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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Deadline

posted by on October 29 at 12:52 PM

A gloomy story in today's BBC about the men who died after Armistice was signed:

...hundreds of these soldiers would lose their lives thrown into action by generals who knew that the Armistice had already been signed.

The recklessness of General Wright, of the 89th American Division, is a case in point.

Seeing his troops were exhausted and dirty, and hearing there were bathing facilities available in the nearby town of Stenay, he decided to take the town so his men could refresh themselves.

"That lunatic decision cost something like 300 casualties, many of them battle deaths, for an inconceivable reason," says [historian] Mr Persico.
At 10.45 another 40-year-old soldier, Frenchman Augustin Trebuchon, was taking a message to troops by the River Meuse saying that soup would be served at 11.30 after the peace, when he too was killed.

Augustin Trebuchon's grave - along with all those French soldiers killed on 11 November 1918 - is marked 10/11/18. It is said that after the war France was so ashamed that men would die on the final day that they had all the graves backdated.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Letter of the Day

posted by on October 23 at 11:43 AM

HEY STRANGER: Thanks for your article of 21 October on "Ending the Occupation." I just want to say that I am pissed off at military recruiters. They are quite possibly the most corrupted human beings on this planet, with the exception of Dino Rossi and John McBush. They lie to children (like they lied to me when I was 17), and how the city of Seattle can allow them free-roaming access to teen events on public property is beyond me. If the city allowed carnival workers to set up recruiting tables and harrass teens at their events, there would be a major shitstorm. (And carnival workers don't even make you do pushups).

Seattle needs to wake up and see military recruiters for what they are: vultures selling our children into servitude. Take this Iraq veteran's word for it: Once you let the army set up gimmicks and violent videogames in city parks, you are only a step away from getting calls in the middle of the night from your children while serving multiple tours in Iraq. Don't believe me? Ask my mom.

Evan Knappenberger
OIF 05-07 Veteran

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"It's basically a criminal enterprise."

posted by on October 22 at 4:15 PM

If you'd like to know what's going on in Afghanistan, all you need is 22 minutes and to click here, to a Bill Moyers interview with Sarah Chayes from February.

If you want to know in more detail, read Chayes's book The Punishment of Virtue. It details her attempts, among other things, to get the local warlord in the southern center of Kandahar fired—instead he was promoted by Karzai. (If you're pressed for time with this book, you can skim some of the historical sections without missing much.) Given the news lately, this ought to be a popular Christmas gift.

Choice bits from the interview?:

The U.S.-backed Karzai government is "basically a criminal enterprise."

Pakistan, which receives $1 billion a year from the U.S., is a Taliban factory: "It's actually U.S. taxpayer money paying the insurgency."

That's only the beginning. Really. Just 22 minutes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Drill, Bebé, Drill!

posted by on October 17 at 10:10 AM

Who just found a bunch of oil under its soil?


Thursday, September 25, 2008

No, Really—Worry

posted by on September 25 at 2:23 PM

Shots fired in US-Pakistan clash:

The United States military says US and Afghan forces have exchanged gunfire with Pakistani troops across the border with Afghanistan.

A senior US military official says a five-minute skirmish broke out after Pakistani soldiers fired warning shots near two US helicopters.

Financial crisis (the bailout), political crisis (suspended campaigns), more political crisis (McCain polling better than he should), nuclear crisis (North Korea giving us the finger), and now the Pakistani army has the cojones to fire at the U.S. military? Could you even imagine that happening eight years ago? No. You cannot.

To repeat a post from yesterday: we are losing leverage by the day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Imperial Spider

posted by on August 29 at 9:59 AM

art.spider.jpg And what is this all about?

The family of a British soldier serving in Afghanistan has been forced from their home after a poisonous spider hitched a ride back with him and apparently killed their pet dog.

The camel spider's bite is not deadly to humans but can kill small animals.

Lorraine Griffiths and her three children, aged 18, 16, and 4, moved out of their house in Colchester, southeast England, and are refusing to return until the spider is apprehended, the UK Press Association reported.

Griffiths told the East Anglian Daily Times that the spider appeared after her husband, Rodney, returned from a four-month tour of duty in Helmand province, the arid southern Afghan frontline in the fight against Taliban extremists.

"My son Ricky was in my bedroom looking for his underwear, and he went into the drawer under my bed, and something crawled across his hand," she told the paper.

She said their pet dog Cassie confronted the creature, which they identified on the Internet as a camel spider, but ran out whimpering when it hissed at her.

Ring a bell? A 19th century bell? The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins? The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle? Yes, you can see now that this story about the British soldier, the return, and the evil spider that is brought back to the home land is a classic example of colonial anxiety. The imperial adventures always have this worry, this fear, this sickening sense of exposure. The spider is nothing other than a sign of British guilt.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How to Win an Oil War

posted by on August 20 at 4:48 PM

The surge has worked like shaken baby syndrome works: Things have quieted down, but nobody in their right minds would consider the situation likely to end up well in the long term.

When I hear McCain, channeling Bush, prattling on about winning the war in Iraq, I have to wonder: What does he mean by win? A stable, free and democratic Iraq? Not going to happen. We all know it, I'd hope even McCain knows it.

When we leave, the oil-bearing parts of the country will become the effective property of Iran. In turn, Iran will be embroiled in an insurgency of its own. Eventually, when the country is hollowed out enough, it'll become at best a petty oil-dictatorship.

Can we be honest with ourselves, even if just for a moment? This war was about oil. In any candid sense, 'victory in Iraq' means we have access, perhaps exclusive access, to the vast oil resources contained within its borders. Everything else is gingerbread.

Continue reading "How to Win an Oil War" »

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oh Georgia!

posted by on August 14 at 12:00 PM

Wondering if World War III is about to start?

As usual, the War Nerd can help:

There are three basic facts to keep in mind about the smokin’ little war in Ossetia:

1. The Georgians started it.
2. They lost.
3. What a beautiful little war!


The American military’s response so far has been all talk, and pretty damn stupid talk at that. A Pentagon spokes-thingy called Russia’s response “disproportionate.” ...

If you want a translation, luckily I speak fluent Pentagon. So what “disproportionate” means is—well, imagine that you’re watching some little hanger-on who tags along with you get his ass whipped by a bully, and you say, “That’s inappropriate!” I mean, instead of actually helping him. That’s what “disproportionate” means from the Pentagon: “We’re not going to lift a finger to help you, but hey, we’re with you in spirit, little buddy!”

The quickest way to see who’s winning in any war is to see who asks first for a ceasefire. And this time it was the Georgians. Once it was clear the Russians were going to back the South Ossetians, the war was over. Even Georgians were saying, “To fight Russia by ourselves is insane.” Which means they thought Russia wouldn’t back its allies. Not a bad bet; Russia has a long, unpredictable history of screwing its allies—but not all the time. The Georgians should know better than anybody that once in a while, the Russians actually come through, because it was Russian troops who saved Georgia from a Persian invasion in 1805, at the battle of Zagam. Of course the Russians had let the Persians sack Tbilisi just ten years earlier without helping. That’s the thing: the bastards are unpredictable. You can’t even count on them to betray their friends (though it’s the safer bet, most of the time, sort of like 6:5 odds).

This time, the Russians came through. For lots of reasons, starting with the fact that Bush is weak and they know it; that the US is all tied up in that crap Iraq war and can’t do shit; and most of all, because Kosovo just declared independence from Serbia, an old Russian ally. It’s tit for tat time, with Kosovo as the tit and South Ossetia as the tat. The way Putin sees it, if we can mess with his allies and let little ethnic enclaves like Kosovo declare independence, then the Russians can do the same with our allies, especially naïve idiotic allies like Georgia.

One cannot think of Russia today as being the same as the Russia of the Soviet Union or Cold War. Russia is little more than an oil company--a belligerent, preening and despotic oil company with thousands of nuclear warheads. A company driven almost entirely by greed and insecurity.

The neo-Liberal economic reforms foisted upon the country (thought up by the same DLC assholes who came up with welfare reform and the financial industry deregulation that directly lead to our own financial collapse, for those of you keeping track) in the 1990s have left the Russian population constantly bristling at any sense that they are being denigrated.

Georgia's agitation to join NATO, and the growing sense that the US might also strongly encourage this, proved intolerable. Georgia is strategically located, near to some of the Russian oil deposits and pipelines. We didn't like those nuclear missiles in Cuba. Why would Russia tolerate NATO right next door?

As Dan noted, subsequently we're started sending some troops and humanitarian aid. I wouldn't start digging your fallout shelters right now, but who knows. Just like during the blockade of Cuba--the biggest risk is of an "accident" occurring, in which American and Russian troops start shooting at one another without really intending to.

On that cheerful note, do you know the four primary nuclear warhead targets for the city of Seattle proper?

The University of Washington main campus, Boeing Field, Seattle Center and Seatac Airport.

Estimated casualties? 341,000. Neat.

Because Matthew Broderick knows all.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Pentagon Versus the British Media

posted by on July 11 at 12:27 PM

BBC News and The Guardian confirm the U.S. air strike that killed 47 Afghan civilians that the Pentagon continues to deny.

From The Guardian:

A US air strike killed 47 civilians, including 39 women and children, as they were travelling to a wedding in Afghanistan, an official inquiry found today. The bride was among the dead.

From the Pentagon, via VOA News:

The Pentagon says no civilians were killed in an air strike Sunday in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan, which local officials say killed 27 people who were walking to a wedding. U.S. military officials in Kabul say they believe the air strike hit its intended target, a group of militants. Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman confirmed that view. "I can only tell you I talked to Afghanistan this morning, and they are very clear with that particular strike that they believe they struck the intended target and that there were not innocent civilians involved in that particular strike," said Whitman.

The reports of civilian casualties came from Afghan officials, who said they spoke to people in the remote area by telephone. The U.S. military says Taliban militants often pressure villagers into claiming civilian casualties after air strikes.

Alrighty then.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Consumes Jet Fuel

posted by on May 22 at 11:00 AM

Here's an arresting fact: The increase in jet fuel costs from a year ago that airlines are currently dealing with totals around $25 billion in additional costs for carriers, which is about five times more than the airline industry has ever earned in a single year (1999 was a record year for the industry, with profits topping out at about $5 billion).

What consumes jet fuel:





Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bush Goes for Tic-Tac-Toe? No, Just Options!

posted by on May 20 at 12:52 PM

[Israeli] Army Radio had quoted a top official in Jerusalem claiming that a senior member in the entourage of President Bush, who visited Israel last week, had said in a closed meeting here that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action against Iran was called for.

The official reportedly went on to say that, for the time being, "the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice" was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic.

But don't worry! "The White House on Tuesday flatly denied an [Israeli] Army Radio report that claimed US President George W. Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term."

Bush just wants us all to know "All options are on the table." Whew. I feel much better.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The VA Is Sick of Your Inconvenient Diseases

posted by on May 15 at 1:35 PM

Today, the Department of Defense announced a $2.3 million award to the University of Cincinnati to study brain trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But, according to an email leaked to a citizens' advocacy group, VA bosses are discouraging social workers and psychiatrists from diagnosing PTSD in veterans because it's inconvenient:


In the words of Melanie Sloan, the righteously outraged director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, "the VA is calling on its employees to deliberately misdiagnose returning veterans in an effort to cut costs."

Which isn't just outrageous—it's outrageously dumb.

Ignoring PTSD now will only cost the VA, with interest, in the next few decades. As this WSJ story reports, PTSD is both underreported and lasting:

Many military personnel are reluctant to seek counseling for PTSD because they are afraid that seeking help would harm their careers. A recent survey by the American Psychiatric Association found that 75% of military personnel felt that asking for assistance would reduce their chances for promotion.

Undoubtedly, some people fake PTSD—but the incentives lean towards underreporting, not overreporting.

Military officers and psychologists fear that veterans of the two wars will suffer mental-health problems for decades to come, a largely hidden cost of the current conflicts.

"There's a financial cost to this, but more importantly there'll be a cost in lives if we don't get a handle on this problem now," Sen. Christopher Bond (R., Mo.) said in a recent interview.

Money for research is good. Money for treatment is imperative.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

China Today

posted by on May 1 at 1:57 PM

Pulled from the Drudge Report:
A secret submarine base, a massive airport, the longest bridge? Robert Mugabe is right about one thing: learn Chinese.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The US Army: Now with more sex offenders, child abusers, and crazy people.

posted by on April 21 at 1:45 PM

Some bad news, via the Guardian.

The US army doubled its use of "moral waivers" for enlisted soldiers last year to cope with the stress of the Iraq war, allowing convicted sex offenders, people convicted of making terrorist threats and child abusers into the military, according to new records released today.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mistakes Were Made

posted by on April 18 at 10:53 AM

It's easier to defeat an enemy if you don't arm them:

Nato forces mistakenly supplied food, water and arms to Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan, officials today admitted.

Containers destined for local police forces were dropped from a helicopter into a Taliban-controlled area of Zabul province.

The coalition helicopter had intended to deliver pallets of supplies to a police checkpoint in Ghazni, a remote section of Zabul late last month.

By mistake they were dropped some distance from the checkpoint where it was taken by the Taliban, the Internal Security Affairs Commission of the Wolesi Jirga — the Afghan parliament's lower house — was told.

Hamidullah Tukhi, a local politician from Zabul, told the parliamentary commission that the consignment had been taken by a local Taliban commander.

A Nato spokesman said the pallets were carrying rocket propelled grenades, ammunition, water and food.

Some Afghan politicians think the drop was made on purpose, prompting a NATO spokesman in Brussels to reply:

"It sounds like someone made a mistake. It was a cock-up rather than a conspiracy."

A cock-up indeed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

$12 Billion a Month

posted by on April 10 at 11:06 AM

Even though I'm with Annie on how blockheaded the "Troops Out NOW" rhetoric is ... and no, I'm not Dan, I was against the war in March 2003 ...

and even though I'm too old now, even to dig pinball ...

I still get high off a good antiwar poster:


War costs, $145 billion in the 2008 budget, make up 5% of federal spending. Over five years, the war in Iraq has cost over $500 billion.