Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CIA 1, Army 0

Two very much related stories appeared in Sunday's paper, one entitled “Soldiers worried about Army future” and the other “Obama's choice of CIA director to signal course”. What makes them “very much related”, you ask? Well, it's simply that the CIA has, of late, taken on a military role that rivals that of the special operations forces, the Army's included, and also takes a big chunk out of the Air Force mission. Time was when the Air Force would strike first (remember "shock and awe"?), then the Marines would go in to soften things up, then the Army would come in like a human wave, and once things were settled down a bit the special ops guys would fan out into the jungle (desert, whatever) to start fighting insurgents and guerrillas on their own terms. Problem is, while this model was still supposedly alive and well the regular Army was gradually reduced to doing, much of the time, things they were never trained to do – things like “nation building” (which can include everything from supervising elections to building schools to supplying food, water and medical supplies to conducting focus groups to – for all I know – changing diapers). In other words, in many parts of the world where we are occupiers, the Army has been turned into a bunch of social workers – not that the work is not important or useful, but you don't need combat-trained people in fatigues to do it. And at the same time, the CIA has its own army, made up largely of mercenaries (AKA “contractors”) to do the really important stuff – not just security but also special ops-type stuff, which makes me wonder, do we even need the uniformed special ops guys anymore? (And – does this have something to do with Petraeus' downfall?)

See, the gradual evolution (or devolution, depending on one's point of view) of the U.S. military model, or “vision”, has been away from set-piece battles (the last of which, arguably, occurred in Europe and North Africa during World War II) and toward relatively autonomous, small-unit operations requiring a significantly different kind of training. This made perfect sense, given that the nature of the enemy had changed; we were no longer facing armies, but small groups of rebels/insurgents/guerrillas who knew the terrain (both in the literal and cultural sense), and who were, in most respects, indistinguishable from the general populace (because, in fact, they were the general populace – at least some of the time). And it's not as if we'd never fought other people on their own turf before; consider Germany in the last days of World War II. (The atomic bomb kept us from having to fight the Japanese on their home turf – which, in fact, probably saved more Japanese lives than were lost in the bombings. But I digress.) But again, it was the old model with armies in uniform, weapons that looked like weapons (vs. IEDs, e.g.), and, yes, “rules of war”. (Both sides used gas in World War I. Neither side used it in World War II. That's right – the Nazis did not choose to regress to gas warfare. This is never pointed out, of course. They also treated our POWs much better than the Japanese did; there will never be a “Hogan's Heroes” about a Japanese prison camp.)

What we are faced with now is summed up in the article as follows: “Soldiers who were trained to fight tank battles shifted to a style of combat that emphasized politics, cultural awareness, and protecting the local population from insurgent attacks.” In other words, changing diapers (figuratively speaking, at least). This began in Vietnam (remember "hearts and minds"?) but has really come to a head in the post-9/11 world. Actually, I would say that the transition, on our side, was prefigured in the war in the Pacific, but it came to a head in Vietnam, where we went over there expecting to fight a nice clean, crisp, European-style war and wound up nostril-deep in swamps and jungles. That took some getting used to, and in fact we never got used to it. The lean little monkey-like creatures who lived there, and who ran around without having to carry 50-pound packs, finally managed to get rid of us... and you can say what you want about “politics”, but, in my opinion, we lost largely because we didn't know how to fight that kind of war, and refused to learn. You'd think carpet bombing, Agent Orange, and Napalm would have done the trick, right? Good old American know-how. And yet, mysteriously, we had to leave and the communists and the “Cong” got to stay. They had home field advantage, certainly – but then so did Germany, and they wound up buried in ashes.

I think the difference may have to do with styles of warfare – and the fact that we can win when we're fighting a war our way, as long as the other side is also fighting the war our way. But if they choose some radically alternative method, and are on their home turf besides, we're at a decided disadvantage and are likely to lose (as in Vietnam) or be stalemated (as in Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan). I'll take this one step further – I think we might well have wound up stalemated in Japan, and forced to sign a treaty rather than their having to unconditionally surrender, if it hadn't been for the A-bomb. This can never be proven, but subsequent events do provide plenty of room for speculation. Land wars in Asia just don't seem to be our forte, and no amount of training or “readiness” can make them so. I guess we could pretend to fight the way they do (that's one thing special ops forces are supposed to be able to do), but I'm not sure how far that would go. I think you really have to have their mindset – their brains – for it to work. (To cite an extreme case – do we have any defense against suicide bombers? Not really – and one reason is that we simply don't understand them. Since we don't “get” what it would take for someone to do that, we have a hard time coming up with any answers – defensive or otherwise. Knowing “the mind of the enemy” is always Job One, and if that is unknowable, everything else can fall by the wayside.)

So with that as background, what are soldiers worried about these days? (And note that some of them are so worried they are committing suicide – in record numbers.) “Some officers worry that the service is reverting to a more comfortable, rigid and predictable past.” Translation – go back to the old models, scenarios, and “war games” that have been outdated for decades. But hey, at least it's familiar... it's understandable... and it's “American”, rather than the “dirty fighting” that we encounter so often in third-world pestholes. So – no clear, future-oriented sense of direction. But hasn't the experience of the Middle East over the past ten years provided a new model? Apparently not. And why is this? Simply that we've been fighting (or not fighting) unwinnable wars over there – not only unwinnable in the strategic sense but unwinnable because that was the plan all along. (This is me talking now – and I've made the argument more than once on this site, so won't elaborate on it again at this time. But I suspect that a gradually-increasing sense of this is taking place within the military – along with all the resentment and frustration one would expect. In this sense, it's a psychological recapitulation of Vietnam, except that Vietnam was not designed to be unwinnable, it just turned out that way.) So a sense of futility and absurdity develops, and when soldiers, who feel these things on a deep level even if they are unable to articulate them, look to the future, all they can see is more of what we have now – at best. No clear mission, no victories, no “exit criteria”, no nothing – just go somewhere, make loud noises and kill things, and go home (if you're lucky). How is anyone supposed to tie this to patriotism, home, family, human values? Heaven knows, they try hard enough – but the attempts are in themselves absurd, and speak more of desperation than of discovering any real links. Soldiers can mouth all the words they like about “fighting [halfway around the world] to preserve our freedoms” but deep down I suspect they know it's a hoax. 

And then there is the very real, human nature-type question, who to blame? Vietnam boiled down to LBJ and “the best and the brightest”, with JFK getting off scot-free. Iraq and Afghanistan are, of course, all about “terrorism”, which the other side calls “defense of the homeland”. OK – those are two world views not readily reconciled. But is “terrorism” to blame? All it is is a word that someone in Washington made up and then defined in order to serve their own ends. Or is it the people who think terrorism can be defeated? Or, more likely, the people who say terrorism can be defeated, even though they know full well it can't? Or, also likely, the people who use terrorism as an excuse for pursuing other agendas – things like power, money, “immanentizing the eschaton”, etc. (OK – for that last, you can start by checking out It refers, in this case, to Evangelicals and Christian Zionists trying to accelerate the End Times by fulfilling Biblical prophesies (mostly from Revelations) using (and abusing) our military, national wealth, politicians, personal freedoms, and reputation on the world stage. Do I have to say any more about how well this has worked out so far?)

It's actually fortunate (for the power elite) that so much of the military is drawn from the working (or non-working) classes, since they tend to be more fatalistic and less questioning of authority or events. “Shit happens” is their watchword... and they seldom sit down and analyze precisely where that shit that happens comes from. If they did, we might have a real proletarian revolution on our hands – you know, the kind Obama was supposedly leading before he actually became president and developed a new respect for perpetual war.

But back to the Army for a moment. The article also refers to “a Pentagon defense [read “war”] strategy that emphasizes air and naval power over ground forces.” Well – maybe, but how many Navy guys are wandering around Afghanistan in boots and fatigues carrying a rifle? And as to the Air Force – don't all of those drones belong to the CIA? I mean, honestly – when I look at our recent and current conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa I see more of a CIA “footprint” than all of the military services combined. This is, in fact, the elephant in the NCO club, but it's apparently too big for anyone to actually see. The Army is quickly being rendered obsolete – not by the other branches as much as by the so-called “intelligence” agencies. They can blame it on the other services if they like, but that's just about age-old rivalries, not reality. 

And what about those budget cuts (which have yet to kick in, you'll notice)? Well, as I've said before, if you took our “defense” budget and reduced it to just what is actually needed for defense, as opposed to war, you could probably cut out about 80% or so. As it is, these “draconian” cuts are more or less the equivalent of one less mocha latte per week for the average metrosexual – painful yes, but hardly fatal. (And wasn't it clever, by the way, of Congress to hold “defense” hostage when they were designing the “fiscal cliff”? They picked the one thing that they knew would never actually be cut – at least not by enough to make any difference. This tactic is called (in government circles) “gold watching it”.)

Here's another quote from the article: “(T)he Army has not been able to articulate a clear mission that will enable it to hold on to its shrinking share of the Pentagon budget.” Well... actually, “articulating a mission” is not the Army's job, but the job of its civilian overseers – you know, guys like the secretary of the army, the secretary of defense, and the president. Expecting the Army to articulate its own mission gets things precisely backwards. Oh, I'm sure plenty of senior leaders in the Army would just love to get a chance to articulate their mission – but it might not have a whole lot to do with the best interests of the country as a whole. (I'm envisioning things like “nuke every Islamic city in the world” -- you know, level-headed stuff like that. Senior Army officers are smart, but their elevators don't ever go quite to the top floor – as witness Gen. Petraeus. And besides, if we'd wanted a country where the military was in charge, we would have designed it that way.)

Plus, you have to understand that pitting the services against one another is a game politicians play. They already know how much in the way of resources is going to each service, and which major programs are going to be supported, but they just enjoy the spectacle. And yes, it's all terribly wasteful – but since when has anyone in Washington been concerned with that?

So – while the Army dithers, and wrings its hands, and feels like a wallflower – what's going on a few miles up the Potomac, at CIA HQ? There, all is groovy and smurfy, thanks to a virtually unlimited, and top secret, budget... and the advantage of being above the law at all times and in all places (a privilege the Army might envy now and then, but seldom gets to enjoy). And yet, they seem to have things to deal with as well – and I'm not talking about the precipitous departure of Gen. Petraeus, who was only the most recent to cross over that great divide between the military and the “intel” community – which is like being promoted from field hand to butler in the Old South.

What's on the CIA's mind, according to the article, is – will they get to keep their new favorite toy, namely armed drones? Gone are the days of secret codes, trench coats, and messages hidden under park benches; now the CIA has major firepower, and no intention of giving it up. The article refers to “the agency's pronounced shift toward paramilitary operations” -- the question being, will that trend continue or be reversed somehow? (And if so, by whom? Oh, right, the president. You know – that same guy who knew absolutely nothing about Benghazi and Petraeus, and had to catch up by watching CNN?) Yes, apparently there is some concern that the CIA has become another branch of the military, albeit not in the same chain of command (or any other, for that matter). It's one thing to have an agency that knows everything about everyone – we went through that with the FBI in Hoover's day – but to have one that, in addition, has its own army and its own high-tech weaponry.... why, that's... that's... almost like the places we've always fought against! Who can forget the way the Gestapo rode roughshod over the German military... or the way the KGB intimidated the Russian military? The article cites Petraeus as having “sought to cement the agency's ties with the military...”. Well, right -- “cement” is also another word for “dominate”. And by the way, guess who the CIA recruits for its private army? By and large, veterans of the uniformed special ops forces. Yes, the “best and the brightest” (and probably the most merciless) from the military are being skimmed off the top, offered sky-high pay and the chance to see the world and meet (i.e. kill) people. Who could resist?

The final paragraph of the article quotes an Obama advisor: “Should the agency be looking to be the principal player in a global drone war versus its more traditional role as the principal collector and analyst of foreign intelligence?” Well – I think that question's already been answered. While the Army sits all alone and feeling blue, the CIA moves in and takes the best people and the best missions. I'm sure they'll continue to collect intelligence – but only enough to support their own military operations. And the Army will be left alone to do nation building, social and humanitarian work, and to continue being a lab for social experimentation. (We wouldn't want to give those guys guns and trust them with an actual mission, would we?) Sounds like “win-win” all around.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bin Laden's Body

I'm not sure why this particular, um, corpse is being disinterred. You'd think the Obama people would have gotten bruised enough the first time around, with that chaotic and fanciful bin Laden story. You remember – no one could get the story straight for weeks, even though there was only a handful of witnesses and they all belonged to the same military unit. My interpretation is that the Obama people, Democrats, and liberals in general are all so eager to put the most positive political “spin” on things that their very anxiety turns them into gibbering idiots. So any given story is spun, first, one way and then another way – with plenty of fine tuning, revisions, updates, and adjustments – and then still another way, and never mind the gaps that become more blatant as time goes on, or the obvious contradictions between the various stories. For the liberal, there is no such thing as history, and no such concept as consistency – it's all about the best spin for that particular day, or hour, and the fact that they consistently get away with it is less a comment on them than it is a comment on the electorate. We can accept that, for whatever reason, liberals have no internalized concept of truth; the truth is, quite literally, not in them. So whatever they say, or do, is based on relativism, political expediency, and the impulses of the moment. They would prefer never to hear the word “truth” -- it's such an alien concept, like “morality”. But if they must use it, then they use it in a totally political way – there is no truth aside from politics... aside from the will of the people (or their rulers) at any given time. Thus, the truth can change as rapidly as the weather, or the stock market, or one's blood sugar level. It's not an absolute, and since it does not differ in any way from politics, we'd be better off getting rid of the term altogether.

So with all of that in mind, consider the latest “news” concerning the disposal of the mortal remains of the late, unlamented “terrorist”. Well, to begin with, they haven't changed their story that burial at sea is a “traditional” mode of Islamic burial. Right – a race that lives, almost entirely, in deserts has a hallowed tradition of burial at sea. Which Marx Brothers movie did that come out of? Then there's the highly-suspect whisking of bin Laden's body from utter Pakistan to some place in the Indian Ocean in less time than it would take a short-wave signal to make the journey. Right. And then there's the utter chaos as to who was or was not killed, were they or were they not armed, who pointed a gun at whom, who shot first, what did they say while all this was going on... as if any of it matters, but the administration seems to feel that it has to say something – anything – even on the most mundane matters, in order to bolster the overall narrative.

So what tidbits are we now being treated to – all supposedly in order to really and truly, and for keeps, cement this story and eliminate all doubt?  Hold that thought for a moment, because first I want to ask, what is the evidence?  --  “Internal emails... obtained by the Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act”. OK... do I have to mention that the AP is a mainstay of the running dog media, and that they wouldn't bust Obama's chops on any issue for all the tea in China? And as for the hallowed Freedom of Information Act, well... I was on the other end of plenty of those requests during my time in the government, and even though we were very conscientious about the matter, it was easy enough to see how the system could be gamed. To begin with – unless something has changed, which I doubt it has – an FOI request cannot be couched in “anything you have” terms; i.e. it can't be used to support a fishing expedition. You have to already know what you're looking for – not to the extent of being able to name it precisely, but at least to make it searchable and verifiable.  In other words, in order to get these emails via an FOI request, AP had to have had a pretty good idea they existed and what they were about.   

That's one thing. But the real flaw in the system is that it's still the agency in question that determines what (if anything) the FOI request applies to, whether it can supply said documents, and whether said documents can be withheld for some reason, e.g. one having to do with “national security” (which can mean anything). Not only that, but... well, I'm sure this would never happen, but... an agency could, in theory, provide fake documentation in lieu of the real stuff, and how is the requester supposed to know the difference? The bottom line is that, in response to an FOI request, an agency simply has to provide documents along with the assurance that they are, indeed, what was requested and that it's all there, or provide reasons why not. And if you think there's a third party that goes in and checks, well...

So – having said all that, let's see what these alleged “internal emails” have to say, according to the AP. For starters, “no sailors watched Osama bin Laden's burial at sea”. So... no witnesses, right? Or very few. Also, “traditional Islamic procedures were followed” -- and we all know that U.S. Navy vessels all have experts in Islamic burial procedures on board at all times, right? As if we cared! I mean, who are we even trying to impress, or placate, by making this claim?

And, oh yes, the emails are “heavily blacked out”, which means that the most interesting information (or non-information) is still unavailable – so we're talking about crumbs here.

To go on -- “only a small group of the ship's leadership was informed of the burial”. In other words, not only few, if any, direct witnesses, but no “hearsay” witnesses either. All very convenient.

Now, get this. Remember, this is all supposedly happening on board a U.S. warship. “A military officer read prepared [by whom?] religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic [for whom?] by a native speaker [who just happened to be on board].”  (And BTW, what are "religious remarks"?  Wouldn't you love to have a transcript?) 

But hey, there was a reason for all this secrecy and weirdness. A quote from one of the emails: “The paucity of documentary evidence in our possession is a reflection of the emphasis placed on operational security during the execution of this phase of the operation.” So... “operational security” was foremost in everyone's mind. This is on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean. No – the real message is that it was kept secret because it was kept secret.  Which may mean that the real secret is that there was nothing to be kept secret.  But we'll get back to that.   

And then there are some folksy, spy story-type tidbits, like the use of the term “FEDEX” (and I can't wait for the lawsuit), “package” (i.e. corpse), “trucks” (i.e. helicopters)... you know, the kind of thing kids in the backyard will make up when playing in that tree house with the sign saying “No Gurls Allowed”. No reason for it – it's just what we do.

And then – despite this veritable cornucopia of information – it's also mentioned that “the Obama administration... is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the bin Laden raid.” For example, there are no “photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden's body”. And “no images of his body on the (ship).” Really. The operation that was Obama's sole argument for being re-elected, and no photos or videos?  This from the king of photo-ops, whose narcissism rivals that of Donald Trump or Madonna?

And! No “death certificate, autopsy report, or results of DNA identification... or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden's body if he were killed.” So – no advance planning, and yet they managed to, in the twinkling of an eye, come up with a traditional Islamic burial at sea, with prepared religious remarks and a native translator. Wow, these guys are good.

And finally – no helicopter maintenance logs, and no reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid (although we do have anecdotal evidence gathered by bin Laden's neighbors on cell phones). 

Now – if you're not already doubled over with laughter at all this, there is something seriously wrong with your funny bone. (Maybe someone ate it by mistake on Thanksgiving.) This is farce of the highest order – and, as I've pointed out before, it's just possible that the administration prefers to present this image and look like a bunch of idiots, rather than present the real truth. But what is the real truth? There's no sense picking this pile of do-do apart to try and salvage something real. The simplest theory – and one that has been kicking around ever since the supposed raid – is that bin Laden was not killed at that time or at that place, therefore there was no body, and therefore there was no burial... and that the narrative that the administration finally settled on after the raid was a myth, and that these recent revelations are simply elaborations on the same myth.  Kind of like telling a kid who doesn't believe in Santa Claus that you have Santa's Social Security number.   

The problem with this administration, as with many others, is that they aren't content to just let one lame-ass story that's full of holes out, and hang tough when the critics start bellowing. No – they have to make things worse by coming out with something even more absurd and improbable. And just you wait – if they have any more to say on the matter, it will be even more absurd and improbable than what we have now. But see, it's like their truth problem – they don't recognize absurdity either. And the most wildly improbable story seems no more far-fetched to them than any other, simply because they are dealing with truth as a function of politics, not as a function of probability or reality.

The people I really feel sorry for are the military types who have to put up with all this. They have, in most cases, a certain small amount of reality-testing capability left. In a military environment, especially when combat is involved, it helps to have a concept of “ground truth” -- you know, stuff like where the bad guys are, which way their guns are pointed, etc. But politicians, including our commander-in-chief, have the luxury of ignoring all that. Recall that back in the Vietnam era, truth was not what was actually going on in Vietnam, but what LBJ said it was (and Walter Cronkite too, before he wandered off the reservation). I think the military took notice – but what could they do? And isn't the same thing happening on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan? Don't we have the Ministry of Propaganda saying one thing, and the troops experiencing something a bit different? (I recall also that American citizens were never able to access Voice of America broadcasts. I always found that quite significant.)

Well... frankly, I don't give a rat's ass whether bin Laden is dead or alive, or who killed him, or when, or how. I just find it amazing that one man – one man! -- is supposedly the cause of our starting two major wars (and any number of minor ones), squandering trillions of our wealth, passing oppressive laws and regulations for the “security” of our citizenry, and mounting a program of deception that is, I believe, unmatched in our history. If Hitler or Stalin were able to look on in envy, they would. By almost any measure aside from the one of who's still alive (and even that is shrouded in ambiguity), Osama has won, and he continues to win. A tall, skinny raghead has a lumbering, bumbling giant on the ropes. I mean... our society might actually fall – economically, militarily, and in terms of personal freedoms – as a result of Osama's exertions. If so, he will be the most important personage in our history, even though we buried him (or so we claim).

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Betray-Us" Betrayed

I’m trying to get a grip on this whole Petraeus thing, and I have to admit that it’s a tangled web.  While it’s too early to draw any obvious conclusions (since there aren’t any), a few preliminary comments can at least be offered.

First of all, it’s not about sex.  Never was, never will be.  I mean… can you imagine, a Democratic administration letting someone go for sexual dalliance?  Please.

Second, it’s not about keeping Petraeus from testifying before Congress about Benghazi.  They can call up anyone they want at any time to testify on any subject, no matter if the person is on active duty, retired, a convicted felon, etc.  Surely even the Obama people know that.

Now that that’s settled (and 90% of the commentariat have been answered in the negative), some thoughts about the ever-expanding cast of characters:

Senior generals in the military don’t have delusions of grandeur and omnipotence -- they really are grand and omnipotent.  At least that’s what everyone tells them many times each day.  So is it any wonder they fall prey to the delusions of power, the foremost of which is, invariably, that they can do anything at any time and get away with it?  Plus, military officers tend to have a Puritan streak, mediated by a Southern upbringing and Evangelical faith, so when they fall on their face sex usually has something to do with it.

Another thing to remember is that the military officer corps is a profoundly middle-class institution. Rich men no longer send their sons to war; that stopped with the Kennedys. So we're talking about, if you will, the bourgeoisie in uniform – with all the values that implies, as well as the guilt when those values are violated. (By contrast, the enlisted ranks are a working-class institution, which means they are more fatalistic and have less impulse control, and little or no guilt... but, paradoxically, are more likely to wind up with post-traumatic stress disorder. This is something that invites research.)

Senior generals in the military also tend to attract groupies -- both in and outside the service.  Power is an attractor -- didn’t Henry Kissinger say that?  Power, masculinity, medals… ability to outdo much younger men in push-ups… these qualities have impressed women ever since civilization began.  Consider the outright leanness of guys like Petraeus and Allen -- nothing at all like the pink, squishy appearance of guys like Dick Cheney or, for heaven’s sake, Karl Rove.  When a woman is looking for a real man, as opposed to one with just temporary power, who’s she gonna call?  The nearest 4-star general, o’course.  And, needless to say, the fact of the guy being already married only adds to the savor. To the predatory female, the ultimate game is to get a desirable man away from another woman, not just to get him in the, um, general sense.

So what this means is that even a senior general who is totally faithful to his spouse is going to be probed, on a regular basis, by women who think they’re the ones to make him stray from the righteous path.  And these women will, of course, be in competition with one another, so jealousy and cat fights (including ones via e-mail) will soon follow.

So far I’m explaining, partially at least, the behavior of some of the people involved -- but not all.  And this is where it gets interesting.  For starters, what’s the FBI doing investigating the CIA?  Haven’t they been briefed on the pecking order?  Don’t they realize that the CIA could send in a team of mercenaries and take out FBI headquarters in about ten minutes?  Are these people crazy?

Well… maybe.  But it’s also true -- or so I believe -- that the office of CIA director has become a largely political position, and all the real power in that organization is wielded by the “lifers” -- the unelected, unappointed, anonymous types who have dug deep into the organization.  And in a situation like that, if the lifers don’t like your style, they have ways of getting you to leave -- by persuasion or, if need be, by force.  So when the FBI started knocking on the door, rather than pulling rank I’ll bet the underlings made a deal to hang Petraeus out to dry.  But still -- it was a daring move by the FBI.  I mean, imagine some government agency in Nazi Germany outing the chief of the Gestapo.  Touchy business, to say the least.

So clearly, #1, just being head of the CIA was not enough to protect the general.  But that has less to do with a decline of CIA power than with a lack of Petraeus power.  On any given day, the FBI wouldn’t touch the CIA with a ten-foot pole… and in this case as well, I’m sure that plenty of people were “coordinated with” before things got serious.  If the gang at Langley had told the guys from downtown to cool it, they would have cooled it.

So if Petraeus was hung out to dry, why? -- assuming that the insiders didn’t feel they owed him any loyalty, and he could easily be replaced with another figurehead, and life would go on as always.  But what was the FBI’s interest in hanging him high?  To hurt the CIA?  That’s always possible when it comes to rival intel agencies; everybody wants to be the baddest of the bad.  But, again, they should have known that it wouldn’t work -- that it would cause barely a ripple.  So clearly, Petraeus must have done something that someone didn’t like.

But before we start speculating on that, we need to discuss a few other characters in the cast, the foremost being President Obama.  The line so far is that he knew nothing, and no one should have expected him to know anything.  (Compare, if you will, Nixon vis-a-vis Watergate, or Reagan vis-à-vis Iran Contra.  In each case, their enemies expected them to be omniscient and didn’t accept any other possibility.)  Now… either Obama really and truly knew nothing, as he claims -- or he knew plenty.  If he knew nothing, it only supports my model whereby the president is nothing more than a department store dummy, who has no real “need to know” anything, since he has no real power.  But if he did know, then he had to have given the attack dogs the go-ahead to chase Petraeus up a tree, and then the question returns to “why”?

At this point, we have to entertain a brief diversion called “what liberals think of the military”.  Number one, they hate it.  And they hate guns, and uniforms, and masculinity, and testosterone, and any and all traditional male/warrior traits.  And they especially hate the military when there’s a Republican president, for obvious reasons.  But when there’s a Democrat president, well… then things change a bit.  They become more “nuanced”.  Then the liberals discover that they can use the military for their various schemes -- especially the “wag the dog”-type operations that were so popular in Clinton’s time.  But when a Democrat president is handed a war, or a cluster of wars, on a silver platter, the way Obama was, it becomes an even more different story.  Then there is a flexing of almost-vestigial muscles, and liberals discover that, by gosh, they can fight wars too.  Or send other people to fight them, whatever.

But things get a bit awkward when a Democrat inherits a military “hero” -- like Petraeus -- from a Republican administration.  They have to do something with him, but it’s awkward; he sticks in their craw.  Better to have someone who came up through the ranks in a properly politically-vetted environment – which means, for the Democrats, a totally political animal for whom military victory is an outmoded idea.  So the challenge is to get rid of the offending person without making it look like a blatant case of clash of personalities or philosophy.  And what better means than to use some tacky sexual episode, which will always appeal to Republicans -- guaranteed!  Republicans are nothing if not Puritanical and neurotic about sex.  When they have it (which is rare) they feel guilty and dirty somehow -- totally unlike Democrats, who swim in seas of flesh at every opportunity.  (Didja ever notice that if a sex scandal involves a Republican, there’s always something kind of weird and kinky about it, whereas if it’s a Democrat, it’s just good, clean fun?  At least that‘s what the media always claim.)

But again -- all this trouble just because Petraeus had a bit of residual contamination from the Bush administration?  No sale.  It must have had something to do with his performance (or non-performance) of duty -- and it’s not as if the CIA has been made of Teflon of late.  It’s hard to hide an agency that has its own army with operations in scores of countries around the world; word has to leak out eventually.  And even if he was basically a figurehead, the general had to have had something to do with their current menu of mayhem -- think drone strikes on weddings, schools, picnics, etc.  Or -- maybe the problem is that he was trying to bring the CIA to heel somehow; that would certainly be a fatal error.  Benghazi was certainly a spectacular failure, but surely…

Hold on a minute.  The administration line on Benghazi is not unlike the line on Petraeus -- Obama didn’t know anything, no one knew anything, but they came out with explanations that had nothing to do with reality.  Doesn’t it all have the same flavor -- one of total chaos or incompetence?  But sometimes the appearance of incompetence can be used to hide an agenda that is working perfectly well -- but looking incompetent is preferable to having to reveal what is really going on.  So… what was Benghazi really all about?  It was clearly a CIA operation that got, first, detected and second, neutralized by insurgent forces.  Whose fault was that?  Those kinds of operations are going on all the time; why did this one get singled out?  Is there any chance that it was exposed in some way, and that the attack was, at least in part, a false-flag operation, not unlike 9-11?  By this I mean that it was really done by insurgents, but they were aided and abetted in some way, and for some reason, by others.  And why would that happen?  Anyone notice that, within days of the Benghazi incident, we were sending troops into West Africa in order to, supposedly, chase down those responsible? Oh, you didn't see that story? Not surprising, since it was out for about five minutes before it was suppressed. But take a look at a map of Africa. Between Libya and West Africa is a whole lot of nothing – namely the Sahara Desert. Not exactly the kind of place “terrorists” would be galivanting back and forth across on a daily basis. So no, Benghazi was just an excuse for our getting involved in who knows how many new wars, this time in Africa as opposed to the Middle East. (Obama: “Home at last.”)

So what this implies is that the Benghazi victims may have been set up as sacrificial lambs – through “benign neglect” at the very least. And if so, what would a CIA director's role in all of that have been? Would he have been in on it, or opposed (and yet overridden by others)? Was the conflict, in any case, between him and his subordinates or between him and people elsewhere, e.g. the State Department? Let's face it, there ain't too many people higher up in the pecking order in Washington, D.C. than the head of the CIA – at least on paper. So for someone to be able to bust him down to private for real or imagined offenses... well, that someone has to be even higher up (either on paper or in reality).

So the most immediate question for Congress, should they choose to get involved (since they have nothing better to do), would be – what did Petraeus do wrong, or what did he do right, to reap the wrath of somebody in the administration... and no, developing a zipper problem is not the answer.  And yes, I know that he has made a public confession along those lines -- but when you see that, you can pretty much assume that it was either that or taking the blame for something even worse.  In other words, he was given a choice -- either look like a harmless fool or be nailed as a war criminal, or something.  The tawdry affair thus becomes a cover story; marvelous are the ways of Washington, especially when a criminal cartel is in charge.  And fact that the CIA itself is apparently starting their own investigation provides a clue as to how well he got along with his underlings in Langley, so I suspect that he stepped on some toes there and elsewhere as well. The question remains – whose, and for what reason? It's gonna be interesting.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The End of the Beginning of the End

Well, it was a clean kill, I must say.  No muss, no fuss… no hanging chads… no Supreme Court… very cut and dried.  Obama gets two ears and a tail.  And if you look at the electoral map, it couldn’t be more clear -- “middle America”, “flyover country”, the land of ordinary people -- that’s dead, on the national level, as is the Republican Party.  And yes, I know, news of the Republicans’ death has been premature a number of times before -- as has news of the Democrats’ death.  Every time the presidency changes hands, and sometimes when it doesn’t, the standard response is, well, so much for the opposing party -- they are no longer relevant, they don’t share the values of the majority of the American people, etc.  But those occasions are usually based on specific factors -- wars, economic struggles, scandals, etc.  What we see in this case is a systemic issue, namely that the Democratic base -- a coalition of minorities (formerly known as the “rainbow coalition”) has become the majority, not just in theory but in fact.  And the old “moral majority”, which was never a real majority, finds itself in the position of a permanent minority.  And it’s not as if this hasn’t happened countless times throughout history.  War and conquest dominate all historical narratives.  This time, part of the country has been conquered by another part -- not unlike the Civil War.  In our own history, the Anglo-Saxon Puritan dominance was eventually threatened by immigrants from such lawless places as Ireland, Italy, Poland, etc.  And yet the Anglo power structure held on -- as I expect it to do this time around, but only on the deepest level.  (Which means that even though Romney lost the election, people like him will still be in charge, and people like Obama will be working for them… but never in a visible or obvious way.)

On the level that matters to most people, the inmates have demonstrably taken over the asylum, and it’s time for Atlas to shrug -- but shrug he won’t, because the people who should be doing the shrugging have, instead, sold out to the Regime.  Or rather, they are the Regime.  See, what Ayn Rand failed to anticipate was that “capitalists” would eventually no longer stand in opposition to collectivism, but would move in and take over, the way one mob will take over another mob’s territory.  And the transformation that would result would be from a dysfunctional democracy/republic to a fascist state -- not communist (which was the more typical bogeyman of conservatives).  In straining to avoid falling to communism we have become fascist instead, in other words -- even though politicians, including Obama, never tire of mouthing communist-style, or at least socialist-style, words. 

But let’s get down to more specific issues for a moment.  Number one, what’s to become of the Republican Party?  Will it sink into well-deserved obscurity, followed by oblivion?  This is what the media types were rubbing their hands with glee about all day Wednesday.  No, what is more likely is that the Republicans will retain some relevance on the state and local level, and continue winning some elections at those levels -- but only in parts of the country where a majority share their values and priorities… their “vision”.  On the national level, no one who voted for Obama is going to go back to voting Republican, assuming they ever did.  In other words, Obama’s base is, basically, set in concrete at this point.  The fact, for example, that he was held perfectly non-responsible for anything bad that happened in the last four years is one indicator.  People are still willing to blame Bush for all our ills -- not an entirely mistaken premise, I must admit, but still… 

And as for the Democratic coalition, it can only get bigger -- and the Republican one can only get smaller.  These are demographic and social trends; they don’t have anything directly to do with politics, but they have political consequences.  Now, the media types kept repeating, like some kind of mantra, that the Republicans have to start taking minorities “into account”, and showing some understanding and sympathy, etc., if they’re going to “retain national relevance”.  Well, this is a tease, of course, because what they’re saying is that if the Republicans become more like Democrats they might have a chance of survival.  In fact, if they become Democrats, they’ll have an even better chance of survival -- as Democrats.  A Catch-22, in other words.  The Republicans can’t survive unless they become indistinguishable from Democrats -- which means that the Democrats have won, along with their worldview.  And it’s true that one of the main Republican arguments ever since, say, the Reagan years is that we should vote for them because they’re almost as compassionate, humane, and caring as the Democrats.  But in that case, why not vote for the real thing rather than a pale (and hypocritical) imitation?  If we were talking about real Republicans -- from the Robert Taft days, or the Goldwater days, or even the Reagan days, it might make some sense -- but they have been doing so much compromising of late, and have lost sight of whatever they might have had in the way of principles, and have given up all respectability, that they have become, basically, pathetic and a laughingstock.  (Of course, one of their least respectable traits is their love affair with war and the American Empire -- but the Democrats do not disagree with them on this, so it’s a non-issue.)

I mean, what do they have left to offer?  They talk endlessly about “the middle class”, but so does Obama (not that he means it).  They talk about the national debt, which most people don’t even understand… about deficit spending (ditto -- most Americans think that as long as they have checks, they have money in the bank)… about balance of payments (hey, Chinese schlock is cheaper, who’s complaining?)… about moral issues (hey, I’m OK on that count, and those pre-verts can just go to hell)… and so on.  And really, I understand about Romney.  Obama may be a failure on most counts, but Romney was scary.  He’s just too doggone white.  And too wholesome.  And too “American”.  And not at all apologetic -- clearly out of touch with the spirit of the times.  He represents, basically, the fading minority… and I don’t care what the reproductive rate of Mormons is, they can’t catch up to the Democrat coalition (even with free abortion taken into account). 

So people who grew up never dreaming they would someday be on the outside looking in when it comes to American society are finding themselves doing just that.  This, I guess, is what Obama meant by “Revenge”.  Knock all those gun- and Bible-clingers off their high horse… make them stop making fun of rootless cosmopolitans, academicians, eggheads, the East Coast, the West Coast, and so on.  Show them what minorities can do when given a chance.  Truly, it’s “our turn”, and I guess it took Obama’s re-election to make that clear.  There was always, in the back of many people’s minds, the idea that if Obama screwed up enough things often enough he would be easy pickings once this election rolled around.  Problem is, even if he did his part (which I submit that he did) not everyone agrees that it constituted a screw-up.  The 47%, and then some, think he’s doing a splendid job… that he’s still He Who Is To Come… and that everything that’s wrong is Bush’s fault, after four years.  This is, truly, a triumph for the propaganda apparatus that we call “the mainstream media”. 

And by the way, whatever happened to that business about Romney’s son owning all the voting machines… or the Israelis supplying all the software?  What happened to Bibi Netanyahu’s campaign to get us all to vote for Romney because Obama was starting to wander off the reservation?  Whatever happened to all that money from Sheldon Adelson?  Just goes to show -- Americans are a cranky lot, and can still manage to foil the plots and schemes of the rich and powerful (some of them, at least). 

So if the Republicans are dead meat nationally, which they appear to be, what will this change when it comes to the Democrats’ behavior?  How will they act now that they have the presidency for life?  And more immediately, what will Obama do in his second term?  Double down on all the most radical socialistic/collectivistic/totalitarian schemes, now that what little opposition he’s had has been neutralized?  Will he, for example, stage a final showdown with the Catholic Church over the contraception and abortion funding question (via health insurance)?  It would be tempting to say yes, because what’s stopping him?  Problem is, many members of his party are still at least nominal Catholics -- and they might shrink a bit from wholesale persecution of their church (although “the spirit of Vatican II” didn’t seem to bother them, and that was about as destructive as anything since the Reformation).  Plus, even a dominant majority has something to gain from keeping the minority happy… or at least not engaging in open persecution.  A happy slave is a good slave, and the colonials never relish being confronted by restless natives. 

See, it’s always assumed that a president will get more “radical” (in whichever direction) in his second term, but I’m not sure history bears this out.  What’s more likely is that he feels an obligation to pave the way for his successor, and for the party in general to remain in power.  And again, even if the Republicans are permanent second-class citizens, it wouldn’t do to just assume that and engage in blatant triumphalism for the next four years.  There is still room for a Democrat to screw up so badly that he’s forced out of office -- as witness Carter.  So yes, it’s a delicate balance -- and liberal paranoia, always a factor, will also have an influence.  Along with the fetish for apologizing to everyone for everything, there is also a hypersensitivity to criticism -- even from unworthy sources.  Liberals may hate you and everything you stand for, but they will still pay attention to what you say and react to it.  This is because they are not firmly grounded in anything but impulse and carnal motives; all of their marvelous ideals are simply covers for infantile greed, rage, and resentment.  And yeah, I know this is a bit of an oversimplification, but I’ve known enough liberals to feel that it’s true in most cases.  The most I’ve ever been able to say by way of giving a liberal the benefit of the doubt is that they are naïve or deluded; but that is rare.  It is found among the foot soldiers, but hardly ever among the leadership.  Most have simply never grown up -- or if they have, they have grown up to be cynics and exploiters.  Take a look at Obama and his cronies, for example -- people at the very pinnacle of the liberal aristocracy.  How many genuinely “good” people are there among them?  Really.  I can’t think of a single one.  They are, to a man (or woman), frauds, con artists, deceivers, and master manipulators.  But -- I hasten to add -- so were Bush and all of his crew.  So I am at least an equal opportunity critic of political types.  The difference, for what it’s worth, is that at least the Republicans don’t pretend to be egalitarian; they are elitists and proud of it.  Whereas the Democrats are towering hypocrites, pretending to be for the little guy while lording it over the peasantry and making sure that their core minority constituents stay firmly in place -- like blacks, for example.

Another way of putting it is that, as the result of this election, a lot of evil people get to keep their jobs and a lot of other evil people don't get to have new jobs.  That's about as simple as I can make it.  And I don't pity any of those fools, on either side.

For many of the media types on Wednesday, this election added up to not even a bump in the road.  For all the money that was spent -- and I laugh every time I think of the money that was blown on Romney -- things post-election will be pretty much the same.  One can only hope!  Surely things won’t improve; that’s not in the cards.  But we might be able to avoid some of the worst aspects of collectivism and totalitarianism -- for four more years, at least… until Hillary takes over (just kidding -- I hope).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Eve of Deconstruction

I have to admit it -- I enjoy voting... the way I enjoy filling out my tax return.  It must have something to do with Asperger's Syndrome.  But with voting, one has to remember that it's all make-believe, like playing Monopoly or playing with a toy cash register.  Every four years, the electorate is whipped into a frenzy and driven, like a vast herd of sheep, to the polls to vote for one of two indistinguishable candidates (or, alternatively, for one who can't possibly win).  (In Arkansas this time, for example, you can vote for the Socialism and Liberation Party candidates for president and vice president.)

The main thing to remember, as always, is that nothing of any significance is going to change no matter who gets elected.  Foreign policy, for example, has been a non-issue in this campaign simply because the two major candidates' positions are, for all intents and purposes, identical -- and never mind the carping about Benghazi.  Obama is a war president and has every intention of staying that way... and Romney wants, more than anything else in the world, to be a war president.  The only conceivable difference would be the precise date on which we start the next war, i.e. the one with Iran.  Otherwise -- no difference.

On the domestic side -- sure, there might be some trivial differences when it comes to taxes... Romney would keep most, if not all, of ObamaCare... abortion would march on unimpeded (what's a "pro-life" candidate supposed to do about it?)... and mainly, all of the most intractable problems would remain intractable.  Race... entitlements... government "waste"... pollution... the deficit... balance of trade... borrowing from other countries... the national debt... these are not going to go away, no matter what.  And this is just on the surface.  The "deep agenda", which is to turn the U.S. into, basically, a servant of the European banking powers, will proceed without the slightest hesitation.  Both candidates have bought into this agenda, are already serving it, and will continue to do so.  In addition (and not unrelated) they have each pledged undying loyalty to Israel and to Zionism.  In other words, all of the real "drivers" of our economic, social, and political well-being are in place, and our politicians are merely servants of a much larger agenda.

So what does this mean as far as elections are concerned?  Basically, voting is a fetish -- a ritual that we engage in for some psychological reason, not because it has any real relevance or impact.  And one clue to this is the obsessive behavior exhibited by the media -- that voting, and elections, are all "historic", all "the most important of our lifetime", etc. when in fact they are anything but.  You can tell when reason and common sense have left the building and hysteria has taken over by the way the candidates, their supporters, and the media talk.  The less meaningful the process becomes, the more meaning is ascribed to it.  This is because nearly everyone in the system is in deep denial.  No one with any vested interest wants to admit that it's just a hoax, like professional wrestling.  So they get all steamed up and waste all kinds of adrenaline.  Probably the most honest part of any campaign is when the opposing candidates get together for some reason and, in an unguarded moment, start slapping each other on the shoulder and sharing secret jokes.  That's when you realize that it's all a game, with no real winners or losers - just actors strutting on a stage, who have plenty of back-up plans in case this particular scam doesn't work out.

And I suppose this is what strikes me, more than anything else, as the difference between us and the Europeans, say.  They have elections, they vote, but they also have a healthy dose of cynicism and skepticism.  And when their politicians start acting like woefully fallen creatures, they shrug and say, well, what can you expect?  We, on the other hand, are wide-eyed and idealistic... panting for the approval of any demagogue who crosses our path.  We are politically fickle, but not so fickle as to see through the curtain of politics, and acknowledge the reality behind it, the way real adults would.  We are still clinging, not so much to the Bible and guns as to ideas -- ideas which have, over time, turned into propaganda, memes, and secular litanies.  Politicians get us hooked with words, phrases, expressions, and ideas that they don't believe in themselves -- it's just bait with which to snare the unwary and gullible voter/citizen.  And yet -- human nature being what it is -- the more things diverge from our alleged founding principles, the more we cling to what pathetically little is left.  And our leaders and their media servants know full well how to take advantage of this.  I doubt if there has ever been a people any more easy to rule, and manipulate, by false ideas promoted by hypocritical leaders.  The media like to pretend that it's all about economics, or jobs, or whatever... but really, it's primarily about ideas, and our self-image as a nation.  But only "the people" believe in any of that any longer; and this is our fatal weakness as a society.  There have been nations in the past with wrong ideas, but at least those ideas were shared by rulers and ruled alike; the same cannot be said in this case.  

So hey, sit back and enjoy the show -- if you can stay awake that long.  Great will be the rejoicing in one camp or the other, and great will be the rending of garments among the defeated.  And true, some of them can be counted as victims because they have bought into the myth.  But more typically, they will retire, like members of a defeated sports team, to come back and fight another day, knowing that, in the meantime, things remain completely under control.