Never Forget. Never Again.

I missed a grim anniversary: the bombing of Hiroshima, but 65 years ago today we dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki, and that shouldn’t be forgotten, either. 

Opinions differ as to the severity of the war crime and whether or not it was necessary for America to drop nuclear weapons on two cities filled with civilians.  I used to be in the “horrifying but necessary” camp before The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb moved me into the “horrifying and unnecessary” camp.  Then I found out about about the firebombings that came before it, and all of the other brutalities that get swept under various rugs, and learned just how brutal humans, even my own exalted countrymen, could be.  It doesn’t matter to me that other nations perpetrated horrors.  Tit-for-tat is never an excuse.  Preventing a worse horror is, but only just.

From what I’ve learned, my country could have avoided becoming the first (and, so far, thankfully, the only) country to drop atomic weapons on cities full of civilians.  We didn’t have to set that precedent.  There was this word, “unconditional,” we stuck in front of “surrender,” though, and somehow our leaders at the time didn’t think it worth enemy lives to negotiate something that would have ended the war just as effectively.  Maybe it’s because I’m young and wasn’t there, but I can’t see how allowing Japan to retain some dignity could be such a sticking point that we decided it was better to drop nukes instead.

And maybe something good came of it, because the horror of those images has certainly given others pause.  It has made quite a lot of people, powerful and common alike, pull back from the abyss, recoil in horror, swear these terrible weapons will not be used.  Not today.  Not for this.  (Of course, MAD helped.)

War, of course, is brutal, and brutal decisions are made in the fog of it.  That doesn’t mean we get to excuse what we have done.  Explain it, perhaps, certainly swear, “Never again.”  There will never be a perfect war, a perfectly just war, a perfect application of the minimum necessary force, but that reality doesn’t excuse and cannot be used to condone atrocity.  It should never allow us to blithely apply the maximum force we’re capable of.  It should not allow us to forgive and forget our own sins.

When I think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I feel sadness, horror and outrage.  But I also remember an experience Joseph Campbell related in Transformations of Myth Through Time:

I was in Japan and was taken to Nagasaki, where the second atom bomb was dropped.  I was with a group of Japanese, and I must say I felt mortified, being an American, and responsible – remotely – for this horrific act.  The extent of the devastation was still evident.  They have an enormous image just pointing up, exactly to the place from which the bomb came.  My Japanese friends felt no malice, no sense of my being to blame.  We had been enemies, pairs of opposites, two aspects of the same thing – beautiful.

So forgiveness is possible, on both sides.  But never forget.

Never again.

(This post is timed to appear at 11:01am, August 9th, Nagasaki time.)

So You Say Your Friends Got Blown To Bits…

…half your face got blown off, and now you have inescapable nightmares, flashbacks, and all the other symptoms of PTSD?  No sweat!  Just think positive, man!

I mentioned before that they were looking at this “positive thinking” program for vets with PTSD – something that seems like a way to cut costs rather than treat vets’ trauma.
Now psychologist Bryant Welch says the program has no scientific validity:

Johnny had been with his platoon when they were attacked by enemy fire and pinned down for the better part of two days. Much of his face was blown off. His two closest buddies died gruesome and agonizing deaths while lying on top of him.

As a psychologist, my work with him was not medical. It was to address the psychological trauma, then newly labeled as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], that haunted him and to help him “grieve” that much of his life had been blown away along with his face.

The pain of his surgeries was nothing compared to the night terrors that undercut his every attempt at sleep. The flashbacks that occurred daily put him back in the jungles of Viet Nam and the noises in the hallways became the sounds of advancing Viet Cong. Nurses and doctors could suddenly become menacing figures who he believed had captured him and were about to torture him. He was terrified to take his medications and unexpected noises could leave him shaken for hours.

Emotionally, on the best of days Johnny fluctuated between agitated depression and complete numbness in which he was unable to feel at all. He felt cut off from his family and felt enraged and misunderstood when they tried to “cheer him up.” Johnny was not actively homicidal, like some of the PTSD vets on his psychiatry ward, but he was consumed with thoughts of suicide.


As a psychologist who has treated many serious cases of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, it was a jaw dropping experience to learn that under a new $119 million military program these young men and women who have sacrificed so much will have their PTSD addressed with a superficial, psychological treatment based loosely on Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking, known in this generation’s iteration as “positive psychology” or the “psychology of optimism.

There is no evidence that the techniques of positive psychology can prevent or ameliorate the effects of PTSD. When its adherents’ attempt to extrapolate simplistic studies done on normal junior high students to military combat troops struggling with military traumas they are misleading the military, the public, and, most importantly, the troops.

You have got to be fucking kidding me.  As someone who suffered a mild case of PTSD many years ago, I can assure you that the power of positive thinking isn’t what got me through.  You can’t use optimism and positive thinking to haul you up from those depths.  Oh, I’m sure there are very rare exceptions – there’s a freak in every bunch – but for fuck’s sake, telling someone who goes through a horrific trauma to be optimistic and have a positive outlook is the most ridiculous fucking thing I’ve ever heard.

If our government pulls this shit on the troops, they deserve to be prosecuted for intentional infliction of extreme emotional distress.

Neocons Desperate for Yet Another War

So, Obama has a chat with Iran and comes away with all sorts of goodies.  It looks like diplomacy will do quite well dealing with any nuclear threat on that front.

This is the neocons’ worst nightmare, and they are now busily trying to drum up another war.  Here’s Lindsey Graham and his good buddy Saxby, working themselves to orgasm over the idea of total war:

Sen. Lindsey Graham believes the US should shoulder the responsibility of attacking Iran if an attack is necessary. An attack by the US is preferable to an an attack by Israel, according to Graham.
“I think an Israeli attack on Iran is a nightmare for the world, because it will rally the Arab world around Iran and they’re not aligned now. It’s too much pressure to put on Israel,” Graham told Fox News’ Chris Wallace Sunday.
He continued, “Military action should be the last resort anyone looks at, and I would rather our allies and us take military action if it’s necessary.”
But Graham doesn’t think an attack should be limited to airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. “If we use military action against Iran, we should not only go after their nuclear facilities. We should destroy their ability to make conventional war. They should have no planes that can fly and no ships that can float,” said Graham.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss agrees. “The problem with military action also is that you’re probably not going to be able to stop the production of uranium by just a simple airstrike. Lindsey’s right. It’s an all or nothing deal. And is it worth that at this point in time when we know they have the capability. We can slow them down, but a full-out military strike is what it would take,” said Chambliss.

I’m surprised they didn’t just suggest dropping enough nuclear weapons on the place to wipe everybody out.  Maybe they’re afraid that wouldn’t be enough fun.

Well, the neocons can’t allow us to have peace through that icky touchy-feely diplomacy stuff, so nothing for it but to try to replay the run-up to the Iraq war:

Helene Cooper typed up the fears of anonymous officials wondering if the agreements in the first round of talks, including a deal where Iran would ship its enriched uranium to Russia to ensure that it would be used for peaceful purposes, were just a tactic by the Iranians to “buy time.” Practically the same article popped up in the LA Times, as “experts and government officials” questioned whether the timeline for IAEA inspectors to visit the recently revealed facility at Qom represented another stall tactic. Amid this suspicion, neocon emeritus Elliott Abrams surmised that Iranians would not oppose a military attack on their own country, because there’s nothing dissidents enjoy more than bombs raining on their heads (the reformers don’t want sanctions either, it will hurt ordinary Iranians rather than the ruling regime). And today, this bombshell is splashed across the New York Times:

Senior staff members of the United Nations nuclear agency have concluded in a confidential analysis that Iran has acquired “sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable” atom bomb.

They even had to go to Canada to drop one rumor:

Iran has tried to acquire materials for a nuclear weapon in Canada, according to a top official in Canada’s Border Services Agency.

George Webb, head of the agency’s Counter Proliferation Section, says customs officers have seized centrifuge parts (centrifuges are used to enrich uranium) and electronic components for bombs and guidance systems.

Webb made the claims in a story published Thursday in Canada’s National Post […]

The article, however, offers nothing to corroborate Webb’s claims and reports them without even a hint of skepticism, except to say that “The devices can be used in peaceful nuclear plants but are also required to produce nuclear weapons” and to note that there have been few arrests and no convictions in connection with Webb’s far-reaching claims.

But skepticism is merited. The government claims and breathless media reporting – without adequate evidence – that Iran is a grave and looming threat is reminiscent of the same claims and media coverage in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, as several commentators have pointed out. Remember Saddam Hussein’s horde of yellowcake uranium?


Don’t forget, America: we’ve heard this bullshit before. Fool us once…

Let’s not let it happen again.

Sick, Twisted Fucktards

Since the right likes to bash liberals as freedom-hating fascists, since they love to moan about how cruel and mean and what a blight on the national discourse we are, I’d like to know how they explain this:

Here is some rightwing loon named Ralph Peters:

Pretending to be impartial, the self-segregating personalities drawn to media careers overwhelmingly take a side, and that side is rarely ours. Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media.

Sounds crazy, right? Beyond the pale, right? Deliberately killing journalists? That’s something we would never do, that’s NoKo/Saddam-level totalitarianism, plain and simple.

Well, Mr. and Ms. America, I got some news for you. It’s already happened.

No one will be surprised to learn it’s the Bush regime that killed journalists. And no one will be surprised that Ralph Peters is the kind of whackaloon, murderous fuckhead that Faux News loves to parade around as an august figure of authority:

Update: from digby

This wasn’t the only wacko thing the sick piece of work Ralph Peters said today on Fox. Get this:

“We’re dealing with people who aren’t human anymore. They’re monsters. And monsters deserve to die.”

So, advocating wholesale murder of journalists and the dehumanization and murder of Gitmo detainees isn’t beyond the pale in the right’s opinion. Something we should keep in mind come election season. If America puts the right back in charge of the country, what little moral authority we have left is dead.

They have no moral authority. None.

Memorial Day Roundup

A lot of bloggers had good Memorial Day posts up today. Just in case you missed them, here they are.

Think Progress has stats showing that America’s failing her vets.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars reminds us: For Every Death, A Hole in the World

DarkSyde at Daily Kos takes us Beyond Memorial Day, and reminds us that there are all too many veterans we’re forgetting.

And Digby celebrates the moral Heroes, who deserve just as much praise as the physical variety.

We may not always support the war these men and women are sent to fight. But we will always support them.

Holy War

So, I’m assuming most of you have seen that delicious GQ article that takes Rummy apart from tip to toe. If not, go read. It’s definitely an education.

One of Rummy’s favorite tricks was putting Bible verses on fancy war pictures to whet Monkey Boy George’s appetite for playing Holy War President. Here’s one of those cover sheets, which disgraced the President’s daily intelligence briefing:

Tristero puts this together with a few choice Bush quotes and comes to the logical conclusion:

Genuinely sickening. It makes you realize that this remark from September ’01 was no idle slip of the tongue:

On Sunday, Bush warned Americans that “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile.”

And also:

In the programmeElusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, which starts on Monday, the former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath says Mr Bush told him and Mahmoud Abbas, former prime minister and now Palestinian President: “I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did.”

We must never, ever forget: for eight long years, this country was run by delusional, paranoid idiots. Whenever they took a break from the hard work of lining the plush coffers of their already-wealthy pals, they thought they were on a mission from God.

He’s right. We must remember. And we must remind our fellow voters that this is the kind of shit that happens when you let a hyper-religious fucktard with an entitlement complex and delusions of world domination take the reins of the world’s biggest spender on military toys.

Let’s not make that mistake again.

Why Do Cons Hate Our Troops?

Remember the old days, when every time Democrats attempted to place limits on the firehose of money for Bush’s endless war, they got painted as troop-hating cowards? Well, sez I, turnabout’s fair play. If playing games with Iraq War supplementals is the height of irresponsible troop-hating, well, Cons are irresponsible troop-haters:

Rumblings up on Capitol Hill: Democratic leadership is worried they might not have the votes to pass the war supplemental. The House is due to vote on the emergency $96.7 billion dollar supplemental, which would fund the war in Afghanistan and Iraq through the next year, later this week. But opposition is possible from an unlikely place, House Republicans:

Republicans might attempt to provoke a partisan fight during floor debate over the future of the 241 detainees held at the military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, Democratic leaders could thwart GOP efforts to thrust Guantanamo into the spotlight by opting for a closed rule.

The bill does not contain the $80 million needed to close Guantanamo Bay, but Republicans are disconcerted because they tried several times without success to insert language into the bill which would keep detainees from being transferred to US soil.

Maybe I should call Rep. Dave Reichert (R – Parts of King County Dumb Enough to Vote for a Con) and ask him why he hates the troops. That would be fun.

For those of you going “Supplemental? What fucking supplemental?”, David Waldman has an explanation for that:

Oh yeah, another thing. I’m sure many of you are wondering what ever happened to the whole, “we’re not gonna do supplementals for the war anymore” thing. The wheels turn slowly in Washington. This is a supplemental for fiscal year 2009 (FY09), the regular appropriations bills for which were passed last year in the 110th Congress and under George W. Bush. The FY10 Defense Appropriations (and others which might include other bits of war-related funding) haven’t been passed yet. So technically, we’re still kind of operating under Bush budgeting until October 1, 2009, when the new fiscal year begins.

I know, I know.

And finally, for those of you looking for some sport: Remember that $870 million in flu pandemic preparedness the Senate “moderates” were so intent on cutting out of the stimulus (right before we confronted… a flu pandemic)?

This supplemental has $2 billion for it. Ha ha!

Gives you ideas, doesn’t it? Every time the Cons cut funding for important stuff, include nearly three times that amount in an emergency war supplemental. Then distract them by trying to include money for closing Guantanamo. Brilliant. Especially since, if they try to cut this one, we now have a ready-made retort, inspired by their own bullshit: “Why do you want our troops to die of pandemic flu?”

I shall enjoy this entirely too much.

The Wisdom of Readers

Last December, inspired by George at Decrepit Old Fool, I wrote about cluster bombs and worldviews. Tonight, I received an incredibly insightful comment from Longo05. I’m reprinting it here in full, because it deserves an audience:

Hey, I literally stumbled onto this blog via stumbledupon and thought I would articulate with you on this issue.

Background: I am a current college student and former Marine Sergeant. I helped facilitate communication for combat operations in an infantry regiment. I am generally liberal and a fierce individualist. I don’t believe in nationalism, but do believe in military service. I say this mostly because I feel that the speaker is as integral to what is spoken, and whom it is spoken to.

I couldn’t agree more with you about accountability, and the individual accountability that a person is responsible when he or she fires a weapon. I think that the same goes for any munitions fired, generally. How can you not qualify a statement like that?

When it comes to cluster bombs, they are indeed force multipliers, but were also designed for a certain type of warfare. It is important to clarify that cluster bombs were not designed for urban operations; they were designed to engage large-scale, regular forces on a field of battle. These weapons are used in what we typically call a ‘force-centric’ battle, meaning that the battle is fought in an attempt to reduce the number of enemy combatants. This is also known as conventional warfare, if there are such things as conventions on a battlefield. I am afraid this is an oxymoronic term.

The current operations in Afghanistan are considered non-conventional in nature, or asymmetric, or ‘population-centric.’ These are terms generally used to describe counter-insurgency, or COIN operations. It is the goal, ideally, to subordinate ‘hard power’ (military operations) to ‘soft power’ operations, such as: political means, stability operations, reconstruction, or any other operations that help to secure the local population and make the populations feel secure and safe. (A significant portion of these concepts and terms are explained in the U.S. Army Counter-Insurgency Manual, or can be found in a historical and contextual book called “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife” by John Nagal )

The best way to achieve these operational goals is to place enough security on the ground to achieve an overt and trustworthy relationship among the local populace. This is why most people agree that the ‘surge’ in troops, which Gen. Petraeus instituted, in Iraq was instrumental in quelling, at least the last portion, of the insurgency.

These operations call for exactly the opposite of what the person you cited described. In fact, the best way to attempt to achieve victory in Afghanistan is too indeed place more troops in potential danger and then to place them in more danger by subordinating military operations to stability operations. In fact, tying our, if I may, hands is exactly what needs to be done.

As a matter of fact, many NYTimes article actually attributed a significant number of Afghani civilian deaths to targets of opportunity, i.e. unplanned missions on suspected combatants, and most notably to a lack of proper ground troops to monitor and ensure enemy status. This is something that military commanders are realizing more and more every day.

There are countless articles that show that Defense Secretary Gates wants to reduce the military operations and budget in order to generate more Dept. of State responsibility and personnel, to better facilitate the ‘soft power’ function.

I think that whoever may have said that information that you cited was misinformed and had no right to speak on the matter. I also think that the term collateral damage is a term popularized by under sensitive and over stimulated Hollywood commandos ravaged by an antiquated machismo, bravado culture. I have never heard the term collateral damage in any military operation. I have heard civilian casualties and accidental, but I will note that they are usually attached to unfortunate, and senseless.

I think you might be surprised in how much caution is taken, how much regard for human life is honored, as it rightfully should. A friend, and subordinate, of mine was in Iraq during Operation Phantom Fury during OIF III, when they surrounded Fallujah and after a forced evacuation, considered anything left in the city a combatant. During house-to-house sweeps, they discovered a family that had not evacuated, and under those military parameters were within their jurisdiction to fire upon them.

Rightfully so, they identified the family and took the initiative to facilitate the families evacuation. They even ensured that they were attended by a medical staff and properly fed and hydrated (as they were under blockade-type siege for days). This situation cost them time and resources that were taken away from the conflict, but they did the right thing. They didn’t just level houses to save their own Asses.

I don’t think that service members go out and dehumanize their enemies. It has been my experience that we don’t dehumanize the enemy because we don’t want to take lightly our responsibility. It’s easy to picture service members as systematic robots, if you watch enough bullshit television. I hope that people don’t, just as I have always explained to my Marines that the people we face are brothers, fathers, and sons as well. I explain that we need to treat the enemy as humanly as possible when they surrender, just as I was explained to and honored. I think it commonly known that service members, on both sides, are just trying to do right by our respective countries. We’re just trying to get home too, and will willingly get enemy combatants home as best we can, especially if they don’t want to fight.

I would also disagree that war is sometimes necessary. I think that it is intelligently agreeable that war is the worse possible event and the biggest tragedy of politics. War is not a sport, it is not a pastime, it is not romantic, and it is not necessary. No one person’s life is more valuable than another’s. No one country’s troops are more valuable than another’s. We’re all equal, and equally fucked and wrong when war is declared (or not in this instance).

I think that if we are going to blame people, we should start with our democratic constituency, politicians, and the media, every American that started the war, or sat by idly as it began. Militaries are coercive tools of diplomacy; so much as guns are tools of shooters. We believe that a shooter is responsible for the rounds they fire, and I believe that politicians are responsible for militaries they deploy. There is nothing natural about killing, and nothing normal about dehumanizing killing, not even for glittering generalities, like Democracy and Freedom.

I have heard that ‘it is better to fight them over there, than over here’ and that ‘with us or against us’ rhetoric too and I think that all those generalities are as idiotic as the people they work on. Generalities on subject matter as multifaceted and complex as these issues are cannon fodder for the simple-minded and should be dismissed with equally generalized sayings, with starkly opposing views such as: “Fighting for peace, is as productive as screwing for virginity.”

It’s going to take some time, and more than one reading, before I’ve absorbed all the lessons Longo05 managed to pack in here. And I hope he starts a blog of his own. I’ve got a lot to learn from him. I think we’d all benefit.

Muchas gracias, mi amigo. And the same to all of my wonderfully wise readers. You guys make this all worthwhile.

(An extra tip o’ the shot glass to whoever it was put me up on Stumbleupon. Thankee kindly! Welcomes to all those who dropped by for the cluster bombs and stuck around for the rest.)

Where Are They Now? The Mercenaries Formerly Known As Blackwater Edition

Blackwater’s stock hasn’t been rising. The company’s come under fire for firing on Iraqi civilians, and both Iraq and the State Department planted a judicious boot up their arses. What’s a band of murderous mercenaries to do but change their name? Because, like Cons, Blackwater – um, excuse me, Xe – thinks it’s all about branding rather than the product.

They maybe shoulda researched the name first:

Over at my home blog of Mercury Rising, one of my co-bloggers, MEC, noticed something a wee bit interesting about Blackwater’s name change (and, they apparently hoped, reputation change) to “Xe” — namely, that there’s already an “XE” out there and they care about their copyright:

“XE”, “XE.COM”, “UNIVERSAL CURRENCY CONVERTER”, the XE logo, the spinning currency logo, and other identifying marks of XE are and shall remain the trade-marks and trade names and exclusive property of XE CORPORATION, and any unauthorized use of these marks is unlawful.

Deary, deary me. Looks like the corporate lawyers shall be rolling up their sleeves and deploying the cease-and-desist letters. And in a battle between an army of lawyers and an army of mercs, I know who my money’s on.

If anyone wants to float some potential names for Blackwater now they’ve lost their first choice, I’ll be happy to pass them along.