Sunday, January 08, 2012

Fools and Fanatics and Bull Feather Merchants

by Jeff Huber

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves…”

Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Public Affairs Victoria Clarke, creator of the
Retired Military Analyst propagansda program:
She'll brainwash you and your little dog too!
When deconstructing the flock of war hawkers who comprise the Pentarchy’s propaganda pantheon, I normally stick to teeing off on the top tier: four-star masters of mendacity like King David Petreaus and ex-Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen, DoD civilian lore lords like Victoria Clarke, and trusty echo chamberlains of the mainstream media’s military beat like Michael R. Gordon, Dexter Filkins and the just god-awful Thomas E. Ricks.  

But under the elite stratum of Goebbelites skulks a collection of players who range from the triple-A to the sandlot levels, commonly referred to as the “military press,” who need a shot from the long club as well. These bush leaguers don’t enjoy the vast market that the major moguls command.  They do, however, have a captive audience among the crowd of fools, fanatics, true believers, ends-justify-means Jesuits, Doublethinkers and outright Cheney-class psychopaths who need to be kept on the straight and narrow warpath so they never examine the absurdities they have subscribed to for, in most cases, their entire lives.    

At the top of this pseudo-journalistic underclass are full-color glossy magazines like Joint Force Quarterly (aka JFQ) and Proceedings that you might mistake at first glance for Gentleman’s Quarterly (aka GQ) or Hustler.

A funny thing happened on the way
to the independent forum. 
JFQ is the Joint Chiefs chairman’s personal propaganda platform, used to promote the military’s budgetary, doctrinal and political agendas.  Then chairman Admiral Mike Mullen famously used it during the 2000 presidential campaign to warn of the adverse affect that a Democrat in the Oval Office would have on the “mission in Iraq,” and he did so in an article with the sublimely ironic title “Military Must Stay Apolitical.”  Mullen, the spin-savvy son of a Hollywood press agent, was cunning enough to frame his political message as a wide-spread concern of “the troops,” but after segments of the alternate press threw the bull roar flag at him, Mullen’s keyboard commandos pulled the article from the JFQ website.    

The U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings, a former pseudo-employer of mine, has for decades billed itself as an “independent forum,” a quizzical claim considering that the Institute’s offices are located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy, and that the magazine’s CEO is a retired vice admiral, and that the editorial board consists of active duty career military officers and NCOs, and that every whole-grain company meme that passes through an admiral’s system and clings to a sheet of paper fertilizes a Proceedings cover story.

Uncle Jimbo (left) and Crush of BLACKFIVE
say "Baghdad blowed up real good!"
In the bottom righthand quadrant of the continuum we have the likes of ex-Army person Uncle Jimbo.  Jimbo is the leading luminary of BLACKFIVE, a compendium of comical commentary from a collection of Free Republican G.I. Joe Sixpacks who, like Jimbo, believe that “America is the greatest country to have sprung up here,” and therefore has a manifest mission to blow the lesser countries that have sprung up elsewhere to more smithereens than you can wag a dog at.  According to BLACKFIVE’s editorial guidelines, “PTSD” is spelled p-u-s-s-y.

Kitty cornered from the niche BLACKFIVE infests we have the military intelligencia who produce scholarly journals like Orbis and the now defunct Strategic Review, both edited by Professor Mackubin Thomas Owens.  Owens is presently an Associate Dean of Academics at the U. S. Naval War College where, during my one year of shore duty in the ‘90s, I drank my way through the graduate curriculum in post-modern imperialism.

Professor Owens:
"No, I don't expect you to do all of the
assigned reading. I expect you to die."
Profiled as a “conservative political figure,” Owens served in the Reagan administration, is a regular contributor to National Review, and is afraid of women in the military.  The crowning milestone of Mack’s multitude of warmongering credentials was his co-authorship of the New American Centurions’ September 2000 monograph “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” the neoconservative manifesto that outlined the Bush administration’s grand strategy for dominating the world by establishing a central military base of operations in Iraq.  It’s little wonder, then, that elevated foreign policy journals like Orbis feature the studied sophistry of full-time war wonks who wage a relentless intellectual battle to preserve the the armed forces, armed conflict and their phony-baloney careers in academia, tank thinkery and the assistant cabinet secretarial pool.  Surprisingly, Mack and many other of these high-toned war drummers are Vietnam veterans.  They apparently figure that since they had to fight in a stupid war everyone else should too. 

Somewhere in the middle of all this mind-bending malevolence lies’s editor-in-chief is retired naval flight officer Ward “Tomcat Guy” Carroll, author of juvenile fiction about juvenile fighter pilots.  Ward spent his active duty career lounging in the back seat of F-14 Tomcat fighter jets, drawing cartoons for in-house naval aviation magazines and playing his electric guitar in rock-and-roll bands. His post-Navy efforts as a double-dipping civil servant public affairs operative make him uniquely responsible for the existence of one of the leading killers of U.S. Marines: the V-22 Osprey. Ward was also a pseudo-employer of mine until he spiked one too many of my op-eds when they pulled the noses of his high-powered pals—most notably the detestable Tom Ricks—out of their sockets. 
"Tomcat Guy" Ward Carroll with Cheap Trick.
And they say irony is dead.

Bringing me on board was probably Ward’s half-acre attempt at pretending to have a balanced editorial policy, kind of like how FOX News kept Alan Colmes around all those years.  But Ward keeps on the bandwidth by rebroadcasting whatever the Pentagon's reality rangers tell him to in a way that draws in Uncle Jimbo’s audience and one or two other viewers who can read with their mouths closed.  A good example is a recent article by staff writer Michael Hoffman titled “Texas Guardsmen Warn of Iranian Influence in Iraq.”  It’s an even thinner than usual information attack on Iran that’s dripping in hysterical accusations and arid on supporting evidence.

“Military analysts and Middle East experts have spent years warning about the growing influence of Iran in Iraq,” the piece begins. “A group of Texas National Guardsmen watched it firsthand,” Hoffman tells us, and they came home to share their observations with “congressional lawmakers.”

The unnamed “analysts” and “experts” Hoffman is talking about are Victoria Clarke’s retired military shills like Barry McCaffrey and Jack Jacobs, AIPAC prostitute David Albright, the fear-and-loathers at United Against Nuclear Iran, and the phalanx of other patriotic psychopaths who persistently demonize Iran without producing a parcel of proof to back their claims. 

“A group of Texas National Guardsmen,” we discover later in Hoffman’s story, are Major General Eddy Spurgin and Brigadier General William Smith, a pair of career weekend warriors looking to score points with the denizens of inner ring of the five-sided Rätselschloss.  We also discover that the “congressional delegation” is Republican Congressman from  Texas Mike Conaway who typically grips and grins with returning guardsmen who are stationed in his district.    

Paragraphs deep into Hoffman’s dreck we find that Spurgin and Smith are concerned about Iran’s “malign influence” in Iraq.  But “the Texas soldiers” presentation to Conaway “didn’t focus solely on advanced military operations out of Iran” because they “didn’t witness” any “brash power displays.” Spurgin and Smith instead spun a scary campfire tale about “how something as simple as groceries allows Iran’s government to gain power in Iraq.”   

Sweet mother of pearl.  Everyone involved in the fabrication of this story is as phony as a blue dollar bill.  Bush crony Conaway is a member of the House Armed Services Committee who gained his military expertise during a two-year Army that he served at Fort Hood, Texas around the same time that young Mr. Bush was AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard.  The “infantry division” that Spurgin and Smith command exercises “training and readiness oversight” of other Texas Army National Guard units that, like Guard units from every state, perform combat support functions as doctors, mechanics, clerks, cooks, etc.  The division’s deployment to Iraq was no doubt vital to the care and feeding of the trigger pullers doing the actual fighting, but how it put Spurgin or Smith in a position to observe Iranian infiltration of Iraq will no doubt remain an unsolved mystery. 

Brigadier Smith: Lean, mean, Texas
National Guard fighting machine.
According to General Spurgin’s official bio, he is a conservationist in civilian life, suggesting that his experience in intelligence is limited to unearthing the secrets of preserving wildlife and natural resources.  Brigadier Smith’s bio doesn’t say what he does full time, or give any inkling of how he comes to understand the methods by which Iran is using groceries to take over Iraq, though his official photo suggests that he does have a working knowledge of groceries.

Military journalist Mike Hoffman used to make a living as an Air Force intelligence officer.  As I’ve noted before, military intelligence is to intelligence what Kenny G is to jazz.  Air Force intelligence is to military intelligence what Barry Manilow is to rock and roll.  Maybe that explains why Hoffman didn't question any of the intelligence Spurgin and Smith fed him for the article.  Maybe it also explains how he wound up being a mildly successful military correspondent.  As an intelligence weenie he learned the art of fabricating facts that his warmonger masters wanted to hear, so tapping out hackery--like this cockamamie "report" about a pair of ambitious play-warriors that was transparent excuse to repeat long standing but still unsubstantiated allegations that Iran has been training and arming Iraqi militants to kill American troops--was was a natural transition for him.     

As to the question of whether I’m being a big blue martinet for chaining a fistful of minor league news mongers to the whipping post, the answer is not just “no.” It’s one word longer. These Durham bull feather merchants would snap at a chance to move up to The Show faster than you can say “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”  They’re every bit as eager and able to peddle death, destruction and human misery in pursuit of personal fame and fortune as their counterparts in the Big Brother Broadcast, and they not only deserve to be regarded with the same degree of disdain and ridicule, they demand it. 

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.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Wars of Diminishing Returns

by Jeff Huber

“We are engaged in a long war…” – Newt Gingrich

“No nation ever profited from a long war” – Sun Tzu

We continue to hurtle further down the slope that leads to the edge of the same cliff that the Athenians and the Romans and the English and the French and the Germans and the Japanese and the Russians drove themselves over.  I wrote some years ago that empires have a penchant for becoming footnotes in succeeding empires’ history books because they fail to learn that the military power that brought them to preeminence was insufficient to keep them there.  

The United States has arrived at the moment the Romans found themselves in during the reign of Commodus, son of the general and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, the last of Rome’s “Five Good Emperors.”  They say the acorn never falls far from the tree, but someone must have come along and kicked Commodus down the hill and over the dale. 

Dick Cheney circa 1500.
Commodus was the first in a long line of Roman emperors to consolidate his power by bribing Rome’s elite military forces into supporting him.  Eventually, as Renaissance era political science virtuoso Niccolò Machiavelli noted in his seminal work The Art of War, the Praetorian Guard became “insolent and formidable, not only to the Senate but to the emperors themselves” and in time the Guard “put many emperors to death and disposed of the Empire as it pleased.”  That, Machiavelli observed, was decisive point that transformed the Romans into the Italians of his day, a pseudo-confederacy of warring principalities that became a low-hanging-fruit target for foreign interlopers.

Like it or not, the history of humanity is the history of its wars.  Other stuff happened, sure, stuff that enriched human existence rather than debased it, but none of our man-made beauty would have been created without the man-made horror that accompanied armed conflict.  Italy’s Renaissance period that spanned the 14th to the 17th century, a flowering of literature, science, art, education and intellectual growth, could not have occurred without the internecine violent conflict that Machiavelli chronicled (and played a large part in fomenting.  One could justifiably argue that Machiavelli was Renaissance Italy's moral and political equivalent of Dick Cheney, though old Nick leaves dirty Dick in the dust when it comes to cognition).  Conflict is, in fact, the very essence of art, as the core purpose of art is to resolve conflict.  You will never witness a superior work of art, be it visual (painting, sculpture and so on), language (plays, movies, books and the like), musical (including the dreck you see on the annual Grammy awards) or social (politics, war, sports) that is not characterized by an underlying tension created by opposing forces. 

Like other human societies, the America we know today could not have come to be—for better or for worse—without its unrelenting procession of wars.  The birth of our nation was its armed rebellion and revolution against the British.  We then fought a line of internal and external wars of establishment, consolidation and expansion.  The Spanish American War, in which we enlarged and solidified our sphere of influence in the Pacific and the Caribbean, was the war that announced our intention to be reckoned with as an equal of the Old World powers.  

America's intervention in World War I America’s insistence that it would have a say in Europe’s affairs.  It also, in retrospect, proved to be a prime example of how war aims, especially the aims of optional wars, are seldom realized and, moreover, usually give way to unintended and unwanted consequences. 

Neocon Dick after five centuries
of cryogenic preservation.
I subscribe to the school that says we would have ascended to global hegemony if we had stiff-armed “The Great War” and let the Euros slug it out among themselves until they’d lost their taste for war forever.  Then we could have dictated terms by which we fed Europe until it could grow another generation of able-bodied men who could take up the plow again.  That would most probably have preempted the need for a Second World War to mop up the unfinished business of the first one, and would likely have also averted the emergence of the Soviet Union and the Cold War and our dirty little third world proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam and, most relevant to us now, the first superpower substitute war in Afghanistan, in which we created a guerilla force adversary to defeat the Soviets as payback for Vietnam that we ourselves are hopelessly, haplessly grappling with today. 

But we let ourselves get stuck on our zippers in the First World War when peace didn’t produce the results Woodrow Wilson had envisioned, and immersion in the Second World War was pretty much unavoidable, as was the rest of the follow-on fornicating mess. 

Application of military force in World War II established American as a first-magnitude superpower.  Since then, however, our investment in war has produced exponentially diminishing returns.  Our best-trained, best-equipped military has only been effective as a force-in-being that, like a fleet-in-being, can exert influence on world events through the simple fact of its existence.  Our Cold War arsenal clearly deterred another outbreak of general war in Europe and a global nuclear doom Krieg.  But every time we committed ourselves to fuzzy pretext land wars against pathetically inferior forces, we managed to shoot our baby makers off.  

By the time the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, America had been on a wartime footing for a half-century, and the shadow powers that be had no interest in allowing the country to become that kinder, gentler, shining city on the hill that Big Daddy and The Great Communicator talked about.  We’re still on a war economy for the same reasons we’re still in an oil economy and a tobacco economy.  War and oil and tobacco are still making large lucre, and it’s a bad business decision to change products when the old product is still turning a pandemic profit.

The trilateral power elite.
That’s largely why the New American Centurions aka the neoconservative cabal were able to so completely gain the support of the Rockefeller trilateralists and whatever other theoretical conspirators we suspect to be the hidden masters of the known universe.  In September 2000, the Centurions published a neo-imperialist manifesto titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses that proclaimed, in essence, that American had a global leadership responsibility to single-handedly ensure the survival of warfare as a vibrant, ongoing human institution because nobody else had to the oomph to do it anymore. 

Even the neocons must have realized that their stated ambition sounded like so much whack-a-doodle-doo, because they confessed that the American public was unlikely to fall for their shenanigan ideology barring a “new Peal Harbor.”  Then 9/11/2001 came along, almost a year to the day after Rebuilding America’s Defenses polluted the information highway, and the neos got just what they were looking for. 

The grand-sounding doctrines and strategies we were promised would assure victory in the “new kind of war” we were embarking upon—Shock and Awe and Network Centric Warfare and Counterinsurgency aka COIN and the Revolution in Military Affairs aka RMA and Transformation and the Long War and Persistent Conflict and the rest of the unrefined used horse lunch that the Pentagon and its pet newsmongers have been spoon feeding us for roughly the last decade—have been nothing but one big, red, shiny, fat-assed, expensive failure after the next.  Every place we have bombed, boarded, bludgeoned, beheaded and bloodied, from Iraq to the Bananastans to Libya to Somalia to Yemen, looks like a big-city zoo ten minutes after the force-ten earthquake hit it. 

Our generals and the sycophant politicians who grovel at their spit-polished feet would have us believe that we now have to dedicate the next 80 years or so into rounding up all the critters we let loose and putting them back in their cages.  Well guess what, folks.  All them loose critters are making new critters faster than we can give Dick Cheney's pals no-bid contracts to build new cages to put them all in.  You cannot win un-winnable wars.  The longer you pursue them, the longer it takes to lose them.  

We have overreacted to the 9/11 attacks to a degree that must have exceeded Osama bin Laden’s hopes by magnitudes.  In exacting revenge for approximately 3,000 American innocents killed in the New York and Washington D.C. guerilla air raids, we have directly caused the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Asians and have destroyed the lives of millions of others.  We spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined to wage wars with vaguely identifies adversaries that have no defense budget whatsoever while our economy follows the birds to their summer retreats. 

G.I. Shmo
Our military’s officer corps has become a culture of Petraeus worshiping yes-colonels who pine to become yes-generals.  The only warriors who count anymore are the bull feather merchant marines who conjure the pro-war propaganda that their echo chamberlains in the media pawn off on us as “news.”  Our country has become the abject servant of the American Pentarchy, that cabal of sandbox generalsbathtub admiralsbeltway banditsAIPAC ratsWarlord FauntleroysNew American Centurions, post-modern PraetoriansLong War legislatorsDr. StrangelovesG.I. Joe Six-PacksPavlov’s dogs of warpatriotic psychopaths and other oligarchs whose narrow self interests and well-funded efforts have made the long dreamed-of permanent American security state a reality.  The military-industrial complex that launched our reign as a superpower is about to grind it to a bitter end.

But heck, who wants to look a 19-year old wounded war veteran in what’s left of his face and tell him all that?

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.