Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category
A few days in the desert clearing my mind, and I’m back, safe and sound. Maybe not completely sound. No, I’m not in the above image. I’m the one in the 100 year old mine tunnel taking the picture. My friends did not share my belief that “It’s perfectly safe.” Of course it wasn’t perfectly safe, a half wheelbarrow full of gravel and rocks could have showered on my head at the entrance, falling from a few inches. I would have been bruised and dirty. Inside the tunnel, if it was a Hollywood movie, the entire tunnel could have caved in on me, crushing me in front of my horrified friend’s eyes. In real life, tunnels cut through solid dry rock are used as bomb shelters. Yes, there was a minuscule chance that a boulder could have fallen from the ceiling and killed me. Probably about the same risk I take crossing the busy corner by my house several times a day. It’s all about relative risk people.
Speaking of relative risk, standing near New York cops when they open fire clearly has some hazards. They managed to hit nine bystanders while gunning down an armed man?! Is this some sort of record? Fortunately only the suspect was killed, and none of the nine was seriously injured, few of them being directly shot. As police shootings go, this one seems justified to me, so hopefully there won’t be too much hue and cry. And another example of the need for cradle-to-grave health care. Sadly there will now be lawsuits instead.
Speaking of graves, Neil Armstrong is dead. He was a good man, a true hero. And not so much a hero for being the first man to step on the Moon, a hero for being humble about it and sharing the credit for what was a team effort involving tens of thousands of people. Yes, he “flubbed” his line when he was the first person to step on the Moon, but anyone with a functioning brain understood what he meant. He was kinda nervous at the time, so I think we can safely say he gets a pass. And no, he wasn’t an Atheist; and the Mr Gorsky thing is an urban legend.
Two nice segues in a row, but now I got nothing. I have done a bit of digging, and discovered that 31 states allow rapists some parental rights. And that Ryan, Romney’s running mate, co-sponsored a bill that would have given parental rights to rapists. I really hope some gentle reader can confirm that this isn’t true. I did seem to find evidence that Ryan believes that rape is “just another method of conception.” Yeah, and murder is just another form of death. This is the problem with ideology (and “life begins at conception” is as ideological as it gets,) it means that followed to its logical conclusions in any number of directions, one gets sick absurdities. No, rape is not “just another method of conception,” it’s a terrible crime. And rapists do not have parental rights. The Republicans need to clarify their position on this.
A Jason left a nasty comment on my “We Could Have Won Vietnam” post, it’s the last comment. Sigh. Aside from missing the point of the post, he not only regurgitates the myth that we fought the Vietnam War with our hands tied behind our backs for political reasons; he comes up with a new myth, that our victories in World War Two were due to barbarism and unrestricted warfare. No, our victories in World War Two were because the Allies built dozens of planes and tanks and ships for every one that Japan and German built. The war crimes the USA committed on the side had no appreciable effect on the outcome of the war. And no, I’m not going to make any pro forma remarks about competence and heroism by Americans during the war. Deal with it.
Iran has opened the Summit of Nonaligned Nations with a call for a world wide ban on nuclear arms. A prominent Israeli spiritual leader called for Jews to pray for “the annihilation of Iran.” What’s wrong with this picture? Not to be out done, North Korea’s Kim has threatened war over a joint US/South Korean military drill. Of course if Russia and Mexico held an annual military drill in the Gulf of Mexico involving tens of thousands of Russian troops and nuclear weapons, the USA would be threatening war as well. Alas, most people are so wedded to their good guy/bad guy world view that they can’t imagine other perspectives. I still remember an online friend who insisted that it was “illogical” for Iraqi insurgents to be attacking US troops. One of the finest examples of Straw Vulcan Logic I have ever heard.
I hope everyone had a great weekend. ;)
(The above image is Copyrighted with the awesome might of the US legal system behind it, and may not be reproduced for any purpose. Credit and copyright 2012 Doug Stych, all rights reserved. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to publish it, but am very reasonable if asked. Coming someday, more desert pictures, some inspired by the fine photography of Mary Molnar.)
I made the mistake of watching the TV news last night. Senator McCain was openly calling for the USA and the west to support the rebels in Syria. Heck, even Angelina Jolie is calling for intervention. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that it’s gonna happen one way or the other. And I do mean out on a limb, anyone who has been paying attention knows that all bets are off in the Middle East right now. Well, specific bets at least. In general, it seems safe to say that the trend has been from order to disorder. It’s also very safe to say that the west has been batting 1000 when it comes to recent humanitarian interventions in the greater Middle East. Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya are all text book failed states … it’s hard to imagine Syria ending up any differently.
So, what happens if Syria turns into a failed state? Well, note Syria’s proximity to Iraq. Iraq is still out of control a decade after the fall of Saddam, it’s kinda like a free trade zone for non western approved activity. This means whatever is going on in Iraq will be able to spread freely to Syria, in fact there’s evidence it’s already doing so. Kurdish insurgents will now have access to the Mediterranean coast. Hezbollah will have more secure supply lines to Iran. Turkey, Israel, and Jordan will have more border issues. It’s interesting to note that Iran is hedging its bets, Iranian warships have docked in Syria. So they likely win either way. And Jordan and Saudi Arabia may very well see more internal unrest.
So who benefits? Israel will be happy to see the Assad regime go, though it may well end up being a mixed blessing for Israel. Other than that, it’s hard to see who is going to benefit from having the bloody stain on the map that is Iraq spread to Syria. Syria has no oil and is no threat to the international bankers. So what gives, is the USA really driven by humanitarian concerns? Um, no, similar rebellions are crushed all the time without “benefit” of western intervention. Heck, usually with little or no mention in the western press at all. Maybe some of the people calling for intervention are driven by humanitarian impulses, if so, they haven’t been paying attention the past decade or so. Insert obligatory comment about how one definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results here.
My current theory is that US foreign policy is driven by, well, inertia. The World War Two and Cold War “arsenal of democracy” and liberator mentality lurching forward of its own momentum. Driven by an array of well healed special interests, most purely looking out for themselves, some by the attendant ideological canard that peace and freedom can be brought to other lands at the point of a gun. And none of these interests seems really cognizant of the fact that the world is moving beneath their feet. Profits are still up, the rich are still getting richer, what’s the prob?
In Iran it’s even clearer that the same old dog eared, blood stained, playbook is in use. Make an ultimatum that is basically outrageous (shut down your nuclear industry or else in Iran’s case,) refuse to talk until they do so, and simultaneously claim to be using “diplomacy” to “solve” the “crisis.” The only crisis is that the USA is making demands that it would never bow to if it was on the receiving end, but oddly enough, despite many American’s claiming that we are a Christian nation, apparently they are comfortable with a foreign policy that is about as far from the golden rule as it is possible to get. Which I am beginning to suspect is the primary function of religion in society, to mask and justify the kinds of hypocrisy that allow massive inequities of wealth and power to exist both domestically and internationally.
And, well, among genders. There has been a war of sorts going on in the USA ever since modern birth control gave women control of their lives in the 1960s, there are a lot of men who are still not comfortable with this at all, as bitter and ongoing efforts to limit access to birth control in the USA demonstrate. I am suspecting that the USA’s incredible effort to “control” the world is to some extent driven by the same social and cultural forces trying to force America’s women back into the home, barefoot and pregnant, where they belong. That however is a topic for future blog posts.
Or maybe we’re just insane as a species.
(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law, having been produced by the federal government. Note how large Iran is compared to Iraq. And anytime a country destabilizes, its borders destabilize. Notice how long Iran’s borders are.)
Just a few more hours and the tenth anniversary of 9/11 will be history. Of course in a sense 9/11 will never be over, we have entire institutions and wars devoted to the memory of 9/11, and they aren’t going to slip quietly into the night. In a way, and not a good way, 9/11 is becoming a cult. I’m sick of it. 9/11 was like a rat biting an elephant on the snout. Yeah, it hurt like hell, and yeah it pissed us off. And we should have squashed the rat and carried on. Instead, we have spent ten years trumpeting and snorting wildly, wreaking havoc around us and wearing ourselves into exhaustion in the process. And even though a few months back we finally trampled on the rat that bit us, there’s no sign of an end to the madness.
Sigh. I’ve avoided most of the news today, but I did catch that Obama said that 9/11 “made us stronger.” No surprise there, this is the guy who claimed that Navy Seals gunning down an unarmed old man in his PJs was one of the “greatest military operations in US history.” Obama’s ability to utter the most egregious nonsense while appearing sober and presidential is what got him elected, and he’s clearly not lost his touch.
No, 9/11 did not make us stronger. Or to be more accurate, our response to 9/11 did not make us stronger, it made us weaker. The Bush administration and a compliant media encouraged the USA to hysterically over-react to 9/1, and we paid and are still paying a terrible price for it. A price in both treasure and blood, a price vastly greater than our losses on that day ten years ago. And the horrors we have inflicted on other lands in the name of 9/11, are these the actions of a Christian nation?
Our costs though. In treasure, it’s been enormous. Three trillion dollars at least for the cost of our wars and increased homeland “security.” And even if we ended the War on Terror tomorrow, there would still be trillions more to go in terms of veteran’s care in decades to come. This is money we didn’t have, it was borrowed from our grandchildren, plain and simple. There’s not any question that we got almost no economic benefit from this spending, aside from obscenely enriching the arms and security industry. This added debt is a huge part of why our economy is on the ropes, how the hell does piles of debt make a nation stronger?
Then there’s the cost in blood. Several tens of thousands of Americans have been killed and maimed in our wars, the actual numbers are muddy because the Pentagon works very hard to conceal and obfuscate them. And hundreds of thousands more veterans will have permanent psychological issues and trauma from their service, about one in three combat veterans never really get over it in one sense or another. This is a terrible cost by any measure, and for what? Propping up two of the world’s most corrupt field states? Sending Americans to die on the other side of the planet doesn’t make us stronger, it makes us weaker.
And then there’s the psychological cost. The hysteria mongering after 9/11 was among the most intense in history. The government left no stone unturned telling Americans that terrible monsters lurked everywhere, and that we had to give the government a blank check, including suspending some of our own freedoms, to fight this new menace or surely a falling airliner or a dirty bomb or germ warfare would be coming soon to a neighbourhood near them. And Americans, traumatized by the endlessly repeated sights of 9/11, fell for this twaddle by the tens of millions and gave the Bush administration the green light to seize control of the world’s oil. And it continues to this day, tens of millions of Americans dutifully regurgitate “our troops are fighting for our freedom” while the administration continues to weave tales of terror and death. Letting fear of a trivial enemy guide our national policy does not make us a stronger nation, it makes us a nation of cowards and sheep.
Lastly, I’m saddened and disgusted by what a narcissistic spectacle 9/11 and the “War on Terror” has become. It’s like when Commodus, the Emperor of Rome, took to fighting naked gladiatorial contests in the Colosseum. And charging the city staggering sums of money for the privilege. All right thinking Romans were horrified. The survivors and heroes of 9/11 should be mourning quietly and privately, not being paraded through the streets of Rome for the glory of the Empire.
It’s really that weird.
(The above image is claimed as Public Domain under US copyright law as it was painted in 1526. It’s a Painting titled “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. It’s just another way to articulate the situation we find ourselves in: America went mad on 9/11, and its going to get worse before it gets better.)
Doug: Woohoo! Mission accomplished, again! How many countries can win the same war twice? Of course Iraq is still a ghastly bloody failed state, and we simply relabeled the remaining troops in Iraq as “non-combat” troops, as if that means anything when people are shooting at you. Jesus wept.
Geoffrey: Or they’ll just find their way to another war. MACHINE…MUST…FEED.
Doug: When I was a kid, peace was a good thing. Now we have perpetual war, this is progress?
Geoffrey: I have no readily available facts to base this on, but my theory is that as populations increase, and available resources decrease, war increases exponentially. Could it be that nature, through war, is finding a way to control the population?
Well. That last was a thought provoking comment. Too interesting to pass up, and any response to it would be too long for a Facebook comment. So I am going to post my thoughts here in no particular order.
The last first: Could it be that nature, through war, is finding a way to control the population? There’s a number of reasons to suspect this isn’t the case. The basic one being, it’s historically been a trivial cause of death. In the 20th century, replete with two world wars and some of history’s greatest atrocities, only a few percent of deaths were war related. While locally wars may kill a huge percentage of certain populations (one of many good reasons to avoid them,) in the greater scheme of things most people die of old age, heart attacks, illness, etc. In fact the later seems to be nature’s favourite method of dealing with some troublesome organism that is breeding like mad and spreading out of control. Plague.
Still, Geoffrey’s first point still stands independent of that. … as populations increase, and available resources decrease, war increases exponentially. Well, wars have certainly been fought over access to resources. Heck, it might be safe to say that a majority of wars have been fought over access to resources. Any number of colonial wars, both against natives to steal their resources, or among the colonial powers as they fought over colonies. And even when wars weren’t initiated over resources, access to resources (or denial of same) became important strategies in virtually all large scale wars.
On the other hand, throughout most of human history, population increase has been relatively modest even in the best of times. Combine that with paucity of good data about same and, well, endless warfare, I think it would be hard to make a case that population increase led to war. Maybe some local squabbles, but I can’t think of any ancient war off hand that was triggered by population increase and strained resource access. I’m not ruling it out, but I think it would be hard to parse any real solid evidence pro or con, simply because human population increase was so modest … and war so common.
That was then. In the past few hundred years, human populations have been growing nicely. And it would be hard to deny that expanding populations drove some wars, especially wars against various of the world’s aboriginal people. And there’s no doubt that many other wars of the past few centuries have been about access to resources. However, were nations or people trying to access resources because of population pressure? Well, no. I can’t think of any modern large scale war (war between nation states) that was caused by population pressure.
So have I demolished Geoffrey’s theory? Well, no. The world’s population continues to grow at a dizzying pace, and good case can be made that along side Peak Oil, we will also be soon seeing Peak Water, Peak Wheat, Peak Rice, etc. And when one has steadily increasing demand against a backdrop of fixed or even dropping production, things can go from seeming OK to really bad in a very short time. Which is one of the reasons why population growth is one of the greatest threats facing humanity today. If something seriously disrupted global food supplies, and there’s all sorts of reasons why this is inevitable, people are still going to need food. So it’s not hard to imagine a future world where Geoffrey’s Theory proves frighteningly prescient. Maybe a very near future world.
Have a great weekend everyone. Keep stocking those larders!
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s central to illustrating the post, it’s arguably an important historical image, and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit and copyright: AP Photo. It’s the last American “combat brigade” pulling out of Iraq. And no worries, there will be a future follow-up post on overpopulation, lily ponds, and war.)
And not just General Petraeus, it’s almost common knowledge that the USA never lost a battle in Vietnam. In fact, I know this is going to be hard to believe, I myself have been repeating this canard for years. And in a certain sense it’s true, in that the USA never lost a huge battle like Dien Bien Phu or Stalingrad in Vietnam. However, there were few, if any, battles during the Vietnam war that reached that kind of size, so it’s kind of misleading information. Worse, it’s been used to bolster the myth that the American soldier is invincible, and that we lost the war because of USA domestic politics and lack of will.
Here then, five Vietnam War battles that Hollywood won’t be making into movies anytime soon:
1. Iron Hand Air Strikes (13 August 1965): 76 American carrier aircraft launched low level attacks to seek and destroy North Vietnamese SAM sites. 5 aircraft shot down, 7 damaged, 3 pilots killed. SAM sites located and attacked: Zero.
2. Air Battle (23 august 1967): Nguyan Van Coc, the war’s greatest fighter ace, leads a few MIGs on an attack on a group of 40 American fighters and bombers. They shoot down 3 Phantom jet fighters and an F-105 fighter-bomber, 8 American aviators captured or killed. Vietnamese loses: Zero. (Yeah, I could see them making a movie about this in Vietnam.)
3. Operation Linebacker II, Day Three (20 December 1972): Eight out of 99 B-52s on a raid over Hanoi were shot down, 36 Americans killed or captured. This day’s raids unaccountably used the exact same timing and routes as the two previous days, it’s no wonder the Vietnamese were ready for them.
4. Attack on Firebase Mary Ann (28 march 1971): Viet Cong sappers launch a surprise attack on an American base, catching it by surprise and breaching its defences before the Americans could respond. 33 Americans were killed and 83 wounded, the deadliest attack on an American base during the war.
5. Battle of Two July (2 July 1967): A battalion of Marines went up a road looking for the enemy, they found them. Details are still a little vague on this one, but the US lost 53 known dead, 190 wounded, and 34 MIA.
I could go on, there’s fifteen more listed on this site. It’s depressing and even a bit morbid though, but it illustrates a number of important points that they don’t make in schools often enough. In fact not even sure they make them in schools at all.
First of all, governments lie. This is especially true when it comes to war. At lot of information about the lost battles of Vietnam is coming from survivors, not the government. And since then, the government has gone to ever more fabulous lengths to hide the true costs of war. In Vietnam reporters could go wherever they liked, it was one of the best reported on wars in history. Now we have “embedded” reporters telling us what the government wants us to hear. Yeah, that’s freedom of the press. Secondly, and more importantly, we have gone to great lengths to avoid casualties. Um, what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with that is you can’t win people’s hearts and minds while your forces sit inside fortified bases and travel around in giant armoured machines. And blowing up people with pilotless drones, often innocent people, can’t be making much of a positive impression either.
The main point, is that in Vietnam we were trying to refight World War Two. Hell, we dropped more bombs during the Vietnam War than were dropped by all of the participants in all of World War Two. It was an incredibly expensive war, and since our enemies weren’t making the same mistake, they ultimately outlasted us and won the war. And In Afghanistan and Iraq, it’s even worse. Rather than really examining what happened in Vietnam, our leaders have just “fixed” the “problems” that supposedly lost the Vietnam War. No draft, no reporters, keep American troops out of harm’s way at all times. Well, in the sense of avoiding internal dissent and opposition to the war, it’s worked like a charm. We could be in Afghanistan and Iraq forever without significant domestic opposition to the war, so we have to win sooner or later!
Well, no. First of all fighting this kind of “both arms tied behind our back” war is fabulously expensive, and unsustainable in the long run. Secondly, we’re not going to win … because we’re not really fighting. Our incredible firepower and massive amounts of military hardware has allowed us to station troops in both countries and keep them relatively safe from harm, but they don’t really control anything outside of their bases. And it hardly needs to be said, but if dropping more bombs than were dropped in World War Two didn’t win Vietnam, blowing people up with pilotless drones isn’t going to do the trick either. Our enemies know all they have to do is attack anyone who cooperates with us, and sooner or later we will leave. Because we sure as hell don’t have the stones to come out and actually fight.
Neither war, Iraq nor Afghanistan, is really a war at all in some senses. It’s a bizarre exercise to justify infinite defence spending and keep keep the Republicans and the Democrats in power, with no real long term strategy or goals. I mean, does anyone seriously believe that somehow Iraq and Afghanistan are going to magically turn into loyal secular allies like Japan and Germany did after World War Two? The two longest wars in US history, and the governments we put in power are two of the most corrupt and ineffective and unpopular governments on the planet. Staying in Iraq and Afghanistan forever is going to fix that?
In a very real sense, the people running the USA and our military have been living in a fantasy world since World War Two. And most Americans being raised in this fantasy bubble, think it’s normal. No, it’s not normal. And it’s not going to end well, wishing and hoping and giant military toys never won a war yet.
(The above image appears to be public domain under US copyright law, I’m claiming it as Fair Use nonetheless. It’s American soldiers advancing during Vietnam while the choppers above them pour machine gun fire into the tree line they are advancing toward. I chose it because it is an interesting image I thought. And it illustrates the incredible amount of spending that the American way of war has evolved into. I mean, just think what it must cost to run a bunch of helicopters like that, to capture some trees? Madness.)
I had an impromptu conversation last night with a vet who served in Iraq, I thought it was worth sharing:
[Spence] : not to wallow but 6 years military with a deployment goes a long way to explain divorce. was is rough on marriages.
[Spence] : war is rough on marriages
[Doug]: Understood, it’s rough on all the participants from what I can tell.
[Spence] : “sarcasm” the best part is the kind of husband i was when i came home. if you know some of the stats war has a way of changing people forever
[Doug]: I blog about it all the time, few participants come home unscathed. One of the many reasons war should be the last option, not the first
[Spence] : forever hence the escape into gaming, im not really a people person anymore.
[Spence] : i could’t agree more
[Spence] : trying to explain what happens in war is impossible if you have never experienced it.
[Spence] : it really is an exclusive club
[Spence] : just not a club someone wants to be a part of
[Doug]: No one really sane at least. I was lucky, never got stationed outside the USA.
[Spence]: And a good thing too
[Spence] : then you have a small taste from the training. you have the idea that its not like in the movies.
[Doug]: Yeah, again, I rant about that all the time on my blog.
[Spence] : nothing against civilians, they just dont understand. they dont know. im glad they dont
[Doug]: You ever want to publish some of your thoughts there, always happy to get first person contributions. Doug’s Darkworld
[Spence] : i have told some people my thoughts about it and they get this funny look in their eyes. this laid back cool guy has “KILLED”.
[Spence] : that look really hurts when you see it in your wife’s eyes
[Doug]: Yeah, that sounds rough.
[Spence] : the younger folk, teens think its “cool” the guys my age dont understand and the older men
[Spence] : from vietnam understand perfectly
[Spence] : we all have little emotional holes that we hide from the world and we try to fill them, unsuccesfully
[Spence] : some turn to drugs, booze, violence,*me, i shut myself down and act around people the way i think they want.
[Spence] : we all have our little twitches.
[Doug]: War is an incredibly unatural and unhealthy experience, it’s a wonder people cope as well as they do with it.
[Spence] : we dont, we get by. try this if i ever met you in real life the first thought would be if you are a threat
[Spence] : the 2nd is what can i use as a weapon??
[Spence] : the last is usually “where is the rest of the team”
[Spence] : like you said it is unatural and probably permanent
Published with his permission. He said that this does not necessarily reflect the opinions of all veterans, just him and ones he has talked to. I will be publishing more first person accounts as I get them. Thanks for sharing Spence.
Well, I got my Internet connection back, and I got my cable TV back, all is right with the universe. At least my little corner of it. Lots of news this week, though it’s more and more apparent to me that what passes for news in the mainstream media is little more than talking points issued by the administration on behalf of their corporate handlers. So with that in mind, a random look at the week’s “news.”
US soldiers withdraw from Iraqi cities! This was touted as some sort of big moment for Iraqis, the Iraqi government even went so far as to declare it a national holiday. This is just another in an endless series of stage managed events for the benefit of the American taxpayers. Pretty much the story of our occupation of Iraq from the get go, when the Pentagon bussed a handful of Kurds around to have pics of happy Iraqis welcoming our troops. Or the Saddam statue pull-down. The reality is that packing up your tent and moving it a few miles down the road doesn’t constitute a “withdrawal” of any sort. We still have a massive (and mind numbingly expensive) military presence in Iraq with no sign it’s going anywhere soon. And the Iraqi “government” is a puppet government at best, a quisling government at worst.
Moving right along, I read an article about an interview with President Obama. I was shocked by a few points, so I’ll comment on this news article. It starts with Obama lecturing the Russians and telling them “The Cold War” is history. Excuse me? Yes, for Russia it’s history. For the USA and its allies, the Cold War never ended. NATO wasn’t dissolved, it in fact has been expanded right up to Russia’s borders with plans to expand it into the former Soviet Union on the table. NATO is fighting in Afghanistan. In other words the US Cold War policy of encircling, isolating, and weakening Russia continues to this day. As long as NATO still exists, the USA is in Cold War mode, that Obama can say this sort of insulting nonsense with a straight face shows what a consummate politician and liar he is.
The article goes on to say “With most experts in agreement that there’s a good chance Iran could have a usable nuclear bomb sometime during his presidency.” Actually, the experts say precisely the opposite, the USA’s own intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran stopped working on bombs years ago. And yet here is a “news” article basically stating as fact that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons. In the same vein Obama said that Iran cannot be allowed to become a “nuclear power,” whatever that was supposed to mean. More effort to conflate Iran’s nuclear program with a weapon’s program, so that the demonisation of Iran can continue apace. As I have stated before, Iran’s nuclear program is completely legal under international law (unlike, say, Israel’s covert nuclear program,) perfectly sensible for them in an economic sense, and even if they did build a few nukes, so what? The USA and Israel’s vast modern nuclear arsenal is more than a match for a few fifties eras nukes and will be for generations to come.
In any event I will post more on Iran and the situation there sometime next week. Unlike most people who simply regurgitate talking points (TV really has destroyed most people’s ability to think for themselves) I try to look at as much of the picture as I can and come to my own conclusions. And there’s a whole lot of “big picture” when it comes to Iran, so I will be doing a lot of research this weekend. I may even change my mind about aspects of the situation, it’s been known to happen.
To be fair, the article did end with one Obama quote that I am in complete agreement with. When it was pointed out that since he signed the $780 billion economic stimulus bill in February, the economy has lost more than 2 million jobs, Obama said: “What we are still seeing is too many jobs lost, …” As the expression so crudely puts it, no shit Sherlock. All the various stimulus packages around the world did was shovel more money upwards, basically bandaging the problem while the foundation of the economy continues to rot. No matter how much lipstick and perfume you use, a stinking corpse is still a stinking corpse.
Next week, Iran, maybe more on the economy, the Battle of Gettysburg, and watever else pops up. Have a great weekend everyone.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s almost certainly public domain, is an historically important image, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. I don’t even know who to credit it to, if anyone knows let me know and I will properly attribute it. The image is from Catherine the Great’s grand tour of newly acquired lands in Crimea in 1787. It was alleged that General Potemkin built fake villages to impress the Empress with the value of Potemkin’s conquests. How much truth there is to the story is debateable, but it does nicely illustrate that the idea of using spin to legitimize invasion and conquest has been around for a awhile.)
It appears we aren’t all going to die of the swine flu just yet. That pretty much covers that topic. A few points to reiterate. The reason this was such a big deal, though the media did overreact, was that this is a new and and contagious disease. Yes, it is a flu, but it was a brand new flu that humans had never been exposed to before. And sometimes new diseases can be quite lethal. Right now it’s looking like it isn’t terribly lethal and it’s not spreading as fast as it could have. It’s possible it will come back with a vengeance next fall, but presumably by then we will have a vaccine.
Another point is that from what I have read, is that historically it appears that quarantines can work for small isolated communities and remote islands, but efforts to quarantine large cities, regions, or countries are ineffectual. So there was no point shutting down the border, the fact of the matter is that the authorities handled this fairly well. At least in the USA. The Egyptians killing all their pigs is strange, but governments aren’t always rational, and often don’t want to lose face by admitting they blew it.
Speaking of which, the endless US occupation of Iraq continues. In fact violence seems to be ticking up again, not surprising considering what a horrible mess the country is. It’s not really a country actually, or a very fractured one a best. So the USA evacuation of Iraqi cities, whatever that means, may be delayed. I’m not betting on a voluntary US withdrawal any time soon, and even if we do, the country will fall to pieces, not transform into some Germany or Japan magically rising out of the bloody sands of the Middle East.
It’ even less likely that Afghanistan will be building any American fast food franchises soon, they don’t even have a Green Zone. Still, western armies have been campaigning in the region for centuries, so tis may go o awhile. I guess the theory is that someday we will get it right? Beats me. Things are no better in Pakistan. Historically when it comes to western crusades in Asia, we can look forward to endless low grade fighting, with the occasional disaster. Well, and endless piles of dead brown civilians, but that doesn’t even make it it on radar in the west. On the plus side these endless colonial adventures keep us supplied with veterans should we ever actually have to defend our country I suppose.
OK, so we’ve covered war and plague. In the other pillar of the trifecta of bad news we’re dealing with these days, the economy. It’s still not looking good. Warren Buffet says things are cool, but I’m not a big follower of prophets of any sort as my readers may have discerned. A prophet in a fellow who has made a string of lucky guesses. I’m still predicting that things will get worse before they get better. And in any case, for most of us in America, no matter how badly our wars, our economy, or the flu transpires, life will go on.
And the Obama administration will go on. At this point I’m more disappointed than my worst fears. Obama continues to use his golden tongue to say nice liberal sounding things, but there’s been no real change from Bush’s policies both foreign and domestic. He’s increased military spending, widened our foreign wars, continued to shovel money into the bankers ravenous maw. Some change. He’s even completely caved on looking into some of the human rights abuses under Bush, under the “we must look forward” mantra. Right, we’re still hunting down octogenarian prison guards from a war that ended in the first half of the last century, but crimes committed by the last administration have to be swept under the rug?
Worse, Obama’s election seems to have completely eviscerated what was left of the antiwar and liberal movements in the USA. Or at least made it completely PC to ignore any hint of liberalism in the media. I mean, we have a black, liberal president, so how can the liberals complain? Snort. However, rather than rant at length about this, I will link to a site which covers the whole topic in depth. I don’t agree with everything, but I agree with the gist of it and highly recommend it to my readers: Status Quobama: A Hundred Days of Fake-Progrssive BS and Liberal-Left Surrender.
Coming up this week, Ten Allied Military Blunders, the Dyatlov Pass incident revisited, and a commentary on some of the jingoistic comments people have left on Doug’s Darkworld.
Have a great week everyone.
(The above image has been released into the public domain by its creator. Credit: Orlovic. It’s an American Predator drone, IE one of our robotic flying death squads … shot down over Serbia … on display in a Belgrade Aviation Museum. Somehow I doubt it’s there to celebrate the American bombing campaign in Serbia. As always I chose the image to illustrate that there are always other perspectives, despite what they say on CNN and Fox “news.”)
Obama, Iraq, Af-Pak, history, French prostitutes win a battle, and other random and insightful thoughts
There have been a few posts getting some comments back and forth. Maybe there is some way I can include this in a sidebar, but for now I’ll just mention them here. The first is the “1 shot 2 kills” post and the other is the “World’s First Eyewitness” post. Join the discussion if you dare. Another reader recently asked if Doug’s Darkworld was my hobby. I never really thought about it, but I suppose it is. At least until someone sponsors me and I can devote myself to it full time. All reasonable offers considered.
Moving right along, in recent news, Obama made a surprise visit to Baghdad to praise the troops for their remarkable achievement. It’s a little unclear to me what, exactly, that achievement is. Iraq is still one of the world’s top ten failed states, was that the plan from the beginning? He also pressured the Iraqi government to “take responsibility” for Iraq. I’m sure more than few jaws dropped in Iraq at that one, I mean, how arrogant and patronizing can one get?
He’s also massively expanding the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is making my jaw drop. Does anyone really think we can “win” the war against Islamic extremists by destabilizing yet another Muslim country? Half a million people have already fled Pakistan’s border regions because of US and Pakistani military actions there, that’s half a million potential recruits for Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Hmm.
Robert Gates just announced a “massive overhaul” of military spending. Yes, six years after we got involved in a massive counterinsurgency, we are going to start re-organizing our military to fight more counterinsurgencies. While I certainly can’t argue against the cancellation of leftover Cold War weapons programs, re-organizing a military years after the fact is pretty symptomatic of a military completely out of touch with the times. I wish I could find the words to make people see that the US military is a byzantine bureaucratic corrupt organization bloated beyond all reason and decades behind the times in almost every respect. If we ever have to fight a real war again, we’re all in big trouble. And oddly enough, the “new” budget calls for yet another increase in military spending. Sigh.
While on the topic of belligerent foreign policy, I see North Korea thumbed their nose at us and launched their missile anyways. Since there was zero chance they would cancel the launch, I really can’t imagine why we would set ourself up to be ignored. Are we trying to generate a casus belli for attacking North Korea? Colour me mystified.
Moving right along, I read an interesting article pointing out that the collapse of the world’s economy is almost certainly going to create a huge increase in world crime. I can’t really argue, hell, look what’s going on just over the border in Mexico. As tens of millions of desperately poor people the world over lose their jobs, some of them will turn to whatever jobs are available. In other words, it’s a golden age for finding recruits for criminal syndicates. And as more governments fail and more failed states are created, this problem is just going to get worse.
And as these and other economic collapse related problems get worse, we can expect governments to take ever more repressive steps to control their populations. I dunno, but one of my visions for the future is a world where much of the third world has reverted to local control, while the increasingly repressive “modern” western and Asian governments start to fight among themselves for their share of the ever shrinking global economic pie. And I’m not the only one starting to think this way. Interesting times indeed.
On a related note, I think I’m finally beginning to understand why leaders keep repeating the exact same mistakes throughout history. It’s simple, historians almost never get into positions of power. So I propose that governments set up a “Department of History” on par with other government departments. Then any time the government comes up with some great “new” idea, they can ask the Secretary of History if the idea has ever worked before? If he/she says “no, in fact it’s always made things worse,” back to the drawing board.
Yes, I’m a dreamer. And yes, the idea is flawed because leaders for the most part aren’t trying to effectively and efficiently run their countries, they are trying to promote the political and financial interests of themselves and their cronies. Does that makes me a cynical dreamer? Or a realist?
Coming soon, posts on great military blunders in history. First will be the Battle of Castillion, where the British saw a cloud of dust made by a fleeing bevy of prostitutes, and concluded that the French army was running away. So they immediately charged the now “abandoned” French positions, only to discover belatedly that the French fortified line was packed with French soldiers, guns, and cannons. Oops. And that was the ignominious end of the Hundred Years War.
(The above image is public domain under US copyright law since it was executed in the ninetenth century. It’s a painting of the Battle of Castillon by the French painter Charles-Philippe Larivière (1798-1876). It depicts the English leader, John Talbot, the 1st Earl of Shewsberry, having his horse shot out from under him. The Earl was trapped under his horse, and a French soldier named Michel Perunin recogised him and achieved footnote status in history by hacking him to death with his axe. Isn’t war glorious?)
“My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.” —George Bush 2003
It’s been six years since former President Bush announced that US forces were entering Iraq to defend us from the evil Saddam and his terrible weapons that could destroy American cities at any moment. Iraqis lined the streets and threw flowers as our heroic troops marched into their land and freed them from tyranny and oppression. It brings a tear to my eye just to think about, thousands of years of using armies to plunder and conquer, and finally a man had the vision to use military force to reshape the world for noble purposes.
Snort. Gag. Retch. Projectile vomiting. OK, this is very simple. If you thought that the US invasion of Iraq was about defending America and for the benefit of the Iraqi people, I have a bridge you might want to buy. Too subtle? OK, if you thought that Iraq was a threat to the USA, you’re an idiot. Maybe you’re not always idiotic, but your brain dropped the ball on this occasion. The idea that Saddam’s Iraq posed a “grave danger” to the world didn’t pass the laugh test.
Sure, if Saddam had really tried he might have been able to smuggle explosives or what not into American cities and pulled of some sort of 9/11. Maybe a dozen 9/11s. Tens of thousands of Americans dead. After which we would have turned Iraq into a parking lot. Saddam was evil, not stupid and suicidal. And of course every other country on the planet, hundreds of corporations, insurgent groups, and criminal organizations could do the same thing. My God, should we invade all them too?
Six years, and what has Bush’s war in Iraq wrought? Hundreds of thousands are dead, at least as many are wounded, including hundreds of thousands of American GIs. That’s right, hundreds of thousands of returning GIs may have brain injuries according to the Pentagon. Due to modern armour and medical care, guys that would have died in previous wars are now coming home alive … but with injuries that will haunt them their entire lives.
In fact, it’s fair to say that many of these men (and women) will die in the years to come from their injuries, and that Bush has done with their lives exactly what he did with our money. He spent it today, but the future will have to pay the bills. Deficit dying as it were. Not only are Americans still dying in Iraq, they will continue to die for decades even if we pull out tomorrow. Some accomplishment.
Six years later and I’m still angry. I’m angry that so many Americans bought the WMD nonsense and the idea that Iraq was some sort of threat to the USA. I’m angry that Americans are still dying and being maimed in Iraq. Yes, increasingly sophisticated attacks on US troops in Iraq continue, and they will never stop. And I’m angry that Americans simply forgot about the war when the violence slightly decreased. A permanent drain on our treasury and our youth’s blood, and we can’t even continue the public debate as to the wisdom of this? I guess not.
In any event despite the image above, I’m not trying to compare America to Nazi Germany, Bush was no Hitler. There is one parallel though that we ignore, when Hitler launched his crusade to reshape Europe by force of arms, there was a lot of justice in his cause. The Treaty of Versailles that Germany was forced to sign at gun point in World War War was a grossly unjust treaty. There were people at the time who said it would be the cause of the next war.
And by 1940 Hitler had rectified these wrongs, and he had his “Mission Accomplished” victory tour of Paris. Granted even by then his forces had done some very bad things, armies and soldiers always do bad things. No one imagined at this point just how bad it would get as Hitler got carried away by his success. In that sense we are fortunate that Bush’s invasion of Iraq was such a failure, if it hadn’t so quickly turned into a bloody mess Bush would almost certainly turned his sights on Iran and Syria. In that sense maybe the sacrifices of our dead in Iraq weren’t entirely pointless, they may have prevented Bush launching a much bigger bloodier war.
Finally, the point I’m dancing around with this post, it is far more accurate to say that “war makes monsters” than “monsters make war.” It doesn’t matter how noble your motives might be, war brings out the worst in men, not the best. At the Nuremberg Trials they decided that invasion was the mother of all war crimes, because it is the crime from which all the rest flow.
Six years later and I still think the invasion of Iraq was a terrible ghastly mistake. The people who predicted wonderful things would follow our invasion were naive at best, and liars at worst. Though Dick Cheney is much more than just a liar, but I’ve save his evil rantings for another day.
God rest the souls of all who have died in Bush’s misbegotten little war.
(The above picture is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is an historically important image. It’s Hitler on his one and only tour of Paris in 1940. I chose it because it’s high enough resolution that you can see the expression on their faces, click on the image for the full size version. The guy on Hitler’s left is Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect. They are trying to look noble, they just look hollow and lost to me. Hitler went on from this moment to end up dying by his own hand in a Berlin bunker in 1945. Speer not only survived the war, he survived the Nuremberg Trials as the “Nazi who said he was sorry.“)