Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

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Milestones In The Long Journey Back To The Line Of Scrimmage

May 24, 2008

Great news!  That rag-tag band of terrorists that didn’t exist until we invaded Iraq may have finally been defeated.  Of course, we’ve seen these “al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run” flashes before, but I’m still gonna give the h/t to Hot Air ’cause, well, maybe because I don’t remember ever posting about it. 

Anyway…

The battle against the people a little closer to those who actually attacked us is ongoing:  Taliban Attacks Spike in Afghanistan 

 

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Spotted: Another Brobdingnagian Factcheckathon

February 22, 2008

I got the feeling that the rightosphere pulled another all-nighter, as their blogs are all abuzz over an anecdote that Obama used in last night’s Democratic debate. 

First, the anecdote:

“You know, I’ve heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon — supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon,” he said. “Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq.  And as a consequence, they didn’t have enough ammunition, they didn’t have enough humvees.  They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.”

Then came the Brobdingnagian factcheckathon (see HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.)  These bloggers called BS, because, you know, prior to last night’s debate there was no evidence whatsoever that the Iraq adventure diverted resources from the mission in Afghanistan.  It’s not like the Iraq Study Group said exactly that or anything.

So, what came all this hysteria?  Well, some journalist guy actually contacted the Army captain that Obama was referring to.   And what do you know?

Prior to deployment the Captain — then a Lieutenant — took command of a rifle platoon at Fort Drum. When he took command, the platoon had 39 members, but — in ones and twos — 15 members of the platoon were re-assigned to other units. He knows of 10 of those 15 for sure who went to Iraq, and he suspects the other five did as well.

The platoon was sent to Afghanistan with 24 men.

“We should have deployed with 39,” he told me, “we should have gotten replacements. But we didn’t. And that was pretty consistent across the battalion.”

and

Also in Afghanistan they had issues getting parts for their MK-19s and their 50-cals. Getting parts or ammunition for their standard rifles was not a problem.

“It was very difficult to get any parts in theater,” he says, “because parts are prioritized to the theater where they were needed most — so they were going to Iraq not Afghanistan.”

“The purpose of going after the Taliban was not to get their weapons,” he said, but on occasion they used Taliban weapons. Sometimes AK-47s, and they also mounted a Soviet-model DShK (or “Dishka”) on one of their humvees instead of their 50 cal.

Oh well, perhaps now they’ll get some sleep. 

Nah.  There’s some BS in there somewhere.  I just know it.

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Bin Laden Thinks We’ll Do Ourselves In

September 9, 2007

There’s been a lot of buzz (and spin) on the blogs about the latest bin Laden video, so I might as well add my thoughts on it. 

Like many people, I wondered if bin Laden was still alive, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that this appearance proves that he is (although I suppose that it is possible that it’s a hoax).  I only saw a portion of it, so I’ll base my comments from here on in on the transcript.

Bin Laden is all over the board with this.  He mentions everything from Chomsky to global warming to capitalism to Iraq to Jesus and Mary.  I was three pages in and I was a bit unsure if it was really making any sense.  It started out as veiled gloating and evolved into what could best be described as…um…advice.   Eventually, I think I got it, however.

What’s remarkably absent, I guess, is any talk of future attacks.   The point I think he’s attempting to make here is that they don’t need to.   He’s appears to be saying that 9/11 was a catalyst that prompted a course of action that will lead to our downfall.   According to bin Laden,  because of our flawed capitalist system combined with our stubborn and arrogant leadership (who do the bidding of the corporations), we will bankrupt ourselves…and the only thing that will save us is Islam.

While reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck he’d have to say if we hadn’t invaded Iraq.  Who knows?  Maybe he wouldn’t be saying anything.  Maybe he’d be dead or captured by now.

Another thing worth mentioning is the question of whether any of this is really what he believes.  This propagandistic speech is directed at us Americans, and it would be irresponsible to dismiss the notion that he’s just messing with us.  In other words, the speech itself is less a genuine piece of advise and more of an instrument of sociological warfare.  In fact, Jason Stark over at mvdg proposes exactly that:

If I am right about Osama’s plan, then he must be very happy. Actually, he must be very happy regardless of whether he planned it. The response from far right and far left are predictable and to Osama’s benefit. Rather than focusing on how to best fight bin Laden, both the far left and the far right are spending all their energy on each other. The only winner from this obsessive internal political demonization that has become the sum total of American political culture? Osama bin Laden.

Maybe we’re both right.  Perhaps the message kills 2 birds with one stone.  He gets to gloat and inspire and stick his grubby fingers in our political discourse at the same time. 

I feel kind of guilty even posting about this now.  After all, we’re allowing a bearded nutbar in a cave on the other side of the globe to have so much power.  How humiliating. 

Update:  The Telegraph speculates that bin Laden’s speechwriter may be Adam Gadahn.

Bin Laden referred to “the reeling of many of you under the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes and real estate mortgage” and blamed “global warming and its woes” on “emissions of the factories the major corporations”.

A former senior US intelligence official said: “It has Adam Gadahn written all over it.” Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer, said the tape left bin Laden with “the title of biggest gas bag in the terrorist world”.

 

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Why We Haven’t Found Bin Laden

August 26, 2007

I read an unusually long piece on the Newsweek site today that gave a very comprehensive background on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and although many of the details it featured have been known for some time, many have not, and it was nice to see it all laid out in one story.  I’d suggest that everyone read it.  The Ongoing Hunt for Osama bin Laden

My takeaway from this was that it further revealed that the Iraq invasion was an unnecessary and counterproductive blunder.  Instead of narrowly focusing on the source of the 9/11 attacks and the ideology that fueled it, we’ve gone ahead and created new problems.  Big problems that we’ll undoubtedly be dealing with for generations.  Here’s the graph that best sums it up in my mind:

The American effort to chase bin Laden into this forbidding realm was hobbled and clumsy from the start. While the terrain required deep local knowledge and small units, career officers in the U.S. military have long been wary of the Special Operations Forces best suited to the task. In the view of the regular military, such “snake eaters” have tended to be troublesome, resistant to spit-and-polish discipline and rulebooks. Rather than send the snake eaters to poke around mountain caves and mud-walled compounds, the U.S. military wanted to fight on a grander stage, where it could show off its mobility and firepower. To the civilian bosses at the Pentagon and the eager-to-please top brass, Iraq was a much better target. By invading Iraq, the United States would give the Islamists—and the wider world—an unforgettable lesson in American power. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was on Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board and, at the time, a close confidant of the SecDef. In November 2001, Gingrich told a NEWSWEEK reporter, “There’s a feeling we’ve got to do something that counts—and bombing caves is not something that counts.”

Oh, it’s counting all right.  Half a trillion dollars and counting.  Four years and counting.  3728 and counting. 

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Chickenhawks Exist…Theoretically

August 5, 2007

One of the most widely used and abused epithets in political discourse is the term “Chickenhawk“.  It’s most often used by those who are against the Iraq war as an ad hominem argument directed at those who are for it.  Here’s the wiki definition:

Chickenhawk (also chicken hawk and chicken-hawk) is a political epithet used in the United States to criticize a politician, bureaucrat, or commentator who strongly supports a war or other military action, but has never personally been in a war, especially if that person actively avoided military service when of draft age.

The term is meant to indicate that the person in question is cowardly or hypocritical for personally avoiding combat in the past while advocating that others go to war in the present. Generally, the implication is that “chickenhawks” lack the experience, judgment, or moral standing to make decisions about going to war. Often, there is a further connotation that “chickenhawks” falsely believe that their support for military action is a mark of personal courage analogous to actual combat, thereby demeaning those actually serving while elevating themselves.[1]

Or, an alternative definition:

Chickenhawk is “A person enthusiastic about war, provided someone else fights it; particularly when that enthusiasm is undimmed by personal experience with war; most emphatically when that lack of experience came in spite of ample opportunity in that person’s youth.”

The problem with the term is that it is fraught with logical fallacies, at least in the manner that it is commonly used.  In its ad hominem form, it is all too often wielded as a substitute for an actual argument, and is typically done in a knee-jerk fashion as slur more than anything else.  Usually, it points to bit of intellectual laziness on the part of the user.

However, I’m going to make take pieces of the above definition(s) and make the argument that chickenhawks are indeed among us, at least in theory.  After giving it some thought, here’s my definition:

Chickenhawk
A vocal or influential supporter of a war or conflict whose support is contingent upon the fact that they won’t have to sacrifice anything of significance personally (themselves, children, a close friend, etc.); someone whose public statements contradict their private sentiments based on that condition (for example, an exercise in partisanship); especially significant if one has also vocally expressed disdain for those who have voiced concerns about, or have spoken out against said war.

Unfortunately for the vast majority of the people out there who widely use the term, it is very hard to prove that someone fits this definition.  Pointing out that someone is for the war but has never served in the military or doesn’t enlist won’t cut it.  To prove that someone is a chickenhawk in this case would require some knowledge of a person’s private thoughts or conversations and knowing that they are contradictory to what they have said publicly.  For the definition, I put emphasis on “vocal or influential” to intentionally exclude those who simply express an opinion if asked.  “Vocal” in this case means a supporter who is making an effort to influence others (politicians, radio hosts, columnists, etc.), or, to a somewhat lesser extent,  someone whose arguments are being made public enough to possibly influence others (like bloggers).

Here are a couple hypothetical examples:

  • Karl “prepared for war” Rove actively discourages his son from joining the military.
  • Vocal war supporters suddenly change their tune or simply run for Canada if the draft were reinstated.
  • A politician’s support for war based primarily on political expediency.

You see, we don’t know what Rove tells his son privately, and we may never see a draft that would force the chickens to drop their tough guy masks.  It’s also safe to assume that a politician’s position may be different if they knew that someone close to them would be sent into harms way, but you’ll have a hard time proving that as well.

I think that everyone can agree, however, that there are probably plenty of people out there who would fit my definition.  The problem is, one can’t really use the term because we can’t positively ID most of them (especially complete strangers on the internet).  Also, what is unique about my definition, I suppose, is that prior military service doesn’t automatically disqualify someone.

So, if you know of a real chickenhawk in your personal life, don’t be afraid to call him on it if they question your patriotism for any anti-war rhetoric you might utter.  I think that’s fine.  After all, they’re phonies.  But the term is very hard to apply to someone that you do not know personally, so most of its usage on the internet should be avoided.

Previously in the Chamber: Is Andrew Rove “Prepared For War”?

And a blog of note:  Operation Yellow Elephant

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The Cost Of “Infrastructure” Vs. War

August 2, 2007

As a resident of the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, I’ll no doubt be personally affected by the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge.  This was considered one of the most heavily trafficked bridges in the entire state.  I’ve been glued to the TV all day watching all the latest developments.  One subject that keeps getting touched on is the status of bridges all across the country, most notably the alarming number of those that are categorized as “structurally deficient”.  It got me thinking.  Why aren’t we spending money on this?  Is it the cost? 

I decided to do a little research to get some perspective on what kinds of costs we’re talking about here. I started to look for bridges specifically, and I found one. A BIG one:

donghai  bridge

This is the Donghai Bridge in China. According to wiki, it is the longest cross-sea bridge in the world (20.2 mi.). It opened in 2005 and cost a cool $1.2 billion to build.

On the other hand, maybe we don’t have to worry about building new bridges as much as simply fixing and maintaining the ones that are already there.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, we would have to spend $9.4 billion a year for the next 20 years to take care of these bridges.  Lots of dough (a total of $188 billion without considering inflation).

In contrast, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing about $12 billion a month. This means that we’re spending the equivalent cost of one of the largest bridges in the world every 3 days.  Or, looked at another way, the cost of the aforementioned repairs over 20 years is roughly the cost of a little over one year in Iraq alone.

Ain’t it somethin’?

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Not Supporting The Troops

July 23, 2007

While the rightosphere obsesses over the perceived level of anti-military rhetoric emanating from the Daily Kos, this story seemed to sneak across everyone’s radar screen unnoticed:  Iraq, Afghanistan veterans sue US government over health care horrors

Hundreds of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans Monday filed a class-action lawsuit against the US government for providing them with deficient medical and financial support.

They accused the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of violating the constitutional rights of war veterans who have to face a bureaucratic nightmare that leaves claims pending for up to 10 years.

“The delays have become an insurmountable barrier preventing many veterans from obtaining health care and benefits,” the plaintiffs said in their 11-page complaint filed at a US District Court in San Francisco.

The Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth Inc. complained on behalf of “hundreds of thousands of men and women who have suffered grievous injuries,” alleging the system for deciding VA claims “has largely collapsed.”

But this was today’s outrage:


See? Anyone can say it.