Thursday, April 26, 2007

Recourse to Higher Authorities and Other Absurdities

The daily horror of the slaughter in Iraq was recently compounded by that in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. Thirty two innocent students and professors were shot and killed at point blank range at Virginia Tech by a lone lunatic gunman without a struggle. Both Iraq and Virginia killings are tragedies involving the ultimate sanction, taking life. In Iraq the killing is multiplied daily as killers kill each other. There is at least a disgusting cadence of Darwinian survival of the fittest in this pointless, bloody danse macabre, but in Blacksburg it was a cold blooded and blunt death without recourse – a remorseless charnel house – the slaughter of lambs.

As the state is sorting out the bureaucratic failures that culminated in the horror at Blacksburg, it is clear already that the higher authorities, whose responsibilities involve the health and safety of the victims, failed. The governor of Virginia has called for a blue ribbon panel to investigate the atrocity and let us hope that, unlike GW Bush who awards medals and promotions for incompetence and failure of duty, he exacts penalties on the guilty for their astounding malfeasance.

Each victim was shot on the average of three times, as the killer apparently calmly reloaded his weapons, dropping empty magazine clips on the floor. Reactions of victims were mixed. Some fled through open windows, or hid in rooms that were barricaded at the doors. No one is reported to have confronted the killer by attacking him. There is a hair raising safety in numbers in a group attack. It is true that it is a form of madness to attack an armed man with your bare knuckles; however, it is a split second calculation that has to be almade. In this case no action encouraged random death. Agonizing debates on how the ugly events came about, who is to blame and why the killer killed, will amount to little. Perhaps locks on classroom doors will be installed... What has to be faced is what action does an unarmed student take when confronted with the same deadly situation; there is very little discussion of this as some groups foolishly try to turn any self defense into a form of twisted vigilantism.

Campus police in my time were composed of locals who could not qualify for a regular police force; their main function was to enforce parking and student vehicle registration, break up beer busts, crowd control, and come to coeds' aid during panty raids. Sometimes they would even catch a streaker. Had you given them weapons to carry, they would end up like third world cops who regularly shoot themselves playing with their weapon after a few drinks. So I was surprised when they formed the first line defense at Blacksburg. It is now apparent that students must be be prepared to defend themselves when the deadly chips are down. How the higher education institutions do that is their call; you can bet there will be other killers coming to campus. Spotlight is on school authorities. Next time such a ghastly event happens, no one will accept nonsense about protecting the privacy of a madman while jeopardizing the life of the innocent. To turn lambs into lions is not an easy task given all the politically correct vapors, much of which rise from our university value systems and the false sense of security of academia...

Future killers will be encouraged by the lack of the victims' defense and law enforcement ineptitude; however, NBC’s TV programming of the Killer's tape will haunt the US for years. It visually demonstrates the sick recognition the mad killer sought and sadly invoked in his post-mortem tape. It was the same as a Jihadist tape as a terrorist prepared for others’ destruction and his own suicide. As a matter of fact, Sunday’s NEW YORK TIMES carried a cartoon with a group of black-hearted Jihadists ready to behead a victim with the caption: WHY USE Al JAZEERA WHEN WE HAVE NBC? NBC tried to defend its obscene actions as news. It was the same network that peed in its pants a week ago and fired Imus, because he unfairly and crassly used black ghetto language to characterize the Rutgers female basketball team. On one hand it silenced uniquely acerbic political, social commentary that cut in all directions, and on the other promoted a murderous madman's dream of self righteousness. Makes no sense to me.

It becomes clear that the higher authorities, a.k.a. the Establishment, is the problem not the solution; it certainly has failed in Iraq, Waco, Oklahoma City and 911 in a catastrophic, bloody way. The events at Virginia Tech at Blacksburg were marked by hideous incompetence by all authorities; the media chorus complicated the situation with sensationalism: does what it does to entertain and fails to have any sense of priorities – it's the sugar that makes the medicine go down.

Iraq, Blacksburg, the Houston Space Center, even our elite Blue Angels crash: Mourning becomes America. It is all a sad commentary on events where leadership failures mix with random accidental tragedies to cast a mood of national despondency. As far as standing by to be slaughtered by madman, suggest the group charge: throw book bags, fire extinguishers, purses, shoes, and desks at the fiend. Virginia historically is a land of very brave men and a cherished history of great valor – somebody there at Blacksburg should have let out an old rebel yell and led a charge to kill the mad SOB. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Photograph: Etching Brabisimo by Francisco de Goya

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Weapons of Mass Deception – GW Bush's Surge In Iraq

Masters of Deception is the name with which GW Bush Inc. has been forever tagged. To refresh your memory on the Iraq invasion, think about Yellow Cake, Cake Walk, WMDs and Saddam/Al-Qaeda links. All this was baloney, cynically developed to provide reasons for invasion. This last fall, Bush was faced with two devastating choices in Iraq; to accept defeat now or later. He chose later and developed the Surge policy that amounted to a reinforcement of Iraq; this delayed the final debacle. He proceeded to peddle this policy in Congress and the many suckers bought into it. GW Bush's Iraq surge so far equals five additional national guard units returned to combat for the second time and extension of duty for soldiers in Iraq from 12 to 15 months. This is in addition to about 25,000 active duty personnel who will return to Iraq for the second and third time. How the surge was to be implemented was carefully guarded during its promotion by the Pentagon and White House. It was the usual deceptive old game to sell the policy, but hide the pain of implementation.

The Red States, furnishing most of the guard units, ironically now can reconsider their votes for Bush in 2004 that sent their men to war again on an obscure mission. If they wish the idiotic policy to continue, they can vote for Senator McCain in 2008 who wants the war to continue forever or to victory, which ever is sooner. With McCain you will get Hopeless Henry Kissinger, General Al, I am in Charge, Haig and Larry, The Kissinger Clone, Eagleburger. This hoary triplet has jumped on the McCain bandwagon and are coiled around his permanent war national security policy like sclerotic serpents.

As disgusting as things are for the Republicans, to vote Democratic may still be a harder choice. Even the dimmest of them has figured out by now, that Bush Inc. has carelessly wasted life and treasury on Iraq, stupidly failed to guard the borders, and permitted libertine corporations to destroy the US economy in the name of globalization. On the other hand, to vote for the Democrats from their standpoint has its hazards. This was brought to the forefront by Black Caucus Democrats indulging in loud, sanctimonious victimhood in the recent Imus scandal. Hypocrites Sharpton and Jesse Jackson as standard bearers for the Democratic black minority whose hubris will keep the border states and South firmly in the Red state columns. Hillary's calculated short-sighted visit to Rutgers to commiserate with the female basketball team will drive the stake deeper into the Democratic heart on the race issue. Imus, who supported Harold Ford Jr, a Black candidate for Senate in Tennessee in 2006, advocated him heart and soul on his show, got no helping hand from him as he sank into the quicksand. If there is black unity, expect blow-back, white Republican unity as opposition. As of this writing, no Democratic congressional leadership has stepped into the Imus fray – for good reason. No Republicans, who shoot first and ask questions later, can fix the national security crises; only the Democrats have the will – too bad if they lose the 2008 elections over guns, gays, abortion and inflammatory race issues fanned by themselves. The Imus Affair has played into Republican hands, unless the racial vituperation of Gangsta Rap, Hip Hop and black comedians can be curbed by those same people who screamed for Imus' head.

Despite rosy reports by McCain, the President, and General Petraeus, the surge so far is a big flop. Even Democratic Senator Biden has challenged General Petraeus on his overly optimistic assessments. The Green Zone, the so called protected area, the only piece of terrain the Iraqi government controls in the country, is beginning to take on the look of Battlefield Marne. Under sporadic bombardment, its parliament building was attacked recently by a suicide bomber. A major bridge across the Tigris, linking sections of Baghdad was dropped into the river by the insurgents. US casualty rates continue to rise averaging over 80 KIA a month. And Iraqi dead continue to pile up at an alarming rate.

As the US and mainly Kurdish forces continue to attack Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad, the Shiite militia organized massive demonstrations where al-Sadr called on the Shiites to kill only Americans and coalition forces and stop targeting Sunnis. Al-Sadr, who takes his orders from Iran, also said he would not accept permanent US bases in Iraq. Unbelievably, the US command in Baghdad tried to defuse the bad news by saying that the the Iraqis are just exercising the right of free speech under a democratically elected regime. Whoever writes the military press releases should be relieved for putting out such agonizingly stupid press announcements that undermine US credibility – as if there is much left. Al-Sadr also raised tensions by withdrawing six ministers from the Iraqi government, because the Iraqi leadership would not set a withdrawal date for US troops. The simmering issue of the 5 Iranian agents detained by US in Erbil, Kurdistan also continues to pollute chances for any kind of modus vivendi between al-Sadr and US occupation forces.

Politicians traditionally pretend to fix problems by investigating them or calling hearings. GW Bush has perfected a grander ploy: create bigger bureaucracy. He had a problem with intelligence on 9/11 and over Iraq, therefore, he created an Intelligence Czar. His first Czar, Negroponte, fled to the state department. Negroponte's last national estimate was old wine in a new bottle; the usual pile of gibberish that meant all things to all people. Bush had a problem with first responders during 9/11, so he created the Department of Homeland Security that fell flat on its face during Katrina. Now Bush wants to create a War Czar to cover his ass on his defeat in Iraq. So far no takers among the retired general officers. He should ask I am in Charge General Al Haig who is vainglorious and foolish enough to accept. What is one more incompetent Czar? Why Bush's NSC staffer Hadley cannot handle the coordination and policy, with Gates at Defense focused on the execution of the war, is beyond me. If they are incompetent, fire them. There is only one president commander-in-chief and Bush apparently is even trying to escape that role. Only a moron would want to extend and complicate the chain of command in wartime. By the way, what ever happened to our Drug Czars?

It is clear Bush does not want the Iraq defeat on his watch and he is cynically prepared to extend the war to prevent it. What kind of exhibit would that be in his presidential library? Understand he found a remote spot in Yellow Cake, Texas for his library. It was a hard baked desolate place, filled with rabid prairie dogs, scorpions, gila monsters, poisonous spiders, and rattlesnakes – no one has ever populated the area, given its environmental hostility. He desperately needed a place where Cindy Sheehan would not set up a camp at the entrance to his library. This first choice fell apart; something about septic fields. His second choice is in Fallujah, Iraq. It would be combination of a reality show and diorama, under continuous attack by enraged Jihadists. The GW Bush Presidential Library would be built in the heart of the ruined city, surrounded by a 35’ high, 10’ thick reinforced concrete wall, built by Halliburton. Visited by helicopter only, there would be search lights and interlocking fields of fire on each corner. Cindy Sheehan would not camp out there either... It would be guarded by recently purged neocons and squalid Paul Wolfowitz Pentagon's architect of the Iraq War, would be the curator – that is, if Wolfowitz is not tarred and feathered by World Bank employees first, for his second fiasco there. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA, RET

*Photograph: Etching Los Chinchillas by Francisco de Goya

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Lady and the Tigers – Pelosi vs. the Political Predators

Rub-a-dub-dub, Three Men In a Tub – The Butcher, The Baker and The Candlestick Maker. Cheney's recent colloquy with Right, Right Wing talker Rush Limbaugh perversely brought to mind the lines from that children's poem – Limbaugh is certainly the candlestick maker lighting the way with his strict adherence to Republican party line and his howling, dogged pursuit of liberals. Butcher and Baker are fusion of GW Bush and Cheney who cook up half-baked wars and pursue them with a butcher's steadfast relish, impervious to the splashing blood.

Other than all three being Bring Em On Republicans, there are other similarities; all three avoided service in Vietnam. Cheney as the grand master of deferments, GW Bush with his confusing, sometimes service in the Texas and Alabama Air National Guards and Limbaugh, who after losing his student deferments, was classified 4F with an undisclosed medical problem, rumored to be a pilonidal cyst at the base of his spine – not exactly life threatening. FYI – Limbaugh's family has a history of influential and skilled lawyers in Missouri.

When it comes to war all three like to make the bullets, but want others to shoot them. They understand that when you shoot, shots are returned. This ethos is emulated by the Neocons Without Military Service infesting the national policy apparatus in the NSC, Pentagon, State Departments and influential think tanks like the Heritage foundation. This, let-others-fight attitude, is promoted by squalid neocon journals like Bill Kristol's WEEKLY STANDARD. This group starts wars, but cannot win them. The bunch does not know what it is doing. Next, stop Iran. All Aboard!

VEEP Cheney used Limbaugh's show to blast Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to Syria as head of a congressional delegation. Apparently Pelosi's mother-knows-best foray's against GW Bush is driving the White House crazy, so Cheney, the mentor of his favorite felon, Scooter Libby, has leveled his pop gun at Speaker Pelosi. Cheney has less than 18% approval rating nationally, so he is essentially just a partisan noise maker. As far as the Pelosi visit to Syria, it should have been applauded rather than condemned. Governor Richardson's current approved visit to North Korea spells out loud and clear that the Bush administration has difficulty finding qualified Republican diplomatic representatives. It is obvious; Bush's State Department needs help desperately in its diplomatic stables when they send creepy Swift Boater Fox to Brussels by avoiding Senate confirmation with a recess appointment. As far as Pelosi misrepresenting Israel's position to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad that is not credible; what is credible is that the Israeli's got nervous, because they cannot control Pelosi like Condoleezza, who is an Israeli puppet on a string. And erratic Israeli prime minister Olmert has a record of going off half-cocked, so trust Pelosi – she got it right.

Israeli whining over the Pelosi visit is remarkable as at her news conference in Damascus, she hewed to the Administration's blighted line on Middle East. Further, she had holocaust survivor, Representative Tom Lantos, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on her delegation, who is a first tier Israeli lobbyist in congress watching her like hawk. I am still tickled when I hear his thick Hungarian accent – sounds just like Bela Lugosi's character in Dracula. Lantos is a very serious, effective, politician, except for those of us who watched the old Dracula films, and consider him stitch... He is the Chairman of US House Foreign Relations Committee who has the speech patterns of the world's most famous vampire – only in America.

We know Cheney Inc. wanted to get even with Pelosi for publicly advising GW Bush to take a deep breath on his fit over congressional war appropriations. If you saw the scene of Pelosi confidently making her grand entrance, as head of the delegation to meet Bashar al-Assad in his palace, you know she looked radiant, smiling – almost waltzing. Her vivacity reminded me of Judy Garland on the Yellow Brick Road in the Wizard Of Oz. The very conscious public relations Republicans are forced to compare this scene with a regularly frowning Condoleezza who sometimes walks like a chicken, always dismally standing at the top of an airline stairway, waving. Take your choice. Are you going to believe Cheney or your eyes? Cheney is the guy who swore that Saddam had nucs and repeatedly, even recently in the interview with Limbaugh, he said that Saddam and al Qaeda were linked – not even the sycophants at the Pentagon supported him on that one.

Prior to the 2006 election, the Republicans in chorus attacked Pelosi for being a San Francisco liberal evoking an image of an ugly, bra burning, castrating female, wearing hand-made sandals. Fancy Nancy Pelosi certainly is not that. San Francisco is the home of strange fruits and the Twinkie Defense. Pelosi has the challenging task to represent this carnival. When Pelosi returned to her office on Capitol Hill from her recent trip, there is a rumor she was greeted by a box of Godiva chocolates and a dozen long-stemmed yellow roses. The card, with a gold embossed crest of Syria, had a message written in Arabic and English that said: THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES, BASHAR. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Photograph: Etching Volaverunt by Francisco de Goya

Friday, April 06, 2007

GW Bush Breathing Deeply

Like American comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to say, I GET NO RESPECT; isolated, GW Bush now must mutter under his breath the same words. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has patronizingly advised GW Bush publicly, TO TAKE A DEEP BREATH, as he huffed and puffed over the congressional efforts to limit the Iraqi war with recent passed appropriation bills.

Bush's world changed with both houses of congress falling under Democratic control in the 2006 elections, but he has not. His back is pressed against the wall with orbiting scandals at Justice, Defense and the chronic ineptitude of his State Department – Pelosi is going to Damascus, because the Israelis will not permit Condoleezza to visit... As if matters could not get worse in the Middle East, long time ally King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called the US illegal occupiers in Iraq. Condoleezza has to do something to stop the slide. Maybe change her hairdo or perfume, because she, like her boss GWB, is just not getting any respect.

Each day the president faces a new horror in Iraq that continues to erode the confidence the American people have in him. He tells us one day the surge is just doing fine and the next day Iraqis are slaughtered in record numbers. Now Shiite cleric el Sadr is back on camera, frothing at the mouth as Sadr City was hit by aerial bombs. Sadr has called for massive Shiite demonstrations in early April to protest the US occupation. My guess is that this is only step one to the future escalating violence. As Bush bungles along trying to stay in Iraq until his term is over, he tends to further complicate the situation with more hair brained decisions, like the surge and permanent bases in Iraq. His rosy scenarios on Iraq become more laughable each time he opens his mouth. He did not tell us, for example, in the month of March, well into the surge, that the US lost 81 soldiers while the Iraqi Army lost 44. What about that, General Petraeus? When are you going to take our troops off point? What happened to those trained Iraqi battalions you say are ready to fight? Can anyone trust Bush not to continue the stupidity in Iraq? The dice are rolling and Bush can shoot only snake eyes.

Iran's taking of 15 British Marines and sailors who were involved in boarding an Iranian freighter has added more combustible material to the region. Some believe it was a provocation by the British to help Bush militarily to engage Iran – the same people argue that it was the British who provided Bush with the spurious YELLOW CAKE disinformation, so the modus operandi remains the same. My sense is that the provocation argument is not valid; however, from personal experience investigating international incidents, men and nations lie, and instruments go haywire or are misread intentionally or unintentionally. What trigger happy Bush has to keep in mind is that the misbegotten Lebanese bombing by Israel was allegedly over prisoners and we know now bombs do not return POWs. At a minimum, Bush should have employed his own national technical means to verify the accuracy of the events before he stridently jumped on Blair's bandwagon. Maybe he did. It seems certain the European Union just took Blair's word. More and more the taking of British Navy personnel by the Iranians suggests an effort by the Iranians to set up an exchange for Iranian captives held by the US in Iraq.

Under current Pentagon leadership, it is apparent that military intelligence officers, apart from targeting data, appear to have lost their courage to deliver bad news to policy makers. The CIA may have someone who can put Bush on his knee and explain carefully what war with Iran is all about. Lesson #1 is that it is not going to be a limited war as much as goofy neocons will try to sell him on it. i.e., just blow up the Iranian nuc facilities, airfields, missile sites and go home; lesson #2, no matter how much you punish Iran strategically through bombardment, it will not force a regime change; lesson #3 is that it will be a war of attrition with both sides losing in the end, exhausted; and lesson #4 is that tribal revolts by Kurdish minorities will be suppressed by the Iranian troops.

We hope Bush can grasp the fanatic Shiite mentality; the Israelis did not in Lebanon and Saddam finally did in his eight-year war with Iran. Bush has figured out that Iran is not going to let go of 60% of Iraq; he is indeed misguided if he believes attacking Iran will force the Persians to loosen their grip on Iraq.

The weakness of Saddam and the Bush family is that they both fall into traps set by wars of choice: Saddam with his invasion of Kuwait and earlier in Iran in 1980, HW Bush with his invasion of Kuwait that was a prelude to GW Bush's invasion of Iraq. For Saddam the 1980-1988 war was a disaster; he lost an estimated 375,000 men and the Iranians lost 300,000 and the war ended in a stalemate. Saddam lost badly in Kuwait, signaling weakness and set himself up for a GW Bush invasion. The younger Bush believed his war would be as easy as his father's Kuwaiti invasion. It is not; and, the final chapter is still to be written.

Right now the US has a powerful naval flotilla in the Persian Gulf. As it flexes its military muscles there through exercises, it is being studied like a rat in a Skinner Box. Iran has surface to ship missiles, air to sea missiles and ship to ship missiles, all of which cannot be destroyed or intercepted. Iran also has a fleet of high speed torpedo boats, sea mines and some subs – worst of all for the US is that the Iranians have a suicidal Jihadist, or in navy parlance, a Kamikaze heart. In 1980 Saddam figured that the Ayatollahs had destroyed the deposed Shah's military establishment and the war would be a cake walk, but the Iranians rallied and freed the Shah's pilots from their jails, who subsequently fought their hearts out against Saddam. On the ground the Iranians impressed 15 year old boys, roped them together in groups of 20, gave them plastic keys to heaven, and had them form the first line of attack against the Iraqis, exploding mines with their bodies. Saddam even used poison gas against the Iranians and could not stop them.

Assume any air bombardment of Iran will result in an attack on US ground forces in Iraq by Iranian regular army and elite forces. Ships will sink, tankers will burn and oil will go over 100USD a barrel.

So President Bush, before you pull the trigger on Iran, you might take a deep breath as Fancy Nancy Pelosi’s motherly advise suggested to you earlier on Iraq. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET.
Photograph: Etching Disparate de bestia by Francisco de Goya