End of Combat Operations
by Dark Wraith via the Cheezburger Network
Enjoy the video, fellow Americans. This is our military; this is our tax dollars; and this is God's work we are doing.
Our truth is marching on.
Given that the President is expanding the war in Afghanistan having sent 17,000 more U.S. troops there and having escalated military strikes inside Pakistan, to name a couple of ways our truth will continue to march on.
At the end of that road, of course, are the likes of Alexander the Great; the British; and, most recently, the Russians: their truths marched on, too. Right into the maw of failed conquest.
We'll find out soon enough.
Okay, maybe not soon enough, but we'll find out eventually.
Notwithstanding the mission of our evangelical Christian soldiers, some places aren't called "God forsaken" for nothing.
Memorial Day 2009
Our gen'rals command them to battle,
When our Presidents send them to war;
And the slain, they come home in silence:
Dead forever; alive nevermore.
Enjoy the holiday.
Memo Penned to Ruins
FROM: Dark Wraith
DATE: 3 January 2009
You will not win, you know. No amount of firepower will solve your problem with the Palestinians.
Destroy every Qassam rocket, wipe out every Grad missile, kill every member of Hamas, butcher hundreds of civilians who might or might not support it; and you will not win.
Buy our American politicians, cart to your shores billions of dollars in economic aid and war materiel from us, call us your ally as you persistently harm our interests to promote your own; and you will still not win.
Sink our ships that watch you, hire spies to steal our secrets, assassinate your enemies in far away lands; and you will still not win.
Justify your brutality with the horrors done throughout history to your own people, allow your policies to be driven by modern-day Zealots hated by most of your own citizens, hold your economy together on the reed of an unending state of war; and you will still not win.
Imagine your soldiers with their overwhelmingly superior firepower a warrior race, slaughter innocents to defeat evil, make your very religion a clarion cry to destiny instead of a magnificent story of heroism; and you will still not win.
Burn their land to the very ground.
Kill them; and then kill them some more.
Then, kill them some more.
Still, you will not win.
Sooner or later, Empire meets its match, wrongful or righteous as that opponent may be. You have met yours, and you are not even Empire.
But, then again, this tragedy is no longer about victory, is it? You would have to destroy what bombs, bullets, knives, and fire cannot; and you already know that. If you harbor any remaining doubt, just ask Empire.
You, just like Empire, will one day weary of your toil. Perhaps you will move on before you are spent of this defining enterprise of madness in its ugly sack cloth of violence. Probably not, though.
Just ask Empire.
Or, more appropriately, read its epitaph.
This former student of mine is in the National Guard. He had told me late last Spring his stint would be up in early September. He's been working hard to finish his Bachelor's degree and get down to living a good life with the woman he's planning to marry. She's a CPA, and the two of them are quite a sight together: she's just as pretty as a model and so sweet; he's handsome and muscular, with a boyish grin that hasn't disappeared even though he's killed more than his share of people in several tours of duty in Iraq.
So I went into the shoe store looking for him. The manager recognized me and came right over. He's seen me in there a few times; I like to stop in where former students work just to see how they're doing, and this manager got to know me while we all stood around chatting. (A few of my other former students work there, too.)
The manager, John, said, "Looking for Steve?"
"Is he here tonight?"
John had this serious look on his face, almost a frown. "Steve got stop lossed. He's about to be deployed."
For a few seconds, I was dumbfounded.
John stood there, arms folded, looking down. I found my tongue and almost snarled, "Where?"
"Dunno," John answered, "I'd like to say he's heading back to Iraq."
"Iraq? Steve's a glorified cannon cocker. He's good But short stuff? Now?" I protested.
John shook his head: "Steve's scared."
I leaned a little bit toward John and said, "This is about Iran."
"All I know is, Steve's scared," John insisted.
I sort of turned toward the big front windows of the store and grumbled pretty loudly, "Steve's a mortar specialist. What the Hell, man?"
"Guess they're short on rocket shooters," John snorted.
"Mortars don't go all that far," I said.
John perked up a little: "Hey, I was a grunt. Mortars fly farther than bullets."
"Either way, you're not talking about airstrikes," I grumbled.
"Well, someone's got to do the real fighting once the flyboys have done their show," John added.
After that exchange, we both just stood there looking out those big front windows.
John finally said, "Hey, listen, why don't you look through the clearance shoes back in the back and see if there's anything you like. I'll do you a good deal on 'em."
I thanked him and went back there. Unfortunately, the only pair in my size looked like pimp-daddy specials.
I went back up front and thanked John for the offer. He told me they'd have some more shoes on clearance this weekend.
I walked out through the big front doors and stopped at the sidewalk. I swear, I thought about turning around to see if Steve would be standing in the store with that big, boyish grin he always had when he saw me coming in. He seemed to figure he was getting a chance to give me a deal on shoes to thank me for getting him through all his math classes. He wasn't very good at math, but he never failed a test if I gave him an hour or two of tutoring the day before.
Steve is a loyal fellow: loyal to his friends, loyal to his God, loyal to his President, loyal to his country.
He's about to walk into what might be the jaws of death. Apparently, he knows it, but he's still going to do it.
That makes him a damn fine soldier.
I think I'll keep these shoes I'm wearing for a while longer. Three years ago, Steve gave me a really great deal on them.
The Strait of Hormuz Incident
A likely explanation? The radio operator on the USS Hopper, the ship in the video, is having a tense conversation on Channel 16 with what he thinks is someone on one of the Iranian patrol boats, but what he's really having is a discussion with some joker on shore or on a proximate ship who was listening in on the whole incident.
Now, hot off the presses at none other than the Navy Times, it now appears that the Filipino Monkey struck:
The threatening radio transmission heard at the end of a video showing harassing maneuvers by Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz may have come from a locally famous heckler known among ship drivers as the "Filipino Monkey."
To clarify the matter succinctly, the President of the United States of America got suckered into making a threat of "serious consequences" against another nation because of a prank by a person widely known as the "Filipino Monkey." In the terminology of Internet chat, President Bush got PWN'd by the Filipino Monkey.
In the aftermath of the Pentagon's claim earlier this week that small Iranian naval boats swarmed and threatened U.S. vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, President Bush has issued a renewed warning to Iran of "...serious consequences if they [Iran] attack our ships." The graphic at left, taken from video footage released by the Pentagon, shows one of the five Iranian patrol boats "wake riding" behind a U.S. Navy ship while a second Iranian patrol boat farther back is about to cut through the wake of the trailing American ship.
Regarding the hostile encounter, ABC News is reporting tonight that the Pentagon is now admitting the voice on a video clip released late Mondaythe audio and video components of the four-and-a-half minute presentation were put together subsequent to the incidentmight not have come from anyone on one the Iranian interceptor boats but instead from someone on shore or even possibly from a radio operator on another ship somewhere in the general area. Below is the multi-media, four minute, twenty second video/audio mix of the allegedly hostile encounter in the Strait of Hormuz between three America naval vessels and a group of Iranian Revolutionary Guard watercraft. Although the Pentagon has said that the entire episode lasted about 20 minutes, this video it has provided shows a total of only about four-and-a-half minutes of the action. The video and the audio components of several parts of the encounter were captured separately and synched later for public presentation. The video ends before the audio, and it is during the black screen part near the end of the clip that you can hear the voice of what the U.S. military originally claimed was an Iranian on one of the speed boats broadcasting a provocative threat to the Americans. Listen carefully to the voice; and also pay close attention not only to what you hear, but also to what you do not hear.
First, it is not quite clear what the alleged Iranian says after "I am coming to you," but the radio operator on the USS Hopper repeats the last part of the communication as, "You will explode after a few minutes."
Moreover, The New York Times is quoting an individual claiming to be a former U.S. Navy officer who notes that Channel 16, the frequency on which this apparent threat occurred, is used like "bad CB radio" in the Gulf area, with many people hurling insults and racial epithets at one another, chattering incessantly, and even broadcasting American '70s soft rock music in the middle of the night:
[O]ver in the Gulf, Ch. 16 is like a bad CB radio. Everybody and their brother is on it; chattering away; hurling racial slurs, usually involving Filipinos (lots of Filipinos work in the area); curses involving your mother; 1970’s music broadcast in the wee hours (nothing odder than hearing The Carpenters 50 miles off the coast of Iran at 4 a.m.)
On Ch. 16, esp. in that section of the Gulf, slurs/threats/chatter/etc. is commonplace. So my first thought was that the "explode" comment might not have even come from one of the Iranian craft, but some loser monitoring the events at a shore facility.
Commenters at a number of sites have also pointed out several problems with that the heavily accented voice making the threats. First, the accent is not Farsi, the most common language in Iran. In fact, listening carefully to the tape, not only is the accent decidedly unlike that of a speaker of a Persian tongue, it also has a distinctive British character (listen to the way the speaker pronounces the "l" when he seems to say "blow"). Second, there is absolutely no background interference that would indicate that the transmission was from an open boat running at flag speed through choppy water, which is the condition the video clearly shows the Iranians were operating during the encounter.
A likely explanation? The radio operator on the USS Hopper, the ship in the video, is having a tense conversation on Channel 16 with what he thinks is someone on one of the Iranian patrol boats, but what he's really having is a discussion with some joker on shore or on a proximate ship who was listening in on the whole incident. In the meantime, a radio operator on one of the other two U.S. vessels is having the real conversation with the Iranians in the boats, and that discussion was switched to Channel 11 precisely because of all the chatter on Channel 16. Below is the YouTube version of the video Iran has just released of the encounter that supports an interpretation like this of what was going on.
Another explanation, albeit far darker, of what is heard on the American version is that the audio component comprises two separate conversations, one happening on Channel 11that's the part where the U.S. radio operator is declaring that the American naval vessels are in international watersand a completely separate component coming through on Channel 16. In the American version, we never hear the Iranian side of the Channel 11 interaction.
The Iranian video obviously presents a considerably different perspective on the character of the encounter, which appears to have been, at least during the five-minute clip the Iranians provided, very professional. (The audio and video in this Iranian clip, by the way, appear not to have been synthetically put together later in a studio, unlike the American version.) Of particular note is the clearly Farsi accent of the Iranian radio man and the fact that the chatter on Channel 16 prompted him to request that his counterpart on the U.S. vessel switch to Channel 11, which the American radio operator did. Also of note is that this Iranian radio man appears to be speaking as the representative of the entire contingent of patrol boats: note his hand gesture giving what looks like a command to another patrol boat to back off. This Iranian radio man is obviously not the person whose voice is heard on the American video.
The Iranian video makes the incident look strikingly more like a routine encounter as it was characterized by Tehran. That is to say, the Iranians came out in their small speedboats, swirled around in their characteristic "dispersed swarming" maneuvers, bothered the Americans as Iranians do in their usual game of bully-on-the-block in the Strait, and got their usual response from the Americans: "We are operating in international waters," which is the diplomatic way of saying, "We're coming through, so you and your stupid little toy boats can kiss our backsides."
How did this encounter, which now appears to have been nothing out of the ordinary, turn into an "incident" that would prompt a dire warning from the President of the United States? As it turns out, behind the "anonymous Pentagon sources" the mainstream media were ominously citing when the story first broke was a gentleman named Bryan Whitman, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Office of Strategic Influence. For readers unfamiliar with Mr. Whitman, he was none other than the architect of the propaganda push originally put forth about the "rescue" of Private Jessica Lynch, a story that turned out to be so at odds with what actually happened that Ms. Lynch, herself, repudiated the Pentagon version in testimony before Congress.
That's right: The latest, hot-off-the-presses story of a nearly deadly naval battle between the United States and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the Strait of Hormuz came straight out of the office of a disgraced Pentagon propagandist, a man already caught at least once before using a military incident and associated video to pump lies to an ever-receptive, ever-gullible U.S. mainstream media and its Right-wing warhawks in the Blogosphere. True to form, the American media instantly swallowed the story, complete as it was with ominous implications for an ugly new war, and repeated it as gospel truth to the ever-receptive, ever-gullible U.S. audience.
And if that weren't bad enough, the President of the United States, who is on a trip to the Middle East, has begun his visit with "serious consequences" saber-rattling based upon propaganda from which even his own military is now backing away.
Fortunately, not only is Mr. Bush apparently blissfully unaware of what an ass he looks like to the rest of the world, but the rest of the world can take great comfort in the certain knowledge that United States foreign policy is being led by an American President who is, if nothing else, as consistent at being a fool as any new world order could ever possibly need.
The Dark Wraith hopes that every U.S. citizen takes pride in the unwavering dedication of our President to being hailed by all the world as the Undaunted Ass of Empire.
Veterans Day 2007
Sa Bataille Finale, Sa Dernière Défaite
Prelude to the 73rd Hour of Nightfall
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times is reporting that the Pentagon has drawn up plans for a massive strike on Iran that would wipe out not just its nuclear fuels program, but the entirety of its military capability. The Pentagon planners think the armed forces of the United States can do this with 1,200 strikes over a span of three days.
You read that right: three days. Air and naval firepower plus 72 hours: presto!another international problem solved.
Literate observers of this looming scenario might wonder if a word even exists for people so thunderously, impenetrably, persistently, consistently, howlingly ignorant that they simply cannot learn either from history or from their own mistakes.
For those in search of the mot juste, here it is: Neo-Conservatism.
In all its thunderous, impenetrable, persistent, consistent, howling ignorance, Neo-Conservatism is once again calling its acolytes to the game table of war without end; and once again, Empire will issue forth the treasures of its gold and young to be wasted for the designs of men and women who will not be disabused of their plans even by the ruins in which the ugly monuments of their prior follies of world domination lie.
The Dark Wraith sees a history written before it has happened.
Update September 3, 2007, 1:48 p.m. EDT The Sunday Times article about the plan for a massive U.S. strike on Iran was dated September 2, 2007. On September 1, 2007, a post by "Maccabee" at Daily Kos described a conversation the writer had had with a Landing Signal Officer (LSO) in a battle group in the Gulf of Hormuz: Maccabee's account of the LSO's description of war preparations was relatively detailed and entirely consistent with the subsequent, more general article in the Sunday Times. (It was also entirely consistent with scuttlebutt I've been hearing.)
Daily Kos has deleted Maccabee's article, apparently affirming that the Right-wing smear-job artists who went on the attack against Maccabee were correct, and Maccabee had made up the conversation with an LSO.
Maccabee's post is still available in cache from Google: click here to read Maccabee's expunged article, "We Are Going to Hit Iran. Bigtime."
Decide for yourself: Is Maccabee credible?
(We shall leave for another occasion the question of whether or not a certain meta-blog, itself, has crafted mainstream respectability at the cumulative price of credibility.)
Second Update September 5, 2007, 9:36 p.m. EDT The link to the Google cache of Maccabee's article deleted at Daily Kos has now been expunged. Commenter Moody Blue has transcribed the article in successive comments on the thread for this article. Previously, Moody Blue provided the link to an article at Daily Kos supposedly refuting technical details of Maccabee's story. Although Maccabee's article was summarily deleted from Daily Kos, and subsequently removed from Google cache, the rebuttal post is still available, and likely will remain so, at Daily Kos.
Readers are encouraged to carefully read Maccabee's article and then the rebuttal.
The State and the State of Osama bin Laden: Marketing and Medievalism
The fact of the matter is that our intel is so wretchedly poor on bin Laden that we really have no idea of his condition. Here are the possibilities:
1) He's dead.
2) He's still alive but in wretched shape, given that he's been on kidney dialysis far longer than any normal human being of his age would be able to suffer it under the rugged, austere, unsanitary conditions in which he must live and travel as a wanted fugitive.
3) He's alive, and he's had a kidney transplant, which would have bought him a greater or lesser amount of time among the living. He has the money to get the transplant, and he probably has the resources to have been moved surreptitiously into and then from a hospital where such an operation could have been performed.
Whether or not he remains among the living, it is in the interest of his close associates to maintain that he remains alive. Most of the groups pledging allegiance to "al-Qa'ida" are actually pledging allegiance to bin Laden. He has become, thanks in no small part to United States President George W. Bush, a living legend; however, similar to quite a few other 'living legends'both those who worked for good and those who worked for illof history, he has to remain living for his influence to remain even marginally meaningful: no one in his inner circle commands the ethos, despite the fact that it has been several of his top lieutenants who have for years done the international legwork to rally insurgencies to the al-Qa'ida banner.
But therein lies the key: most of the international "al-Qa'ida" branding is just a label for a collection of disparate packages of highly variable quality and content, each of which is entirely disjointed operationally and even ideologically from the core that resides in bin Laden, himself. In other words, troublemakers like "al-Qa'ida in Iraq" and the al-Qa'ida movements in Asia and Asia Minor have the name, but their interests are almost all far more parochial; and they will always remain that way.
If bin Laden becomes dead to the world, the spectrum of "al-Qa'ida" groups will continue to call themselves 'al-Qa'ida in This Place' and 'al-Qa'ida in That Place'; but the brand name will be nothing more than legacy to virtually every one of them, save for the remnants of the core immediately surrounding the formerly living legend. The saying goes that "All politics is local"; the war equivalent of this is that "All insurgency is local": be it politics or rebellion, long-arm financing is not the same as control, and declared fealty to abstract, detached authority has precious little to do with tactical or even strategic goals on the local turf.
The situation in which Islamic insurgencies find themselves these days is rather similar to that offered by the feudal system in England of the Middle Ages: nobles would declare "homage and fealty" to a higher lord, perhaps even to the reigning king or to the incumbent pope, thereby becoming vassals of that higher lord and, in the event, transferring legal title to their lands and other holdings to that higher authority; in exchange, they would be granted perpetual estate over their former holdings, and they would garner the full benefit of the protection, legal and military, of the lord to whom they had pledged. In reality, however, the effect of such a pledge was far less a matter of surrendering anything at all or of gaining material support, at least in the long run. For the pledging vassal, the ritual was engaged principally for the acquisition of titular association: he, by becoming aligned with the nominative authority of the lord to whom he had pledged his homage and fealty, could acquire by the association political, financial, and military power (provided he understood how to use the doors of power opened by his association).
Osama bin Laden is nothing new: murderous criminals have always existed; and many have gotten away with their monstrous crimes. Somewhat less common is a powerful sovereign granting such a rogue his very own sovereign status, thereby transforming a mass murderer into an authority able to beckon others to pledge allegiance to a flag that had no legitimacy until a real sovereign state gave its grant in words and deeds. Perversely, then, President Bush drew a commoner to nobility as his knight-errant in a vassal-lord relationship to the explicit purpose of thereby having an enemy worthy of the sovereign's attention on the battlefield.
Thus, until such time as bin Laden is dead to the world, al-Qa'ida will be at once a meaningful, feudal entity offering legitimacy to the illegitimate and an equally viable, modern label for co-branding by wanton killers across a world of malcontents alienated by modernity, yet perversely willing to subscribe to its corporatist marketing methods and weaponry.
The Dark Wraith finds the situation altogether rich for future case studies in business and history classes.
Afghanistan: Vertical Opium Monopoly
- • From 2005 to 2006, opium production in Afghanistan rose from 4519 tons to 6724 tons, a 50% increase.
- • Providing 92% of the global supply of opium, Afghanistan now stands as the most concentrated site of production on the planet for any illicit substance.
- • In conjunction with the surging production of raw opium, Afghanistan now processes almost all of its domestically grown, unrefined field product before exporting it to world markets, thereby making the country a vertical manufacturing monopoly in opiates like street heroin and morphine.
- • Taliban forces ousted in the U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan, which commenced the still-ongoing military phase of Operation Enduring FreedomAfghanistan on October 7, 2001, are using revenue from opium production to fund their continuing battle with multi-national forces now operating under the auspices of NATO in the country.
The graphic below presents the 2007 World Drug Report data on potential opium production in Afghanistan for the years 1990 through 2006.
The graphic depicts the rise, fall, and resurrection of the opium production industry in the country. The early years of Taliban rule were marked by a relatively constant output; the dramatic drop that began in the last two years of the 20th Century was the result of the central government bowing to international pressure to stop cultivation of the poppy plants from which the opium comes. As evidenced by the virtually non-existent output by 2001, the success of the Taliban rulers was remarkable, in part because their authority had pervaded most of the country and driven into some degree of inactivity the old, entrenched drug warlords of what would later come to be known as the "Northern Alliance" working with Coalition forces. With the swift collapse of the Taliban regime under the onslaught of Operation Enduring FreedomAfghanistan, civil law enforcement came to an end, and it would not be long before vast swaths of the country beyond the capitol were back under the rule of local forces that would induce farmers to move fields away from grain and toward the poppy plants.
Interestingly, however, the recent, massive secondary spike in production is the result of the resurgence of the Taliban, itself, militarily and economically controlling larger and larger tracts of the countryside, particularly in southern provinces. With farm gate prices attractive and the willingness of Taliban forces to use violence on those who resist, many farmers who had up until recently continued to commit their fields to grain are now pressing their acreage into service for opium production, this despite continuing (albeit highly variable) risk of drug interdiction raids by Coalition forces working in coordination with central government instrumentalities and personnel.
With the United Nations report predicting a continued increase in opium production through at least 2007, and with much of that increase due to the Taliban consolidating more widespread control, any claim of a lasting beneficial effect from Operation Enduring FreedomAfghanistan, either in Afghanistan or beyond, remains far less a realistic assessment than merely another attempt by the Bush Adminstration to divorce its propaganda from any connection whatsoever to the realities its incompetence has wrought on the Middle East and Asia Minor.
The Dark Wraith would like to imagine that Americans are learning a lesson about the unintended consequences of using brute military force, but that would probably be hoping for too much.
Statistical Trends in the American-Iraqi War
As of June 2, 2007, Operation Iraqi Freedom had cost the lives of 3475 American soldiers, with another 12 deaths awaiting confirmation by the Department of Defense. On a monthly basis, the death toll for Coalition troops has been highly volatile, rising significantly during periods of intensified operations, such as during the seige of Fallujah in late 2004 and after. May 2007 marks yet another month of significantly higher casualty rates than are typical, and this is in part due to the "troop surge" President Bush initiated early this year, but it is also the result of what the Washington Post describes in a June 3, 2007, article as "increasingly sophisticated and lethal means of attack" being used by insurgents.
The graphic below, derived from statistics available at the private, highly informative site, Iraq Coalition Casualties, shows the month-by-month Coalition casualty numbers, the vast majority of which represent deaths of U.S. troops.
Note in the above graphic that the monthly number of troops killed had been trending downward from the beginning of this year until April, when the casualty figure jumped steeply and then climbed even higher in May. No let-up is expected: Queen Mary College military analyst Toby Dodge is quoted in the Washington Post article cited above as expecting "a very nasty summer" as disparate insurgent forces, including al-Qa'ida in Iraq, Ja'ish al-Mahdi, and others, turn away from targeting Iraqis and set their sites on killing American soldiers with increasingly sophisticated operational tactics and more destructive weaponry.
Evidence of the maturation of the insurgency in its various factions comes in many forms, but perhaps the most troubling statistic is captured below, which shows the month-to-month ratio of wounded-to-killed Coalition soldiers. The lower the ratio, the more lethal, on average, attacks had been during a given month. The chart below, again derived from data available at Iraq Coalition Casualties, shows the troubling trend.
The red line is the three-month (reverse sum) weighted moving average of the wounded-to-killed ratio, and it clearly shows that the ratio has been generally trending downward since about the last half of 2006. According to GlobalSecurity.org director John Pike, quoted in the Washington Post article, "[T]he closer you... get to that 3-to-1 ratio," the more like a "stand-up fight" characteristic of 20th Century wars the American-Iraqi conflict becomes.
With the trend toward more sophisticated, targeted, lethal violence against U.S. troops, and with no prospect in the foreseeable future for any drawdown of American involvement in Iraq, the Summer is, indeed, shaping up to be "very nasty," as is the Autumn and well beyond.
The Dark Wraith trusts that the Democrats in Congress have already prepared their future excuses for failing to stop the Bush Administration's debacle.
Responsibility and Retribution
The ceaseless chain of lies, miscalcalculations, and stunningly consistent ineptitude is, of course, the work of the Bush Administration, acting through its people and the federal instrumentalities they control; but while I am here, while I choose to remain a citizen, I do so only as the weak yet loyal opposition, "loyal" because I cower at the prospect of what would happen to me were I to display a degree of disloyalty that would trigger punitive measures by federal law enforcement agencies that have let it be known to the world and to the citizenry of this country of a brutality the government is now willing to carry out. I am honestly amazed by how easy it was to subjugate this country, and I am in no small measure appalled by how easy it has been to drive me to circumscribe any expression of my revulsion at what my leadership has been doing.
I can take only short comfort in telling myself that this awful time will surely pass and the rule of law will again prevail, but such self-forgiving platitudes offer the comfort of a lie: I know nothing of the kind about the eventual prevalence of the "rule of law," for I know that the rule of law never prevailed fully before the Bush Administration; and far worse, I know very well that an extremist Right-wing Supreme Court will, for a generation to come, be contorting the rules animating federal law to the advantage of the strong, to the benefit of the powerful, and to the end of crushing what little had been gained over the past half-century as far as civil rights are concerned. I also know that virtually no candidate for President in 2008 is going to stray far from the emergent unitary executive doctrine because no Congress can convene anymore with the spine to derail the authority consolidating in the Executive Branch. I also know that databases never die, and the masses of information being collected, sorted, analyzed, and used by both the government and private organizations are not going to be deleted on some happy January morning in 2009.
As a free society, we have been permanently damaged. I cannot change what has already happened, and I cannot find a voice loud enough, convincing enough, or forceful enough to turn the tide of a future history already written.
It is certainly the case that many people, perhaps a majority in both 2000 and 2004, did not vote for Mr. Bush. Moreover, to hold all Americans accountable (myself included) for what has become a 21st Century horror story in Iraq is to trivialize, if not utterly dismiss, the condemnation that has persisted for so long from so many voices on the Left. I would defeat my essential purpose as a political analyst were I simply to cut down or otherwise demean the enormous, earnest, and well-considered political and social warriors who have fought so hard and sacrificed so much, despite how futile such efforts have been and will, I would argue, continue to be. I have no taste for the thuggish ways of Right-wing commentators who defend their indefensible declarations by merely shouting down those who take exception to their thinking. It serves no good purpose for me to deliberately inflame intellectual passions only to wreck them in the course of strengthening my own. That does not mean, however, that I shall not on occasion press my thesis, if for no other reason than to see how well it endures strongly adverse contention.
Comments posted on the article "Details and Devils" in the cross-post at Big Brass Blog included one that expressed the heart of the criticism of the thesis I have set forth about the individuating character of collective responsibility. In edited form, below is that comment:
I refuse to shoulder one iota of blame for the... bloody tragedy in Iraq. I cried out against it from the getgo, I shouted out against the installment of these amoral fuckwits who created it. It's THEY who are to take the responsibility. And their extremities must be held to the fire.To the end of pressing my case, I herewith reprint in edited and substantially expanded form my response, knowing full well as I do that this is by no means a refutation of the criticism of my thesis, but rather only an expansionalbeit perhaps inflammatoryof what I wrote originally. To that modest end, then, it stands for the time being as the last I shall write on the matter.
Including Tony Blair, whose own country had experience in the sands of the Middle East about 100 years ago, which he... bloody well knew about.
It's absolutely astounding that anyone can say, oh, it's time for the Iraqis to "get behind the wheel." Good fucking grief. Cheney and his puppet Bush broke the vehicle. Would that there were some way to make them do lifetime community service in Iraq, or until they are dead.
Those words speak to the essential, long-term problem we face. I rest in self-assurance that retribution against us will come. That is the way of history, and the United States will not escape punishment from those who have suffered under the rule of Empire. It matters not one bit whether we decide to leave and forgive ourselves, to grant our individual consciences clemency for a world wounded deeply by our misguided sense of just revenge.
Perversely, this is the rightful way of the rule of law. What the individual thinks of his personal responsibility is irrelevant. Acts adjudicated under law are measured by the facts of the case at trial, and punishment for the guilty is without mercy for some circumstance that makes an otherwise heinous crime something else. This is so even for thoseperhaps especially for thosewho think, feel, or know to the bottom of their soul that they are blameless.
The bitterness of Middle Easterners will not be shed only upon those who stood fast with George W. Bush. In the eyes of the victimized who turn to retributive violence, those citizens who opposed him from the very beginning will stand every bit as blameworthy as those who held fast to him and his policies until the very last day of his Presidency. That's how it will work. That's how the ancient rite of vengeance comes to expression. To paraphrase a young rabbi from several millennia past, the rain will fall equally upon the righteous and the unrighteous.
The United States, its people, its assets, and its interests will be punished. To put it in the bluntest terms possible, we are very likely to get hammered. Whether or not you, I, our friends, our families, our political allies, or those we care about "deserve" it has no bearing. That new crop of "terrorists" of the future we are now cultivating from Baghdad to Jakarta, from Punjab to the Caucasusthose who will exact their brand of justice at the behest of their psychotic religious leadersthey will not take the time to distinguish between Americans who condemned Bush and those who did not.
Payback will be indiscriminate. My repeated, documented, unwavering condemnation of Bush and the neo-cons will not save me from the wrath of those who have been wronged. I could wear a sign with bright red lettering on it that read: "I DID NOT SUPPORT BUSH. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR 650,000 DEAD IRAQIS!" and it would make not a bit of difference to a terrorist suicide bomber who was bent on killing Americans because his family was wiped out in a botched raid some company of Marines did in his neighborhood.
It's not going to matter to him or her.
Look with appropriate horror upon the picture at left. The little girl clutching the blanket and shrieking is a Palestinian child whose family had just been butchered by artillery rounds while picnicing on a beach. The Israeli Defense Forces cynically sneered that the massacre was by Palestinians shooting at IDF gunboats that were attacking a legitimate target.
Whatever. That little girl could very well one dayone day very soonbe a suicide bomber who will walk into a lovely, modern, Western-style shopping mall in Tel Aviv and blow herself and a bunch of Israelis to Kingdom Come. Who here believes she will ask those who condemn the IDF killing machine to please leave before she sends herself and her victims to Hell?
Of course she won't ask. Her victims' politics will not matter and that's because her politics did not matter when her mom, dad, and siblings were sent to the fiery slaughterhouse. The Israelis, both those who support the ungodly acts of their government and those who absolutely do not, pay the price together.
So, too, will we. We will pay because we're Americans, and America was the nation that did the unspeakable damage in Iraq. We are Americans, so we will, in our individual lives, run the risk of our share of collective punishment. Take a good, hard look at the little girl at right: she's an Iraqi wounded profoundly in an American military attack. So help me God, if that were my child, I would spend the rest of my days hunting down any member of the tribe that did what was done to her and her siblings.
But I am a member of the tribe that will be hunted. Collectively, we have no exit that does not involve a lot of our own blood, both now and for generations to come. If we continue this brutal, violent, unproductive monstrosity that is the American-Iraqi Warand despite the lies of cowardly Democrats to the contrary, we probably will, at least for quite a while longerwe will merely postpone, but only to some extent, our own days and generations of reckoning with the aftermath. When we leave, we shall in the event have let slip, and ever so quietly at first, the dogs of retributive war upon us for what we have done.
Guilty or not; supporter or opponent of the neo-cons; morally blind, flag-waving pseudo-patriot or hardened, America-hating Leftist; contemplative conservative or moderate liberal, we shall all stand before the bar of the rough justice of the ages that transcends our modern, delicate sensibilities.
The American victims of terrorist attacks have found that out as they have individually paid the ultimate price: while they bore no individual responsibility for the awful history of Western actions in the Middle East, yet there they were, paying dearly and in finality because that's how the cruelty of street justice would have it. The Hegelian theoretical chalkboard scrawl about historical inevitability is a real pain in the backside when it jumps off the philosophy department seminar table and into fire and shrapnel at the corner of Fifth and Main.
We Americans are all about "taking responsibility," and our very own justice system is brutally efficient at playing fancy games with legal logic to wreck the lives of people who are nothing more than victims of the circumstances of their lots in life. Imagining that this is somehow an aberration of "who we really are as a people" is nothing more than an excuse for avoiding some really, really awful truths about us: we aren't God's chosen, we aren't "fundamentally good people," we aren't better than what we look like in this moment.
And to that same point, whether we like it or not, we really areall of usthe ones there in Baghdad, the ones in al-Anbar province, the ones in Fallujah, the ones all over Iraq who started this mayhem down the path it is now taking into Hell. I can scream bloody murder at the outrage of it all, but that's not going to bring back the dead, not one of them, not a single one of my fellow soldier-citizens, not a single little Iraqi girl or boy; and unless I'm willing to repudiate my nation, surrender my citizenship, perhaps even go so far as to take real and deliberate action against the Republicans and their spineless Democratic enablers, I am every bit as guilty as those who will want to hurt me think I am.
How do I know that? That's easy: I am in the line of future fire, just like every other American.
Will I let them hurt me? No, of course not. I will do whatever I must to survive; and most decidedly, I will not shy from declaring that I am a citizen of the United States of America, however much I might be hated from now on in the rest of the world for making that claim without reservation. My own, personal apology to the world isn't going to change anything about that, not with those who have been wronged, those who are deranged criminals, those who are ideological nutcases, or those whose loved ones are dead and gone because of what we've done.
I will vote, I will write, I will speak, and I will act as one outraged by what this Administration has done. But in all of those things that I will do, I will know this much for certain: if I am not the victim of some retributive act of vengeance, it will not be because of all the righteous, noble things I've done on behalf of peace, justice, and rectitude.
It will be because I got lucky.
The Dark Wraith will now accept certain and well-deserved criticism for this editorial.