Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fruit of the Poison Tree

See, here's the thing.

Torture corrupts.

Call it what you want; "enhanced interrogation", "extraordinary measures", "psikhushka". The systematic infliction of suffering is inherently corrupting to the people who administer it and the organizations that employ it.

Because torture is not interrogation.

Interrogation is intended to gain information.

Torture is intended to gain confessions. Confessions that the torturers want to hear.

A person that uses torture to gain confessions becomes useless as an interrogator and deaf to information. The agonized babble of a person suffering beyond coherence quickly becomes meaningless noise. If you are tortured you will say anything, everything, to make the torture stop. If you are the torturer you lose the ability to find the truth amid the pain and fear.

An organization that employs torture and torturers quickly becomes a servant of the propaganda that the torture is meant to support and the presumptions that the torture is designed to confirm.

Armies that use torture begin to become instruments of that propaganda rather than instruments of policy. Intelligence agencies that use torture begin to become guardians of the secrets of and defenders of the barbarities of torture rather than cold instruments of state. Nations that use torture quickly find how useful it is in generating results that they want in the short term. And the spiral of torture, and lying to hide the torture, and lying to excuse the torture, and lying to hide and excuse the lies, works deeper and deeper into the culture of the army, and the intelligence agency, and the nation.

Until first the torturers end up running the intelligence agency.

And then the torturers become the generals.

And, finally, the torturers become the presidents and prime ministers.

The toxic "war on terror" has been the ground that has nursed this poison tree, and has given it the night and fog it needed to grow. To our shame We the People have never insisted on throwing open the doors, letting in the light that would have killed this noxious weed, never dug deep and uprooted and thrown it and the torturers on the fire. In our fear and hate we have let it grow.

If shame were still a permissible public emotion we should be ashamed of ourselves.

But we will not.

And, instead, we will nurture the fruit of that poison tree in our hands and our hearts.

Thursday, March 01, 2018


Hey, love. Come. Sit with me.

I miss you.

Well, I know. Yes, I miss you all the time. But this time, every year, I miss you a little more, because this was your birthday and birthdays are special.

No. I didn't get you anything. I'm sorry.

Well, sixteen is hard. You are not a woman grown but not a child anymore, either. It's hard to know what you like, you change so quickly. One day it was all sparkle princesses and ponies, then it seemed like just the next day it was CDs and clothes and new soccer cleats. It's hard for your dad to keep up with you, you run so fast now.

I don't know how you do it, as little as you are.

You are little, sweetie. Only one day old, dust and ashes all these years. The only place you grew was in my heart, and in your mom's, who hurts for you so much she cries out for you.

I miss you, too.

But I miss the you I never knew. The little girl frightened of scary noises. The busy tween. The rude teenager. And, now, the young woman, strong and sure, lit from within with promise, like a star, or a lighted window on a cold lonely night.

There's just this one night, though.

Your birthday, every year, when you come and sit with me. And that night, like every night I miss you, again, and wish I could kiss you, just once, before we have to say goodbye.

Yes, love. Yes, I will wait for you here again next year, my very dear.

Goodbye. Yes, love, I love you. Goodbye, sweetie.


When I die choose a star
and name it after me
that you may know
I have not abandoned
or forgotten you.
You were such a star to me,
following you through birth
and childhood, my hand
in your hand.

When I die
choose a star and name it
after me so that I may shine
down on you, until you join
me in darkness and silence

~ David Ignatow

Bryn Rose Gellar March 1, 2002 - March 2, 2002

Monday, February 26, 2018

At least he's good for a laugh now and then...

In a dim, dirty hostess bar on a sultry backstreet in the Pham Ngu Lao district of Valhalla, a bunch of the tattered shades of the boys from the 66th NVA Regiment and the 1/7th Cav take a break from pounding warm "33" beer and talking shit about the ARVN to stand up, drop their khaki and OD trousers, and hang a collective moon on the guy who couldn't run from their war fast enough but now claims that he would rush a mad gunman barehanded.
Over at the corner table Trung sĩ Vo and Staff Sergeant Baker spit sourly on the filthy floor and yell at the hostess for another round, cold this time, goddammit, but Hạ sĩ Nguyen thinks that the idea of Five-Deferment Donnie as a rootin' tootin' heeeero is so fucking funny he spits beer out his nose and Private Bookwalter has to pound him on the back so hard that he hits his face on the table and the whole squad, including Loi the B-girl, breaks up laughing.

Friday, February 16, 2018

More fucking thoughts and prayers

I see it's time to drag this one out.


I know this has nothing to do with the results of the 2016 elections, yet I look around and what I see is just a part of the toxic stew of the very worst of my country that seems to be bubbling cheerfully on every stovetop; arrogant, corrupt, ignorant, splenetic...it makes me think of the piece of Robert Graves' I, Claudius where the cunningly-not-really-a-gimping-halfwit emperor turns his appalling heir loose on Rome, whispering "Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out."

What hits me hardest about these nutter shootings is how they never change anything because of the magical incantation "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" as if the whole "well-regulated militia" thing was a fantasy and the U.S. Constitution is some sort of Holy Writ, handed down on gold tablets never to be altered or re-imagined.

Well, the Constitution once said that black people were 3/5ths of a registered voter, and that it was illegal to drink a beer.

Both of those ideas were fucked up. So We the People changed the Constitution.

So far, the score of the Second Amendment is "resisting tyrannical government", zero; "butchering other Americans", about a gajillion. I note that all these ammosexuals with their arsenals seem curiously mute about "tyranny" like the idea that the government can freely spy on our communications, or take our stuff if we get arrested - not convicted, mind you, just arrested - for smoking weed. So I conclude that the notion that the "right to keep and bear arms" has pretty much zero percent to do with the sort of people doing actual tyranny-resisting and 100% to do with the sort of fucking people who get a woody out of busting out more than thirty rounds a minute.

But who gives an actual fuck?

Nobody is going to do anything about this. Tomorrow another nutter will take another semiautomatic weapon into another school and another N > 0 number of kiddies and teachers and random poor sonsofbitches will die or be hideously wounded. And we'll hear that there's nothing we can do - in the only industrialized nation that this happens regularly - and we need to have more mental health care (but fuck-all funding for it), and we need to send our thoughts and prayers to the new set of grieving parents and lovers and brothers and sisters whose beloveds have been blown away so I can go to the range tomorrow and bust out 200 rounds of 5.56mm in fifteen minutes.

So, fuck it.

Here's a fucking cute picture of a cute fucking cat.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Acting 1SG Lawes reads the morning formation announcements

Comp-ney, Atten-shun!

At ease.

Okay, listen up. Coupla things here.


Y'all continue to ignore the Brigade Sarn't Major's directive on not wearing y'all's PT shorts whilst exercising, not in formation. Now far be it from me to suggest that our Brigade Sarn't Major is a nitpicky ding-dong with Wheatina inside his fucking brain housing group who should really have better things to do than obsess about what y'all are wrapping around your asses when you go for a jog down Ardennes Street. That would be unprofessional and disrespectful to our chain of command.

So I will simply remind you that, while possibly being the sort of thing that only a nitpicky ding-dong with Wheatina inside his fucking brain housing group who should really have better things to do than obsess about what y'all are wrapping around your asses when you go for a jog down Ardennes Street would do, that directive has the force of law in this here outfit.

I personally could not give a rat's ass if y'all sashay down the street in a pink tulle' tutu. But, after this formation, you will put the PT shorts up and wear them only when in morning PT formation so you will not incur the wrath of said Brigade Sarn't Major onto this company and the First Sergeant thereof, that being me, who is infernally tired of the goddamn Brigade Sarn't Major and who, if lectured one more time on this issue by that infernal product of an incestuous union will take it out of your ass, seriatim. Is that understood?

I thought so.

Now. Second.

I have received word from Battalion that this Division is going to be tasked to provide a brigade to march in some sort of parade in Washington D.C. Now y'all know my feelings about parades; the pleasure is fucking transient, the position is goddamn ridiculous, and the expense is completely and utterly ridiculous.

However, due to certain feelings of masculine inadequacy of certain persons in certain elected positions this parade will happen and it is entirely likely that this brigade will be tasked, given that Second Brigade in march order looks like nothing so much as a traveling leper colony, and the less said about what will happen if First Brigade is allowed out amongst unprepared civilians the better, although my hyfuckingpothesis is that there will not be an un-emptied bottle of spirits or an unmolested domestic animal within ten kilometers of their line of march.

Now. I still remember the last time we did this, and I will not have a repetition of some of the things you people thought up last Fourth of July.

No, AT Platoon, your vehicles are not public conveyances and you are not authorized to give "free joyrides" in them.

No, Medics, you are not, I say again, not qualified to perform pelvic exams.

No, Commo, you are not "DJ Slicky" and you cannot play Lady Gaga's "Sexxx Dreams" on the brigade command push. Or the battalion command push, either. And don't even think about my company net.

Yes, y'all will be issued MRE meals on the day of the parade and, no, you cannot trade them to civilians for Bonus Jacks, Whoppers, or any other sort of civilian chow. Y'all will keep your assigned weapon with you at all times, and that includes not encouraging civilian women to "touch your gun", Specialist Black. I got my eye on you, heee-ro.

And before you ask, no. I have no fucking idea what the fuck this is for. It ain't no victory parade that I can think of, 'cause we ain't beat nobody's ass lately. If it's a "thank you for your service" thing we can get enough of that at the goddamn airport. If the idea is to scare our enemies then they should really make the Navy do it, because I dunno about anyone else but the Navy scares the hell out of me, floating around the ocean somewhere with nuclear torpedoes an' shit.

But here's the bottom line, people; we are GIs, and we got our orders, so our mission is to salute and move out smartly. Including down fucking Pennsylvania Avenue for a big ol' goat rodeo, if that's what the country wants, God in his wisdom knoweth why. Are we clear on that?

Good. That is all.

Comp-ney, Atten-shun!

Platoon sergeants, take charge.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Amerika Erwache!

I couldn't sit thru the whole thing, but between what I saw, the transcript, and the analyses I am a bit amazed at how blatantly fascist - as in "right in ol' Schicklgruber's wheelhouse" fascist - a big chunk of last night's State of the Union speech was.

Not the part about the Leader's iron will or fluffing the Party's program; that's just bog-standard political theater, which is all this silly speech ever is, really, and why I usually don't bother to watch or read much about it. It had more chest-beating than usual but, sheesh, Trump, so, yeah.

No, specifically it was the MS-13 horror stories, the part about how the herrnvolk are endangered by a hidden swarm of dusky, violent untermenschen - and nefarious Auslandische foreign powers - and that only the Leader, and the Party - and only by their being hard, hard as Krupp steel (but fair! Fair, mind you, so long as you're not one of the dusky traitors within!) - can save us from their evil.

The fluffing of the Party's program did have some extra GOP lies how they're not selling the country to their rich pals, but, whatever.

But the stuff about America Awake! to the danger of The Eternal Immigrant was such a pure, uncut Steven Miller hommage to the Fuhrer, vintage Adolf whine in a new orange bottle, that I wonder how many people missed that.

Perhaps we've gotten so used to these speeches promising fierce resistance to the Terrorist Foes that we didn't notice how this one slipped into genuine Silvershirt "domestic-enemies-abound!" territory. Another own-goal for the Phony War On Terror. Thanks loads, guys.

Whooda thunk that when it came fascism would neither be wrapped in a flag nor carrying a cross but in the form of a bloated orange real estate grifter, wrapped in a badly tailored but expensive suit and too-long tie, and carrying a Big Mac. Say what you will about the original Nazis, at least they were snappy dressers.

I'm not sure whether I'm more pissed off that the cousin-marryin' hillbillies foisted these downmarket fascists on me, or at how goddamn downmarket the fascists are. Steve Bannon? Seriously? Dude always looks like he's coming down off a three-day cheap-vodka-and-Red Bull bender. Hell, how embarrassing is it that even his Leader, our orange fuhrer, looks like a divorced car salesman shopping for laxative suppositories at WalMart?

Even our Nazis are low-rent.


Monday, January 22, 2018

...in a quiet way and at an opportune time,

One of my favorite works of fiction is Tim Farrington's The Monk Downstairs. There's nothing weighty about it, it's just a pleasant little tale of life and love, a trifle that I enjoy because Farrington writes with a sort of breathlessly effortless grace, the kind of writing that makes writing feel easy and natural, as if you could just sit down and crank out that sort of perfectly simple yet perfectly weighted prose any time you want to.

But there's also a deeply sorrowful heart to it, and I remembered why I cried the first time I read it, over a dozen years ago but not long after my daughter Bryn was stillborn. It was this, and I hope Mr. Farrington forgives me quoting him at length.

"She had never allowed herself to grieve wholly before, she realized now. Not for her father, not for her grandparents. Not even for her marriage: she'd never allowed herself to face what it meant to fail in the central relationship of her life. To really remember that shining, innocent love she'd felt and everything that had happened to it. And this was why, of course; because some pragmatic, self-protective sense had told her that grief was bottomless. Skirting this sea, she had dipped her toes in; she'd wondered what would happen if she crossed the line, but it had always seemed that it could only be a kind of defeat, a drowning, a death.

And so it was.

But maybe it was not the end, to be defeated by life. Maybe that was even part of what it meant to be a human being; to recognize the way in which life had finally defeated you, to accept the ways in which death had come, to stop looking away from the failures of love, and to grieve.

To keep your heart open in this sea of silence; to drift in it, surrendering to its currents baffled and without recourse.

And at the bottom of it, to be surprised anew by love's simplicity."

And that's really it. It's a sort of munshin, a letting-go, the simple acceptance of the endlessness of grief, the release of struggle and denial against that suffering of loss. Some things are simply too grievous to be borne, and it is the trying to bear them that crushes you beneath their weight. It is only when you simply sink beneath them to that deep, still darkness that your heart and mind can then accept that that grief is part of you and always will be.

That, just as for the note to be there must be silence before, and after, there must be darkness for there to be light.

Knowing that does not lighten the darkness. But it makes the darkness bearable, a part of life instead of a denial of it.