Category Archives: War in Afghanistan

The Fog Of History: Last Days In Vietnam

Last night we watched the American Experience documentary Last Days In Vietnam. It’s quite simply an amazing film, and one doesn’t have to have supported that war to be moved by the tales of heroism by Americans and Vietnamese alike. It all happened 40 years ago, but director Rory Kennedy and some of the most interesting talking heads I’ve ever seen in a documentary make it come alive as if it happened the other day.

There were vast swaths of the film that played like a thriller; the stories of individual bravery and moral courage. We all know the big picture: the North Vietnamese invaded in March and the corrupt and feeble South Vietnamese government folded like a poker player with a pair of deuces. The US Congress, quite rightly, refused to throw good money after bad and didn’t grant the Ford-Kissinger request for more funds to be stolen by Generals Thieu, Ky and their cronies. The worst talking head is, unsurprisingly, Henry Kissinger who recycles the same lies that he’s been peddling for the last 40 years: Nixon good, liberals bad. So it goes.

One of the most compelling American talking heads is Richard Armitage. Yes, *that* Richard Armitage of Colin Powell and Valerie Plame fame. He was a bona fide hero of the evacuation, choosing to disregard orders in favor of saving the lives of Vietnamese who might have faced death at the hands of the Communists. As I listened to Armitage’s tales of derring-do, I couldn’t help thinking of his role in W’s Iraq War. Both Armitage and his close friend and associate General Powell were opposed to the war and convinced it would lead to disaster. They were right but lacked the individual bravery and moral courage Armitage showed in 1975 and did not resign.

I wish we had more of a tradition of public officials resigning over matters of principle and policy. The Johnson administration was honeycombed with senior officials opposed to the Vietnam War. None of them resigned and went public with their criticism. Hell, even President Johnson had serious doubts about his war policy but he stumbled ahead out of fear of being called weak. Truman was accused of “losing China” and LBJ didn’t want to be the first President to lose a war. Instead, he lost the American people and damaged his place in history. The war itself was lost in 1975. So much for Nixonian “peace with honor.”

Sipping a Maker’s Mark on the rocks later in the evening, I contemplated our two great recent foreign policy disasters and what they did to the country. Vietnam had a more searing impact on the national psyche because *everyone* alive at the time knew someone who served in Vietnam. Presidents had always lied but LBJ and Tricky Dick were exposed telling some major whoppers and people haven’t trusted the government ever since. Their mendacity gave a boost to the Reaganite credo “guvmint isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.”

Bush, Cheney, and Rummy’s Iraq fiasco is turning out to be a bigger geopolitical disaster than Vietnam. The Obama presidency has been, in part, devoted to cleaning up their mess but the rampant instability and violence in the Middle East is Bush’s gift to a war weary nation. The Bushies also lied their way into war, but after Vietnam it was assumed that governments did that so the stench has slowly worn off in many quarters.

The general public is more isolated from the personal side of the Iraq-Afghanistan War experiences: most Americans do not know people who served. They “support the troops” but they’ve never met them. That makes it easier to support the next conflict. I’m not going to advocate restoring the draft since I’m old enough to have contemplated it and to have been relieved when it was ended by my old pal Tricky Dick. There is something to be said for a Citizen army though.

Back to Last Days In Vietnam. It got me thinking of a Vietnamese gentleman I got to know when I was a college student. He had been a Colonel in the Vietnamese Army and was running a liquor store when we met. I was fascinated by his stories of the War and how he and his family fled the country in the nick of time. This fine documentary is full of similar stories, which makes it must-see teevee. It’s also a cautionary tale about the folly of going to war in a country whose culture and history one is unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, we made many of the same mistakes in Iraq. Here’s hoping we can avoid them in the future but history has a nasty habit of repeating.

Remembering the War the Way We Have To

This is the one I think of: 

Washington (CNN)One former employee of the private Blackwater Worldwide security company was sentenced Monday to life in prison and three others to 30 years each behind bars for their roles in a 2007 mass shooting in Baghdad that left 17 people dead.

A federal jury convicted the four in October after a lengthy trial that saw some 30 witnesses travel from Iraq to testify against the security contractors. Prosecutors accused the men of illegally unleashed “powerful sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers on innocent men, women and children.”

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Blackwater sniper Nicholas Slatten to a term of life in prison, mandatory for his first-degree murder conviction. Blackwater workers Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were sentenced to 30 year each, plus one day.

Remember the reasonable debate we had about the proper role of civilian contractors in a war zone?

Yeah. Me too. 

A.

The Past Isn’t Even Past

Fuck Jeb and his entire family sideways with a rake: 

“I won’t talk about the past,” Bush said on Friday when a reporter asked him about an upcoming foreign policy speech in Chicago, according to Bloomberg Politics. “I’ll talk about the future. If I’m in the process of considering the possibility of running, it’s not about re-litigating anything in the past. It’s about trying to create a set of ideas and principles that will help us move forward.”

The past. Because nobody died today.  Nobody will die tomorrow. It’s the past.

You sick bastard. The bombs and guns and bullets your brother sent over there are still killing people every single day. The soldiers who come home are still dying, years later, some by inches and some by their own hands. And the politics you people poisoned are still burning through this country’s veins, and the way I know that is that you are showing your face in public and no one is throwing rotten fruit.

The past. How nice it must be to be able to shrug it off like that. How nice it must be to wake up free of nightmares, with all your limbs attached. How nice it must be to sleep beside your wife and children, all of whom are alive, beneath a roof without holes in it, in a house with running water, without fear of being fucking BEHEADED by the monsters your actions loosed. It’s the past, for you. How nice. How peaceful. How normal.

How convenient, you fucking horror show. How easy. How small. How mean.

A.

 

lest you be taken in

By the right’s newfound concern for reporters’ lives:

Whatever” seems to be President No Strategy’s standard operating procedure. What now, Obama? As Twitchy reported, horrifying news is coming out Tuesday afternoon. It is being reported that another journalist, Steven Sotloff, has been beheaded by the barbaric savages known as ISIS.

Let’s not forget this.

Note that even after her release, Carroll maintained that she had been treated well by her captors—so it would appear that this journalist for the Christian Science Monitor made these anti-American comments voluntarily.

Or this.

One member of the Pulitzer-winning AP team was AP stringer Bilal Hussein. Hussein’s photos have raised seriouspersistent questions about his relationship with terrorists in Iraq and whether his photos were/are staged in collusion with the enemy.

Or this.

It’s official: Treason is cool and traitors are acceptable sources for journalists. The Pulitzer Prize says so.

Or this.

Every time a journalist dies in horrid agony, the Baby Jesus smiles and shakes his rattle.

Let’s not forget Ann Coulter saying the only problem she had with Timothy McVeigh was that he didn’t drive to the New York Times building.

Let’s not forget Rope. Tree. Journalist.

When a group becomes so dangerous to America as “news” sources, like the Associated Press is, it becomes time to seriously consider the idea that EXTREME FUCKING MEASURES need to be taken.

Let’s not forget Rush Limbaugh mocking reporters detained in the Middle East: 

“It is being breathlessly reported that the Egyptian army . . . is rounding up foreign journalists. I mean even two New York Times reporters were detained. Now this is supposed to make us feel what exactly? . . . Are we supposed to feel outrage – I don’t feel any outrage over it. Are we supposed to feel anger – I don’t feel any anger over this. Do we feel happy? Well – do we feel kinda going like [taunting sound]“

Let’s not forget the last 25 years of attacking the press for anything reported that contradicted their point of view on abortion, war and the second amendment. And then let’s not forget the decade during which the journalists under attack by these freaks sucked up to them and pretended they weren’t serious about having reporters killed: 

When I spoke with her friend Miguel Estrada, an attorney and onetime White House nominee for a judgeship (Estrada asked President Bush to withdraw his name in 2003 after a Democratic filibuster targeted Estrada’s conservatism), he said Coulter’s appeal 15 years ago, when they met, was “the same as it is today. She was lively and funny and engaging and boisterous and outrageous and a little bit of a polemicist … Most of the time, people miss her humor and satire and take her way too literally.”

I began to wonder, in a moistly liberal formulation, whether Ann Coulter might be … misunderstood?

They are not interested in reporters’ lives. They never have been and they never will be. If this wasn’t an opportunity to attack Obama, if this wasn’t a chance to argue for more freedom bombs and more endless war, if this wasn’t their shot to once more be relevant to the public conversation in the eyes of the Stockholmed media executives who are seeing their profits vanish before them, they wouldn’t be saying dick.

This is a way to score points. That’s all this is. They do not love press freedom or the idea of an independent and courageous Fourth Estate.

If this was happening under a Republican president, they’d be making pious noises about the inevitable costs of war and the sacrifices required. Or they’d be intimating that somehow Foley and Sotloff were asking for it, not being embedded with contemptuous troop contingents in the Green Zone somewhere. Or both.

And the way I know that is that when this did happen under a Republican president, this was the response: 

For some reason, Daniel Pearl’s murder has been elevated above those of 3,000 Americans murdered on 9/11, even though the 3,000 were innocent victims on American soil minding their own business. Pearl, on the other hand, was an extremely left-wing, nominal Jew whose reporting repeatedly gave exposure to and legitimization of Islamic terrorists.

Daniel Pearl was killed not minding his own business on an airplane or in an office building, but putting himself at risk chasing more Islamic terrorists to tell their story. But he was a mainstream media reporter–and for one of America’s most prestigious newspapers–so his life, in the mainstream media’s eyes, is far more important than common-folk Americans who conduct America’s commerce and raise families.

And Judea Pearl–in the seven years since his son’s death–has sought to legitimize this same legitimization and appeasement of terrorists, even if he won’t admit it.

They have no shame, they do not care, and their opinions on the brutal murder of a man who by all accounts was a decent person trying to shed some light on one of the most lightless places in the world are worth no more than the wind that howls between their ears.

So when one of them demands action from Obama in the name of the journalist whose barbaric killing so outraged them, ask them if they’d have preferred the rope and the tree, even if some assembly was required.

A.

Obama Enters week one of presidency

It’s about fucking time: 

He said service members leaving the military who are being treated for mental health conditions would now be automatically enrolled in a program in which mental health professionals help them move to VA care.

Currently, service members must be specifically referred to the program by their Defense Department providers or seek out the program on their own.

“Additionally, VA will implement a new policy to ensure that recently discharged service members enrolling in the VA health care system maintain access to mental health medication prescribed by an authorized DoD provider regardless of whether the medication is currently on VA’s formulary,” the White House said.

Did anybody not know the VA was fucked up? I mean, we might not have known how fucked up, but if you talk to any six vets they’ll tell you sixteen horror stories, and given the state of mental health coverage for rich people (it still sucks) with private insurance, does it take a major genius to figure out this was going on?

A.

Rumsfeld Isn’t Sorry

Not that it would matter if he was:

Rumsfeld and McNamara seem to be very different kinds of people.

They couldn’t be more different. But they presided over disastrous wars. That’s not OK. You can be reflective, you can be remorseful, you can be really engaged by the tales of what you have done and haven’t done. And McNamara realized this. There’s no magic slate for any of us; we can’t just pull up the acetate and it all goes away.

McNamara at least had some regrets that he was willing to share.

Rumsfeld is also willing to share the fact that he has no regrets, isn’t sorry, sees nothing wrong with what he’s done. In fact, he’s proud of it.

Well, and I’m not sure it matters either way. If he’s sorry, then fuck him. If he’s not sorry, fuck him. The dead are dead. The wounded are wounded. There aren’t degrees here, where if you’re sorry you go to a slightly higher level of hell. Nobody cares about their immortal souls but them. To the rest of us, all that matters are the results.

A.

Rumsfeld Isn’t Sorry

Not that it would matter if he was:

Rumsfeld and McNamara seem to be very different kinds of people.

They couldn’t be more different. But they presided over disastrous wars. That’s not OK. You can be reflective, you can be remorseful, you can be really engaged by the tales of what you have done and haven’t done. And McNamara realized this. There’s no magic slate for any of us; we can’t just pull up the acetate and it all goes away.

McNamara at least had some regrets that he was willing to share.

Rumsfeld is also willing to share the fact that he has no regrets, isn’t sorry, sees nothing wrong with what he’s done. In fact, he’s proud of it.

Well, and I’m not sure it matters either way. If he’s sorry, then fuck him. If he’s not sorry, fuck him. The dead are dead. The wounded are wounded. There aren’t degrees here, where if you’re sorry you go to a slightly higher level of hell. Nobody cares about their immortal souls but them. To the rest of us, all that matters are the results.

A.

Rumsfeld Isn’t Sorry

Not that it would matter if he was:

Rumsfeld and McNamara seem to be very different kinds of people.

They couldn’t be more different. But they presided over disastrous wars. That’s not OK. You can be reflective, you can be remorseful, you can be really engaged by the tales of what you have done and haven’t done. And McNamara realized this. There’s no magic slate for any of us; we can’t just pull up the acetate and it all goes away.

McNamara at least had some regrets that he was willing to share.

Rumsfeld is also willing to share the fact that he has no regrets, isn’t sorry, sees nothing wrong with what he’s done. In fact, he’s proud of it.

Well, and I’m not sure it matters either way. If he’s sorry, then fuck him. If he’s not sorry, fuck him. The dead are dead. The wounded are wounded. There aren’t degrees here, where if you’re sorry you go to a slightly higher level of hell. Nobody cares about their immortal souls but them. To the rest of us, all that matters are the results.

A.

Rumsfeld Isn’t Sorry

Not that it would matter if he was:

Rumsfeld and McNamara seem to be very different kinds of people.

They couldn’t be more different. But they presided over disastrous wars. That’s not OK. You can be reflective, you can be remorseful, you can be really engaged by the tales of what you have done and haven’t done. And McNamara realized this. There’s no magic slate for any of us; we can’t just pull up the acetate and it all goes away.

McNamara at least had some regrets that he was willing to share.

Rumsfeld is also willing to share the fact that he has no regrets, isn’t sorry, sees nothing wrong with what he’s done. In fact, he’s proud of it.

Well, and I’m not sure it matters either way. If he’s sorry, then fuck him. If he’s not sorry, fuck him. The dead are dead. The wounded are wounded. There aren’t degrees here, where if you’re sorry you go to a slightly higher level of hell. Nobody cares about their immortal souls but them. To the rest of us, all that matters are the results.

A.

Rumsfeld Isn’t Sorry

Not that it would matter if he was:

Rumsfeld and McNamara seem to be very different kinds of people.

They couldn’t be more different. But they presided over disastrous wars. That’s not OK. You can be reflective, you can be remorseful, you can be really engaged by the tales of what you have done and haven’t done. And McNamara realized this. There’s no magic slate for any of us; we can’t just pull up the acetate and it all goes away.

McNamara at least had some regrets that he was willing to share.

Rumsfeld is also willing to share the fact that he has no regrets, isn’t sorry, sees nothing wrong with what he’s done. In fact, he’s proud of it.

Well, and I’m not sure it matters either way. If he’s sorry, then fuck him. If he’s not sorry, fuck him. The dead are dead. The wounded are wounded. There aren’t degrees here, where if you’re sorry you go to a slightly higher level of hell. Nobody cares about their immortal souls but them. To the rest of us, all that matters are the results.

A.

Rumsfeld Isn’t Sorry

Not that it would matter if he was:

Rumsfeld and McNamara seem to be very different kinds of people.

They couldn’t be more different. But they presided over disastrous wars. That’s not OK. You can be reflective, you can be remorseful, you can be really engaged by the tales of what you have done and haven’t done. And McNamara realized this. There’s no magic slate for any of us; we can’t just pull up the acetate and it all goes away.

McNamara at least had some regrets that he was willing to share.

Rumsfeld is also willing to share the fact that he has no regrets, isn’t sorry, sees nothing wrong with what he’s done. In fact, he’s proud of it.

Well, and I’m not sure it matters either way. If he’s sorry, then fuck him. If he’s not sorry, fuck him. The dead are dead. The wounded are wounded. There aren’t degrees here, where if you’re sorry you go to a slightly higher level of hell. Nobody cares about their immortal souls but them. To the rest of us, all that matters are the results.

A.

Rumsfeld Isn’t Sorry

Not that it would matter if he was:

Rumsfeld and McNamara seem to be very different kinds of people.

They couldn’t be more different. But they presided over disastrous wars. That’s not OK. You can be reflective, you can be remorseful, you can be really engaged by the tales of what you have done and haven’t done. And McNamara realized this. There’s no magic slate for any of us; we can’t just pull up the acetate and it all goes away.

McNamara at least had some regrets that he was willing to share.

Rumsfeld is also willing to share the fact that he has no regrets, isn’t sorry, sees nothing wrong with what he’s done. In fact, he’s proud of it.

Well, and I’m not sure it matters either way. If he’s sorry, then fuck him. If he’s not sorry, fuck him. The dead are dead. The wounded are wounded. There aren’t degrees here, where if you’re sorry you go to a slightly higher level of hell. Nobody cares about their immortal souls but them. To the rest of us, all that matters are the results.

A.

Fear Itself

Athenae and I rarely post about the same thing on the same day. It's that time again. The whole Bowe Bergdahl incident seems to be the apogee of Obama Derangement Syndrome. The GOP reaction is OTT, incoherent, and sadly predictable. Once again, they're confused as to whether the President is a power mad dictator or a weakling. You really can't have it both ways but making sense has never been high on the neo-cons agenda. Fear mongering is and I wish the stupid mongerfuckers would monger something else…

Here's the deal. It's apparently strong and resolute when Ronald Reagan and Oliver North TRADE ARMS FOR HOSTAGES but when President Obama executes a prisoner swap, it's evil, evil chile. Prisoner exchanges are routine, and Bergdahl is the last American POW in Afghanistan. We don't leave our people behind when we withdraw from a country. You would think that Senator McCain would get that but as Charlie Pierce put it earlier today:

Having already draped himself in a toga, McCain's response to the Obama administration has been both petulant and imperious, a small boy commanding an army of butterflies. This is most recently illustrated in his response to the deal cut by the administration to arrange the release of Bowe Bergdahl from captivity. The conservative chorus of opposition to the deal is a lovely harmonic convergence of complete hypocrisy and profound historical amnesia on the always delightful topic of "negotiating with terrorists." IA's official arms conduit to the Contras, on a shipment of weapons — and the scandal moved off in other directions, including selling missiles to Iran for the purposes of raising money for the Contras.

The thing that I find most irksome is that the whole controversy is over FIVE BEARDED GUYS. That's right, five beardos have been released and Senator Walnuts is making like Chicken Little. I was raised to think that we were the land of the free and the home of the brave, not a country that cowered when 5 guys who were held as enemy combatants are traded for an American serviceman. Does McCain even listen to himself any more? I'd rather listen to our greatest Democratic President who told us that, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."

Of course, FDR was accused of being simultaneously a dictator and weakling too. Neo-conservative war mongers like John McCain should get a grip and stop trying to scare us to death. The aughties are over and your policies failed ,so STFU and go away already. I know that won't happen, but I am sick and tired of listening to their fear mongering, which is merely a reflection of their own scaredy cattedness. Is that a word? If not, it oughta be.

I'll give the Finn Brothers the last word, since unlike the GOP and perhaps even me in this post, they're only talking sense:

 

What is it with Neil Finn and tongues? "Seal my fate I get your tongue in the mail." I don't know about you but I've never gotten a tongue in the mail. I have eaten the odd tongue sammich though. A bit too chewy for my taste…

That is, finally, all.

Hagel Nagila

Nagila means rejoice in Hebrew but the neo-cons and Vulcans are not rejoicing over Chuck Hagel’s being nominated as Secretary of Defense. They dislike the former Nebraska Senator because he dislikes war and isn’t a slavish worshipper of Bibi Netanyahu and his war-mongering right wing Israeli government. As far as I’m concerned those are excellent reasons to support the Hagel nomination: if Kristol and Bolton hate it, I like it.

On a more serious note, I like the nomination because the former enlisted man appears ready to go to the Pentagon and start cutting the budget, which is imperative after the explosion in military spending during the Bush years. Our Republican friends hate wasteful guvmint and bureaucracy unless it wears camouflage, which makes Hagel a heretic in their eyes. As a bonus, Senator Walnuts and his ventriloquist dummy, Little Lindsey, oppose the nomination, which, yet again, floats my boat.

It’s a sad commentary that placing our national security interests above that of the current Likud dominated Israeli government is controversial in some circles. Bibi makes Menachem Begin and even Ariel Sharon look like fucking hippies, after all. The days of Ben Gurion, Meir, Peres, and Rabin are long gone, so while I support Israel’s right to exist, I don’t support its settlement policy or rush to war with Iran. Netanyahu is like a dog that shits on the rug, the neo-cons applaud his defecatory audacity while I think his nose should be rubbed in it. I’m not sure that Obama would go that far but he might lightly whap Bibi’s nose with a rolled up newspaper or something…

An unlikely supporter of the Hagel selection is one of Obama’s fiercest critics on the left, the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald who does an excellent job of putting Hagel’s 1998 comments about James Hormel in context:

So yes: like virtually every prominent politician in both parties,
Chuck Hagel had primitive and ugly views on gay issues back in 1998. But
shouldn’t the question be: does he still hold these views or, like huge
numbers of Americans, have his viewed evolved since then? Hagel has
apologized for what he said, an apology which Hormel accepted, graciously noting:
“I can’t remember a time when a potential presidential nominee
apologized for anything . . . .Since 1998, fourteen years have passed,
and public attitudes have shifted–perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed
with the times, too.” Moreover, Hagel last week also vowed that he is “fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”

The openly gay foreign policy insider, Steve Clemons, has known Hagel for years, and two weeks ago wrote in the Atlantic
that “Chuck Hagel is pro-gay, pro-LGBT, pro-ending ‘don’t ask, don’t
tell.'” Beyond his policy views, Clemons recounted personal incident
after personal incident that completely negates the accusation that
Hagel now harbors bigotry toward gay people.

I’m not sure that the Hagel nomination has me ready to dance in the streets to Hava Nagila, but I don’t mind when the President picks a fight with Senate Republicans; especially one he can win.

All War is a Crime

Jude commented on this post:

The government and the rebels have been indiscriminately bombing and shelling cities; conventional explosives are WAY more deadly than air-dispersed chemical agents. Yet we still have this 1916-era mentality about how poison gas is somehow just so ungentlemanly that it deserves a special level of outrage. That’s bullshit. Artillery barrages and bombs do terrible, terrible things to human bodies. When you’re suffering and/or dying, you don’t give a shit whether hot steel, concussion trauma, napalm burns, or poison gas did the trick.

Which is really what my issue with any bombing is about. It’s not that we’re doing it or not doing it. It’s that we seem to have decided we will only do it when X number have died, or X weapon is used, in this one particular case, and it’s presented to us as OF COURSE BECAUSE CHEMICAL WEAPONS.

Let’s give the people who are pushing for this the absolute best benefit of the doubt and assume they really do mean to aid the Syrian rebels and save civilian lives. This isn’t Iraq; there is an actual conflict already underway with implications for US allies and humanitarian concerns at stake. We are not just going in somewhere to kick the shit out of some people we don’t like because suck on this, because we need to feel better, because our national magazine columnists have decided this is what “Americans” “need.”

But this also isn’t Afghanistan; nobody hanging out there attacked America directly. So are we making the case that any use of chemical weapons anywhere is grounds for America attacking?

In that case, hunker down, Washington DC:

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq’s favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration’s long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn’t disclose.

AWKWARD.

I don’t know how you come up with an arithmetic for war that ISN’T monstrous, given that no matter what you do people are going to die, but I don’t think this is a workable formula.

A.

Hagel Nagila

Nagila means rejoice in Hebrew but the neo-cons and Vulcans are not rejoicing over Chuck Hagel’s being nominated as Secretary of Defense. They dislike the former Nebraska Senator because he dislikes war and isn’t a slavish worshipper of Bibi Netanyahu and his war-mongering right wing Israeli government. As far as I’m concerned those are excellent reasons to support the Hagel nomination: if Kristol and Bolton hate it, I like it.

On a more serious note, I like the nomination because the former enlisted man appears ready to go to the Pentagon and start cutting the budget, which is imperative after the explosion in military spending during the Bush years. Our Republican friends hate wasteful guvmint and bureaucracy unless it wears camouflage, which makes Hagel a heretic in their eyes. As a bonus, Senator Walnuts and his ventriloquist dummy, Little Lindsey, oppose the nomination, which, yet again, floats my boat.

It’s a sad commentary that placing our national security interests above that of the current Likud dominated Israeli government is controversial in some circles. Bibi makes Menachem Begin and even Ariel Sharon look like fucking hippies, after all. The days of Ben Gurion, Meir, Peres, and Rabin are long gone, so while I support Israel’s right to exist, I don’t support its settlement policy or rush to war with Iran. Netanyahu is like a dog that shits on the rug, the neo-cons applaud his defecatory audacity while I think his nose should be rubbed in it. I’m not sure that Obama would go that far but he might lightly whap Bibi’s nose with a rolled up newspaper or something…

An unlikely supporter of the Hagel selection is one of Obama’s fiercest critics on the left, the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald who does an excellent job of putting Hagel’s 1998 comments about James Hormel in context:

So yes: like virtually every prominent politician in both parties,
Chuck Hagel had primitive and ugly views on gay issues back in 1998. But
shouldn’t the question be: does he still hold these views or, like huge
numbers of Americans, have his viewed evolved since then? Hagel has
apologized for what he said, an apology which Hormel accepted, graciously noting:
“I can’t remember a time when a potential presidential nominee
apologized for anything . . . .Since 1998, fourteen years have passed,
and public attitudes have shifted–perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed
with the times, too.” Moreover, Hagel last weekalso vowed that he is “fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”

The openly gay foreign policy insider, Steve Clemons, has known Hagel for years, and two weeks agowrote in the Atlantic
that “Chuck Hagel is pro-gay, pro-LGBT, pro-ending ‘don’t ask, don’t
tell.'” Beyond his policy views, Clemons recounted personal incident
after personal incident that completely negates the accusation that
Hagel now harbors bigotry toward gay people.

I’m not sure that the Hagel nomination has me ready to dance in the streets toHava Nagila, but I don’t mind when the President picks a fight with Senate Republicans; especially one he can win.

It’s Always Time to Talk About Shit That Doesn’t Matter

I keep going back to this, from the brilliant Cleolinda:

(Here’s my thought on that in a nutshell: Violent movies and videogames do not make people violent. Violent people are attracted to violent media. Of course, so are many of the rest of us, just for different reasons. I ended up watching The Matrix about 46,000 times–at one point on a three-day loop–for the book, and I shot nobody. If you want to talk about warning signs, don’t look at the kid’s taste in movies or his literary output–look at those two things in the context of his real-life behavior, which was already disturbing his teachers and classmates. Stephen King? A folksy, personable guy in real life. Quentin Tarantino? Full of energy and enthusiasm. Consequently, no one expects them to go on shooting rampages. The bitter, stalkative kid who won’t even speak when spoken to, who also writes about bloody murder sprees? For God’s sake, keep an eye on him.)

I would never say we don’t need to have a less nihilistic, brutal, violent culture. But we can start working on that by refraining from blowing up so many fucking kids in the world and starving them of food and care here at home. Once we are done with that I will listen to you about shooting hookers in GTA or whatever the hell we think is the problem right now. Once we are done making sure everyone can EAT, we can get on to what disaffected suburban brats are reading these days.

Once we’re done with this:

The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—”Were there any difficulties with…at what age did your child…were there any problems with…has your child ever experienced…does your child have…”

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits.You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.

No individual insurance plan, and until the laughably toothless health care reform passed last year which has been called a staggering overreach of government power, few insurance plans AT ALL. The kinds of intensive therapies children need, even with Cadillac insurance, can bankrupt middle class families. Can bankrupt relatively wealthy families. Can, even if there is money to pay for them and doctors to provide them, can quite simply drag a family under with the grinding, every day process of staying level enough with the horizon to buy groceries and go to school.

It is one of the grand ironies of what little mental health assistance exists that when you need it most, that is when you are usually so far beyond the beyond that accessing it seems like going to the moon.

But getting back to Cleolinda’s wise words up there, what we’re not doing very well right now is creating a nonviolent world for any of us. (I almost wrote “our kids,” as if adults have no need of peace and decency.) That violence is not, primarily, on screens or in “the media” or anywhere imaginary, but imaginary violence is all we can seem to bring ourselves to talk about when things like this happen.

It’s all we can bring ourselves to try to address, because real violence, real agents of violence, are political, and controversial, and emotional and upsetting and they’re going to make dinner conversation awkward and difficult. Everybody agrees that shooting fictional aliens is probably not the most productive use of anyone’s time. Almost nobody agrees on the correct number of children that have to be killed in drone strikes so as to properly elevate our national dick, or how much money we spend turning schools into prisons instead of the other way fucking round.

It’s like there’s a list somewhere, of Things We Can Address, and it’s all stuff like why so many kids have ADHD, and how parents aren’t hugging their children enough, and where precisely in the schoolyard we should stick the plaque proclaiming GOD IS LOVE because that’ll fix everything. It’s how many teachers need to be armed, and how many cops need to be at every entrance, and the opinion that perhaps we need fewer cops in schools and OH SHIT RIGHT FEWER HOLES IN THE SCHOOLS’ ROOFS WHILE WE’RE AT IT never quite makes it through the World of Warcraft soundtrack blaring on every goddamned Sunday show.

(See, already there you go, asking why I have to put it just that way. Can’t I use nicer language?)

We have limited ourselves to addressing matters that don’t need addressing, so as to drown out the screaming of the things that do.

A.

Athenae, Economy, Games, Immoral Values, Kids Today, Terrorism, War in Afghanistan, War in Iraq

It’s Always Time to Talk About Shit That Doesn’t Matter

I keep going back to this, from the brilliant Cleolinda:

(Here’s my thought on that in a nutshell: Violent movies and videogames do not make people violent. Violentpeople are attracted to violent media. Of course, so are many of the rest of us, just for different reasons. I ended up watchingThe Matrix about 46,000 times–at one point on a three-day loop–for the book, and I shotnobody. If you want to talk about warning signs, don’t look at the kid’s taste in movies or his literary output–look at those two thingsin the context of his real-life behavior, which was already disturbing his teachers and classmates. Stephen King? A folksy, personable guy in real life. Quentin Tarantino? Full of energy and enthusiasm. Consequently, no one expects them to go on shooting rampages. The bitter, stalkative kid who won’t even speak when spoken to, whoalso writes about bloody murder sprees? For God’s sake, keep an eye on him.)

I would never say we don’t need to have a less nihilistic, brutal, violent culture. But we can start working on that by refraining from blowing up so many fucking kids in the world and starving them of food and care here at home. Once we are done with that I will listen to you about shooting hookers in GTA or whatever the hell we think is the problem right now. Once we are done making sure everyone can EAT, we can get on to what disaffected suburban brats are reading these days.

Once we’re done with this:

The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—”Were there any difficulties with…at what age did your child…were there any problems with…has your child ever experienced…does your child have…”

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits.You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.

No individual insurance plan, and until the laughably toothless health care reform passed last year which has been called a staggering overreach of government power, few insurance plans AT ALL. The kinds of intensive therapies children need, even with Cadillac insurance, can bankrupt middle class families. Can bankrupt relatively wealthy families. Can, even if there is money to pay for them and doctors to provide them, can quite simply drag a family under with the grinding, every day process of staying level enough with the horizon to buy groceries and go to school.

It is one of the grand ironies of what little mental health assistance exists that when you need it most, that is when you are usually so far beyond the beyond that accessing it seems like going to the moon.

But getting back to Cleolinda’s wise words up there, what we’re not doing very well right now is creating a nonviolent world for any of us. (I almost wrote “our kids,” as if adults have no need of peace and decency.) That violence is not, primarily, on screens or in “the media” or anywhere imaginary, but imaginary violence is all we can seem to bring ourselves to talk about when things like this happen.

It’s all we can bring ourselves to try to address, because real violence, real agents of violence, are political, and controversial, and emotional and upsetting and they’re going to make dinner conversation awkward and difficult. Everybody agrees that shooting fictional aliens is probably not the most productive use of anyone’s time. Almost nobody agrees on the correct number of children that have to be killed in drone strikes so as to properly elevate our national dick, or how much money we spend turning schools into prisons instead of the other way fucking round.

It’s like there’s a list somewhere, of Things We Can Address, and it’s all stuff like why so many kids have ADHD, and how parents aren’t hugging their children enough, and where precisely in the schoolyard we should stick the plaque proclaiming GOD IS LOVE because that’ll fix everything. It’s how many teachers need to be armed, and how many cops need to be at every entrance, and the opinion that perhaps we need fewer cops in schools and OH SHIT RIGHT FEWER HOLES IN THE SCHOOLS’ ROOFS WHILE WE’RE AT IT never quite makes it through the World of Warcraft soundtrack blaring on every goddamned Sunday show.

(See, already there you go, asking why I have to put it just that way. Can’t I use nicer language?)

We have limited ourselves to addressing matters that don’t need addressing, so as to drown out the screaming of the things that do.

A.

Athenae, So Called Liberal Media, War in Afghanistan, War in Iraq

In Which Conrad Black Calls Rupert Murdoch a Psychopath, or, the Skank Calls the Whore a Slut

Conrad comes slithering out of his hole to opine that this Rupert Murdoch chap is a bit of a douche:

When the extent of his skullduggery finally oozed out, sluggish and filthy, including the details of the British government’s dotage on him, this summer, Murdoch’s old possum routine didn’t play as convincingly as it had in its many previous auditions, when he purported to be contrite over the shortcomings of errant employees. Bumbling into a parliamentary hearing in London, supported on each arm like a centenarian semi-cadaver, mumbling about humility, trying to represent News Corporation’s board as independent when it is public corporate America’s most docile board of directors and is composed entirely of hacks, retainers, and ex-employees; scrambling and whimpering and paying millions to victims of his outrages; putting his name on a Journal op-ed piece about education; it’s all of a piece and none of it resonates anymore. In bygone days, he somehow carried off sprawling in a black costume on a bed in a glossy magazine and ruminating about being an “ambassador to Joe Six Pack,” a champion of the little guy, and a spiritual person contemplating the consolations of Catholicism. At its most imaginative, it was a passably imaginative imposture.

My admiration for his boldness and acumen and our previous 25 years of more than civil relations make it unpleasant, despite his unspeakable assault on me, to have to conclude that he is, in my personal belief, a psychopath.

YOU WOULD KNOW YOU DESPICABLE MOTHERFUCKER.

(BTW, I would yell about HuffPo giving a platform to one of the greatest assholes of our time, but the Sun-Times just gave Jenny McCarthy a column, and I think the argument that media needs more self-respect is over. Self-respect did not win, BTW.)

This piece is like a football game between Nazis and child molesters, where you’re primarily rooting for violent injuries. I think my favorite part is when ex-con Conrad basically admits that it was all fine and dandy for Rupert to rape and pillage so long as he did it with his pinky finger properly crooked:

As I have often written before, he is probably the greatest media-owner in history, and his achievements in becoming the tabloid leader in London, in cracking the egregious Luddite print unions there, in breaking the triopoly of American television networks, promoting vertical integration with television outlets and film production, and his pioneering breakthroughs in satellite television worldwide, are Napoleonic in boldness of concept and skill of execution. And no one has been more vocal or consistent than I in saluting them.

I competed with Murdoch, successful and quite cordially, in Britain for 15 years when we had the Telegraph newspapers, and for a time in Australia. Our relations and those of our wives were always quite convivial.

Sure, he broke unions and slashed prices and generally acted like all the world was fuel for his personal bonfire. Sure, the wars Murdoch and his allies championed are still sending boys and girls home in boxes, years after it became clear that those wars would never be won, because his influence was such that it is treason to speak of the drawbacks to blowing up the entirety of the Middle East.

Sure, he poured poison in all our wells, and sure, he dug his claws into all of our backs, and sure, we are meaner and smaller and poorer and sicker than we have ever been in no small part because of the work he did, but he’s from such a lovely family, and he’s so well-spoken, too.

But when he said mean things about me, when he made fun of me, when he pointed out that I was filthy, then I was offended. and then I was outraged, and then I was compelled to call him a monster. Because that was a bridge too far.

A.

Athenae, So Called Liberal Media, War in Afghanistan, War in Iraq

In Which Conrad Black Calls Rupert Murdoch a Psychopath, or, the Skank Calls the Whore a Slut

Conrad comes slithering out of his hole to opine that thisRupert Murdoch chap is a bit of a douche:

When the extent of his skullduggery finally oozed out, sluggish and filthy, including the details of the British government’s dotage on him, this summer, Murdoch’s old possum routine didn’t play as convincingly as it had in its many previous auditions, when he purported to be contrite over the shortcomings of errant employees. Bumbling into a parliamentary hearing in London, supported on each arm like a centenarian semi-cadaver, mumbling about humility, trying to represent News Corporation’s board as independent when it is public corporate America’s most docile board of directors and is composed entirely of hacks, retainers, and ex-employees; scrambling and whimpering and paying millions to victims of his outrages; putting his name on aJournal op-ed piece about education; it’s all of a piece and none of it resonates anymore. In bygone days, he somehow carried off sprawling in a black costume on a bed in a glossy magazine and ruminating about being an “ambassador to Joe Six Pack,” a champion of the little guy, and a spiritual person contemplating the consolations of Catholicism. At its most imaginative, it was a passably imaginative imposture.

My admiration for his boldness and acumen and our previous 25 years of more than civil relations make it unpleasant, despite his unspeakable assault on me, to have to conclude that he is, in my personal belief, a psychopath.

YOU WOULD KNOW YOU DESPICABLE MOTHERFUCKER.

(BTW, I would yell about HuffPo giving a platform to one of the greatest assholes of our time, but the Sun-Times just gave Jenny McCarthy a column, and I think the argument that media needs more self-respect is over. Self-respect did not win, BTW.)

This piece is like a football game between Nazis and child molesters, where you’re primarily rooting for violent injuries. I think my favorite part is when ex-con Conrad basically admits that it was all fine and dandy for Rupert to rape and pillage so long as he did it with his pinky finger properly crooked:

As I have often written before, he is probably the greatest media-owner in history, and his achievements in becoming the tabloid leader in London, in cracking the egregious Luddite print unions there, in breaking the triopoly of American television networks, promoting vertical integration with television outlets and film production, and his pioneering breakthroughs in satellite television worldwide, are Napoleonic in boldness of concept and skill of execution. And no one has been more vocal or consistent than I in saluting them.

I competed with Murdoch, successful and quite cordially, in Britain for 15 years when we had theTelegraph newspapers, and for a time in Australia. Our relations and those of our wives were always quite convivial.

Sure, he broke unions and slashed prices and generally acted like all the world was fuel for his personal bonfire. Sure, the wars Murdoch and his allies championed are still sending boys and girls home in boxes, years after it became clear that those wars would never be won, because his influence was such that it is treason to speak of the drawbacks to blowing up the entirety of the Middle East.

Sure, he poured poison in all our wells, and sure, he dug his claws into all of our backs, and sure, we are meaner and smaller and poorer and sicker than we have ever been in no small part because of the work he did, but he’s from such a lovely family, and he’s so well-spoken, too.

But when he said mean things about me, when he made fun of me, when he pointed out that I was filthy, then I was offended. and then I was outraged, and then I was compelled to call him a monster. Because that was a bridge too far.

A.