Rest in Peace, General Powell [Updated]

We lost a solid military leader today, and an inspiration to many people that I know. If not for the stain of being complicit in the false justifications leading up to the invasion of Iraq…..I wouldn’t be able to think of anything unkind to say about him. Gen. Powell was part of a cadre of officers who helped rebuild the military, the U.S. Army in particular….and the Vietnam War…..and propel the force and strategies for victory in Grenada, Panama and Iraq [Desert Storm].

He will also be remembered for a list of pre-requisites that should be followed [but won’t be] prior to any armed engagement overseas: the “Powell Doctrine”.

The Powell Doctrine states that a list of questions all have to be answered affirmatively before military action is taken by the United States:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

Blue Skies and Airborne All The Way, Sir…….

***To no great surprise, Dear Leader [former POTUS] has issued a public statement on General Powell’s passing, through his spokespuppet:

He was a classic RINO, if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans. He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!” – President Donald J. Trump

The insecurities and low self-esteem of a guy [not a Man] who couldn’t be bothered to actually serve his country….is hardly unexpected. Stay classy Donnie….

The SecDef Should Tender his Resignation

A lengthy article from Andrew Milburn over at Task & Purpose, but suffice to say……Austin is not the Secretary of Defense that we need right now, with China staring us down over Taiwan. Clean house and clean it quick.

As for what the country wants, it must surely include general officers who haven’t surrendered their moral autonomy to the political administration of the day: Generals who understand that it is their responsibility to set the right balance between the mission and the men because they also have an obligation to subordinates – the sons and daughters of the American public that General Milley so readily brings to his defense. Generals that have thought deeply about what their obligation to the nation really entails.

This is an obligation that defies neat categorization. It can’t be captured on a PowerPoint slide or be easily explained in a chummy press conference. Understanding it demands intellectual and moral rigor. I would guess that these are the qualities that America expects of its generals. 

Resignation won’t atone for lives lost, or the debacle that American involvement in Afghanistan became, but it would at least demonstrate that these men understand the ethics of their profession. It would help calibrate the moral compass of thousands of officers beneath them. It might even help all three find absolution if such a thing still matters to them.

Sadly, the men and women at the pinnacle of our institution are a product of a culture that doesn’t nurture initiative, disciplined disobedience, or a profound understanding of our professional ethics. “I’ve taken an oath to the Constitution” is only the beginning of that intellectual and ethical journey, not the destination. 

The hearings were a blow to those of us searching for redemption among our senior uniformed leaders. Instead, they illustrate the pernicious effect that having men such as these in positions of the highest responsibility can have upon America’s standing in the world. 

Resignation may solve little, but is simply the right thing to do. And, at the very least, it will clear the way for those better qualified to begin the task of restoring this nation’s credibility on the global stage.

Any defense wonks have a pick who would fill that role nicely?

Patriot Day?

Tomorrow marks 20 years since the national travesty known as Operation Enduring Freedom and later, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Tomorrow also marks the cost of those 20 years:

American Service Members killed in Afghanistan through April: 2,448. American Contractors: 3,846. That doesn’t include the number of wounded, limbs lost or Veteran suicides.

And for what? To fight against an insurgency that didn’t attack us? To fight another nations civil war?

9/11 was planned in an apartment in Hamburg, Germany…..and in Florida. Yet we followed Osama bin Laden’s strategy to the letter.

We’ve spent $21 trillion on foreign and domestic militarization in those 20 years, and the number of terrorists and their backers/sympathizers has grown exponentially since 2001. It’s as if the term blowback is in a foreign language….

But tomorrow….is Patriot Day?

*edited to correct Patriot’s to Patriot, as the singular is the correct title, and there is a state level holiday [in a handful of states] that commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, as Patriot’s Day.

The Media Gets off it’s Ass, at least for one Falsehood *Updated*

*An even better article was just published today at LawfareBlog, outlining the myth-making occurring over divested equipment in Afghanistan.*

The media should consider it a duty, to dispel false political myths and memes….but it so often doesn’t.

Everyone by now has seen, I’m sure….the long and illustrious list of U.S. military equipment that “we” “left” behind. Below is what I posted on a fellow Blogger’s site:


Nonsense.

In almost every instance, when we essentially invade a foreign nation and rebuild their military from the ground up…we equip them. We sometimes take different approaches with regard to standardized equipment [as in Iraq, where we tended toward ‘Soviet-bloc’ items*].

In AFG, we leaned heavily on U.S. equipment, and a smattering of Czech and Russian, especially with regard to airframes.

This equipment, again over the past almost 2 decades, has been Divested through the Foreign Military Sales Program [which ensures that only our export models of equipment is eligible]. The equipment left behind, for the most part anyway, was divested to the ANSF. We no doubt left some ancillary gear when we withdrew from various Forward Operating Bases and Bagram…nothing of great import.

All of this equipment was dropped in place by the surrendering and running ANSF….and now the Taliban are able to kit themselves out like westerners, on the cheap.

We saw this as well in 2014 in Iraq, where ISIS took control of the vast amount of equipment we had divested to them, and gifted by running and surrendering ISF.

Our media has generally done a poor job, as they always do…of educating our public on issues such as these, and this…they become fodder to be trafficked by folks who want. to try and score political points.


Today, the WaPo finally ran the claim being made by the Right, regarding this equipment….with the full implications that the current Administration simply ‘leaving it all behind’.

U.S. military equipment was given to Afghan security forces over two decades. Tanks, vehicles, helicopters and other gear fell into the hands of the Taliban when the U.S.-trained force quickly collapsed. The value of these assets is unclear, but if the Taliban is unable to obtain spare parts, it may not be able to maintain them.

But the value of the equipment is not more than $80 billion. That’s the figure for all of the money spent on training and sustaining the Afghan military over 20 years. The equipment portion of that total is about $24 billion — certainly not small change — but the actual value of the equipment in the Taliban’s hands is probably much less than even that amount.

One of our Long National Nightmares is Over

We have officially ended the travesty that had been known as Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Almost as many who died on 9/11, have perished in that forsaken place……mostly, fighting against an entity that didn’t attack us on 9/11. And for a nation building cause that has not made the homeland and safer.

Good riddance. Let China become embroiled in that quagmire next.

On this National Dog Day……Support 2 Vets at Once

Forget about politics for a moment and remember who is always there for us….our dogs. Consider giving a donation to Second Chance K9. In their words:

Second Chance K9 is a rescue organization that pairs working military dogs and rescues with special operations veterans who suffer from PTSD. It’s a very focused program that places dogs who thrive on having a job, with veterans who desperately need a purpose. 

Your tax-deductible donation to Second Chance K-9 could be the key to saving not one, but two lives. Often, military dogs end up being euthanized once their service is complete. And in many cases, veterans who have seen and experienced unbelievable trauma take their own lives as a result. 

Connecting a military-trained dog with a special forces veteran unites them both with a purpose. That’s what Second Chance is all about. 

Founded by special forces Veteran and former Special Forces dog handler Travis Hall, Second Chance has evolved from Hall’s own experience with Bear, a dog who was deployed four times to Iraq. Hall said of Bear, “I didn’t realize it at the time, but that dog changed my life.

Give until it feels good. Now……who’s a good boy?

Gilbert and Sullivan Come to Afghanistan

Having several conversations online with multiple people of differing perspectives and ideologies, regarding Afghanistan….one theme has struck me as consistent: Most Americans don’t really understand the factors of our involvement [from invasion to regime change to nation building to peace negotiations to withdrawal]. Most have no knowledge of Divestment and Foreign Military Sales [much of the reason behind the boon of armaments that the Taliban found in their lap]; or the tribal/clan culture in the region [not necessarily the nation] of Afghanistan; or the tactical and operational considerations behind our actions, for better or for worse.

Part of this can be easily explained away…..our media [both Left and Right oriented] do a consistently abysmal job of education our society on that which our government and military does in it’s name. But the blame shouldn’t just lie there. There are plenty of sources to dive into, to gain a comprehensive understanding, from the layman’s point of view. And plenty of Veterans to query. It takes a bare modicum of effort to increase one’s knowledge on a given topic these days.

But, as to be expected, political narratives usually win the day….exemplified in the photo meme I posted the other day. Sad, but not unexpected.

Over at the Unz Report, there’s a long comparative article, illustrating both Saigon and Kabul, and our social view of overseas military engagements. I’ve left out the Vietnam analysis as not being strictly germane to the current issue, but am posting the following, as I think it’s pretty insightful.

America invaded a country of another race, utterly different culture, practicing religions GIs had never heard of, speaking a language virtually no Americans spoke, a country exceedingly sick of being invaded by foreigners, most of them white. in Afghanistan the designated evil was terrorism, in in Viet Nam communism, but the choice of evils doesn’t matter. You have to tell the rubes at home something noble sounding.

Then the Americans did as they always do, training the ARVN, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, to fight the communists to impose democracy, which the Viets had not asked them to do. But when you ask some Viets (Bodes, Laos, Iraqis, Afghans) to fight other Viets (Bodes, etc.) to kill their own people for the benefit of the invaders, they are not greatly charmed. With a predictability that makes sunrise seem chancy, they desert, fight lackadaisically, with officers charging the US pay for soldiers who do not exist, and probably go over to the other side en masse when the collapse comes. Which latter the Afghan army just did. Duh, as the kids say.

The speed of the Taliban advance took Americans by surprise because officers are liars and had been hiding the deplorable state of the “Afghan” army, its numbers, morale, degree of training, and phenomenal rates of desertion. Often the American officer corps thinks that if it can just have a little more time, they can win, so lying is a part of the war effort. Biden bought into this, announcing that the Afghan army vastly outnumbered the Taliban and was better armed and trained and the insurgents couldn’t possibly do what they proceeded to do.

Another reason is that the American style of war recruits its enemies. Soldiers are not the Boy Scout defenders of civilization that so many like to imagine. They kill a lot of civilians, many tens of thousands in the bombing of cities such as Baghdad and Hanoi. Ground troops come to detest the natives whom they designate gooks, zipperheads, sand niggers, camel jockeys, and the like. They commit war crimes that, when discovered, are called “isolated incidents,” when in fact they are common.

Fragmentation bombs produce such things as a little girl crying with her belly torn open and intestines falling out while her mother goes stark raving bugfuck mad watching her daughter bleed to death and she can do nothing about it. But it is for democracy and American values, and anyway the ragheads breed like flies, and besides, CNN won’t air it. Today drone strikes hit weddings and other gatherings. When you kill people in a village, the young men join the insurgents, wanting revenge. When a few thousands were killed in Nine-Eleven, Americans exploded in rage. Three thousand is a small fraction of the numbers killed in, say, the attack on Baghdad. The Iraqi soldiers killed in a hopeless attempt to defeat the Americans were sons, fathers, husbands, brothers of other Iraqis. How much love do we think it engendered in Iraqis? This seems not to occur to Washington.

Militaries at bottom are amoral. Afghans know of the torture operations at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Americans seem to dismiss such things as minor. They are not. Afghans seeing Moslems lying in pools of blood at Abu Ghraib, or being paraded around naked in hoods, are going to want to kill someone. Guess who.

American wars last a long time because no one has an incentive to end them. American casualties are low, especially now with the killing mostly done from the air against peasants with no defenses. No important American ever gets killed. American wars are all class wars, with the dying being done by blue-collar suckers from Kansas or the deep South, not by Bush II, Hillary, the other Clinton, Bolton, Bannon, Obama, Blinken, Biden, Cheney, Kamala, Trump, and the rest of those not required to fight. The US public has little idea of what goes on in its wars because the corporate media hide them. the Pentagon having learned that the media are their worst enemy, not the Taliban. It would not surprise me if one unfettered camera crew, filming the corpses and mutilated children and devastation, could force an end to such a war.

Americans are not heartless but calculatedly uninformed. Wars are also extremely profitable for those who provide the bombs, fuel, vehicles, and so on. If the US loses a war, the contracts stop, and equally if it wins. Keeping it going for decades provides a steady revenue stream. What’s not to like?

Finally, or as much as I am going to worry about, there is the 1955 Syndrome, the engrained belief that America is all powerful. This is arrogance and self-delusion. In the Pentagon you encounter a mandatory can-do attitude a belief that the US military is indomitable, the best trained, armed, and led force in this or any nearby galaxy. In one sense this is necessary: You can’t tell the Marines that they are mediocre light infantry or sailors that their aircraft are rapidly obsolescing, their ships sitting ducks in a changing military world, and that the whole military enterprise is rotted by social engineering, profiteering, and careerism.

But look around: The US has failed to intimidate North Korea, chase the Chinese out of its islands in the South China Sea, retrieve the Crimea from Russia, can’t intimidate Iran, just got run out of Afghanistan, remains mired in Iraq and Syria, failed to block Nordstream II despite a desperate effort, and couldn’t keep Turkey from buying the S-400. The Pentagon plans for the wars it wants to fight, not the wars it does fight. The most dangerous weapons of the modern world are not nukes, but the Ak-47, the RPG, and the IED. Figure it out.

And now the US comes home, leaving Afghanistan in ruins for decades. Use and discard.

*Post title from the sub-title of the linked article

Good Riddance to Afghanistan *Updated*

The inevitable happened a bit earlier than anticipated. Kabul and the Ghani regime, have fallen to the Taliban.

We invaded Afghanistan in 2001 for revenge. I’m fine with that. We stayed for 20 goddamn years, for no discernible purpose….losing American men, women and trillions in the process. And the inevitable still happened. And we should be ashamed.

I’ll borrow some apt words from John Cole at Balloon Juice:

We’ll see a lot of blame thrown at Joe Biden over the next couple of months, and no doubt right-wingers will blame him for “losing” Afghanistan, but most of it is bullshit. Are there some things that could possibly have been done better? Sure. Much of the bitching by our warrior class is focused on the timing of the withdrawal (often ignoring the fact that it was Trump who set the original date), saying we should have waited until the winter when the majority of the Taliban will be at home and it won’t be “the fighting season,” the name for what you and I know as summer and fall. And I suppose he could have. And then we would be reading all of these headlines next spring and summer instead of right now. That’s the thing about delaying the inevitable, it is, in fact, just a delay. This was going to happen no matter when we left and there is nothing anyone can say that will convince me otherwise.

The inevitable happened for a variety of reasons, all known and prophesied by rational and astute people……instead of the faux patriots and armchair commandos that are garnering much of the online and media attention today.

Those who seek to blame certain politicians [in the interest of their party’s narrative], conveniently forget about the ‘peace process’ with the Taliban [thought we didn’t negotiate with ‘terrorists’?], where we saw said Taliban receive 5000 of their captured fighters back into their fold…….and a reneging on nearly every aspect of the process. Those who would wail about us ‘abandoning’ the Ghani regime…..also seem to forget that we negotiated with the Taliban unilaterally, without the partnership of the Kabul regime, at the behest of the Taliban. Nice.

The Taliban, as horrific an entity they are…..are not a national security threat to then U.S. homeland, and never have been. Our Afghan satrapy [and our likewise fools errand in Iraq] has largely denuded our armed forces of the ability to resist actual threats, whether in the form of ISIS worldwide, as well as that of Russia and China.

Good riddance, to a misadventure that should have expired 19 years ago.

*Update* A worthy link from 2014 Iraq that explains well the inevitability of the fall of Kabul: Investing in Junk Armies: Why American Efforts to Create Foreign Armies Fail

Worth your time……

What Exactly Did They Die For

Fort Smith National Cemetery-Author

Was it worth the cost, were they able to see what a fat, lazy and entitled society that we’ve become? Soft (in mind and body) devotees of political idols and charlatans……concerned more with assuaging low self esteem with impotent rage on the internet, than working to provide a better future for the next generation……On one side, a clique that eschews the intrinsic value of labor……and the other who has perverted patriotism into pornography. What words would they have for what’s left of this Republic?

Not kind ones too be sure.