuing the war on terrorism. President Obama stepped in a boiling vat of OOPS when, as Candidate Obama, he vowed to "get the job done" in Afghanistan to deflect criticism of Sen. Obama’s vote against the Iraq surge. In October 2008, a month before the election, Obama vowed to "snuff out" bin Laden, and if bin Laden isn’t available for snuffing out because he’s already snuffed, it gets real hard for Obama to justify the massive Afghanistan escalation that Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal and the rest of the warmongery strong-armed him into going along with.

Hence, the Obama administration has a vital stake in preserving the belief that bin Laden is still consuming oxygen. That may explain why, in January 2010, the FBI published a digital image of how bin Laden looks today on the State Department’s "Rewards for Justice" Web site. Shortly afterward, it turned out the picture was an alteration of a web photo of Spanish parliament member Gaspar Llamazares. Nice try, FBI.

The most recent evidence that bin Laden still lives was the recording al-Jazeera released just before Obama’s first State of the Union Address in which bin Laden taunted, "God willing, our raids on you will continue as long as your support to the Israelis will continue." But the recording was just an audiotape, so maybe the FBI hired Rich Little to do a voice impersonation.

It is little wonder that the status of the man who goaded history’s mightiest nation has become the stuff of checkout-line tabloids. The facts of our so-called war on terror are more ludicrous than our fictions, as witnessed by the National Security Agency’s exploitation of expanded and probably unconstitutional surveillance authorities to eavesdrop on obscene phone calls.

Here’s the disturbing news: our war on terror has been a colossal blunder regardless of whether bin Laden’s safe haven is in this world or the next one.

All the king’s machines and men deployed to far-flung corners of the earth have done little to stem the threat of terrorism, as the Christmas panty bomber illustrated. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with bin Laden’s attack on New York and Washington. We’re now discovering, thanks to Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service, that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader we ousted from power in Afghanistan because he gave aid to bin Laden’s planning of 9/11, actually attempted to prevent bin Laden from attacking America. Oops. Our bad.

Our "struggle against violent extremism" has produced, at a conservative estimate, a minimum of 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq alone. The figure may be well over a million. In 2007, official Iraqi government statistics showed that the country possessed 5 million orphans. That’s a bunch more Iraqi orphans than Saddam Hussein ever made.

Osama bin Laden didn’t need to survive beyond December 2001 to wreak havoc on the United States and the rest of the world. We’ve done it for him.

Originally posted at Antiwar.com.

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. (Click on the link to order your copy with an amusing inscription from the author! ;-)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Talking Ourselves out of Afghanistan

It’s becoming apparent to the foreign policy wonks in the Obama administration that the goose in Afghanistan is cooked. Now it’s only a matter of talking themselves into sticking a fork in it. The “great dilemma of this war,” as the New York Times calls it, is “whether to reconcile with the men who sheltered Osama bin Laden and who still have close ties to al-Qaeda.” That option is considered to be “rife with political risk at home” which means the neocons and their pals in the right-wing hate chorus will flay Obama alive if he takes it.

The reconciliation option would also entail making nice with Taliban leader Mohammed Omar, the sleazebag we kicked out of power in 2001 so we could put sleazebag Hamid Karzai in his place. According to Transparency International, Karzai runs one of the most corrupt governments in the world, second only to Somalia, which, since it doesn’t really have a government, shouldn’t really count.

Karzai plans to hold a “grand assembly” of Afghan bigwigs to discuss his plan to negotiate with the Taliban. Omar says secret talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have not taken place, which means they probably have. The Taliban have previously said they won’t accept any kind of deal with Karzai unless foreign troops leave Afghanistan first, which they (we) almost certainly won’t do.

But as Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service points out, the crux of negotiations revolves not around whether “the Taliban movement will be participating in the Afghan political system, however, but on whether or not the administration could accept the participation of a specific individual — Mullah Omar — in the political future of Afghanistan.”

That’s a bit like having suggested that we allow Saddam Hussein to be a minister in Nuri al-Maliki’s Iraqi cabinet. Well not quite. Omar wasn’t a pleasant fellow, what with enforcing all that mean old sharia law and not allowing Afghan girls to go to school or vote or anything, but unlike Hussein, he never invaded a neighboring country that we had to go to war with him over. On the other hand, also unlike Hussein, he did give bin Laden sanctuary to plan the 9/11 attacks. So letting him back in the power mix is a might big pill to swallow.

Speaking of big pills to swallow, Hillary Clinton is one of the Obama palace puzzlers who hasn’t been all that hot to trot to cuddle up to Omar. She’s been in favor of letting rank-and-file Talibani back in the fold and giving them jobs and such, kind of like we were supposed to do with Sunni militants in Iraq but didn’t. Hillary has been a bigger disaster than Condi Rice and the Titanic combined. She says she’s willing to negotiate with anybody as long as they completely capitulate to America’s terms first, which was the Dick Cheney modus: set preconditions for diplomatic talks that the other guys will never accept, say “See, we tried diplomacy and it didn’t work,” and then blow them to smithereens.

The only good thing about Hillary being Secretary of State is that it means she doesn’t control foreign policy. Foreign policy has been dictated by the Department of Defense ever since young Mr. Bush started doing whatever his generals told him as long as it was what he wanted to hear.

The generals, who once found the idea of letting Omar back in the hen house anathema, are starting to march to a different tune. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, wasn’t keen on negotiating with the Taliban at all at his Senate hearings in June of 2009. Now he’s listening to a different drummer.

In late January 2010, when pressured by a reporter to state how far he was willing to bend in order to reach a settlement with the Taliban, McChrystal cautiously answered "any Afghan can play a role if they focus on the future and not the past." That sounds like a flip-flop to me.

An ISAF official told Porter that the goal of negotiations is to establish “the conditions under which reconciliation will take place." It’s worth noting that “reintegration” is the term being used to describe settling with the Talibani polloi, and that “reconciliation” specifically refers to dealing with Taliban “leadership,” aka Omar.

One can only speculate as to what’s gone on in McChrystal’s sleep deprived and underfed little mind since his Senate hearings and his big media campaign in late 2009 to strong arm Obama into going along with a major escalation in Afghanistan. It’s likely, though, that he’s grasping for a quick exit plan because he sees there’s no way his pie-in-the-sky counterinsurgency plan is going to work.

The counterinsurgency doctrine calls for a competent and reasonably honest host nation government and security force, and the Vulcans will reveal themselves and give us matter-antimatter technology before we see either of those things in Afghanistan.

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.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010

60 Minutes Does Rambo

The Quiet Professionals,” a January 31 60 Minutes profile of Green Berets in Afghanistan, garnered mixed reviews from the polloi. Some observers found the segment to be an unabashed piece of pro-war propaganda. Others thought CBS purposely set out to do a hatchet job on the military in general and Special Forces in particular. Both perspectives have merit. Overall, the piece gave one the distinct impression that neither CBS nor the military’s Strategic Communication Directorate (yes, they really call it that) in Afghanistan knew what they were doing.

Bull of Goods

Some of the harshest criticism of the piece was aimed at 60 Minutes’ decision to assign the piece to British CBS newsmodel Lara Logan. Lara tells us during the intro that 60 Minutes “was given unprecedented access to a team of Green Berets, ‘ODA 7215.’ For two and a half months, our team lived with them, trained with them and went to battle with them.” It was painfully obvious over the course of the story that lovely Lara was not part of “our team.” She flew into Afghanistan for maybe an hour to do interviews, taped the intro and voiceovers back home in the CBS studios, and flitted off to the next glamorous thing she had to do. (That’s how most of the 60 Minutes headliners work; but it was particularly annoying to see cutesy Lara with the sultry accent doing the phantom anchoring on this particular story.)

CBS didn’t get that kind of access without kissing up large to Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, the career public affairs officer who heads the Strategic Communication Directorate. That’s right, the man rose to the two-star level in the military as a full-time bull feather merchant. He’s presently in charge of information operations in the Af-Pak theater which means he’s General Stanley McChrystal’s propaganda chief. Smith didn’t get where he is by being dumb, and he didn’t let 60 Minutes into the hen house without expecting that he could control the message the way he controlled the message when 60 Minutes did the infomercial with McChrystal in September. The McChrystal segment was part of the Pentagon’s successful campaign to box President Obama into going along with yet another surge. This time, Smith got some of what he wanted out of CBS but he mostly didn’t.

The opening was auspicious enough. The Green Berets, Lara told us, are known as the “quiet professionals” who mostly work “unnoticed and unrecognized” and they’re “among the best soldiers America has.” So far, so good, except that the “quiet professionals” sobriquet sounds like something Smith’s ad men cooked up.

Lara’s initial interview is with a good-looking kid named Martin who wears Ray Bans (the identity of every Green Beret shown was hidden) and who tells Lara, “We’re definitely not Rambo, you know? He was a Green Beret. That’s not us at all." Both Martin and 60 Minutes then proceed to show and tell us how Rambo-like Martin is.

A Shot in the Foot

“Martin is 6′1" and 220 pounds,” Lara purrs. “He can bench-press almost twice his body weight.” We see video of Martin in a gym doing preacher curls.

On the nature of his job, Martin tells Lara, “There are miserable times where you kinda look at yourself and you’re like, ‘What?’ You know. ‘Why am I running towards the gunfire?’ But then there are times where I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else," Martin explained.

"Is it who you are?" Lara asks. It goes on like this. We see film of Martin getting shot by one of the Afghan commando he’s supposed to be training. “Two bullets from a machine gun ripped through his legs,” Lara says, a hint of concern in her voice. Martin thought he’d stepped on a mine. He tells Lara that his leg began to spasm and then he felt a burning sensation.

“Is that burning sensation you described commonly known as pain?" Logan asks.

"It’s only pain when you acknowledge it,” Martin says bravely. “There’s work that has to be done. You don’t have the luxury of self pity,” Martin says stoically. Lara then tells us in a voiceover that Martin, who is a medic, refused to take morphine so he could dress his own wounds. At this point I flashed on Bill Murray in Caddy Shack singing Silver wings…upon their chest… We see Martin walking around the next day, his wound dressed with a gauze pad. Things could have been worse for Martin, most observers would reckon.

We meet another Green Beret named Brent, a personable enough guy who becomes the goat of the segment when he stands guard on a road during a daylight raid. A truckload of Afghans come down the road and Brent shoots twice. He later says these were warning shots. When the episode is over, two Afghan boys in the bed of the truck, aged 12 and 13, got hit by those two warning shots. The 12 year old was shot in the leg, a leg that looks a whole lot worse than Martin’s leg did. The 13 year old had to be treated for a sucking chest wound. Brent says the warning shots must have ricocheted off the road.

That these two warning shots, fired from a silenced rifle, could have skipped off the road and hit these two kids challenges credibility. One can’t help think there was a lot more to the scenario than CBS and or the Strategic Communication Directorate allowed us to see and that a lot more people than Martin were involved. Lara didn’t ask Martin if he was blowing smoke up her skirt, and 60 Minutes has yet to explain why it accepted such a lame narrative.

The day after an Afghan commando-under-instruction shoots Martin in the leg, another one shoots himself in the foot. The Green Berets go back to basics, re-teaching the Afghans how to load their weapons and switch the safeties on. The Afghans can’t even do that right. These Afghan commandos are supposed to be the best soldiers in their Army. They had three months of “advanced training” before coming under the tutelage of the Green Berets. Lara doesn’t ask why Afghan militiamen fight so well while Afghan’s best soldiers, trained by America’s best soldiers, are such a pile of Sad Sacks.

Lara asks Martin what he thinks of the Afghan commandos; Martin says they have “a lot of potential,” something that Smith’s henchmen have obviously coached him to say. Lara kids him about it.

Lara gets another coached answer when another Green Beret named Bill feeds her the Ministry of Truth manifesto on Afghanistan: “I absolutely believe we need to stay here and see it through," Bill says.

Lara finally asks a pertinent question: "What does seeing it through mean? I mean, what is the end state?"

Bill does a Jackie Gleason hamana-hamana and blurts out that the end state will involve the Afghans saying, “Okay, thanks. We don’t need you anymore you know.” Like, um, actually, you know, you can totally go home now, dudes. Lamentably, laughably tragically, Bill’s sputtered attempt at describing an end state in Afghanistan sounded as good if not better than anything our four-stars and civilian leaders have come up with.

It was despicable of Smith (and by extension McChrystal) to attempt to use enlisted troops to sell a cockamamie war to the American public, and just as bad for CBS to exploit an opportunity that, frankly, made those enlisted troops look pretty bad. If CBS wanted to hold somebody’s feet to the fire, they should have hammered McChrystal when they had the chance. Troops like these young Green Berets have been impaled on a task they can’t possibly accomplish in a conflict nobody could possibly win. They don’t deserve to be exploited any worse than they’ve already been.

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.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Queer Eye Joe

The reaction to President Obama’s announcement that he’ll rescind the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays serving in the military has a lot of peoples’ panties in a bunch.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen have, for once in their tenures, done the right thing by endorsing the repeal of Don’t Ask, and they did so right in front of Congress and television cameras and everybody, and our nation’s capital wasn’t flooded or earthquaked or famined or anything. Was God taking a nap, do you think?

Not everybody is in favor of repealing Don’t Ask, though. Just ask them.

G.I. Schmoes

Response to the pending repeal at the lowbrow level has been interesting. Here are some selected comments garnered from Military.com readers:

I have no idea but I would bet you have taken showers with Gays before or then maybe you never took a shower....

We’ve all been taking showers with homosexual people since junior high school gym class.

the military, acknowledges G&L's AND their right to have families and dependent rights, the progressives bludgeon the remainder of the country into allowing this legally ... and traditional marriage goes down the toilet.

Traditional marriage has bludgeoned itself down the toilet all by its lonesome; gays and progressives had nothing to do with it.

it is not going to change the fact that homosexuality is abnormal. Natural maybe ... but not normal.

Hmm. Then can something be normal if it’s not natural? Is remote-control bombing of Muslim weddings normal and/or natural if the people doing it are straight but not if they’re gay?

Just kick out muslims instead of Gays. I'll rather sleep with one close to me than with a muslim at my side.

Proof that xenophobia makes stranger bedfellows than homophobia.

Maybe if Obama was a Gay I might feel secure. But a President of The United States with Hussein as a last name I just feel really insecure and confused.

This guy’s confused, all right. If he thinks “Hussein” is the president’s last name, what does he reckon “Obama” is?

At the opposite end of the intellectual spectrum we have William Lind, a military “expert” who never served in the military and an out-of the-closet cultural conservative. Shortly after Obama’s victory in the 2008 election, Lind, outraged that the new commander in chief had promised to end Don’t Ask, said that such a move would “strike directly at why men fight.”

And why do men fight? “To prove they are real men,” Lind insisted. Men join the armed services “because those organizations are made up of fighting men. Their membership is a badge of honor that says, ‘We're not sissies or pansies. We are men who fight, serving alongside other men who fight.’ That tells others and themselves they are real men” (italics mine).

Man, Lind has seen too many gladiator movies, huh? I’d guess he’s played with a lot of G.I. Joe dolls too.

Interestingly, Lind is also the author of an analysis that says, “If we don't let the people of Iraq run their own country…we'll end up giving ourselves the whole enchilada right up the poop chute.” In my honest opinion, those are fascinating words coming from the mouth of a homophobe.

Like his less cognitive Military.com counterparts, Lind is a racial bigot as well. In 1999, Lind wrote, "The real damage to race relations in the South came not from slavery, but from Reconstruction, which would not have occurred if the South had won." Hence, Lind insists, we wouldn’t have problems with race relations if we still had slavery.

He’s not exactly a son of the great Enlightenment, that Lind character. Some men are created equal, that’s his motto. But don’t think he’s just afraid of homosexuals and black people. He’s afraid of women too.

John McCain, perhaps the most notable Cro-Magnon in congress sided with Lind and his booger-eating buddies at Military.com. Three years ago, interestingly enough, McCain told a group of students at Iowa State University that, "The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, ‘Senator, we ought to change the [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] policy,’ then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it." Now that the leadership has told him it’s time to change the policy, McCain is digging his heels in.

Fighting Pansies from Head to Toe

For a guy whose pet Fourth Generation Warfare theory is based on the history of warfare, Lind seems to know damn little about the history of warfare. Homosexual love among ancient Greek soldiers was not only tolerated, it was encouraged, and practiced at the highest levels of the chain of command.

As the warrior king of Macedon Phillip II (382 – 336 BCE) told Plutarch, “It is not only the most warlike peoples, the Boeotians, Spartans, and Cretans, who are the most susceptible to this kind of love but also the greatest heroes of old: Meleager, Achilles, Aristomenes, Cimon, and Epaminondas.” Those pansy soldiers of yore fought hand to hand with broadswords and other nasty weapons, just like real men. Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will in fact be consistent with the oldest traditions of military service.

Congress doesn’t need to hold hearings to figure out how to repeal the law; it only has to strike down Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice—“Sodomy”—the part of the code that bans “unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex” (italics mine) for members of the military. With Article 125 gone the way of Jim Crow, gay and straight service members alike will be able to stop worrying about their sexual behavior being revealed, which will help them concentrate on defending their country. Won’t that be nice for all of us?

Gates and Mullen plan to take a year to implement the transition to letting gay people in the services be gay people in the services. They don’t need a year. They don’t even need a week. Regulations that dictate fraternization, on and off duty behavior, dress codes and so forth will apply just as they do now.

As for any impact the repeal of Don’t Ask might have on national security, it’s worth noting that neoconservatives who oppose the repeal, not homosexuals, are the ones who got us stuck two unwinnable wars.

Get used it, military community. Homosexuals are already among you. They have been for millennia.

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.