The Endless, Victoryless, Afghan War

Thoughts on Afghanistan. The never ending war.

Bracing Views

250 000 dollar - 50 Money isn’t always the answer …

W.J. Astore

Last week, I wrote an article for TomDispatch.com on the Afghan war.  You can read the entire article here, but I wanted to share some excerpts and some afterthoughts.

Some Excerpts

America’s war in Afghanistan is now in its 16th year, the longest foreign war in our history.  The phrase “no end in sight” barely covers the situation.  Prospects of victory — if victory is defined as eliminating that country as a haven for Islamist terrorists while creating a representative government in Kabul — are arguably more tenuous today than at any point since the U.S. military invaded in 2001 and routed the Taliban.  Such “progress” has, over the years, invariably proven “fragile” and “reversible,” to use the weasel words of General David Petraeus who oversaw the Afghan “surge” of 2010-2011 under President Obama.  To cite just one recent data…

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THE HOLIDAY STORM

There’s an epic winter storm approaching fast out of the Northern Pacific. The final destination of this great typhoon will be somewhere past, along a track of land I am occupying.

The vicious rains first turned to wet, cement like sleet. As the latitude increases wind will sweep the heavy snowflakes across the land, painting in ice over these peaks of fire.

A storm like this has her own personality. A storm like this reminds us of uncontrollable powers, like a breath from Venus herself. Some unimpeachable power that takes life without declared reasoning…

and just like the sullen peace before the great storm, you were here with us, my love. Then gone.

Victim Blaming: SO American

The local newspaper today had a sad article about a student pilot who was killed after stalling his Cessna on takeoff and crashing nose first into a gravel riverbed. After reading through the piece I browsed the comment section which, to no surprise whatsoever, most comments were a version of “student pilot flying alone???;” “flying in such high winds??;” making assumptions and blaming the victim. What is it about American’s in general that we cannot help but rush to judgement, often blame the victim and offer feint sympathy under a cloud of disdain? It’s not like you are dead or he harmed anyone else? How else is a student pilot supposed to learn to fly? And heavy wing? Growing up flying in Alaska, really great bush pilots told me more than once: “wind is what makes airplanes fly.” Yes, that is a simple understatement that omits high pressure verse low pressure, trim, power, etc, but the point is accurate. 25 knot winds are more than manageable in a 172.

My point is: I wish folks would offer condolences to the family who know doubt will one day consume these simple, harmful, condemning remarks. And even if he was flying beyond his skill or exact permission, he’s dead, writing a ticket or throwing him in jail or issuing a fine is mute.

Rest in peace.

#Weiner compromised by #Russia?

Why do I feel as though we’re all living out a season of “The Americans,” the great show from FX that follows an undercover Russian family of spies, living near Washington DC, at the height of the Cold War? It would be just like these clever infiltrators to trap the spouse of a high level government operator in order to leverage the sharing classified material. We have former Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York who resigned his seat following revelations of his sexting issues. By chance, he is the husband of a longtime Hillary Clinton associate Huma Abideen. Then, coincidentally, this pervert finds himself caught up again, this time with an alleged 15-year-old kid. Further, a computer Weiner shared with his wife, used both to correspond with the likely next President of the United States, as well as a child in some pedophilia nature? Sounds like Hollywood to me, no?

I’m surprised this theory hasn’t been considered by the media? Or if it has been, the coverage missed me. Another way to look at this is, senior aides to Secretary Clinton thought it acceptable that they leave storage devices that almost certainly held highly classified information just lying around unsecured?

Clinton’s deliberate use of a private communication system, networked to many devices yet to be found, is a much bigger deal than the media, the FBI, the President or the Clinton campaign has been willing to admit. If this scheme had been carried out by a group of people not associated with Hillary Clinton, the FBI and the Justice Department would have come down on them like a sack of rocks. There would not be a basic blanket of immunity offered to the key players of the investigation. There would be no FBI press conference explaining in detail the results of the investigation. Oops I made a mistake isn’t a legal defense.

I cannot stand the thought of a Trump Presidency. I’m about there with a Clinton Presidency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#IAVAFORUM Do Facts Even Matter?

I have a lot of respect for our organization, Iraq Afghanistan Veteran’s of America and our tireless leader, Paul Reikoff. That alone, we were able to put together this Presidential Forum together, despite the obvious flaws, was a tremendous achievement by itself. I understand Mr. Reikoff’s comment to Rachael Maddow that he saw the event as a “great success,” on her program, immediately following the candidates hour. He has learned the way of the politician well in praising what I’m certain he otherwise felt of the program.

I am not in politics, however, so let me tell you the truth, my truth at least, after 48 hours of contemplation. I’ve concluded that the American public, in general, got fed a meal of their precise choosing. A plurality of the voting public, those beyond the beltway press, the 1% elites, those who’ve so mightily sacrificed fighting this forgotten war, and those partisans advising the campaign, actually want the red meat, the bombastic irrationality of our failing foreign policy, the lies, the messiness and the celebrity of it all, just as long as it doesn’t interfere with their HBO, our ever-present holiday shopping and our $6 coffee’s. An hour is about all the time our country has to spare.

I’m convinced most American’s -like Gary Johnson and the NYT editorial staff- couldn’t give you two actual facts about the Syrian Civil War, the NATO campaign to remove Qadhafi, or the difference between ISIS and the Islamic State? Not even that there is no difference. You reading this might be well-informed, maybe not? But there’s a question more important than all these pedantic bunny trails.

It’s this: What would it matter if we all knew the difference, the correct answers? Would this empirical knowledge change the governments foreign policy position? That ISIS is the greatest threat since….Al Qaeda..since Saddam..since the NAZI’s? No! And Donald Trump, to the utter maddening of the elite has tapped into this vein of truth. Most voters don’t give two good shits as long as they don’t have to go fight, pay taxes, or give up their reality TV. See, the media, the President and the elites want us to believe we actually live in a Democracy capable of making choices. The greater population has finally realized the truth; it’s all a lie, and by supporting Trump, they are giving the middle finger to the aforementioned by doing so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conflict of Interest[ed]?

So. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign seems to have really stepped into the muck this time, an unforced error so typical of those completely ensconced in the DC beltway echo chamber, far beyond the worries of most swing voter’s, specifically, those voters still undecided for whom they will cast a vote for, if they vote at all, in this November’s Presidential race. It’s funny the lengths these operations will go just to fall in front of themselves. Apparently, the Clinton’s will suspend their foundation’s financial collection operation upon Hillary winning the election? A move that obviously -but possibly beyond the grasp of Clinton secret decoder rings in Brooklyn- will create more uncomfortable questions than it’s intended to answer, right?

For example: If appropriate to suspend as POTUS, why not as Secretary of State? Why suspend? Is it because donations are given with an implied expectation of future quid pro quo? If that can be inferred from donors perspective, how can you claim the opposite in the case of Wall Street -Goldman Sachs- paid speeches? Do you expect the electorate to believe rich hedge fund managers find what you have to say so valuable as to reflect the enormous fees? If so, as an example, why didn’t these same money managers skip Obama’s FREE speech in 2009? Do you really want to treat your constituents like they are stupid?

Beyond all this trivial incompetence, the most troubling aspect of this campaign for Liberal’s in general should be, is the left’s grooming and showcasing of lifelong Republican’s who are coming out in support of Hillary Clinton. More than anything the campaign packages and presents to the public, the idea that Clinton is courting GOP voters is a flashing red warning of things to come.

We might end up with three parties on the National level: a far right Tea Party, a leftist Social Democrat Party, and a so-called center Clinton Party that governs in the past, avoiding significant change to the ruling class, the elite and big business in the foreseeable future.

Let’s call it the Establishment Party?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#WWJD

On Christmas Eve, age 11, my mom stopped me in the stairwell and said, “you know Santa isn’t real, right?” There’s so much insight to be analyzed within that proclamation, no doubt, especially since I stopped believing in Chris Kringle somewhere closer to age 5, alas, I mention it for other reasons more specific to faith and spirituality. My answer was a quick “yea yea,” the sort of answer a kid might give to questions of sex, or girlfriends and the like, when broached by otherwise well meaning parents. The question I never got around to asking her though seemed logical, possibly rude, was: “you know Jesus, the son of God at least, isn’t real either?” In my 10 year old mind, the idea of Jesus walking on water, Noah building an Archy-Archy, or Moses coming down with the Ten Commandments, were all as equally ridiculous. So yea, it’s obvious I don’t believe in religion. That doesn’t mean I can’t imagine a God, or “higher power,” if you’d like, out there in a different dimension, or in some way we haven’t yet discovered or understand. It would be simple minded to simply write the unknown off just because I {we} are as of yet ignorant. I find it highly unlikely that a possible greater power or entity gives two shits about us though.

Anyway, I said all that to say this: In general, I find many Christians to be cut from the most hypocritical of cloths. Being Christian, or Jewish, or Catholic, practicing those faiths should reveal a people heavy on empathy and forgiveness and light on violence and greed, right? Why is it then that so many of these heavily professed believers so antithetical in actual behavior to the good works and beliefs of the Jesus in their Bible? Quick to go to war, put folks to death, hoard wealth in massive quantities, favor stiff prison sentences, anti gay, anti just about anything that smells, looks, walks or talks different than their immediate clan?

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty that walk the walk, so to speak. Yet, without question, the overwhelming majority either confuse ideology with action, or, practice their faith in complete hypocrisy. Normally I wouldn’t give the phenomenon much thought, considering it a waste of time and oxygen. The experiences I recently faced cause me, force me, to reckon with these peoples sanctimonious bullshit.

When I lost my place to fire, I stumbled upon a program through the VA offering temporary housing and some minor case management. Long story very short: The program was highly religious, to the point that I was suspicious for not being willing to play along, pretending to be open minded…to that at least. It was clear after only a few months that the facility and the staff had many secrets. There was, and is, some shady shit going on that continues, affecting men and women that in many cases have nowhere else to turn. Because of this pickle, the program ultimately has control over them, leading to sick situations where folks are too afraid to speak out. I got the fuck out of there as quickly as possible. And if you think I am exaggerating, think again. Just as an example, the Vet case manager is literally not trusted by a single client! Not one. Years ago I worked in a similar job. During my 3 years I can think of only 3 or 4 clients who would feel negatively. You cannot please everyone, no. But to have people so dirty, so corrupt, in positions of authority is just reprehensible. How many people, let alone Veteran’s, have been worse off because of the place?

My point being; these people are so proud of their faiths. Praying circles every morning, guest pastor’s, the works, and in my entire life I’ve never known a more corrupt, to the bone corrupt, organization or program. Period. Christianity is but a convenient shield to hide the truth behind. And many know it, but wont say it. Their image is pure, an obvious sign of trouble for anyone with experienced in such matters.

Okay, I feel a little better getting that off my chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nothing Between

Are there wounds that cut just a little too deep, therefore irreparable? Where can I find the line separating the acute from the chronic, and how did trauma such as this become the ultimate American cliche? On one side you confront the fear with isolation, on the other it’s anger masquerading as courage. On your own you realize that line was but an illusion, like an ocean’s coast meeting the high tide. Alive. Dead. Light. Black. What’s the point of all this pain if the only one that heals is me? There’s no difference between fear of death and fear of life. At least that’s what I tell myself at the waking hour, confusing my brain just enough to proceed towards the light with my heart.

I never blame anyone else out loud. Those feelings I keep sewn deep within. Whenever they begin to roil I shake, shed a tear and hold back the rest. If I find myself touching that place in conversation, I cram it back in, all of it, heavy feet and a cheery song. The paradox is sealed, the matter no longer matters, and off I go with these broken clocks and miniature parts of a life I never wanted, yet, somehow bought. Nobody gets me, right? They don’t get me, not because I’m unique, rather, because somewhere back there, I broke apart, separated, now here incomplete. Picture a completed jigsaw puzzle with additional pieces left in the box. It’s all there, it looks complete.

Maybe the future holds a surprise I still cannot see? Maybe someday it’ll all be okay? I don’t pray, but we can hope, right? There’s something left to offer if I find another chance. At least that’s all I can tell myself in between these days of numbness, of anguish, recalling misery and dancing in the dusk, along that space between the elements, in a dream more like a movie I’m watching in my sleep.

It was so long ago. The smell of it all drifts closer.

 

 

 

 

 

TYRANNY OF LENSES & LOSS

Today I have this feeling of contentment, of peace in a way. It occurs to me that my exercise in LiveJournal these past couple weeks may have contributed? Or not, who knows? All I can say for sure is that I don’t feel pathologically suicidal tonight which is significant in a sort of way in-explainable on paper…or online, as it were. So, as tradition now justifies, I must complain; on the course of modernity, or, of the pain of our past.

My property is located in an area of the North Country quite susceptible to the beauties of autumn. The death of summer foliage set against the lateral sunsets of late nights is as striking to the natural eye as any earthly scenes I’ve had the pleasure to witness. There is no justice in the casual photos captured by smartphone lenses or Handy-cam digital composites. That is to say; people might tend to miss out on the actual beauty as they fumble with devices, with careless driving manners, and/or the hope children present might relieve themselves from any of the countless distractions present in our modern, hyper-technological, Virtual Reality exposed field of vision’s? 

What I’m trying to say is: put the phones down, stop the RV in a safe place out of traffic and just enjoy the moment. It’s what you came for is it not? Did you travel the thousands of miles only to attempt to prove you did by dropping a “pin” or exposing your Facebook family and friends to a shitty pic of the horizon, or shaky video of a moose? Buy a postcard or some professionally done video for the purpose of sharing. Relax, slow down, be safe(r) and go in peace. I don’t want to seem like the crotchety old man who finds fault in everything, everyone else might enjoy. I only speak from experience as a fellow wanderer and novice photographer that wishes he would have found more time to relax and spent less time looking for the next stop. That’s all. I just mean, do you really need to record the concert one the phone when professional recordings are available? Or recording Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton at every opportunity -not to mention any other pseudo celebrity- with 50 other media organizations doing the same, but much, much  better? Or selfies? Maybe it’s because I have never looked worse than in close up pics of my mug, but really? Okay, you get my point. Is it a passing fad, this hyper recording of ourselves, or is it only the beginning, God help us?

After the fire last winter that destroyed my first cabin I was left with precious few photographs or videos. Other than some low quality pics I had online and a thumb drive that escaped unharmed, my digital and physical past was 90% extinguished. There’s nothing like the unexpected to reveal the importance, or unimportance, as it was, of physical property, treasure or trinkets and tokens from the past. So I understand the desire to capture everything and anything. I understand the parents at baseball games not actually watching, but rather, recording. Those flicks could be treasured 30 or 40 years from now.

So why not get several Go Pro’s and set them up to record games for all the parents? Privacy. Or could the Little League’s themselves do it as a part of the field? Who knows? But either something is done soon or we might lose the present altogether, living only for a possible future? Just thinking.

Okay, have a beautiful day anyone who might read this, in the present…or the future.