Andrew Bacevich on US Foreign Policy

An excellent interview by Bill Moyers with retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich:

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08152008/watch.html

“Bacevich […] identifies three major problems facing our democracy: the crises of economy, government and militarism, and calls for a redefinition of the American way of life.”

Covers the failure of the Dems to get us out of Iraq, the current one-party US government (in the sense that both Dems and Republicans are alike), and “supporting” the troops.  Calls for a lighter, smaller foreign policy.

Superb commentary.  Watch both parts or read the transcript.

Privatization of the Military

I’m reading about Donald Rumsfeld’s declaration of war on the Pentagon that he issued on September 10th, 2001. He basically said he was going to gut the military and outsource everything to contractors.

Now this is interesting because I realize now that all these weird things I witnessed while in the Army were weird precisely because of the privatization movement that was taking place.

For instance, one of the first things I noticed was that we didn’t have to do KP duty, or Kitchen Patrol, in basic training. While in the past, soldiers would have to serve all the food to the other joes, by the time I got to Ft. Leonard Wood, soldiers were only helping to hand out some foodstuffs at the end of the line.

Later I would see that we were put on task for mowing lawns and picking up garbage far less often around post, as lawnmowing is now mostly outsourced. Soldiers still have to go around base and pick up trash though, if contractors can’t do it or if the new contract is awaiting budget approval.

But it wasn’t until I got to Iraq that I saw the biggest change. We were issued brand new uniforms with digital camouflage patterns on them. We were issued tan boots that didn’t require any polishing. This meant that all soldiers who would enter the Army afterwards would never know the joys of laboriously polishing their black boots anymore (except for jump boots). All our gear was replaced with gear that matched the new pattern, which must have cost the US government a fortune since even simple rucksacks cost easily over $150 each.

KBR, then a subsidiary of Halliburton, ran the show in Iraq. From billeting to food to construction to cleaning, they ran all the logistics. You could get Subway and Pizza Hut in Iraq easily. Massive chow halls with all the food you could eat. Contractors racing around post in personal SUV Escalades. Parking lots full of unused pickup trucks.

Our IT was outsourced to one of the big contractors and all our equipment was expensive, not fully functional, and created by the companies you see lining the highway on the way to Dulles Airport in the DC area.

There was, of course, Blackwater.

It always just struck me as weird to see so many civilians doing jobs that we’d traditionally done. Needless to say, in most cases this is great for soldiers — they can focus more on war-fighting.

But it shows the massive transformation that took place under Rumsfeld and that will be institutionalized into DC for the rest of my working life. The corporatist bubble that started within the military has expanded into homeland security (all of DHS can be scrapped in my opinion) and I imagine that will be expanded to take over local governments as well, soon, as well as anything else that businesses can rip off from the government.

These are powerful times.

Remembering Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman is in the news again because a criminal probe has been opened up to investigate his death.

Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman is the former Arizona Cardinals football player who left millions of dollars on the table to enlist in the Army and become a Ranger after 9/11. He was deployed to Afghanistan and was killed there. He famously said:

“I play football. It just seems so unimportant compared to everything that has taken place,” he told NFL Films after the Sept. 11 attacks. His grandfather had been at Pearl Harbor. “A lot of my family has gone and fought wars, and I really haven’t done a damn thing.”

He had values (and not your usual “American” conservative values, as his brother said at his funeral: “Pat isn’t with God, he’s f — ing dead. He wasn’t religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he’s f — ing dead.”) and sought to exemplify them:

Tillman talked about everything, with everyone. According to the speakers, he had read the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and he underlined passages constantly. Garwood recalled how he’d mail articles to friends, highlighting certain parts and writing in the margins: “Let’s discuss.” A quotation from Emerson, found underlined in Tillman’s readings, adorned the program.

It concluded with this: “But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

The initial reports released to the media said the death was as a result of enemy fire. This continued until around when Tillman was buried, when his parents (after the funeral) were informed that he died as a result of friendly fire.

So what happened? In my mind, Pat Tillman, a true example of a hero, got fucked over by the military. As a result, what he believed in so much ended up taking his life and dishonoring his memory.

The soldiers present at the accident said immediately that they knew it was friendly fire. They reported this to their superiors but somehow the top Army officials claimed that they did not receive those details and reported to the best of their knowledge that he had died as a result of enemy fire.

So despite being told from the beginning what happened, somehow a mid-level staffer communicated the wrong information to the higher-ups? Riiiight. How about this? The Army finds out its new poster boy has died and now it needs to do damage control. It can correct the facts later but a friendly fire death would be horrible PR.

And the higher-ups in the Army knew it was friendly fire before the funeral. Why didn’t they tell the parents? I had an argument with a friend of mine about this — he says he would not want to know the truth because it would not help. I say I would always want to know the truth about how my son died.

So now they’re opening a criminal probe. Is it to find out why Tillman’s family was not told the truth? No, it’s to skewer one of the Rangers present at the accident for negligent homicide! Can you fucking believe it? I don’t think there’s a soldier around who would think badly of another soldier for what happened there. Friendly fire happens easily. We would have understood if we were told the truth.

I really fucking hope I don’t go out like that.

The story disgusts me. Tillman was a real American hero, one who has principles and who encourages open, difficult debate. He inspired and he led. And like any real hero, he was ignominiously killed and dishonored by cowards in staff and in the media.

Political Cartoon

Inefficiencies: Bush and Foreign Language Proficiency

On the radio, the CNN News breaks played audio cuts of President Bush touting his new initiative to improve foreign language proficiency within the military. “It makes sense, doesn’t it?” as he said, to have our soldiers on the front lines be able to interact with locals and infiltrate the enemy in his own environment. He said this in his usual style, stating the obvious as if it was his idea and no one else has ever thought of it. Foreign language proficiency. Three years into the Iraq war and 4 years after 9/11. And, what, 60 years in the Middle East?

But this dream world where every soldier speaks Farsi and Arabic and Filipino and Swahili and French is not going to ever happen, at least not until some technological breakthrough changes how we learn/use language. One, the military does not know how to fully utilize language. Two, it doesn’t fit language into training. Three, most people earn less or as much pay for knowing languages (even Arabic) than they do being airborne-qualified. Yes, it is hazardous to jump out of planes but retention of linguists who earn peanuts for a skill that can earn them $100k-200k outside of the military is unacceptable.

Soldier talks to a local national

Then there’s the level of commitment at the individual level. Ask a soldier about foreign language, and he’ll tell you, “Yeah, our forces should be trained for that,” but when it comes to language classes, everyone balks and finds an excuse to get out of going. Even Special Forces soldiers, who supposedly communicate with foreigners in their own language, in order to train them, hack off random answers on multiple-choice quizzes in order to get their annual “proficiency”. It takes 5 minutes to take their test and they get their minimum requirement checked off.

This demonstrates an important lesson for people trying to get people to be more active in causes. Everyone wants homelessness to decrease, or Americans to speak various languages, or people to travel to poor countries and do humanitarian aid, or have spirited intelligent competitors for political positions.

But when those same people are placed in a position where they could increase their participation, they don’t. The basic mentality is, “Yeah, that sounds good for our people to do, but I’m busy doing my own thing.”

“We need better intelligence agencies.” “We need a better candidate for President.” “Our levee should’ve been upgraded.” “Our kids should be more competitive internationally.”

Well? What the fuck are you doing about it? Go DO IT! Enough talk. Talk was for the 90’s. What we need are people who go out and fix these things, make it their personal responsibility to make the world better.

Another thing.

Decreasing the spread of AIDS or making Iraq a peaceful country or bringing about world peace are things that everyone wants, but no one has the motivation or inspiration to do. Go join the Peace Corps or something! Go see the world! Go live with different people, learn their culture and language! Do things for others, not just for yourself!

People get spun up in their own lives. They don’t want to help, but they do want others to help. The sad thing is, no one wants to start it off. Once a movement gets going, everyone piles on. But we need people thinking about everything and wanting to get involved in fixing it.

The only way you’ll get involved in something like these issues is if you make it part of your own life. If you turn it into your living or calling. People don’t have time to work a 9 to 5 on top of doing a lot of volunteer work. Many actually do do this but I’m sure it’s very challenging.

So yeah, actions speak louder than words or some shit. That’s my profundity for the day. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

I Want to Be a Sellout

Well, my deployment in Iraq has almost come to a close. Soon I will return to the States and re-integrate myself into the normal world, free from T-barriers and uniform postures and recurring non-descript Groundhog Days that all blend into one another.

So you know what this means, right? Yes, it means I can go see my family, and most excitingly, I can travel to see my radiant girlfriend soon. But no, casual reader, what I’m referring to is actually much greater, more important to my future: it’s time to sell the fuck out!

That’s right! This bitch is cashing in. The market is hot for stuff made by honest-to-God soldiers who went to Iraq. Be a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom! Appear pro-war, intellectually adventurous, and supportive of the troops!

Most soldiers have come home and released one book full of boring non-adventures at a low-low price of 30$. Hell, “Jarhead”, a book about not-war, even got made into a movie with big-name actors!

I’m a writer, where’s my product? Where are my magazine articles? Where are my edgy communiques sent up to the newspaper articles seeking to report on the mythical “ground truth” their readers talk so much about?

So I’m releasing not one book, but in fact a trilogy! The working titles… Turner on Iraq: A Support Soldier’s Gritty Account of Hell, Turner on Islam: A Scholarly Look at the Conflict Within Islam and Emergence of Extremist Rhetoric, Turner on the Intelligence Community: Sweeping Reforms and Witch-Hunting the Liars Within.

An excerpt from Turner on Iraq: A Support Soldier’s Gritty Account of Hell…

“His squad tensed with ambivalence, unsettledness, and lack of certainty. Each readied to pounce, waiting for the perfect opportunity to make his move. Steely-eyed glares honed in expertly on the target. “Shit!” one exclaimed, as a blast of noise erupted in front of them. The squad leader, a barrel-chested veteran sergeant of modern war exhorted, “Fucking move in, goddammit!” as his troops hesitated, if only for tenths of a second. “Turn down the motherfucking volume on that TV NOW! Our satellite must’ve gone out again!” Today, there would be no more Everybody Loves Raymond. The troops dug in for the night, with only unlimited bags of microwave popcorn, plastic cereal containers from the DFAC, and Red Vines to sustain them throughout the rest of the cold winter night spent inside the building with three heaters running full-blast. This was Hell. Sunnis and Shi’ites be damned, the real war continued on.”

I’ve spent half a year in Iraq and since then I’ve accumulated priceless experience and I want to let you, the reader, know about the TRUTH, the truth the media doesn’t let you know. Hey, don’t look over here! No one’s dying!! Security’s not loose! Electricity is online twenty-six hours a day! Look! Stuffed animals! Inked fingers! Cellphones!

But lest you think Ben Turner is only about soldiering and being a grunt and being in the shit, with not a care in the world while he rapes women and plunders villages and shoots babies, I’m also releasing a softer, gentler book entitled, “‘May I Cum on Your Pillow?’ and Other Romantic Short Stories”, featuring the critically acclaimed “I’ll Break UCMJ for You and Do It Doggy-Style, Honey”.

And music! Jamie Foxx may be an Academy Award-winning actor, but now he’s also a musician! Along with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Lindsey Lohan, and David Hasslehoff, Ben Turner is going into the studio and busting his chops to produce a thirteen-track album with his new rock group, Ben Turner and John Locke’s Invisible Band. This debut album features almost no musical talent, but knowledge of kufias and common Iraqi greetings will more than make up for it.

Finally, I was so inspired by his travels to Iraq, mingling with the Iraqis and really, really getting to know and understand their deep and ancient culture, that I’m going to be traveling to other locales across the globe, publishing his travel journals under the series name, “The Holy Shit Travel Guide to the Most Dangerous Places in the World”.

CHA-CHING! CAN YOU HEAR THOSE BENJAMINS? That’s the sound of greed, baby!!!!!!!!!

Random: In the News, Last Day of February

MMMMMMMMMMH!

First of all, it’s one of my favorite times of year. Yes, Easter. Why? Because of the resurrection of Christ? Fuck no. Because of Cadbury Creme-Filled Easter Eggs! Mmmm! I love you Cadbury Creme-Filled Easter Egg. If you could only genetically mutate together with a strain of steak, and maybe Mountain Dew, you’d be perfect.

Cadbury Goodness

By the way, I’m not sure why I love Cadbury so much. Maybe because I’m part British. I’m genetically predisposed to eating Cadbury. Also, it tastes much better when it’s actually made in England than when it’s made in the U.S. That’s why we discriminating travelers have no qualms about buying pounds and pounds of Cadbury when we pass through Heathrow Airport on the way to our final destination!!! The commissary has Cadbury Flakes, which are like these long sticks of flaky Cadbury chocolate that melts in your mouth instantly. In the immortal words of the Beastie Boys, “One two, oh my god.”

Dubai and Ports

Do you understand the furor over this port management story? I sure don’t! Politicians have grabbed onto it like a Ben on a Cadbury Creme-Filled Easter Egg and won’t let go. National security! Arabs! Constituency! Reactionary politicking!!!

This post from theglitteringeye.com I think puts the truth out there on the matter. What’s sad is that everyone’s reacting now, months after everything actually happened, and despite the fact that Arab government-owned companies already exert massive influence at our nation’s ports. People don’t even realize that KBR-backed Muslims are all over our bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, “threatening” the soldiers’ security.

The U.S. is hypocritical. Business is good as long as it’s western business. We can’t trust the UAE, which we have extensive trade relations with already, and which is full of American expats.

The politicians, our wise elders who galvanize the wishes of their represented voters, are supposed to look into these matters and learn the truth. They’re not supposed to just parrot their constituency, they’re supposed to see what their constituency cares about and then exert brainpower into finding a better solution/implementation that addresses their constituency’s views.

I actually support Bush on this one — fighting the port deal is denying the inevitable and ignoring the obvious. However, I don’t understand why Bush dropped the ball on this matter politically by being stubborn about it.

Iraq Civil War?

And in Iraq, the bombing of a “Shi’ite” mosque has been misrepresented,
according to some regional experts. The main point being that the imams supposedly honored by bombed mosques were not Shi’ite but Muslim imams, living before the Shi’ites and Sunnis split apart. Sigh. You could say anything in the news and people would believe it.

Low-grade civil war? No. As long as Al-Sistani keeps his Shi’ites calm, there will be no civil war. He is holding the country together. He gives his people focus and order. If there’s no Al-Sistani, or he turns indifferent/militant, THEN you’ll see a civil war. But it won’t really be civil war. It’d be more like a Shi’ite vs. Sunni/Salafist/Wahabi extremist war.

Airborne

Tomorrow I get to jump from an airplane for the first time in a long time! Whee, fun! C-130 ramp jump! I’m excited! The best part is taking a little nap on the plane as the engines roar, then standing up, hooking up, and jumping out the back of a big ol’ bird.

An airborne jump.

Google Down as Much as 50 Points Today

GOOG’s precipitous drop today perhaps shows how fragile the market is right now. With high-flyers losing their trends, I’m concerned for the broader market.

MySpace

I just don’t understand MySpace. Why is it so hot? It’s ugly as shit, you can’t configure anything, and all your buddies’ pages are full of embedded videos, songs, and other annoying stuff. Julie and I discussed this. It’s like EVERYWHERE. MySpace this, MySpace that. But I’d never really thought it was that big until lately. I guess a lot of my non-internet friends use it a lot. But it’s like an ugly friendster/orkut clone. Daily Show spoofed it for people thinking they’re social because they have thousands of “friends” connected on their page. Julie and I agree that MySpace should do the web a favor and move to moveabletype or wordpress.

Then again, we’re web geeks who have our own sites.

Iraq, December 2005

[old; written in December obviously]

It is now December of 2005, a week before another election of Iraqi officials takes place. The Administration has begun making concessions towards removing troops from Iraq — other countries are planning on withdrawing from the mission soon if they haven’t already. There’s nothing for most other countries to do except provide interior, or rarely, perimeter, security. The American presence in Iraq is in its third year. There’s been an election and a constitutional referendum. Saddam Hussein is boycotting his current trial and getting himself in the papers daily with his theatrics.

Over 2,000 American military servicemembers have died. Countless others have been severely wounded. Explosive attacks have grown more powerful, more directed in their damage but more indiscriminate in their targets, which anti-coalition forces have been directing towards large groups of Shi’ites or police recruits or sometimes just large groups of Iraqis. The Marines have attempted to seal off Al-Anbar and the Syrian border to stop the influx of stolen vehicles for VBIEDs and foreign fighters.

Iraq’s GDP and GNP have risen sharply, along with cellular phone usage. Other figures such as crude oil production and hours of electricity per day have fallen dramatically with a spiralling loss of security instead of improving, as it should show after Bush’s claims that security for the infrastructure is the primary concern.

The Democrats have tried — and failed — to begin impeachment proceedings for the President in relation to faulty intelligence leading to the Iraq invasion. Scooter Libby is on the chopping block for being accused of ratting out an undercover CIA employee in response to bad intelligence used as justification for the invasion. The CIA is trying to hide the evidence of secret prisons and torture in Europe and other places near the Middle East. Jack Abramoff is in trouble for skimming off lobbying fees. All of this has gotten a lot of media attention but there remains a likely possibility that this will all slide off the Administration’s back in the eyes of the people.

Anti-war proponents have been gaining a foothold in the debate lately, along with assault from people like House Representative Murtha, former military, who argued for removing the troops. Murtha’s efforts are hard to counter because of his status as a Vietnam vet, but as Kerry showed, that’s no guarantee of invulnerability.

Since 9/11, Bali, London, Spain, and other countries have been hit with terrorist attacks. The U.S. has avoided further attacks. Bush claims this is because of stricter domestic security but I think it’s because Al-Qaeda has accomplished as much as it wanted out of provoking the U.S. at this point in time.

ORIGINAL PREMISE FOR WAR

The most reliable sources stated that the embargo, no-fly zones, weapons inspectors, and Hussein’s own paranoia had led to both a strangling of Iraq’s people and an inability to continue WMD research. While certainly removing Hussein would lift embargos which were killing and starving Iraqis, citing WMDs as a main reason for war was not sound. The only people saying there were WMDs were people who had no business stating their opinion on the matter, whether they be Democrat or Republican or foreign intelligence service. And since they all get their intel from the same places, of course they agreed.

Banksy's Happy Chopper

Hussein was a brutal dictator, yes. There are many brutal dictators currently in power around the world right now. Terrorist funding was non-existent, or at the very least, minimal compared to other countries in the Middle East. In terms of risk vs. reward in invading Iraq, removing Hussein’s Ba’ath government for these reasons seems stupid.

No one anticipated the insurgency. Just like no one anticipated the effect Al-Qaeda would have, even after 9/11. The only people warning of what might happen were regional experts, who were obviously ignored.

TRAINING IRAQIS

Most people would agree that the Iraqis need a suitable police and military force before the U.S. can exit Iraq. However, trust is hard to find. Anyone who’s worked with the Iraqis know they rely heavily on the Americans. The Iraqis have no heavy weapons, no heavy armor, no air support, little strategic or planning ability. To say that we are close to letting them loose is ignorant. You cannot warp a third-world technology country into the 21st century of American technological warfare overnight when there’s no underlying economy or cultural basis in Iraq to support it. We will have to invest in better equipment for them and I am sure everyone from politicians to American citizens to soldiers are hesitant to arm Arabs. Prejudice is alive and well. Sure there are some officers who are willing to cross the culture boundary but most military folks hate Arabs, hate Islam, won’t share food or shelter or touch Iraqis. They are convinced Arabs are dirty and will give them tuberculosis or something. Most military folks hate being in the Middle East. They hate the culture. I have dined with Iraqis, been given gifts by Iraqis, been called “brother” by Iraqis.

War and Peace

It is a segregated environment entirely, despite the Iraqis being very friendly and generous. The Iraqis are nervous because they know the rug can be pulled out at any time from under their feet and they will be out-gunned by the terrorists.

Iraqis don’t have the assets to plan effective missions yet. Moreover a lot of what they need to do needs to be done by a police force, not a military. The police need to patrol the streets, maintain a presence. They need SWAT teams, not military brigades, amongst the people.

Everyone says that Iraqis need to have a trained force, but no one wants to commit towards achieving that.

A significant risk is that the security fabric of the nation will tear apart, leaving anti-American sentiment, more distrust (after a snubbed rebellion after Desert Storm), and tens of thousands of ex-soldiers trained by the U.S. in (admittedly insufficient) mission-planning, targeting, urban tactics, and most importantly, rifle marksmanship. They might turn into this generation’s American-trained and -funded Afghan mujaheddin.

Pressure has made limping out of Iraq the most likely outcome for the U.S. Of course the terrorists will claim a victory and the Republicans will claim that the Democrats caused us to lose Iraq. The important thing is that Iraq will slip into a vacuum again unless it fights back against its extremist infiltrators. Iraq has little going for it in the long run, like other poor, war-ravaged countries in the Middle East. It’s no Vietnam.

TERRORISTS

Al-Qaeda has a long-term plan that involves the entire western world, not just the U.S. This has been shown by its attempts to attack multiple countries widely scattered across the globe. It has not hit targets repeatedly. It’s inciting the masses. It wants to appear as though the jihad exists everywhere. It wants to hold traitors accountable. Anti-coalition forces are now working on hitting oil lines, oil convoys, police recruits, public works. I think these attacks may be counter to Al-Qaeda’s vision — it does not want a poor, disadvantaged Middle East. It just wants a pure Muslim one. Keeping Muslims and Arabs in destitution is not the Al-Qaeda modus operandi. It is more Zarqawi’s style, and he is the primary influence among the most violent in Iraq. Zarqawi has finally managed to execute a foreign attack with the Jordan hotel bombing. His career as a terrorist has been marred by many embarrassing failures trying to attack other countries. Maybe his men are more sophisticated now.

The U.S. and world continue to ignore what the terrorists are plainly telling them. Thus each side is arguing things in its own terms, and the two are not going to resolve any differences until someone gets a clue. Which isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

TROOP MORALE

The Administration says that Americans must support the troops by supporting the war. There is no alternative. Bringing the troops home is akin to dishonoring their memories, and ruining the wishes of the soldiers who protect their memories also. What kind of argument is this? This is a defeatist argument to me.

CPL Matthew Conley

We have to STAY in Iraq no matter what the cost in order to honor the fallen? This seems like a vicious cycle to me. More soldiers will die, more Americans will be emotionally invested in staying there. We must intervene in this cycle that destroys our nation’s psyche. Let’s get things straight here. The military follows orders of the Commander-in-Chief, whatever those orders may be. The military achieves honor by doing this, and only this. We cannot expect the military to “win” a “war” of hearts and minds and Sunni/Salafist/Wahhabi extremist conversion to the “good” side. It’s not going to happen no matter how many soldiers we have. The military can at best maintain security (something a police force should be doing) and train Iraqis (something Special Forces and police force contractors should be doing). The military is made to create and destroy, and facilitating creating and destroying. That primary focus is not what the military is doing now. The military is waiting to go home. Soldiers have missed several Christmas’s in a row, or several of their children’s birthdays in a row. The military is tired. It performed an awesome job of taking control of Iraq in little time at all. Now it is dug in, fit with movie theaters and PX’s and swimming pools and biding time until they can go home. Yes, a lot of missions are being run still but let’s face it, all the top leaders of extremist organizations realized long ago that we’d be in Iraq for a while, and they’re hiding out in other countries, just like the Viet Cong did in Vietnam.

The extremists have more to win by us needing to honor the fallen, no matter which way it turns out. If we stay longer, we wear out our welcome, and create more martyrs. If we cut out, they will claim victory in their own ignorant way, as if it was their actions that led to our leaving. That people are afraid of the terrorists claiming victory if we leave is defeatist. The terrorists will ALWAYS claim victory. They have to rally people to the cause just like we do, but they have to make more noise about it.

If you want to honor the soldiers, know when and how long and why to use them. Plan in advance what role they will play, play to their strengths, don’t exceed their limits. Honoring the soldiers is bringing them home if it’s correct or more beneficial to do so. Honoring the soldiers is supporting them to kick fucking ass if it’s correct or more beneficial to destroy things. The soldiers are always ready to fight but that doesn’t mean that they SHOULD fight.

DEMOCRAT VOTE

The Democrats are now apologizing for voting for the war. It’s about damn time. Clearly they never should’ve voted for it in the first place. I think they probably did it so they didn’t look to be intervening in the way of freedom, or to win bi-partisan points, or perhaps just naive optimism that removing a secular dictator of thirty years would not leave a power vacuum in Iraq. It shows that none of them had any balls. Then again, they’re not necessarily supposed to have balls, just the ear of their constituency.

What really kills me is that the Republicans are calling the Democrats on changing their votes, as if to say, “Oh no, if we’re going to be involved in this mess, you’re going to be involved with us.” It’s really THAT sickening.

Furthermore, while more and more service-members die, many people are profiting off of the perpetual war. But hey, war is cool! War is America!

iPod Art Spoof for Well-Known Iraq Photos

Final note: watch this Frontline report on the insurgency’s development, from February 21, 2006.

On Military Gyms: Underground Gay Clubs!

I hate going to the gym when there’s people there. Which is to say, I love going to the gym at 3AM. At 3AM, it’s quiet, and you can spend as much time on a piece of equipment as you want, or move anywhere you want, without some roid-rager waddling over and brusquely asking, “Can I work in?” or, “Almost done?” At 3AM, no one’s going to barge in to your workspace and start lusting after himself in the mirror ten inches away from you.

Little might you know, but military gyms are good workouts by night, and underground flamboyantly gay clubs by day and evening. Yes, that’s right boys, when people start waking up, the homophobic homosexuality begins! I don’t mean to offend gay people — what I’m referring to are those guys who down creatine and roids and work out constantly and wear tight Under Armor shirts yet still act like the most masculine people in the world as they stare at themselves and other guys’ physiques in the mirrors.

For those not indoctrinated… The military considers a gym one of its most mission-ready requirements. Even upon first invading Iraq, the Joes were quickly constructing makeshift weightlift machines. One of the first things built at a school I was at with some Marines was a pull-up bar. All military posts in the States seem to have GNC stores so soldiers can keep pumping themselves up with creatine, protein, amino acids, vitamins, everything. They spend a fortune on these overpriced products. Service-members love to get all pumped up. Many exercise religiously. I don’t understand why guys want to get bigger and bigger so they lose so much flexibility. They can’t move around the battlefield with agility anymore. Weight-lifting is a major component of military culture.

I went to the gym this morning, since I work the night shift. I went a little later than usual, at around 4:30AM as opposed to 2:30AM. People had already woken up because apparently they have nothing better to do (like sleep) while they’re on deployment. Why do you think they do it around here, in a place with fewer women than fingers on two hands? Yep, to impress the soldier boys!

So I get in there and there’s at least two guys in tight Under Armor shirts, showing off…uh…innertube flab. One guy is wearing Ranger panties. Ranger panties are these really short, sheer shorts (like loose boxer briefs) that are somehow masculine if they’re forest green and used in the military. Color it pink and put it in a club and these weightlifters will be like, “Fuckin’ faggots!” But if it’s green then it’s game-on for the most manly of men!!

Then of course there’s the guy who’s singing to himself as if everyone can hear his music through his headphones… Kinda weird. Probably listening to some Nick Carter. Music is always an interesting war of wills at a gym. Too often I’ve heard something to the effect of, “What is this pussy shit? Need to listen to some Metallica or Disturbed while I’m pumping iron!” Yes, up the testosterone even more, to make it hotter! You know what gyms need more of? METALLICA. You NEVER hear Metallica in a military gym. Ever!

And then there’s the most feyest of fey things at the gym: the male workout partners. I cannot possibly see how military guys do not see this as gay. “Hey Ace, you wanna go lift together?” “Oooh I’d love to, Gary! Let me get my work-out gloves and sweatband and little iPod and Ranger panties and KY!”

So then one guy’s standing over another (in Ranger panties) “spotting” the other while he makes loud sounds of physical exertion as he completes his “reps”. The worst is when guys turn up the music really loud so they can grunt even louder.

My god. It makes me fucking sick. What hypocrites. These are the same types who chat up EVERY single female in the chow hall, no matter how unattractive she is, and then talks it up to the guys afterwards. Are you hitting on them because they’re hot or because you want other guys to think you’re sexually attractive? Want to make all the boys jealous?

The military’s full of a bunch of guys who are really insecure about their masculinity. Luckily, they have plenty of like-minded soulmates who can all convene at the same place: the temple of the body!

I just want to make sure this gets acknowledged though… When I was in Baghdad, the military gym for just my group of guys was REALLY good. I mean, it had photos of HOT women dressed in thongs and bikinis on the walls. Now THAT motivates me, not looking at photos of weight-lifters straining. It was, like, the least gay military gym ever. And I loved it. Just five more push-ups and she’ll SO want me!

Happy Holidays from Iraq

Well, it’s the month of Happy Holidays, so from Iraq (or not-Iraq, where I am, named for the complete lack of evidence in this base that I AM in Iraq), best wishes to you and yours this giving season! I wish I were back home with Julie and my family, enjoying a hot Christmas dinner, Christmas pudding, snow, and my girlfriend’s lovely company. The stuff I thought was cheesy before, I miss now — the Christmas lights, the tree, the decorations around town, even the pristinely white, clean displays in the malls.

My Christmas tree and living room at home in Dallas!

Just to remind you how out of touch the debate is back home, people are worried about talk of sending the troops home being demoralizing to the military effort here. These are not the days of people spitting on soldiers and calling them baby-killers like Vietnam was. I think what’s on most soldiers’ minds these days is the fact that many of them have missed their children’s births, their family members’ last three birthdays, and a couple of the last few Christmases and Thanksgivings. Speculation about returning home is just shrugged off by tired soldiers in their third year of constant deployment. But hey, you keep writing those morale-boosting “keep the troops away” blog entries in between family get-togethers this December, Mr. Concerned Citizen!! Or better yet, join your fellow citizens and serve a tour or two over in Iraq or Afghanistan!

I think it’s interesting seeing GOOG above 400$ — they continue to release more web applications that seem to point towards a vision of the Internet that hardly seems attainable right now. Yahoo! just bought del.icio.us, the link tagging site I now post my links to pretty regularly. (I will start feeding my del.icio.us into my other links page soon) While Yahoo! now owns this and Flickr, two of the most popular web geek apps, I can’t help but think that Yahoo! will never integrate Flickr nor feel Flickr-ish (which it should try to do), and that spending money to buy small web app companies (for anywhere from 15$ million to 40$ million for the latest two) is a waste of cash — they could’ve designed these by themselves, at a fraction of the cost, from the ground up, learning from the small startup’s mistakes and limitations. But I guess Yahoo! is paying for the communities and (if this is a real reason, that’s sad) reputation transference. Put the checkbook away though: communities can be fickle, ephemeral online — offer superior features, reliability, and innovation and people will move at the drop of a hat. I mean, who’s going to use Skype now that Yahoo! is offering cheaper VoIP integrated into Messenger?

Right now I’m contemplating the effect of massive Google networked-ness and bandwidth along with an energy situation relieved by massive estimated alternate energy growth this year of 30% for solar and wind power. The gains in productivity and capital for companies and individuals will be shocking. I see this as bullish for the American economy, but even more so for international economies, which still have yet to benefit as completely as the U.S. has from the Internet, global commerce, and post-bubble corporate re-structuring.

Chart of the Shanghai index, which has been losing for a while now.

I’m bullish on international funds for the next decade or two. And I want to invest in China, even though it still needs to reform many aspects of its economic and political infrastructure, and coöperate better with its blossoming, more expressive society, before foreign investment will really begin to flow in confidently. I am interested in their long-term strategies and their attempting to create eastern brand alternatives to western powerhouses.

I’m almost through this deployment and as a late Thanksgiving notice, I’m very thankful I’ve had Julie this whole time. Julie’s been an awesome, patient girlfriend even while I’ve been away in Iraq. I love you, darling. You’re totally being spoiled this Christmas, that’s for sure! And whenever I get to see you next! And your soundtrack song right now is Jamiroquai’s “Loveblind”, a killer track off their new album.