10. January 2020 · Comments Off on When Doom Comes a’ Calling · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun With Islam, History, Iran, Iraq, Media Matters Not, Military

(I started this post last weekend – but real life and a new book project intervened. Consider this a footnote to Trent T.’s post, here.)

Well, it certainly came a’calling for Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani last week, Middle Eastern time. Nothing left but bits of scrap metal and meat, and a bruised hand with a large ring on it. Kind of fitting for the guy who perfected the fine art of IEDs, and brought so much business to the developers of artificial limbs for those survivors of that deadly art. As the satirist Tom Leher noted, so many decades ago, and in a slightly different context,

“Some have harsh words for this man of renown, But some think our attitude Should be one of gratitude, Like the widows and cripples in old London town Who owe their large pensions to Werner von Braun.”

So it seems that the late General Soleimani will not be missed … not missed much by an assortment of parties in Iran, the Middle East, Israel, and US State Department employees across the world, some of whom posted their congratulations in the first blog reports that I saw first thing. The Daughter Unit reports that most of the veteran social media participants were absolutely fizzing with glee, as were apparently Iranian anti-mullacracy exile communities across the world. Considering that the late General S. had a hand in nearly four decades of Islamic violence (violence which racked up casualties in the thousands, and which did include American troops), across the Middle East and was about to take a hand in fomenting some more in Iraq last week, he will definitely not be missed.

The remote pilot of the drone which dropped our final farewell gift upon him didn’t miss, either, although to read the Twitter caterwauling laments of Hollywood idiots like Rose McWhatserface is nearly enough to make one upchuck. The trauma of being sexually molested by a creep like Harvey Weinstein obviously blotted from what remains of her tiny mind the reality of things like … umm, Iran’s forty-year jihad against the US, beginning with overrunning our embassy in Teheran and keeping staff, employees and casual American visitors to said embassy captive for more than a year? In the old days, an attack on a foreign embassy counted as declaring war. It fries me no end that the Teheran embassy thing happened so long ago that I was in my first Air Force enlistment, and my daughter was born a couple of months later. That’s how long we’ve been waiting for anything like an appropriate response.

And Jimmy Carter was such a clueless, limp-dcked, Saudi-loving, anti-Semitic wimp that he couldn’t even countenance the appropriate response, which should rightfully have been along the lines of – “Release our people and vacate our embassy (and clean up the mess as you go) or various essential real estate of yours will become slightly radioactive glass. Counting down… three … two…” THAT response would have spared us all – especially in the Middle East – decades of trouble, but morons like failed novelist Ben Rhodes certainly wouldn’t grasp that point, being twenty something, or perhaps older now, and still dealing with equally educated idiots. And as for ostensibly American news media painting, certain celebs and politicians painting the late General in romantic shades of “able soldier, handsome charismatic leader, an inspiration to his troops, austere poet, snappy dresser and all-around-good-fellow…” People, do you have any comprehension of how that makes you appear to the rest of us? It’s as of you are lamenting and condemning the death of Reinhold Heydrich, who was also cultured, handsome, a charismatic leader, et cetera, et cetera – and every but as much a murderous a*hole as Qasem Soleimani. Is this truly what you wish to embrace, and to appear to the rest of us as a sympathizer of? Discuss as you wish, and add any insights.

It is deeply, solidly ironic that at almost the very hour that US forces were bagging Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, fearless leader of the ISIL/ISIS-established caliphate in the Middle East, that the catastrophically-unfunny cast of Saturday Night Live had just finished ragging on President Trump for supposedly coddling ISIS by pulling out of Syria. There hasn’t been a case of timing this bad since 70ies Weatherman terrorist-turned-educator Bill Ayres launched his memoir of bomb-building and social mayhem the very week that Osama Bin Laden’s merry crew of jihadis murdered nearly 3,000 Americans and others in a single day, on September 11th, 2001.

Well, who would have thought that our intelligence services were actually performing the hard graft of tracking down dangerous international enemies, instead of attempting to reverse the results of an election, and harass domestic political opponents? Seeing that our military leadership was dead-as-a-doornail serious about taking care of business, in facilitating Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi date with his seventy-two cranky virgins or white grapes, or whatever – was grimly satisfactory. This is the jolly lad whose ISIS/ISIL hardliners set a standard for psychopathic cruelty to captives which might have 19th century Comanche and Apache warriors saying, “Oh, hey, guys – don’t you think that’s going a little too far?” (Or maybe not – those fellows had some stomach-churningly inventive notions about killing slowly.)

It is additionally rather delicious that al-Baghdadi was chased by a military working dog into his last hide-out, and that it was a female working dog at that. And there, the wretched man chose to blow himself up, with three of his kids, although Jamie Lee Curtis expressed some indignation and sorrow on his behalf. Did she or anyone else among the Hollywood Trump-haters express any such tender feelings about those captives of al-Baghdadi who were burned alive, drowned in metal cages, executed with det-cord around their necks, and beheaded in job-lots? Anything about the Yazidi women and girls sold into sex-slavery? So help me, I can’t recall, but then we have come to expect this kind of one-sided concern from the denizens of the celebrity world.

Finally – that the whole operation was kept from the Dem leadership on grounds of operational security? Ah yes; I won’t go as far as to say that Nancy Pelosi would have picked up the phone and called a contact at the Washington Post, saying, “You’ll never guess what is going down – the Special Forces are going after al Baghdadi – but don’t tell anyone, it’s Top Secret!” but at the rate that stuff keeps getting leaked from Dem offices into the media … good call. Yes, someone on a senior Dem leadership staff would have spilled to a media contact, likely out of sheer ignorance and malice toward Trump. The kind of mindset what sees the lower serving military ranks as disposable pawns, only useful for holding umbrellas, or as background for a nice photo op … or if their deaths can be used for a purpose. Yes, I’m that cynical. Discuss as you wish.

06. December 2015 · Comments Off on Rituals of the Season · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, Fun With Islam, GWOT, History, Iraq, Media Matters Not, War, World

My daughter was nearly ten years old, in that Christmastime of 1990. I was stationed at Zaragoza AB, in the Ebro River Valley of Spain, which was serving as one of the staging bases in Europe for the build-up to the First Gulf War … the effort to liberate Kuwait, which Saddam Hussein seemed to believe that he had a perfect right to occupy, loot and exterminate those opposing him in that small matter. But this is not about that war, particularly – only as it affected those of us located far along the haft of the military spear towards the sharp and pointy end.

Zaragoza was a long-established US base in Spain by then – sufficiently long enough to have grown up a second generation of children born to American servicemen and their Spanish wives. It was sufficiently well-established to have a fairly modern on-base school, which housed the elementary classes in one wing, and the high school in the other. My daughter started there in kindergarten, the very week that we arrived, in 1985, to the day that we departed, six years later, when she started the sixth grade. It was a safe posting, especially considered after my previous assignment to Athens, Greece, where terrorism aimed at American personnel and at the base generally was accepted grimly as an ongoing part of life, like hurricanes along the southern coasts. One took every careful precaution and internalized certain practices against an irregular and specifically unpredictably-occurring threat. One of my daughter’s earliest memories is of watching me from the front step of the suburban Athens apartment where we lived then … kneeling down to look underneath my car, parked out in the street. I was, of course, looking for something explody-ish with trailing wires, where such a device ought to not be attached to the underside of the bright orange Volvo sedan that I had purchased from a fellow NCO upon arrival in Athens. (The Volvo had the temporary USG or US Forces Greece license plates on it, which branded the vehicle as being owned/driven by a member of the American military, and thus a likely target for anything from crude vandalism to a bomb.  Just one of those things; it was a relief to get to Spain, where the practice was for regular Spanish license plates to be placed on automobiles owned by American service personnel.)

Late in autumn of that year the build-up began. Zaragoza AB went on a war footing, which meant that duties and hours devoted to those duties doubled, or in some cases, tripled for all personnel. Bright new concertina wire went up, all along the base perimeter; one of my memories of that period was how weirdly beautiful it looked under a layer of winter frost  in the early morning – like sunshine brilliantly glittering on matte-finished silver.

Christmas was coming.  After that, New Year’s Day, and then the deadline for Saddam Hussein to give up Kuwait. We knew that, barring a miracle, he wouldn’t. And then War, sometime in those days of the first week. Inevitable. The dark grey storm cloud on the horizon, flickering with flashes of interior lightning, blotting out the horizon and moving inexorably closer. One was made aware of it in dozens of ways, as the minutes, hours, days ticked by – even as the prosaic routines went on. My daughter had school every day, I cooked a family supper every evening, read to her at bed-time, shopped for groceries at the commissary, pressed a fresh blue uniform shirt every morning, mailed out Christmas cards, bought and wrapped presents. Because Christmas. One holds on to as many shreds and shards of normality as one can, when it comes to children.

These last few weeks, I have been feeling the same foreboding that I did, that holiday season more than twenty years ago. My daughter and I have a full schedule of weekend holiday markets and events. When we were setting up for the first of them, on a Friday afternoon, we came home to the news about the Islamic massacre in Paris. This week, as we were getting ready for another, it was the Islamic massacre of local government employees in San Bernardino. Next week … who knows? I am fairly certain that there will be another atrocity perpetrated by Daesh fanatics over the coming holiday season. It will occur in a place and at a time where it will all come as a horrifying surprise to the victims of it, to our national leadership cadre and to our major news outlets. The latter two will, of course, be horribly inconvenienced by having to throw some thin shreds of career-saving rationale or justification excusing such an unexpected event. This I know, as surely as I saw the deadline for military action in the Gulf inch closer and closer.

Merry Christmas, y’all.


12. August 2014 · Comments Off on Schrecklichkeit · Categories: Fun With Islam, Good God, GWOT, History, Iraq, Iraq: The Ugly, Military, War

It’s a German word – it means “frightfulness“ – and it was used, if memory serves and a brief internet search conforms – it was a sort of shorthand for the reprisals exacted by the German Army against civilians during both wars. If not an actual German military field policy in WWI, it had certainly become one by WWII; brutally persecute, torture and execute civilians, and make certain that such horrors became well-known through extensive documentation within the theater of operations, and outside of it. To encourage the others, as the saying goes, but on a grand scale – to make war on a civilian population, once all effective military have departed the area – in hopes of cowing everyone who sees and hears of what brutality has been meted out on the helpless, and especially the helpless.
Was it an explicit policy of the German armies to apply the principle of schrecklichkeit – by that name or another – in the field in those wars?

Whether or not dictated from the highest levels, it did have the desired effect of discouraging armed resistance … at first, anyway. Acts of extreme cruelty against civilians were definitely committed, beginning in Belgium in 1914 – and had a short-term effect in that Belgian resistance to the German juggernaut was, to put it mildly, discouraged with Teutonic efficiency. However, the long-term result was a black mark against Germany, in its conduct of that war which resounded for years and was revived again with the record of Nazi atrocities in the second.

Which brings me to reports of the horrors being committed by the Islamic radicals of ISIS, or ISIL, or whatever they are calling themselves, as they sweep into Mosul and proclaim the establishment of a renewed caliphate. I have not seen much of this reflected in the mainstream media yet – but the worst excesses are seeping out, through minor publications, blogs and social media. Of course, without all those layers of editors and fact-checkers, such excesses could be really happening, or the work of propagandists of varying degrees of sophistication … but for the fact that ISIS/ISIL make no bones about boasting of what they are doing, and sharing the pictorial and video evidence. This link was posted on Samizdata by M. Simon – and if you have a low nausea threshold, don’t go any farther than a couple of pictures. I post the link only so that readers will have an idea of exactly how horrible this situation has become. I await for the inevitable lefty-luvvie comparison to Abu Ghraib, of course.

There are likely two rationales for practicing the 21st century Islamic version of schrecklichkeit in Northern Iraq; the ISIS/ISIL fighters are extreme sadists with the blessings of an ideology which encourages them to do what they enjoy most – torturing and murdering infidels – and bragging about it. And secondly, this demoralizes those unfortunate enough to be in their way, and discourages resistance. For a time, anyway. But schrechlichkeit has a short shelf life, once those whom it is practiced on realize that there is no way out, and only one way to fight back. Eventually, as the Allies discovered in the Pacific in WWII – there comes the understanding that those who have so relished inflicting cruelty on the helpless deserve no mercy at all, and will receive none, once the tables are turned upon them. Surrender is not an option at this point – and in future neither will mercy.
(Cross-posted at Chicagoboyz.net)

16. June 2014 · Comments Off on Comment Would Be Superfluous · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun With Islam, GWOT, Iraq: The Bad, Military · Tags: ,

Iraq Embassy Evac

A Ramirez cartoon, lifted from a commenter at Rantburg who posted it in a discussion of the evacuation of the US Embassy in Iraq.

26. November 2008 · Comments Off on Another Day, Another Dollar · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, Home Front, Iraq, Veteran's Affairs, Working In A Salt Mine...

And another dirty shirt, so to speak. Blogging has been sporadic here; what with doing reviews, working two jobs, the odd bit of housekeeping here and there, and other stuff. Frankly, all my focus is split between setting up events in support of the “Adelsverein Trilogy” (last chance here to purchase copies for delivery by Christmas! Getcher copies of the greatest epic about the Civil War and its aftermath since Gone With The Wind! Gripping drama, true love, savage murder and bitter revenge… and cows! Be the first member of your book club to say that you have read it!)

Not much energy left over, at the end of all that. Matters military? I’ve been retired from the Air Force for ten years now. It was a blast, and a learned a lot, got to travel to the far ends of the earth, meet unusual and interesting people… but I’m in another part of my life now. I don’t want to go pounding on about being a veteran for the rest of my life, as if I had never been or done anything else.

Iraq? Looks like it’s all over, and the good guys won. What a turn-up, eh? I kind of thought it would take a couple of years longer, a slow process of institutions and infrastructure being rebuilt or constructed new. We’d keep a couple of bases there, out in the country and American forces would rotate in and out, in another short while it will be an accompanied tour, and they’d be tourist busses parked in shoals in front of archeological sites like the Hanging Gardens, and Ur of the Chaldees. Tourists would eat ice-cream from street vendors, and little bits of barbequed something on skewers, and walk up and down the promenade by the river, as it turned silver and gold, from a spectacular sunset. Bagdad would be prosperous, full of tall buildings and profitable businesses – like Seoul today. Veterans of the war would return, and look around and say ‘what-the-%#@!?’. Essentially, it’s in the hands of the Iraqis. We’ll lurk around in the background for a bit, or a couple of decades, but the heavy lifting is just about done.

Does look as if we ourselves are headed for another long, economic wobble. Been there. Seen that. I’ve already lost three jobs on that account in this year alone, and Blondie has lost one, and no one is hiring temporary sales help for Christmas this year, so it’s hard to say how much more ghastly it can get for us. Much as I dislike the whole concept and the whole soul-killing processes of the place, it looks like I will be staying on at the Hellish Corporate Phone Banks for more than the six months that I originally planned, or until book sales pick up. As it is, it looks like I am stuck there for only about fifteen hours a week as it is. I put up my hand and volunteer when the call volume falls off, and four whole roomfuls of people are sitting in their cubicles, twiddling their thumbs and chattering to each other. This afternoon, the two college-age girls in the cubicles next to me had a box of new crayons and were coloring in the pictures of My Little Pony in a coloring book.

Yeah, that’s a disturbing image. Slightly more disturbing was a talk with William, the Gentleman With Whom I Keep Company last weekend. He retired from a heroically long stint as a public school teacher, and has a pension paid by the state of California… which for the month of November was one-quarter what it was the month before. One-time-only glitch with his check? An attempt by the state comptroller to fiddle around with things at the end of the fiscal year? Or a harbinger of something more serious … like the budget of the state of California at the top of a long, slippery slope. William hasn’t gotten any credible explanation out of anyone for this… but if the December pension check is down by the same amount, he foresees having to go back to work, too.

Interesting times, for sure.

(I have just ordered copies of all three books of the Adelsverein Trilogy, so the first two or three fans to order them will be in luck, otherwise, I won’t be able to get autographed copies to you by Christmas. Books One and Two are already there at Amazon, here and here, and at Barnes and Noble, here and here

02. June 2008 · Comments Off on Something To Think About · Categories: General, Good God, Iraq, Media Matters Not, sarcasm

A story you probably won’t see in the New York Times…or any other major media. Yeah, thanks guys – for keeping us in the loop.

Courtesy of Rantburg, my source for all stuff that is beyond the usual media fringe.

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.

03. February 2008 · Comments Off on Good Iraq Wrapup of “The Lies” · Categories: Iraq

Jay Tea over at Wizbang has a good wrapup of how we got into Iraq in the first place. I know I’ve linked to various posts like this over the past few years, but it’s always good to be reminded of what happened vs the rewrites often repeated over and over by the anti-war crowd. I refuse to apologize when calling a man’s bluff.

He’s a little easier on the conduct of the war than I’ve become. But then, we’ve all got the advantage of hindsight there as well. I do think “The Rumsfeld Doctrine” will be studied in years to come as a sub-category of the war college course, “What’s Wrong with Wishful Thinking?” Or whatever it’s called.

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

11. November 2007 · Comments Off on Memorial Day Links · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, History, Iraq, Memoir, Military, War

Two essays for this day, the eleventh day of the elevenths month: First – Austin Bay and second, my own reminiscence of my great-uncle William

Later: from Youtube, via my computer genius friend who sent it to me this morning – “A Pittance of Time“.

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.

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…)

22. June 2007 · Comments Off on Donate ACs to Troops in 140 Degree Heat · Categories: General, Home Front, Iraq: The Good

Go here.

11. June 2007 · Comments Off on Dammit · Categories: Air Force, Iraq: The Ugly

As I was outprocessing today I learned that one of my former Airman’s good friends was killed in Iraq this weekend.

There are just no words.

The Airman was only 19. Yeah, 18’s an adult. That’s easy to say when you’re 18. When you’re over 40…not so much.
So before I left I spent a few moments “sexually harassing” (hugging) a very red-eyed Airman that is very special to me. Practically a second daughter. I felt bad that I couldn’t stay longer and talk like we used to, but shit happened as it does when you’re trying to outprocess and I was already three hours behind schedule. I’ve never felt quite THAT crappy about leaving anyone in my life.

I still think we were right to go in given the circumstances at the time.

I can’t tell you when it happened, but at some point I began to lose confidence in our leadership. When it hit me that “I’m” leadership, I knew it was time to go.

Do me a favor?  Pray if you got that goin’ on in your life.

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.

18. February 2007 · Comments Off on SLOW BLEED = SCREW THE MILITARY · Categories: Iraq, Military, Politics, Rant

The lengths to which the far left will go to avenge the election and re-election of George Bush have amazed me since 2000, but their most recent behavior takes vulgarity, indecency and cynism to a new level. This business of the so-called slow bleed strategy has nothing to do with whether we should or should not have gone into Iraq, and everything to do with adding suspenders to the belt in insuring that defeat is certain. I for one believe that the notion of micromanaging military affairs to the extent that they have threatened is unconstitutional under Article II Section 2. While Jack Murtha and his supporters would have us believe that his convictions are especially valid on the basis of his military service, I submit that his pandering to the fanatic left wing base of his party is his sole motivation and completely negates any respect he may have earned in the service of his country. Actually, earning the disrespect of his fellow Americans has been a work in progress since at least 1980, when he was caught up in the Abscam scandal

If you want to hear what a true hero has to say about funding the troops, watch Texas congressman Sam Johnson here as he speaks at House hearings. Not only a true hero, but a gentleman to boot.

29. January 2007 · Comments Off on Top 10 Myths of the Iraq War · Categories: Iraq

Over at The Strategy Page.

1-No Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

2-The 2003 Invasion was Illegal.

3-Sanctions were working.

And it goes on and on with more explanations.

Yes, I know things are not “rosey” over there.  However, strategic problems do not validate all the other rantings.

Via Dan Collins at Protein Wisdom.

12. December 2006 · Comments Off on Credibility Toast · Categories: General, Iraq, Israel & Palestine, Media Matters Not, Rant

I’ve been following the AP-Captain Jamail Hussein-Sock-Puppet imbroglio with somewhat less than my usual vicious interest in the follies of the MSM for two reasons: one, I’m distracted by the entrancements of the 19th century, and two, I’ve been pounding on this over the last two or three years, and I’m really, really tired of repeating myself.

It’s become pretty damned clear to us news junkies that depending on local stringers in certain areas of conflict, unrest or just generally feelings of bad karma was a shaky construction for a news entity who still wished to maintain some pretension of impartiality. The list of news-producing areas— those places which generate an inordinate number of headlines and passionate concern — where the crystalline flow of pure information has been tainted by the sewage of partisan interest has always been long. In my youth it included practically every news organization behind the Iron or Bamboo curtain; of course, the news bureau of a Communist state was slanting, censoring, bending folding and mutilating the news, and you were an idiot or a college professor of the Marxist bent if you didn’t know it and apply salt to taste.

Add to that now any coverage of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, southern Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, and hefty chunks of the Middle East by entities like Reuters, AP, CNN, France 2, the BBC, 60 Minutes…. Well, you get the idea. There isn’t a chunk of salt big enough to take away the taste of krep when partisan journalism masquerades as impartial newsgathering.

And what is the reaction of formerly trustworthy purveyors of news, upon having been repeatedly busted for falsifying pictures, for use of incompetently faked documents, staged footage and outright lies, pissing away decades or more of accumulated credibility? Oddly enough, it appears to follow a progression rather like the five stages of grief: denial, followed by anger, followed by bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

AP, as an aggregate news distributor has the most to lose when busted for credibility. It is not just one channel, or one reporter, like CNN or the egregious Dan Rather, but it feeds stories to newspapers world wide. It’s an authoritative higher power, kind of like the Pope. To have thousands of readers across the US open their various daily papers, see a story from Whereverthehellistan credited to the AP, and to realize that all of them are thinking, derisively “Whotta load!” and turning the page must be a bitter pill indeed for AP’s management. Hence the denial and the anger directed at those pesky bloggers who raised questions about the AP’s Baghdad Sock-puppet o’the Month, Captain Jamail Hussein. After all, we might start wondering about how many other sock-puppet sources feature other AP stories… or how many featured in the past.

Anyone else see AP’s credibility and profitability , flaming up and collapsing in ruin like a journalistic Hindenburg, if readers begin putting the AP brand on par with those supermarket tabs that always have stories about alien abductions, monkey-human babies and antique airplanes on the moon?

Give Reuters credit, at least their management zipped through the cycle to acceptance, in pulling suspect pictures from their archives. They can see the writing on the wall clear enough, and what they will loose by no longer being credible. But Dan Rather is still stuck in the bargaining phase, and it looks like AP is mining rich veins of denial.

I love the smell of desperation in the morning…. It smells like victory. Or maybe it’s just those weird pine-scented aromatherapy candles my daughter insists on burning.

19. November 2006 · Comments Off on Where’s Plan B? · Categories: GWOT, Iraq: The Bad, Politics, Rant

Now the Republicans are comparing Iraq to Viet Nam. Their argument is, just like Viet Nam, if we pull out we’ll be defeated, demoralized, and the troops that have died so far would have died for nothing.

Okay, I see that. I even agree with it to a point.

What I don’t see, from either side of the spectrum, Democrat or Republican, is a way to secure Iraq, turn it back over to the Iraqi people, and pull out without turning it into some sort of modern replay of the fall of Saigon. We don’t have enough boots on the ground. It’s actually going to take more blood and more treasure to secure Iraq and it’s going to take a LOT of time. Perhaps a decade or four. Is America willing to do that? Personally, I don’t think so. I mean it sounded great four years ago. Secure Iraq, train up their forces, turn it back over. Great plan. However, we never secured Iraq, and the Iraqis seem to have no interest in getting trained up. We need a new plan. Anyone seen Plan B? You mean to tell me we did this without a Plan B? No one goes into something like this without a Plan B. It must be secret.

Now I’ve heard some of the pundits try to make the case that if we pull out and Iraq falls apart, that’s an Iraqi failure, not an American failure. Right. If you believe that, I’ve got a bar outside the gate at Osan for ya…cheap. And don’t worry about the paperwork, it’s a snap.

There’s a balance here. At some point, and we’re getting there, the American people are going to turn on the current course of action. They’re going to say enough is enough. Then the 2000s are going to make the 1960s look like the 1950s. The same knee-jerk anger that was used to go after Saddam will get turned around on the government and the military and once again the government and the military will be “the bad guys” in the minds of the regular folks. Hippies will be cool again. Cats and dogs living together…you get the picture.

So…we need to see Plan B, and soon. Otherwise “Run away.” is going to be the only logical plan. And we won’t feel good about ourselves for it, but when it’s the only alternative to our blood and money being thrown into a smelly, stinking hole, it’s going to start looking good.

05. November 2006 · Comments Off on Memo: See More, Harshly · Categories: General, GWOT, Iraq, Media Matters Not, Rant

To: New Yorker Magazine
From: Sgt. Mom
Re: Seymour Hersh’s Lecture Circuit

1. For nearly as long as I have been paying attention to news in general, Mr. Hersh has been represented to the public at large as a fearless and principled investigative reporter, with connections and sources in the corridors of power that lesser mortals can only dream of, and gnash their teeth in helpless envy to contemplate. After all, he won ( insert portentous drum-roll here) a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the story of the My Lai Massacre – never mind that a veteran and minor journalist named Ron Ridenhour had already done much of the legwork, tracking down the source of ugly rumors that he had heard as a GI, locating and interviewing many key witnesses.

2. Mr. Hersh has since gone on from strength to strength in his journalistic endeavors, culminating in his employment at your hallowed establishment. Funny thing, though: none of his more current journalistic scoops are usually cited when he is introduced, perhaps because of the suspicion that his “sources” over the years are feeding him questionable data for their own purposes. Or that his journalistic crystal ball sees but murkily these last few decades; he has proposed for example that the US was deeply involved in the Soviet shoot-down of KAL Flight 007, and that the war in Afghanistan was toppling into the deep abyss of failure-quagmire-gloom-despair-and-misery. This last magisterial judgment had the ill-luck to be published just before Taliban rule collapsed like a wet paper bag, inspiring at least one wit to comment that Mr. Hersh was an invaluable source for knowing what was really going on— in that in hindsight, he was invariably wrong.

3. Over the last five years, Mr. Hersh has chosen to spread the blessings of his special insights to a wider and more uncritical audience on the lecture circuit. Like some unsavory chunk of solid waste, he has popped to the surface of the slightly-less-than-mainstream-media-sewer in the same week that John Kerry clumsily maligned the education and intelligence of those currently serving in Iraq and by extension in today’s military. Senator Kerry has been savagely mocked for appearing to forget that there is no draft any more and the military today is for damn sure not the military that he condescended to grace with his presence forty years ago. Mr. Hersh, who appears to also be stuck in a similar meme and time, is currently improving the idle hour by lecturing receptive audiences on the endless series of ghastly atrocities being perpetrated by American forces in Iraq, describing in loving detail, assorted crimes of massacre, rape, sodomy and torture .

4. Strangely, for a hard-charging investigative journalist, he is a little short on the actual specific details of these incidents, or any of those described in other lectures – say, a specific time, place, unit or other disinterested witnesses. Corroborative information is a little thin on the ground; a curious omission, considering the numbers of personnel who have rotated in and out of country and the military, NGO busy-bodies, other media outlets and other investigative reporters desirous of winning a Pulitzer. But Mr. Hersh insists that he has listened to tapes, taken phone calls, seen the documents – but of course, he can’t share these with the audience, for some reason, can’t publish the specifics and most certainly has not shared what he knows with those who would be rightfully charged with investigating such crimes. How very convenient – and recalls Senator Joe McCarthy, with his so-called incriminating and ever-changing little list which he kept in his pocket and waved around when he needed to intimidate the doubters.

5. This particular story quoted him indirectly saying that if Americans knew the full extent of U.S. criminal conduct, they would receive returning Iraqi veterans as they did Vietnam veterans. Well since so many of the so-called Vietnam atrocity stories turned out to be fraudulent and related by equally fake veterans, I wish Mr. Hersh and the rest of the legacy media the best of luck getting that to happen. In these days of google searches, internet access, e-mail and mil-blogs, we can fact-check all kinds of fakes now: fake veterans, fake atrocities – even fake investigative reporters, in a way that we couldn’t forty years ago. Jesse McBeth, anyone?

6. Seriously, have you ever considered suggesting a career change to Mr. Hersh, since the actual investigative reporting thing may be played out? Walmart greeter, perhaps? Just a thought.

Sgt Mom

(Previous Memo regarding Mr. Hersh here)