October 14, 2007


More War is Hell

Regarding my last post on a reaction to Islamic culture in America, I concede up front that radical Islam is currently head and shoulders above any other violent, zealous terrorist sect of any other religion. But we’ve the U.S. has got this “War on Terror” all backasswards. I forthwith strike “we” from my discussions of this as I’m tired of inferring that average citizens share responsibility for this debacle. And while it’s unfortunate that sometimes all we average citizens seem to have left is Monday morning quarterbacking, still I gotta say it takes an idiot of a leader to request that the enemy “bring it on.” Seems to me you should keep your damn mouth shut and bring it to them. If we had wise leaders who didn’t play act success and revel in “shock and awe” but instead rallied the free nations to form an effective coalition of the seriously pissed off, we’d be mopping up the very last of things here in year five.

In 2005 my dropped jaw was lonely among the nodding heads in a room where a certain U.S. senator compared Iraq to the struggle of the American colonists rebelling against Britain in the late 18th century. Yet even leaving that one to wallow in its absurdity, others who have gulped the neocon’s Kool-Aid® in mass quantities have claimed the struggle is on par with our role to liberate Europe and the Pacific from Axis tyranny. Equally absurd (still, it must be mighty tasty, OH YEAH!), but since we just had the luxury of a historical fast forward of 165 years or so, let’s do the run down from there to now.

One big difference between 1941 and 2001 is that the latter came upon us a just a bit more quickly. World War II was raging hard for a couple of years before the U.S. had no choice left but to commit troops. But in watching Ken Burns’ The War I was astounded by the much closer look at the motivation and sacrifice of Americans back then. Not only did the U.S. emerge from the greatest modern economic catastrophe to defeat major industrialized enemy nations on two huge fronts (and contributed vast amounts of materiel to help the Soviets on a third), it produced the most fearful weapon of mass destruction ever imagined, and then paid handsomely to rebuild the countries that it vanquished. Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t execute the political end of things flawlessly, but he knew the Axis powers were on a tear, and when the hour came at Pearl Harbor he knew it was go and that go was nothing less than balls to the wall. Add to that his leadership qualities that got the essentially complete cooperation and motivation of the nation behind the cause, combined with the luck of developing the A-bomb first, and it was just a matter of time (and bodies) for an Allied victory.

One fact I learned from Burns’ documentary demonstrates the radical shift the country went through in record time: in 1941 U.S. automakers manufactured well over one million cars, while in the three years following only a few hundred new cars were made. The Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan took just a few months to retool for building B-24 bombers, which had more than 10 times the number of parts of a car. At its peak the plant ended up cranking each one out in just over an hour. All I can think to say of that is Fuck. Ing. A.

But within five years of that great and terrible victory America plunged into another conflict that cost it 130,000+ casualties and achieved a mere stalemate that firmed up the roots of the Cold War to drag on for decades. Before two of those decades passed there would be yet another conflict in eastern Asia with American combat casualties in excess of 360,000 and millions of civilians killed or wounded. What happened? Perhaps it was that these conflicts presented a nebulous concept of a cause to fight for, and that American capitalism, in its zeal for wartime profit bolstered by jingoist propaganda to fight communist expansion, got outfoxed by the more nuanced approach of the Soviet Union (who never committed combat troops to either Korea or Vietnam). But O’Tim, Ronald Reagan defeated communism in the end. Um, right... that’s for another post, now run along sonny.

So now we are in the midst of the vaguest war imaginable. Monty Python stalwart Terry Jones put the neo-conceit of the “War on Terror” in humorous perspective. “How is ‘terrorism’ going to surrender?” he wrote in his 2005 book Terry Jones’s War on the War on Terror. “It’s very hard for abstract nouns to do anything at all of their own volition.” On the political side, if George W. Bush had as much acumen for command as FDR had in his fingernail things would be a whole lot different. Ulterior motives have also been the order of the fight against terror, making it far from a just or even credible war and therefore subject to a great probability of failure at worst or readjustments that will take many decades at best. What with war being hell and all, the fight needs unequivocating SOBs like George Smith Patton Jr. and, if you’ll permit a brief throwback to the 1860s, William Tecumseh Sherman running the show, not ambitious executive branch lapdogs like Petraeus and Tommy Franks. Let’s pause here for a couple of juicy quotes from the aforementioned battle-hardened dudes:
“You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out...You might as well appeal against the thunderstorm as against (the) terrible hardships of war.” - Gen. Sherman, to the city fathers of Atlanta prior to evacuating the populace and burning the city down.

“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” - Gen. Patton, probably to some subordinate whom he smacked and made cry.

Another part of the puzzle is the media and its lack of curiosity about the neoconservative thinking on how the U.S. should step up its presence in the Middle East. One of the most glaring examples is in a report that neocon think-tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) released in 2000 called Rebuilding America’s Defenses (the complete report is at http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf). PNAC, which deems itself “a nonprofit, educational organization whose goal is to promote American global leadership,” put forth in this report some startlingly prescient analysis, stating, “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein,” and “The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor.”

Holy full circles, Batman! That’s some frightening shit. Jones explained how this and other salient facts get the media gloss-over. “The problem with the media is they are primarily owned by corporations, and corporations are pro-establishment. Newspapers and television start using the vocabulary of politicians, and that’s the way bias creeps in.”

PNAC fellow Director Gary Schmitt acknowledged that they were up front about regime change, but maintained that Saddam’s removal was U.S. policy predating the Bush II administration, and that the left had cherry-picked such quotes from the report since its release. “I see it all the time,” he said. What I’m pretty sure was a less common sight for Schmitt and certainly for the mainstream media was any candor about cherry-picked evidence used in the run up to Iraq part deux.

The final piece is us, and I have to strike my previous statement about striking “we” from this discourse, for in the end we are all to blame, not just Bush and his Republican cronies. We’re well aware of this administration’s shortcomings and goings, and so is Congress, who is still taking every opportunity to avoid taking any opportunity to get something done to correct our erroneous course. Can the 2008 national elections bring about any sensible results? Despite my doubts, I’ll be voting, if only to claim my right to 1,400-word rants.

So then enough of that, and on to more important things. In honor of our “War Is Hell” edition, try some XTC and “Sgt. Rock” (complete with that Top of the Pops lip-synching that would give anyone stage fright!):


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i told the man about the xtc reference in this post, and he added another little ditty of theirs to the list: "here comes president kill again" (he is a longtime fanatic of that band)
Interestingly the PNAC statement signatories included:
John Ellis "Jeb" Bush, Richard B. Cheney, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz,
John R. Bolton, Richard Armitage &
Richard Perle amongst others.

What a bunch.
Tim, that was perfect, including the XTC vid.

You know, when this war was brand-new and shiny, I told my husband this was going to be "another Vietnam." He adamantly insisted that would never happen and that we would never stand for it. It is different than that conflict, to be sure, but it is dragging on with no end in sight, and there doesn't seem to be a way to back out without causing further death and destruction.

I'm just waiting for the riots and the arrests to start. Oh wait. The kids today don't really seem to give a rats ass (well, as compared to the kids of the 60's.) Maybe when Bush sends the National Guard in to a campus to maintain the peace, they'll get their act together and start protesting loudly. Oh wait. The guard are all off in Iraq and Afghanistan! Never mind.
Only a cosseted saloon-bar General whose Daddy got him off combat duties would have ever invited an enemy to "bring it on"... The man's reckless and faux-macho stupidity is enough to make your eyes water.

Yeah, they brought it on alright, Georgie. And other people's sons got killed because of it.

Don't worry though. It was nobody you knew.

Another gem of a post, O'Tim. And I'll have to look up that Terry Jones book. I've enjoyed a number of his Guardian articles.
Yeah. Gem is right.

Sherman's one of my heroes. The "Just War" concept is a crock. We should war a lot less than we do, but when we do, balls to the wall, for reasons most people feel in their bones, no need to argue.

Which of course means the last sixty years would have seen less war and therefore more violent transformations of various countries to communism but we know now that was doomed to pass given time, so what the hell. Damn few in the Muslim world will stand for bin Laden's and Ahmadenijad's style of wet dream either, so IF we had a reputation for holding off until truly necessary and then kicking ass with neither compunction nor any possibility of failure the future would actually look fairly reasonable. But, no. Our rep fairly sucks. In fact, it's so bad the only thing that could make it worse is if one of those people currently running for President actually wins.
Don - Glad to see we basically agree on the gist of "balls to the wall," but with republican (small 'r') politics that is subject to some difficult nuances. Do we reinstate the draft? Hell yes! How else are you going to have enough force to perform the global dragnet necessary, and I don't know how else are you going to get Mitt Romney's sons to put their Morman resolve into a pair of combat boots. Do we go nuclear? Wow, that's a toughie on which I know about enough to be elevated to ignorant, but my gut says NO FIRST STRIKE.

Re: communism. I disagree that it is doomed to fail if actually because it has mutated into totalitarian capitalism (kind of where we seem to be heading and still pretty much what Russia's got going on). China has a freakin' stock market and invests heavily in ours. Vietnam and Laos are doing just fine, and I doubt Cuba will revert after Castro dies. Yeah, Reagan the Crusher.

As I said Islamic radicalism is at the forefront of religious threats to peace, and your assessment of the majority of the Muslim world's short tolerance of it stands in agreement with my assessment that the U.S. efforts against terrorism are bassackwards. Our rep wasn't good to begin with, and I'm surprised the neocons didn't perform historical due diligence in this regard when formulating their agenda. I'm also surprised that they thought Bush was going to be a good buckler for their cause.

Re: 2008 - ever the optimist you are. No one tickles you just a little bit? The big problem is that, as usual, all the idea guys are at the back of the pack (Obama is worthless, and what the fuck is Fred Thompson running for?). Of course as a rabid liberal I would love to see hell freeze over and Kucinich get elected. As it stands now I'd be happy for him to get one delegate so as to earn a podium slot at the DNC, even if it is at 3 p.m.
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