Friday, November 01, 2019

What's Pashto for "Contra"?

Apparently the U.S. intelligence community is organizing and funding something - either "paramilitary units" or "death squads" - in Afghanistan.
"The U.S. has trained and supported paramilitary groups in Afghanistan that have committed summary executions, forcibly disappeared people and have been behind more than a dozen serious abuse cases in the last 18 months, a human rights organization said Thursday.

Afghan strike forces, which have been accused of raiding medical facilities and killing civilians in night raids on their homes, sometimes in front of their families, are largely trained and overseen by the CIA, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Thursday."
Here's the thing.

We the People have never really come to any sort of sensible terms our use of mercenary militias in places like Vietnam or Nicaragua. The covert ops guys descended from Donovan's OSS have always had a fondness for using local jamokes to do the dirty work that regular joes either can't or won't, or, worse, get all fucked up personally or organizationally from doing.

Guerrilla wars are filthy because of their very nature. They're civil wars, and civil wars are fundamentally ugly. Adding irregulars and guerrillas just adds to the basic ugliness.

The problem I have with this isn't so much that it's a thing. If Afghans are going have a civil war, I'd just as soon that it be with Afghans and not Americans. And if they're going to have a guerrilla war, I'd just as soon it be with Afghan guerrillas and not Americans leading or driving Afghan guerrillas.

And it's not the basic brutal ugliness of this fight, either. Are these militias murdering people and doing other war-crime stuff? Sure they are. That's what happens when you give people firearms and turn them loose on people who don't have them without some sort of organizational control. "Militia" is just a sanitized term for "mob of murderous fucksticks" that lurks inside every armed group of people who have no institutional control over how they use those arms.

No, it's that we don't seem to learn that arming one mob to kill another mob (along with poor random bastards that have what "our" armed mob wants, or just for pure shits-and-giggles) doesn't do a goddamn thing geopolitically to solve civil war problems without some sort of genuine political solution available. There were negotiations going on that were supposedly leading to some sort of heading-towards-a-solution back in late summer, but part of the Art of the Deal appears to be screwing up that sort of deal, so we're back to Square Zero, only with...death squads?

Honestly. It's like we're the fucking Bourbons ("Personne n'est corrigé; personne n'a su ni rien oublier ni rien apprendre.") except with worse taste in entertainment and mistresses.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

An open letter to my fellow U.S. citizens

I'm sitting in the dark house on a pre-dawn Saturday morning, sipping my coffee and watching Newcastle United look like boys against men in Liverpool, but - seeing how piss-poor the Lads are playing - I'm also parsing my Facebook feed and reading comments about the ill-advised recruiting stunt the Portland MEPs guys and the Thorns Front Office pulled last Wednesday (you can read about it here).

One of the comments is from another GI who talks about how emotional an occasion it is to swear to defend the people of the United States.

And it occurs to me that the Oath of Enlistment says nothing about "defending the people".

The exact wording is: " and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

Domestic enemies?

That would be..."the people" sometimes, right?


Which is why past presidents have used us GIs to do things like shoot and kill striking workers, and ol' Dugout Doug MacArthur could use us to attack the Bonus Army of our fellow GIs and their families. If the Constitution in the form of the president or Congress tells us that some portion of We the People are a "domestic enemy"?

We as soldiers are obligated by that oath to use whatever means we are ordered to use to "defend the Constitution".

Kinda scary, innit?

Think about that next time you see one of those "Land of the Free Because of the Brave" bumper stickers, hmmm..?

As GIs you, my fellow citizens, give us a lot of tongue-bathing. You're constantly told to "support the troops". You get a crap-ton of military PR shoved at you, like the recruiting stunt at the Thorns match. And in general that's lovely. We all like to get some love.

But maybe - just maybe - as "citizens" you might want to be a trifle less credulous about all this "support the troops" stuff.

Because it usually takes troops to make "citizens" into "subjects".

Maybe I'm just being a cynical old sergeant. Sergeants are notorious pessimists, the Eeyores of the Army. We always look for the flaws in the officers' plans so we can head them off. And I'm certainly not telling you that my fellow GIs would agree to do that, or would blindly follow orders to herd you into a camp, or shoot you down when you take to the streets if, say, a President were to refuse to accept the result of an election and not yield his power to his elected sucessor. might want to think about what you're being told.
Just sayin'.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


On this day eighteen years ago today another war began, a war that continues to this day, a war that was, eventually subsumed and engorged by lies and fear, driven by greed and stupidity and hubris, and that ended up covering the bodies piled up here - in New York City and Washington D.C. and a field in Pennsylvania - with piles and heaps and mountains of bodies; bodies of innocent women, of small children, of innocents without so much as a drop of blood on their hands, with young men and women sent to fight and kill and die for those lies and that fear.

And those who shed that blood and took those lives?
"Don't you wonder if they ever pause on September 11 every year and ponder how they all used the dead of that awful day for their own purposes, to fulfill their long-held desires for empire-building in the countries of oil, to use other people's children in service of their profane desires? Don't you wonder if they ever pause on September 11 and ponder how they'd all screwed up so badly throughout the summer of 2001 when, as Richard Clarke recalled, "all the lights were blinking red"? Do you wonder if they make the connection, in the softening dark of the early morning, between their own incompetence and the use they ultimately made of it?

Of course, you don't wonder. Because they don't. Introspection was never a priority with this crew. And as we see so many of them on television today, deeply troubled by the actions of another underprepared, incompetent president*, and using the dead of 9/11 as protective camouflage for all their deception and bloody blundering that occurred beginning that very morning, we should all take time to mourn the dead of that day, and all the days thereafter, and, yes, say, Never Again."
The country we live in today; the country of security gates and drones and surveillance and national security letters and yellow-ribbon patriotism was built, bloody brick by bloody brick, from the foundation these people laid on that day.

THAT's what we should never forget, on this day, every year.

Damn them.

Damn them all to Hell.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wars and rumors of wars. And stupidity. And Trump

One of the multifarious issues with electing a total idiot who predictably stocked his administration with a coterie of simply-flaming-assholes, dangerously incompetent sycophants who are also flagrantly authoritarian-curious (at least), corporate whores, grifters, and outright clowns is that when problems turn up it's extremely difficult to feel confident that these gomers will be able to do something that ranges from "not actively stupid" to potentially useful.

While the bulk of the corporate media organizations circle the drain that is Trump's Twitter feed repeating his nonsense about hordes of invading brownskins, several parts of the globe are getting...interesting, and not in a particularly good way.

One of them is along the Pakistan-India border, where the subcontinental quasi-Trumper Indian PM Narendra Modi has played to his deplorable-Hindu-supremacist base by hammering Kashmiri Muslims. This, unsurprising to anyone who has more than one brain cell, has provoked some nasty posturing from the other subcontinental nuclear power. Trump's contribution was to shove his enormous orange oar (what? You say it's NOT enormous? FAKE NEWS!!!) in back in July blabbering about U.S. stumbling into the dispute and forcing a hasty denial from Modi's people that, no, they hadn't asked the buffoon to do anything.

It's hard to tell whether this will lead to anything more than posturing, but it's already obvious that the Trumpkins' geopolitical shrewdity has effectively neutered much of the U.S. ability to help defuse tensions in this nasty little dispute between two putative allies.

Meanwhile, in the Ukraine the political mess is getting messier, with a stand-up comic/president, fascist Ruthenians, Putin-fondlers, and all-around whackjobs all getting involved in a political imbroglio that would make Machiavelli throw his hands in the air.

If Niccolo himself would despair of this twelve-monkeys-fucking-a-football disaster, what hope is there for this Administration, that is, apparently, managed by tweet and whatever bats are looping around whatever is inside the tangerine-hued Tiberius' combover that functions in place of an actual brain? Certainly this would seem to be a place for a judicious consideration of the actual stakes involved and whether there is an actual dog for the United States' foreign policy in this fight and, if so, to what extent.

But, again...who outside of the MAGAt fever-swamps actually believes this congeries of fools and damned fools can do that?

Who'd have thought that Obama's "elections have consequences" line would be repeated so soon as farce?


(And let's not even think about the weather.)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Upon the waters

Four years ago my father, the man I always called "The Master Chief" in this place, died.

My mother, his wife, lingered on another three years until she, too, died in the spring of the year, just a little over a year ago.
I sat beside them both in their final days, as their bodies followed where their...souls? Spirits? Minds? The part of them that made them who they were, the person that they had been, had already gone.

Both passed from that which I called "...the "sleep" of the hinterlands of life, that gray taiga where the living world meets the dead." to unlife full of years and - although no more ready for that passage than any of us is, or will ever be - full of lives well-lived.

Today a small group of their family - son and daughter, cousins, niece and nephew - and those relatives' beloveds gathered in a nondescript little rented room in a small town on the east end of Fourth Lake, the largest of the "Fulton Chain of Lakes" in the Adirondak Mountains of New York state.

The remnants of Jack and Carol - father and mother, aunt and uncle - stood as they had in life beside one another, only just as small rectangular boxes set on a table scattered with books of photographs and memories of the lives of the ashes within.

It was the sort of barely-comfortable gathering you'd find anywhere a group of virtual strangers met to spend one last time with dead people.

Hardly anyone knew what to say, and only my sister had the courage to openly weep for the loss of our father and mother. Several of us told stories of Carol McMillan and Jack Lawes as we remembered them, or through memories of our times with them.

My cousin's (and her wife's) happy little Westie helped lighten the mood by being, well, a happy small dog. I had a flight to catch tomorrow morning so I left early, with the others still talking amongst themselves in the rustic room lit with the filtered sun of early afternoon.

I wandered down to the shore of the lake, the clear water bright with wavelets.

This place was particular to my father, who was born and grew up not far away and whose relatives had owned one of the many "summer resorts" along the north shore, although much more modest than the luxurious Gilded Age hotel my sister had booked for our parents' memorial.

I sat and drank a draft to their memory, to the place that my father had loved and had brought his bride to and she had, in turn, come to love.

When I wrote about my father's death four years ago I spoke of how adrift I felt that he was gone:
"As his living remainder I still feel as if I'm floating, weightlessly untethered, beside him. As if our conversation simply halted, forever unfinished, as he stood up and left without a word. He is no longer and yet will always be my father, the man who raised me, whose manhood was my measure as I grew to manhood myself. I find myself turning to talk of some daily commonplace with him only to find emptiness there, and the understanding that the emptiness will be there until I find myself where he has gone."
I won't pretend that I was gracious or cheerful about traveling cross-continent to stand beside the silent ashes of my father and mother. I won't be polite and say it was a pleasure, or that I wanted to make the journey. I was a right bastard, sis, and I made a difficult time more difficult for you. I'm sorry, that's the damnedest part of who I am.
But for all my bitching and moaning in the end I'm glad I came over those mountains and seas and spoke, in vain, to their silent ashes.

For, as I've mentioned before in this place; as children and parents we make an unspoken bargain.

As parents we will see our children into the world.

We will help them grow straight and strong, honest and truthful, kind and loving. We will set the path before them, the path into the world and through it, as best we can.

And then we, as children, will see our parents out of the world.

Love and care for them, listen to and treasure them, and, finally, see them laid down in death as peaceful and beloved as we can make them.

As they set us forth upon the waters we fulfill the promise that will see them home safe to harbor. And then be the quay where they came to rest; to bear witness of their voyage and the doings thereof, great and small, fine and coarse, large and little. That, in us, their memory will live as long as we do.
And so we have. So I have. I am no longer adrift, no longer bereft. I am without them, the people who helped make me who I am, but I will never be without them. I am their logbook, their testament, their living memory. I, my sister, those we love and tell of our parents and their lives.

It is ours now to take forward from here; mine, and all of us who knew them and loved them.
So I stand, at rest, by the waters of the deep cold lake where my father and mother have themselves come to rest. Their journey together, and their journey together with me and all their beloveds, is ended, and their great works, the works of their lives, are done.

Now they are ours to carry on.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

What's Arabic for "C. Turner Joy"?

Here's the problem.
It may very well be possible that Iranian assets are striking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

It is definitely likely that the Trump Administration would lie about whether that is possible or probable, or both, or neither.

That's the drawback of letting your system foist an incorrigible liar and a coterie of New Gilded Age grifters into the highest executive offices; you then don't know whether you can trust them not to lie you into a shooting war.

If the administrations of Kennedy and Johnson - that were staffed with genuinely intelligent and experienced foreign policy players - lied us into Vietnam, and the Lesser Bush administration - that was crock-full of wingnuts, imperial fantasists, outright kooks, as well as the Stupidest Man on the Face of the Earth - lied us into Iraq, I sure as hell don't trust THESE gomers not to lie us into some sort of idiotic whack-a-Persian blood hunt based on some sort of moron idea that it'd take normal humans smoking a full ounce of prime weed then drinking two cans of sterno and a half-rack of Old English 800 to come up with.

I sure as hell hope the rest of my countrymen aren't stupid enough to let the Trumpkins play this game.

And goddamn if it's not time to repeal that #@!%$!#! AUMF.

Update 6/14: The lies have already begun:
"The Japanese owner of the Kokuka Courageous, one of two oil tankers targeted near the Strait of Hormuz, said Friday that sailors on board saw "flying objects" just before it was hit, suggesting the vessel wasn't damaged by mines. That account contradicts what the U.S. military said as it released a video Friday it said shows Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the two ships that were hit. Company president Yutaka Katada said Friday he believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could have been bullets. He denied any possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damage was above the ship's waterline. He called reports of a mine attack "false."
As Sven points out in the comments, The U.S. hasn't been an honest player in the field of foreign policy for a long time, and this administration is a more prolific and consistent liar than most of the previous ones.

IMO this is a patently crude attempt between the Trumpkins and their Saudi pals to gin up a casus belli. If the US public and Congress falls for it, well, as a well-known foreign policy expert once said: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...won't get fooled again!"

And Jim Wright, as he often does, is asking the question that EVERY news agency should be asking: "Cui bono?".

Who would benefit from a US-Iran dustup? Especially one that would, as it inevitably would, raise the price of petroleum?


Update 6/26:

"Strategy? I don't need no steenkin' strategy? I have guns! I take YOUR strategy!"

What a fucking maroon.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Another day, another ammosexual "WTF"

So the SCOTUS has refused to hear an appeal from a couple of Kansas gunlickers who were caught with illegal suppressors.

From what I can tell, these gimmicks are the new throbbing erection for the sort of people who get huge wood from fondling firearms; in this case (I can only imagine) as part of the Seal Team Six fantasies cherished by these people, the ones where they are sneaking into the Terrorists' Hideout and eliminating the sentries with their silenced pistol or submachinegun.

While it's good that even the GOP nutbags on the court weren't willing to go all in on these Rainbow Six: Siege wannabes' suppressor fapping, the most revolting part of this court case is that the fucking State of Kansas, along with seven other states' AGs, joined in the appeal because it's obviously in the states' interests to have a bunch of fucking lunatic gunbunnies running around with silenced firearms because what the fuck.

The "explanation" I've heard for why these nimrods want to put cans on their metal dicks is because something something hearing protection something.

Okay. So. Word up.

I've been there and done that and shot the real noisemakers, the REALLY big guns, and I got your fucking hearing protection right here, chief:
Works just fine to protect your delicate, shell-like ears from the bad bang-bang, AND it doesn't help you sneak up and kill random people without alerting the OTHER random people you want to kill that you're killing random people on your way to kill them.

Just sayin'.


These fucking people.