Monday, February 28, 2011

My Last Article for The American Conservative

This is the article that Daniel McCarthy of The American Conservative commissioned from me then ignored for over a month.  My open letter to Dan appears at the bottom of the article.  Severing my relationship with TAC feels like stepping into the shower and doing something else in the bathroom afterwards.

Cash Caissons, Gravy Boats and the Wild Blue Defense Budget

by Jeff Huber

Robert Gates’ proposed Pentagon spending cuts are likely to have as much effect of the deficit as flushing your toilet has on El Nino.  Recent announcements of the military’s new age of austerity were the same balderdash we’ve been hearing from the warmongery’s bull feather merchants since President Dwight Eisenhower warned us, in his 1962 farewell speech, that the emergence of a military-industrial complex could lead to a “disastrous rise of misplaced power.”   
The headline of a Jan. 6 Associated Press piece trumpeted “Pentagon To Cut Spending For First Time Since 9/11.”  The lead paragraph informed us that the Pentagon plans to freeze its budget, in part by shrinking the Army and Marine Corps—the two services we just got done expanding—and by screwing veterans with increases in their health care costs. 
But in the second paragraph of the AP story we get a sniff of the truth: “The Pentagon says it can stop asking for annual budget increases in 2015.”  Oh, I see.  The number fumblers in the five-sided funny farm have been milking this parlor amusement for a long, long time.  They promise economies tomorrow for a hamburger today.  Come tomorrow, the economies have disappeared and so has the hamburger.
The AP article also notes that Gates’ proposal is tied to a hallucinatory assumption: that Congress will agree to cancel “popular job-making programs.”  Even Uncle Bob doesn't seem to think his cuts have a chance of surviving the first spring sunrise.  “Looking five years into the future is through a pretty cloudy crystal ball,” Gates confesses. “Any number of these decisions could be reversed.”
Reports suggest that the predominance of those decisions already have been reversed.   Wealth distribution has always been a key component of the American arms marketing strategy.  Pieces of our weapons procurement programs, especially sticker-shock-and-awe projects like the B-2 stealth bomber, get contracted out to every congressional district in the Union.  That’s how the V-22 Osprey, the Marine Corp’s vertical takeoff-and-land albatross, has survived as a weapons program for 30 years despite a litany of sins so irredeemable that even uber-war mongrel Dick Cheney tried to kill it, not just once or even twice, but four times
So the reaction of Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio to Gates’ austerity scheme is hardly surprising: "Cutting the budget on the backs of Ohio's workers is unacceptable," Brown says.  California Republican Buck McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, puts it more succinctly: “I’m not happy,” he says.  Congressional pork barrel coopers could, of course, bring the bacon home to their constituents by transforming our wartime economy into a national infrastructure reclamation project, but they won’t do that for the same reason that we haven’t developed an adequate energy alternative to oil: developing a new product while the old product is still selling like Happy Meals is a bad business decision. 
 When they sense they’re starting to sound politically mercenary, congressional hawks fall back on echoing the canard that says maintaining our bloated defense budget is vital to the nation’s security.  McKeon, eager to keep the cash caisson rolling along merrily, decries Gates’ propositions as “a dramatic shift for a nation at war and a dangerous signal from the commander-in-chief." 
The “nation at war” mantra has worn as thin as a drill instructor’s patience.  If you’re among the sentient segment of American society, you realize by now that our extended engagements in Iraq and the Bananastans have as much to do with our national security as your pets have to do with making your house payment.  More Americans realize this by the day; so to keep their gravy boat afloat the likes of McKeon need the specter of an emerging military competitor.   It’s little wonder then that Uncle Bob’s proposed budget cuts have moved Pavlov’s dogs of war to break out a new deck’s-worth of China card tricks. 
Ooh, China has a new conventional ballistic missile that can whack our aircraft carriers from 900 miles away.  Eek, China has a new fighter jet that, according to FOX News, could pose a “terrifying challenge” to our fleet.  And, jeepers, on top of all that, those inscrutable little so-and-sos are working on their very own aircraft carrier. 
            Bevies of handsomely compensated and interest conflicted expert testifiers are lined up to the corner and around the block to swear on a stack of whatever dogma manifestos you care to shove at them that the latest Chinese military surge is the end of the world as we know it! (AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!) The spin physicians on the U.S. Pacific Command staff told AP to tell us that China’s “carrier killer” missile could “seriously weaken Washington's ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea.”  Roger Cliff, a “senior political scientist” at the Rand Corporation with a PhD in war from Princeton, says that China’s new stealth fighter means our air power “dominance” is “now in question” even though the aircraft is at least a decade away from being fielded. 
Neocon tank thinker and naval veteran Peter Brookes says that Beijing’s “prototype carrier” (a refurbished bucket of Soviet rust, by the way) portends that we “may no longer be the only flattop navy in the Pacific.”  Brookes further cautions that “while the Pacific has long been considered an American lake, that idea can no longer be taken for granted with the rise of China’s navy.”  That, Brookes says, is something we must keep in mind as “we look at the future of U.S. defense budgets and naval shipbuilding programs.”
In reality, China’s new-fangled air and sea power is a paper-dragon ploy, a ruse to sucker us into keeping our wild blue defense budget soaring so we’re forced to borrow even more money from them. 
A major problem with conventional weapons like China’s Dong Feng 21 anti-ship ballistic missile is that they have to actually hit their targets to do them any harm.  Hitting a steaming aircraft carrier 900 miles away with a missile of any kind has a difficulty factor along the lines of hitting a needle in a moving haystack at the opposite end of a football field with a popgun that shoots Nerf balls. 
China’s Jian-12 fighter may or may not be as good as America’s F-22 Raptor.  It doesn’t matter.  Air-to-air combat, air-to-air fighters and air-to-air fighter pilots are like knights-errant running atilt at themselves.  They’re fine as subjects of popular entertainments but they have little to do with control of the air.  Air superiority, throughout the history of air power, has predominantly been a function of ground-based defenses: surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery.  Fighters, especially modern radar missile fighters, have a penchant for shooting down friendly bombers or getting themselves shot down by friendly ground fire.  The primary effect of high dollar stealth fighters on national security is to tie up strategic fiscal assets that could have been invested in something useful. 
The U.S Navy has evolved the aircraft carrier over the span of a century and is at present the world’s only maritime force that possesses fixed wing catapult-and-arresting gear carriers.  Our ability to generate 100 more combat sorties per day from these wonders of the modern world involves a choreographed operation that resembles a ballet at some times and a three-ring circus at others.  Chinese carrier operations will look like a Chinese fire drill.  Suggestions that China can jump into the modern carrier business and compete with us—using junk the Soviets paid them to haul away and without the generational operating knowledge base that we have accumulated—are pure delirium.
Equally phantasmal is Gates’ assertion that he can “save” $100 million from the current budget in “efficiencies” if Congress lets the services spend it on modernization and other transformation sounding shenanigans.  That’s like picking up a load of alcoholics at their rehab facility, handing them the money they saved by not drinking, and dropping them off in front of a sports bar.
It’s also delusional to think that Gates is being austere by calling for cancellation of weapons programs.  He recommends pulling the plug on stuff like the Marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle that our forces might actually use in wars they might actually fight in, yet he’s hanging on to programs that look like something in a cheesy sci-fi show from the ‘60s. 
One such Irwin Allen wrench is the Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS), the “killer drone” that Navy undersecretary Robert Work says “will transform the aircraft carrier … into a global long-range, persistent surveillance-strike system effective across multiple 21st century security challenges.”  Other Navy fluff peddlers invite us to “Imagine [an unmanned] Navy strike plane launching off the catapult as its carrier begins steaming out of its San Diego naval base” and then flying half-way around the world to bomb a Muslim wedding or accomplish some other vital strategic objective. 
The nut factory factor in this scenario is that the killer drone didn’t need to launch from the carrier—it could have taken off from the air station at the San Diego naval base.  But then, without the carrier it wouldn’t be a “tactical” carrier aircraft; it would be a strategic bomber, which should by rights belong to the Air Force.
But Air Force acquisition weenies don’t want anything to do with UCAS because they’ve still got gobs of those $2 billion B-2 strategic bombers and are developing new conventional “Global Strike” gizmologies that may wind up looking exactly like the Navy’s UCAS except that instead of taking off from a naval air station they’ll launch from an air force base.
The Navy’s counter-counterstrategy to the Air Force’s Global Strike counterstrategy to the Navy’s UCAS strategy is the fabled flying submarine, a monstrosity straight out of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea that in real life hasn’t crawled from the drawing board since Soviet weapons eggheads first hatched it in World War II. 
I’d like to see all of these weapon fantasies combined in a Moreau-ean joint project called the “Battle Hermaphrodite,” a platform possessing the primary sex organs of every land, sea and aerospace weapon currently in the inventory.  The “Hermie” could launch from an aircraft carrier and fly to an air force base where it would land and refuel.  Next it would take off vertically and puddle jump to the nearest ocean where it would circumnavigate underwater to the nearest third-world hot spot.  It would surface and conduct an amphibious landing at the first available beach resort where its crew would stop for a week of well earned liberty before continuing on to its combat mission. 
It would roll overland on tank treads until it reached a point just shy of its objective, where it would drop off its crew and proceed unmanned into the target area, a village suspected of harboring hostile militiamen.  It would then, like one of those Transformer toys that Hasbro and some Japanese outfit make, morph into a foot soldier and go door to door, demanding, in a perfectly accented rendition of the local patois, “Hey, if y’all got any evildoers in there, how’s about coughing them up?”
The Hermie would never even get to the clay model stage.  It would take all the animators in Hollywood to conjure such a golem, and they’d never agree on what it should look like.  But, touted as the ultimate solution to America’s security requirements, the Battle Hermaphrodite acquisition project could be kept open in perpetuity, and create more jobs for more people who could be more gainfully employed elsewhere, and devour a larger share of the federal budget than all previous weapons programs combined. 
We could still claim the costly Hermie will save money in the long run because since it will never exist, we’ll never be able to fight the even more expensive war it was designed to start. 
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is author of the critically lauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon on America’s rise to global dominance.  
Open letter to Daniel McCarthy, Editor of The American Conservative

March 1, 2011
 I had hoped the lunar cycle’s influence on the editorial practices at The American Conservative ended with Kara Hopkins’ departure.  Alas.  It has been over a month since I submitted the mighty darn good satire on defense budget cuts that you solicited from me, and I haven’t heard a peep back from you.   I see from your web site that the piece didn’t make it into the March or April issue, and I suspect that by the time the May and June issues hit the street the material will be irrelevant, even by American Conservative standards. 

You no doubt decided that the CHICOM had captured me and erased my memory, so I forgot that I sacrificed two weeks of work on a novel to craft an article for you, and you didn’t need to say anything to me about not using it or not paying me for it.    

In the barnyard where I grew up, even the pigs knew what bad manners it is to ask people to do something for you and then ignore the product when they deliver it.  It’s an especially rude practice when those people have done work for you in the past, and you know what to expect from them when you solicit their efforts.  Did you acquire this sort of etiquette from studying the classics at Washington University in St. Louis?  I don't recall Plato or Aristotle describing boorishness as a virtue.  Is the topic covered in some obscure edition of Nichomachean Ethics, perhaps?  Or do the numerous instances where Aristophanes and Plautus portray louts as humorous fellows inspire you to use discourtesy as a substitute for wit? 

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by your conduct.  Five decades and change of careful observation have taught me that people who don’t have the manners that even my four-legged childhood playmates possessed are, almost without exception, conservatives of one stripe or another.     

Lest I over-generalize about the political right’s lack of civility, let me note that Kara at least had the grace to send authors of commissioned works a kill fee when she decided she couldn’t make up her mind what it was she wanted in the first place. 

Good luck with your continued search for narrow-interest backing to offset your understandably abysmal circulation.

Have a bright-size life,

Jeff Huber

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Off with Their SodaHeads

by Jeff Huber

The chowder heads at ask “Could Sec. of State Hillary Clinton Be Doing More in the Middle East?  Jesus in a jump seat, soda jerks, hasn’t she done enough, as in enough harm?  As secretary of state, Cruella has done more damage to the state of American diplomacy than the last secretary of state did, and that’s an eye-watering accomplishment.  In fact, Keystone Kondi owes Cruella a debt of gratitude; without Cruella, Kondo would be America’s worst ever secretary of state.  (Both of them, of course, owe John Bolton a night at his favorite gentleman’s club for keeping either of them from being human history’s worst diplomat.)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
on a diplomatic mission.
SodaHead’s foreign policy pundits appear to have had their thinking caps twisted loose.  “In countries with a president and a prime minister,” they pontificate, “it can fall upon the former to deal with foreign policy, while the latter deals with domestic issues.”  Yeah, kids.  That’s why Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki lets his president, Jalai Talabani, make all those tough foreign policy calls that the rest of us think Maliki is making.  That’s sort of the way Churchill and Thatcher and Blair deferred foreign policy to the Queen of England.  In parliamentary systems like Iraq’s that have both a PM and prez, the prez is most often a figurehead, much as the British Royals are.  The PM is the guy other nations talk turkey too. 

The SodaHeads are equally confused about the workings of U.S. foreign policy.  Since the U.S. has “no prime minister,” they explain (they got that right, anyway), “the responsibility of both sides of the coin often falls to the president – that is, as a backup, because the responsibility of dealing with foreign affairs in the U.S. government (get ready Civics 101) is upon the shoulders of the secretary of state.”

It sounds like the SodaCrackers took Civics 101 with Sarah Palin. 

The Constitution spreads responsibility for and authority over U.S. foreign policy across all three branches of government.  Article II makes the president commander in chief of the military, and to make treaties and appoint ambassadors.  But those treaties and ambassadorships have to be approved by the Senate.  And the president doesn’t have sole control of the military. 

Article I gives a major portion of the foreign policy pie to the legislature.  Most notably, it gives Congress the power and authority “to regulate commerce with foreign nations,” which alone should—in a sane country—make Congress the leading foreign policy branch of government. 

But Article II also tasks Congress to take a leading role in providing for national defense.  Only Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war.  It is also up to Congress to “define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations.”  Congress is tasked to “provide and maintain a navy” and “raise and support armies” and to “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces,” and Congress is responsible for “organizing, arming, and disciplining,” the militia (aka National Guard) and for “governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States.”  And when the time comes “for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions,” it’s the Congress, not the president, whom the Constitution authorizes to do the calling forth.   

The judicial branch’s constitutional foreign policy role is more abstruse, but palpable nevertheless.  Article III dictates that the judicial power of the federal courts shall extend to “treaties made” and “to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;—to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.”

The Constitution makes no mention of the secretary of state’s role in foreign policy.  In fact, it makes no mention of the secretary of state at all, or of any cabinet post, except obliquely, when it refers to the Senate’s duty to confirm the appointments of “other officers of the United States.”

We all know that an abysmal chasm exists between the way our Constitution says things are supposed to work and the way the actually operate.  But even then, SodaHead’s suggestion that “the responsibility of dealing with foreign affairs in the U.S. government is upon the shoulders of the secretary of state” is a notion born of hallucinogens.

No U.S. secretary of state has really driven foreign policy, or even been the president’s leading foreign policy agent, since Henry Kissinger, and Kissinger’s primary policy tool was the five-sided blunt instrument.  Moreover, it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether Kissinger was using the Pentagon or the Pentagon was using Kissinger.  Whichever was the case, both parties got what they wanted, which was an extension of the Vietnam War well beyond the timeframe that Richard Nixon had promised to end it, giving both Kissinger and the Pentagon ample time to establish a suitable phalanx of scapegoats—the press, popular music, the drug culture, the pansy Congress—for their abject wartime failures.

Since Kissinger, the standing of state secretaries in relation to the Pentagon has floated somewhere between sidekick and mascot.

And, oh yeah, the Constitution doesn’t utter a syllable about the American military dictating our foreign policy either.  So we pretend like that sort of thing only happens in places like Egypt and Pakistan and Iran and Libya and so on. 

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is the author of the critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a satire on America’s rise to global dominance.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hosni's Heave Ho

by Jeff Huber

Another thug bites the dust.  Hosni Mubarak’s beautiful wickedness came to a screeching halt on Friday, Feb. 11, when he handed power over to Egypt’s armed forces, just over a year after Barack Obama took office and ceded his power to the American Pentarchy*.

Obama's National Security Council
The standard lineup of pro and con artists have flung their opinions across the information highway as to whether Obama did a good job during the Egyptian crisis or not.  It was the media’s standard Three-Bears potpourri of opinion.  Some thought Obama was too reticent in calling for Mubarak to leave town haste post haste with nothing but the feathers on his back.  Others thought Obama betrayed Israel by not standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Mubarak.  A very few, and I’m one of them, though Obama did just right.  For once.  Sort of. 

If Obama had condemned Mubarak and Mubarak had won the day and remained in power, oof, that would have left a mark.  If Obama had lined up shoulder-blades-to-the-wall with Mubarak, he would have wound up sharing a blindfold and a last cigarette with the guy too.  Obama took the Taoist approach, and let things happen the way they were going to happen regardless of what he did, like U.S. foreign policy makers should have started doing about 30 seconds before we stuck our national baby maker into World War I.  Hopefully, he spent the suspense time figuring out what to do when Hosni hit the bricks.  Hopefully, what he’s decided on doesn’t involve sending in the CIA to do what it does best, which is to molest everything they can get their mitts on and make matters infinitely worse than they already are.

Obama’s biggest foreign policy mistakes are behind him.  Unfortunately, it will take him two full terms—if he gets a second term—to undo the damage his early gaffes created.  And two terms might not even be enough. 

President Obama’s first tragic error is the one he made as Candidate Obama, the one where he promised to “get the job done” in the Bananastans so the New American Centurions would get off his back about timelines for leaving Iraq.  The Pentarchs made suds like a washtub over that one.  As a venue of their Long War, Iraq was beginning to show steel belt.  The Banastans, though, boy, now there was a bottomless pit they could pour blood and treasure into until such time, if ever, that brown cows give chocolate milk. 

Obama’s next blunder, one that may prove to have been impossible to recover from, was keeping on Uncle Bob Gates as defense secretary, Michael “Moon” Mullen as Joint Chief’s chairman, George “Iraqi Screw Up” Casey as head of the Army, Ray “Desert Ox” Odierno in any authoritative position, and King David Petraeus as High Lord of Central Command and de facto master of the entire known universe.

Obama then compounded his bad decision process by naming Cruella Clinton to be secretary of state.  I voted for Obama in the primaries because Hillary was so afraid of the warmongery that she essentially joined it.  Come November alternative to Obama was Senator Ex-Prisoner of War, who would have ordered an invasion of the Sea of Tranquility (which his running mate would have explained was the place where Pearl Harbor was before the Germans sank it).

So, at the end of the day, our foreign policy posture looks more like it did under Big Dick Cheney than it would have under McCain because McCain probably wouldn’t have put Hillary in at state.  There’s a chance, of course, that McCain might have nominated John Bolton for the job, but the odds of getting Bolton confirmed, even if McCain had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, would be shorter than either Bolton’s or McCain’s temper.  Bolton’s got worse political body odor than Larry Craig.  

Hillary’s not quite as strident as Bolton, but she’s doing a great job of carrying on his tradition, that of the highly placed diplomat who’s mission is to ensure that diplomacy never takes place.  Hillary has been a one-woman whoopee cushion, rushing from one hot spot to the next making loud obnoxious noises and clearing negotiating chambers of their inhabitants from Sind to Cooch Behar. 

So it’s little wonder that Hillary’s graceless pot-stirring made life miserable for Obama as he tried to crawl through the minefield of Mubarak’s demise. 

As a Feb. 12 New York Times story frames it, “Mr. Obama was furious” that Hillary was skywriting about how any credible transition in Egypt would take time and backed the position of Cairo envoy Frank Wisner that Mr. Mubarak was, as the Times report paraphrased, “indispensible to Egypt’s democratic transition.

The deal with Wisner, according to Foreign Policy, was that the administration sent him to Cairo as a special envoy to tell his old buddy Hosni to start the transition of power “now.”  Days later, he told the entire Munich Security Conference that "I believe that President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical—it's his chance to write his own legacy."

The Obamen got so het up about Wisner’s statement, says Foreign Policy, that Hillary was “forced to clarify” on the flight home that “Wisner was a private citizen and in no way spoke on behalf of the U.S. government.”

Jesus in a muumuu, Hillary.  If a U.S. special envoy doesn’t speak for U.S. government, who does?  Disavowing Wisner is like saying that the U.S. government isn’t responsible when Blackwater mercenaries it sends overseas decide to get liquored up and take target practice on the local produce peddlers.  

The Feb. 12 New York Times story bore the needle marks of standard New York Times stenography journalism.  It’s “inquiring minds” details are sourced to unknown officials, and it carries an unmistakably White House-crafted signal:

The trouble in sending a clear message was another example of how divided Mr. Obama’s foreign policy team remains. A president who himself is often torn between idealism and pragmatism was navigating the counsel of a traditional foreign policy establishment led by Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, against that of a next-generation White House staff who worried that the American preoccupation with stability could put a historic president on the wrong side of history.

This is a bad-trip flashback from June 2010 when the Team O bearded senior Newsweek editor Jonathan Alter to write a book and a series of articles that made sure we all knew Obama was just so darn frustrated with his generals for not doing what he wanted them to and for kneecapping him in the press, and that Obama was going to gather all of them in a big room, and count to ten in a very stern voice, and if that didn't straighten them out he was going to count to a hundred, and then to a thousand if necessary, and if that didn’t work he was going to get ever so cross with them.

What Obama needs to do is direct his entire foreign policy team, uniformed and civilian, to join Hosni in the private sector as of yesterday.  But he won’t do that. 

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is the author of the critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a satire on America’s rise to global dominance.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Heigh Ho Hosni!

by Jeff Huber

The case of Hosni Mubarak’s vanishing mojo illustrates a number of things about the panoply of U.S. foreign policy subsequent to the Second World War on Evil.

Mubarak (right) prepares to leave town.
Mubarak is the latest in an extended procession of scoundrels who we backed for a long period of time and ended up wishing we hadn’t: Tito and Slobodan Milošević of Yugoslavia, Manuel Noriega of Panama, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Leopaldo Galtieri of Argentina (the Falklands War guy who Reagan National Security Adviser Dick Allen described as the “majestic general”), Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (aka “The Shah”) of Iran and Saddam “Gomorrah” Hussein of you-know-where comprise a short list of thugazi we sucked up to for ages until they skulked out of town with nothing but the feathers on their backs.  Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, head of the world’s most corrupt government—Somalia is actually more corrupt than Afghanistan but it doesn't actually have a government—only retains power by virtue of our aegis. 

It’s interesting how Big Dick Blackheart and The Ditto Monster and The Bull-Goose Lunatic at FOX News and Blood Libel Barbie and The New American Centurion have fallen out over Mubarak’s misfortune. 

Big Dick Cheney, shooting off both sides of his mouth at some Ronald Reagan love fest the other day (how long are the neojobs going to keep kissing Reagan’s dear old demented and departed rear end, anyhow?), warned that Egypt without Mubarak may be a scary place.  Rush says that “The 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronaldus Magnus” (Jesus in a g-string, Rush.  “Ronaldus Magnus?”) serves to illustrate how Barak Obama is screwing up the Mubarak mess the way Jimmy Carter screwed up the deal with the Shah of Iran. 

Glen Beck says Obama and Mubarak are alike.  Somehow the protesters who want Mubarak out are like the Tea Baggers, and Obama and Mubarak are both laughing at all of them.  Beck’s also been throwing the word “caliphate” around like he knows what it meant, and he says the fires in Egypt will spread around the world like the fires that spread in the First World War on Evil when somebody shot Duke What’s-his-name in East Wherever-it-was.  Beck’s fellow freak Sarah Palin said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that the Egyptian crisis was “Obama’s 3 a.m. White House phone call” and “that call went right to the answering machine.”

If you wish to make a coherent statement, Sarah, please press “one.”  Otherwise, hang up. 

Neocon activities chairman Bill Kristol actually went to bat for Egypt’s revolutionaries and castigated Babbling Beck, saying that Beck’s “hysteria is not a sign of health.” 

When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.

There’s more:

Nor is it a sign of health when other American conservatives are so fearful of a popular awakening that they side with the dictator against the democrats. Rather, it’s a sign of fearfulness unworthy of Americans, of short-sightedness uncharacteristic of conservatives, of excuse-making for thuggery unworthy of the American conservative tradition.

Yikes.  It sounds like Kristol is angling for Keith Olbermann’s old job on MSNBC, doesn't it? 

Beck and his Beck-olites shot a volley of beck-ola back at Bill.  One such Beck-aroo, the laughable yet terrifying Ruth King, decries Kristol’s for admonition of “the great unwashed conservative quarter” for “not embracing the catastrophic events unfolding in the Middle East.”  “Glen Beck’s got it right,” Ruth declares on her “Ruthfully Yours” blog.  What’s “at play” in Egypt, says Ruth, is the “advance of Islamic supremacism.”  Ruth also expresses skepticalism about Kristal’s motives, and notes that, “The left wing lemmings are eating up this discourse among us like maggots on dead flesh, but that is their only joy, so let them have it.”  Shortly after her stunning placement of “lemmings” and “maggots” and “dead flesh” in a single sentence of “discourse,” Ruth avers that, “the right needs new intellectuals”  

She apparently considers herself one of the new intellectuals the right needs, as she only mentioned 9/11 three times in the course of her little essay.  In her circles that’s considered a highbrow display restraint.  On the other hand, if she thinks Kristol is an intellectual she can’t be much of one herself. 

Don't imagine that the right-wing warmongery is breaking up like the ice cap.  When push comes to shove, these people will always rally around their core conservative values: racial and religious bigotry, which for the foreseeable future will maintain a laser focus on the world’s sand negro population. 

Also don’t kid yourself into thinking that Bill Kristol has had embraced the virtues of cognitive clarity.  Removing totalitarian regimes from power in the Middle East in order to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries is the raison of his New American Century neoconservatism.  Peace through superior firepower applied against regimes we don't want to talk to is still Kristol’s justification for our hapless involvements in Iraq and the Bananastans, and it is the crux of his argument for war with Iran.  Backing anti-Mubarak revolutionaries is just another phase of his life-long campaign to save the world by blowing every corner of the Middle East that doesn’t belong to Israel to smithereens.

What we need to learn from the Mubarak mess, at long last, is that poking our hegemon into the internal affairs of other countries doesn’t accomplish anything except make it hurt when we go potty.  Here's hoping that in future we do a better job of keeping our imperial pants on.  

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is the author of the critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a satire on America’s rise to global dominance. 

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Pot and Keller

by Jeff Huber

The latest assassination attempt on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s character comes from Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times.  Talk about a classic pot and kettle scenario.  Keller accusing Assange of journalistic misdeeds is like an X-rated filmmaker blaming computer geeks for the pandemic rise of web porn. 

Bill Keller calls Julian
Assange "black."
Keller, you see, was the dude who brought Assange into the NYT fold and, as far as Keller is concerned, legitimized Assange and his work.  Now that Assange is ground zero of just about every sling and arrow that just about every agency in the executive branch can hurl at him, Keller needs to create some distance from his one-time ally, and fast.  And Keller has chosen to do so in a notably unctuous manner.

In his Jan. 26 hit piece (“Dealing with Assange and the Wikileaks Secrets”), Keller entertains us with a description of Assange, provided by NYT Pentagon stenographer Eric Schmitt, looking “like a bag lady walking in off the street” and smelling “as if he hadn’t bathed in days.”

“Reporters,” Keller tells us, found Assange to be “arrogant, thin-skinned, conspiratorial and oddly credulous.”  As best I can tell, Keller uses the term “credulous” in the sense of “gullible” or “unsuspecting.”  How anyone can be both conspiratorial and unsuspecting in the same sentence is something I find “incredulous” in that it makes me “dubious” about what Keller has to say about Assange, and that I’m “skeptical” about Keller’s motivation for attaching pejorative modifiers to Assange without making it altogether clear what specific “reporters” made those judgments, if they really did in fact make them.

But then phantom sourcing has become a hallmark trait of New York Times reporting.  The astounding Sept. 7. 2002 piece of mendacity by Michael R. Gordon and Judith Miller that convinced America Saddam Hussein was seeking yellowcake uranium for nuclear weapons from Nigeria cited unnamed “officials” of one stripe or other more than 25 times.  One can’t blame Keller for the Time’s part in the Nigergate debacle, of course.  Shoot, Bill was just a lowly “op-ed columnist and senior writer” back then.  He didn’t become executive editor until July 2003.

But when the unnamed “editors” of the Times issued their non-apology titled “The Times and Iraq,” Keller was the head editor.  Keller and his cowboys allowed as how “we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been.”  Nonetheless, they “found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of.”  Although “some critics” of the Times’ war coverage “focused blame on individual reporters,” the editors’ “examination” of the problem indicates that it “more complicated.”   So the Times was sorry for less than rigorous coverage here and there but nobody was to blame, so let’s forget about all the unpleasantness, shall we?

And Keller was well established as executive editor when, in July 2005, he spoke in defense of Judith Miller for not coughing up the names of those unnamed sources who used her and the “newspaper of record” to lie America into a war.  That we now know those sources were Judith’s pals in Dick Cheney’s stooge asylum is no thanks to the New York Times. 

Keller has a personal stake in absolving both himself and his newspaper from culpability for the hoax that launched our country into the Pentarchy’s Long Quagmire.  Keller himself was a leading “liberal” cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq.  In a Feb. 8 2003 Times op-ed piece, Keller gushed suds about how many liberals, like him, were behind the war, forming what Keller adorably dubbed “The I-Can't-Believe-I'm-a-Hawk Club.”  (It just happened so suddenly, but now that it has I feel, I don’t know, all goose-bumpy I guess!)

In the same 2003 puffery piece, he noted that even Sen. John Kerry had come down off his anti-war horse “after Colin Powell's skillful parsing of the evidence.”  Keller must have been making gargle noise every time he talked after that, right up to the time, only weeks later (Mar. 22, 2003), when he rolled Powell over and popped him in the sitter, saying that the war in Iraq was “a failure of Colin Powell's politics.”  (Funny how, at the time, I was thinking the war was a failure because of the hallucinatory policies of young Mr. Bush and Big Dick Cheney and Dandy Don Rumsfeld and their sycophant generals.  I was so glad when Keller set me straight on that score.)  Keller essentially argued that Powell should leave to make way for a state minister who would just do whatever Rumsfeld told him to do so Boy George wouldn’t have to worry about all that pesky internal debate stuff; a relationship, oddly enough, that we presently have between Uncle Bob Gates and Hillary. 

Keller condemns Assange for putting lives “at risk” by publishing the Wikileaks material online.  It was okay by Keller, though, when Judith Miller participated in a conspiracy to out undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame and put every one of her contacts at risk.  Keller says that by working with Assange, the Times and other news organizations “compromised their impartiality and independence.”  Christ in a camisole, what an absolutely breathtaking statement.  Nothing compromises the impartiality and independence of the New York Times more than the fact that its executive editor is Bill Keller. 

I don’t have anything especially nice to say about Julian Assange.  From what I read about him, I’d probably wind up kicking his kiester if I spent much time around him.  But then, everything I’ve read about Assange has come from the likes of Keller, who has put the New York Times on an even keel, credibility-wise, with FOX News; and that statement may be an unfair slight to FOX News.  I might actually like Assange.  He might even smell okay.  

It doesn't matter what kind of person Julian Assange is; he’s filling a vital fourth estate role that the mainstream media relinquished long ago, and no one is more directly responsible for the downfall of the MSM’s integrity than Bill Keller.   

And if Keller and the rest of the septic media were doing their job properly, Assange wouldn’t have one.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) is the author of the critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a satire on America’s rise to global dominance.