19. November 2010 · Comments Off on The Junkman Cometh – And Goeth · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun With Islam, General, GWOT, Politics, Rant

Having witnessed one form of American rebellion flame up from small individual local protests into a political movement that is about as unstoppable as a wild-fire with a Santa Anna wind behind it, now I am wondering if I am not seeing another, in the current ruckus kicked up about the TSA.
It has often seemed of late that just about every simple pleasure of air travel – and there used to be a good few, even when it just seemed as if flying by commuter air was just a Trailways bus with wings – has been precisely and surgically removed. Cram-jammed flights. A seat about the size of one of those chairs in a kindergarten – and about as comfortable. No meal service. No movies save on long-distance hauls. Fewer direct flights . . . And then, post 9-11 – security. No meeting someone at the gate upon arrival. No seeing someone away, by accompanying them to the departure gate. Emptying your luggage of nail-clippers, lighters, and any sort of liquid. Wearing shoes that can easily be slipped off. Getting to the airport at least two hours early to be sure to make it through the security line to start with. And now this: the unedifying choice between having to go through the stark-naked scanning machine, or a humiliatingly intrusive pat-down search.

Frankly, if I am to be seen in the altogether, or to be intimately groped by another person, I’d like it to be consensual and after a good dinner, a couple of drinks and a movie.

We put up with all of this in the name of “safety” – but my sense is that it has hit a wall of not only diminishing returns, but our own patience. The final straw, as it were. The far frozen limit. The TSA makes a great show of searching for things and of avoiding seeming to ‘profile’ those who might actually be terrorists intent on airborne mayhem. It’s not the tool, fools – it’s the person with the will, training and intent to use the tool – but oh, my – we can’t be caught singling out those specific persons. Might upset them, and then what might they do? So, in order to prove that we are not ‘profiling’ –screaming three year old kids, elderly nuns in full habit, semi-invalids in scooter-chairs, teenage girls, respectable middle-aged business persons with no record of brushes with the law whatsoever, get to be treated like convicted felons on intake to a long term in the state pen. There have been reports lately of terrorists smuggling explosives by stuffing them into body cavities; given how the TSA goes into full reaction mode to counter past terrorist tactics, I can only expect the next step is to administer colonoscopies and issue speculums. Complaints about unprofessional behavior by the TSA agents have become legion. I don’t have any myself – having only flown once in the last five years, but travelers who do have some real doozies to tell, and some of them even have video.

It’s going to be real interesting, seeing how this avoidance of air travel might go, in the next couple of weeks. With the economy the way it is, probably not as many can afford or want to fly, but I have a feeling that unhappiness over the back-scatter screening and intrusive pat-down searches have driven travelers to the limit of saying ‘heck with that, might as well drive.’ Interesting to see what the airlines may do, if travel falls off that far. Any bets?

09. September 2010 · Comments Off on Standards, Double, Society, for the Use Of · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun With Islam, General, GWOT, Politics, Rant, sarcasm

So, now in the multitudinous fall-out from the Ground Zero Mosque, or Cordoba House or Park51, or whatever the heck it’s being termed – is a threat by a Florida whack-job minister to burn Korans as a public demonstration of something or other on Saturday. Cheesncrackers, people, just when I thought this whole issue couldn’t get any more demented. Is there someone I have to sleep with, in order to live on a planet with sane people, preferably ones with a sense of proportion and humor, not to mention toleration for those who don’t agree with them in every aspect of existence?

Frankly, I’d like to set the good Iman Rauf and the good Reverend Jones down on the other side of my official Sgt. Mom desk for a nice discussion of principles. And those would be principles which would apply to both of them, and yes, I expect to be the one doing the talking.

Yes, there is nothing in this supposedly free country which would prevent the Reverend Jones from incinerating copies of the Koran, as a demonstration of his lack of appreciation for Islam and his ingratitude for the many blessings that the strict practice of Salafist Islam brings to the modern cultural table. And yes, there is also nothing which would legally prevent a mosque/community/cultural center from being established adjacent to that place where there were 5,000 people (give or take) crushed or incinerated when a pair of hijacked airplanes were deliberately crashed into two tall and shining skyscrapers nine years ago to the day by representatives of the Religion of Peace.

So, established – they each can do this thing which they want to do, for whatever reasons. And Andres Serrano can take pictures of a crucifix in a vial of his own pee, and Chris O-whatever can adorn a painting of the Virgin with mounds of elephant dung, and Danish cartoonists can do cartoons about how fear of drawing a picture of Mohammad leads to self-censorship, and Salman Rushdie can joke around with Satanic Versifying and all of that is perfectly OK in a free country, or it ought to be.

But where is the line to be drawn, then? And if you are offended by one or the other, than what is the acceptable response? Letter to the editor, an angry post on a blog, a boycott? Threatening violence? Should the fear of violence lead one to self-censor? What about a fear of offending people? Why is it OK to offend one particular class of people by your actions in support of religion or art, but tip-toe around giving offense to the other? Exactly what is the standard at work here, and who decides to apply it? And hey, isn’t the poor old bourgeois getting a little tired of being constantly epatered?

Just as a final aside – the copies of the Koran that Reverend Jones is planning to flambé – are they English translations of the Koran, in which case it doesn’t really count as a Koran, per se, because the only Koran that counts as a Koran is the one in Arabic. Revelations straight from The Big Guy to Mohammad has been my understanding. Everything else is just a translation, and so it really isn’t the Koran, except for when it is. And I think Pastor Jones looks amazingly like the historic John Brown, of Pottawatomie, who tried to kick-start a slave insurrection, pre-Civil War. If The Reverent Jones really wants to cover his posterior for this little venture into protest, he ought to announce the Koran-B-Que as a piece of performance art and apply for a NEA grant. Your mileage may vary. Discuss.

29. December 2009 · Comments Off on Proposed Derisive Nicknames for the Christmas Day Jihadi · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Fun With Islam, General, GWOT

In furtherance of my ambition to fight the war against the more homicidally inclined jihadist by humiliation and laughter directed at them – the following derisive references to the Nigerian who attempted to blow up a landing airliner with an explosive b*tt-plug on Christmas Day are suggested. Vote for the one you think the funniest, or of you have heard of a better one, add it in comments.

Weapon of Ass Destruction

The Knicker-Bomber

Fruit of the Boom Guy


The Crotch-Rocket Bomber

The Undie-Bomber

The Panty-Boomer

28. November 2008 · Comments Off on Reprise: An Odd Thing to See in a Military Museum · Categories: Fun With Islam, General, GWOT, History, Military, War, World

(This is a reworking of an essay I wrote, now lost and unreachable in the old MT archives, in light of current events in India. It seemed to have particular resonance, in light of some informed opinion, that the attacks in Mumbai are having rather the same effect locally and to the Indian diaspora that 9/11 had on Americans.)

It wasn’t quite the oddest thing I ever saw in a military museum: for my money, that would be Edith Cavell’s dog, stuffed and mounted in the Imperial War Museum, but it was the most unsettling, the most heartbreaking. The object was in the little local museum in the northern English city of Carlisle, in a suite of rooms in the castle, dedicated to the local regiments, which had been distinguishing themselves in the service of the British Empire for two or three centuries.

My younger brother JP and sister Pippy and I had spent a couple of weeks in the Lake District, and stopped in Carlisle on our way north to Scotland, during our wandering summer of 1977. We were discovering, or in my case, rediscovering the country of our ancestors, but on the bargain basement level— staying in youth hostels, traveling on public transportation, and buying groceries in the local Tesco. JP in particular was the champion of the inexpensive lunch; purchasing a hard roll, a slab of cheese and a tomato, and then sitting on the curb outside the store entrance and eating the lot.

Our itinerary was dictated by curiosity, a list of must-see locations, and the availability of a youth hostel, which charged the equivalent of about $1.00 a night for members, and offered some primitive kitchen facilities, but limited the duration of a stay to three consecutive nights, and locked us out during the day. We had gotten terribly efficient at looking after ourselves, and locating and extracting whatever inexpensive and educational resources were available in a city or town, over and above whatever attraction had drawn us there in the first place.

The first order of sightseeing business; go see the church and/or cathedral. There was always a church or cathedral, most usually with something interesting in it, and for free, or nearly free. Next, hang out in the park; there was always a park, nearly always a pleasant place to sit and kill an hour or so, and eat whatever we had bought for lunch.
Then go see the castle. There was always a castle, possibly in ruins, and if not, there would be a small fee to get in, but there would be something fascinating and educational within. Carlisle’s cathedral was interestingly truncated, owing to a little local spot of bother called the Civil War. The castle seemed to have escaped serious damage, and we were pleased to discover the military museum, three or four tiny stone rooms, with narrow windows and cases full of old uniforms and medals, a veritable military mathom-house of memorabilia. I had begun to suspect that many of the things in this museum and in the three or four others that we had seen were donated out of despair: what on earth to do with Great-Uncle Bert’s old dress tunic? Kukri? Camp tea service? You couldn’t throw it away, donate it to Goodwill, or the English equivalent thereof, and you certainly didn’t want to give it house room, so donating it to the museum was the honorable solution. The same sort of curious things tended to show up over and over, though, and we had begun to see them as familiar old friends.
“Have you found the Queen Victoria gift tin, yet?” I asked. During some long-ago imperial war, the dear Queen had made a gift to every man in the forces of a little tin of sweets, at least a third of whom had kept the tin as a souvenir, and his descendents had given it to the local military museum.
“Two of them,” reported JP, “Over here. Right next to the piece of hardtack with a poem written on it.”

There was always a piece of fossilized and slightly bug-nibbled piece of hardtack. In one museum I had seen one with a heroic ode neatly covering the playing-card sized surface, written in neat, flowing letters.
“Where’s the cap-badge? I didn’t see it in the other room.”
There was always a cap-badge, slightly dented where it had deflected a bullet and saved the life of the wearer. Every museum had a variant on that; if not a cap-badge, then a canteen, or one of those tiny Bibles with metal covers. The only exception I ever noticed, was the small metal-covered aircrew first aid kit. It was perforated with a bullet hole. According to the inscription next to it, the bearer had also been perforated, but non-fatally.

The last and largest room in the Carlisle museum— which wasn’t much bigger than the bedroom that Pippy and I shared at home— had a large case in the center, filled with weapons for the most part: Malay knives, and ancient pistols and swords, but the most curious thing of all was on a little stand in the center.
“What’s with that?” JP asked, “It doesn’t belong here at all.”

It was a white muslin baby’s cap, one of those lacily ornate Victorian bonnets, with ruffles and eyelet lace, and dangling ties that would make a bow under the baby’s soft little chin. Our family’s christening dress was about the same style, carefully sewn with tiny, tiny stitches, out of fine cotton muslin, but our dress was in pristine condition, and this little bonnet had a number of pale rusty blotches on it. We looked at it, and wondered what on earth a baby’s cap was doing in a case of guns and knives, and I walked around to the other side of the case, and found the card that explained why.
“Oh, dear, “ I said, “They found it at the well in Cawnpore. The local regiment was one of the first to re-enter the city.” I looked at the stains, and knew what they were, and what had happened to the baby who wore that little bonnet, and I felt quite sick.
“Cawnpore?” Pippy asked, “What’s that to do with it?”

By the time I finished explaining, poor Pippy looked very green. I knew about the Sepoy Mutiny, because I read a lot, and some of Kipling’s India stories had piqued my interest in history not covered in American public schools. The British garrison— and their wives and dependents, and any number of civilians, in the town of Cawnpore stood off a brutal siege by elements of their rebelling Indian soldiers, and local nobles who thrown in their lot with the mutineers in hopes of recovering their old position and authority. Reduced by disease, shot and starvation, the survivors had surrendered on the understanding that they be allowed to take boats down river, but they were massacred at the landing, in front of a large crowd, in as grisly and brutal a fashion as can be imagined.

Only one boat managed to float away, but all but five men were eventually recaptured and killed. Two hundred or so women and children who survived the massacre at the boat landing were taken to a small house close by, and held as hostages in horrible conditions. When the avenging British forces and their loyal allies were a day or so away, the leader of the mutineers in Cawnpore gave orders that those last surviving women and children be killed. They were hacked to death by a half-dozen men from the local bazaar, and the bodies thrown into a nearby well. Men from the returning British relief force later reported finding that house awash with blood, throughout all the rooms.

The horror of that particular massacre inflamed British popular opinion to an extraordinary degree. Sentimental and earnestly chivalrous, seeing it as their special duty to protect women and children, to live by the code of a gentleman, to keep promises— the actions of the Indian mutineers at Cawnpore, in breaking a truce and killing defenseless wives and children, seemed calculated to outrage every one of those values held dear by the typical Victorian. Commanders and soldiers came to look at the blood on the floor of the murder house— shoe-deep by some accounts— and resolved that there could be neither parley or mercy with those who had done this. The gentlemanly gloves came off, and the Mutiny was put down, with no quarter asked or given.

Captured mutineers were dragged back to Cawnpore and made to lick the floor of the massacre house, before they were hung, or tied over the mouths of cannon and blown to pieces. It’s all in the history books— this one is most thorough, and I recommend it. In reflecting on this, and on the running battles being fought in the streets of Mumbai – which is India’s modern Wall Street and Hollywood all mixed together – I wonder how much history those responsible for these bloody scenes at hotels, a hospital and a railway staion may know, or do they only know their own? I wonder if they have any clue of how much they risk putting themselves as far beyond the pale as the Cawnpore mutineers, all for making a show for their fellows and sympathizers? Eventually, when a group of terrorists violate enough norms, those who have been made targents will run out of any patience and sympathy, and feel no particular obligation to observe them in the breach. Having sown a storm, I wonder if those who sponsered a coordinated attack on India’s major city have any notion they are in danger of reaping a whirlwind. It has happened before, you know. In that very country and not to terribly far away.

A baby’s little white ruffled cap, faintly spotched with pale rusty bloodstains: we looked at it again, and went away, very quietly.

11. September 2008 · Comments Off on Seven Years · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, GWOT, History, World

Supposedly, seven years is the time it takes for a human body’s cells to regenerate, to have new cells completely replace the old cells. I don’t know that factoid is true, strictly speaking, or if it just applies to the skin. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that it’s not true at all, but is just one of those curiosities which seems right, if somewhat startling at first thought.

Seven years; long enough for the scar tissue to grow over, for the breaks in the solid rock underpinning our universe to calcify, to heal over – and for us to become accustomed to living in a world without the silhouette of a pair of silver towers gleaming in the sunshine of a cool September morning. Long enough to become used to the absence, and accustomed to the wrenching changes, to acclimate ourselves to a new reality. But not long enough to become used to the absence, to the space in a life where a husband, a wife, a son or daughter, or a friend used to be. Never long enough to forget the sight of a tall building – first one and then the other – falling into itself, dissolving into a dark blizzard-cloud of smoke and debris, and taking the lives of thousands of people with it. No, never forget that; it’s the vision I see now, whenever I listen to Mozarts’ Requiem.

Seven years of change since that morning, the morning when our world shuddered and for many of us, wrenched itself onto a new track. The changes have come so thick and fast, that the glorious September morning now and again seems to have happened a couple of decades ago. Two wars, one which seems now to be perilously won and the other still in balance, two presidential elections, the rise of a new media, the slow implosion of the old – the aftermath of a violent hurricane devastating the Louisiana-Mississippi Gulf Coast, (and another one which at this very moment seems destined to hit the Texas coast like a pile-driver) and any number of other events which strutted and fretted for their moment on the national and international stage; all of this moved the events of one day, the day of 9-11-01 away from a current event and into the pages of history.

But for today, and just for today, we set down the burdens of today for a moment, and remember.

(The letter that I wrote about that day is here, in the old MT archive)

12. June 2008 · Comments Off on My Opinions Change · Categories: GWOT

When Gitmo was first set up, I thought, “Good.  Lock ’em all up.”

When people cried that the detainees’ rights were being violated, I joined the chorus of, “They’re combatants, they have no rights!”

In the back of my head was a voice crying, “We’re Americans dammit, we’re better than this.”

Today the “liberal” block of the Supreme Court listened to their voices much better than I ever did and decided that those folks have every right to have the government either show the evidence against them or set them free.

We’re Americans dammit, we’re better than we’ve shown to be over the past few years.  Thanks to the Supreme Court, we’re acting like it again.

Maybe it’s going to prove to be a mistake when it comes to our security.  But we all know what Ben Franklin said about that.

26. May 2008 · Comments Off on Another Country and Another War · Categories: General, GWOT, History, Iraq, N. Korea, War

Once there was a country, a foreign country which hardly anyone in the US save for a handful of scholars and specialists had ever heard of, and certainly cared little about. It wasn’t a country that had contributed many immigrants to the United States – not like England, or Ireland, Germany or Italy. It couldn’t be described as a Christian country, although there was a substantial Christian element. It was just one of those faraway foreign places that Americans really didn’t give a rip about until a shooting war started there, and American boys died in quantities in locations with strange-sounding names.

So, there was a war, and American troops were in the middle of it, along with some stout allies, a war that looked uncomfortably like a civil war, with saboteurs and insurrectionists and foreign sympathizers to the side the Americans were fighting against, sneaking over the borders – there were even other nations giving substantial aid and comfort to the side that the Americans were fighting!

This country was a wrecked and traumatized place – once it had boasted a proud and independent culture, but it had been occupied and broken to the will of the conqueror, a brutal dictator that had imposed alien concepts and practices upon it, and used their young men to fight in regional wars. But the conqueror did not think much of the fighting qualities of those soldiers – and neither did the Americans, at first. Here they were, spending their lives, their blood and treasure in defense of a people who seemed hapless in their own defense. Bit by slow and painstaking bit, progress was made: soldiers were created out of seeming unpromising materiel. Sometimes it seemed that every one of these solders had to have an American soldier at his elbow, giving patient instruction… and yet, and yet, when the war ended – the country thus painfully established was still there.

And of course, being a bloody and seemingly unpopular war, with a full schedule of blunders, incompetence and atrocities – both actual and alleged – there was the usual sort of newspaper headlines. Never mind about the successes, the space and time that was bought in American blood for the inhabitants of that country to recover, to find their own feet, tend their gardens and begin to build again. Never mind all that – good news doesn’t sell. Some of this country’s home-grown politicians turned out to be of an unsavory sort, more authoritarian than truly democratic, so there was another black eye for Americans, in propping up what appeared to be hardly an improvement on what this country had before. There is always a market for bad news, the ‘gotcha’ headline and so-called important people being cut down to size.

Seeming to be such a pointless and futile effort, wasteful of American lives and treasure made that war into an entertainment staple, after all the newsy goodness had been absorbed. American soldiers were portrayed as luckless dupes or malignant martinets, the American military was incompetent, wasteful, foolish, there was no point to the war, all these sacrifices of lives, of limbs, health and happiness was for nothing. There was no point, it was all useless, and destructive… the inhabitants of that country didn’t want or need our military to be there anyway, so what was the point of fighting? Everything would be better off as soon as we departed and left them to themselves.

Except that we didn’t. The war did end – with an armistice. American troops still serve tours there in that country, on the off-chance that the fighting might resume – although after fifty years, it just doesn’t seem very likely. South Korea is prosperous, modern, bustling with industry – as different as can be from the picture it presented fifty years ago, as different as it can be from the communist-ruled North. What would the whole Korean peninsula look like, if we had chosen to leave Koreans to their own devices, fifty years ago? Starving, poor and xenophobic, at the very least, living in darkness and want, a country-sized concentration camp.

What will Iraq look like after the passing of another fifty Memorial Days? Will it be anything like Korea; a regional powerhouse of industry, cultured, prosperous and politically stable? Will Saddam’s reign of terror be something relegated to the history books, will their present war be something barely recalled by the elders, a matter of monuments to be decorated with flowers and ceremony on certain days, while two or three generations have grown up knowing nothing but peace, security and plenty? Will there have been two or three generations of American military who have served tours at a few long-established bases and garrisons, stuck in out of the way corners of the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Will there be American soldiers and airmen who have come away with pleasant memories and a taste for local food and some pictures of ancient ruins and modern buildings looming over them, who made friends there? Fifty years is a blink in time – but it was long enough for South Korea to pull together in the space that Americans and their allies made for them. It may yet be time enough for Iraq, too, but its not as if we’ll be able to tell until long afterwards.

For Dad, who served in Korea and came back, for Wil who served in the 8th Air Force and came back, and Blondie who served in Kuwait and Iraq and came back – but for all those who served and didn’t come back, and who made the sacrifice without even being sure of what it was about or what it was all for, even – thank you, on this Memorial Day.

13. February 2008 · Comments Off on Mo-Toon Cartoons of Doom One More Time · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun With Islam, General, GWOT, Media Matters Not, Rant, World

Yes, I did write quite a number of posts about them, didn’t I? Stern words, had to be said. And I think I did a pretty ringing job, the first time around, so here are exerpts and links:

The strength of the West is in that very noisy disputation, our freedom to put everything on the table, to question, to non-conform, and by disputation and argument, make our beliefs even stronger for having all the idiocy knocked out of them. As such has been our custom, and in the reported words of Martin Luther, at the Diet of Worms: “Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.” (original post here)

As far as American newsprint and broadcast television is concerned, the phrase “freedom of the press” is from this day now enshrined in my favorite set of viciously skeptical quote-marks. The affair of the Danish Cartoons, and their non-appearance in all but a handful of newspapers has put the lie to every bit of lip-service ever paid to the notion that the American people had a right to know… had an absolute right, enshrined in the foundations of our very Republic to know… well, whatever it was that would goose the ratings, or boost circulation this week… A right that every journalist would fearlessly defend, with every fiber of his principled, journalistic being. Oops, there seems to be a little contradiction there. Principled… journalist… now there is a concept worn to tatters by this little international imbroglio, especially after Eason-gate, Rather-Gate and all the other tedious-gates. (original post here)

…the next time I hear someone pontificating away on the awesome responsibilities involved in upholding the “freedom of the press”… and they are from a newspaper which refused to run the Danish Cartoons, or a television station which refused to air them, citing “community sensitivities” or “deference to religious feelings” or whatever the sad excuse du jour is…. I shall laugh and laugh and laugh. (original post here)

Amusingly, that lugubrious old talking prune, NPR’s Daniel Shorr was coming out on the side of being all sensitive and being responsible about “using the power of the press” as regards the Matter of the Danish Cartoons. (Doesn’t that sound like a very dull Sherlock Holmes adventure, or the worst name for a war since the “War of Jenkins’ Ear”?) Just like the pet professor of international relations whom my local paper keeps on hand to drivel on about the Moslem world and international relations, and how the US must…must…zzzzz… oh, sorry. Dozed off there for a moment. I do that when reading the gentleman’s editorials, but so do probably most of his students. (original post here)

Wouldn’t change a thing… well, except to point and laugh at Daniel Shorr a little more.

Oh, so it looks like the ever beloved New York Times has nobly volunteered itself to be the Piniata o’the Month for unleashing yet again – in the words of Maxwell Smart “the old Krazed Killer Veteran Story”. You know, the same old, same old pathetic round of stories that those of us over a certain age saw in the 1970s – and not just in the news but on every damn cop show; the freak who got a taste for killin’ and brought it home with him after the war. Honest to key-rist, NYTimes-people – what is your assignments editor these days smoking these days? I am a little late to joining the predictable pile-on from every quarter, which looks like it includes just about everyone short of the VFW.

At least it’s nice to know legacy media drones can do a google search these days and assemble a laundry list of whatever it was they were looking for in the intertubules. A step up from a couple of years ago, all things considered. But… and that is a big but there, almost as big as a Michael Moore butt…it is just that – a laundry list of incidents where someone who was a military veteran of a tour in Afghanistan or Iraq was subsequently involved in or thought to be involved in a murder. Or manslaughter, or something.

No context, no analysis – just OMFG, the Krazed Killer Veterans are Koming (and it’s all the military’s fault!) Look, NYTimes-people, coincidence is not co-f**king causality. Sometimes, it is just a co-incidence, and laying on a smarmy layer of sympathy and glycerin tears over the poor *sniff* innocent *sniff* widdle misdiagnosed *sob* veterans does not make your s**t-sandwich of a story any more palatable. Not to veterans and their families.

Not only can we remember this kind of story post-Vietnam, but the very senior among us can remember it post-WWII. I am reliably informed that there was even a certain amount of heartburn over an anticipated propensity for free-lance violence on the part of returning veterans from the Civil War – and no, I will be not sidetracked into a discussion of how the still-expanding western frontier managed to provide an outlet for all of those Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs seeking post-war excitement.

My point would be that when this same-old-same-old went down post-hostilities every other damn time, the experience of military service was a bit more evenly spread among the general male population. The general reader had enough friends and relations in his immediate circle to take the whole Krazed Killer Veterans are Koming narrative with a large handful of salt. They knew enough veterans personally to not take what they read in the papers as necessarily the whole truth, and to put the sensational stories of post-war veteran crime into context. And they could blow them off as just another grab at the headlines.

But service in the military these days draws on a smaller sub-set of the population – and unfortunately that set does not include the media or cultural elite. Tripe like the NYT’s Krazed Killer Veteran – if it is not challenged and countered robustly- will soon solidify into conventional wisdom, just like it did with Vietnam veterans. And that, my little scribbling chickadees at the NY Times – is not going to happen again. Welcome to attitude adjustment, Times-folks. I can promise a real interesting and educational time for you over the next couple of days. Take notes. They will come in handy, especially for the next time you are assigned a story about military veterans.

Later: (Update from Iowahawk, too delicious to leave unlinked. Beware, NYTimes- this one is gonna leave a mark!)

Still later: And so will this blast from Col. Peters. My advice to the NYTimes writers is to load up on Midol, as well as taking notes.

06. January 2008 · Comments Off on Dulce et Decorum · Categories: General, GWOT, History, Iraq, Military, Veteran's Affairs, War, World

I suppose it is only one of those vast cosmic coincidences that mil-blogger Andrew Olmstead would be killed in an ambush in Iraq at about the same time that George Macdonald Fraser died of cancer in his 80s. On the surface they would seem to have had nothing much in common at all – save for being writers and having similar terminating dates on their memorials. Different ages, nationalities, different professional experience and all that… but one similarity – they both were soldiers and wrote about their experiences in uniform in a way that people who weren’t military could connect to and begin to understand something about what motivates men (and women, too) to take up a lonely position on the walls.

It’s one of those elemental and primal things, I suspect – almost the first obligation of a citizen to a community is to take up arms and defend it. Most Americans, or Brits or western Europeans have lived so long in relative safety that most people feel this duty can be farmed out to specialists; no need to serve in the same way as all adult male citizens of ancient Athens served as their cities army, or the Colonial militias, or rangers on the Texas frontier needed to defend their own isolated communities. The downside to this specialization is that most citizens – most especially our political and intellectual elite have little to do with the military, or that part of their community from which the serving military is drawn. Andrew Olmstead and other military bloggers have tried over the last five years with some success to bridge this experience gap, to convey to people half a world away what it is like at the point of the spear in this war.

G.M. Fraser is most famed as the creator of Flashman, the Victorian era rogue-hero, who managed to participate in just about every important 19th century event and meet up with every prominent personality of the time – usually unwillingly and glimpsed over a shoulder as he fled with great speed, buttoning up his trousers. His memoir of his own time as a soldier in WWII. Quartered Safe out Here or the adventures of his alter-ego Lieutenant Dand O’Neill in the post-war British Army as related in the McAuslan Trilogy, is a little less known than the flamboyant and fictional Flashman but very well worth reading. The O’Neill-McAuslan stories especially are a peep into the world of a military that if you take away the superficial trappings, the specific-era technology and the very specific slang… is timeless as it is familiar.

I kind of picture Fraser and Olmstead, sitting quietly together with a bottle of especially fine Scotch in some otherworld officers’ club, swapping stories and memories and eventually getting quite merry. For they had quite a lot in common, and one of them – to judge on what they wrote about being soldiers would have been agreement with this sentiment;

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
‘To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods,

Thomas Babington Macauley – Lays of Ancient Rome

13. November 2007 · Comments Off on Memo: Derisive Head-Shaking with a Splash of Schadenfreude · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, GWOT, Media Matters Not, Rant, sarcasm

To: Various Movie Producers
From: Sgt Mom
Re: The Current Gaggle of Anti-War Movies

1. Yes, that would be you that I am looking at; Mr. DePalma, Mr. Redford, and all the rest of you whose releases, despite being advertised expensively, applauded by the ever-so-cool award-giving set, and drooled over by your fan-boys and fan-girls in the critics circles to the point of having to tread water … are nonetheless tanking like the RMS Titanic. Audiences in flyover country are avoiding plonkingly earnest sermons like “Lions for Lambs”,”The Valley of Elah”, “Rendition” and others of that ilk as if they were made of plutonium. Fleeing reviewers aren’t even flinging any hilariously sarky remarks over their shoulders like they did for a vanity stink-bomb like “Battlefield:Earth” – which at least produced viciously amusing reviews. You guys can’t even hug that thin comfort to yourselves.

2. There is a somewhat soothing chorus of justification, cicadalike in it’s buzzing monotony: oh, it’s those silly proles in flyover country, they just can’t handle difficult questions, or they’re tired of the war, and really, popularity isn’t everything-our filmmaking is selective in it’s appeal, and anyway we’ll make it up in the overseas markets, or on DVD. Good luck with that line of reasoning, guys and gals. It’s worked for a good long while, and it may work for a little while longer, but methinks I see the edge of the cliff fast approaching. Wily Coyote, super-genius might stay suspended over thin air for quite some time – but eventually the laws of gravity and economics will apply. Piss off your natural audience once too many times, and one is as a tiny splat on the canyon floor, way down below. Just ask the Dixie Chicks.

3. See, it’s like this; you’re in the entertainment business. Emphasis on Entertainment, emphasis on Business. As a very wise movie producer observed some decades ago, “You want a message? Send Western Union.” Doing earnest dramatizations of your own opinions might make you feel all bold and stick-it-to-the-manly, and make your closed little intellectual set all misty-eyed with adoration for your cinematic genius, but frankly it’s leaving the rest of us looking forward to our next round of un-anethesthetized root-canal work, performed by a sadist with a jack-hammer.

4. And furthermore, (and I am looking at you, Mr. DePalma) reliving the 1960ies and the Vietnam War by recycling the same old scripts, the same old villains and the same old conventions is worse than tiresome. In vigorously painting the military, the US government and Americans in general with the same old United Colors of Atrocities, you are essentially doing the work of enemy propagandists. Adding insult to injury, it isn’t even good propaganda. You are insulting an enormous chunk of your domestic audience, routinely and substantially reducing the numbers of people in flyover country willing to plunk down $10.00 at the multiplex. This will not end well – again, recall the Dixie Chicks.

5. Thinking of all the stories that you are isanctimoniously gnoring, in order to churn out these politically correct wankfests is enough to make me want to pick up a good book. Or write one; a book that recalls to us what we are, what we stand for, and what we fight for. As for yourselves, enjoy the applause of your peers and their tinselly awards, and the perks that Hollywood offers you… for now.

Sincerely, Sgt Mom

My previous memo on the topic is here, and no, my first name is not Cassandra – Sgt. Mom

For no particular reason, over last weekend I was re-reading David McCullough’s account of the Johnston Flood, and was struck by the chapter which recounts the aftermath. Scores of reporters for American newspapers leaped upon the story – it wasn’t every day that a thriving industrial town gets wiped out in forty minutes flat by a sudden colossal rush of water from a catastrophic dam failure upstream, not even in the admittedly accident-prone 19th century. Among the first sensational stories reported from the wrecked city were lurid tales of gangs of Hungarian immigrants – the downtrodden and resentful minority du jour of that time and locality – looting the dead and raping the living, and of vigilante justice on the part of other survivors… all of which turned out to have been untrue. Even retractions and corrections afterwards wouldn’t squash those accounts dead in their tracks, and it reminded me of the stories of horrors in the New Orleans Superdome after Katrina; also lurid, also untrue… but widely disseminated, and even when debunked at length, with footnotes, forensic evidence and pictures… still passionately believed.

It all comes down to memes. They are a set of assumptions which have a life of their own through being repeated, especially by organs like the news media and beacons of popular culture like the entertainment industry. Thus propagated, memes are pernicious as nut-grass. No matter how many times they are debunked… still they exist, springing up sturdily in the cracks of public discourse and popular culture. Most of them do little harm, and even boost the subjects’ ego in a small way: Frenchmen are good lovers, New York is the center of American intellectual life, you get the best education at the most expensive college. Others exasperate experts by their persistence, in spite of being debunked, corrected or explained, over and over: Columbus was NOT the first European to believe the world was round, aliens from space did not build the pyramids- or any other monumental structure in the ancient world, and President Bush did not serve up a plastic turkey to the troops.

This morning the Blogfaddah linked to a discussion of l’affaire Beauchamp, which began with the lament “Isn’t it sort of disappointing that one has to spend this much time telling journalists, and journalist’s most ardent supporters, why it is important that journalists don’t lie?” Discussion immediately lurched away from examining what I thought was the point of the essay in question; why the milblog community landed on the New Republic’s fables with such energy and enthusiasm.

The answer is because it was another brick in the wall of meme under current construction, itself is an extension of the one constructed around Vietnam war veterans, which almost without exception painted them as tormented and drug-addled lost souls, riddled with guilt over having committed atrocities, and unable to make anything of their post-service lives. This meme had far more damaging results than just providing a handy stock character for movies, television and news documentaries; it impacted the lives of real veterans, essentially isolating and silencing them. Men and women who had satisfying, productive and well-adjusted lives did not particularly want to be identified as Vietnam war veterans, not if it meant being dismissed as a freaked-out looser.

That is why milboggers came unglued over Beauchamp’s and other fraudulent and malignant stories given credence by self-isolated specimens like Franklin Foer; because it’s being attempted, all over again with a new generation of veterans. Last time, it went unchallenged for decades. By my recollection it took about fifteen years for a TV show to feature a well-adjusted non-traumatized Vietnam veteran hero. It’s not going to happen again, not if we have the ability to forcefully question the individual meme-bricks before the mortar has set. Doesn’t matter that The New Republic is a small-circulation magazine or that some kind of truthiness about the brutalities of war -blah-blah-blah, or that our pop-cult gurus are too damn lazy to work up another set of clichés. This one we’re going to fight on the beach.

A more interesting line of thought is – is there something more than just intellectual laziness and the comfort of slipping into a well-worn track at work here, even if only subconsciously? Could there be something to be gained on one side of the debates about war, Islamic-inspired imperialism, the whole tar-baby of nuclear Iran, if military veterans whose service at the pointy-end-of-the-spear might have given them some particular interest or insight can be easily silenced and isolated… simply by being routinely characterized as ignorant, out-of-control redneck freaks?

Yeah, I’ve wondered about that myself, lately. Discuss among yourselves.

25. October 2007 · Comments Off on Going Home · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, GWOT, That's Entertainment!, War, World

Lovely video and song for the troops here, forwarded by Simon and also posted at his Power and Control blog. Simon also adds this note: “The author has given permission to those currently serving in the military to share it with nine of their best buddies, wives, husbands, parents, or children.”

Think of things like this as an antidote to the current out-spew of anti-war flicks from our friends in main-stream Hollywood.

Update: Simon has been authorized by the author of to give away 1,000 free copies of the song to our men and women in the military for personal use only. However, recipients of a free copy can let anybody listen to it if they want. Members of the military can put it on their i-pod, use it on their computer, or make one CD. Details and his email addy are here

13. October 2007 · Comments Off on Thinking of Television · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, GWOT, Media Matters Not, World

I have now come to that stage of life where I have seen every standard TV plot so many times that I am now able to predict the denouement almost as soon as I see the setup and have declared a personal embargo on watching any more shows about doctors, lawyers or cops. While some of the current offerings (House, Scrubs, etc) are quite passable � there are other occupations, and other situations which in the hands of the creative, will offer sufficient interest to keep viewers returning on a regular basis. Shows like �Lost� and �Ugly Betty� are splendid examples of what can be done by stepping outside of the cop-lawyer-doc box, and �Jericho � Season One� is another. Take an intriguing and (for television) a semi-original situation, involve a large cast of interesting people reacting to it and voila � something that will bring back the audience, over and over. Especially when it is a situation that we might imagine happening to ourselves. After 9/11, and Katrina (which provided the genesis of �Jericho� to its creators) it is all to easy to imagine what happens when the world we know suddenly ends, right in the middle of all our mundane plans for a perfectly ordinary day.

Which is exactly what happens to the citizens of the small town of Jericho, Kansas, to the family of Johnston Green (Gerald McRaney) and their neighbors and friends. Jericho is a small, pleasant place, full of people going about their own business � farming, stocking the grocery store shelves, going through a mayoral election, planning a wedding and enduring an audit by a visiting IRS agent. The school children are off on a field trip and the Green�s black-sheep son Jake suddenly appears needing a great deal of money � the only ripple in the pleasant still pool of a modern American life. In one of the most quietly effective sequences, the camera follows two children, playing hide and seek in a back yard, while one climbs on the roof of a shed, and then onto the house roof. The boy suddenly freezes there, silhouetted against the clouds and the sky � and then we see what he has seen; a mushroom cloud, coming up from a line of mountains on the distant horizon.

And that is the exact point where the people of Jericho, and a handful of visitors who just happen to be there begin a long slow devolution from the twenty-first century into something that more resembles the frontier West� and then to a condition that looks more like the warring city-states of Renaissance Italy, or classical Greece. First they struggle to figure out just has happened to the rest of the country � and then begins the fight to survive, ending in a cliff-hanger which promises a large audience for the second-season premiere. It makes for a more interesting television show than I had thought, when I first heard about it. The first season set of 22 episodes is neatly packaged on 6 discs. Commentary and deleted scenes are included for selected episodes on the same disc. I would have much rather that deleted scenes be edited into the episode where they belonged, to make a sort of �director�s cut�, rather than having them tacked on as an appendage. The omitted scenes would have done a lot for the overall story; it�s clear that they were omitted to shorten each episode for broadcast.

It’s an interesting show, on the whole – well worth watching, although I hope that it won’t disintegrate like “Lost”. I think of Jericho as a remorseless study of what people will do under prolonged stress in a particular situation. There are some who adjust to the situation without losing their own core values, some who can see into the situation and confront the unthinkeable without flinching. And then there are those who can’t and won’t… and you can never really tell in advance who will be one or the other. But as I wrote earlier this week, just having to think about this sort of thing is the first step in beginning to cope – should such a situation ever arise.

Cross-posted at Blogger News Network.

11. September 2007 · Comments Off on Nine, Eleven · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, GWOT, History, World

A Tuesday morning in September, one of those autumnal days when it has begun to cool down and the skies in Texas are a deep, clear blue. There is rain predicted for today, so at best the sky will be spotted with tufts of cloud, perhaps overcast all together. I am going to work today, after the dogs drag me around the block a couple of times – normal day, except for the persistence of memory.

It all seemed like a perfectly normal work day, six years ago. A normal, routine day at the office and then that perfectly prosaic day shattered into a million pieces and we could perceive the horrors that seethed and boiled underneath – which was very strange because it went on seeming perfectly normal.. The mail was delivered, and I picked up a gallon of milk at the grocery store. Drivers obeyed the stop lights at the corner, and the birds came around to the feeder as they did every afternoon. Everything superficially normal; which was kind of a comfort, especially as we have been poised ever since, expecting a repeat of that shattering Tuesday morning. And for most of us over the six years ever since, things have continued to seem absolutely normal. The only difference is that now we know how suddenly and absolutely the world can change.

One of the factoids noted in the aftermath was that on 9-11-01 more Americans died in war in a single day on our own soil since the Civil War. Those of us who think about such things have spent the last six years knowing in the back of our minds that there may be another day like that, at any time. Without warning, without notice: watch ye therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.

02. September 2007 · Comments Off on Memo: Another Bottle of That Whine? · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, General, GWOT, Iraq, Politics, War, World

To: Representatives Moran, Tauscher and Porter
From: Sgt Mom
Re: Slimed in the Green Zone

1. Well, my heart pumps pure piss for your pathetic predicament and your wounded sensibilities. Traveling all the way to Iraq, to demonstrate your tender consideration for the troops serving there at the whim of the Bushchimphitler and his eeeeevil war, only to find out that they had your number, short bios and an assortment of your previously reported remarks on the war. What a shocker, eh?

2. Yep, it sure was just another example of the deep-laid plots of the eeeeevil Bushchimphitler and his crafty minions… that troops assembled to meet ‘n greet should actually have read news reports. Really… how damn stupid do you really think the average military member is? Wasn’t it enough of a warning, when John Kerry’s adlibbed comment about dropping out of college and being stuck in Iraq rebounded within twenty-four hours with this priceless repost from troops in-theater?

3. Allow me to break it to you gently, lady and gentlemen; the military mind-set, like that of the Boy Scouts worships at the high altar of preparedness. It is an essential part of the culture to swiftly acquisition and disseminate necessary intelligence about whatever task they are ordered to accomplish. Doesn’t matter if its’ taking Omaha beach, Baghdad or providing the suitable background for a collection of globe-trotting pols burnishing their credentials; be assured that they will do their homework, and come to the party with all the angles covered.

4. Trust me on this also; while there a great many in the military today are apolitical, indifferent, or otherwise un-interested in the current political landscape, many more are intensely interested. They are betting their lives, in a manner of speaking, on their ability to transform Iraq and Afghanistan into something with a closer resemblance to a functioning and fairly democratic nation. Which may yet be possible: South Korea didn’t look like much of a good bet fifty years ago and look at the place now.

5. Finally, this is a wired and interconnected world these days; military bases overseas are not nearly as isolated as they were fifteen, or thirty years ago. That you could innocently assume that what you had said to your constituents or in the halls of power would not reach the ears of those serving in a garrison on the other side of the world indicates that you have not taken this to heart. You assumed that all the good little uniformed peasantry would trot obligingly up and tug their forelocks for their betters, and never mind in the least that your previous remarks could be construed as undermining their mission. I trust that you have been enlightened.

6. Military people do vote, you know. And sometimes their votes even get counted.

Sgt Mom

08. August 2007 · Comments Off on A Jolly Good Time Was Had by All: Pvt. Beauchamp · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, General, GWOT, Home Front, Iraq, Media Matters Not, Military, World

Well, that was fun; sort of what I imagine a fox-hunt to be, with a pack of hounds and a merry collection of red-coated hunters on swift steeds. The successful conclusion of the milblogosphere kerfuffle-du-jour, the beat-down of aspiring fabulist Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp was just like one of those exhilarating hunts beloved by viewers of the very high-quality BBC dramas that have been exported to the lonely outposts of Peoria, Tujunga and Boise for lo, these many years.

There was the wily fox; not as wily as he thought he was, obviously… spinning an oh-so-tempting yarn for the editor of TNR, who eagerly snapped it up. And over there is a hound, a hound with a very clever nose who thinks something stinks and begins to bay, and a huntsman with a horn blows “tally-ho”, as the hounds quarter the rough ground, yapping noisily as they discover more and more interesting little discrepancies. No wounded woman at FOB Falcon? A small graveyard and not a dumping ground for victims of an atrocity? And where are the officers and NCOs, and how the hell is it possible for a clumsy tracked vehicle to run over a nimble street-mutt anyway? And for someone to find himself jaded and degraded by war… before he even arrives in theater?

So the hunt went off, in full cry, hounds and horses pounding over the rolling field and between the trees, spilling through the gaps in the fences, in hot pursuit of the nimble fox… who runs and runs and runs, twisting and backtracking. But every time he looks over his shoulder, the pack and the hunters are closer behind. And when the fox looks ahead, suddenly there is another hunt… a hunt of grim-faced people in mottled green and brown cammies, with lots of stripes on their sleeves or dull-metal stuff on their collars.

And the fox runs to ground. But he is hauled out by the scruff of his neck by the grim-faced people, and held so that everyone in the milling crowd… the hounds, the hunters, a great crowd of spectators can take a good long look. The fox squeaks out a few words admitting that everything he wrote was not true, whereupon he is sentenced to clean latrines with his long bushy tail for the foreseeable future.

Oh, there was a hunt-saboteur who tried to run interference for the fox, insisting that everything the fox said was of a high degree of truthiness… most everything had been confirmed by other foxes and experts, but that he just couldn’t share their names just yet, and why was everyone being so mean?

Well, that’s what the hunt-saboteur was saying just as he got trampled by the hunt, so he went off on vacation, and is there still, nursing some bruises and wondering what he did to deserve this, no doubt.

I shouldn’t worry, though. There’ll be another fox and another hunt, any time now. Just listen for the hounds and the sound of a horn, ringing over the blogosphere. And it will be fun!

27. July 2007 · Comments Off on Fallout · Categories: General, GWOT, Iraq, Media Matters Not, Stupidity, War, World

Well, it took about a day longer than I estimated for the Beauchamp-TNR kerfuffle-du-jour to expand to the size of the Hindenburg, metaphorically speaking, and then explode like a couple of wads of dubble-bubble chewing gum once the upper expansion limits had been reached.

Wow, look at all that sticky pink stuff all over the place… some of that is stuck in places and on people who will probably never be able to peel it off of themselves and go about their business as usual. Having written and published the “Shock Troops” pieces is a richly deserved embarrassment, but I don’t think the two most responsible parties will ever acknowledge that their own actions had a part in bringing on the landslide-quantities of fall-out. I imagine they will find some handy other party to blame it all on.

But I can almost bring myself to feel kind of sorry for young Pvt. Beauchamp, and Franklin Foer; it’s all a jolly good game, until someone gets hurt. And no one ever starts out intending to put themselves under the million-eyed, coldly analytical publicly-wielded CAT-scan that is the blogosphere. The inexperienced editor of stalwart and once-respected legacy media magazine probably had no idea of the firestorm that would erupt, once milbloggers and veterans began looking carefully into “Scott Thomas’s” curious accounts of vehicular canine-icide, trash-talking in the dining facility, and games with dead things.

If all one knows of the military life is the movies… especially Vietnam-War movies, such an account must have seemed quite credible. Sad to know that of all the staff at a mag like TNR, there was no one on hand with any sort of experience in the military in the last twenty years or so, who could take a look and say, “Look, there’s something not quite right about this.” Or even to do as Cpl. Blondie did, when she read about running over dogs with a Bradley. Which was to fall about laughing, and then to say, “Whatta pile of bull-s**t!”

And as for Private Beauchamp; I don’t think even the most relentless narcissist really would enjoy having their Myspace page fisked down to the sub-atomic level, and their own person, and every shred of their writings relentlessly and coldly analyzed by thousands of strangers. But then again… he put it all out there, on Myspace and in the TNR. . Made no real secret of wanting to be the next Wilfred Owen/Ernest Hemmingway, but comes off as a haphazardly educated, very bright, self-centered young idiot with an elevated sense of his own talent and not a shred of sense. He is still young enough to grow out of it; honestly a lot of people his age are idiots, but most of them improve over time, and exposure to real world of consequences.

And he sucks as a writer, too, which is even sadder. He doesn’t have that certain gift; that way of “seeing” that a writer has to have. Oh, you can have the vocabulary, you can sling together the sentences, and it all will parse on the page, but unless you can “see into” other people, and sense how they think, and deal with their foibles and take on their voices, your words all fall rather flat. Intuition, empathy, whatever you call it; if you have it, you can create people on a page, you can write about a place or an event and make it so other people can see and feel it also. Good writers, good story-tellers have that, but narcissists can only fake it for a little bit, about as far as Pvt. Beauchamp did. What a waste of time and tuition, and TNR’s reputation, just to mince up and re-hash outtakes from “Full Metal Jacket” and “Platoon”, for the titillation of the readers. And what a waste for the magazine. Of all the milbloggers on active-duty tours in Iraq, Mr. Foer had to select this unconvincing, unobservant fabulist, and throw his magazine’s authority behind him… because his wife/significant other worked there. How lame. What a smack in the face to the hundreds or even the thousands of better writers among currently serving milbloggers.

24. July 2007 · Comments Off on Fortune and Mens Eyes · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, General, GWOT, Iraq, Rant, Veteran's Affairs, War, World

It is a curious coincidence that just as the milblogosphere is reveling in the righteous joys of thumping another credulous editor of a formerly-pretty-reputable legacy media venue… here we are dished up another heaping helping of military bashing from a couple of personalities that I have never heard of. Allegedly, this doofus is claimed to be a regular on Saturday Night Live. The hell you say… is that show still on? Wow.

Whatever A Whitney Brown’s problem is, I’ll bet it’s damned hard to pronounce. And this guy at least had a few remaining shreds of decency left to him… enough that he pulled his post about how the modern military was creating mass murderers and serial killers…

Ops, scuse me, while I go outside, and flag down that idiot with the car speakers which go whoop-whoomp-whoomp at such a deafening level that his car actually sounds like it’s farting. I’m going to chop up his inconsiderate ass into quarters with a chain-saw and Fed-Ex each quarter and his head to five different places…

No, just kidding. But not about the car stereo… it really does sound like the car is farting.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes… military = killers. Got it. Kind of the point actually, in an official, just-doing-our-job, ma’am sense. Yes, we kill those who have been designated as our enemies; neatly, efficiently, and without particular prejudice. Unsanctioned, off the books free-lancing is still frowned upon, however. Just so we’re all on the same page, here.

Still, to note all this is to wonder… why all this perfectly rotten press now? And without the obligatory “Of course we support the troops!” in this round of being pissed-on… guess they’ve noticed we’re not buying the claims of the stuff just being rain.

I do wonder what has brought the usual suspects to a fine frothing boil; I haven’t seen such hysterical insistence on the brutality and licentiousness of the soldiery since the putrid days of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Makes a bit of a change from painting them as poor widdle disadvantaged and victimized cheeeldren who had no other way to get ahead than to listen to the siren allure of the recruiter, which is the alternate method of denigration to date At least the “brutal and licentious” bit will give the troops credit for being grownups. Sort of.

But no credit for anything else, and credibility is where this whole thing is going… oh, not by any deep-laid strategic plan. More like some kind of subconscious hive-instinct, an irrational passionate urge to make the Iraq war and the whole WOT thingy just go away. And to go away without any blame attaching to the usual suspects, win or loose. Loose is always in the cards, of course. The middle east has been a veritable snake-pit for decades. If it reverts to type… no skin off ours, as long as we’re safely out of the middle, and a repeat of Saigon, 1975 can all be safely blamed on the Bush cabal. With appropriate tisk-tiskings, of course.

But…. What if the “surge” is working? What if the Iraqis are stepping up to the plate, and taking real control of their lives and their country? What if all those nice hardworking reservists and those high school graduates from Nowheresville, and those Marines from flyover country have managed to pull of a shaky miracle, and in another fifteen or twenty years, Iraq looks like South Korea, only with palm trees and more sand?

Wow, wouldn’t that be a facer for people like Senators Kerry and Murtha, for the Kos Kidz and the staff of the Guardian, among a long list of others… like A. Whitney Brown? Their advice has been spurned, and they are in peril of being shown up by the people that they secretly, or in some cases, not so secretly, hold in contempt. Makes it kind of hard to maintain that effortless air of superiority over lesser mortals, so of course, something must be done!

When old-time autocrats didn’t like the message, proverbially, they shot the messenger. The new autocrats in the legacy media, the nutroots, or in the higher ivory-towers wouldn’t be so crude. They’d rather denigrate the messenger; the troops and the leaders alike. Taint them by association; paint them as sociopath degenerates, brutal and vengeful and incompetent. Shame them into silence, make them shrink back into the little Nowheresvilles they crawled out of, put away their uniforms and their medals, and hide their associations away in the corners.

Really, it makes it so much easier to betray allies and friends, when these pathetic little people and their stupid “duty, honor and country” just forget all of that and do as their betters like A. Whitney Brown tell them.

And that’s what I think is going on here. Your mileage may vary, of course

20. July 2007 · Comments Off on I Love the Smell of Bovine Excreta in the Morning · Categories: Cry Wolf, General, GWOT, Iraq, Rant, sarcasm, War

I am following the latest milblog kerfuffle-du-jour with mild and expectant interest, and with absolute confidence that Mr. Foer of the New Republic was sold a bill of tainted goods as regards the charming reminiscences of one “Scott Thomas” and his service in Iraq. There is such a whiff of improbability about elements in the “Shock Troops” story, as if they were all proceeded by the statement, “No s**t, this really happened to this dude that this other guy told me about”!

But… severely burned and maimed woman survivor of an IED explosion being driven out of the dining facility by crude mockery? (And no one remembers this woman, or the incident, or stepped in to stop it?) Never mind about what she was still doing at a forward base… or who she was. Nine out of ten, any woman tough enough to hang with the military long-time, as a service member or contractor is tough enough to not only kick ass but to serve said ass up on a silver salver with a tasteful sliver of carved tomato and a spring of parsley.

A soldier wearing a decaying child’s skull on top of his head… presumably under his cover or Kevlar for a considerable period? Taken from a mass grave that no one else ever heard about? And no one else notices… let alone comments on the smell? I’ve been out in the hills and encountered dead animals enough to know that decomposing flesh has a particularly memorable and piercing reek. No mention is made in “Scott Thomas” story of other soldiers barfing up their socks at encountering it full-strength and at length..

And a Bradley driver making a sport of running down dogs. Wary, fast-running street dogs. With a very noisy, slow-moving tracked vehicle, which affords limited driver vision and not much maneuverability. In an environment were anything off the side of the road might be a hidden IED. Yep, sure… pull the other leg, sport, that one has bells on it.

Mind you, I am not insisting that soldiers are incapable of being crude, cruel or immune to the allure of gallows humor. I have quite good recall, as does my daughter, of many incidents in our own service, that if repeated, bald and unadorned would not reflect particularly well on anyone involved. But such stories would be congruent in details and with technical authenticity, and in a psychologically realistic fashion… and we both would be able to supply names, approximate dates, locations, units… all that stuff. Nothing happens in a vacuum in the military, as I have noted before. There are always other eyes. Perhaps the editors of NR are still unconscious of this… and a little too apt to throw themselves on a narrative which confirms their basic beliefs about the military and/or the war in Iraq. It’s not like this hasn’t happened before, (Jesse McBeth, anyone?) and no less a journalistic luminary like Sy Hersh has been cleaning up on the lecture circuit for years on material as revolting as it is thoroughly sanitized of confirmable detail. Winter Soldier, Redoux, indeed.

So… just another fabulist encountering a credulous reporter or publisher? Perhaps. Or, maybe a soldier playing the old game of “gross out the civilian”, or even “Let’s see how much incredible s**t we can get this poor sap to believe” for his own amusement… which would be my guess. There is a sucker born every minute, as the saying goes. Unfortunately too damn many of them are now working for the legacy media.

Once more into the breech, my milblogger friends; putting this kind of story under a microscope is a necessary, if unpleasant chore. Sort of like taking out the garbage to the curb. Has to be done, regularly, otherwise the house becomes unbearable. Allowing narratives like this to go unchallenged is to let our friends, our children, or our comrades to be depicted falsely in the legacy media hive-mind… as falsely as Vietnam veterans were painted for years as drug-abusing, baby-murdering, unstable misfits and freaks.

And if you give a miss to this one, don’t worry. I am sure that there’ll be another one, bubbling up to the top of the media hive-mind; just as thinly sourced, just as revolting, and just as debunkable.

Another thread here, with nice graphic!

13. July 2007 · Comments Off on Memo: On Nothing Certain Events · Categories: General, GWOT, Iraq, Media Matters Not, Military, Rant, sarcasm, Veteran's Affairs, World

To: Senator John Murtha, D. Penn (12th District)
From: Sgt Mom
Regarding: A Certain Matter in Regards to Certain Marines

1. That would be the Marines accused of murdering civilians in Haditha, Iraq in November of 2005, by you among a host of others.

2. This story seems to indicate that the whole case is falling apart faster than the Duke Lacross rape case. (see attached)

3. I, and other veterans await your apology to those Marines charged. You were quick enough to pile on with accusations of war crimes and atrocities, using the handy pulpit afforded to you as a member of Congress…. regardless of how it might have affected the outcome of an investigation and/or trial.

4. I’d like to see the apology given the same placement on the front page, and the same depth of coverage as your original statements, but I am not holding my breath.

Sgt. Mom

PS: Congressman Murtha’s contact information is here. For… ummm. Whatever. (Keep it civil, people…)

02. July 2007 · Comments Off on The Whip Hand and the Velvet Glove · Categories: Fun With Islam, General, GWOT, Media Matters Not, sarcasm, War, World

It is reported in the aftermath of the car-bomb attempt on the Glasgow airport terminal, that bystanders yelled “let the ****er burn!” as rescuers attempted to extinguish the fire burning on the clothes and flesh of one of the aspiring jihadis.

This happening and the fact that it was even noted and reported may be seen as a kind of harbinger. It may be an indication that the masses, or the ordinary people, the proletariat… or whatever you want to call the non-elite are no longer buying the load being sold to them.

Time after time, over the last five years, the plummy-voiced public intellectuals, the emollient gentlemen from CAIR, or the European equivalent thereof, the glad-handing politico and the exquisitely face-lifted news reporters have assured us, solo and in chorus of several things:

We have been told that Islam is a religion of peace, and that it is just an infinitely small minority of Moslems committing these outrages, not representative of the whole at all.

We are also assured confidently that if we are not satisfied with that assurance, then it means we are just some kind of ignorant red-necked, yob racist.

We are also assured that it’s all to do with Israel oppressing the Palestinians, or the US oppressing the Iraqis… and never mind that while the wholly understandable rage of gentleman named Mohammed may be directed towards American troops, or Israeli settlers… the concrete actions taken to express that rage, seem to land everywhere else. No convincing explanation is ever given for this… other than the multitudinous dead are not Muslims, or not good Muslims, and therefore had it coming anyway.

Pointing out in all reasonableness that the Lutherans, or the Amish, or the Presbyterians are not carrying on like this does not seem to butter any parsnips.

We are also assured that any such plots carried out, or interdicted before they are actually carried out are actually a plot by the CIA, or the Mossad, or some dreadful Bushitler plot to take away our civil rights and foment anti-Moslem xenophobia.

Never mind that the airwaves emanating from the Moslem world are full of spittle-flecked orators, seething and fuming and threatening exactly such actions, and cheering them on, except when they actually happen and then everyone reverts to item one. It seems a pity to have to give the CIA, Mossad and the Bushists all the credit, though.

It has often been speculated by the prescient and those students of history that another outrage on the scale of 9-11 committed by radical Islamists somewhere in the First World, whether tied to an identifiable country or not, will call down quite dreadful repercussions upon the Moslem population of the country where it happens. There has been speculation about why such a catastrophe has not happened, yet. Perhaps the loosely connected web has been sufficiently disrupted to prevent developments along that line, that the A-list plotters and experienced technical experts have been neutralized… or perhaps it is their intent to avoid an action that will unify an outraged First World and call down just such a reaction. Perhaps the continuing series of smaller actions are a deliberate policy; inflicting the death of a thousand cuts upon us, a constant dribble of incidents and deaths; towards the same end, but without attracting retaliation on a massive scale.

But if that is so, then the reaction of Glasgowegian air travelers suggests that a tipping point may be near. The cumulative effect of bombings, murders, foiled plots and Muslim riots over matters as diverse as newspaper cartoons, ennobling of controversial writers, and the spurious desecration of Korans may be coming to a head… for all that we have been told all this time to look away and pretend that we don’t see a thing. The whip hand of “How dare you, you racist!” and the velvet glove of “Islam is a religion of peace!” may soon fail to have any effect at all.

27. May 2007 · Comments Off on Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet…. · Categories: General, Good God, GWOT, Iraq, Media Matters Not, War

The mainstream media is hunting torturers… but only if it’s Americans doing the torturing. If Al Qaeda’s torture manuel just happens to be found, just lying around?

Quick, do another story about Abu Ghraib, or Guantanamo… something, quick!

I found this link to the manuel, as posted on “The Smoking Gun” yesterday through The Belmont Club. I thought I’d rather wait twenty-four hours, before posting it here. Please be warned, it is really nasty. But it puts the whole question of torture of the detainees at Guantanamo rather in a different light.

15. May 2007 · Comments Off on How to Support The Troops On Memorial Day · Categories: GWOT, Iraq, Politics

Get local, get active, and get outdoors. Walk the streets of your neighborhood. Get everyone you know to sign a petition to your local government body—for instance, your town or city council or neighborhood association—to pass a resolution requesting that Congress use its funding authority to support our troops and end the war. Bring the petition to the next meeting. […]

Send our troops a taste of home. Go shopping with your kids, your friends, your neighbors, and buy a whole bunch of stuff that would make a soldier happy to receive (check for restrictions). Then go through a site like Anysoldier.com, OpGratitude.com, or TroopCarePackage.com to send your package to a soldier in Iraq. Take photos and tell us about it.

Gather in public. On Memorial Day, get your friends, kids, co-workers, neighbors, aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers, and anyone and everyone you know together to publicly support the troops and end the war. Be sure to check with your local authority for any permits you need for public gatherings. Contact local media to publicize your event. Before you get started, please take a moment of silence to honor the fallen. And during your event, make sure you conduct yourself respectfully—both for those serving in Iraq and the memory of the brave servicemen and women that Memorial Day honors. Share your plans here.

Via Protein Wisdom.

This is what Senator John Edwards would have us do.

I’m for much of what he’s calling for…with the exception of the whole turning tail and running like hell…thing.  I’m bettin’ the guys in the field might feel less than supported over this.  Call me weird.

26. April 2007 · Comments Off on If We Pull Out · Categories: GWOT, Politics, Rant, Stupidity

If we pull out of Iraq, the United States will never be trusted by anyone ever again.

If we pull out, the massacre that follows of anyone who even smiled at a U.S. soldier, much less who collaborated with us or accepted our help, will make the killing fields of Cambodia look like a freaking picnic. All of that blood will be on our hands because we failed to honor our promise to see this through.

If we lose, who wins? Al Queda, Iran, Syria, all of the folks who have been stirring the shite up since we got there. The entire region, not just Iraq, will fall into the hands of the people who want you, me, everyone who isn’t their kind of Muslim, dead. I’m guessing the Shi’ites will have the numbers so… The Sunnis, they’re dead. The Kurds, finally, once and for all, wiped off the face of the earth. We’re already responsible for a couple thousand Kurds dead due to bailing on them after Desert Storm, now we’ll be responsible for their genocide.

Ask the Iraqi people if they want us to leave. Ask the soldiers on the ground if we’re losing.

If this thing is lost? If there’s no hope for winning? Then to ask our troops to continue one more day is completely dishonorable. Every death that’s come before this day is completely without meaning.  If this is already lost and we don’t pull them out immediately? Every single American casualty from here on out is on our heads. Reid and his ilk want it both ways. “We’ve already lost, we have no chance of winning, but we’re going to leave our guys on the ground to continue dying for six more months so it APPEARS that we’re giving the government the chance to pull it together.”

If the war is really lost, call to immediately defund the war. Immediately. Have the balls to pull our guys out of harms way and let the slaughter begin.

UPDATE:  Which isn’t to say I think things have been going all that well.

29. March 2007 · Comments Off on Resist By All Means Available · Categories: Fun With Islam, General, GWOT, Iran, Pajama Game, War

From our POW Code of Conduct

“….I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist. If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.”

This code of conduct was created and adapted for all the American services in the wake of the Korean War, when American (and other nationalities) POWs were both brutally mistreated and exploited for propaganda purposes by their captors. While some service personnel may be a trifle foggy on the exact requirements of the Geneva Convention until the need for familiarity with those conventions floats up to the top of their personal “to-do” duty requirements, the POW code of conduct is branded on our consciousness. Well, that and the bitter knowledge that the last military opponent of ours who paid anything like strict attention to Geneva Convention requirements when applying them to captured American service personnel were the Germans in WWII.

So, we have quietly gotten our heads around a couple of facts, one of the most important being the brutal reality that Americans best not surrender. The odds of surviving long enough for the International Red Cross to make that all-important visit to verify your well-being are practically non-existent. Snuff videos made available through various pro-fundamentalist Islamic media throughout Middle East make it pretty damn clear that no surrender in the first place may be the most viable career option.

Even if a prisoner is lucky, and the market for death-porn is flooded, the odds of being used as a hostage, and paraded like a puppet in front of the video cameras are pretty much a given. Exactly how far one can or ought to go in resisting this kind of exploitation is a judgment call. Admiral James Stockdale, as the senior American POW in North Vietnam chose to mutilate himself rather than be paraded in public for propaganda purposes, and threatened suicide if the North Vietnamese continued to continue torturing other POWs.

Pvt. Patrick Miller, of the 507th Maintenance Company was taken prisoner during the dash into Iraq in 2003, (at the same time as Pvt. Jessica Lynch) and was one of the five surviving members of his unit paraded on Iraqi television. I remember seeing the clip of the five on the news, and thought that he was the only one of them who seemed to be defiant. He answered back with his name and rank, and looked like he was about to spit into the camera, even if he and the others were entirely at the mercy of Saddam Hussein’s goons. In the long run, ones’ response to the extreme of captivity and threatened (or actual torture) depends on training, and maturity. But sometimes it depends on strength of character, and maybe a large lashing of stubborn bloody-mindedness, which are harder to predict in advance and inculcate with training. But I digress. I have a point, and I am getting to it.

This week, it’s the fifteen British sailors and Marines, taken by Iranian goons, and paraded in front of cameras, while Tony Blair and the British media agonize over how to react, what should have been done, and what can be done to get them back without loosing any national self-respect, and their families try and maintain a stiff upper lip under the hot searchlight of media interest.

It pretty much looks like it was deliberate and well-planned, done expressly for the purposes of getting hostages to toy with, probably with an eye for a prisoner exchange, and building up their image internally. They announced their intentions to kidnap coalition personnel some weeks ago, but at this point in the war, American personnel are probably just too damn hard to catch unawares. So, go for the easily gathered harvest, and drag it out as long as possible. I am afraid that if it drags on for a long time, as long as the Teheran embassy hostage crisis that it will become as much of a political hot potato. I can see the Blair government in a cleft stick; having neither the means or the will to respond with gunboats, or the 21st century equivalent. Being that the war in Iraq is resoundingly unpopular (as near as I can judge from a distance) I wonder if there is any stomach for that kind of response anyway. And while the diplomatic alternative grinds slowly away, over weeks and months, and the hostages families fret and worry, and the national media pounds away, involvement in the coalition may become even less popular. Getting the hostages freed may come to seem to be such an overwhelmingly good thing that no one will care very much about the price paid for such an end.

I hope that there is a Stockdale, or a Miller among the captured British sailors and Marines. I hope that they are not being tormented, as Admiral Stockdale was, at the hands of the North Vietnamese… and I hope that they are resisting as best they can, for the sake of their own self-respect as members of a proud military with a long tradition of defiance and resistance to captivity. I hope they will return knowing in their hearts that they held to the code, and to their comrades, and never in their hearts surrendered.

(Also posted at Blogger News Network)

21. February 2007 · Comments Off on More Than a River in Egypt · Categories: Domestic, Fun and Games, General, GWOT, Home Front, Politics

Ordinarily I don’t link to stuff that Instapundit links to, as I suspect that is redundant… but in the case of this particular “shrinkish” essay, I make an exception. The good doctor touches on some very salient points… and kind of explains why the level of discourse on certain topics has sunk to the vitriolic level that it has. Read and follow the links, for extra credit.