Thursday, April 20, 2006

Iran and Iraq

I have a good friend known in some circles as Slugg, former Special Forces of significant rank and experience, who recently posted some fascinating thoughts on the Rumsfeld: Incompetent Patriot? thread. The thoughts were so good that I asked Slugg if he would mind my reposting them here as a guest column, and he generously agreed. There's a lot to the Iran - Iraq connection, I think; let's see what comes out in the responses to Slugg's post, and I may follow up with another post on the subect soon.

Slugg, thanks again for the insightful, provocative, posts. I'm honored to have you here.


Regarding the public debate kick-started by the six generals, it appears to this observer that most everybody boils the current brouhaha down to a single question: should the SecDef retire... or not?

Intending no disrespect I assert that those who ask this question... are asking the wrong question. A more useful question would be: why would six honorable men do this at best controversial, at worst questionable thing?

Have the generals forgotten their schooling in our nation’s tradition of military subordination to civilian control? Is their true goal really to compel the resignation of the SecDef? Are they petty men working off petty grievances by thumbing their noses in public at a man they just don’t like? Are they working to get every incumbent up for election this year thrown out of office?

If your answer to any of those questions was “Yes,” then you have assumed these six generals are simple men, incapable of subtlety, whose public actions should be taken at their simple face value.
I‘m telling you this knife-fight ain’t about Iraq: it’s about Iran!

Moreover, I’m guessing this fight is specifically about the ongoing, sub rosa discussions that ought to be ongoing, but [according to Seymour Hersh] aren’t ongoing between the Pentagon and the White House concerning the sanity of using nuclear weapons in a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s fledgling nuclear capability!

Wonder this, before you dismiss my speculations: what choices does the loyal officer corps have when corporately it is ordered to execute a direct order from the commander-in-chief which, in their best corporate judgment, would inflict grievous, irreparable harm not only on the enemy, but also on our own republic?

Some background:
During the Vietnam era—as H. R. McMaster posits in his book, “Dereliction of Duty”—our senior military officers failed their civilian leadership [and the nation] when they did not honor with public action what they privately believed to be true: that prolonging the Vietnam War promised nothing for certain but that more of our young men would be killed or mutilated… and more of our national treasure would be spent without profit for anyone but the military industrialists. The strategic benefit returned to America for this sacrifice of blood and capital would add up to little more than the possibility we could preserve America’s excruciatingly minimal national interests in South East Asia. McMaster’s book became required reading for all senior military officers. The hope was that the officer corps would not flinch from its obligation to fall on its collective sword if that was the only option for true service to the nation left them by their civilian leaders.

Flash forward to today: we have six general officers, all of whom (with the exception of General Zinni) refused promotion to the next higher rank and retired from the military... because they could not continue to serve as loyal officers under the leadership of the current Secretary of Defense. The key phrase here is “continue to serve.” Meaning, the generals retired and spoke out not because of what went down in Iraq, but because they have misgivings about the competency of their current civilian leadership to make wise or prudent decisions during the next war.

Then why, I can hear some of our company demanding to know, do the generals not speak out about their genuine concerns as freely and openly as they are willing to criticize in public the past performance of the Secretary of Defense?

That question is both fair and legitimate to ask. My answer rests on an understanding of the traditional/legal/ethical constraints that inhibit generals, active duty and retired, from indulging themselves in totally free speech:

Iraq is history, and the record of our nation’s actions taken there is available for every American to know and judge for themselves...

But Iran is the future, and for the soldiers with recent or continuing access to the details of our nation’s military plans and intentions, that elite group of men and women who *know* what is going to happen in the months ahead… the future will always be classified!

Therefore I hypothesize that the generals reluctantly elected to step into the unflattering spotlight the media shines on all its subjects and offer America what they feel duty-honor-country bound to deliver... the truth as they see it... circumscribed and restrained by the lifetime oaths of secrecy and of loyalty to the nation that each has sworn... and must honor... or forfeit their honor.

I sincerely believe that not one of the generals truly gives a rat’s ass whether or not Secretary Rumsfeld resigns. I believe they acted in a manner which, although coordinated, falls far short of either disloyalty to, or mutiny against civilian control of the military... acting with intent to force the Secretary of Defense, the President, and The Congress of the United States to hear what they cannot say in public.

I believe the generals acted with the concurrence of many of their peers and subordinates, both those retired and those who continue to serve in uniform on the active-duty force, obliging all to offer their own candid, studied, professional counsel to the nation’s civilian leadership... respectfully, discreetly, and in accordance with their oaths of secrecy... plus the oath of service every soldier freely takes upon entering the military:

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).

Lastly I predict that when their goal has been achieved [with results for the better or worse], even as once upon a time General McArthur said, each of the six general might say, “ the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty. Good-by.”

Posted by The Slugg


Anonymous said...

Scary indeed....Thanks

Anonymous said...

What you say could well be true … but I’m going to posit a doubt here (and for a few reasons).

Had they not retired first, it would give a heartfelt quality to the argument (and give much more weight to it) for me. I do believe there are honorable men left on the planet … and probably many of them in the military … I know G. Gordon Liddy was one (whether his actions were right or wrong, I doubt anyone can argue his loyalty) … on the other hand, I’m not very big on oaths.

While one might shed a tear upon hearing someone take an oath (to do the right thing), one too often wonders what the same person is thinking when they decide to deface the oath (and I’m not talking about wiseguys breaking omerta).

If they are holding back something for the sake of a potential Iran campaign ... well, that would require an administration that has been labeled completely inept to be completely on the ball (and planning far in advance of something they seem to have lost control of in the present--according to public opinion polls). It’s kind of like the O.J. situation … could the LA cops really have been that complicit in framing O.J? I doubt it. And although I don’t see this administration as being as incompetent as most others do, I seriously doubt they could execute an Iraq plan without having it leak all over the place way in advance.

There was certainly a paper trail regarding Iraq going way back before Bush was even elected.

If it’s strictly a military engineered plan you’re talking about, it would mean Rumsfeld is way ahead of the game.

Or am I reading you wrong?

The (generals) stars don’t earn them any more respect as honorable (or decent) people as the next guy in my book. That isn’t to diss them … it’s just the way I approach individuals. I applaud their service, but seriously question why they went about executing “disastrous” war plans at the expense of their men. I don’t buy them getting to play the honor card when it’s convenient.

It is a great argument and presentation you gave, though. I’m just a bit too skeptical of the generals motives, I guess.

The other problem for me regarding Iraq is ... I really do believe when the time comes, either Israel or us will hit their reactors with stragetic air strikes the way Isreal hit Iraq in 1988.

Anonymous said...

The other thing ... McArthur is a tough sell for me. I'm a HUGE Truman fan ... he's one of my 3 favorite presidents.

Anonymous said...

On Monday, as an alternative to the public criticism to which Slugg and Barry have referred, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial written by four retired flag officers who support Secretary Rumsfeld, including retired Lt. Gen. John Crosby; retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney; retired Maj. Gen. Buron Moore, U.S. Air Force; and retired Maj. Gen Paul Vallely. You can read their piece here (although to be fair I haven’t gone through it word for word to make sure he transcribed it correctly, and the WSJ makes it difficult to provide a link to it directly:


For two other relevant pieces, I would also direct you to:

Slugg, I think you brought forth some interesting insights, and I am still processing all that you have postulated. I agree with you that this is about considerably more than Rumsfeld’s resignation, although I am not yet sure that Iran is it nor do I think it has to do with forcing the Administration to hear their viewpoint. I think the Administration has heard it, and disagrees with it.

It is worth noting that Gen. Zinni has been offering his criticisms publicly since at least 2003, and prior to that spoke to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee among others

Perhaps had they proffered a solution, as well as the criticisms and calls for heads to roll, they would have greater credibility.

What eats against their credibility in my opinion however, is some of the rhetoric they have chosen to use in their statements. If, as Slugg has suggested, it is meet and right that officers, currently in command and retired, are compelled “to offer their own candid, studied, professional counsel to the nation’s civilian leadership... respectfully, discreetly, and in accordance with their oaths of secrecy...” then I think they have failed by the use of such phrasing as:

"incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically," and a man who "has put the Pentagon at the mercy of his ego, his Cold Warrior's view of the world, and his unrealistic confidence in technology to replace manpower." (Maj. Gen Eaton)

” Pentagon's military leaders … with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction” (Lt. Gen. Newbold)

McMaster holds good lessons for us. Although I am not sure that it is an analogous situation to what these 6 generals are doing now (Gen. Shinseki’s example seems to me a better one.).

David Terrenoire said...

I think it takes a real understanding of military culture and the sheer, unprecedented magnitude of this news to appreciate why it's important, and why we dismiss these generals at our peril.

The military is already stretched. My nephew, a Major with a Stryker Brigade and as hard core as anyone I've ever met, is on his third tour and tired.

If this man, a real soldier's soldier, is weary of fighting this war, think of the 43 year old National Guardsman who's on his third tour, his wife can't make the mortgage payment, his civilian career is circling the drain and his kids are growing up without him.

Now tell him we're going into Iran.

This is not good.

ZenPupDog said...

I'd toss the whole lot out. Rumsfeld is just part of the problem. They wanted this. They don't care about the troops whose lives are being ruined.

Sandra Ruttan said...

If these generals are speaking out in order to prevent a war in Iran, all I can say is I hope a thousand more step forward and speak out as well.

It is a tragedy when "the next war" is already presumed as a certainty.

Anything else I could possibly say would only earn me hate mail. Does nobody give pause to what a war in Iran would mean?

There used to be a day when people picked up arms with great reluctance... And I don't really want an answer. Because this administration picks up arms first and doesn't bother to apologize for incorrect intelligence later, and they're risking much for all of us with their continued aggression.

See? I told you I'd get hate mail...

Anonymous said...

The other thing ... McArthur is a tough sell for me. I'm a HUGE Truman fan ... he's one of my 3 favorite presidents.

charlie, right on with your comments. Can I hazard a guess that one of your other favorites is TR?

Generals speaking out to prevent a war with Iran? Quite a strech I think. As Freud said, sometimes dreaming about a cow is just that, dreaming about a cow.

What makes one think that we can think far enough ahead about Iran, when we did nothing at all about North Korea?

Anonymous said...

sandra, this is not hate mail. I wish everyone in the whole world thought like you...but unfortunately, they do not. I too am terrified about Iran. I am terrified about China. I am terrified about North Korea. I am also terrified about what we will do, or what we might fail to do about the threats they pose to us and the world.

May I ask you a question? Were you surprised on 9-11 with the attack on the towers?

Anonymous said...

Slugg, thanks for your perspective. I didn't make it through all of the comments on the other thread, so I'm glad what you had to say became its own entry. Six retired generals speaking out certainly seems significant to me, but I don't have the background to "read between the lines" to what it might mean.

Our rumblings toward Iran worry me. Didn't the former Soviet Union lose the Cold War, at least in part, because they went broke? I don't see how we can afford to keep going to war like this.

Economics aside, I don't see how smashing other people's countries and leaving instability in our wake can possibly make the world a safer place. If you want to feed the fires of violence, put people in a position where they have nothing left to lose and no means to make a decent living . . . .

Sandra, no hate mail from me. I agree with your post.

John DuMond said...

Retired Marine officer Matthew Dodd has an interesting take on the actions of the six retired generals in his latest column at Defensewatch:

Anonymous said...

JH ... TR and Lincoln ... and, dare I say it, Dubya (if history proves the war was good). I tip my hat to his reluctance to bow to public opinion polls and staying the course (I can hear it now).

Anonymous said...

I won't pretend to know what is in the heart of the generals who have taken a stand against Secretary Rumsfeld. Slugg makes a strong argument, one I find persuasive if not convincing. It fits the facts as we have them, and our concerns that this administration, having blundered into one war we cannot win, is trying to threaten or bluff their way into a confrontation that could easily lead to an even less winnable war.

Mr. Bush promised once upon a time to govern with humility, and yet it is the lack of humility that has led us into this quagmire. And the inability to admit past mistakes will lead easily to yet another. That military officers are willing to end their careers to call attention to their fears says much.

It's not about Rumsfeld, or at least not about him alone. It's Cheney, and Wolfowitz and the rest of the people who were so certain that the Middle East was a game of dominoes that would fall just the right way. And it's the guy with his name on the office and his finger on the button. Does he not see what he's doing to the world his daughters will inherit?

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks peregrine and JH...

"Were you surprised on 9-11 with the attack on the towers?"

Hmmm. Timing-wise, yes. That it happened? No.

But not for the reasons people might now conclude. Being honest for that exact time, before we knew what had happened, there had been Oklahoma City and there had been previous attempts on the WTC. I lived in Europe when the Berlin Wall came down and before the collapse, they were sealing borders and there was huge political unrest...Then when I was in Spain they uncovered tons of explosives, and things were a lot different in Ireland when I lived there in 1990. In fact, it was scarier to be in Belfast than to cross Checkpoint Charlie when I last did.

So, the violence itself doesn't surprise me. The target didn't surprise me.

I reeled pretty bad over Bali, but then, I stayed really close to the location when I was there, and walked by that place almost every day. Had similar shock over the Madrid bombing a few years back, another place I'd been. But it's the shock of reality, not that it actually happened.

I'm worried about the state of the world. But in hindsight, I always have been. We grew up under the cold war, after all. Life got tough after that. We didn't know who our enemies were.

Now we do, and it still isn't simple.

JD Rhoades said...

I too am terrified about Iran. I am terrified about China. I am terrified about North Korea.

Sheer pants-wetting terror is no basis for a system of government!

(I had a longer and more thoughtful post but Blogger ate it, so I went for the cheap Monty Python reference)

Barry Eisler said...

Welcome Doug P! Folks, Doug is a friend from way back with significant international and government experience. We have a lot of differences, and every time we get together, we argue religion and politics long into the night, yet never seem to lose our mutual respect and affection. If Doug and I can do it, we all can...

Doug is also part of my happy band of pre-readers -- the friends and family who generously volunteer to find the mistakes and other shortcomings in the Rain manuscripts -- and at times has been a collaborator, too. So if anyone has found fault with anything in the series, please direct your comments to Doug...

Thanks for coming by, buddy, and I'll look forward to seeing more of you and your perspective here.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

I say cudos to Sluggs! That is the most insightful evaluation I've read in the last month. I think you hit the nail on the head with the Iran logic.

And we can probably be sure that just like the fact that the original Iraq plan went back several administrations; we can be equally sure that the engineering of this blueprint for Iran was around before this present administration.

As I asserted several posts ago, there is always a huge part of the story that we as civilians are never privy too.

And Slugg, thanks for the 'blast from the past' with the oath. I haven't heard it since I spoke those words at my induction, back in the 70's!

Anonymous said...

jd, I'd love to see your entire post. Not enough there to respond to competely. Keeping one's head while being terrified is what makes one stand above others.

When I search a building at night knowing there's a burglar in it and armed, am I scared? You bet. Do I go, often alone? You bet.

Anonymous said...

bonnie, why were you surprised by the timing? Because it took so long for them to do it?

Sam Basso said...

It might be worth reading Krauthammer today... He disagrees with your thesis.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Sandra said:

“We grew up under the cold war, after all. Life got tough after that. We didn't know who our enemies were. Now we do, and it still isn't simple.”

I agree. And now it seems that we’re barreling toward another cold war, this time with an islamo-fascist regime. Iran is the threat we were told Baghdad was. The Soviet Union seemed a lot less scary. So how does the deterrant of assured mutual destruction work when the opposing side is completely willing to strap their young into shaheed belts and send them off to the night club? What do you bring to the bargaining table when one of their deal-breakers is the annihilation of Israel?

Randy McFab said...

I didn't realize you had to be ex-Special Forces to copy/paste Seymour Hersh.

Sandra Ruttan said...

We need the voice of moderation to be the stronger force - perhaps those that people can listen to.

All the "rhetoric" the generalizations, they scare me as much as anything. I went to Tunisia only weeks after 9/11. People here were calling us crazy. I have never been treated better anywhere in the world by the local people - and I've done my share of traveling. People would come up to us and grab my hand and cry and say thanks for still coming to their country. For not seeing it as "us" and "them".

Going to war with Iran brings the certainty of destruction. Public opinion that fear has led to bullying without substance is a real danger - the backlash can push those in the middle in the opposite direction. And meanwhile, North Korea and China are watching, and they don't want to be "next" on some hitlist either. The truth is, these countries could come up with ways to kill millions without using nukes and if they really felt threatened, what's to stop them from saying "hit them before they hit us?"

The thing is, nothing else is even being tried. There was failure to get a resolution on Iraq for a reason, and when we begin to break the rules we say we adhere to, we portray ourselves as hypocrites, untrustworthy to the world. And to the sceptics out there, we push them away, the sides become polarized, the chance of middle ground, reason and some semblance of peace slips away...

It makes me think of kids getting bullied again and again who show up one day with a gun.

Anonymous said...

Sandra said:

“It makes me think of kids getting bullied again and again who show up one day with a gun.”

“And to the sceptics out there, we push them away, the sides become polarized, the chance of middle ground, reason and some semblance of peace slips away...”

Sandra - What scares me more than anything, even nuclear Iran + China + Russia vs. world, is the very real possibility that people with your viewpoint, who see the world as the little kid America picks on, could one day be in a position to make decisions about our national security. What you just wrote says to me that you don’t believe there is true evil in the world, or if you do, that it can be reasoned with, that Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter can change the thinking of a man like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs he represents. I’d be curious to know if you supported our invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban?

* * *
They have not wanted Peace at all; they have wanted to be spared war -- as though the absence of war was the same as peace.
- Dorothy Thompson

Barry Eisler said...

Randy, you said, "I didn't realize you had to be ex-Special Forces to copy/paste Seymour Hersh."

Are you saying that Slugg copied and pasted from a Seymour Hersch article? If so, are you referring to Hersch's April 17 New Yorker article, "The Iran Plans," which Slugg references?

Here is a link to that article: If you're referring to another article of Hersch's, please specify.

I read Hersch regularly in the New Yorker. In the article referenced above and in Slugg's post, Hersch writes about misgivings among the Joint Chiefs regarding the administration's planning for Iran. But I don't recall anything from Hersch's article suggesting that the six generals who have recently called for Rumsfeld's resignation were motivated not by what has happened in Iraq but rather with what will happen in Iran (in fact, I don't recall Hersch referring to the generals' call at all). That hidden motivation is the point of Slugg's post -- his thesis, his argument. If Slugg copied it from Hersch, can you show us exactly where the copying occured?

Copying is plagarism. Plagarism is a serious charge, even when the charge is leveled with gratuitous sarcasm and apparent thoughtlessness, and ought to be based on objective evidence. So please back up your accusation by comparing Slugg's thesis with Hersch's thesis and with any line-by-line or thought-by-thought "copying and pasting" you've found in the writings of both.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Blake, if there is a real evil that is determined to nuke us all, invading won't stop it. "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." There's a saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." I'm pointing out that by being seen as aggressors, there is a real risk of uniting the potential threats out there.

"What scares me more than anything... is the very real possibility that people with your viewpoint, who see the world as the little kid America picks on, could one day be in a position to make decisions about our national security.... I’d be curious to know if you supported our invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban?"

I certainly support the decision of my own government, the Canadian government, to go to Afghanistan. Not a decision I make likely. My husband's former military and being in our 30's, if there was ever a big war, he'd be high up on the draft list. The husband of a good friend of mine is currently serving in Afghanistan. He's an officer, not reg forces, but that doesn't alter the fact that Canadian soldiers are being killed over there.

There comes a point where you can't use the same currency to keep buying weight, though. I can only give you my word, which likely means little, that I kept an open mind about Iraq until there was failure from the international community to support it. Bush kept saying there was this evidence. I needed to hear my government, or several others, say that they'd seen the evidence, the justification was there.

They didn't. And it made me uncomfortable with the invasion not because Saddam is a nice guy - he should have been taken out during the first Gulf War - but because the ground rules for going to war have shifted. I don't know what they are anymore. And I feel very uncomfortable with the ease at which the present US administration talks about dealing with threats like North Korea and Iran. I'm not an extremist nut that thinks that repeatedly pointing out Canada's failures with national security is the first step towards an invasion of our country, but there are some here that feel very strongly that the US government is dictating policy to our government and punishing us when we don't comply. Some feel we're being ruled from below the 49th.

The bottom line for me is that I feel the present US administration is far too quick to go to war. I don't see other options being explored and given a chance to work. I see some people saying "when" not "if" about Iran.

And I can't speak for people who think like me. But I certainly have no influence over your government. My husband's Scottish-Icelandic, my brother-in-law English 1st generation Canadian, neither have criminal records, both are in the upper middle class earning category. And the US border patrol doesn't seem to want either of them traveling south even with ID. Which is why I'll be going to BoucherCon alone, if I can get over the border next time. Take a step outside and look at things. I've never been treated so badly as the last time I went to the US. I have many friends south of the border, my publisher is in the US - it's very frustrating to see how things have changed and not all for the better.

Did you want that hatemail address again?

And a completely different thing to consider - does the US government not realize that by sending what resources they have elsewhere and stretching them so thin that they are jeopardizing security at home? I'm sorry, but Afghanistan has us right tapped out, and our two tugboats and half dozen canoes aren't quite up to the job of protecting two countries, never mind one.

Sandra Ruttan said...

And in case the point isn't clear: I'm proud to have American ancestry - I blogged about that recently. I'm just saddened and concerned by some of what I see happening.

If there was one good thing that could come out of all of this, it would be that Canada might actually put some real money towards a real military, instead of always relying on the US to aid us.

Nothing wrong with mutual aid, but man, our military is pathetic.

Anonymous said...

sandra, according to yesterday's Wall Street Journal, you better add China to the list.

Anonymous said...

“Blake, if there is a real evil that is determined to nuke us all, invading won't stop it.”

Well, that's kind of pessimistic, isn’t it? I pray it doesn’t come to invasion. I have an 11-month-old boy, and the prospect of a war with Iran terrifies me. That is the last, last, last thing I want. I agree, exhaust all other measures. But I don’t want to live in fear for the next 50 years in another cold war, and I just don’t see how appeasement can work. Take Spain for example. You mentioned earlier that heartbreaking attack on Madrid in March of 2004. So what happened after the bombing? Spain said, “Okay, you win. We’ll pull out of Iraq.” Then that same Basque separatist group bombed the car park of Madrid’s stadium in 2005. Now, we are talking two different things - Iranian leadership and a terror group, but does anyone honestly believe that terror group and the Mullahs differ in ideology or what they will sacrifice to achieve their radical Islamic utopia? Do you know how you appease them? You die. Western civilization ends.

“Did you want that hatemail address again?”

Come on, Sandra, I got nothing but love.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

I must say, this thread seems to have a plethora of valid opinions!

I agree with Charlie on the history perspective. It will be interesting to see what they say about Dubya, twenty-five years from now. I remember how they used to vilify Reagan...then he died and became the beloved elder statesman...LOL

And to comment on Hank's "Mr. Bush promised once upon a time to govern with humility."

Yes he did...then 9/11 happened. That 'lack of humility' has led the terrorists to think twice about coming back here again. They know that while Dubya's in office, he will go and find them! It will be interesting to see what happens with the next administration, because terrorist tactics are here to stay.

To jh: Yes, I would have expected this earlier when the Defense Dept. started expounding on Iran's nuclear capabilities...back when Pakistan and India previewed their nuclear aspirations.

Blake: great point! These terrorists don't have the same values of life that we have (ei. suicide bombers, children with bombs)and they can't be reasoned with...they will only acquiesce to buy time for their own plans.

And last but not least, Sandra...I don't think a voice of moderation accomplishes anything with these terrorist types except to show them a weakness that they can exploit. Example: How well the peace process has worked in Israel.

But it's nice that there is still someone left that can think that way. I'm just too old and jaded to believe that it's possible...LOL

Anonymous said...

To me Slugg's argument makes sense more sense that a lot of other theories I've been reading. Daily, I find the situation becoming more frigtening and seeing less hope of any way to avoid the inevitable. And Sandra - yes to the homeland security issue. In NYC the other night it took 7 hours to get 20 people off a tram that hung a hundred feet over the East River. Yes. 7!

Sandra Ruttan said...

You know, I think the people who are really evil are the creators of Teletubbies. Numbing the brains of parents and child care providers until they're drones muttering, "La La" and "Po" all day long.

7 hours MJ - wow. I won't ask why.

Bonnie, you're more pessimistic than I am? Wow, I find that hard to believe! Now, you know me, well enough I hope, to know I mean this seriously and not offensively, because I'm curious (and you can email me on it) but the idea of 'turning the other cheek' doesn't apply to politics for you? Do you struggle with that?

Blake, I am a pessimist. The kind that insists they're a realist because these optimists have their heads in the clouds and just don't understand the state of the world.

I think Spain made a bad decision with how they handled their withdrawal from Iraq. I won't speculate on what went into that - whether they were looking for an out for a war that was already losing support, or just what, because I don't know enough. But it was unfortunate.

It's hard to correlate the present situation against the "terrorism" we have seen in our lifetime. IRA always springs to mind, and in '90 when I was crossing the border to the north it was the biggest shock this small-town Canadian gal had ever had during all of her travels to that point - and I'd been through Checkpoint Charlie and watched the wall come down. Which sounds all nice and positive, but they were sealing borders when I was in Austria for weeks before it happened, and a few people died at Brandenburger Tor the day I crossed the border in Berlin and the war in Yugoslavia was already being predicted then - it was intense. And there was a failed bombing attempt in Seville, Spain when I was there, actually. Something like 4.5 tons of explosives in the heart of town. This was completely outside the scope of my experience to that point.

So, Ireland was shocking for me. Didn't help much that one of the royals was there at the same time and security was worse than usual, but I've never had so many guns pointed at me in my life.

In that case, my grandmother was Irish Catholic and my grandfather an orangeman, so for me, I have pretty passionate views on Ireland. And it's far more complicated than most people think, if you get into the history. It was the UFF taking up arms that prompted the IRA to arm itself... and yet who's painted as the bad guy, historically? Take a poll and plenty of people don't even know about the UFF. But they sure know the IRA.

Neither was right. But I'm using the example to say that there is always a risk of perception being skewed - we writers certainly know we get too close to our own work and don't always see it objectively. We need an editor to keep us in the backside.

I just hope people use sense and reason and show real wisdom when they're in leadership, instead of rushing to start wars that they can't extricate themselves from. Any of us who personally know people serving in Afghanistan or Iraq can't be quite so objective when we here there's been an attack or a bombing.

I refuse to let these people change how I'm going to live, though. Tunisia right after 9/11. England right after the bombings last summer. I will not let terrorists send me cowering in fear. I'm also not going to go to a war zone to convert people to Christianity, but I'm not going to hide in my own country and stay away from anyone with darker skin.

And Blake, if you're going to be at the Crimespree paintball party, I hope I'm on your team. Opposing Konrath's enough for one night of entertainment.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

LOL, Sandra...nope...I don't stuggle with it at all.

Irregardless of being a born-again christian, god didn't make nme stupid, LOL...I pragmatic!

These terrorist types have shown repeatedly that they can't be trusted to hold up to negotiations (using Israel as an example...and Madrid too) The only thing they respect is force. And I don't care which political party is in office, we are never going to be safe from the threat.

LOL...there's also the part about 70 x 7....we've past 490!...LOL

Randy McFab said...

I would like to apologise to "Slugg" if my assertion that he copy/pasted Hersh was not understood to be sarcastic. I'd like to clarify what I meant.
Slugg makes three main points in this article:
Point One: The Bush administration may be planning nuclear war against Iraq (this is the point raised earlier, as Slugg acknowledges, by Hersh).
Point Two: A few retired windbags may or may not think that starting a nuclear war is a bad idea.
Point Three: The Oath of Service is so heart-stirring, it's well worth a trip to the MEPS to see in person.
My point, then, is that the implications of Point One are serious enough to render Points Two and Three rather superflous. So, I should have said that only the interesting part of that commentary has already been written by Hersh.
I'm sure I'm wrong, though. There are probably people who read Slugg's post, slapped their foreheads, and thought, "Well golly! You mean them generals want the secdef to resign because he might make bad decisions in the future!" Who woulda thunk it.

Randy McFab said...

I meant Iran, btw. Sue me.

Sandra Ruttan said...

So al qaeda's bombed Spain repeatedly since their withdrawal from Iraq?

I'm not going to go toe to toe with you about taking 70x7 literally, but there are differences between different terrorist organizations. The acts of the FLQ (Front de libération du Québec) wouldn't excuse aggression against the IRA just under the veil of regarding all "terrorist" organizations as "equal". And why, yes, the FLQ had planned to blow up the Statue of Liberty...

I don't think a willingness to believe that people can change or forgiveness is the same as stupidity. Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation - that may or may not be part of the equation, and anyone who's been around my blog for a while knows I've wrestled with that with my parents.

But what you're saying seems to suggest you believe these people are beyond redemption. Getting slightly spiritual for a moment, whatever else I do and don't believe, I don't believe I have the right to make that judgment.

10 years ago the majority of people would have said we'd never see the end of the conflict with the IRA. Things have and can change a lot. It may not yet be perfect (what is?) but there's progress.

Not long after I came back to Canada from Ireland I saw an episode of Star Trek TNG called The High Ground. I wasn't a Trekkie, but that episode hit me because of what I saw in Ireland. The debate of whether or not taking up arms is a legitimate course of action... obviously goes on.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Funny...or not...I would never think to include the Ireland conflict as terrorists...I always understood that to be a civil war that boiled down to Protestant against Catholic viewpoints. And I considered those people civilized enough to one day solve their issues.

I hesitate to state my viewpoint on the Middle Eastern philosophy about us as Westerners, because that was not a discussion point of this post.

But that viewpoint is where my pragmatism comes from...and will remain.

JD Rhoades said...

All right let's see if blogger won't eat this post...

I too am terrified about Iran. I am terrified about China. I am terrified about North Korea. I am also terrified about what we will do, or what we might fail to do about the threats they pose to us and the world.

Is there anyone here old enough to remember WW2? I'm not..all I know is what I've gleaned from fairly extensive reading on the subject. And I can't remember a single reaction from any of the civilian accounts that was along the lines of "Gee willikers, I'm terrified of Hitler, I'm terrified of Tojo, and O My God, what might Mussolini do?" I sure don't recall reading anything about FDR saying "if you vote the wrong way, we're going to get hit again like Pearl Harbor."

I think the current government's emphasis on using the fear of another attack to bulldoze their agenda through weakens us, not strengthens us. The current theory of unlimited executive power--"trust us and obey us and stop asking questionsa or we'll get hit again, only worse" demeans not only the other two branches of government, it demeans all of us.

If the purpose of terrorism is to spread terror, aren't our leaders caving in by doing the same?

David Terrenoire said...


I accept your latest post as a sign you want to seriously engage this, and while this forum is limited by space, patience, and the inability to read tone of voice, let's give that a shot.

I think Slugg's post is significant because of the Iran connection. If these general officers are speaking out about Rimsfeld's, and by extension the administration's ineptitude in the conduct of the Iraq occupation, then that's news.

The music leading up to an Iranian dance sounds terribly familiar and since the band is the same, I think we should worry.

This group has not exactly been wallowing in either prescience or success after the fact. That they're now softening us up for action against Iran, and if Slugg is correct, and these officers are acting as the proverbial canaries, then we owe it to our military to take a deep breath and ask just what the fuck we're getting into.

Our armed forces are in bad shape. The morale may be high as to loyaty to the unit, but from what I hear, the men are tired. Their families are suffering, they wonder just what our mission is, and they wonder what will constitute victory.

It's a philosophical matter when we say the war on terror is like the Cold War, and will go on for decades. But to the man on the line, he needs to know when he will be able to go home. That is vitally important to GIs. Every man looks for that end date.

Right now, they don't know and no one is telling them. Unless our leaders can give us an end point, the GIs morale will continue to suffer. At least in Vietnam, even if a strategic victory was elusive, soldiers knew their 365 days was all that was required before they could return to the world.

For these guys on the line today, not knowing if they'll face another tour or if their enlistments will be extended involuntarily, is a killer.

If we add Iran, and all the extended combat that springs from that, then this is something we need to watch and understand more than we did before this Iraqi conflict, just what we're in for.

If the generals can spark this discussion, God bless them.

That's why I think Slugg's post was worth while and more than just a repeat of Hersh.

Sandra Ruttan said...

It's actually English versus Irish in Ireland. Nobody uses those labels, because the "protestants" were overwhelmingly descendants of English settlers that moved there when England took control of the country. Most of the English descendants lived in the north, hence Britain's unwillingness to give that part of the country back.

It's a side note, although the IRA was responsible for numerous bombings not just in Northern Ireland but in England as well.

And I do respect where you're coming from on the Middle East - you and I can see things differently and still respect each other, which is very cool.

JD, excellent post. When someone calls you an idiot, know that's because you've stumped their efforts to come up with a worthy response.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

David I agree with what you just said...but how do we fix it when its going to be Iran that draws us into it?

You know yourself if they threaten Israel, we've got to help! And I'm pretty sure that is going to be their first target.

David Terrenoire said...


The first thing we have to do is fire the idiots who misread Iraq's occupation so disastrously.

That's what's important about this unprecedented (am I wrong? Have this many general officers ever before come out against the leadership?) public statement by these men. That's the point.

Can we trust the people who took us down this dark path? I say no. And, according to polls, 70% of the people agree with me.

What do we do? I don't know. But whatever Bush says we should do, I suggest we do the opposite.

I tend to judge a person's future performance on their past performance, and Bush's past in business and governing, in everything but winning elections, has been abysmal.

That's the first step. Fire the incompetents.

Barry Eisler said...

Randy, you clarified a sarcastic post with further sarcasm.

I'll tell you what I hate about sarcasm. First, it's self-indulgent. Its intent is to make the user feel superior. Second, it's unproductive. Its effect is to irritate the recipient, after which things tend to get less substantive and more personal. Finally, it's chickenshit. The people who employ it from the safety of their keyboards wouldn't dream of doing it in circumstances where there could be consequences.

You might have missed the "Welcome" on the home page of this blog. Among other things, it says:

"This blog aims to be a haven from fulmination, disrespect, polemics, and other attack-style debate. Please, if your aim is to defend your position rather than find the truth, go rent a Michael Moore movie or read a Michael Savage book. They'll provide a laugh and a quick self-righteousness fix and help you avoid the hard work of examining your politics that you'd have to do here."

So Randy, if you can't make your points without simultaneously stroking yourself with sarcasm, I'd be grateful if you would stop posting here. There are thousands of other blogs where your tone would be a better fit.

Thank you for your consideration.

JD Rhoades said...

You know yourself if they threaten Israel, we've got to help!


It seems to me that Israel has done a heck of a job, a thoroughly admirable job, defending themselves.

Why are we tasked with defending Israel?

Randy McFab said...

Barry, in your response to my sarcasm, you implied that violence against someone saying something you don't like is acceptable. Allow me to quote you:
"Finally, it's chickenshit. The people who employ it from the safety of their keyboards wouldn't dream of doing it in circumstances where there could be consequences."
So, what does that mean? If I didn't "properly" argue with you in person you'd assault me? I could be a dude in a wheelchair for all you know. You and your friend Slugg (such an appropriate name for a hired killer) can enjoy pleasuring each other and wiping your tears when someone says something in a way you don't like.
You're a girl, Barry. I won't be back, don't worry--not into making people cry.

David Terrenoire said...

All I can say to Randy's post is:



Hired killer?

So I took up his implied invitation and clicked his profile and here it is. I have to say, it at least demonstrates a sense of humor even if the mustache thing and Red Dawn are a little gay.

Industry: Military
Occupation: Man of Action
Location: Fort Braggart : East Carolina : United States
About Me: Randy McFab is an unemployed mercenary and American patriot who lives with his mom.
For security reasons, his identity and exact location are kept secret even from him.

Hunting Tangos
Conservative Talk Radio
Mustache Care

Favorite Movies:
Bravo Two Zero--watched backwards so Andy McNab ESCAPES
The Longest Day
The Best of Jenna Jameson #14
Red Dawn

Favorite Music:
Marine Corps cadences
Charlie Daniels
the screams of the wounded

I like that he mentions living with his mom near Fort Braggart and not wanting to disclose his location because, you know, people want to get him, which is also a little gay.

But hey, at least he has a profile, unlike jh from toledo.

Hired killer? Nice. Gee, Slugg, I hope Randy didn't make you cry.

Anonymous said...

Jeez guys,

Maybe since some can't stomach fair speech, Barry needs to put a list of the "way he wants comments posted" list .If there is a "Barrys way" please tell? Is this not a place people can post outside the way Barry wants it. Seems odd? I now the 9th circuts has its affect on America, here too?

David Terrenoire said...


You know and I know there is an honest way to post, one in which someone is truly trying to engage and not just give the party line, left or right.

That's what's happening here.

But nice typo in the 9th circuit comment. That one line told me so much.

Barry Eisler said...

Broker, thanks for your inquiries. There is indeed a way I'd like people to post here; you can find it under "Welcome" in the righthand column of the home page of this blog. I've been getting the feeling that the guidelines in that welcome aren't explicit enough, though, and plan on posting a bit more on the subject soon.

I don't know why you would find it odd that I have guidelines for posting here. It's my blog, after all, so it seems natural that I would attempt to foster what I think is a desirable tone here. In the absence of that attempt, you get a free-for-all. Now I acknowledge that a free-for-all is what 99% of blogs consist of... which might be why some people are having trouble getting used to this one.

You mention "fair speech," by which I assume you mean free speech. As you know, the Constitution's first amendment provides in material part, "Congress shall make no law... abridging freedom of speech," a restriction extended to the states by the 14th amendment. Blogs like this one are run by individuals, not the government, and so therefore are not subject to the restriction. But you mention the Ninth Circuit: has the Ninth done something to extend the constitutional restriction on abridgments of free speech to the blogosphere? I'm not aware of it.

But perhaps the more important point is this: I'm not trying curb what people say here; just how they say it. In the absence of civility and other behaviors, substantive discussion breaks down. And substantive discussion is what I want HOTM to be about. I recognize, of course, that my guidelines (or any guidelines) won't be for everyone. Perhaps they're not for you -- which is why it's good that you can go to any other blog you like, and don't need to post here.


David Terrenoire said...

I am curious about the difference between free speech and fair speech. Is it the same as free trade and fair trade?

C'mon broker (another commenter too important to use his real ID), tell us what constitutes fair speech?

I promise, I can take it.

David Terrenoire said...

As always, Barry is much nicer than I am.

Anonymous said...

But hey, at least he has a profile, unlike jh from toledo.

david, as soon as my book comes out, I'll post a profile.

Let it go, use good arguments instead. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

C'mon broker (another commenter too important to use his real ID), tell us what constitutes fair speech?

Wow, is that going to by a standard line now? For you information, I have a terrific profile... although my nose is rather large for my face.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyone here old enough to remember WW2? I'm not..all I know is what I've gleaned from fairly extensive reading on the subject. And I can't remember a single reaction from any of the civilian accounts that was along the lines of "Gee willikers, I'm terrified of Hitler, I'm terrified of Tojo, and O My God, what might Mussolini do?" I sure don't recall reading anything about FDR saying "if you vote the wrong way, we're going to get hit again like Pearl Harbor."

jd rohoades, I didn’t mean to imply that I am afraid of a righteous fight. I’m sure the people in WWII also were terrified with sending their sons and husbands off to war. What scares me is some of the reasons we are sent off to these fights. Why aren’t we fighting in other areas where people are being slaughtered such as in Africa? It sometimes seems that our morals are indirectly proportional to our need for lower gas prices.

I was all for the war in Iran. It is only now reading some of the posts that I am starting to question myself.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Freudian slip. I meant Iraq.