Afghanistan: Worse than Vietnam?

Why are we there? Ostensibly to prevent the Taliban/Al Qaida from training terrorists to attack us. Other unspoken reason 1: To try to prop up the nuclear armed government of Pakistan by denying those same groups bases to attack Paki from.Other possible reason: Have a nearby base from which we can launch a mission to secure said nukes if/when Paki gov’t falls apart.

quicksand What is the solution currently offered? Increase the number of troops on the ground to establish a safe zone within Afghanistan so Afghanis can set up a functioning government with hope that this will extend out into all of Afghanistan.

Problems:

  1. This solution achieves neither of the first two objectives.
  2. There is no objective criteria for success.
  3. Like Vietnam there is no direct US interest in the outcome of this war. Denying bases to terrorists is close to the same thing as the old domino theory that was used to rationalize Vietnam. Look at US history: We win wars that are either important to the national interests or in which we are so much larger than the opposition that a small portion of our military can overwhelm them. (See Grenada and Panama, Invasions of)
  4. We are running a military operation literally on the opposite side of the world. Supply lines are much more of a problem than even in Vietnam. Afghanistan is the nation that the Soviet Union – which shared a common border and had far fewer scruples about inflicting disproportionate damage – could not win. The Russians could not have been happier than the day we asked if we could run our supplies through their nation. They just followed Napoleon’s advice to "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." They probably view it as payback. We bankrupted them to win the Cold War, so they’ll help us bankrupt ourselves.
  5. Because there is no objective criteria for success no one has any idea how long even the proposed solution will take to implement.
  6. It will damage NATO permanently. Either the member nations will continue to commit token amounts of troops and poison the water for any future necessary deployments as casualties turn the public further against joint operations with the US; or the other nations will cease to deploy troops and NATO will be turned into a shell of itself. NATO has a very clear reason to exist: To protect member states from attack by another government. That clear reason is why NATO has survived even the end of the threat is originally designed for. Using NATO to respond to and suppress insurgent, non-government actors is a very dangerous dilution of that mission. Mission creep will make NATO useless.
  7. We can’t afford the current size of the wars we’re already in — in either money or manpower. Afghanistan and the George Bush Desert Classic together have come close to breaking our ground forces. They are being worn out by too many deployments. Too many of them are being regularly asked to do missions that they are ill-trained to do. I have an incredibly high opinion of the American soldier. I have met many and am related to one. No military can take this kind of long-term open-ended deployments. And that is without even going in to the cost in terms of arms and armor. As a nation the US is effectively broke. We are funding the government on debt piled on top of debt piled on top of debt. Our banking system is the dead mouse on the kitchen floor of the US economy.* Both the bankers and the government are terrified of what will happen when/if the banks state the size of their losses. WE HAVE NO MONEY! This is my real problem with the entire health care debate. I am all in favor of national health care. I think this will save the nation a considerable amount of money in the end and extend the length and quality of its citizens’ lives. One problem: WE HAVE NO MONEY! How many wars have we paid for while not addressing this basic need? Just since the start of the New Deal there have been five major conflicts, the Cold War and I have no idea how many minor wars. We will spend billions on the military at the drop of a hat even when there is no actual threat to the safety and well-being of our nation. But some sort of national health insurance – which would cost far less than any of the major wars — has been blocked for more than 50 years.
  8. The Afghani government (and I use term liberally) remains in place because of corruption and rigged elections. You can’t win the hearts and minds battle with a government that looks like every other corrupt national government the Afghanis have ever had. Yeah the Taliban are murderous thugs but you have to make an argument to the people that more than “We’re less capricious than they are.”

If I were Hamad Kharzai I wouldn’t be buying any green bananas right now. The US has a long record of replacing its hand-picked leaders with extreme prejudice at times like this. (See Vietnam war, changes of government during for examples.)

Which brings me to my final point: If this isn’t another Vietnam, it will do until the real thing comes along. It is far too easy to imagine someone saying about an Afghani town: “We must destroy the village in order to save it.” That is not a slap at our military. It is meant to point out that under these extreme circumstances humans are likely to react in extreme ways. What seems like crazy on a normal day …

Unfortunately we do not have the option we should have used in Vietnam, declaring victory and go home. To do so almost certainly would make matters worse. We have added to the mess in an incredibly dangerous part of the world. This is the 21st century’s Balkans not because it may spark another world war but because it could involve the world in a cataclysmic war. I do hope Archduke Ferdinand is not already on his way.

 

 

*This sentence is a rip off of something Collateral Damage Sr. originally said about Nixon.

The Iraq War: 10 Lessons Learned During My Brother’s Deployment

1: I can hold my breath for six months. It’s not that hard, really. I just inhaled when my brother shipped out and exhaled again when he returned for R&R. I did it again when he went back until he returned from his tour. This is a convenient literary description of what it felt like – but in my memory it is the literal truth. I know people who’ve done it for 15 months, several times.

2: How to listen to the news. A mental flow chart I followed whenever I encountered any reports about Iraq. An answer of “that’s not my brother” at any step allowed me to return to my daily life.

  • Has somebody died?
  • Iraqi or American?
  • Civilian or military?
  • Was it someone in the Army?
  • What part of the country?
  • Is this near Fallujah?
  • Is it my brother?

When I reached that final question, I felt relieved and then horrible. I knew my reprieve was someone else’s loss.

3: What to send. Batteries. Hot sauce – MRE’s are bland. Hard candy. Chewing tobacco – it’s a form of currency. DVDs. Baby wipes – help people clean off when they’re in the field. My son sent some of his toys and stuffed animals to give to Iraqi kids.

4: What not to send. Don’t send chocolate. It will likely melt during shipping because of the temperatures in Iraq. There have been many reports that the military is trying to develop a chocolate with a higher melting point. Officially you’re not supposed to ship porn, alcohol, and/or anything with pork in it. While there are serious doubts as to whether or not anyone actually checks for these things, people at home disguise them anyway. A friend of my brother’s got some mouthwash in a box from home, screwed the top off and took a swig out of it. He spit it out and said in total surprise, “It’s mouthwash!”

5: Nothing bigger than a shoe box. That’s the optimum size for shipping. Anything bigger than that will take forever to get there. For some reason speed of delivery mattered even when he was going to be there for a year.*

6: The USPS is very helpful. When shipping overseas you have to fill out one of two different customs forms depending on the weight of the package. I was always filling out the wrong one. No matter how long the line behind me, when the clerk saw the address on the package he or she invariably said something kind and didn’t mind waiting while I filled out the right one.

7: People are very kind. You send things because there’s nothing else you can do. I asked other people to send things, too. And they did. Lots of things: packages and dozens of birthday and Christmas cards and prayers. Always prayers. You send those, too, because there’s nothing else you can do.

8: I don’t care what you think about the war. Before you tell me that, tell me if you’ve had someone over there. If you know what that constant dread is like or what it’s like to be terrified when the phone rings late at night, then I’ll listen to what you have to say. I’ve disagreed with people who’ve been through this, but I’ve never argued. We have too much in common. It’s irrational, but I think we are the only people who should get to discuss the topic. Anyone else – even the ones who agree with me – I tend to view as a clueless fool.

9: Many people have it worse. And it’s not just the families that have had someone killed or injured. He is my brother but he is Stacy’s husband and my parent’s child. The times they were awake at 3 AM were much darker than the times I was.

10: I am a hypocrite. If truth is the first casualty of war, then the first truth to die is the fact that your opponent is human, too. I passionately believe that all human lives are equal. For the entire year my brother was over there I didn’t care how many Iraqis died or what else happened to them. Now that he is back, I am compassionate again.

 

*This was written in 2005. This size restriction is no longer accurate.

Robert McNamara: An appreciation … of sorts

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones

McNamara, dead today at 93, embodied The American Century.

Born two years after the start of World War I, he got his MBA from Harvard in 1937, in World War II he served in the Air Force in the Pacific Campaign, became president of Ford in 1960 – when that was still something to aspire to – then secretary of defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson during both the Cuba Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, finally president of the World Bank. He was neither Zelig nor Forrest Gump – he was in the foreground of the pictures Gump and Zelig snuck into.

He received – justly – a lot of blame for Vietnam. This is the man who, on his first visit to South Vietnam in 1962 said “every quantitative measurement we have shows we’re winning this war.” While McNamara had clear doubts about the war he lacked the courage of his convictions. He was unable to convince President Johnson – who also knew the war was unwinnable – to change his policies. He was unwilling to commit apostasy and tell the US public what he knew to be true.

Without setting any of that aside, let us acknowledge one thing: the war could have been a lot worse without McNamara.

Vietnam was a fiasco in large part because it was unwinnable. The US sent troops to try to preserve a fiction: the “Republic” of South Vietnam. It sent soldiers to fight over something that was of no importance to the nation whatsoever. The fall of South Vietnam to the Communists – who were certainly despotic and brutal – meant nothing to the US. At least the French had been fighting for a revenue-producing colony. As Yeats put it in An Irish Airman Foresees His Death:

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.

While Vietnam was a fiasco, at least – and I say this without irony or sarcasm – it was a well-run fiasco. McNamara, a brilliant logistician and administrator, saw to it that the troops were fed , armed, deployed, medically cared for and treated in as professional a manner as was possible. The mail was delivered on time to the soldiers, sailors and airmen. Let no one underestimate how important that is. If you think this is not a major accomplishment then look at our two current wars. Because Iraq was run from the White House by people with no idea of what was needed to run a war:

  • The wrong troops were sent to do the wrong jobs, thus the tragedy of Abu-Gharaib – a prisoner of war camp run by military police with no training or experience in running a prison.
  • Troops were sent into combat with inadequate supplies of water, body armor, ammunition and God know what else.
  • Soldiers were forced to weld metal plates onto vehicles in an attempt to give them the armor needed.
  • Because of a political decision overruling the military’s recommended troop requirements, the same units were and are repeatedly deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan – whether or not they are combat ready and, at the same time, further degrading the combat readiness they already had.

Vietnam, by comparison, was renowned (and sometimes reviled) as one of the most over-supplied conflicts in history. In addition to those basic things like ammo and water, units in the field were even provided with everything from beer to ice cream. (As ice cream creates thirst rather than sakes it, this was a very dubious benefit.) McNamara stepped down as secretary of defense in 1968 and within four years the US Armed Forces were falling apart in Vietnam.

Also to McNamara’s credit – he took responsibility for his actions and mistakes. In his 1995 memoir, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam:

McNamara said he and his senior colleagues were “wrong, terribly wrong” to pursue the war as they did. He acknowledged that he failed to force the military to produce a rigorous justification for its strategy and tactics, misunderstood Asia in general and Vietnam in particular, and kept the war going long after he realized it was futile because he lacked the courage or the ability to turn President Johnson around.

He never said history would vindicate him or that he was just following orders.

In Errol Morris’ brilliant documentary Fog of War, McNamara became human for the first time for many people. During it he discusses Vietnam and the formative World War II incidents that shaped him. McNamara served under Gen. Curtis LeMay, who lead the bombing campaign against Japan. He quotes LeMay as saying  that had the U.S. lost the war, he fully expected to be tried for war crimes. Despite all that happened in Vietnam, I suspect that type of action was what McNamara was trying to avoid.

In one well-publicized incident, [McNamara] rejected a list of bombing targets that the military officers wanted to hit, including targets near Hanoi and other civilian population centers. The joint chiefs off staff went over his head to Johnson, and the president authorized the strikes.

It is easy to say the road to hell is paved with good intentions and that certainly was the case here. However it is important to remember and learn from those intentions. The failure to live up to them had terrible costs for the US, Vietnam and Robert McNamara.

Can you help a couple of friends of mine?

When Big Brother Sergeant First Class CollateralDamage was in the sandbox many friends sent him stuff. On his birthday or Christmas or something he got so many cards that he actually cried. (He does it once a century whether he needs to or not.) I have two buddies currently serving in the George Bush Desert Classic. One is in playing on the course in the mid-east, the other is on the course in the far east. (Full disclosure — one is a buddy of SFC CollateralDamage whom I’ve never met but who he says is really neat despite being a lieutenant.) Both could use some care packages. If you have a moment and would like to help make a soldier cry for a good reason then please post a comment below or drop me an email.

My further thoughts on the topic, below:

IRAQ: My 10 Lessons Learned

1: I can hold my breath for six months. It’s not that hard, really. I just inhaled when my brother shipped out and exhaled again when he returned for R&R. I did it again when he went back until he returned from his tour. This is a convenient literary description of what it felt like – but in my memory it is the literal truth. I know people who’ve done it for 15 months, several times.

2: How to listen to the news. A mental flow chart I followed whenever I encountered any reports about Iraq. An answer of “that’s not my brother” at any step allowed me to return to my daily life.

  • Has somebody died?
  • Iraqi or American?
  • Civilian or military?
  • Was it someone in the Army?
  • What part of the country?
  • Is this near Fallujah?
  • Is it my brother?

When I reached that final question, I felt relieved and then horrible. I knew my reprieve was someone else’s loss.

3: What to send. Batteries. Hot sauce – MRE’s are bland. Hard candy. Chewing tobacco – it’s a form of currency. DVDs. Baby wipes – help people clean off when they’re in the field. My son sent some of his toys and stuffed animals to give to Iraqi kids.

4: What not to send. Don’t send chocolate. It will likely melt during shipping because of the temperatures in Iraq. There have been many reports that the military is trying to develop a chocolate with a higher melting point. Officially you’re not supposed to ship porn, alcohol, and/or anything with pork in it. While there are serious doubts as to whether or not anyone actually checks for these things, people at home disguise them anyway. A friend of my brother’s got some mouthwash in a box from home, screwed the top off and took a swig out of it. He spit it out and said in total surprise, “It’s mouthwash!”

5: Nothing bigger than a shoe box. That’s the optimum size for shipping. Anything bigger than that will take forever to get there. For some reason speed of delivery mattered even when he was going to be there for a year.

6: The USPS is very helpful. When shipping overseas you have to fill out one of two different customs forms depending on the weight of the package. I was always filling out the wrong one. No matter how long the line behind me, when the clerk saw the address on the package he or she invariably said something kind and didn’t mind waiting while I filled out the right one.

7: People are very kind. You send things because there’s nothing else you can do. I asked other people to send things, too. And they did. Lots of things: packages and dozens of birthday and Christmas cards and prayers. Always prayers. You send those, too, because there’s nothing else you can do.

8: I don’t care what you think about the war. Before you tell me that, tell me if you’ve had someone over there. If you know what that constant dread is like or what it’s like to be terrified when the phone rings late at night, then I’ll listen to what you have to say. I’ve disagreed with people who’ve been through this, but I’ve never argued. We have too much in common. It’s irrational, but I think we are the only people who should get to discuss the topic. Anyone else – even the ones who agree with me – I tend to view as a clueless fool.

9: Many people have it worse. And it’s not just the families that have had someone killed or injured. He is my brother but he is Stacy’s husband and my parent’s child. The times they were awake at 3 AM were much darker than the times I was.

10: I am a hypocrite. If truth is the first casualty of war, then the first truth to die is the fact that your opponent is human, too. I passionately believe that all human lives are equal. For the entire year my brother was over there I didn’t care how many Iraqis died or what else happened to them. Now that he is back, I am compassionate again.

Bush gave up golf for families of Iraq war dead

“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander-in-Chief playing golf,” Bush said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be as — to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

My head hurts from this quote.

Dear George, you want to show solidarity with these families? How about you visit each and every one of them. Maybe explain why neither you nor your children have served in this or any other war. How about adequate funding and administration for the Veterans Administration? How about not being an idiot? How about not starting wars on fictitious grounds?

Good Lord.

McCain? Hillary? Obama?

I’ll take any of them over this fool.

Not Huckabee, though. I can’t live through another administration that views facts as malleable.

IRAQ: My 10 Lessons Learned

1: I can hold my breath for six months. It’s not that hard, really. I just inhaled when my brother shipped out and exhaled again when he returned for R&R. I did it again when he went back until he returned from his tour. This is a convenient literary description of what it felt like – but in my memory it is the literal truth. I know people who’ve done it for 15 months, several times.

2: How to listen to the news. A mental flow chart I followed whenever I encountered any reports about Iraq. An answer of “that’s not my brother” at any step allowed me to return to my daily life.

  • Has somebody died?
  • Iraqi or American?
  • Civilian or military?
  • Was it someone in the Army?
  • What part of the country?
  • Is this near Fallujah?
  • Is it my brother?

When I reached that final question, I felt relieved and then horrible. I knew my reprieve was someone else’s loss.

3: What to send. Batteries. Hot sauce – MRE’s are bland. Hard candy. Chewing tobacco – it’s a form of currency. DVDs. Baby wipes – help people clean off when they’re in the field. My son sent some of his toys and stuffed animals to give to Iraqi kids.

4: What not to send. Don’t send chocolate. It will likely melt during shipping because of the temperatures in Iraq. There have been many reports that the military is trying to develop a chocolate with a higher melting point. Officially you’re not supposed to ship porn, alcohol, and/or anything with pork in it. While there are serious doubts as to whether or not anyone actually checks for these things, people at home disguise them anyway. A friend of my brother’s got some mouthwash in a box from home, screwed the top off and took a swig out of it. He spit it out and said in total surprise, “It’s mouthwash!”

5: Nothing bigger than a shoe box. That’s the optimum size for shipping. Anything bigger than that will take forever to get there. For some reason speed of delivery mattered even when he was going to be there for a year.

6: The USPS is very helpful. When shipping overseas you have to fill out one of two different customs forms depending on the weight of the package. I was always filling out the wrong one. No matter how long the line behind me, when the clerk saw the address on the package he or she invariably said something kind and didn’t mind waiting while I filled out the right one.

7: People are very kind. You send things because there’s nothing else you can do. I asked other people to send things, too. And they did. Lots of things: packages and dozens of birthday and Christmas cards and prayers. Always prayers. You send those, too, because there’s nothing else you can do.

8: I don’t care what you think about the war. Before you tell me that, tell me if you’ve had someone over there. If you know what that constant dread is like or what it’s like to be terrified when the phone rings late at night, then I’ll listen to what you have to say. I’ve disagreed with people who’ve been through this, but I’ve never argued. We have too much in common. It’s irrational, but I think we are the only people who should get to discuss the topic. Anyone else – even the ones who agree with me – I tend to view as a clueless fool.

9: Many people have it worse. And it’s not just the families that have had someone killed or injured. He is my brother but he is Stacy’s husband and my parent’s child. The times they were awake at 3 AM were much darker than the times I was.

10: I am a hypocrite. If truth is the first casualty of war, then the first truth to die is the fact that your opponent is human, too. I passionately believe that all human lives are equal. For the entire year my brother was over there I didn’t care how many Iraqis died or what else happened to them. Now that he is back, I am compassionate again.

Mercenaries, er, “private security force” lose license to operate in Iraq

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said eight civilians were killed and 13 were wounded when contractors believed to be working for Blackwater USA opened fire in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood of western Baghdad. “We have canceled the license of Blackwater and prevented them from working all over Iraqi territory. We will also refer those involved to Iraqi judicial authorities,” Khalaf said.

So there’s someone in Iraq responsible for licensing armed groups?

If they charged $5 a license the US could actually turn a profit on this thing.

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You read it here first: Media, Pentagon getting their ideas from me & CD jr.

From The NY Daily News: CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT – IN BAGHDAD?

Where did they come up with this one? The Multi-National Corps-Iraq press desk sent out a release today about a new operation targeting insurgents in Baghdad, which succeeded killing two insurgents and locating a cache of “artillery rounds, mortars, cell phones, weapons, propaganda, ammunition magazines and other bomb-making materials.” The clever name of this mission? Operation Bull Run.

From CD in February 2006: The Iraq Civil War, or Operation Bull Run

Last Sunday, Secretary of State Rice made the TV rounds and dismissed an “impending” civil war. And, technically, she’s right: It’s not impending if it’s already here. Her comments sound like Gen. Westmoreland’s December 1967 dismissal of the North Vietnamese’s ability to launch an offensive anywhere in South Vietnam. The following month the North launched the Tet offensive everywhere in South Vietnam.

Two points for the Pentagon to keep in mind:

  1. It was a JOKE.
  2. There have been two previous battles of Bull Run. We lost ’em both.

Y’know, Tom Lehrer once said that irony died when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. Oh Tom, if only you’d been right.

(Mad props to Flagrancy To Reason for finding this.)

From Wired: How to Take Money From Kids: Sell Toys Both Physical and Virtual

Webkinz kick-started a trend in children’s gaming that ties virtual environments to real-world merchandise. Online games for kids aren’t new. Sierra Online had tot-focused games in the early ’90s, and Neopets proved a hot product six years ago with a similar concept. But the unprecedented success of Webkinz is inspiring everyone from Barbie to Disney to get children invested in both the digital and the physical.

From TheWhatchamacallit: Neopets a neoscam?

The NC Mall was the final blow though. Needing to use real money, to buy virtual items on a kids site? It should not be! I am going to write a twelve paragraph letter to neopets on this subject, after seeing how few people actually realize neopets is being taken over!

From Reuters: Program Reveals Where Wikipedia Entrees Come From

A new tracing program that reveals where Wikipedia entries come from is stirring up controversy. People using FBI and CIA computers edited entries on such topics as the “Iraq war” and the prison at “Guantanamo Bay,” presenting a conflict of interest for the nonprofit online encyclopedia, according to a company spokesperson.

From today’s New York Times: Seeing Corporate Fingerprints in Wikipedia Edits

Collateral Damage: See here & here.

Collateral Damage: Today’s sarcasm is tomorrow’s news.

Having decided to accept less qualified applicants, Army also decides to give them less training

clipped from www.boston.com
“We are doing everything we can without jeopardizing the quality of the training to make it more efficient and compress it,” Colonel Joe Gallagher, chief of plans for the US Army Training and Doctrine Command, said in an interview earlier this month. “The whole intent is to get the soldier into the unit where he can be used faster. Time will tell if something is missing.”

  blog it

This is spin talk for we are so short of warm bodies that we will do anything. Unfortunately the proof of whether something is missing is … horrible. This is far too reminiscent of what the military did in the late 60s/early 70s. And look how well that turned out.I take this a bit personally as these are the people who are going to be next to Staff Sgt. Big Brother Collateral Damage should he ever have to play another round in the George Bush Desert Classic.

Any senior officer who signed off on this should resign or face a court-martial.

And, by the way, congrats to Jenna Bush on her engagement. Since she’s not in the service. I assume her fiance is.

Remember: Army Strong is Army Dumb

U.S. escalates war on concepts: “The enemy is extremism”

pogoIn an interview on NPR Gen. David Petraeus showed that logic is not a required course at the Army War college:

Q: A simple question that many in America are now wrestling with: Who is the enemy and what is the U.S. fighting for?

A: The enemy is extremism, we think, and it is extremism that comes in various forms.

I forget, is it the infantry or the artillery who are trained in extreme combat?

Isn’t moderation the best weapon against extremism? But if you do it too well you run the risk of being extremely moderate.

If the enemy is extremism does this mean we’re about to attack the X Games?

Maybe we could attack marketers who use the word extreme when ever they want to appear “hip” and “down” with the kids these days?

I look forward to the Armed Forces blowing up statues of Sen. Barry Goldwater who famously said that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Isn’t going to war a very extreme act?

One definition of extremism is “any political theory favoring immoderate uncompromising policies.” Invade the vice president’s office immediately.

This reminds me of something George Bush the elder said during the first Iraq contretemps: “We are fighting to prove that might does not make right.”

The war on extremism makes the war on terror look good.

Iraqi city terrorized by giant badgers — on the lookout for mushrooms, snakes

There is a new hazard at the George Bush Desert Classic

BASRA, Iraq (AFP) – The Iraqi port city of Basra, already prey to a nasty turf war between rival militia factions, has now been gripped by a new fear — a giant badger stalking the streets by night. Local farmers have caught and killed several of the beasts, but this has done nothing to dispel rumours of a bear-like monster that eats humans and was allegedly released into the area by British forces to spread panic.

Great now we face an additional threat from RUS.

Buttercup: What about RUS-es?
Wesley: Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t believe they exist.

Doesn’t Wesley already sound like he works for the administration? (Earlier in the movie he proves he isn’t aware that one of the classic blunders is getting involved in a land war in Asia.)

Remember: If we don’t fight the giant badgers in Basra, soon we will be fighting them here. This syllogism so favored by the Administration was also used during Vietnam. In Dispatches, Michael Herr has the perfect response: Well maybe we could beat them here.

BTW, if the headline doesn’t make sense CLICK HERE and prepare to laugh. A lot.

White House hopes Muslims will take Sesame Street to U.S.

elmo camoThe Administration is sending Elmo & Ernie to Malaysia in an attempt to recover brand equity lost by the George Bush Desert Classic.

The local version of the children’s show, called “Jalan Sesama,” which translates directly as Everyone’s Street, is beginning production in Jakarta and expected to air later this year after contracts with Indonesian stations are secured. The U.S. Agency for International Development had earlier set aside $8.5 million for 156 episodes, part of $157 million pledged in 2003 by the Bush administration for education in Indonesia, which Washington regards as a key voice of moderation and democracy in the Muslim world.

In addition to Tantan, an orangutuan, and Jabrik, a baby rhino, the show features “Momon, a 5-year-old boy who likes math and drawing, and Putri, a 3-1/2-year-old girl with a healthy dose of curiosity — [who] bear a closer resemblance to Elmo and Ernie from the original show.” Wonder if the show features a version of Bert, Ernie’s “life partner”?

Herewith the show’s theme song (with apologies to Tom Lehrer):

When someone makes a move
Of which we don’t approve,
Who is it that always intervenes?
U.N. and O.A.S.,
They have their place, I guess,
But first send the Muppets!

We’ll send them all we’ve got,
John Wayne and Randolph Scott,
Remember those exciting fighting scenes?
To the shores of Tripoli,
But not to Mississippoli,

What do we do? We send the Muppets!
For might makes right,
And till they’ve seen the light,
They’ve got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
‘Till somebody we like can be elected.

Members of the corps
All hate the thought of war,
They’d rather kill them off by peaceful means.
Stop calling it aggression,
O we hate that expression.
We only want the world to know
That we support the status quo.
They love us everywhere we go,
So when in doubt,
Send the Muppets!

Worst headline of the day: “Bush sending more troops to Iraq on brink of war”

Whether you think the “surge” is a good idea or not, we can all agree that this is bad headline writing. Pretty sure we passed the brink of war stage a while ago.

I love the way the “surge” meme has started to mean pretty much anything people want it to. First it meant increasing the number of troops for a fixed amount of time to try to accomplish … something. Now it just means increasing the number of troops and anyone who thinks this is temporary is in danger of being disenfranchised by that re-write of the New Jersey state constitution. (Latest surge sighting: South Korea wants baby surge. Pretty sure that’s going to a long-time deployment, too.)

This is such a case of too little too late that it’s terrifying. Before the George Bush Desert Classic began, the Pentagon (minus the secretary of defense) said it would take 250,000 troops to occupy Iraq. That number hasn’t changed. We didn’t have that many troops then and that hasn’t changed either.

The current rhetorical fig leaf of choice is to say that the Iraqi government and/or people need to step up and do more. Next person who says anything like that should be required to go to Iraq for at least six months. The Iraqi government is a fiction, a bluff that has been called. Asking the Iraqi army to step in is absurd. This makes Richard Nixon’s policy of “Vietnamization” — which was the same idea in a different war — look rational. In Vietnam there actually was an army to hand things over to. It was a badly run and corrupt army, but it did in fact exist in large numbers. Which is more than you can say about Iraq.

The president was right when he said the consequences of defeat are too great to pull out U.S. troops. The fact is, though, that the consequences of defeat were too great to start this war in such an ill-planned and haphazard manner. The consequences of defeat were also too great to justify starting such an unneccessary war in the first place. This is why war should always be approached like open-heart surgery: Only do it if there’s no other way to save the patient.

Unfortunately, we face the consequences of defeat whether 20,000 more troops are sent to Iraq or not. We have proven that even with the 100,000+ troops we have in Iraq that we can’t control Baghdad. Considering we need to control the entire nation, it is difficult to see how 20,000 more people will make any difference.

What’s the solution then? I have no idea. We don’t have the means to win and we cannot afford to lose.

This alleged surge is just one more example of how tangential the relationship is between this administration and reality. Just as they later ignored the facts responding to Katrina, they ignored the facts going in to Iraq and have ignored whatever other facts they chose to.

I am hard pressed to choose between “faith-based initiative” and “You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie” when it comes to this administration’s epitaph. Either one, though, is gentler than the thousands of epitaphs the administration has caused to be carved as a result of its willful ignorance.

Operation Bull Run continues: Is it Civil War yet?

As loyal readers and others who suffer from insomnia know, we here at CD HQ have been tracking the George Bush Desert Classic’s lingusitic slide into Civil War for some time.

Quoth me last February:

As usual, the Administration is being aided and abetted in its marketing by many in the media, and I’m not talking Fox TV. Last Sunday, the NYT’s Week In Review section lead with an article entitled “What A Civil War Could Look Like” which actually addressed everything but that. The article categorically refused to define “What a civil war does look like.” Instead it fell back on some of the most hair-splitting linguistic efforts to not call an Antietam an Antietam since Bill Clinton’s famous “is.”

And then in July I polled the press:

So now we have NBC declaring it a civil war which indicates Main Stream Media are coming around to using this as the bumper sticker du jure for whatever the hell it is that’s going on over there. Still don’t know how to tell when a war is civil and/or different from an insurgency or a rebellion.

Anyone?

Bueller?

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