I Shouldn't Read the News. I Really Shouldn't.

I love it. The following is an account of Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talking to Albert Jazeera:

“When asked why the United States was not in FATA despite having the knowledge that Al Qaeda was present there, he [Admiral Mullen] said, ‘Because FATA is in Pakistan and Pakistan is a sovereign country and we don’t go into sovereign countries.’”

Hahn? The hell we don’t. What was this buoyant cannibal thinking? The US loves to go into sovereign countries. It hardly does anything else. I suppose Iraq wasn’t sovereign. It isn’t now, but it was. How about Panama, Laos, Cambodia? We gave Pakistan, until recently sovereign, the choice of inviting us to kill its people with drones, or else be bombed into the Stone Age. Recently we have bombed Somalia, technically sovereign.

When the Pentagon’s alpha-floater says something so transparently nonsensical, so patently false, one wonders: Is he merely lying, or does he somehow actually believe this stuff? I mean, drugs are supposed to be discouraged by the Navy.

Next, more comic-book moral leadership, this time from Ralph Peters, the pay-per-view Clausewitz for Fox News. Walphie, a retired colonel, is hugely in favor of the war against Islam. Grrrrr. Fierce he is. He is a retired “intelligence” officer, and therefore all-wise in things military. And he is Upset. Good.

Before exploring his upsettance, we might note that Walph is of the school of martial ferocity holding that other people should go get killed. Not Walph. He is what in a forgotten war in Asia we called a REMF. That’s Rear-Echelon Motherfucker. It refers to paper-pushers who sit safely way behind the lines while men in the military fight. Walph spent his career largely in Europe, a real hardship post. I mean, sometimes your martini might not be properly chilled. A veritable Tamerlane of the cocktail circuit, Walph.

But don’t underestimate him. The blood lust of a podium doughnut is a thing to reckon with, I reckon. Kings faint. Empires quail.

Another point worth considering is that “intelligence officer” doesn’t mean “an intelligent officer.” Except during WWII, the intel analysts have had a dismal record. Just off the top of my head, Naval Intelligence didn’t know where the Japanese fleet was in 1941, oops. The Korean War caught the spooks flatfooted, as did the entry of the Chinese into the war. The intel weenies didn’t predict that the Viets would fight, though the French experience wasn’t secret. There was the comic-opera Son Tay raid, in which the military choppered into Hanoi to rescue American POWs, only to find that the spooks hadn’t noticed the prisoners had been moved. The CIA didn’t predict that the Cubans would fail to turn against Castro in the Bay of Pigs. They were surprised when the Berlin Wall went up, and when it came down, and again when the USSR, its chief object of study, went tits up. There was the clownish business of the Glomar Explorer. The Air Force bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade because the weenies didn’t know where it was (try the phone book, maybe?). They didn’t warn that the Arabs might fight in Iraq, perhaps never having heard of Israel. They didn’t predict 9/11, and can’t find bin Laden.

I’m impressed, Walph. You’re an intelligence officer.

Now, why is Peters all wrought up? It seems that an American private by name of Bowe Bergdahl got captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan, or got tired of killing Afghans and deserted, or something. Bergdahl then showed up all over the internet drinking tea with his captors in a video in which he pleaded for America to bring its troops home. Peters waxed wroth over this “disloyalty,” and opined that it would be a good thing if the Taliban killed the kid to save the cost of a trial.

There is something unseemly in this over-promoted clerk, for whom a war wound would mean a paper cut, savaging a young man in the hands of the Taliban. If Bergdahl was captured against his will, and the Taliban are as bad as the Walphies tell us, he faces torture if he doesn’t cooperate. How manly of Walph to urge that Bergdahl be peeled alive and have his joints crushed. Typical officer.

After the death of my father, a veteran of the Pacific in WWII, I found a published letter he had written to the Washington Post during Korea. Dad, who spent his life as a weapons-development mathematician, was no peacenik. He said that captured American troops should be told to confess to anything whatever rather than be tortured.

You are a hell of a man, Walph. You really are.

But suppose that Bergdahl got tired of killing people he had no reason to kill, and escaped to the Taliban. Why would this be disloyalty to the United States? Where is the benefit of the war to America? The Pentagon is killing GI after GI after GI for no reason. It is also killing Afghans for no reason. Loyalty to America would seem to consist in refusing to do it.

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There are countervailing retired colonels. Try Ltc. Karen Kwiatkowski, (she has an archive at lewrockwell.com). She suspects that Peters is worried because the Bergdahl affair may indicate that the troops are getting fed up and preparing to bail by one route or another. True? I don’t know. Yet it has to be the prevailing nightmare in the Five-Sided Death Box. This sure happened in our Asian foray into the dissemination of democracy. Fraggings were the most conspicuous form of disagreement, but there were enough unreported mutinies and refusals to fight.

Then I find this: “A U.S. military spokeswoman in Afghanistan, Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, said the Taliban was [sic] using their captive for propaganda. ‘They are exploiting the soldier in violation of international law,’ she said. U.S. military spokesman Colonel Greg Julian added, “We condemn the use of this video and the public humiliation of prisoners.”

Most harrumphish, Christine is. This brings me back to the question of Admiral Mullen’s assertion of the obviously untrue. Humiliation of prisoners? Does this twit Christine Whatever compartmentalize her mind to the point that she isn’t aware of Guantanamo? As for international law, I have the impression that torture of prisoners transgresses it. Torture is American national policy. Anyway, who was humiliated, the prisoner or the Pentagon? Christine will of course say whatever she is told to say, that being the function of flacks, flacks being the low-rent Goerings that they are. I need a drink.

Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and the just-published A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. His latest book is Curmudgeing Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle. Visit his blog.

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