Friday, December 22, 2006

"Path to Victory"

During the press conference Wednesday, in response to a question about the overwhelming opposition among the American people to continuing our military presence in Iraq and "…are you still willing to follow a path that seems to be in opposition to the will of the American people?" Bush replied,

"I am willing to follow a path that leads to victory, and that's exactly why we're conducting the review we are. Victory in Iraq is achievable…. it's been a tough period for the American people. They want to see success. And our objective is to put a plan in place that achieves that success. I'm often asked about public opinion. Of course, I want public opinion to support the efforts. I understand that. But, Jim, I also understand the consequences of failure. And, therefore, I'm going to work with the Iraqis and our military and politicians from both political parties to achieve success."

Cheney said the same thing more directly a while ago, to paraphrase,

"The American people may not like it, but it doesn’t matter. We’re not running for re-election."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Fourth Dimension Spin

Okay, we are all used to Tony Snow doing a tap dance on the podium to avoid the possibility that he might actually say anything of substance. I had thought that none of his fourth dimension spin could really surprise me any more.

But when he was asked about the president’s apparent intention to send more troops to Iraq and the statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff saying that they categorically thought that more troops was a bad idea he really blew me away (along with pretty much the whole press corps). He actually tried to spin that to say that Bush and the JCS were not in disagreement, and spent about five minutes of blather in that effort.

So I’m reading a blog post about that yesterday and the following was one of the comments that had me rolling on the floor. I had to share it with you.

"Tell us, Tony, what would constitute a conflict between the Joint Chiefs and the president?"

An armored cavalry squadron surrounding the White House.

Comment by 2Manchu — 12/19/2006

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lifting the Fog of Fear

Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night was a repeat of some of his "Special Comments" from the past year. They all seemed very powerful to me at the time he made them and, while I enjoyed them last night, I realized that such commentary does not make for entertainment. Olbermann speaks well and his phrasing is elegant, but the commentary simply had no impact out of the context of the time to which it spoke.

I did respond when he referred to the "Fog of Fear" that Bush and company had cast over the country, because I realized how much that fog has lifted since the elections last November.

I am a news junky. Being retired, I am able to spend a couple hours or more daily online researching what is happening. I read the MSM and non-MSM of both left and right. When I heard that phrase last night I realized that the miasma of fear has essentially disappeared from all of it. There is still, of course, a great deal of discourse about Iraq, but it doesn’t seems to be clouded with the past’s inward focus on our "safeness" so much as a more outward focus on winning the "war on terror" in general.

I’d still rather read how we are spending billions on feeding hungry people or rebuilding New Orleans, but ridding the news of the endless "Only I can keep you safe" is a step in the right direction.

For five long years Bush and his minions have ridden their steeds through the streets of our nation screaming "The terrorists are coming," and now only Bush and McCain are left on spavined nags peeping like a couple of Chicken Littles.

Yes, "national security," the failure of the current administration to implement it and discussion of what to do about it, is still a major issue, but it seems to be getting a more reasonable approach today. We do after all, need to provide for our own defense but we do not need to make that the centerpiece, indeed the totality, of our lives.

The tragedy of 9/11 is behind us. Nothing will bring those lost lives back. Death and destruction in Afghanistan and Iraq will not bring back to life those who died that day. American soldiers sacrificed on the altar of war will not replace that hole in the New York skyline.

We can, however, honor those fallen by crawling out of the foxholes that false leaders have had us cowering within, as a nation casting off the fog of fear and once more living our lives standing free and proud. Now that we are doing so those lost in the Towers and our soldiers who have died and are dying in distant lands can rest at peace, knowing they have not died in vain.

One task is left – restore our Constitution.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Today's Tidbits

Paranoia rages

The Bush Administration is warning us that terrorists may attack our satellites. Yes, we are being told that terrorist groups pose a threat to our satellites, in space, orbiting miles above the earth. Terrorists.

At one time I believe the Soviets did have the technology to destroy satellites, but it was done using rockets launched from large a complex with sophisticated guidance and electronics. Have terrorists taken that over, or are they going to bring down our satellites with RPG’s? Or maybe by throwing rocks from the tops of the high mountains in Afghanistan?

Terrorists are, we do know, planning to launch ICBM’s at us; hence the need for the anti-ballistic-missile defense that we have paid billions for, enriching the companies that formerly employed our currently elected officials or have contributed truckloads of money to them.

Oh. So, what kind of system are we going to build to protect our satellites from terrorists? Who is going to build it and how much is it going to cost?

Why do ambassadors leave?

The Ambassador from Saudi Arabia suddenly resigned and left the U.S. for a return to his home country. No replacement has been named and no reason given for his departure other than a vague statement about him being in line to replace a higher official whose health is failing.

The usual reason for withdrawing an ambassador is that you know that your country is about to be in a state of hostility or is about to break relations with the host country.

Saudi Arabia has said that it will support the Sunni in Iraq if we don’t and there is growing evidence that, stay or leave, we are going to abandon the Sunni to the mercy (?) of the Shia in Iraq. The Saudi ambassador leaving the U.S. is not a good sign.

A "comprehensive catastrophe"

Timothy Garton Ash says it very well. In part,

If the consequences were not so serious, one would have to laugh at a failure of such heroic proportions - rather in the spirit of Zorba the Greek who, contemplating the splintered ruins of his great project, memorably exclaimed: 'Did you ever see a more splendiferous crash?' But the reckless incompetence of Zorba the Bush has resulted in the death, maiming, uprooting or impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children - mainly Muslim Arabs but also Christian Lebanese, Israelis and American and British soldiers. By contributing to a broader alienation of Muslims it has also helped to make a world in which, as we walk the streets of London, Madrid, Jerusalem, New York or Sydney, we are all, each and every one of us, less safe. Laugh if you dare."

Embedded troops

I am not an expert on military strategy or tactics on the ground. I was Navy, not ground forces, but the policy of our forces being “embedded” with Iraqi forces makes no sense to me on several levels.

Our guys have universally said that the loyalty and skill of the Iraqi forces is highly questionable, that while some are nationalists many are more loyal to their sect, their tribe, their village, or to an individual militia. It seems to me than embedding our soldiers within a larger force that is poorly trained and of questionable loyalty puts our soldiers at very high risk.

It seems to me that this is a step backward in terms of making the Iraqi forces less dependent on the U.S. for their security, and a step backward in terms of the Iraq government "taking the hard steps" that Bush advocates.

This policy certainly does not move toward any kind of reduction of forces in Iraq. The talk of force reduction is of "reducing combat forces" and is the kind of doublespeak deception that has been coming from the administration for years. The embedded soldiers would not be "combat forces" they would be "trainers" and would be protected by "support forces" in permanent bases.

Vietnamization by another name.

So we'll have 140,000 soldiers carrying weapons in battle, getting shot at, killed and wounded, but they would not be "combat forces." Instead of combat forces dying in Iraq we'll have "trainers" and "support forces" dying.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

War gaming

When I was in the "boats" we exercised a few times against anti-submarine task groups in the Atlantic. The surface forces always won, annoying us considerably, but the game was rigged in their favor. We had to stay on the surface until they spotted us visually, then we would pull the cork (dive) and try to do our thing (sink them and/or get away). What enemy submarine would allow himself to be sighted before diving?

In preparation for the war in Iraq the military "war gamed" the process to see how it would go. Guess what, Iraq won.

Well, not quite, but the general who was playing the part of Iraq didn’t keep to the role that Rumsfeld had set out for him. He had a history, apparently, of thinking that Rumsfeld’s vaunted "military genius" was in reality nothing but a collection of empty slogans that sounded good but didn’t really mean anything. (Which has, of course, proven to be quite correct.)

So in the war games he started doing things like sending messages by motorcycle, rendering Rumsfeld’s electronic intelligence methods useless, and sending suicide bombers in motorboats against the invasion fleet and sinking quite a few ships.

At that point the war game was stopped, the general fired, the sunken ships "refloated" and the game restarted with a new "Iraqi" general who was more willing to get stomped by Rumsfeld’s preferred methods.

McCain wants more troops

John McCain is visiting in Iraq, where the generals on the ground – that’s the generals, trained in ground warfare and right there where the fighting is taking place – are telling him they do not want more troops. Not.

John McCain is a former Navy pilot.

John McCain says we need more troops in Iraq.

He has Navy training, not Army. He has visited Iraq a time or two, while these generals have been there for many months directing the ground forces under their command. But he knows better than the generals do.

And he's still spouting that "follow us home" nonsense. Who is going to follow us home, Sunni or Shia? Which half of the bloody civil war that we are in the middle of is going to follow us home? Not even Bush is parading that tired old saw any more.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Olbermann Knows Football

Updated below

On last night’s edition of MSNBC's Countdown, there was a segment about Senator Obama’s “announcement.” The announcement turned out to be all in fun, on Monday Night Football, and about him being "ready for the Bears to go all the way, baby."

Host Keith Olbermann finished the piece with the statement that
"They’re still waiting for a reply from the San Diego Chargers."

You got that right, Keith.

What MSNBC doesn’t get right is the half-baked attempts at doing outright humor pieces. For someone who brings the insight and wit to news commentary that Keith Olbermann does, how does he tolerate the moronic mind-numbing halfwits that MSNBC selects for the "guest comedian" slots?

The freeways in San Diego at rush hour are hilarity personified compared to these slabs of dead meat that pass for comedians on Countdown. If you are watching Countdown and they introduce a “guest comedian” or someone named Musto, go in the next room and let your spouse, significant other or roommate beat on you with a stick. If you have two roommates (or wives, whatever) let both of them beat on you with sticks. Trust me, you will enjoy that more than listening to what passes for humorists on Countdown.

Of course, you could just turn the television off.

When it’s at the end of the broadcast, that’s what I do. Sometimes, unfortunately, they bring one of these "humor pundits" onto the show earlier in the broadcast and that’s when I either want to smash the television or shoot myself.

I would go in the next room and get my wife to beat on me with a stick, but she's a gentle soul and would not devote much energy to the task, so…

Aha, there’s a "mute" button on my remote.

And my humor is somewhere between the thing with sticks and the San Diego freeways, but it’s better than Countdown on MSNBC.

Update: apologies to Bears fans

Earlier this week I said the Chargers were first to clinch their division. My bad. The Bears had, at that time, clinched theirs with a 10-2 record and on Monday night won to tie our record at 11-2. (Tie breakers mean bupkus when you aren't in the same conference.) The slight was unintentional. Congratulations to an outstanding football team. See you in Miami.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Building a Dam

San Diego is located in a desert, and we import all of our water except for some small portion that is provided by local reservoirs. With an annual rainfall of less than 12" though, not much water is local.

So let’s suppose that the city decides to dam up another canyon to store some more water, and much controversy ensues between city supporters and environmentalists. (Which would be the case, but we are only supposing.) One side says we need the water, and the other wants to preserve the canyon.

Eventually the city prevails and, when construction begins it is discovered that soil conditions are such that the footings will not support a dam. The city says "Well, we really need the water" and continues with construction. They pour the footings and start laying bricks. Halfway up the whole thing collapses and a bunch of workers are killed.

So the city decides to make the dam out of concrete block. (You get where I’m going yet?) They pour new footings and start laying concrete block. Halfway up the whole thing collapses and a bunch more workers are killed.

So the city decides "We’re going to get a commission to help us decide how to build this furshluginner dam." The commission studies the situation for several months and says what everybody already knew which is, basically, that the dam can’t be built. But the city says that the water is essential and decides to try a poured concrete dam. Which, of course, collapses, killing even more workers.

The city then decides to enlist the assistance of El Centro…

Ah, to heck with it. I’ve made my point.

When a task proves to be impossible it no longer matters which side was right or which side was wrong. It doesn’t matter how noble the cause, if it cannot be done and is killing the people trying to do it, you must abandon the effort. To do otherwise is wasting lives: it is, in fact murder.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Lesson in Winning

When you look at the NFL stats for last weekend none of the San Diego Chargers’ players show up as leaders. None of our receivers caught the most passes, none of our running backs ran for the most yards, etc. (Well, okay, LaDanian Tomlinson did set a record for most touchdowns in a season this past weekend. More about that in a moment.)

At 11-2, however, San Diego has the best record in the NFL and this team is the only one in the league that has clinched its division.

Football is a team sport, a concept that seems to have been lost in the days of Terrell Owens and his ilk. Vince Lombardi did not allow players to brag about, or even to collect individual statistics. His point was that when you played for him you devoted your energy to the team, not to personal glory. That’s why the Green Bay Packers in the Vince Lombardi era became such a dynasty.

And that’s why the Chargers are the first team in the AFC to clinch their division this year. Oh, make no mistake, the Chargers team does not lack talent, far from it. They have individuals with tremendous talent at every position, but they have a remarkable affinity for each other and they truly play as a team.

When the team members speak in public they are always speaking about the other guys. LaDanian Tomlinson, having just set a season record for touchdowns, talks about the role that the rest of the team played in that accomplishment. The receivers talk about the quarterback. The quarterback talks about the offensive line and the receiver corps.

LaDanian Tomlinson says that he’s glad the record “is behind me, so that now I can just go back to playing football.” (Or words to that effect.) When asked about the league MVP award he said that it wasn’t important to him.

This team is a winner. Not because they win games, but because they are a group of young men who are more focused on what they are putting into the game than on what they are getting from it.

There’s a lesson for living in that.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Myth and a Reality

Myth: the American people will not tolerate losses (deaths of their soldiers) in a prolonged war.

I utterly reject that as an oversimplification. I believe that the American people will grieve for the losses but will support any war, however long and however costly, that forwards the principles for which this country stands or which is truly in defense of this country or its allies. We have done so before, and we will do so again whenever and as often as needed.

After 9/11 there was broad support for the invasion of Afghanistan, and the sorrow for those lost in battle did not soften the resolve of the American people to pursue the purpose of that just war. We were a nation united in outrage, and of one mind in the determination to bring the perpetrators of 9/11 to justice.

What Americans will not do is accept so much as one soldier lost in a war that is waged for political reasons, be those politics national or international.

The more murky has become the reason for our presence in Iraq the more we have turned away from supporting it. When it was revealed that the purpose of this war was unjust, that it was begun and is being pursued for reasons political and unrighteous, we began to cry out against the lives lost, lives wasted.

That "the tree of liberty must from time to time be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants" is a fact that the American people will accept.

But we will not send our sons and daughters to die in a distant war fought for the political ideology and self aggrandizement of a demagogue.

Self evident: When interviewed, the soldiers in Iraq say they do not want to leave before victory is achieved.

Newscasters cite this not only as an illustration of how heroic our troops are (which is true enough - they are indeed), but to indicate that the troops support the "we won’t leave until the job is done" advocated by Mr. Bush.

These are (mostly) young, highly trained, heavily armed men and women, loaded with hormones and dedicated to being as lethal as possible. They have trained for years for one thing and one thing only: to enter the field of battle and vanquish the foe. They are unwilling to leave until they can (figuratively speaking) stand with one foot on the conquered foe, wave the American flag and declare victory.

To leave prior to that would be like a racecar driver deciding to quit in mid race. When a driver’s car fails and he is forced out of the race, a driver is angry and distraught. Like a soldier in battle, he wants to finish the job. It is hardly surprising that our soldiers do not want to leave Iraq at this point.

But soldiers do not make policy, and it is not for them to determine the course of action that will best serve our nation. However admirable their attitudes, their words must not be used as justification for the continuation of an unjust and failed war.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Words and duty

Excerpted from an item by Michael Kinsley at Comment is Free today. About Jim Webb, one of our new senators,

"Webb seems to believe that because he served in Vietnam, anyone who could have but didn't should shut up. That includes people who opposed that war - that is, who got it right - as well as those who supported it. Webb's son is serving in Iraq now…"

And then about Bush’s political strategy,

"At first it seemed like a brilliant strategy - repellent, but brilliant - to isolate most Americans from the cost of the war in Iraq. It's starting to seem a lot less so. As the deaths and injuries mount, more and more people are touched by the war - and become understandably resentful of those who are not. Bush, in his speeches, is eloquent about what no one doubts - the sacrifice - but banal about what most people have come to doubt: the purpose.

In short, words are cheap when uttered by those who have not done their duty.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Oh my!

Oh my goodness. USC finally makes it to a position for the BCS championship, and then they lose to UCLA. I mean, they not only blow their position in the standings, and lose a trip to the championship game, but they do it in a fashion that is like the proverbial perfect storm - an unranked team, and their crosstown rivals.

I had another commitment and didn't see the game. And I'm from San Diego so I really had no dog in that hunt. But, oh my...