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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Welcome to the TerrorDome

Last Thursday night it was in Nice, France. Next, will be another city. Maybe on another continent. In the last month, dozens of terror attacks have killed hundreds of people across the world. Every public event is a potential target for these killers, who not only welcome death, but confuse our leaders who have tried to stop them.

From Rami G. Khouri at Agence Global:

Every terror attack generates anger, shock, and powerful emotional and political commitments of our indomitable will not to be terrorized, to stand firm and strong, to affirm liberty, free speech, and pluralism. We are all, sincerely, Boston, Paris, London, Nice, Orlando, Dacca, New York, Baghdad, and a hundred other cities around the world, and a hundred more that will be attacked in due course. We will stand with them all in a steel chain of humanity against barbarism.

But, then what? What happens if after a dozen more attacks, the power of their barbarism outpaces the power of our solidarity? Do we willingly give up all of our rights to be kept safe by an authoritarian leader?

We need to debate what we can really do to fight terror, and win.

The policy responses of Western governments and the emotional responses of entire societies suggest we have no idea how to respond to defeat this monster. More from Khouri: (editing by the Wrongologist)

We see no serious questioning of whether… [our] primary focus on militarism reduces or increases the terror threat. We see no credible willingness among most governments, and most of their associated media and intellectual spheres, to transcend Islam as the main analytical…[frame in which to view] the world of terror.

Was the truck driver behind the attack in Nice an Islamic terrorist? Was he a lone wolf with psychological issues? We assume he is a terrorist because of his Arab name. Many terrorists conform to the Islamic narrative – think about the Orlando shooter, or the Muslim couple in San Bernardino. This assumption also shapes attitudes and policy responses of governments when they respond to mass killings. Our first thought is always Islamic terrorism, as in the initial response to the Dallas shooter when we heard his middle initial was “X”.

Our two flawed presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are evenly matched on protecting us: Clinton wants to push out the Assad government, in part by using ISIS mercenaries as proxies, plus US drones and bombing. Meanwhile, The Donald wants to fight an all-out war on ISIS and Islamic ‘terrorism’ in whatever shape. GW Bush anyone?

The US is now facing the consequences of our simplistic knowledge of the Middle East. We are stuck in the 1950s, a time when we could impose regime change in disobedient countries. Today, we drone them, and they kill a few of our citizens every few months. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

When will we ask the presidential candidates how long we have to put up with this steady stream of death and pain? What do they propose to do to tackle the terror problem at its roots? Anger, square-jawed determination, serial incompetence, and heavy-handed, counter-productive militarized policies are signs of cumulative failure.

Can we ask for a more serious response after Nice? Or, do we wait for a few more attacks, and ask then?

  • The Rio Olympics are starting in less than three weeks; the long list of concerns surrounding the games continues to grow.
  • The US military is eyeing a potential increase in troop engagement in Yemen to confront threats by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Why?

Our domestic terror victims are collateral damage of the decisions by the Powers That Be to support using extremists as a weapon. What we see today is not unforeseen blowback, it was knowable.

The entire world needs a wake-up. How should we answer the threat of the TerrorDome?

Here is Steel Pulse to get us going with “Find it Quick” from their 1982 album, “True Democracy”. You weren’t paying attention, but Mr. Obama said something in Dallas to the effect of “those in authority reject the cries of want” which comes from “Find it Quick“:

Sample Lyrics:

We got to find this love oh
Oh help us Jah above yeh come on
We got to find this love
Those in authority reject the cries of want
Those in power corrupt and weak in heart
This world don’t you know that
Hatred has grown
Love fly gone out through the window
We’ve got to find it we got to find it
Love fly gone out through the window
We’ve got to find it

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Veterans Day: 11/11/2015

In his latest book, The Last of the Presidents Men, Bob Woodward reveals a previously unreported memo from 1972 in which Nixon writes Kissinger, saying that a years-long bombing campaign in Vietnam had produced “zilch,” even as he pitched the exact opposite message to the American public. He wrote that the day after giving an interview to Dan Rather, declaring that the bombing of North Vietnam had been “very, very effective”. Nixon’s note said:

K. We have had 10 years of total control of the air in Laos and V.Nam. The result=Zilch. There is something wrong with the strategy or the Air Force.

Nixon then increased bombing, dropping some 1.1 million tons in 1972 alone — more than in any single year of LBJ’s presidency. From Woodward: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

[Nixon] Us[ed] Vietnam to enhance his re-election prospects…breaking perhaps the most sacred trust for a commander in chief.

All these years later, it is hard to believe that anything Nixon did could surprise us, yet there it is.

Since the 1970’s, a meme among conservatives is that the reason we lost in Vietnam was a lack of will, brought on by liberals and war protesters. But thinking that the primary reason we lost Vietnam was that liberals stabbed America in the back is ridiculous. You may remember that in 1968, Nixon said he had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. He had no plan, and by 1972, when he sent the note to Kissinger, he knew he was losing the war.

In total, the war stretched on for 7 years after the announcement of Nixon’s “secret plan” to end it.

Today we hear that feckless leadership is causing us to “lose” in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. This comes from a few career military, and many, many Republican Chicken Hawks, who continue to raise the specter of Vietnam.

On Veterans Day, let’s remember that Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan are all places where our boys bled and died on foreign soil. All are places where our money was recycled to the war profiteers, and where we left behind zero ability to foster the “democratic” way of life that our politicians wanted to bring to those nations.

And what about the “sacred trust?” Politicians break the sacred trust to its citizens and soldiers all the time, if there is an opportunity to spread the gospel, secure the oil, or beat the “enemy”. War profiteering for private corporations, socialized losses for the people. US soldiers dead or maimed for life. Their families robbed of optimism, their memories an open wound.

THAT is the sacred trust in ruins. That is the legacy of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan on this, and on all Veterans Days.

And do the Chicken Hawks take care of our veterans after the fact, once they come home? They do not. The CH’s “cut taxes” mantra means that more money for the oligarchs has to come from somewhere. So, they try to cut social programs, because war profiteers (including those in Congress) can’t make any money off government-run, not-for-profit social programs.

Veterans have been with us since before the founding of the Republic. To observe this Veterans Day, here is a reasonably obscure song by Bob Dylan, “’Cross the Green Mountain.” It appeared on the soundtrack of the film, “Gods and Generals,” a Civil War film that was entirely financed by Ted Turner as a pet project.

The song speaks to the horror faced by soldiers in the Civil War. Dylan’s Civil War tale could be about any war, as his worn-down singing captures the essence of a soldier pining for home while reflecting on what may be his last battle, his last moments in life. Below is the abbreviated version of the song that was used as the official music video:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

That gives you a taste, but if you want the whole thing, the full 8 minute song was part of Dylan’s Bootleg Series #8: “Tell Tale Signs,” and you can view it here.

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 4, 2015

The 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon passed unnoticed by this blogger last week.

Wrongo was drafted in 1966. He was on orders for Vietnam twice, but managed to spend most of his service time in West Germany, running a nuclear missile unit. He lost many friends in Vietnam, but was home, and out of the service in time for most of the big protest marches of the 1970’s. By 1974-75, no one in the States truly expected a “victory”. The debate was, according to Richard Nixon, how to achieve “peace with honor.”

For Nixon, that meant selling America on the premise of “protecting the troops as they withdraw,” or, “securing the release of POW’s”, which Nixon used to extend the war for years.

Since the 1970’s there has been a meme among conservatives that the reason we lost in Vietnam was a lack of national will, brought on by liberals and the war protesters. We still hear this today from a few career military, and many Republican chicken hawks. But, the idea that the primary reason we lost Vietnam was a liberal stab in America’s back is ridiculous, when you realize that Nixon stretched out the war for 6 years beyond the announcement of his “secret plan” to end it.

And if you remember how rapidly the South Vietnamese regime collapsed when it was no longer being propped up by the US military, you know their argument falls apart.

Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan are all places where our boys bled on foreign soil. All are places where our money was recycled to our war profiteers, and where we left behind no ability to bring about the “democratic” way of life that some of us had wished for them.

War profiteering for private corporations, socialized losses for the people. US soldiers dead or maimed for life. This is the legacy of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. And do Chicken Hawks care about taking care of our veterans after the fact, here at home? They do not. Their mantra is cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes on the war profiteers. Cut social programs, because how can a war profiteer (including those in Congress) possibly make any money off a government-run non-profit social program?

Wake up America, time to throw the Chicken Hawks out of office! Today’s wake up song is “There’s A Wall in Washington” by Iris DeMent:

Sample Lyrics:
A boy, he traveled from far away
to walk the path ’til he finds that name
He reaches his hand up and traces each letter
He stares at the name of his unknown father
His heart is young and it’s filled with pain
in anger he cries out
‘Who is to blame for this wall in Washington
that’s made of cold black granite?
Why is my father’s name etched here in it
On this wall in Washington?’

Your Monday Hot Links:

Czech libertarians received 200,000 applications for citizenship of Liberland, a seven-square-mile microstate established between Serbia and Croatia. The economy will be based on a digital cryptocurrency. Libertarian paradise. What could go wrong?

Reuters says that China will crack down on strippers who perform at rural funerals. Apparently, the Ministry of Culture is taking aim at performances which corrupt “social morals”. Strippers at funerals?

Statues of Snowden, Manning and Assange were unveiled in Berlin. All are considered heroes on the German political left for leaking US intelligence documents. The life-size statues will be going on a world tour, since they have fewer travel restrictions than the real people.

Want to carry a gun in your pants without risk of becoming a gelding? Try Thunderware, a holster designed to give you security while you pack heat near your meat. Is it pants stuffing? Is this for the guy who want you to think he has more down there than he really has? You be the judge. Gun fanatics bristle when people say that their attachment to guns is very phallic, yet they market Thunderware with a straight face.

Audi has announced that it is making synthetic diesel fuel from just water and carbon dioxide. In a bid to put an end to our fossil fuel crisis, Audi’s experimental diesel fuel is made from air and water. Called “e-diesel,” it has less sulfur and fossil-based oils, so it is more environmentally friendly. Audi claims an overall energy efficiency of around 70%. Sounds too good to be true and so far, they can only make 42 gallons/day. Invest at your own risk. If you have an Audi vehicle take a look at this VW service Melbourne as the provider also specialises in the same for Audis.

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Transformative Ideas, Part II – Reestablish Compulsory Military Service

This is Part II of a continuing series in 2015, bringing forward for your review, ideas that have the potential to transform and end the ossification of our country. Part I was about ending our love affair with the unregulated free market.

In Part II, we argue for re-establishing compulsory military service. In response to the anti-military opinion during the Vietnam War, Nixon replaced the compulsory military draft with an all-volunteer force in 1973. This facilitated our ability to make decisions about conducting wars without worrying about who fights them.

Registering for the draft (as differentiated from compulsory service) is still the law for young men in America. If you were born in 1996 or earlier, that means you’re potentially on the hook if America runs out of professional military during wartime.

There are two problems that compulsory military service will help to ameliorate. First, the permanent state of war that our politicians and defense contractors have fostered in the past 40 years. Charles F. Wald, retired Air Force general who oversaw the start of the air war in Afghanistan in 2001 told the WaPo in September:

We’re not going to see an end to this in our lifetime.

Second, a professional military has dangerously skewed the demographics of our professional military compared to our society at large.

We have a permanent state of war because the price we pay is opaque, or meaningless to most citizens, despite some estimates that Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan cost more than $4.4 Trillion, including future obligations for the disabilities of American soldiers. Reinstating the draft would compel the American public to have “skin in the game” for the wars we fight. James Fallows in a very important article for The Atlantic gives us some perspective relative to when we had the draft and what goes on today: (brackets and parenthesis by the Wrongologist)

At the end of World War II, nearly 10% of the entire US population was on active military duty—which meant most able-bodied men of a certain age (plus the small number of women allowed to serve).

[Today] the US military has about 1.4 million people on active duty and another 850,000 in the reserves.

(Out of a population of 310 million, or about three-quarters of 1%, served in Iraq or Afghanistan at any point in the post-9/11 years, many, many of them more than once)

Since 1970, the population of the US has grown by about 50%, from roughly 200 million to 300 million. Over the same period, the number of active-duty armed forces has fallen approximately 50%, from 3 million to 1.4 million. Fallows quotes Admiral Mike Mullen, the retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George W. Bush and Barack Obama: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

My concern is this growing disconnect between the American people and our military…I would sacrifice some of [our military’s] …excellence and readiness to make sure that we stay close to the American people. Fewer and fewer people know anyone in the military. It’s become just too easy to go to war.

Moving to the demographic differences between the professional military and American society at large, Charles J. Dunlap Jr., a retired Air Force major general who is at the Duke Law Schools says: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

I think there is a strong sense in the military that it is indeed a better society than the one it serves…In the generation coming up, we’ve got lieutenants and majors who had been the warrior-kings in their little outposts…They were literally making life-or-death decisions. You can’t take that generation and say, ‘You can be seen and not heard.’

Dunlap told James Fallows: (brackets by the Wrongologist)

[The military is] becoming increasingly tribal…in the sense that more and more people in the military are coming from smaller and smaller groups. It’s become a family tradition, in a way that’s at odds with how we want to think a democracy spreads the burden.

Making Dunlap’s point, Danielle Allen, of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Military Service wrote about the political implications of a professional military in the WaPo:

By the end of the draft in 1973, military service was distributed pretty evenly across regions. But that is no longer true.

Tellingly, changes to the map of military service since 1973 align closely with today’s red and blue states. Montana, Alaska, Florida, Wyoming, Maine and Texas now send the largest number of people per capita to the military. The states with the lowest contribution rates? Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. What’s clear from the data is that a major national institution, the US military, now has tighter connections to some regions of the country than to others. The uneven pattern of military service is not an insignificant reflection of the cultural differences that characterize different regions of this diverse country. This has broad ramifications for our future.

Heidi A. Urben, a Lieutenant Colonel, studied the attitudes of the officer corps, and found that about 60% said they identify with the Republican Party, and that 70% had not changed their party affiliation, despite two long wars.

The Pentagon reports that bringing back conscription would be costly at a time when the US Army is drawing down its forces. It might cost billions to reinstate the draft, while maintaining the present quality of armed forces. But it may be the only way to wake up a detached and nonvoting public that has depersonalized military service. The additional cost of managing a draft and training all Americans for some kind of government service would pay dividends:

• A draft would ensure that government decision-making regarding military involvement would be undertaken only after the fullest debate — a debate today that seems to not be part of the national consciousness and hardly registers any interest by the public.
• A draft would narrow the gap between people in power in Washington and the men and women at peril in fighting our nation’s battles.
• A draft could re-balance the skewed demographics of the military.

A draft could mean that voting on Election Day would be more important in our now-fragile democracy. It could mean that going to war is worth having every citizen sacrifice, or it isn’t worth any soldier’s life.

 

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