Archive for the ‘defense’ Category

Iraq Veterans Against The War (updated)

April 22, 2008 13 comments

Iraq Veterans Against The War visited our campus today with a display of boots and shoes.  Lined up in neat rows like tombstones, decorated with a name and in some cases a photo or a medal, each pair of boots belonged to an Illinois soldier who didn’t make it home.  There were also circles of shoes, from Iraqi civilians of all ages.  Veterans were on hand to reflect on the war.

What could I say that is not said by a little pair of fuzzy booties that belonged to a child?  Or by a pair of boots that belonged to a soldier, decorated with his high school graduation picture?  It is bad enough when there is an arguable purpose to it all, but this war is for nothing.  It is a personal vendetta of our codpiece-in-chief.

Mark Twain said; “History does not repeat itself.  But it rhymes.”

Boots in a row

Civilian shoes
Civilian shoes
Civilian shoes
Overview; boots in foreground, civilian shoes in background

Categories: defense, Politics

Fitting back in

March 25, 2008 1 comment

Insights into round numbers and the changing shape of holes in families and society:

“…these numbers, round or otherwise are nonsense. They’re worse than meaningless. They allow us to care about this war on cue for some fraction of a news cycle. But by the time we’ve gone to the fridge, grabbed a beer, and slapped our fat asses back down on the sofa, things have moved on to the story of the drug-addled starlet’s custody fight with her 5th ex-husband. In six or seven months, when the number’s climbed to another round increment, the press will spare a few more minutes of air time and remind us to care again briefly. Between now and then, most of the deaths will be back below the fold on page A-39…”
- Zoologist Mike Dunford, Numbers and Tragedies, Statistics and Losses

There’s a lot more – go read!  Mike’s wife, a doctor, has been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Update links:

Categories: defense, Politics

Bush on the romance of danger

March 21, 2008 16 comments

President Bush, speaking by video conference to military and civilian workers in Afghanistan:

“I must say, I’m a little envious,” Bush said. “If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.”

“It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks,” Bush said.

Tip ‘o the hat to Terry

Categories: defense, Politics

Looking across the aisle for escape

March 7, 2008 4 comments

Do you suppose the Republicans want the Democrats to get us out of Iraq?  After all a Democrat got us stuck in the last quagmire and a Republican got us out.  Not in a timely fashion, admittedly, but that’s how quagmires are.

It would be a considerable win for them, disentangling the country from their mistake and at the same time letting Sean Hannity blame the Democrats for “defeat”.  Because we surely would have won if we’d just kept our hand in that blender a little longer. 

(Right – as if we’re going to bring ‘peace’ to a part of the world where people have been nursing grudges since the 13th century…)

I’d feel better about John McCain if I could just hear him admit; “It was a mistake to invade Iraq.”

Categories: defense, Politics

Who’d a thunk it?  New hippie-peacenik army manual

February 9, 2008 1 comment

One of the worst aspects of being a superpower is that it gives us an illusion of influence.  Oh, we can bully other countries around, but if our objective is something more complicated like getting people on our side (and this is a tough concept for some people to grasp) no amount of firepower will buy the desired result. 

It doesn’t matter how advanced our weapons and tactics might be, we still can’t seem to make peace in countries where we’re not wanted.  To say the very least, the supply of terrorists and insurgents is a function not a fixed quantity.  What to do?

The US army has drafted a new manual which for the first time puts an equal emphasis on winning hearts and minds as it does on defeating enemies by force. The manual is expected to be published later this month.

The new guide is seen as a major development that draws on lessons of the wars being fought by US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Initial military successes there have given way to long struggles, with insurgents in both countries.

Winning the peace

The commander of the US Army’s Combined Arms Centre, Gen William Caldwell, told the BBC that the US army had learned from its experiences since 2001 that stabilising countries and winning over locals required more than just military skills. Knowledge of foreign languages and local cultures are also important, he said.

The US army might win every battle it fought, he said, without achieving its real goal – winning the peace.

BBC News, New Approach for US Army Manual (emphasis mine)

The Strategic Air Command motto is; “Peace is our profession” though some have likened it to a balance of terror.  Looks like the Army is going a step further.  It’s difficult, complicated, but it’s a step in the right direction.  Maybe our foreign policy people should read the new manual.

Categories: defense, Politics

High rate of PTSD in returning veterans

November 8, 2007 4 comments

Corpus Callosum discusses a Medscape article on Iraq veterans and PTSD.  The trouble is, it isn’t one disorder, it’s [1*(number-of-solders-who-have-it)] disorders.  Treating it will be expensive, but so will not treating it.  There is no third option and no guarantee of success. 

The figures the committee came up with sound like a misprint, but so would the actual cost of the war had it been known when Rumsfeld and company were spewing promises about how brief and glorious it would all be.  Next time a politician tells you how much a war will “cost”, multiply their figure by ten just for starters.  It could be more and in this case, already is – and we’re just beginning to explore the aftermath.


  • AP: Study: Veterans make one in four homeless
    Some advocates say the early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable.

    “We’re going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous,” said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa.

    Hey, stop worrying.  I’m sure it can all be fixed up with a nice parade.

Categories: defense, Politics

Christopher Hitchens: genocide is the answer

October 14, 2007 12 comments

I’d wanted to find out about how the FFRF convention went this week and looked for a summary.  PZ Myers was there, and reports on it at length.  (Short version: had a couple great guests who fought for separation of church and state.  Needed more breaks, people came here to organize and schmooze, not to hear long speeches.)

Scroll down, though, and you’ll find his report on Christopher Hitchens’ address, in which the speaker basically said we should bomb the entire Muslim world back into the stone age, and then keep bombing them some more.  Myers was not impressed, and to his credit did a great job dismantling the diatribe.

The idea that we can kill our way to cultural supremacy has a lot of takers, but it’s wrong.  There aren’t enough bombs in the world to destroy the Muslim heaven.  It’s easy enough to replace the fanatics you’re killing, too, if the culture is immersed in poverty and ignorance.  But vast numbers of Muslims want to consume Western culture, which is far more potent leverage.

Do we even need to say that genocide is wrong?  That a nation that commits it undermines its own legitimacy, and the arguments for its own existence?  When we see dictators on trial at the Hague, we should be thinking; “Don’t be that guy”. 

I often see religious people try to argue that only (their) religion can be the basis for morality.  And some atheists argue for the opposite: that religion is the source of immorality and only atheism can set us free from it.  Hitchens is evidence that maybe good and evil just come from … us.

Categories: defense, Politics

Second Bananas must be no fun at all

August 12, 2007 3 comments

Listen to Dick Cheney making a cogent, well-informed and prescient analysis of why it was not a good idea for Bush Senior to invade Iraq:

Remember Cheney mopping the floor with Edwards in the Veep debates?  Don’t underestimate him.  It’s obvious that Cheney is a smart guy, and completely on target.  And yes, he did use the “Q-” word.  After saying these things in 1994, for him to turn around and argue in favor of the invasion under Bush The Younger does indicate two things:

  • The vice presidency really is a second-bananas job, and

  • Cheney will sacrifice anything, including all the factors he mentioned in this clip, with his integrity and a cherry on top, to support his boss.

(From Stranger Fruit)

Tangential Update: Karl Rove has resigned.  Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out, Karl.

Categories: defense, Politics

Ten lessons from Iraq

July 22, 2007 3 comments

Obsidian Wings has a list of lessons to be learned from Iraq.  Here’s a sample:

(1) It seems to me that our country went slightly crazy after 9/11, and one of the manifestations of that craziness was a tendency to say, about anyone who suggested stopping to think about much of anything, that that person just hadn’t absorbed the lessons of 9/11, hadn’t been there, hadn’t fully grasped how horrific it was. Anyone who has even the slightest iota of this tendency should, I think, engrave on his or her forehead: When something truly awful happens, and you find yourself in the presence of real danger, it is more important than ever to stop and think clearly about what you are about to do. The temptations to do something stupid are much greater than usual, and the risks are much higher. Going with the flow and doing what comes naturally might be winning strategies at a party; they are profoundly dangerous when considering going to war. Since the people who do stop and think are likely to be rarer than usual, in moments of national crisis they should be cherished, not abused or slandered.

… and there are nine more of them

Categories: defense, Politics

Look before you leap

April 29, 2007 2 comments

Parade magazine’s Lyric Wallwork Winik writes in his “Intelligence Report”:

From abroad – What the U.S. Missed In Iraq

A fact of life in Iraq has gotten little press here: Nearly half of all Iraqis marry their first or secondcousins.  The preferred union is for a daughter to wed the son of her father’s brother.  In fact, Saddam Hussein married his first cousin, Sajida.  “That’s why the shrewdest forecasts about what would happen in Iraq came not from the foreign-policy experts but from sociologists,” says journalist John Tierney, who reported on this phenomenon.  Back in 2003, those sociologists warned that Iraq would never be like post-war Japan or Germany, because Iraqis were loyal to their clans and tribes – not to the Iraqi nation.  Even today, much of the violence runs along clan lines.  The army and police have an uphill battle to prove they can protect Iraqi communities better than the local militias.  What does this mean for America’s war effort?  Perhaps Congress will belatedly want to ask the President and the generals where tribes and tribal loyalties fit into their plans for building a stable Iraqi nation. (Parade Magazine, 29 April, 2007)

Yes, academic knowledge of countries we plan to attack is important.  Crucial, even.  A little something to remember as hotheads dismiss tweedy “elites” who have spent their lives studying other cultures.

Categories: defense, Politics