Saturday, November 25, 2006
Little Pea declined the stuffin', partaking of his usual abstemious pasta-and-milk. Although he DID throw himself into the Black Friday shopping mood, spending hours brooding over pictures of trucks, trains and other toys on Google, chanting the magic incantation: "I will save my money for that and that and that..." He doesn't really understand the whole idea of saving money, mind you - i.e. that you have to save four dollars for a four dollar toy. He still has faith in Republican economics, whereby you can take in a quarter and still afford to spend in the high eight figures because Reagan showed that deficits don't matter, y'know.
I am mildly depressed, and I'm not sure quite why. Could be the holidays approaching - I don't feel particularly holly and jolly. Could be the cold and rain. Could be a lack of exercise - I don't know, or I'd do something about it. I know that I'd enjoy a couple of comments here now and then. Just to let me think that somebody's reading this blog and enjoying my efforts.
But enough self pity. Let's take a moment to thank the 2006 Portland Pilots women's soccer team, whose great season as defending national champs (see above) came to an end yesterday. The NCAA had to gimmick the schedule so that they played all three of their playoff games on the road, ending with a holiday weekend game against a bigger, more physical team on their own rock-hard, blazing-fast pitch that magnified their strengths and Portland's every weakness. Great season, gals, great games. Heads up. You had a great run, and we'll be back on the Bluff next year to cheer you on.
Now I gotta go see if my son is pestering my head-cold-sick wife. The fun never stops here. Ask anyone.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Add to the prowess on the field of play demonstrated by the women of UP Pilots soccer (see preceding post) the hard women of Virginia Military Institute's "Lady Kaydettes" cheerleading squad. I understand that graduates of VMI's summer cheerleading camp laugh at Ranger School and consider the Air Force's SERE Course a country club-level get-over in excess relaxation.
And to think that once upon a time the knuckle-draggers claimed that admitting the "ladies" to our tough-as-an-old-boot military academies would soften and feminize the student body.
Boys, I suspect there's a Brother Rat in a neck brace that would like to talk to you about that.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
IOW, I said that things looked Bleak on the Bluff.
Well, I have to eat my words. Mmmm, they taste pretty good. Today the Pilot gals go up against the biggest, baddest mamas of all the 2006 NCAA, the top-seeded Texas Longhorns. And I'd like to say that I am with Rachel Rapinoe and her sisters on this years Pilot squad. Get stuck in, gals. Good luck.
Go, you Pilots!
Update 1:30pm: UP 2, UT nil. We're going uuuuupppp, we're going up, up, up... Rachel Rapinoe (see the top of this post - I think I'm in luuuurve...) scores 3 minutes into the first half. Wooooohoooo!!! Cori Alexander with another clean sheet. Awesome, gals.
So it's UCLA on T-giving weekend. Should be a good one. Note also that the heavy hitters: UNC, Notre Dame are both still in it. Portland winning next weekend may set up a semifinal-final UP vs. UNC. Wow.
I love this game.
Friday, November 17, 2006
One of the things I had a LOT of on Tiger Island was time. Other than toasting the ca-ca, bandaging the occasional scrape and doing an odd job or two to help out the grunts I pretty much had nothing to do but nature-watch, read, sunbathe and cartoon. This was one of my editorial comments on Doc Sully's crappy attitude about crap.
Sully hated burning shit, and he considered my "it's-all-good-learn-to-become-one-with-the-dung" attitude an irritating mixture of wierd enthusiasm for the art form and indifference to the stench. He started calling me "Master Poo" and in return I addressed him as "Weedhopper" and drew this image of young monk Sully being instructed in the arts of "Dung Fu".
(Obscure pop culture reference alert: For those of you too young to remember, in the original series Kung Fu, young monk Qai Chang Caine (David Carradine) had to lift a burning brazier to leave his monastery. That's how Bill the Snake Charmer got those dragon-and-lion tattoos on the inside of his arms. Go figure, huh?)
Monday, November 13, 2006
Hard to believe, innit?
That the portly grizzled author of this blog was once a slender youth, at once jaded and innocent, in what Mojo likes to call his "Latin queer-bait" days.
Ah. Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait...
It's been twenty years; so long that it's hard to remember the Eighties. Back when Arnie Schwartzenegger was still an actor (and a pretty bad one...). Back when Prince was still called Prince and actually wrote pretty catchy songs - remember "Raspberry Beret"?. Back when we still worried whether the Reds would nuke us all in our beds. Back in the days of President Ronnie.
Remember Ronnie? Ronnie liked a lot of things. Shiny medals. Jellybeans. War movies. But what Ronnie didn't like was dirty ol' commies. And back in the Eighties it seemed like Latin America was full of those dirty ol' commies. Commies in El Salvador. Commies in Nicaragua, especially. Ronnie sure didn't like those brown Reds, nossir, he didn't. And by golly, he was going to do something about them.
Well, the Chief was an Indian back in those days. Just a sergeant medic in a line infantry battalion, the old 2nd Battalion (Airborne) 187th Infantry, working out of Fort Kobbe in the Panama Canal Zone. My battalion was tasked to provide guards for a little post waaaay down in the Golfo de Fonseca, that arm of the Pacific that stretches up between the countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Out in the Gulf is a island that was (and probably still is) part of Honduras. That island is called Isla Tigre (Tiger Island) and is really just an old volcano sitting in the middle of the gulf. The island is dominated by this extinct and well-worn volcano, now called Cerro Tigre, or Tiger Hill.
It was (and probably still is) a pretty, unpeopled place. There was a little town (I don't remember the name now, but I seem to recall it was something ridiculously grand like "San Salvador") down at the bottom of the hill with narrow streets and tile- or tin-roofed adobe houses. Straggly fields of bananas or plantains climbed the lower slopes of Cerro Tigre. Occasionally you'd come across a little wooden campesino's shack back in the tules, overrun with liana vines and swarming with chickens or pigs and the random goat or cow. Our one trip down to San Salvador (or whatever) was to deliver a package to the local Peace Corps volunteer, a young American woman who was busy helping the local Hondurans to chlorinate their water (I dunno - we never did find her). To give you an idea of how grateful the local Hondurans were for this, they referred to her only as "La Gorda" - "The Fat Girl". I got the feeling that she had not endeared herself to the townsfolk...
Above the bustle of Honduran farm life was a thick, wooded cloud forest. Hot. Noisy with animal and bird life, abuzz with insects of innumerable variety (although mosquitos did seem to be a speciality of the house). Bright with large, venereal-looking flowers. Exotic.
At the very top of the hill sat a tiny military outpost that was usually simply referred to by the name of the geographic fragment it sat on: Tiger Island. (How self-centeredly perfect that the U.S. Army called its' microcosm the name of the entire island, as if only the goings-on inside the wire gave the entire existance of the volcano, the island, the village, the chickens, pigs and people any meaning). And inside that outpost was...me.
Here's my house: the medic shack up on Tiger Island. The place was pretty OK as a pied a terre; it didn't leak too much, and if you kept your boots near your cot you could chase the palm rats away by nailing the first, boldest one with a flung jungle boot that would keep the more timid types up in the rafters (where they would rustle and squeak all night - you learned to ignore it).
One thing you can say for military medicine - it's one of the few places where a young man with a high school education (or, in my case, with a BA in geology) can be a walking pharmacy and primary care facility and not get hauled up in front of a judge for narcotics distribution or practicing medicine without a license. For the gang on top of Tiger Island, we WERE the local hospital, dental clinic and maternity ward...
As one of the two medics for the platoon of infantrymen charged with securing the place, I (and Doc Sully, my partner) were responsible for treating the bumps, scrapes and general health of thirty-five-or-so GIs, from the youngest private to the platoon daddy, including our support "element" consisting of a cook (to re-hydrate the dehydrated B-rations, that's cooking?) and a forklift driver/aviation ground crewman who was responsible for helping with our resupply birds, big CH-47 twin-rotor helos out of the army airfield near Tegucigalpa. Oh. And my most consistant and inevitable daily job:
I'm serious. The red clay soil of Tiger Hill wouldn't absorb anything. Indoor plumbing was a fantasy. So we disposed of our used food the old fashioned way: we crapped in a cut-off half of a fifty-five gallon drum (and pissed into a tube - don't mix the two, guys!!) and every morning Doc Sully and I would haul out the old barrel (shove in a new one), add a combination of diesel and mogas, a match - and, voila, ze poop flambe'.
Human waste, if not saturated, will burn down to a fine ash. Which we did. Every morning. And then scooped into plastic bags inside empty C-ration cartons for the flight back to Tegoos and eventual disposal.
Anyhow, the real point of "Tiger Island" was at the very top of the hill. Two nondescript white commercial-size shipping containers (what the Army calls "milvans") cabled to a handful of olive green antenna dishes.
Tiger Island was snooping on Nicaraguan communications.
That was the reason for our existence. Inside the vans, which us lowly grunts never saw and were told never to even think of looking into, a farrago of intel types (NSA? CIA? who knew?) listened patiently to the conversations of those dirty ol' commies that Ronnie was hatin', Ollie North was plottin' and Bob MacFarland was cake-and-Bible-totin'-to-Tehran-to-fix-the-wagons-of. And Doc Chief, with his flaming tub of digested GI chow, was helping topple the Latin proxy of the Evil Empire.
Next: Tropical Fun, with spies.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Now we have a lame-duck President, a Democratic Congress, a new SecDef and a ragingly out-of-control Iraq, what do I think the future looks like? And, given all the above, what is our prospect for getting a relatively “successful” result out of Iraq the short term?
Definition of “relatively successful”: An Iraq that is generally at peace within, and not a threat to its’ neighbors, and maintains a relatively positive, or at least neutral, attitude towards the U.S.
Well, first, it’s important to remember two main things:
1. The invasion was always about establishing a geopolitical client in the Gulf. We have had to listen to the nauseating claptrap about "WMD" and "central front against terrorism" and "midwifing democracy" because we do not have anyone in power with the honesty to proclaim that we are doing what Great Powers always do...looking out for their own far-flung interests...and;
2. Their own boneheaded preconceptions have collided with the unsavory Iraqi reality and the people who ginned up this was (Dickie Perle, Cheney and the PNAC crowd) have no clue where to go from here. Part of this is simply the tactical facts on the ground. Over the long run we need to have a compliant - or at least supine - Iraqi populace. I can't see how we can turn Camp Victory and FOB Samwise (or whatever) into power projection points of we have to devote 20-40% of our time and troop strength into force protection. I think the plan was always to:
- invade and install a client head of state
- let the client army suppress resistance
- withdraw to isolated bases and continue the game against Iran, the regional power.
By 1980s Cheneyite lights, it should have worked. We used to do tons of this stuff in places from Iran (poor Mossadegh, nobody remembers you anymore) to Honduras. Plus we knew - we thought we knew - that the Iraqis were hatin' them some Iranians after the First Gulf War and were prepared to a) love the Yankee liberators and b) ignore any moves we put on Iran from their territory.
Well! Turns out that the Iraqis wanted, not liberty-lovin' American occupiers but their own power players, whether Kurdish, Sunni or Shia. Turns out that the Shia, in turn, weren't so sanguine about Iran bashing after all.
So now we are now caught on a cleft stick of our own making. Our forces in AO Iraq are fighting the war we've told them we're fighting, when in fact we're fighting for something rather different. And our people are supporting (or, increasingly, NOT supporting...) a war in Iraq for reasons very different than the geopolitical reasons its being fought.
Any chance the two problems are related?
From Clausewitz' vom Krieg we are instructed pretty clearly that the objectives of war and the conduct of war need to roughly align. The further one is from the other the more difficult it is to obtain the desired political end state from the military means. How much more so in a "democracy", where if you tell the electorate you mean to do one thing while actually working for something else...and your cover gets blown...oh. dear. me.
So the only real question at this point is, what can we do now?
Can we achieve the publicly stated goals we told the world and our own people we started this war for?
Yes...and no. Overthrow Saddam? Check. Remove WMDs? Check (okay, well there weren't any, really, other than a few old Sarin projos, but never mind) Fight Terrorism? Check or Hold...mmmmm not so much Check as Hold. (Turns out that most of our enemies are locals wanting to run off the foreigner).
So - 2 out of 3. Enough for me to declare victory and start packing.
Establish a US/Israel-loving, free-market-having, Western values embracin' client state?
No. But, as I’d pointed out, this was NEVER the actual reason for invasion. We might eventually establish order of a rank, charnel sort if we could embrace our inner Roman, pick a Shia client and help them slaughter their enemies in a positively biblical fashion (i.e. down to the farm animals). We would, of course and deservedly so, become global pariahs for this, hated and feared by all decent sentient beings (which means that the Powerline and LGF crowd have been all over this option - it's hideous and inhuman but not unthinkable). But Iraq-as-Jeffersonian-democracy ain't gonna happen, not for the next hundred years at least.
I AM getting a laugh out of the talk circulating around about how we're gonna get the Iraqi factions, Syria and Iran around a table and "work out a political solution". By offering them, what? A weekend at the Luxor with Angeline Jolie? Free passes to Disney World? What the hell can we offer the factions that will give them what they want - which is, as far as I can tell, a military victory?
Plus, how do we offer this in a way that works for all the factions? Give the Sunnis what they want, you have to get the Shia to compromise. Why should they? They don't seem to want compromise, they want the win they feel they got at the polls. Same with the Kurds. How about the Turkmen in Kirkuk? Marsh Arabs? How do you get the Sadrists to give up a unified Iraq or the Kurds to abandon regional seperatism? How do you convince Iran to tell their Iraqi allies to give the U.S. a free hand when they suspect that a "free hand" means a possible attack in Iran?
I'm skeptical, because I have a deep and abiding faith in the boneheaded intransigence of both the average Iraqi gunsel and the average neoconservative thug. AND for this to work you're asking for cooperation from some entities that this Administration has spend six years flipping off: Iran, Turkey, Syria...
I'm willing to try and hope for a solution but I wish I was more optimistic about the matter of cleaning up our own government. I will be anxiously waiting the arrival of the Baker report - AND to see if the Cheneyites are willing to move on its ideas...
I'd still say that for this to work we could sure use a couple of other things: a SecState smarter and more flexible than Condi, and someone - anyone - on the Iraqi side who can function as their Nelson Mandela, to help the process along and help it make sense to the Iraqi-in-the-street. But I'm hoping for the possible, not the miraculous...
Next: A story from the Chief's sordid past
Well. We’ve got a Democratic House, at least, and maybe a Democratic Senate. What does this mean for our most pressing political disaster, the War in Iraq? Can we just declare victory and get out?
Over at Intel Dump we've beaten this subject to death, backed the El Camino over it, stomped up and down and then come back after a couple of bullshots and whomped that sucker flatter than a congressman trying to skivvy under a banquette to beat a waitress out of a rolling quarter. I’ll repost here what I posted there and let y’all thrash me for my alleged wisdom.
First of all, it’s waaaay past time for us to realize that all we're gonna do from here on out is referee the squabbling of the Iraqi factions disguised as "politicians" on their way to forging whatever blood and iron result they end up with.
Right now the Bushniaks, the power players and the talking heads at Foggy Bottom, up on Capitol Hill and across the Potomac at Six-Flags-over-Arlington remind me of nothing so much as a sideshow animal trainer who has dumped a box load of savage wildcats into the "Professor Puffnums and His Amazing Persian Pussycats" act and is spazzing frantically around trying to herd them onto the little stools as they rip shreds off of him and each other. All the while shouting to the increasingly appalled and head-shaking crowd "Everything's under control! Darn these frisky kitties! Just a teeny second, folks, and you'll see a Reeeaaly Big Show!!" I
f it has not become obvious by now, let me state the reality in simple English: the political leadership that ginned up this war has not idea where it's going, can not figure out a way to either lead or drive its' Iraqi proxies (who, in true cat fashion, have no intention of doing what we want just because it's either good for us, good for them or commonsensical), and is both unwilling and unlikely to accept the reality that it has sunk almost 25,000 lives in dead and maimed and untolled billions in treasure into what is unlikely to soon, if ever, resemble the original goal of a US/Israel-lovin', free-market havin', Western-values embracin' American client state in the Gulf.
The cats are running the cat act, folks.
Maliki can see the writing on the wall, as can all of his Iraqi brothers. We cannot hang on there indefinitely; we will always lack the patience, the ferocity and single-minded will that the local factions will always have; and that when we leave (whether by "choice" or by force of attrition) the doors to the charnel house will truly be opened and the pale rider will emerge, blinking and mewling, into a red morning that will make us all cringe to have been door wardens to his arrival.
What the hell can we do to change this reality?
Bomb Iraq back into the Stone Age? Been there, done that.
"Reconstruction"? With the cash sitting in the boat basin of every Republican millionaire's yacht club and amortizing in her trust fund?
I cannot see any "change of tactics" or "strategic reassessment" that will change the reality that we are out of cash, out of options and out of time.
The hard men in the Iraqi factions look like they have decided that the game is now "The Last Man Standing" and our usefulness is only as an ubermilitia, to be manipulated into crushing whoever they can get us to attack to further their own sectarian interests.
We have sown the wind, and it's our turn - and more brutally, the Iraqis turn - to reap the whirlwind. So, given that, what is our prospect for Iraq in the short term?
That's the subject of the next post.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Well, the cold is better.
Little Peeper is having some...issues...with daycare, tho, as Mojo tries to deal with having to get up early enough for her new job over at BigLittleLawFirm, LLC. Last night he ran wild as she was trying to get him into bed, and then he peed on her.
Oooooh, was she a mad Mommy!
There was a Daddy intervention, lots of tears and finally a big Mommy-Peeper hug, but we'll see. I think the Peep is just realizing that this daycare thing (which we call "school", BTW, to make a little boy feel more like a big boy) isn't just a temporary Mommy break but is shaping up to be a full time deal. Oh, the humanity! Methinks there's more rough water ahead for our Lad.
I wanted to post up my thoughts about what Tuesday's election victory and the subsequent defenestration of The Rumminator means for Iraq, but first I was reminded of this story during a conversation with the breakfast bunch down at Beaterville.
Back in the late 80's my ex and I lived in the bottom half of a lovely older house in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a lean time. I was working as a mechanic's assistant at a Ford Tractor dealership up on Concord Pike while the then-Mrs. Chief - let's call her EMC - went though nuclear med tech school. But we had fun, and, among other things, got to see Greg LeMond climb Monkey Hill during the time trial stage of the Tour de Trump. That was cool. (And, no, that's NOT Greg. But the cobbles of Monkey Hill caused some truly spectacular crashes, so I wanted to give you a feel for them. All in all, it WAS a cool place to live)
Anyway, one Halloween we lived there, EMC was out late in the evening and I was manning the door. I heard the bell, opened the door to find two African-American boys standing there. Both in their street clothes. The old boy, probably seven, was wearing one of those black oval party masks, but the little boy, four or five, was dressed no differently than he would have been for school.
"Trick or treat" they chorused. Into their bags went the Oh Henry bars.
"So what are you dressed up as?" I ask the older kid.
"I'm Batman" he replies. I look at the littler guy. "Who are you?" I ask, and get that googly eyed stare you get from toddlers and post-toddlers trying to process uncomputable requests.
"He's The Joker" says older brother.
I look hard at him. "Hold on. I'll give you Batman - black mask, okay. But I've seen the movie. He looks nothing like the Joker, no purple suit, no clown makeup, nu-uh, nope. Your little brother doesn't look anything like the Joker!"
Older brother looks at him, looks back to me, says:
"That's the joke."
Sweet. Kid got another Oh Henry for that.
Coming up: Iraq: WTF?
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
To begin with, I got sick. Nothing thrillingly mortal, just your generic cold in the head from doing asphalt pavement density testing in the piss-pouring rain (see picture, above). Packed Mojo off to work, Peeper off to daycare before going back to bed and sleeping for another, oh, six hours. Got up, watched a DVD, back to sleep, picked up the Peep, made dinner, then all to bed.
They told me this husband-and-daddy-thing was going to be a headrush, but...wow!
Talk about your slow news day at home.
BUT - outside the Casa del Peeper, what a tsuris! Turns out that We the People, both here in Oregon and from sea to shining sea, are sick and tired of the Decider and his entourage. Donkey stampede. Elephants found shot all across the country. Rick "Man-on-dog" Santorum in PA? Bang. Ron "Find the Waste Yet?" Saxton in OR? Bang. Kathleen "Hanging Chad" Harris in FL? Bang. I mean, the way Republicans are dropping you'd think somebody turned Dick "Deadeye" Cheney loose in polling places all across the country.
Mmmmm-hmmmm. Light the stove, Ma. I can smell that Dubya goose cookin' from here...
Plus for an extra, special, just-to-make-the-ol'-Chief-grin bonus, ALL the idiotic Republican gut-the-guvamint ballot measures got STUFFED. Especially Measure 48, the so-called "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights", that would have insured that Oregon's public universities and community colleges were permanently funded below the levels considered adequate for Seattle Dental College and the University of Kinshasa...
Pardon me while I do a little Democratic sack-dance of pure idiotic triumph on the picture of Karl Rove I have taped to the basement floor. Thank you, American people. Thank you for proving me wrong about how six years of naked greed and political incompetence had made you deaf and blind to the theft of your country. Thank you for sending a message to the gang that has done the thieving of my beloved America's resources and reputation that we are fed up, FED UP with their sorry asses. Thank you for you willingness to cut through the lies and bullshit to realize that after six years of Dubya & Co. you can either be a good American or a good Republican. But not both.
I wake to a drizzly but glorious dawn.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
This is the elite IA Referral Commando squad from the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs.
They are strong, silent men whose job it is to make the impossible take a little less time.
Well, today they struck a blow for those of us waiting for our little Peepers by expediting almost three weeks worth of adoption referrals. Three weeks! This is a GOOD THING.
There are days when the bear gets you and days when you get the bear. All I can say is that today the critter tastes mighty good. Thanks, guys! I feel that much closer to Meimei and every day I feel closer to our daughter is a good day...