Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Who Lost Iraq?

I love history. You can see events repeated over and over and over again and, literally, nobody learns a blessed thing. Every decade or so, Americans wonder "who lost (insert name of country)?"

Millions of words are written analyzing the question. Republicans always end up blaming traitorous Democrats while scholars note that the American side has corrupt officials, lost support of the public, and soldiers with no interest in dying for criminals they hate.

Who Lost China? (1950's)
Chiang Kai-shek and his wife.
When Japan invaded China, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek chose to ignore the Japanese and continue his war against Mao Zedong. After the fall of Shanghai and Nanjing, his own people concluded Chiang was an ally of Japan. It took rebellions by his own generals to change his focus to the Japanese invaders. Chiang believed in money first, fight later. Of the $100 million the US spent building air bases in China to fight Japan, more than half was siphoned off by Chiang and his warlord subordinates. FDR's nickname for Chiang was "Cash My Check." Chiang's soldiers were short of provisions and weapons because his generals were more interested in filling their Swiss bank accounts than caring for their men. When faced with numerically inferior Communist forces Chiang's armies ran away leading to the quick fall of his government.

Republicans had a simplistic answer to the question.  They blamed Communist infiltration of the State Department and Pentagon and, led by Sen. Joe McCarthy, began the great Red Scare of the 1950's.

Who Lost Cuba? (1960's)
ITT Corp. and US Ambassador Arthur Gardner gave Batista this solid gold telephone in 1957.
Cuba's murderous dictator, Fulgencio Batista, had friends in the United States. They included Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Santo Trafficante and other American mobsters. He got a cut of the take of their Havana casinos, brothels, and drug running. Batista allowed American corporations to exploit Cubans in exchange for hefty bribes. His secret police would kidnap, torture, and kill people at random to keep the rest of the population oppressed. Batista's army always outnumber the rebels but Batista was hated and his soldiers weren't willing to die to keep Coca-Cola's profits up.

Batista actually protected the small rebellion of Fidel Castro for years because it caused the United States to continue sending millions in foreign aid which Batista would transfer to his Swiss banks. When Batista fled Cuba in 1959 he took as much as $700 million with him.

Republicans continue to blame "liberals" in the State Department for losing Cuba by cutting off the bribes to Batista leading him to lose interest in staying in Cuba.

Who Lost Vietnam? (1970's)
America had every advantage during the Vietnam War. Our forces outnumbered the enemy by 4 to 1 and more. We had massive technological superiority. And the US, in its dumb pride, never lost a battle during the war. The governments of South Vietnam was a succession of corrupt thieves (Notice a trend there). When Nguyen Van Thieu evacuated Saigon he brought with him a "planeload of suitcases containing heavy metal" (i.e. hundreds of pounds of gold). South Vietnamese soldiers had no interest in fighting and dying (trend), that was what American servicemembers were for. Top general Duong Van Minh was described as a "a model of lethargy."

A different was the direct involvement of American troops, a dynamic to be repeated in Iraq. As in Iraq, US forces had little interest in understanding the Vietnamese as a people. We called them "gooks" just as soldiers later called Iraqis "haji." American troops feared that any Vietnamese could be with the Viet Cong and, like in Iraq, believed everyone was a potential enemy. As in Iraq, a counter-insurgency program was begun to "win the hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese that was a miserable failure because, while they appreciated getting stuff they hated that it came from foreign invaders who would also kill or interrogate and torture people.

Republicans, of course, called Democrats traitors for pulling out and if we had simply continued fighting for a few more decades victory would have been ours.

Who Lost Iran? (1980's)
The Shah of Iran
In 1953, the CIA initiated a coup that deposed the democratically elected government of Iran and imposed an absolute monarch on the country. He was a brutal dictator whose secret police (SAVAK) tortured and murdered citizens at will (see Batista above). He was an extravagant spender, in 1971 he spend $100 million of government funds celebrating his monarchy. The Shah was hated by his countrymen as was the United States for putting him in power. When the Shah became sickly revolution became inevitable.

Republicans blamed Democrats for betraying our vicious ally.

Who Lost Iraq?
Have you seen all the similarities? A corrupt regime more interested in pocketing American cash than fighting insurgents. A demoralized Iraqi army betrayed by its own generals that would rather run than fight. A clearly superior American military force that outnumbered the enemy by over 5 to 1, never lost a battle in the field but never won the "hearts and minds" of the people. Funny how killing and torturing people doesn't endear you to them.

Then we have a Republican party that believes if we only continued the war for a few more decades we would have won it all. And, as always, blame the Democrats.

The truth? None of these countries were ever ours to lose.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Jeb, Iraq, and Lessons Not Learned

Poor Jeb has finally closed the circle. In less than a week he has taken every imaginable position on the Iraq War. On Monday he said he loved it, then on Tuesday that he didn't know what to think. On Wednesday he suggested he did have an opinion but was going to keep it secret so as to not "dishonor" the troops. Now, today, he says he would have gone to war. Although that was not a statement of policy but a Jeb saying, "Okay, I'll say whatever you want me to, can we just shut up about it!"

In one week he was pro-war, anti-war, ignorant about it, and secretive about it. That's Olympic quality flip-flopping.
While on his "I won't tell you" part of the week, Jeb said we should focus on "the lessons learned." Of course, he then didn't say what those lessons are because that would require thinking. If we've learned anything this past week it is that all the time it was Jeb who was the most idiot Bush brother.

Lessons Bush learned from the Iraq War
If you listen to former George Bush advisers (see above Venn Chart) the lessons learned are vague and not much. Three advisers wrote articles for World Affairs Journal two years ago. Reading their articles is mostly a lesson in butt covering.

Richard Perle thinks we need a "political strategy" that supports insurgent elements in countries we oppose and have them fight proxy wars for us. Which is exactly what Perle did during the Reagan Administration when we armed and funded the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Contras in Nicaragua. Perle thinks the lesson is to repeat what failed miserably thirty years ago.

Paul Wolfowitz thinks the lesson is to train soldiers for "counterinsurgency, not for peacekeeping." In other words, Wolfowitz thinks the army should become a colonial police force suppressing native uprising wherever they occur.

Michael Hayden actually thought about this question and found four lessons. 1) Don't have blind faith in intelligence. 2) Intelligence is fungible, strategy direct tactics and the reverse. 3) Keep Congress out of things. 4) His fourth lesson boils down to Minority Report was a great movie, anticipating and preventing things are dang near impossible.

Real Lessons of the War
Lots of more open minded people, like Harvard professor Stephen Walt, have drawn lessons from the Iraq War.
  • It easy for charlatans to bamboozle the US into war.  Cheney, Perle, Wolfowitz and others conned us into the Iraq War because they thought it would be quick, easy, and fun. And we believed them. By the time we figured out it was none of those things we were stuck in quicksand.
  • There will always be foreigners (Ahmed Chalabi, Bibi Netanyahu) who will want to finagle the US into fighting their wars for them.
  • Invading a country makes everybody in that country hate us. In Iraq, the Shi'ites wanted Saddam removed with bloody prejudice yet they quickly started shooting at Americans because we were a fucking army invading their country.
  • Colonial occupations forces inevitably start fighting back against the people they are supposed to protect. It happened in Iraq and Baltimore. They hate us oppressing them, we punish them for hating us which makes them hate us all the more. Atrocities are the natural outgrowth of Wolfowitz's strategy of counterinsurgency not peacekeeping.
  • America has more war profiteers per capita than any other country in the history of mankind. The companies that make tanks and missiles and bullets and bombs make no profits in times of peace. They require wars, demand wars, and pay our politicians well to provide an endless string of profitable wars.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Luis Lang Saga

There are none so blind as those who will not see. ~ Old English Proverb
Luis Lang is the die-hard conservative Republican who refused to buy health insurance because Obama is an evil Kenyan and refused to treat his diabetes because he liked smoking and drinking Coca-Cola (Also, probably, because he figured God would never afflict him with disease). Now, he's going blind from his untreated diabetes, he wants free health care and he's outraged because he can't get it.

His problem is partly because he lives in South Carolina which, for political reasons, refused to implement the Medicaid expansion. But mostly Mr. Lang's problem is himself. He adamantly refused to buy health insurance during the enrollment window when it was available because he believed universal healthcare was a commie plot by that wicked Obama.

Mr. Lang lacked compassion when it was asked of him and is now demanding it of others while still refusing compassion for anyone else.
He showed no pity. He showed no compassion. He showed no mercy. He deserves none for what he chose to do. ~ Kathryn Flicker
Yet, he is being given compassion, but only from the left side of the spectrum.  A GoFundMe site has raised thousands of dollars for his health care but the only ones giving are the "liberal fascists" Mr. Lang continues to despise.

His conservative brethren are ignoring him with the same silent contempt Mr. Lang would show someone else.  I've searched all the major conservative website (FoxNews, Redstate, Daily Caller, Townhall, Drudge), there is not a single mention of Luis Lang. The same community that feted a bigoted pizza maker with $840,000 can't be bothered with even a single paragraph or single dollar for Mr. Lang.
"Compassionless" describes Republicanism more accurately than any other single word.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mark Halperin Meets His First Hispanic

Halperin is reason #37 why I don't read Time Magazine.
When I was a very small child I was riding on a bus with my mother when an African-American boarded. It was the first black person I had every seen and, in the kind of loud voice only a small child can get away with, I exclaimed that the person was "very dirty." I don't remember much about the incident except that my mother was deeply embarrassed as she explained to me that he wasn't dirty, his skin was simply a darker color.

Back in the 1990's, a young Michelle Tafoya was the courtside reporter for a CBS broadcast of an NCAA tournament game when the play-by-play announcer became ill. Michelle took over and became the first women to do play-by-play of a men's sporting event. The color announcer was an old, retired coach. What I remember most vividly is that old ex-coach had clearly never been that close to an attractive woman before who wasn't a prostitute. Michelle not only did a great job calling the game, better than the man she had replaced, but she also expertly handled the oafish ex-coach as he forgot about the game and awkwardly obsessed on the fact that Michelle was a "girl."

Those were the thoughts that came to mind when watching Mark Halperin's uncomfortable as fuck interview of Ted Cruz. Halperin ignored politics and obsessed on having Cruz display his bona fides as a Cuban-American. Clearly, Halperin had never spoken to a Hispanic before who wasn't a gardener or maid. The highlight of the interview was when Halperin wanted Cruz to prove himself Hispanic by saying something "en Espanol."

You know you're being stupid when even the Daily Caller can successfully make fun of you.

I'd rather slit my wrists and bleed out on the kitchen floor than vote for Ted Cruz for dog catcher. But not even he deserves an interviewer like Halperin.

Friday, May 08, 2015

California Water Wasters Fight Back

I'm looking out my window this morning at the first really good rain storm I've seen in years. No, that doesn't mean the drought is over but it is a relief to know that water can still fall from the sky. I am more than doing my part.
My latest water bill says I use about 25 gallons of water a day. Of my $50 bimonthly water bill, only ten percent is actual water use, the rest of the bill is connection fees. Just 30 miles up the road from me is Rancho Santa Fe where Nouveau riche millionaires on average consume nearly 600 gallons a day per person.

Individual aqua gluttons use a lot more but we can't know the depths of their depravity because California has a law protecting them.  Back in 1991 California was experiencing another drought and public utility records were, you know, public. Newspaper publisher Helen Copley was found to be using over 10,000 gallons a day, more water than I'll use in a year, while San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor was revealed as a liquid liar. She had claimed to be a dedicated conservationist yet records showed her using 3,248 gallons a day.

After a few good rainy seasons filled reservoirs again, the state's aristocracy quietly set about insuring such embarrassments never happened again. They approached a noted environmental legislator (the Byron Sher Award is still given annually by the Sierra Club for environmental legislative achievement) to write a law declaring the utility bills of rich Californians to be state secrets.

California's elites have been busy in court, too. Recently, judges ruled that charging people higher rates for using more water was illegal and outlawed tiered pricing structures. These judges can keep their massive koi ponds and ornamental gardens at minimal prices.

It is frequently difficult to keep conserving while knowing that every drop of water I save this year will be wasted in a few hours by my "betters." I can't water slut shame the wastrels or even make them pay more per gallon than me.
Lake Mirage Racquet Club in Palm Desert
Sometimes I just want to run my faucet until the reservoirs are completely dry. But, I'm a good citizen. I must be patient. I will polish my guillotine and wait for the revolution.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Short, Violent Takes

Geller Shooting Joy
One of these is Pam Geller, perhaps both.
Nobody is happier about the shooting at the Texas event making fun of Mohammad than crazy bitch organizer Pamela Geller. She was trying to provoke a reaction, hopefully a violent reaction. She would have been sorely disappointed if the event had passed peaceably as had her past attempts at provoking outrage. That her event drew blood and cause the death of two pathetic psychopaths is all the more joyful to her.

Baltimore Police and Race
The tradition was regarded as a technique by aggressive officers to inflict punishment on those they arrested without ever being accused of physically assaulting them with their weapons or hands. For a suspect with hands cuffed behind him, seated on a thin bench in the back of a speeding police van, a sudden stop or sharp turn or a bumpy road can do as much damage as a physical assault. ~ New York Times
Conservatives are crowing that the death of Freddie Gray was not racism because half the cops involved in the "rough ride" leading to his death were black. Maybe yes, maybe no. Police have developed a gang mentality, if one officer initiates a violent incident the others are compelled to participate or risk being blackballed by their "brother officers." Also, many African-American police see poor addicted black men as subhuman animals just like their white colleagues.

April Death Toll
Baltimore police march through neighborhood streets in a show of force, April 27 - Wash Post.
Last month, police killed 101 people. All but two were men. The crimes ranged from growing pot to shooting at cops. At least nine, including Freddie Gray, died while in custody. Guns killed most but several were killed by tasers. The youngest was 17 year-old Justus Howell who was shot in the back by two officers near Chicago. The oldest was 76 year-old Albert Hanson; according to official reports, he was trespassing on a farm outside of Fresno and fired a rifle at two deputy sheriffs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Symbols of Police Force As Occupation Army

A year ago I wondered what happened to Officer Friendly. It's gotten worse since then.

Back in December the head of the NYPD union declared war on the citizens of the city. Throughout the country in the following months, police have been staging summery executions on the streets of their cities - an average of four a day between April 23 and 27. I  want to look at some of the symbols police have adopted as they have become an army of occupation.
This is the official patch of the Atlanta Police Department SWAT team. The Germanic eagle with a crown, the crossed lightening bolts vaguely reminiscent of the SS logo. It's viscerally disturbing.
Even more frightening is the patch for the Ann Arbor, MI SWAT. It would be more appropriate on the leathers of an outlaw motorcycle gang. This patch shouts, "We're going to fuck you up!"
The last piece of symbolism is the increasing habit of police dressing in camo. There is no practical reason for this. Special camouflage gear in a domestic urban environment is useless and just an expensive fashion statement. Police like them because they look bad ass. Commanders love them because they are part of the psychological conditioning of the officers into unthinking warriors.

You are no longer a cop. Look like a soldier, think like a soldier, behave like a soldier, kill like a soldier.