Saturday, January 07, 2006

Entire US Army Shoots Self In Foot

This photo from the USMC official website shows how serving soldierss are complete suckers for cute unidentified Iraqi kids who presumably have brothers and fathers ( each household is legally allowed one AK47).

Of course this would be of no interest to a guerrilla army whatsoever, unlike perhaps the photos and information provided in increasingly censored "milblogs"

Here' a link to a semi-thorough article from Newsday, a reputable New York Newspaper. concerning the crackdown on "milbogs".

And here are my musings:

Cindy Sheehan has been accused by various media pundidiots of "giving comfort to our enemies". Various politicians and reporters critical of the invasion of Iraq, its aftermath and its management have been often been accused of treason or at least "aiding and abetting the enemy". And lately some active duty soldiers have suffered the same criticism due to the content of their blogs.
Indeed the military has taken steps to shut down various "milblogs" it deems too detailed for fear that some of the information might be exploited by their military opposition and has insisted that any future blogs be reviewed for content before publication.

Reviewing and restricting the dissemination of information from a battlefront makes a lot of sense, in principle at least.
As a soldier on the front lines the last thing you would want to do is accidentally give the enemy useful intelligence because it could kill you. For the generals and politicians it could mean the difference between victory and defeat, tactically and strategically. For military families it could mean the difference between a joyful or sorrowful homecoming and for the taxpayer funding the war (whether pro or against) it could mean the cessation or continuation of taxation without real representation of hard-earned money that could be used elsewhere.

Here's another official USMC photo which IN NO WAY reveals any clues whatsoever about how an assault team might enter a building or what equipment they might carry.

For example one serving soldier’s blog was shut down and its author demoted because he had described his unit's flight route into Iraq and that information could thus help the enemy shoot down U.S. aircraft. The Army also said that this same soldier shouldn’t have disclosed that the last three bullets he loaded into his weapon's magazine were always tracers, because that could tip an enemy to time an attack just as an American soldier is reloading.

Marine Capt. Don Caetano of Mineola who was stationed in Fallujah where he ran the embedded journalist program and is now a recruiter in Garden City, NY offers this explanation of the increasingly instituted censorship:
"When you put your blog out there, you cannot forget that not only the good guys, but the bad guys are accessing it, especially for Techniques, Tactics and Procedures. If the bad guys take a piece from me, and a piece from you, and a piece from another guy, pretty soon they can gather some pretty good intel."

I have to admit that makes a lot of sense.

Except that Captain Caetano has of course just corroborated the information the Army objected to and negated his own argument for censorship. Thus he himself has "aided and abetted" the enemy—oops!

And here's the link to America's Army that apparently allows only the "good guys" with an internet connection to learn and practice the basics of both standard army and "special-ops" tactics.

But no matter, I’m sure the Army has now eliminated this particular use of tracers in US ammo clips, thereby preventing both the enemy and the US soldier of a clear notification in the middle of a firefight that it’s time to reload.

I’m sure the average soldier’s personal well-being and any mission objective will be henceforth better served by deploying hordes of army desk-jockeys to ensure every combat soldier’s ammo clips are without tracer rounds and instead insisting they quietly count the bullets they fire so that the enemy isn’t tipped-off about the soldier’s potential vulnerability. And I don’t suppose it has ever occurred to the stupid ragheads to designate just one of their group to function as a non-combatant first-hand observer in an attack against US military to better understand their tactics and procedures, rather than shoot first and "Google" later.

Two soldiers specifically have been demoted and fined respectively $1,000 and $1,640 for putting classified information on their blogs. Presumably then "aiding and abetting" or "giving comfort to the enemy" or revealing classified information no longer gets a soldier jailed or shot for treason but just a fine and a demotion; somehow the accusation and the penalty doesn’t quite fit. Perhaps the fact that said soldier might still be "in theater" whilst "security mom's" are beating up army recruiters in shopping malls has something to do with it.

An apparently life or death issue (not to mention the success or failure of a mission) is thus considered to be of national importance yet at the same time relegated to the level of a small-claims court.

The reasons given by Captain Caetano for the censorship of milblogs might actually be as injurious to the US military effort as the milblogs themselves.
His arguments and those of the Pentagon reveal a monolithic approach to the conduct of an "asymmetric" war, in the theater, in the media and at home. It is symptomatic of exactly the hidebound mentality that began the war and continues to mismanage it.
The "intel" provided by such blogs can indeed be used by the opposition as long as the U.S. military itself ignores it ands suppresses it. Information is just information, it’s how information is employed that matters. Rather than learning from those in the middle of the fight, the military (and its "Commander in Chief") would rather devote as much effort to attacking its own as it does to attacking its professed enemy.

There are plenty of good reasons for the military to be concerned about inadvertent release of "intel". But the fact is the US military as a whole is as guilty of providing such "intel" to a far greater degree than any single military blogger, or indeed of all of them. The excuses provided by the likes of Captain Caetano are fine in theory, but clearly lacking in practice. If the US military insists on "gagging" it's soldiers when it clearly can't gag itself, what then can we conclude? Are those in command stupid, incompetent or both?

According to our "Commander in Chief" the "Iraq War" was initiated based upon the "best intelligence we had at the time". That's a lot of crap. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld's most constant refrain is "who knowS? You tell me!" Well the milblogs are telling their commanders what's going on and providing the US public who are funding the war with "intel" that above all informs those who are willing to listen and who are truly concerned with the soldiers' welfare as well as the professional and honorable completion of their mission.

It's hard to draw any other conclusion than that the gagging of milblogs is nothing more than an exercise in poltical propaganda which does nothing to serve the soldier, the mission or the nation. The Pentagon itself has done far more to provide the "enemy" with the intel it seeks, and to undermine morale in theater and at home though its incapacity to provide the troops with supplies and listen to their real-time field experience than any milblog ever has.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

What's Under The Hat?

(AP Photo)

According to court papers "BlackJack" Abramoff the casino-profit loving Republican lobbyist, by his own admission is guilty (amongst other things) of defrauding his clients to the tune of at least $20 million between "early" 2001 and April 2004.

Recipients of his lobbying largesse are now disassociating themselves from the current and still-brewing scandal by returning the funds or else donating them to charity

Maybe I’m being stupid here, but surely if the money Abramoff provided was a) laundered and b) gained through fraud shouldn’t that money be a) held as evidence and b) returned to those who were defrauded? Therefore shouldn’t the politicians unloading the funds be placing the monies in an escrow account to be held until the conclusion of the criminal investigation rather than being shuffled off to charities? And how can charities accept these transferred funds when their source is clearly suspect?

The Washington Post touches briefly on these issues. Hopefully they will follow up.

Now, according to the above mentioned article: "Abramoff raised more than $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, making him an honorary Bush "Pioneer." But the campaign is giving up only $6,000, which came directly from Abramoff, his wife and one of the Indian tribes the lobbyist represented. The money will be donated to the American Heart Association."

Remember Abramoff has admitted guilt to defrauding his "clients" ($20 million) between 2001 and 2004. Abramoff "earned" over $11 million from one tribe between 2001 and 2003. Bush received $100,000 from Abramoff for his 2004 re-election campaign, less than 1% of his take from his scam.
Bush is now unloading $6000 of that contribution or 6% of a contribution that came from an illegal source. What are the odds that the $6,000 was lawfully gained when Abramoff had just scammed $11 million? What are the odds that the $100,000 was lawfully Abramoff’s to give? What was Abramoff’s source of income except the $11 million of tribal money---oh yes… the various other millions he has admitted to scamming since 2001? .

Of course Scott McClellan was there to explain it all to the troglodytes:
" If someone thinks that money is coming in with strings attached, it doesn't get in the door."

Well golly-gee Scott ("or should I say Doctor VON Scott!"), if there weren’t any strings attached, why give ANY MONEY AWAY AT ALL?!!! It’s all legit, right?

And of course Abramoff didn’t have any intention of asking favors of Bush because the real power lay with the Congress. Bush owed so many favors to industry and his own party Abramoff didn’t need a direct line to the President. The quid pro quo equation is simple: with Bush playing President Bush he could do what he wants as long as congressional Republicans could do what they wanted, which coincided with what the mega-rich oligarchy wanted which is to live even more fabulous lives.

The Abramoff scandal has yet to play out, but the big issue under the hat is not just the corruption of some politicians, it is the corruption of our whole system of government—what it is really for, who it benefits and what America and democracy are about.
The eventual jailing of Abramoff and any representatives or Senators that might be brought down should not be the end of the story. To be continued….