Daily War Watch
September 29, 2001
Sometimes being a mere primate isn't enough. Sometimes certain
people demand we descend all the way to ape-hood.
There is a fine line between acting tough and acting stupid.
We are crossing that line as a nation in spades, largely thanks
to the poor quality of the leadership that has been inflicted
on this country by a close election where political loyalty
by the President's inner cabinet was deemed a higher priority
than qualifications and experience, with only a few exceptions,
such as Dick Cheney, who has plenty of experience (just much
of it the wrong kind), and Colin Powell, otherwise known as
Public Enemy #1, more dangerous to the American war effort
than Osama Bin Laden. Even in Powell's case, he got to where
he is largely on the basis of being excellent at Pentagon
politics and being able to strike a rapport with his superiors.
He's not Patton or MacArthur and is well aware of the fact.
Then again, that's not his job.
However, what really concerns me are people like Paul Wolfowitz
and Donald Rumsfeld. Wolfowitz has his job, as I alluded to
in my last column, largely because he wrote a paper on the
United States engaging in a permanent crusade to keep minor
world powers from becoming major world powers, to deny them
even the hope of challenging US supremacy so that the US would
never again (or at least for several generations) have its
integrity as a nation threatened. Rumsfeld was selected largely
because he covered the other base, National Missile Defense,
a source for paranoia, fear, and loathing of the very principle
that other nations threaten the United States, thus denying
the US unlimited ability to wage war across the globe (if
it so chooses).
Neither of these men is in his job because he actually know
how to command men, build armies, or form coalitions. They
are in their jobs because they are hacks who pleased the right
constituency: Republican hawks. They exist in cabinet because
hawks demanded that other hawks, ideologues who are firmly
committed to the cause of US expansion of power and protection
of the interests of the US, should hold the reins of military
power. (The "interests of the US" are as often as not code
for "Big Business", rather than the quaint and outmoded idea
that the US should be largely committed to its own protection
and should refrain from being involved in every two-bit war
that comes along, most particularly civil wars.)
Greater problems persist. Bush recently praised the CIA and
accused Bin Laden of "misunderestimating" the US, and its
commander in chief (i.e. him). Does the CIA have HUMINT in
Afghanistan? No. Does the CIA have a fix on Bin Laden's location?
Probably not. Does the CIA have an army of Pashtun speakers?
No. Does the CIA even have enough Arabic speakers who can
understand the sort of dialects and street talk that the hijackers
use? No. Does the US have enough intelligence to send special
forces after Bin Laden? No.
So why the confidence in the CIA? Even Wolfowitz is going
around saying to allies that no quick assault should be expected,
because it takes time to gather intelligence. Especially in
Afghanistan, he didn't add. Yeah, well, what of it? You knew
this two weeks ago. Bush knew this when he made that speech
last week and stirred everyone up for War. If you didn't have
the intelligence to proceed back then, why did you say those
things? Is that why you want to go after Iraq, hmm? It's easier?
The FBI apparently found out in 1995 that the original bombers
of the World Trade Center and their blind cleric leader had
detailed plans to hijack planes and to bomb them into buildings.
(Novak says so.) We're talking detailed written plans that
this group was too small and incompetent to pull off. The
FBI never called up the FAA and informed them this could be
a concern. The FBI never told state and local authorities
that this is one scenario they should watch out for. The FBI
never told NORAD to have more than 14 fighters on stand-by
within the continental United States to intercept rogue aircraft.
NORAD never trained against a rogue aircraft originating
from within the United States, only against international
flights. (That it had 14 fighters in the continental US, and
only 6 in Canada, on alert, this explains why the fighters
to intercept the plane headed to the Pentagon had to be launched
about 130 miles away instead of 15 at Andrews AFB. It does
not explain why these planes "on alert" took so long to get
off the ground, which according to reports was something like
6 to 8 minutes, and within 2 minutes after launch, the plane
had already hit the Pentagon.) One wonders how NORAD ever
expected to defend anything with 14 planes on alert, none
of which were closer than 130 miles to the capitol.
This explains why Ashcroft has been sending out one Weapon
of Mass Destruction threat per day lately. First you have
the crop duster scare. Then it's chemical weapons. Then it's
biological weapons and their imminent use. ANYTHING to divert
attention from the FBI and the Justice Department for dropping
the ball. After all, with intelligence in hand that plans
had been developed in the past that hijackers were willing
to crash planes into stationary targets, and then finding
out about the Bin Laden related people in the US who had received
pilot training in Florida, something should have clicked.
The left hand did not know what the right hand knew. And yet...
we're still in the "No one could have imagined this" mode.
We're still acting like naive ninnies in a cruel world where
the thought of crashing a plane into something as a weapon
is a question of opportunity, not moral limitation. Conveniently,
if no one could have imagined this, the FBI gets off free.
On the other hand, if someone COULD have imagined this, then
the FBI's not informing the FAA that someone might imagine
this, not informing NORAD that someone might use this to assault
a military objective like the Pentagon, and so on and so forth,
then the FBI has a lot of explaining to do.
So when are we actually going to gorilla-ize Bin Laden's
ass, anyway? I mean, seriously. We're all pumped up for war
now. Well, where is it?
The problem is that the military isn't ready to fight a war.
That's the bottom line. We've had readiness problems for years.
Some will say it's all Clinton's fault. Buzz. Wrong! This
started practically the day WWII ended. The US military began
the long shift to a larger bureaucracy, starting rank inflation,
the emphasis on the Pentagon, and the concept of "ticket-punching",
the idea that permanent military service was meant to get
one's rear end into a general's or admiral's rank with all
the retirement benefits and the awe and respect of the nation.
Making a mistake was fatal to one's career, so, logically,
mistakes had to be outlawed. Zero tolerance became the rule.
Those who ticket punched well survived, and became today's
admirals and generals. Their progeny, today's colonels, commanders,
and so on and so forth, are part of a feeder system, a sort
of minor league, for true membership in the brotherhood sometimes
called the Military-Industrial Complex.
Once at this exalted level, above mere mortal men, one thing
rules all: MONEY. Each service, the Army, Navy, Air Force,
and Marine Corps, fight constantly, with all the sympathy
of Capitol Hill divided between them, in a never-ending, particularly
vicious manner to obtain more money and resources, and, most
importantly, to prevent the taking away of their reasons for
being. (Example: Aircraft carriers. This battle has been fought
so many times that Rumsfeld was an idiot for thinking he could
just propose less carriers and get away with it. The Carrier
Lobby rose up and whacked him on his butt so hard that his
rear end still hurts. Cheney gave him a good scolding, and
nothing more was heard of the matter ever again.)
Under this scheme, the purpose of the military is not to
fight and win wars at all. It is, rather, to finance defense
industries, get politicians elected, and insure the most bloated,
money-grubbing structure possible, which leads to... let's
say it together... MORE GENERALS AND ADMIRALS. Also, their
lifestyle is such that one term that has been used to describe
them is "perfumed princes." They'd probably call themselves
kings of small military kingdoms, if given a choice; a prince
just isn't, well, exalted enough. These people know that they
have aides to fulfill their every need. They realize that
the ticket-punching elite dotes on their every word and seeks
to curry their favor at all cost so that they, too, can join
the ranks of the exalted. All this, of course, requires keeping
defense industries happy. Perhaps someday, dear reader, you
too can someday join Lockheed-Martin, or found your own mercenary
corporation to do the CIA's dirty work without sullying the
hands of the United States. All is possible for the properly
initiated, though there is one rule that must be obeyed above
Cover your ass.
Now, the public at large doesn't have any idea it's this
bad. (Mind you, it's the leadership, NOT the average member
of the armed forces!) I'm wondering, personally, what their
reaction will be when this war doesn't materialize, or doesn't
go as planned. So far, there seems a confidence, even smugness,
in the certainty that the perpetrators of the World Trade
Center bombing will be punished, and that the enemies of the
United States will pay for their actions.
But seriously, why will they?
Without nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in play,
Bush is largely reduced to the same options that Clinton would
have had: Launch cruise missiles from 2000 miles away to hit
unoccupied training camps built by the CIA to train anti-Soviet
holy warriors (who just HAPPEN to not like the US), which
is a courageous act (Ari says so); launch a ground invasion
from Pakistan only to be opposed by half the Pakistani army
disobeying orders (if any) not to fight the US, much of the
civilian population, and knowing nuclear weapons are in the
nation; attack from the route the Soviets took from the North;
send in special forces to go after Bin Laden with next to
no useful, timely intelligence, lightly armed, and with extraction
made very difficult because of the rough terrain, keeping
in mind that holy warriors just love shooting down
hostile helicopters, which perform very poorly at Afghan altitudes;
invade Iraq, destroying all support from the Arab world, sparking
guerilla opposition in Saudi Arabia, plus more terror attacks,
and losing Egypt as an ally; bomb with strategic manned aircraft
like B-2's, destroy some cities with traumatized people, repressed
women, orphans and cripples just to make ourselves feel better;
or sit on our butts, talk a lot, and do nothing.
At the moment we're picking the latter option because even
Wolfowitz can't see how we can pull off effective military
action, particularly with such awful intelligence.
Not being said is that we have less aircraft carriers than
we used to; we have far less tanks and soldiers; we'd never
be able to invade even Iraq within an acceptable timetable;
our global military transportation system has been drained
of funds to give more slush funds to the four main branches,
since military-wide but highly vital organizations are political
orphans; morale within the military was, until the attacks,
rock bottom, largely because of the terrible erosion of leadership,
with the problem exponentially worse with each higher officer
rank; and very recent proposals to downsize the military,
with the administration turning its back on the "Help is On
The Way" message from the campaign.
Let's also not forget that the military doesn't actually
know how much money it has. The military's books are not fit
for auditing and cannot be certified in good conscience by
the appropriate agencies.
Many of these things are not things that NORAD, the FBI,
the CIA, the armed forces, and similar organizations, can
blame on Clinton. They may try, but these problems come from
within. The CIA's internal priority is electronic intelligence.
People said 20, even 30 years ago that it would come back
to haunt us. No one cared; gadgets were in, people were out.
The FBI is aloof, insular, and if they think you don't have
a need to know, you never will. NORAD never had the imagination
to prepare against the contingency that occurred September
11. The armed forces have developed their current culture
over the last 30 years and then some; its problems absolutely
did not start overnight, and will not end overnight, either.
So because of this, what are we doing?
Are we reforming the FBI? Overhauling the CIA? Merging organizations
to put more internal US security people under one roof, like
say the ATF, known for their award-winning work in Waco a
few years ago? Are we rooting out ticket-punching Pentagon
staff that serve no useful purpose except lining up cushy
jobs after retirement and fighting political battles against
other Pentagon staff? Are we demanding accountability? Are
we kicking butt and taking names? Are we even TRYING to do
any of these things?
No, no, no, no, no, no, and most definitely NO.
What happens when one day the American people realize that
this hyperpower business isn't all it's cracked up to be?
What will they say when they realize that the US, unless it
wants to deploy city-busters to kill far more people in one
shot than either Pearl Harbour or the World Trade Center bombings
ever threatened to do, just plain isn't capable of crushing
everyone it wants to? What will they think when they realize
that not a SINGLE individual has lost his or her job since
the attack, and virtually all have been praised by the President,
who, far from demanding accountability, is encouraging the
same people whose sleeping on duty made the WTC attack astonishingly
easy and effective when normally, with such a highly sensitive
plan, any foul-up at all was liable to wreck the whole scheme?
I don't know, but I think they'll be wondering what kind
of leadership we have.
Being gorillas isn't enough. We need to use our brains, too.
So far, I'm not sure that's happening at the national level,
or at least, not enough. Bill Kristol has already called Powell
damn near a traitor for "undermining the President's war effort."
Ari Fleicher has said to all whose voice can be heard on television,
"Watch what you say. Watch what you do." Because you know
that the White House is watching YOU. Oh gee, Ari. Thank you
so much, really. We really needed to know that you stand ready
to launch the forces of dissent suppression on our media.
What is our problem here? We know better than this. So far,
the agencies that protect the United States have managed to
get away with saying, no one could have known this was coming,
and it's all Osama's fault. Yeah, well, that's very convenient
for them to say, isn't it? What separates us from our primate
cousins is that we are capable of more than loud grunts, chest-beating,
muscle flexing, and, when it finally comes time to act, doing
so in the most direct, unthinking manner possible. More must
be expected from us. More must be demanded from us. The same
goes for Bush. More must be expected; more must be demanded.
Otherwise our enemies will not have misunderestimated us at
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