Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Obama on Vacation – Summer 2009

After nearly eight intense months Obama decided to go on vacation. In this time frame, like a rolling stone, he gathered no moss. He crisscrossed the USA countlessly, went to Mexico, did Europe twice and visited the Middle East. If Air Force One provided frequent flyer miles, he would have accumulated enough of them to catapult him to moon.

There is no question he exhibited great energy and conscientiousness, but whether he solved problems or is on the road to do so is an open issue. In all fairness, it may be too early to be conclusive about the man's service or leadership. His trend lines however, are not encouraging.

The right wing crackpots have to be ignored in any calculus; their narrow policies are limited to tax cuts, strapping on more guns, donating to evangelical mega churches and singing DIXIE. There is a pathetic paranoiac, emotional component that keeps them in a fact-less world, out of the mainstream. Heard Glenn Beck is composing a Broadway musical, SARAH GET YOUR GUN... These strange, hot house elements are down about to 20% of voters and led hopelessly by Chairman of the RNC Michael Steele. To their consternation, if black Obama does not get them sociopolitically, the black Mr. Steele shall... that must be why they keep singing DIXIE at the top of their lungs.

Despite the weakness of the Republican right wing, Obama has his share of deadly political issues that could easily wreck his administration. He signaled problems early on with the baloney concept of TEAM OF RIVALS. It is a simple fact that key to successful leadership is to pick smart loyal subordinates. Obama picked Clintonistas and retreads from the GW Bush administration. All brought with them the baggage of trying to justify their previous missteps or worst yet, keep them covered up.

His economic team is composed of Summers, Geithner, Bernarke, Orszag; all were part of the current economic collapse. Most were associated Goldman Sachs, a Wall Street financial house. At this writing the stock market is up, but unemployment figures are sky rocketing and the banks are still choking on toxic assets. The stimulus package is sputtering and the impact of the TARP is questioned. Bank, Insurance and Wall Street firms continue to reward executives handsomely with bailout funds. The deficit is off the charts.

Obama's foreign policy at this stage is incoherent. Hillary's foray into the dark continent was a disaster. She lectured the Africans on corruption and violence while she dropped millions in aid. The prime minister of Kenya pushed back hard and told her essentially to mind her own business.

She lost her diplomatic aplomb twice; once, reminding the world that she was SECSTATE and not her husband Bill and the second time, was when she tried to walk back some harshness of her criticism of Africa by discussing America’s political problems. It was apparent she was bitten by critters in Africa based on her public discomfort while there. She however, still remains an empty pants suit despite her self-sacrifice to fierce African gnats, flys and no-see-ems.

Obama has circumvented Hillary by using special envoys that report to the White House directly. He even sent Bill privately on the lusty Bada Bing aircraft to rescue ladies in distress in North Korea; somebody had to pick up the estimated $400,000 cost of the trip. He has sent Mitchell to the Mid East. So far on the situation there we are dealing with self-serving unofficial leaks which is typical of the way the Israel lobby operates, and have nothing official on the status from Obama.

Now it appears Obama has added Senator Jim Webb as special envoy to Myanmar.

The president also appointed Richard Holbrooke as his Afghanistan/Pakistan envoy. He is the opposite of Mitchell since Holbrooke is an envoy who loves the Klieg lights. His response to the recent disastrous Afghan election was the US has problems in their elections too. Oh yeah? Twenty six Afghan murdered and some voters' purple finger chopped off in the process. Richard, you should have worked for GW Bush! Your character is just right.

Panetta and SECDEF Gates are political retreads. Panetta is now CIA Director and busy defending employees on torture who were just following orders. This is the same thing LT Calley said about the My Lai Massacre. Delusional SECDEF Gates wants to to keep two wars going, despite the fact his ever changing missions and concepts of victory keep slipping away. He is a Republican, so what do you expect? There had to be better and fresher leadership choices who are more competent.

After eight years of pointless war, it is apparent the US ground forces have lost its mojo. It can kill the enemy at will, but not win the wars. Remember TET in RVN? We killed over 50,000 of the enemy in quick time, but lost the war. It is now clear that US ground force generals keep fighting the last wars over again. What happened to General Saveus Petraeus since his trained Iraqi troops began to unravel?

US ground force general officer corps should be retired. Promote the smart young colonels who have energy to brevet generals; if they are successful, make their rank permanent. Since most future wars will be counter insurgency against Islamic elements, the profile of the new generals should be secular; especially avoid those with blind, born-again crusader backgrounds. We have had over 8 years of that counter productive messianic idiocy.

If there is an area of incompetency that Obama owns 100%: it is the health care fiasco. His key man Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is responsible for keeping congress in concert with the White House policy. He is another Clintonista appointment who was part of the former health care failures. So we can wonder whether he wants Obama to succeed where Clinton failed. When Emanuel was Democratic Whip with a House majority for two years, he was unable to curtail funds for the war in Iraq; he still cannot, not even from his White House perch.

Mr. President, enjoy your vacation. If you believe health care was a barn burning issue, wait until you try to force changes to, DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL. Colonial Robert E Bartos USA Ret.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hitler’s Resurrection – USA

Adolf Hitler, a murderous fiend who should have been buried over 70 years ago, seems to pop out of his grave regularly to create more evil mischief. He is the hero of active neo-fascist groups in Europe and America; he is an inspiration of the what is left of the Ku Klux Klan; the white supremacist militias adore him; and ironically, he is promoted inadvertently by Jews who publicly excoriate him in their holocaust museums, films, literature and news reports – this negative publicity, as horrible as it is, backfires as it keeps Adolf's narrative alive from generation to generation.

There is another factor that befuddles his detractors and that is of all the ISMs fascism is the most theatrical. Its flags, weapons, equipment, uniforms, medals, badges and films are highly sought after by contemporary collectors – to such a high degree that there is a lucrative market in reproductions of most objects.

If you question the theatrical appeal of fascism, check out Hollywood that pumps out films on the subject annually; many of these films are promoted by American Jewish producers or film companies; and, they make a profit or would not be continually made. (FYI: Schindler’s List grossed 110 million.) All of these films deplore fascism and the Furhor, but continuously function de facto to keep the ideology alive. To some, these anti-fascist films unintentionally glorify evil. Despite de-nazification, outlawing the party and in some countries, making it illegal to deny the Holocaust, neo Nazi movements persist, but with more noise and little political power.

Hitler's perfidious reputation is now being used to malign President Obama and his programs. Town Hall meetings have pictorial posters depicting Obama as Adolf Hitler along with signage that does the same. Politics are a dirty business, however this conduct has nothing to do with discourse and everything to do with character assassination by false association.

There is a persistent belief projected by the media that Obama is under attack at the town hall meetings this August because his health care proposals are so controversial. This is only partially true. The virulent attacks are race based. Their expanded intensity was signaled by Obama's bungling of the black professor Gates and the white Irish cop Crowley incident in Boston.

The same group that likes tea bags, is concerned with death tribunals; it is a group that worships firearms, challenges the president's citizenship, finds a Communist behind every bush, and is concerned over government spending for anything but open ended wars. They also provide an umbrella for the Hilter spouting crack pots. This larger group lost the last election and is using the town hall venue to continue to peddle their rejected political products. TV cameras make them all eager to be celebrities.

This group is dumb enough to want to continue to buy heath insurance privately at $375 a month with a $2000 deductible. This fleecing by the insurance companies comes with the prospect of raising premiums and deductibles annually. These losers are mostly abject followers of a howling full-moon Sister Sarah Palin, so what hell... no loss to the body public.

For Obama however, his big problems could come from progressive Democrats as they lose confidence in his ability to fulfill his campaign promises to them. The disenchantment has already begun.

As things stand, in the end, there should be little frustration by the right wing over the Administration proposed health care reform. President Obama has appointed the two Emanuel brothers to command his health care juggernaut through congress. They so far have protected the drug and medical insurance companies and sold out the little guy.

Brothers Emanuel have reached their level of incompetence early in Obama's administration. Ezekiel is a physician and medical ethicist turned bureaucrat. Rahm is a trained ballet dancer turned politician and when he is not doing pirouettes in the White House, he acts as Obama's chief of staff. Ezekiel already is in hot water because he has espoused rationed care to certain groups. He is, however, on record against euthanasia.

It has been reported that the White House Emanuels have already cut a bad deal for Americans favoring Big Pharma over drug prices that will be part of a Senate health bill. As far as a government insurance public option, the White House has apparently dropped it to the delight of Big Insurance. So where is the serious reform? In the end Obama's health reform will come out well below expectations as hamburger, but the White House will call it more elegantly, Salisbury steak.

In the USSR, in the mid 1960s, the Soviets in Moscow celebrated their national holidays with anchored barrage balloons illuminated at night with ground search lights. The search light focused on a profile of Vladimir Lenin (DOD 1924) with the words written in cyrillic, LENIN LIVES which always reminded me of the Gotham City distress signal for Batman... crazy stuff.

Dictators are hard to kill. Most die with their boots off. They are hard to forget compared to benign leaders who are quickly forgotten. The 20thc is packed with dictators. Pol Pot, Josef Stalin and Hitler are the grand prize winners for murder and mayhem. Stalin was the biggest killer of the three, but Hitler is the favorite bete noire... so popularity in this bloody circle depends on whom you kill rather than how many. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fog of War Redux – Afghanistan

You know military things are desperate in Afghanistan when the Obama Administration turns to Stanley Karnow for advice on how to win the war there, based on his knowledge of the US failures in the Vietnam War.

Karnow, an 83-old who won the Pulitzer prize for his books and reporting on the Vietnam War, is categorically against the US war in Afghanistan as he was against the one in Vietnam a half a century ago. What is important is that historical mistakes are learned and not repeated; the progress of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has indicated that so far the US has, in the main, intentionally and consciously ignored its Vietnam experience both strategically and tactically.

When the GW Bush administration was criticized on the invasion of Iraq as another unwinable Vietnam War, snake oil neocon salesmen fanned out in the mainstream media to tell us it was not so by accenting differences and ignoring similarities between the two wars.

So it is more than passingly curious that General McCrystal, commander of forces in Afghanistan, and Ambassador Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan/Pakistan theater of operations should turn at this moment in history to Karnow. We should be thankful, I guess, that they did not seek out Hopeless Henry (Kissinger).

If there is a source in which to find lessons learned, historical analogy, e.g.: the foolishness of US engaging strategically in wars of national liberation, it is former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's documentary film, THE FOG OF WAR. It was produced in 2005 and was a sincere effort by him to admit openly his mistakes in an official record. He outlines his false assumptions and lists his bad decisions – it is a remarkable statement made by a man at the end of his life with nothing to gain but an attempt to salvage his integrity. He, after all, was a major contributor to the deaths of nearly 60,000 American servicemen and many more Vietnamese.

To paraphrase a summary of his views, in the film The Fog of War, Robert McNamara said something along these lines: If you are in a country to save people who don't really want you there...well maybe you shouldn't be there in the first place. These hostile conditions prevail in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as they did in the Republic of Vietnam.

All these American neo-colonial wars of national liberation have a political component of national elections. The problem in each situation becomes the local peoples' choice who never quite fulfills the US expectations for rule of the dominion during US occupation.

You found this in the Republic of Vietnam; now, in Iraq, and most certainly in Afghanistan with Karzai, it is the same. National elections are scheduled for 20 August. Of the three candidates, Karzai is a corrupt failure; another candidate represents the Northern Alliance opposed by most Afghans and by Pakistan; and another has Bill Clinton's old campaign manager James Carville as his campaign advisor. None of these people, if elected, provide a stable hub for US occupation or victory. It is as if the US becomes more inept with each war and occupation.

Its not just the flawed military political aspect of the occupations that are repeated unsuccessfully, it is the stale, failed tactics that produce defeat. Since Vietnam, innovations with drones and Hellfire missiles, civilian contract labor for security and logistic support, it seems to appear different. Both drones and contractors have a record of killing indiscriminately which undermines US missions in insurgent wars. McCrystal has tried to limit air strikes, but wants contractors to secure his bases and logistics... Happy days Are Here Again For Black Water and Halliburton.

General McCrystal was assigned to Afghanistan because he was expected to be innovative with special operations. His first big operation was a SEARCH, DESTROY, HOLD USMC strike in the South of the country with over 4000 troops. The US and NATO have sustained the highest casualties since the war started with his vintage, old school operations.

The General is already asking for more troops and some in congress are eager to provide them. The General now claims the Taliban has gained the upper hand in the theater. The Taliban is also taunting the command over a captured US soldier that makes the US MSM go berserk.

The Administration sent Susan Rice, our UN Rep. and General Jones, NSC Director to reassure the country, regarding Afghanistan, with their appearances on Sunday talk shows. General Jones said he is open to more troop requests and if the current strategy in Afghanistan is not working, it would be changed within a year.

Hillary also made an inconsequential appearance in a week-old canned interview from Nairobi. She was upstaged by Bill's rescue of those two captured Calamity Janes from North Korea. She did give a shout from the Congo that Bill is not Secretary of State. She better be careful there because tsetse flies are as dangerous as Bosnia snipers... sometimes it is better to stay home and bake cookies.

Currently our war in Afghanistan/Pakistan is a basket case. This fall there is another 100 billion due to fight both wars. This is on top of an expensive health care bill... What is it going to be President Obama? Guns or Butter? Even Gaius Julius Caesar had to make such a choice. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Lightning at the End of the Tunnel – Iraq

After years of US administration propaganda – spin and lies – an active duty Army officer, Colonel Timothy Reese candidly wrote a paper that outlined the collapsing internal security situation in Iraq. He publicly concluded sardonically, that it is time to declare victory and withdraw all US troops soonest; that is, even if it means accelerating the drop-dead, delicately negotiated date of 2012 to the middle of 2010.

The Reese report at least clearly and publicly establishes the fact the US Army was not completely duped by the Iraqi leadership, GW Bush and the neocons. Sorry part of the story is that it permitted all this to happen until now without a whimper.

Some apparently are in a dither over the fact that an active duty military officer made policy statements that appear at odds with existing policy – you can be assured that these hand wringers are from the pro Israel neocon, Lieberman-Bomb Bomb McCain Rat Pack that want the US to remain in Iraq forever as happy, neocolonial occupiers.

One concern over Col. Reese's conclusions is that pro Israel neocons will panic and encourage Israel to foment a crisis bombing of Iran with the objective to pin US forces in Iraq to nursemaid Israel after Iranian counterattacks badly rip Israel.

My sense is that Colonel Reese had his chain-of-command approval before he tip-toed into the media with his paper. Especially after most-decorated military hero Colonel David Hackworth's tribulations, that were imposed on him by the Army for speaking out to the media in opposition to the Vietnam War while on active duty; after this, no active-duty Army officer would risk his career over a moment of integrity. Otherwise, how can you explain the Army marching into the abyss of Iraq without high-ranking protest resignations?

Most experienced enlisted men knew General Tommy Franks War Plan was seriously flawed; certainly as they stood by without orders and witnessed civilian looting of government installations, museums and Saddam's unguarded ammo depots emptied by insurgents.

SecDef Gates chimed in after Reese that things are going so well in Iraq that the US may start draw downs earlier than planned. Some more happy talk of course, but the fix appears in for quicker deployment out of Iraq.

Colonel Reese's document is remarkable in its frankness outlining the problems encountered while training Iraq forces. This paper could have been written easily a year after the invasion. I wrote an OP-ED in the BALTIMORE SUN 5 OCT 2005 when General Patraeus was reassigned after his failures training Iraqi forces and fudging reports on the readiness of these forces.

Unlike Colonel Reese who writes from the heart of occupied Baghdad, imbedded in US command structure, I wrote the critical column from under the palm trees of the Caribbean sipping rum drinks. Point is that what he wrote is not rocket science analysis; thrust of his paper could be found in after-action reports of US military advisors in the Republic of Vietnam years earlier.

Google has Reese's detailed report. He says the US military forces have reached a point of diminishing returns. The Colonel reported that VEEP Biden's recent visit was coldly received by the Iraqi government objecting to US interference in its internal affairs. Cooperation between US forces and government forces in some cases have reached a flash point and there is a risk that US and Iraq government forces could engage in conflict with each other.

The real stickler in Reese's report comes at the end when he calls for a US - Iraq strategic agreement to be signed once all US troops depart – these would be non-combat troops stationed in three big juicy bases built by GW Bush and his neocons for continued occupation. This was inserted in the text as a palliative to congress members who voted for the war and to the military industrial elements who want the war stimulus to continue endlessly. This proposition removes any doubt the paper was staffed through the chain of command. Despite this, several days afterward on 4 August, Commander of US forces IRAQ General Ordinero, dismissed the Reese report... ah, the plot thickens...

Everything in the paper militates against the chance of a post invasion strategic agreement. Add that over 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in the war, over 2 million people displaced and the country destroyed. One thing that the report revealed is that the Iraqi military has a Baathist Soviet culture, so that does not auger well for future US interests.

The US invasion and occupation has sharpened internal tribal animosities and undermined the central government. US arming of Sunnis and its de facto recognition of an independent Kurdistan has set the stage for more bloody civil war.

As of now there is a light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq – too bad it is lightning. So when the time of redeployment finally arrives, it will be HOLD THAT TIGER TIME.

Suggest Colonel Reese's paper be sent to Afghanistan military command as a guide to action setting up Afghan security forces; just change the tribal names and geography. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret