Archive for the 'History' Category

Jun 09 2015

USS Liberty

Published by under History

As I have mentioned I travel to the land of milk and honey quite a bit. One of the messages I continually hear is about how Israel is surrounded and always under attack. And I don't really dispute it-having been on the road twice when the sirens went off and rockets were inbound. ( True Story).

But there was also the time that Israel was the attacker. Yesterday being June 8th, it is probably worth remembering:

In 1967, at the height of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force launched an unprovoked attack on the USS Liberty, a US Navy spy ship that was monitoring the conflict from the safety of international waters in the Mediterranean.

Israeli jet fighters hit the vessel with rockets, cannon fire and napalm, before three Israeli torpedo boats moved in to launch a second more devastating attack. Though she did not sink, the Liberty was badly damaged. Thirty-four US servicemen and civilian analysts were killed, another 171 were wounded.

Later Israel apologized for what it claimed to be a tragic case of mistaken identity. It said that it had believed the ship to be hostile Egyptian naval vessel. US President Lyndon Johnson was privately furious but publicly the White House chose not to challenge the word of its closest Middle East ally and accepted that the attack had been a catastrophic accident.




In the years since then, there has been a lot of talk of conspiracies and cover-ups. I don't know who is right, but I know Israelis don't like to talk about it.

As for the truth about a cover-up, I don't know and will not speculate. But it is worth remembering that 34 men died that day. God grant them rest and peace.


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Jan 10 2015

Busy week.

And what a sad week it has been too.

The news from Paris is sad, tragic and sadly, all too expected in this day and age. In solidarity with the right of a free press to publish what it wants to and not be subject to censorship at the point of a gun- I am republishing one of the Charlie Hedbo cartoons. Oh, and fuck Mohammed too.



And maybe I'll publish another one too.  And while I am at it, fuck Islam. (Click to see propely).


As angry as this apostate religion makes me; as disgusted as I am with their stupid dietary laws, the shitty way they treat women, the clothing things they make women wear-and how frustrated I am that these people will not assimilate into European society, I also have to think hard on what the facts really are.

Contrary to the assertions of some, Islam is not overrunning Europe:(click to see properly)



A disgruntled and radicalized minority is indeed a problem as this week has once again shown us. But one needs to remember the world has over a billion Muslims. They are not going away and we can't kill them all-no matter how much some of our neocon masters would like to try. And I also have to remind myself that it is a minority. Most of the Hijab wearing set here in Germany just want to live their lives. (and they speak better German than I do).

So yea, I am disgusted and angry. I'm tired of Islam's sickness infecting parts of the world I like. I want the women to take off the hijabs and abayas, put on some dresses and shoes and dress like a Western woman.  But in the end, cartoonist Joe Sacco may have it right. And with his cartoon I will close. My deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives this week in and around Paris. The Western World HAS to prove that it is better than these thugs. ( Click to see the cartoon properly-its worth reading).


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Nov 12 2014

But I thought we lost the war during Obama’s West Point speech?

LTG Daniel Bolger (Citadel Class of 1978) has a very good book out chronicling the truth that a whole lot of people don't want to admit. For them, the wars were lost when the President of the United States decided to :1) not hang US troops out to dry with a worthless Iraqi government when they refused to negotiate on a SOFA treaty and 2) the day Obama gave a speech at West Point that acknowledged what many Americans already knew-that there was a limit to how much we could do for people who over the last 8 years had proven themselves completely worthless and unworthy of the sacrifices being made  on their behalf. And that a lot of Americans were sick of it.

Fortunately for us, there are some military professionals, who actually fought in the war, who know better:

As a senior commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, I lost 80 soldiers. Despite their sacrifices, and those of thousands more, all we have to show for it are two failed wars. This fact eats at me every day, and Veterans Day is tougher than most.

As veterans, we tell ourselves it was all worth it. The grim butchery of war hovers out of sight and out of mind, an unwelcome guest at the dignified ceremonies. Instead, we talk of devotion to duty and noble sacrifice. We salute the soldiers at Omaha Beach, the sailors at Leyte Gulf, the airmen in the skies over Berlin and the Marines at the Chosin Reservoir, and we’re not wrong to do so. The military thrives on tales of valor. In our volunteer armed forces, such stirring examples keep bringing young men and women through the recruiters’ door. As we used to say in the First Cavalry Division, they want to “live the legend.” In the military, we love our legends.

Here’s a legend that’s going around these days. In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq and toppled a dictator. We botched the follow-through, and a vicious insurgency erupted. Four years later, we surged in fresh troops, adopted improved counterinsurgency tactics and won the war. And then dithering American politicians squandered the gains. It’s a compelling story. But it’s just that — a story.  (Emphasis mine-SS)



Clearly this will get many "surgeaholics" riled up. Devotees of the theory of ever continuing warfare, and of never blaming the people of Iraq or Afghanistan themselves for the mistakes they made,  just does not fit the narrative. Troublesome facts are not the things they wish to hear:

We did not understand the enemy, a guerrilla network embedded in a quarrelsome, suspicious civilian population. We didn’t understand our own forces, which are built for rapid, decisive conventional operations, not lingering, ill-defined counterinsurgencies. We’re made for Desert Storm, not Vietnam. As a general, I got it wrong. Like my peers, I argued to stay the course, to persist and persist, to “clear/hold/build” even as the “hold” stage stretched for months, and then years, with decades beckoning. We backed ourselves season by season into a long-term counterinsurgency in Iraq, then compounded it by doing likewise in Afghanistan. The American people had never signed up for that. What went wrong in Iraq and in Afghanistan isn’t the stuff of legend. It won’t bring people into the recruiting office, or make for good speeches on Veterans Day. Reserve those honors for the brave men and women who bear the burdens of combat. That said, those who served deserve an accounting from the generals. What happened? How? And, especially, why? It has to be a public assessment, nonpartisan and not left to the military. (We tend to grade ourselves on the curve.) Something along the lines of the 9/11 Commission is in order. We owe that to our veterans and our fellow citizens

Reviews for Bolger's book, Why We Lost, are mixed-I agree with his conclusion- while I agree also with those who think he doesn't place enough strategic blame with our top level civilian leadership. Furthermore, its clear he thinks we had to invade-and that is a conclusion that is not borne out by history. The invasion of Iraq is the biggest Foreign Policy mistake in the last 30 years. Nonetheless he gives an objective and necessary telling of how we far exceeded our original needs and objectives after 9-11 and plunged into a global rat hole. That alone makes it worth the read.


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Jul 10 2014

Recent Reading

On the trip over to Normandy-I had forgotten to charge my I-Pad. So I grabbed a book from the shelf to read on the train. Boy am I glad I did. It was an honor to re-immerse myself in this book.


Schlesinger, a life long liberal, was also an outstanding historian. And a superb writer. He never struck a mismatched key. For the writing alone-this book is worth a read, but more importantly, it is a stirring defense of humanity in government, and the willingness to adopt a creed other than that which inhabits the current GOP: " I got mine, fuck you!"

One of the most interesting things about reading the letters of Arthur Schlesinger is the quality of the discussion between him and those like Joseph and Stewart Alsop and many others. They held differing view points-but because they had the shared experience of a demanding education, and having to actually earn their way onto a writing staff-and live under an editor, the quality of what they produced was far superior to what the intellectual children, who presume to even think they have a right to sit at the grown ups table, produce now. The Krauthamers, Chunky Bobo, the plagiarist Malkin, all the members of the Liars Club-cretins like William Jacobsen, John Hinderaker, Mark Steyn, 3/4 of the blogosphere ( especially the mil-blogs)-what they produce is trash when held up in comparison to the quality of the writing that went forth from the great writers of the 50's and 60's. Near the end of his life Schlesinger saw this decline of intellectual rigor-and rightly chastised it, particularly those who fell for the shame that was what he called "Gingrichism" in the mid 90's. Altogether great history-a story the above listed children can not even begin to appreciate.

This is worth the money to buy.

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Jan 30 2014

Countdown to catastrophe

Published by under History

Better late than never, I always say.

Today in 1914 and this week in 1914 the following things happened:

                 Jan 22nd – Paul Claudel's "L'échange," premieres in Paris

                Jan 24th – Opera "Madeleine," premieres in NYC

                Jan 26th – 600 Dutch textile workers go on strike

                Jan 26th – Vatican puts Belgian Nobel winner Maeterlinck's works in their index

                Jan 28th – 1st Millrose Games (athletics) held (NYC)

                Author and Nobel Laureate Gerhart Hauptmann ‘s Der Bogen des Odysseus was on premere in Berlin.

                Jan 28th – Beverly Hills, Ca, is incorporated. ( Much to the rest of the country’s regret.

In Austria-Hungary , the country was geographically the second largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire, and the third most populous (after Russia and the German Empire). The Austro-Hungarian Empire consisted of two monarchies (Austria and Hungary), and two autonomous countries: Polish Galicia within the Austrian Empire (from 1867) and Croatia within the Kingdom of Hungary (from 1868). Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sandžak-Raška were under Austro-Hungarian military occupation between 1878 and 1908, when the former was fully annexed and the latter was ceded to the Ottoman Empire. The Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary was Franz Josef, who had been on the throne since 1867. Carl Bechtold was the Minister President of Austria. The deaths of Franz Joseph's brother, Maximilian (1867), and his only son, Rudolf made the Emperor's nephew, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne. ( You will hear that name again. :-)    ).

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Jan 10 2014

Going down a sinkhole…….

Is still a bad thing-no matter how many times you do it.

The usual suspects have come out, and seized upon Robert Gates’ new book to criticize the effort to get the US out of the worthless hellhole that is Afghanistan, and to rewrite the history of the US fiasco in Iraq.  I find the tenor of the comments interesting, if more than a little bit predictable.

First, I think it is most important that the specific quote be examined in the context of the text around them. Gates was and is a person who moves deliberately, does not waste words, and I like to think of him as a consummate professional. Certainly he made a far better SECDEF than his worthless predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld-who ranks right down there with McNamara in terms of overall mediocrity.

Furthermore, it is particularly important to remember who is out there fronting for these criticisms right now: Bob Woodward and William “The Bloody” Kristol, neither of whom can be consider to be exactly “objective” observers. As Charles Pierce notes:

I mean, is there any possible reason to criticize the president because he injured the rather peripatetic fee-fee of Saint David Petraeus, or to find it unprecedented that a president might wonder whether or not a war he inherited — and, yes, supported, as a candidate — wasn't ultimately a futile proposition, or whether his generals were giving him the straight dope. I guarantee you, back in the 1860's, Woodward would have been the go-to stenographer for all those incompetent generals who Lincoln fired. (George McClellan would have loved him.) In the 1950's, Woodward would have been MacArthur's first phone call after Harry Truman canned his ass.

The other important thing to remember about Bob Gates is that a Democratic president thought keeping him on as Secretary of Defense would be a smart, centrist, bipartisan move that would be applauded on the op-ed pages, and by important people. Like, one supposes, Bob Woodward, who now occupies as space in the dingbatosphere far beyond mere journalism.

And, no matter how professional Gates is-he is still a Republican. Who has served a series of Republican presidents and made more than a couple of mistakes himself.

Or does no one remember Iran Contra anymore?

When Obama came into office-he was committed to getting us out of the hell hole that is Iraq. (Which was just as well since there was no prospect that an American troop presence would ever have resulted in social peace there) He had campaigned on the idea that Iraq was a colossal mistake and it diverted resources from the fight against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.  DOD was supposed to give him a menu of options for pursuing “victory”. In the end they only gave him the same tired old formula. A plan for a troop escalation of 40,000 and an open-ended big war to “prove” David Petraeus’s theories of counter-insurgency. Petraeus’ sexual proclivities were as yet unknown-so he still enjoyed sainthood status.  This even though, in Iraq, he was part of the problem long before he became the solution. And when examined in detail-the surge did nothing that it was supposed to have done. ( As is being proved every day now in that useless nation). So what he said carried a lot of weight-and going against them was not a politically expedient move.

Now, even Gates’ critics acknowledge that on the whole, he was a very positive force at the Pentagon and for the nation. He appears to have helped prevent Dick Cheney and the Neocons from attacking Iran. He warned against the seductive character of drone warfare, and wants a court to sign off on drone strikes. He said he thought any military commander who wanted to take US troops into another big ground war should have his head examined. And he tried to rein in the Pentagon’s off the rail procurement processes, which have led to such fiascos as the Little Crappy Ship.

Plus, these criticisms are more than a little self-serving. They seek to completely ignore the fact that by 2009, in general, the public had had it with war without end, and was tired of the wars in general, and Iraq in particular.  As is typical for your fan of Bush’s peculiar brand of liberation theology, it ignores the real people who were causing the failure of said policy, namely the people of Afghanistan themselves. Andrew Bacevich quite correctly pointed out that there was a distance between “American actions and America's interests is becoming increasingly difficult to discern. The fundamental incoherence of U.S. strategy becomes ever more apparent. Worst of all, there is no end in sight.”. It appears to me, at first glance (and I will need to read the book), that contrary to what the neocon apologists say, it is probably Obama that got the assessment right. He understood the public mood and had no real reason to trust the folks giving him advice-especially since they had a vested interest in seeing the wars continue. “It is further understandable that Obama entertained the severest doubts about the feasibility of Petraeus’s big counter-insurgency push. At best, he was willing to give it a try.”

Events have proven the naysayers correct-the Afghans excelled at screwing away opportunities presented to them. Petreaus is gone into obscurity, and Afghanistan has increasingly become synonymous with the overall failure of the so called “War on Terror”.  Public opinion, rightfully so, wants us out-and the sooner we get out,  the better for America. Probably not for Afghanistan, but they made their choice. Now they should have to live with it.

You have to conclude that Gates resents Obama for outmaneuvering him and some of the more gung ho officers. Obama didn’t intend to go on fighting and nation-building in Afghanistan forever. Indeed, US forces are no longer in the lead in military operations and soon they’ll be gone or be little more than troop trainers.

If anything, Obama could be faulted for giving the COIN (“counter-insurgency”) officers the benefit of the doubt and playing along with their completely unrealistic plans. He should have listened to Joe Biden, who has long experience in foreign policy and is most often right (unlike Gates). If Gates is right and Obama distrusted the generals pitching them and was skeptical of the strategy itself, it has to increase your estimation of Obama. Our estimation of Gates, in contrast, can only fall because of his disloyalty and his naive approach to Afghanistan.



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Jan 06 2014

There was never a chance………..

Phib, in one of his repeated themes, bemoans the fact that we did not give ourselves a chance to "succeed" in Afghanistan. "All it required was about another four-five years of patience. Of course, that 4-5 from now is based on an alternative history where we did not announce our retreat in DEC 09 … but what is, is. District by district "Shape, Clear, Hold, Build" was a solid way to do it – but just as it was getting roots as the surge soaked in, we stopped feeding it. The following results will be sadly predictable."

Complete and total horseshit.

This is a peculiarly American disease where we always place the blame everywhere but where it really lies. This is how we get pundits like William "The Bloody" Kristol- who,  incidentally, could not be bothered to serve one day in his miserable life, but is more than willing to send other people's children to die for his right to earn six figures a year-advocating war with out end in the Middle East.

Didn't give it enough time? We will have been in that Godforsaken country for over 13 years. How much f*cking time do we need? Or more correctly, how many chances do the Afghans get before we tell them to go f*ck themselves?

Two facts here are really important. One, the clock did not stop ticking in Afghanistan just because we invaded Iraq. So the very idea that we could "just pick up where we left off" and somehow, magically we would have a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, by spending ten plus years-losing Americans-to create what? And two, the patience of the American people is not unlimited-and we are long past the point of patience with any of the wars for most reasonable Americans.

A land of people who refuse to help themselves. This, by the way is backed up by over a 100 years of Afghan history. This is what we are getting today, it is what we would have gotten 10 years from now-it will pretty much always be that way as long as the country is saddled with albatross of Islam.

Want to know the day we "lost" Afghanistan? March 19,  2003. That's the day the United States in one of the most stupid moves in its history, foolishly invaded a land that had not attacked it, and in the process metastized what was a essentially a localized disturbance into the world's blood stream. One could even make the point that we could look further back-to the point where a man like George Bush, under the advice of some pretty questionable characters, decided that the United States could somehow accomplish the impossible and eliminate terrorism from the earth. Rather than pursue the vengeance that our public opinion required in the aftermath of 9-11, the grey hair allowed himself to be diverted into what has now quite well been proven, to be a worthless, damn fool ideological crusade.

And what do we have to show for it? Nothing of substance.

Oh sure, Bin Laden is dead, but as it turned out, that had nothing to do with clear, hold, and build. And Al Queda has been disrupted-but again, that happened with out years of counterinsurgency. We have lost over 6000 fine Americans dead and almost 50,000 wounded for the "right" to stay in a backward nation from over a decade, however. What did they suffer for?

Nothing of value Phib. Nothing of value. And that was true in 2009, as assuredly as it is today. Put the blame where it belongs and leave it there-on the Afghan people.

Now that is what I will drink more over. The  tendency on the part of policy makers — and probably a tendency in the part of some Americans — to think that the problems we face are problems that are out there somewhere beyond our borders, and that if we can fix those problems, then we'll be able to continue the American way of life as it has long existed. I think it's fundamentally wrong. Our major problems are at home in the US.

Starting with the idea that we can somehow "fix" people who are unfixable.


4 responses so far

Jan 05 2014

Countdown to catastrophe-January 5th, 1914

Back in 1914:

Henry Ford, unlike his current day counterparts, recognized that a well paid work force made for a better workforce-and more consumers. So wages were doubled from $2.40/9-hr day to $5.00/8-hr day.

George Reeves, the actor who would play Superman in the 1950's was born. So too was  Nicolas de Staël, a French-Russian painter.

In France, in 1914, the leadership of France rested with President Raymond Poincare , and Prime Minister Rene Viviani.  In 1914 she was the second largest colonial power in the World and the largest in Africa. She had, on paper anyway, the largest Army in Europe. France was allied with Britain and Russia  as part of the Triple Entente. In January 1914 the French Army had 47 divisions (777,000 French and 46,000 colonial troops) in 21 regional corps, with attached cavalry and field-artillery units. Most these troops were deployed inside France with the bulk along the eastern frontier as part of Plan 17. France also had the ability to muster a further 2.9 million men during a crisis-and did so in the summer of 1914. France was itching to get back Alsace and Lorraine, territories they lost in 1870-and regarded as "French".



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Jan 03 2014

Countdown to Catastrophe-3 January 1914

Today on the path to war:

The musical "Sari" opened in New York City.

Jean Louvel, Flemish pianist/conductor/composer was born today. ( As an aside J.R.R. Tolkien was born this day in 1892).

 Stephane Raoul Pugno, composer, dies at 62

In Britain, at this time, King George the V was the King of Great Britain and Emperor of India. HH Asquith, a liberal,  was the Prime Minister. The major issues of the day were Home Rule for Ireland, increasing labor strife, demands by women to vote, and the management of the Britain's vast world wide empire.

And finally-as a matter of background-in an event that was to have lasting implications all the way up to World War I, in 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X from the Roman Catholic Church. 





HH Asquith, a liberal was the Prime Minister

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Jan 02 2014

Countdown to Catastrophe-January 2, 1914

Back in 1914:

The Philips corporation installs its research department at Eindhoven, in the Netherlands.

9 years prior to this day in 1914, on Jan 2, 1905, Japanese Gen. Nogi received from Russian Gen. Stoessel at 9 o'clock P.M. a letter formally offering to surrender, ending the Russo-Japanese War. The aftermath of this war-coupled with the 1905 revolution shaped Russia's view towards its neighbors and was one of the factors that drove it to the alliances it entered into prior to the First World War.

On the day prior, New Years Day,  Klaas ter Laan becomes Netherlands 1st socialist mayor. Of the town of Zaandam.

Northern & Southern Nigeria united into the British colony of Nigeria.



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Jan 02 2014

Countdown to Catastrophe…….

2014 will mark 100 years since the start of World War I. I recently finished a book entitled 1913: The Eve of War  by Paul Ham.


The book recounts the year before the beginning of the World War and how the powers were anticipating even then the idea of going to war with each other-but also had no idea of how horrendous the war would be when it came. I am also about to start two other books on the year trying to get a sense of what it was like in Europe, particularly Germany, before all hell broke loose.

So I thought, with this being the year that it is, I would start a new feature here at Far East Cynic HQ, short daily ( or as close to that schedule as I can keep) lists of events that occurred in 1914 highlighting events in Europe and the UK as they stumbled down the road to a great catastrophe that destroyed 50 years of relative peace. And made the current world dawn, of too many nations with not enough structure.

We'll see how it goes. I hope you like it.


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Dec 06 2013

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95 yesterday. Clearly the world has lost a great man. He was great not just because of his struggle against apartheid-but when the tables finally turned, he did not give into the natural instincts to take vengeance on his oppressors-but to seek a middle path that made a nation that needed all of its citizens regardless of the color of their skin. South Africa will now find out if his legacy can survive or if the nation will go down the same rathole that other nations have gone down. Given the track record of his successors, I am less than totally optimistic.

Now cards on the table-I am one who is very much ambivalent about British colonialism. While I recognize its racial underpinnings and the foolishness there in, at the same time I side with Niall Ferguson who made the conclusion that the nations that were once part of the British Empire have, in general, fared much better than those that were not. In spite of the many bad things that British colonialism engendered-the simple truth about Africa remains that there are too many nations on the continent and until they start to unify and put their tribalism behind them,  they will accomplish little of greatness.

And thanks to Nelson Mandela, South Africa could be a leader in that process. His legacy is unique one.

Which is why I shake my head in such complete astonishment, at the sheer buffoonery of some commenters -who have keyed on just his early life. Nelson Mandela's life cannot be examined in an American context. Those who try to do so are fools and idiots.

I advise anyone who rants and raves about the idea of Mandela being a communist, to go back and read "Cry The Beloved Country" sometime. And then go read it again. Apartheid stayed afloat on a river of violence and oppression, and while South African tried to halt the advance of history, the world went on to pass it by. What made Mandela great was that when he finally got the chance to assume power-he well understood the powder keg of emotions that had been repressed for so many years-and worked to make the transition to black majority rule a lot more orderly than many would have expected. For the complicated world of South Africa, that was nothing short of a miracle.

Most Americans who rant and rave about Mandela's Marxism don't understand context-nor do they appear to understand much of South African history since the "vortrekkers" arrived in the 1800's.  First and foremost, Mandela was an advocate of economic and social justice. There is nothing wrong with that-and if anything he was ahead of his time. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". The National Party used the fear of communism much to its advantage all through the 60's and 70's. And like it or not-the United States aided them for a long time in that effort. Or do we forget the fact that even Saint Ronnie aided and abetted apartheid?

Ronald Reagan was angry. It was October 1986, and his veto against the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act had just been overridden — and by a Republican-controlled Senate, at that.

He had appeared on TV a month earlier to warn Americans against the Anti-Apartheid Act, decrying it as "immoral" and "utterly repugnant." Congress disagreed, and one month later, it produced the two-thirds majority needed to override Reagan and pass tough new measures against South Africa's apartheid government. These measures included a ban on bank loans and new investments in South Africa, a sharp reduction of imports, and prevented most South African officials from traveling to the United States. The Act also called for the repeal of apartheid laws and the release of political prisoners like African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela, who had spent the last 23 years in prison.

It is difficult to fully comprehend the evils of apartheid today. Blacks were denied citizenship and the right to vote. They were forcibly relocated into impoverished reservations. People of color were barred from operating businesses or owning land inside white areas, which comprised most of the country. Sexual relations or marriage between people of color and whites was strictly forbidden. Racial segregation was enforced in public areas, including schools, hospitals, trains, beaches, bridges, churches and theaters. To enforce apartheid, the government often resorted to police brutality, the imprisonment and assassination of political dissidents, and the murder of black protesters.

The United States had a complicated relationship with South Africa. Hawks in the U.S. national security complex had argued since 1948 that South Africa was an important ally in the fight against communism. Their arguments persuaded presidents from Truman to Nixon to stifle criticisms of apartheid in the interest of maintaining good relations with the white South African government, whose leaders surpassed Joseph McCarthy in their anticommunist zeal.

Reagan thought he was right. But he was wrong. And so are people who are fixated with Mandela's so called "communism". Like a lot of my viewpoints of today and yesteryear-the world in the aggregate has rejected them. I my long for the sun never setting on the British Empire and all male warships-but the world has passed those ideas by. It is what it is.

Let me repeat. You cannot look at Nelson Mandela's life through any prism but a South African one. Go back and study some of the history.

And then honor a truly great man who hopefully set his country on better course than many of his counterparts in Africa. He's not Ghandi. But South Africa is not India either. 

"What's the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter?" Which side of the aisle you are on. 

And never forget he lost 27 years of his life to a prison cell. That changes people.

God speed and give you rest and peace, Mr Mandela.


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Oct 25 2013

People who always f*ck you over.

Today is the 25 th of October. And I can't think of a better reason to celebrate this day than it is the annversiary of another excursion into futility-namely that of the Charge of the Light Brigade! As is my custom, I repost an analysis I did here, many yeasrs back. Still seems true. Substitute Lord Luncan for Mr. XXXXXXXX and the rest remains the same.

As is my custom, I am reposting this post I first did in 2005. Given the current state of events in both the US and Afghanistan these days-its important to remember this exercise in futility.


"The war is popular beyond belief"
Queen Victoria to the King of the Belgians

The proximate cause of the war was a dispute about over who had precedence at the holy Places in Jerusalem and Nazereth. Tempers frayed, violence resulted, and lives were lost. Tsar Nicholas I of Russia demanded the right to protect the Christian shrines in the Holy Land and to back up his claims moved troops into Wallachia and Moldavia (present day Rumania) then part of the Ottoman Turkish empire. His fleet then destroyed a Turkish flotilla off Sinope in the Black Sea. In an early instance of propaganda, British newspaper reports of the action said the Russians had fired at Turkish wounded in the water. According to one source, "Russian domination of Constantinople and the Straits was a perennial nightmare of the British and with the two powers already deeply suspicious of each others intentions in Afghanistan and Central Asia, the British felt unable to accept such Russian moves against the Turks. Louis Napoleon III, emperor of France, eager to emulate the military successes of his uncle Napoleon I and wishing to extend his protection to the French monks in Jerusalem allied himself with Britain." (Remember, Turkey controlled the holy land….).

So the war began in March 1854 and by the end of the summer, the Franco-British forces had driven the Russians out of Wallachia and Moldavia. The fighting should have ended there, but it was decided that the great Russian naval base at Sevastopol was a direct threat to the future security of the region and in September 1854 the French and British landed their armies on the Crimean peninsula. This set the stage for the battle of Balaklava, of which the Charge of the Light Brigade was a part.


The Charge itself:

1.Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward,All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred."Forward, the Light Brigade!"Charge for the guns!" he said:Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. 2."Forward, the Light Brigade!"Was there a man dismay'd?Not tho' the soldier knew Someone had blunder'd: Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

The light brigade consisted of the following units: The 13th Light Dragoons were placed on the right of the front line, the 17th Lancers in the center, the 11th Hussars on the left but slightly behind the regiments to the right of them. The 4th Light Dragoons and the 8th Hussars formed the second line. Here is what the battlefield and the valley they rode up looks like today

3.Cannon to right of them,Cannon to left of them,Cannon in front of them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell,Boldly they rode and well,Into the jaws of Death,Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred.

4.Flash'd all their sabres bare,Flash'd as they turn'd in air,Sabring the gunners there,Charging an army, while All the world wonder'd:Plunged in the battery-smokeRight thro' the line they broke;Cossack and Russian Reel'd from the sabre stroke Shatter'd and sunder'd.Then they rode back, but not Not the six hundred.


If you expand the picture you can see the arrow pointing to the right shows the valley the Brigade rode through. From the history of the 13th Hussars: The first line consisted of the 13th Light Dragoons on the right and the 17th Lancers on the left. Lord Cardigan placed himself alone in front of the line, a little on the left of the center. The 13th and 17th then moved off, and when they had covered rather more than 100 yards the 11th Hussars, who were in the second line, moved off also. In due course, and at about the same interval, came the 4th and the 8th. During the day the 11th had been on the left of the first line, but the narrowing of the valley and the width of front occupied by the Cossack battery at the east end necessitated a contraction in the first line. As it was, the 17th Lancers overlapped the right of the battery, and the 11th Hussars, in support, just brushed the guns with their right flank. The 11th it will thus be seen, did not actually cover the 17th but charged down the valley nearer to the Fedioukine Hills. The 11th the 4th, and the 8th were in echelon. Consequently the 4th came into the battery full front, while the course of the 8th was as against the Russian left. Captain Nolan started to ride with the charge, and it is believed took up a position in the interval between the two squadrons of the 17th At any rate, it would appear that thence he darted out when he rode obliquely across the front of the advancing line. You can see the set up on this map: 


Not exactly an envelopment………. The brigade lost over 400 men out of a starting figure of 673. Small, in comparison to the 16,000 that died of the cold and disease that came from the botch the British made of logistics in the Crimea during the following winter and summer….. Nevertheless, what went wrong? In a word, leadership…lack of it. A commander failing to take account of the fact that he was on a hill and could see what was going on and his troops could not! Add to that a whole lot of class and professional rivalry, coupled with some petty bickering and outright loathing, and you get a recipe for failure: George Charles Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan, in overall command of the cavalry and subsequently promoted to Field Marshal, was an imperious andover-bearing aristocrat who was promoted to high position over more proficient professional officers because of his social connections. He let a personal quarrel with his brother-in-law – Lord Cardigan, commander of the Light Brigade- reach such a point that their respective staffs refused to co-operate and an order from Lucan to Cardigan was misconstrued, leading to the charge. Thomas James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan was a "stupid, overbearing, arrogant, vindictive" general whose ancient title and great wealth overcame his inability to command in the eyes of the military leadership. To make matters worse, the 'galloper' who delivered the message, Captain Nolan, despised both of them. This background lead to a fatal miscommunication:

It appeared that the Quartermaster-General, Brigadier Airey, thinking that the Light Cavalry had not gone far enough in front… when the enemy's horse had fled, gave an order in writing to Captain Nolan, 15th Hussars, to take to Lord Lucan, directing his Lordship 'to advance' his cavalry nearer the enemy…….When Lord Lucan received the order from Captain Nolan, and had read it, he asked, we are told, 'Where are we to advance to?' Captain Nolan pointed with his finger to the line of the Russians, and said, 'There are the enemy, and there are the guns', or words to that effect, according to statements made after his death…

There is an interesting picture of Lord Cardigan and Lord Luncan painted in the "Flashman" series of books. From another text though, it is clear neither were were well liked: "At the time, Lord Cardigan was known to be a "blockhead" and Lord Lucan was considered a "pedant""

5. Cannon to right of them,Cannon to left of them,Cannon behind them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell,While horse and hero fell,They that had fought so well Came thro' the jaws of Death Back from the mouth of Hell, All that was left of them, Left of six hundred.

6.When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wondered.Honor the charge they made,Honor the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred. Copied from Poems of Alfred Tennyson,J. E. Tilton and Company, Boston, 1870

I shall leave it to others to make any kind of a connection to this history and current events. However it is interesting to hear the rhetoric of the time. Anything here sound familiar?

"I believe that if this barbarous nation(Russia) the enemy of all progress……should once succeed in establishing itself in the heart of Europe,it would be the greatest calamity which could befall the human race"

Lord Lyndhurst in a speech to the House of Lords

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Sep 11 2013

I want 2000 back.

Published by under History

Yes, today is the anniversary of 9-11.

Today will be filled with eloquent memorials, so I will not try to repeat them. All I know is I wish the day had, never, ever, happened.

You don't know how I hate the fact that this date is forever fixed in the world's memory-where, if things had gone as they should have-it would just be another day in a busy football season.  GOD, how I wish this day had never happened in 2001. I want the world that existed before 9-11 back. If I could go back in time and kill all of the 9-11 hijackers in their cribs and Osama bin Laden, I would.

For one thing, over 10,000 Americans would probably be alive today-and the New York Skyline would look, what is to me, "normal". Worldwide-some 300,000 people might be alive that are not now-when we went our quest for vengeance.

Guantanamo would have remained just a sleepy backwater in the Caribbean.

Large land wars would not have become acceptable again-thus growing the Army hugely-and committing us to the quagmire that is counter insurgency warfare, when in fact, the world has moved beyond such nonsense. At the least-with the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States should have moved past that nonsense. 

9-11 destroyed all that was good about American military involvement in the world. It channeled the military, and the nation it served, into a single minded quest to accomplish an unachievable goal. Now some 12 years later-that goal, the elimination of terrorism world wide-remains just as unachievable as it was in 2001. But we have a lot of dead to show for the effort.

Rather than deal with the immediate problem at hand- George W. Bush allowed himself to be sucked in by his advisors ( Primarily Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz) into a deeper and more destructive evolution. 

You [Paul Wolfowitz]immediately saw the events of 9/11 as a second and more promising opening to assert U.S. supremacy. When riding high a decade earlier, many Americans had thought it either unseemly or unnecessary to lord it over others. Now, with the populace angry and frightened, the idea was likely to prove an easier sell. Although none of the hijackers were Iraqi, within days of 9/11 you were promoting military action against Iraq. Critics have chalked this up to your supposed obsession with Saddam. The criticism is misplaced. The scale of your ambitions was vastly greater.

And so, the march from a war of necessity, to a war of choice was begun-with the predictably disastrous results.

Which gets to yet another reason I wish this day had never happened-it completely screwed up America domestically.

Don't kid yourself. Most of America's economic troubles of the past decade, can be laid directly at the feet of the wars. Naive people will try to tell  you otherwise-but the facts point to the conclusion that it is true. The war, and more importantly,  the refusal of the then in place administration to turn back tax cuts and raise revenues to pay for the wars-created the financial distress we feel today. Lots of people will tell you no, that's not the case-most of them with an ax to grind-but the facts suggest otherwise.

Had 9-11 never happened, the war in Iraq would never have happened-and as a result the national revulsion at the stupidity of Donald Rumsfeld, for the "war on the cheap" strategy he advocated-and his misguided attempts at "transformation" might not have happened. Thus, as a result, the candidacy of Barak Obama would never have gained any steam.

Which would mean, the the Republican party could have avoided its descent into lunacy beginning in 2008. Had 9-11 never happened, Sarah Palin would have remained an obscure fluke of American politics, because the wacko conservative wing of the party would not have been able to rise to its point of ascendancy due to its obsession with Obama.

The goddamn Teabaggers would have remained the fringe outliers of society they really are-because : both Obama would not be President, and they would not have the debt as an issue to hang on to. Not that any of their prescriptions would have done anything about the debt-but it gives them yet one more useless lie to hang on to. ( Yes I hate them-almost as much as I hate the hijackers).

I firmly believe that the financial crisis would not have happened-since the wars had many contributing effects-specifically fostering an economic uncertainties and higher energy prices. However-since George W. Bush was committed to helping to increase income inequality through his tax breaks to his rich friends-there is no guarantee of that. But I remain hopeful.

The armed forces might have actually been able to make some material improvements-instead of burning its personnel and equipment out-pursuing stupid wars for worthless people. Don't kid yourself-the rise of the multi-polar world could have been put off for a generation-but that all died the day the first troops entered Iraq. The military decline of the United States is virtually assured and contrary to the belief of the douchebag tea party set-it began the day we invaded Iraq.

You expected something different, of course. Shortly before the war, you[Paul Wolfowitz] told Congress:

It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army. Hard to imagine.

Your imagination led you to foresee a brief conflict, with Iraqis rather than U.S. taxpayers footing the bill for any mess left behind.

After all, preventive war was supposed to solve problems. Eliminating threats before they could materialize was going to enhance our standing, positioning us to call the shots. Instead, the result was a train wreck of epic proportions. Granted, as you yourself have said, “the world is better off” with Saddam Hussein having met his maker. But taken as a whole, the cost-benefit ratio is cause for weeping. As for global hegemony, we can kiss it goodbye.

And of course there is the real damage done for years of warfare, horrors and disappointments that had occurred: the insurgency; Fallujah and Abu Ghraib; thousands of American lives lost and damaged; at least 125,000 Iraqis killed, and some 3 million others exiled or displaced; more than a trillion dollars squandered. But hey-all among friends eh?

All this because a bunch of deranged terrorists got lucky on any given Tuesday.

I have not even begun to touch on the long term damage done to our government by 9-11's "blank check" to disregard the protections of the Constitution. The warrantless wiretapping, the abuses of privacy by the NSA.  We will , of course, forego discussion of the abomination of the Patriot Act and the abuses that have followed in the name of "national security".

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, the most disgraceful episodes in American history have been about exempting classes of Americans from core rights, and that is exactly what these recent, terrorism-justified proposals do as well.   Anyone who believes that these sorts of abusive powers will be exercised only in narrow and magnanimous ways should just read a little bit of history, or just look at what has happened with the always-expanding police powers vested in the name of the never-ending War on Drugs, the precursor to the never-ending War on Terrorism in so many ways.

But sadly-the daily inundation of abomination has made most Americans immune-and it has made some Americans deranged. 

And that is really sad. The ability of the country to reason-and as a whole discuss things has been dramatically diminished. For that we have assholes like Glenn Beck and his crazed teabagger followers to blame-but none of them might ever have come to the fore save for 9-11.

On a personal note 9-11 screwed up my life on many levels. For one thing-it ended up forcing me to send Sailors to jobs they had no business doing because of the completely worthless IA program. Secondly,it kept me from traveling to many of the places I wanted to go because of the insane and completely unfounded force protection regulations. If 9-11 had never occurred-I might have been able to do some very different things in Asia. 

All in all, 9-11 exemplifies waste. Waste of lives, waste of assets, waste of precious time.

If you want to mourn something-mourn that. The United States of America, once the great hope of mankind, through a mindless act of violence, allowed itself to spiral down on an accelerated path to ignominy.  It did not have to happen-and we would have all been better off.

As I said-I hate the fact that it happened-and wish , somehow, I could have prevented it.

3 responses so far

Jul 09 2013

The best favor we could do for ourselves.

Get the hell out of Afghanistan-as fast as we can.

I would love to see that happen. If we can't afford to pay our employees their full salary, can't afford to buy the things the nation needs, can't afford to do the things the nation should be doing-then we don't have the money to pursue stupid wars for people won't change no matter what we do.

Not-going-to-happen. But still a man can dream, can't he?

Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.

Mr. Obama is committed to ending America’s military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Obama administration officials have been negotiating with Afghan officials about leaving a small “residual force” behind. But his relationship with Mr. Karzai has been slowly unraveling, and reached a new low after an effort last month by the United States to begin peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar

I think this is a trial balloon-probably designed to send a message to Karzai to get with the program. But it sure would be nice if it were true.

The wars are a costly drain on American resources-and as I have repeatedly maintained and I still believe-just about all of our current problems can be directly or in directly traced to the wars, Especially our massive mis-adventure in Iraq. Furthermore our objectives in accomplishing retribution for 9-11 were accomplished a long time ago. Every day we stay, accomplishes nothing in the national interest of the United States-and accelerates the decline of the United States as a global super power.

Contrary to the opinions of some, the wars-especially the war in Iraq-were not noble causes. And in both Afghanistan "victory" has very different meanings depending on who you talk to. The real issue though,  is that "victory" no matter how you define it,  is unattainable. Primarily because the Iraqi and the Afghan people themselves remain mired in a pit of ancient rivalaries and misgudied beliefs that had no place in the 17th century-much less the 21st. Since they refuse to change-then leave them to their beliefs. Cut them lose and lets get back to taking care of ourselves.

Problem is Obama won't take that kind of bold step. Because he doesn't have the political capital to do it for one thing-there are too many surgeaholics like Linsey Graham and William "The Bloody" Kristol around. He could stand up to them -but he won't.

And secondly-bold change is not Obama's style. The last three years have been proof of that, which is one reason we are stuck in the tea party hell of our current politics.

Ah but if only! Lets get hell out of Afghanistan and go home.


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