Nationalize the credit industry entirely. Then nationalize the oil industry, just because everything going wrong with the economy right now comes back to fuel prices. All profits are deposited into the federal treasury. Meanwhile, reorganize them so as to make them more efficient and less corrupt. Then, once all their books are straightened out, re-privatize the bulk of the credit industry, but keep a national bank for the private banks to compete with.
For the oil industry, I'm not convinced we should ever re-privatize them. It's simply not in the nation's best interests to do so. Make them a permanent part of the Department of Energy and take their foot off the neck of alternative energy resources.
Stop our overseas adventures. Work on a long-term plan to completely turn over our overseas bases and their respective missions to the host countries. Make our allies true partners rather than client states, and let them carry some of the load in preserving order. That would be a 10 year plan. Slice the Pentagon's budget accordingly, and convert the bulk of our active duty force into rapid-mobilizing guard and reserves.
Take 10% of the money saved from cuts in military spending (which I estimate to be in the billions of dollars) to fund a new Department of Peace (yes, I used to think this idea of Dennis's was geeky; I've come around), elevating the Peace Corps to department-level status and launching peace operations from current military installations. Offer incentive pay to career military personnel who would be looking at being kicked out of the service before retirement due to the reduction in force to roll their years of service over to service in the Peace Corps and train officers for the Peace Corps the way we do for our military.
Change the world.
To name a few things. Now seems like as good a time as any.
Planes cost money. Tanks cost money. Bombs cost money. Guns cost money. Bullets, armor, humvees, telephones, radios, computers... they all cost money.
Soldiers cost money.
How are we going to protect America if we don't have any money?
Posted by CarbonDate in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Sun Aug 31st 2008, 12:44 AM
John McCain chose first-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.
My first reaction was, "Who?" When I answered that question, my next question was, "Why?" The experience gap between him and Obama has been the central argument of his campaign. I know he's been trying to win over disaffected Clinton supporters (although from my experience, most people supporting Hillary Clinton did so because of what she had above her neck, not because of what she had between her legs), but if he wanted to choose a woman, there were plenty more qualified women in his party for him to choose from. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Condoleeza Rice come to mind. So why choose this first-term governor and former mayor of a town of 8,000 to be a 72 year-old heartbeat away from the presidency? Really, this isn't an example of a new commitment on the part of the GOP towards gender equality. It's an example of precisely the kind of sexism that smart, accomplished women have always complained about: the pretty, non-threatening woman with the nice smile advances ahead of older, more accomplished women. For those who've ever doubted this dynamic, I submit to you: Sarah Palin, vice presidential candidate.
She has no known foreign policy opinions, let alone experience, other than "YAY AMERICA!" Does anybody doubt that, should something happen to McCain (and remember, he's 72 years old and has had two bouts with cancer already) that she'd be anything other than a puppet for the same people who've been pulling George Bush's strings the past eight years? By choosing Palin, McCain has given a big "fuck you" to the women's movement, the Republican party, and the nation as a whole. After all, if he kicks off while in office and Palin has to succeed him, it's not his fucking problem what happens, is it?
But most importantly, it means he's essentially conceded the central argument of his own candidacy. He knows that the experience gap doesn't matter. He's even started co-opting Obama's rhetoric about changing the way Washington does business. Just over two months out from the election, and McCain has taken his message and thrown it out the window. Fuck it. Experience doesn't matter. You want a celebrity? I'll show you a celebrity! Look, over here! Pretty woman running for vice president!
Thing is, elections are about contrasting yourself from your opponent, not showing how much alike you can be. McCain seems to hope that he can win by blurring the distinctions between him and Obama on the issue of change. But anybody who watched Obama's convention speech has to know: we've got this thing in the bag. It's over.
Seems McCain knows it, too. Why else would he throw in the towel on his campaign theme right before his own convention?
None of this is a criticism of Sarah Palin, per se. To say she's massively underqualified to be President isn't really much of a knock. She's more qualified than me, for example, but to pretend that she can even hold a candle to Hillary Clinton is ridiculous. Hillary Clinton was one of the prime driving powers behind her husband's ascendancy and Presidency, and she's the only former First Lady to hold elected office (to the U.S. Senate, no less) herself. She's a singularly historic figure and one of the most influential women in the history of our nation -- period. Sarah Palin is a political nobody who was chosen simply for how the GOP thought she'd play in the cheap seats, and she's being used. It's the height of cynicism, misogyny, and contempt for the intelligence of the American people. It's fucking insulting to everybody who worries about the future of our nation. I think everybody who watches her debate Joe Biden (gawd, that's going to be ugly) will come to feel the same way.
That said, it's something of a relief that the McCain campaign is in such dire straits. Maybe nobody else wanted the job? I'd been getting worried to the point that I was doing research on what it would take to immigrate to Australia if McCain won. Looks like I can put that aside.
Posted by CarbonDate in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Mon Mar 31st 2008, 03:03 AM
Senator Clinton, Senator Obama:
Stop it. Just... stop it. Right now. This is getting you no where.
Senator Clinton, your kitchen sink strategy has your approval rating at Bush-like numbers.
Senator Obama, attacking Senator Clinton betrays your earlier words about a different kind of politics.
Enough already. Distinctions have been drawn. There's nothing left to talk about, except...
Oh yeah. Senator McCain. Remember him? The presumptive Republican nominee? The one who's going to be the next President of the United States if you keep it up?
Senator Clinton, you said you're going to take your campaign all the way to the convention. Well, that's fine. Really.
Senator Obama, you have the lead in pledged delegates, popular vote, and number of states won. Well, goody on you. That does you absolutely nothing if you lose in November.
Let's talk about a radical concept which would benefit both candidates in the long term: stop campaigning against each other. To the extent which you even mention each other at all on the campaign trail, make it positive. Focus your attention on Senator McCain. Let the primaries play out as they will. Introduce yourselves to constituents in the remaining primary states and talk about what you'll do as President and how you're a better choice than Senator McCain.
Super delegates? Jockey for them all you wish. Just keep it on the down low. Don't attack super delegates who endorse your primary opponent. Congratulate your opponent and move on. There are more important things to talk about.
Keep your surrogates on a leash. No talk of Rev. Wright or Ms. Ferraro. Keep it classy. Pledge to support your opponent no matter who ends up with the nomination. Encourage your supporters to do the same. We should be together, not fighting.
What does this benefit you? Well, Senator McCain will have to fight a two-front war until the Democratic National Convention while you two will be campaigning both for yourselves and for each other. Let's even agree in advance that one of you will be the nominee and the other will return to the Senate. No joint ticket; leave that final element of surprise -- the running mate -- until the convention. Honestly, do either of you want to be reduced to that status? You have more power in the Senate -- period.
How about it? Can I get a witness?
I'd like to draw everyone's attention to a matter of great importance to the island territory of Guam. As we speak, there is a bill before the Senate judiciary committee regarding this build-up. Whereas the people of Guam have no vote in either the House or the Senate, it is up to us to write to our elected representatives and ask them to allow the people of Guam to have a say in this matter.
For those who do not know, Guam is a U.S. territory east of the Philippines. Since they are not a foreign country, they have no right to say "no" to this military build-up, but neither do they have a voice in Congress to force debate on the matter. As it stands, 30% of the island is taken up by the military, and they are looking to expand even further. I am not explicitly opposed to this build-up, but I do feel that the good people of Guam (many of whom stood against the Japanese occupation during World War II, in the face of brutal persecution) should at least have the right to discuss the matter and consent to having even more of their island taken up by the U.S. military.
Please refer to this blog post on the matter, and if you are a constituent of one of these Senators, please write to them. Thank you.
Every year at this time, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Politicians, columnists, and activists all take their turn assessing the current state of affairs in American civil rights. Some tout the progress our nation has made, while others lament how far we have to go. Some wish for this discussion to go away, while others try to continue the struggle Dr. King led so long ago.
Dr. King died ten years before I was born. Only ten years, yet to hear my teachers tell it in school, the civil rights struggle was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Malcolm X was seldom, if ever, mentioned. To the extent that the nation had to acknowledge that the civil rights movement even happened, they were going to choose to lionize the less threatening of the two, lest children get ideas in their heads about how to affect change.
The nation has come far. To look at the history of where the nation stood when Dr. King was alive is simply mind-boggling. Even more mind-boggling are the number of people who were alive at the time and have seen such profound change. But in light of that, it makes sense that so many would simply want to say, "That's enough change for one life time," hang up their brains and vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.
But change continues. Today we have a credible African-American candidate for President of the United States. We also have a credible female candidate. Barring the unexpected, one or the other of them will be the Democratic nominee. Neither of them is the first to run, but they are the first to be taken seriously by their party's establishment.
Posted by CarbonDate in General Discussion: Presidential (Through Nov 2009)
Sun Jan 06th 2008, 04:22 AM
...and why he appeals to me. I'm currently bouncing back and forth between Obama and Edwards, but what strikes me is this:
Over the summer, I remarked that I'd like to see a leader who doesn't just promise to take care of the American people, but does what a leader is actually supposed to do: inspire people to greatness and to do great things. The nature of participatory democracy is just that: we're supposed to *participate* and be actively involved with the process. So even if I disagree with Sen. Obama on a number of issues (and I do), I almost feel like harping on those things misses the forest for the trees. If Sen. Obama can inspire people to stand up and take accountability for their own nation, then that is much more powerful than simply taking the right position on the Iraq War, or promising universal health care -- especially since any and all promises made by any candidate on the campaign trail are completely disposable once said candidate takes office.
In the military, I've learned not to judge a leader by how he or she behave, but by how his or her *people* behave. That, to me, says more about the character of the leader than any platitudes he or she might dish out. Obviously, on these forums, both sides have their share of obnoxious supporters (although I'd contend that a number of them are disruptors for the opposition), but how does the candidate affect the American people at large?
Obama inspired a large number of white Iowan Democrats to leave race aside and vote for a black man. Could he have the same affect on the nation at large? It remains to be seen. But one Edwards supporter described the Obama campaign as a "movement". I think that's exactly correct. The people who get Obama are the ones who feel *empowered* by his candidacy. There are those who are looking for a care-taker rather than a leader. I'd imagine that those people are less thrilled with Obama, and might be looking to one of the other candidates.
But I will say this to Obama supporters: the work doesn't end if you get him elected. It begins. If we are electing somebody who is inviting us back into the process of self-government, then we need to remain involved. If you expect to sit back and have President Obama magically solve everything, you're going to be sorely disappointed. I concede that's the case with all of the candidates (I regard them all as highly flawed), but I must stress: Obama is not the one who will solve our problems. We are, one way or the other.
But do I see that capability to inspire action in Clinton or Edwards? Clinton, not so much. Maybe for some, but not in most. Edwards, I see it a little bit, but not to the extent I do with Obama. And in the end, it's less about his positions on the issues and more about his capability to lead and inspire the *people* to do great things. That, to me, is what a President should be.
Will I be disappointed? Perhaps. And I may yet throw in behind Edwards. But those are my thoughts on Obama. You?
This past September, I returned to my home duty station from Iraq. I was greeted rather graciously by home unit when I returned there, and by my family when I returned to visit my home town. Was there a ticker-tape parade, or even a letter from some of the fine folks who claim to “support our troops”, whether by supporting our mission, calling for us to come home, or by putting a yellow magnetic ribbons on their SUVs? No, and I’m quite sure I wouldn’t have wanted any of that. When I returned home, all I wanted was to see and be with my family, because that reunion was not, to my mind, guaranteed, and it was, ultimately, the most important thing in the world to me when I was ducking and covering during rocket attacks on our base. Political considerations took a back seat, and I certainly didn’t want to hear a bunch of insincere praise from people who don’t know or care to know who I am underneath the uniform.
But now that the moment has passed and I’ve returned to my duty section and started the process of leaving that all behind me, certain things have crept up, and I’m not sure what to make of them.
I’ve read the story about former Lance Corporal James Blake Miller, better known in the press as the “Marlboro Marine”. He’s been kicked out of the Marines for having PTSD, is jobless, and divorced. He survived the Iraq War, but he’s still given up the life that he had. He lobbied several congressmen on behalf of the National Mental Health Association, but none had any interest in taking up his cause or, in at least one case, even seeing him. They politely shuffled him along and presumably went on to meet with more “important” lobbyists (and we all know what makes someone “important” in Washington, right?)
I read of the homeless vets, how one in every four homeless persons is a vet, and that Iraq War veterans are finding themselves on the street more quickly than Vietnam veterans. I should have been outraged, but instead I simply thought, “maybe that’s where I’ll end up.” I can’t make any sense of these thoughts, but in the past week or so I’ve had a strong urge to simply drop out of society, to just quit. What would be the loss? My frequent moves while I’ve been in the military have kept me perpetually single, so I have no family obligations. Once my term of service is up, I’ll have no further military obligations. What do I do with my life then? I’ve given thought to going into journalism, but that’s driven by a desire to affect change and make the world a better place. I still have that desire, but I’m no longer certain that I have the ability. For all the writing I do, it seems that nobody with the power to act on my words listens to them, and I honestly have a much better track record of “being right” in recent years than the majority of the power brokers in Washington.
I can no longer abide being a mere symbol in some politician’s crusade. “Support or Troops”, as though we‘re a baseball team. “I Support the Troops and My President”, as though the two go hand in hand. “Support Our Troops: Bring Them Home Alive”, as though clever framing amounts to anything but kudos from your fellow peace activists. Every day that passes, more of my brothers and sisters in arms are dying, and every day more of us are asking why. We have not, to date, received anything but platitudes from the people who support the war or excuses from the people who oppose it. “If I would have known then what I know now…” Known what, Senator? That war is hell, and that every battle plan goes out the window the moment the first shot is fired? People have been saying these things for centuries, millennia. These are not new lessons, but perhaps your study of history is limited to the lessons applicable to your ascent to power. To the millions who marched in the streets trying to tell you then what you know now, you turned a deaf ear.
To those who still support our mission? I’ll give you credit for staying true to your convictions, but to what end are we fighting? Can I get a straight answer from you just once? Not just a platitude espousing the virtues of freedom being on the march when freedom in Iraq seems to be synonymous with large explosions, gunfire, and flag-draped caskets rolling in front of me? To borrow a phrase, what the hell are we fighting for? Nobody really seems to know, any more -- even the people who insist that we have to keep fighting.
I’m not talking about politicians, pundits, bloggers, or callers on talk radio. I’m talking about my fellow service members, my fellow Iraq War veterans. Many of us are (were) not quite clear on what we’re doing there, and we’ve more or less resigned ourselves to the notion that it’s out of our hands. The powers that be in Washington are going to do what they’re going to do, and it’s going to have little to do with anything we do, for good or for ill. But is that as it should be?
I question whether you, who would ask for my vote (and my money) based on promises you’ve no obligation to keep, really feel as though you are accountable to us for the decisions you either have made or will make in the future. If I, in the course of my duties in Iraq, made a mistake that cost someone his life, I would rightly have to be accountable for that. You, who made a mistake that cost literally thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis their lives, ask for a promotion. Do you feel that you have at least a moral obligation to stop and listen to what I have to say for a few seconds before you turn around and hit me up for cash? The answer seems to be no, based on the response I’ve received trying to contact various Presidential candidates.
But I am here, and I’m not going to go away. My ranks are swelling, and soon we will be legion. You have only yourselves to thank for that.
What of you, who opposed it? Congratulations, you were on the popular side of this discussion before it was cool. Of late though, I am decreasingly impressed with your prognostic skills. You were only as right as the bloggers and protestors and hippy demonstrators with an internet connection and the attention span to figure out that something didn’t quite add up. Really, in between patting yourself on the back for how right you were, take a moment to ask yourself if you’re aware that there were a whole swath of people in the streets who were just as right, but who’ve never had a microphone put in front of their faces or had the opportunity to have an actual conversation with one of the people asking to be elevated to the highest office of the land. And to have your primary qualification simply be that you were as smart as the rest of us? It leaves much to be desired, congressman.
To what end do I extend my efforts when the people with the true power to change the world only listen to the people who pay for their political campaigns? Perhaps I hope that, like a dog barking in the night, I’ll start a chain reaction of other dogs barking, until so many of us are making so much noise that you can no longer sleep and are compelled to open your window and yell at us to shut up. And at that moment, we will jump in your window, pee on your carpet, eat your food, and tear your house apart. You’ll wonder, stupidly, what just happened and why all these dogs are in your house, but it will no longer matter.
It will be our house.
Today I remarked to one of my fellow service members, “I wonder if the Iraqis will shoot off fireworks for us.” He said, “I hope they don’t shoot fireworks for us.” I retorted, “Oh, did I say ‘for’? I meant ‘at’.”
This is what passes for humor in a war zone.
There were no fireworks today, save for a very large controlled detonation by our Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit. Generally EOD sends out a notification before they have a controlled det, but if I happen to be in my trailer (read: asleep) when they make the announcement, I don’t generally catch it. Today was one of those days, and I stopped for a second when I heard it, then kept walking. The crusty old Master Sergeant, who was in the Army a long time back, didn’t even flinch or break his stride. I’m sure he laughs at all of us “newcomers” (I’ve “only” been in the service for seven years) who still jump at every little explosion.
No fireworks, but there were festivities. The KBR-operated DFAC served BBQed chicken, ribs, and some other summer grill staples. There was a “fun run” in the morning and a few other things I didn’t participate in. The main thing I saw was the “pie in the face” contest. Everybody laughs at the pie in the face contest for the obvious reasons, but I find it amusing for its poetic irony. It’s a rather apt metaphor for what the people who run this country are doing to us on a daily basis.
An old Vietnam veteran I worked with back at home station died. He and I had several conversations about war, the Air Force, the Army, how the squadron was run, and how I felt about going to Iraq. We talked about the Iraq War itself and how it only served to line the pockets of the powers that be. He was one of the few people around me who shared my point of view on these things, and I feel like the latent wisdom that he possessed was lost on the people he worked with. He was at a point in his life where such things no longer bothered him, however. He had accepted it as the way of things, and he had accepted that people will generally not listen to people whose world view clashes with their own, especially when they say things that trouble them or force them to think. Somehow, I feel like he knew his time was coming after all these years. When one’s mortality is shoved in one’s face like it is in a war zone, you begin to become much more in tune with your life line.
Do I feel like I learned anything from the time that I knew him? I learned that wise old birds are not heeded by the people who could benefit most from their experience. They are mocked, ignored, shunned. Pretty much the way young people with differing world views are treated. Things never change, and people don’t take you more seriously with age. They believe what they want to believe no matter what anybody else has to say.
War no longer makes any sense to me. The tripe about “defending freedom” and such are complete nonsense. We are defending no such thing out here. We’re not defending anything. We’re invading and conquering another sovereign nation. The use of military force in the past usually bore at least a pretense of a genuine threat to our country. With the initial line about weapons of mass destruction in ashes, they fall back to a sort of reverse domino theory about democracy in Iraq spreading to other Muslim nations. It’s an even weaker case than the one presented to the American people during the Vietnam War. It’s all built on lies, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the case with every war. The people who make the decision to go to war bear no cost, offer no sacrifice; that is left to those they can convince to fight for them. For a powerful nation like America, the decision to go to war comes easily for leaders with no conscience. Victory is assured and they will be hailed as brave heroes by the people at home. The soldiers who bear the actual cost are, and always will be, anonymous faces to the power brokers who push this on us.
I understand why politicians in this country so readily go to war. What I don’t understand is why the people put up with it anymore. Why are people incapable of saying no to war? Do people even believe that they have a say in the matter, or do they simply accept war as the inherent way of things? Do they just not think about it, with it being “over there” rather than in their own back yards? Do they care? About their lives, the lives of their children, the type of world their children and grandchildren are destined to grow up in, without any say as to the gigantic mess that’s been created in all of our names, the hundreds of thousands of corpses and martyrs and family members swearing revenge against the Americans for killing loved ones who, to us, are nameless and faceless unpersons, completely disposable when held against the discomfort and inconvenience of actually fucking doing something about it?
And what of us on the ground? Why do we continue to agree to perform these tasks? Are we incapable of seeing that which is plain when we look at it honestly rather than through the rose-colored propaganda glasses provided to us by our dearly beloved leaders in Washington? Are these glasses glued to our eyes such that we’re incapable of seeing the giant fucking pie in our face that they tell us is our reward for a job well done when it’s really just for their amusement?
Is this the land of the free? The home of the brave? Is it really?
As I was walking back to my trailer at the end of the night, the band that was playing as part of the Independence Day festivities called their area to attention and proceeded to play the Star Spangled Banner. Normally when it begins to play, I snap to attention and salute the flag until it’s done playing. But instead, I kept walking away from the street lights and into the shadows. As I took a few steps, I could no longer hear the National Anthem playing. All I could hear were attack helicopters and gun fire….
Contrary to popular belief, Britain is not the second largest player in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. That honor belongs to Blackwater USA the increasinly well-known "private military contractor"firm. Blackwater has 48,000 private soldiers in Iraq, about six times the number of soldiers provided by the Brits. The use of the term "mercenary" is disputed by Blackwater:
Blackwater objects to the use of the m-word for its employees, preferring the term "private military contractors." For one thing, "mercenary" is not accurate. Private military contractors in Iraq do not execute offensive operations--they only provide security, and their rules of engagement are to use proportionate force only when attacked.
In fact, Blackwater objects to its personnel being tarred as mercenaries mainly because they regard it as an assault on their character and their professionalism. "We're in nine different countries," says Chris Taylor, "probably have about 2,300 people deployed today, another 21,000 in our database, and these are people the majority of whom have already had a career in public service, either military or law enforcement, who are honorably discharged, who have any number of medals for heroism. Yet we still have to face critics who say everybody is a mercenary--they're only out for a buck."
One might question why they felt the need to leave the military for Blackwater if they were motivated by pure idealism as Taylor tends to imply. It's also hard to ignore that Blackwater contractors make $100,000 during the six months out of the year that they deploy to Iraq. But the Weekly Standard article offers assurances of Blackwater's good intentions:
He hardly fits the soldier of fortune archetype. He is a staunch Christian--his father helped James Dobson found Focus on the Family--and his politically conservative views are well known in Washington, where Prince supports a number of religious and right-leaning causes. He attended Hillsdale College in Michigan, a font of conservative ideology, where he is remembered for being the first undergraduate at the small liberal arts school to serve on the local volunteer fire department. (The only book on the shelf in the boardroom of Blackwater's Northern Virginia offices is a copy of the eminent conservative historian Paul Johnson's A History Of The American People.)
Nobody can say Prince is in it for the money, either. His father Edgar started a small die-cast shop in Holland, Michigan, in 1965. Along the way he patented the now-ubiquitous lighted vanity mirror in automobile visors; a year after his 1995 death, the family company sold for over $1 billion, an enormous inheritance for Erik and his sisters.
So he's a right-wing fundamentalist Christian multi-millionaire? Why is this left-leaning working class atheist not comforted by the thought of a guy like that commanding his own private army of former Navy SEALs and Marine infantrymen? Must be something in the water.
Perhaps the Weekly Standard was playing to its audience a bit, but fundamentalist Christians who get into positions of power (see: George W. Bush) tend to believe that their power is due to divine will, and thus that they are above the laws of man in how they use that power. And what sort of power does Mr. Prince have? According to the same article:
* A burgeoning logistics operation that can deliver 100- or 200-ton self-contained humanitarian relief response packages faster than the Red Cross.
* A Florida aviation division with 26 different platforms, from helicopter gunships to a massive Boeing 767. The company even has a Zeppelin.
* The country's largest tactical driving track, with multi-surface, multi-elevation positive and negative cambered turns, a skid pad, and a ram pad for drivers learning how to escape ambushes.
* A 20-acre manmade lake with shipping containers that have been mocked up with ship rails and portholes, floating on pontoons, used to teach how to board a hostile ship.
* A K-9 training facility that currently has 80 dog teams deployed around the world. Ever wondered how to rappel down the side of nine stacked shipping containers with a bomb-sniffing German shepherd dog strapped to your chest? Blackwater can teach you.
* A 1,200-yard-long firing range for sniper training.
* A sizable private armory. The one gun locker I saw contained close to 100 9mm handguns--mostly military issue Beretta M9s, law enforcement favorite Austrian Glocks, and Sig Sauers.
* An armored vehicle still in development called the Grizzly; the prototype's angular steel plates are ferocious-looking. The suspension is being built by one of Black water's North Carolina neighbors--Dennis Anderson, monster truck champion and the man responsible for the "Grave Digger" (the ne plus ultra of monster trucks).
Some might be concerned that Prince, or perhaps one of his successors, might one day have an axe to grind with a future administration, especially after the Iraq War ends and their fat contracts go away, and all these "private military contractors" still have families to feed. For a guy with helicopter gunships, armored personnel carriers, and tens of thousands of highly trained ex-Marines and SEALs at his beck and call, all of whom were "willing to drink the Blackwater Kool-aid", as Blackwater's vice president for strategic initiatives Chris Taylor put it, the step from "CEO" to "war lord" is rather short. The checks and balances that prevent the President of the United States from becoming a military dictator don't apply to CEOs of "private military contractors". And while Blackwater USA may not currently engage in offensive operations, they are more than capable of carrying them out in the future. If there was a militia out there with an armory this big, the ATF would have raided them by now. Or more accurately, the ATF would have tried to raid them by now.
All of this as the Iraq War weakens our actual military.
But it's not just soldiers who are crossing over to Blackwater:
A number of senior CIA and Pentagon officials have taken top jobs at Blackwater, including firm vice chairman Cofer Black, who was the Bush Administration's top counterterrorism official at the time of the 9/11 attacks (and who famously said in 2002, “There was before 9/11 and after 9/11. After 9/11, the gloves came off.”) Robert Young Pelton, author of the new book, Licensed to Kill, says that an early Blackwater contract—a secret no-bid $5.4 million deal with the CIA—came in 2002 after Prince placed a call to Buzzy Krongard, who was then the CIA's executive director.
A CIA source with whom I spoke said that Prince is very tight with top agency officials and has a “green badge,” the security pass for contractors who have access to CIA installations. “He's over there
Some have speculated that Blackwater USA is actually a CIA front. That would probably be a best-case scenario, unless one takes Mr. Prince at his heart-of-gold word.
Last year, I discussed the Army recruiting gangbangers and neo-Nazis to fight in Iraq, as well as American cities' lack of preparedness for a major disaster. Urban warfare in the U.S. combating gangs or hate groups who've received training in heavy weaponry from our military might be the next logical step for Blackwater USA after the Iraq War ends. Best case, they'll be training U.S. law enforcement personnel. Worst case, they'll be duking it out with the gangbangers and skinheads themselves... for a price.
In short, there are a lot of potentially disastrous after-effects that spring out from a private army like Blackwater building up inside of the U.S. The time to curtail its exponential growth would appear to be now, before their military capabilities outmatch our own. While we try to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Sunni insurgents in Iraq, we may be feeding the single greatest existential threat to the U.S. right here at home, much like we did with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein back in the 80s.
I recognize the value in having a company available to provide training to military and law enforcement personnel, and in that regard, Blackwater USA could be a major asset. My concern lies with any company or person maintaining a private army this large. Congress should be concerned, as well. Blackwater is not sworn to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Their loyalty lies with the almighty... dollar.
UNITED NATIONS, March 24 — The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed Saturday to impose new, more stringent sanctions to press Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and rejoin negotiations over its nuclear program.
All 15 members of the Security Council adopted the sanctions, Resolution 1747, which focus on constraining Iranian arms exports, the state-owned Bank Sepah — already under Treasury Department sanctions — and the Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite military organization separate from the nation’s conventional armed forces.
Iran is defiant, of course. It really strikes me that they're not doing everything they could to prevent a war with the U.S. Hugely irresponsible, on its face.
The Iranian representative to the session denounced the action as unlawful and unjustifiable — and vowed it would have no impact on what Tehran describes as a peaceful nuclear energy program.
The Council acted after months of increasing tensions between the United States and Iran, not only over its nuclear program, concerns that many Western and Middle Eastern countries share. The United States in recent weeks has publicly accused Iran of supplying new and powerful explosives to insurgents in Iraq.
And the Council voted one day after naval forces under the command of Revolutionary Guards seized eight British sailors and seven British marines in waters off the coast of Iraq.
Well, let's talk about outside nations providing support to insurgents in Iraq:
CAIRO (AP) — Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash.
Saudi government officials deny that any money from their country is being sent to Iraqis fighting the government and the U.S.-led coalition.
But the U.S. Iraq Study Group report said Saudis are a source of funding for Sunni Arab insurgents. Several truck drivers interviewed by The Associated Press described carrying boxes of cash from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, money they said was headed for insurgents.
And the U.S. has been providing support to organizations linked to Al Qaeda:
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran.
There's a lot more in that article, so I recommend reading the whole thing. Here's something that ties back to the briefing I received back in December:
The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”
In that briefing, we were told basically just that: Sunnis are moderate, Shi'ite are extremist. The Sergeant Major made no mention of the fact that Saddam Hussein was Sunni. We have always been at war with Eastasia, after all. But wait! There's more!
Martin Indyk, a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration who also served as Ambassador to Israel, said that “the Middle East is heading into a serious Sunni-Shiite Cold War.” Indyk, who is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, added that, in his opinion, it was not clear whether the White House was fully aware of the strategic implications of its new policy. “The White House is not just doubling the bet in Iraq,” he said. “It’s doubling the bet across the region. This could get very complicated. Everything is upside down.”
Again, this goes back to what I was saying in August: the only path to Bush-style victory in the Iraqi civil war is to pick sides, heedless of the blood that will be spilled in the process. Bush has chosen the side of the Sunnis, despite the fact that Sunni insurgents account for the vast majority of U.S. casualties. But it's not about protecting troops in Iraq. It's about protecting the national security interests of Saudi Arabia and Israel, two of our biggest allies in the region. In other words, nothing we do in Iraq is done with the goal of a peaceful Iraq in mind. It's all done with the goal of undermining Iran and protecting Israel's and Saudi Arabia's interests. If a Sunni-Shi'ite Cold War is dawning, we need to be ahead of the curve and start planning. Our oil interests are at stake, and to hell with the troops.
I'll follow up on this some more later. And no, it won't be another month and a half before I post again.
I will be introducing legislation that I think offers a better alternative. First, my legislation will cap the number of troops in Iraq as of January 1, and will require the Administration to seek Congressional authorization for any additional troops. The President has finally said this is not an open-ended commitment in Iraq, but he is providing the Iraqis with an open-ended presence of American troops.
I think this is a bare minimum measure. Of course, President Bush is so accustomed to doing whatever he wants with troop levels that he might think that that is his right, but Congressional oversight, especially in the absence of a formal declaration of war, ought to be the norm, not the exception.
Second, as a means to increase our leverage with the Iraqi government and to clearly send a message that there are consequences to their inaction, I would impose conditions for continued funding of the Iraqi security forces and the private contractors working for the Iraqis.
This is silly. It's not like they want us there to begin with, and the private contractors are there to pull a tidy profit for the Bush administration's buddies.
Here's my proposal: cancel the sweetheart deals Bush made with his buddies like Halliburton and hire out Iraqi businesses who are hiring Iraqi workers, instead. You stimulate the Iraqi economy and instead of taking money from Al Qaeda to blow their infrastructure up, Iraqi civilians will be taking American money to build it up. It's a win-win, unless you're Dick Cheney. Solve the unemployment problem and the ease the insurgency problem all in one fell swoop.
Also, instead of hiring Blackwater USA to pull security details for $100,000 a year while our military train Iraqi forces, have the Blackwater mercs train the Iraqi forces. The Blackwater mercs really are very well qualified for this particular mission and it would allow our military to return to the mission they were trained for.
My legislation would require certification that the security forces were free of sectarian and militia influence and were actually assuming greater responsibility for Iraqi security along with other conditions. We must not let US funds, taxpayer funds, be used to train members of sectarian militias who are responsible for so much of the violence in Iraq.
This raises an interesting question: what about the potential for sectarian violence in the United States when the gang-bangers and skinheads who've been training in urban warfare tactics over in Iraq return home? Our cities aren't prepared for that. Why is nobody talking about that in Washington?
Unfortunately, it appears that our funds to Iraqi security forces may be going to the people we are trying to restrain. A news report last week in an article entitled, "Mahdi Army Gains Strength Through Unwitting Aid Of US," reported that the U.S. military drive to train and equip Iraq security forces has unwittingly strengthened anti-American, Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which has been battling to take over much of the capital city as American forces are trying to secure it. According to this news report, U.S. Army commanders, and enlisted men who are patrolling east of Baghdad said al-Sadr's militia's had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and Army units that they've trained and armed. Said one soldier, "they'll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night."
Well, that's called "moonlighting". Refer back to my point about the unemployment problem in Iraq.
We need to inform the Iraqi government in no uncertain terms that there are consequences -- terms that there are consequences, that we will take funds away from their troops, not from our troops, many of whom still lack armored vehicles and counterinsurgency measure devices and communications equipment. And we will not fund the Iraqis if our troops are going to enter into sectarian battles where some of the participants have received American training and support.
Why even be there then if we're not going to train them to take care of themselves? Pack our bags and go home if that's going to be our approach.
Third, I would hold the Administration accountable for their empty promises as well. My bill requires the Bush Administration to certify that Iraq has disarmed the militias;
...because their word means so much....
has ensured that a law has finally been passed for the equitable sharing of oil revenues;
...among whom? Between U.S. companies and the U.S. government? Iraqi oil revenues should go to Iraq. Any money we do take should go directly to contracting out IRAQI companies to rebuild their infrastructure.
that the Iraqi government, under American influence and even pressure, has made the constitutional changes necessary to ensure rights for minority communities;
Unfortunately, they're going to do what they want after we leave. Nothing we can do about that.
that the de-Baathification process has been reversed to allow teachers, professionals, and others who join the Baath party as a means to get a job to serve in the Iraqi government. I would also require the Administration to engage in a regional diplomatic initiative including all of Iraq's neighbors to address Iraq's future and to understand and convey clearly that the United States expects Iraq's neighbors in the stability and security of the new Iraqi state.
Hey, something I agree with. I even proposed this back in, like, August:
Glad Sen. Clinton thinks the CarbonDate Plan is worth endorsing.
If these conditions are not met or are not on their way to being met within six months, a new Congressional authorization requirement would be triggered.
Requirement for what?
Finally, I would prohibit any spending to increase troop levels unless, and until, the Secretary of Defense certifies that our American troops will have the proper training and equipment for whatever mission they are ordered to fulfill.
Again, because their word means so much....
Yesterday I read the classified report outlining the findings by the Department of Defense's Inspector General about the problems that have been faced by our troops getting the equipment they desperately need in combat areas like Iraq. The Inspector General did not have the full cooperation of the Department of Defense and it is heartbreaking that the Inspector General could conclude that the U.S. military still has failed to equip our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially for the kind of warfare that they are confronting with IEDs and insurgents who are attacking them in asymmetric, unconventional warfare.
They're equipped pretty well, from what I've been briefed. This is how the insurgents do their business:
They video tape every attack they make against U.S. forces. If a particular IED successfully takes out an armored humvee, they share that information with other insurgents so they know what will work against us. If it doesn't, they take the tape back to their supplier and tell him that the bomb didn't work and show him exactly what went wrong. They then adapt accordingly. Information sharing and adaptation are huge.
Another thing they'll do: randomly fire mortar rounds into the green zone. They know that they type of mortar rounds they use are impossible to aim, so they don't try to go for a particular target. A fellow NCO who was over there not too long ago said that one round hit the DRMO dump. That's where the Air Force sends busted or outdated computer equipment. Basically, they hit a landfill. The strategic purpose here is to be a nuisance to U.S. forces. Their 30 minute operation results in a four hour clean-up on our end. The 1300 mortar round bunker runs became routine. This lulls people into complacency and fatigue, and eventually somebody slips up and provides the insurgents with an opening to do some real damage. Psy ops is huge.
What's my point here? My point is that it's not a question of keeping our troops comletely safe from harm so they can endure a long-term occupation. It's a question of having a clearly-defined mission so that the troops can get in, get it done, and then leave. Protracted warfare benefits nobody; Sun Tzu wrote that.
Posted by CarbonDate in General Discussion (01/01/06 through 01/22/2007)
Sun Jan 07th 2007, 04:24 AM
Previously I posted regarding a briefing we received here at Andersen from the PACOM senior enlisted advisor wherein he mentioned that we were entering into a "500 year war". You can read that entry in my journal or at my blog http://carbondate.blogspot.com .
Admiral William J. Fallon, PACOM/CC, will be replacing Gen. John Abizaid as CENTCOM/CC.
CSM William T. Kinney, PACOM Senior Enlisted Advisor, answers directly to Admiral Fallon.
CSM Kinney told us we were going into a 500 year war. His boss is now going to be running that war.
As a few of you may know, I'm an active duty NCO in the USAF. I don't like to bring that up much, since it might seem that I'm trying to argue from authority rather than making my point through analysis of facts. But in this case, it's a crucial detail to what I'm writing about today.
Yesterday we had an "all hands call" here at Andersen AFB for junior NCOs (E-5 & E-6) to be briefed by the senior enlisted advisor of USSTRATCOM, Command Master Chief William N. Nissen and the senior enlisted advisor of USPACOM, Command Sergeant Major William T. Kinney (USMC) about long term strategy. Cool, I thought. Maybe I might learn something here.
Boy did I, but not the way I expected. The first half with CMCPO Nissen was informative, if a bit dry. He talked about how DoD structure worked in times of war vs. times of peace and what the functions of braches are vs. the functions of combatant commands. It was interesting, but I was getting a bit drowsy toward the end of it.
The second half was a different story. CSM Kinney got up and spoke, and his speech could not have been more blatantly partisan if he'd been wearing a GOP button. He mentioned "uneducated liberals", talked about Democrats as "quitters" and said that the enemy had influenced the election in their favor this past November. He said that people who voted for Democrats were voting from emotion vice intellect and that we needed to "educate" our loved ones back home or people we ran into in the airport about the nature of our enemy. He had a number of doozies, like referring to Saudi Arabia as a "moderate Muslim country", referring to people telling Israel to give up Jerusalem, and stating that the Iraq War is nothing like the Vietnam War because "when we left Vietnam, it ended! This is gonna keep going!" I still don't know what a "state-sponsored country" is, and I snickered out loud when he at his Freudian slip when he said that the terrorists had already gotten rid of a secular government in "Iraq... er, Iran".
He talked about how the Taliban said that we may have all the weapons, but they have all the time. That struck me as obvious, since it's sort of their fucking country and we're going to have to leave some day. Then he went into the Caliphate and how this apparently is the greatest threat to mankind since Nazi Germany. The Caliphate is a pipe dream of some Islamists to form a unified Muslim nation and institute Islamic law over half the eastern hemisphere. Frankly, most of the countries covered are already Muslim nations, and if it gets them to stop blowing each other (and us) up, I'm all for it. But that presumes that these Islamists have the means of carrying their dream out, which they don't. Philosophical views aside, most Muslims (like most Americans) simply want to be left the fuck alone to live their lives and only engage in terrorism under extreme duress or desperation. It hardly seems like the sort of thing around which we should be forming our long-term foreign policy and military strategy.
And how long term is it? Sgt Maj Kinney told us about the "Long War", which is what the Bush Administration now calls the Global War on Terror (GWOT). They've never offered a timeline in the past, but they apparently do have one. Sgt Maj Kinney let it slip with this one:
"We're entering into a 500 year war here, people."
Let that sink in for a bit. It took me almost a day before I said, "Wait, what!?" I initially ignored the remark because so much else of what he said was just complete bullshit, but he said this in the context of talking about how this was going to be a long war that Americans don't have the patience for because it's not the kind of short war that our MTV generation (and Sun Tzu, if you've ever read Art of War; he wrote, "No country has ever profited from protracted warfare." But I digress.) prefer. He was saying that we have to have the "will" to outlast them. On top of that, he's in a very influential position as the senior enlisted advisor for PACOM.
So it's not that the administration doesn't have a timeline. They do. It's just that they don't want to tell anybody what it is:
I'm going to write some letters. I suggest you do the same.
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