NYTIMES on Drone Pilot Stress

Educating myself on the world of drones. The more we know, the better judgments we make.



Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 4

Even With the Iraq War Going SOOOOOOO Wrong, Bush Still Wins Election. So, Yes, This Could Happen Again.

Ugh. It was almost unimaginable. In a very short time, the country had gone from post-9/11 unification to vastly divided over the Iraqi War and an ugly, grotesque resentment by many Americans towards Muslims arose – many times ending in violence.

Simply stated (as Cheney would say), Bush screwed the pooch. As did all his boys. And Condoleeza.

Our intervention in Iraq was a nightmare that wouldn’t end. It devolved so quickly, that by election season 2004, I was no longer a moderate, independent voter. Watching the war hellishly unfold day after day, week after week pushed me farther and farther into the liberal column. I would atone for my support of Bush by likely never voting for another Republican again. It became clear that all Republicans do is tear asunder what the rest of us try to build and progress.

I was truly never fond of Gore and Kerry. They didn’t really have fire-in-the-belly Americans like to see in their executive leader. But they did have better decision-making capabilities and so many more men and women would be alive and kissing their children and putting gas in their cars and laughing at stupid jokes had Gore or Kerry carried the electoral college. But Justice Scalia and state constitutional bans on gay marriage prevented that.

A vast number of Americans are incensed by the sins of the unrepentant Bush et. al. As a former political analyst and current political junkie, I think on it quite often. I work out quite a bit to American Idiot by Green Day – a masterpiece, musically and lyrically providing stunning, often avoided insight by the popular music crowd. The album’s message clear and true: Americans were mindless lemmings, not asking questions, not conducting analysis, and allowing an un-fucking-necessary war to be launched in their name. Shame doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Relevant Questions Today

Would Bush have gone into Iraq had 9/11 not happened? He would have tried, but it would have been much, much harder to convince the public to support him.

Would Obama be president had Bush lost? Probably not.

Would McCain have ended the war? Certainly, undoubtedly not.

Could this happen again? Absolutely.

Example No. 1: Drone strikes. We do not know enough about this offensive weapon that is likely a valuable tool in the efforts to prevent another attack against the U.S. If, however, Obama alone is deciding who dies and who lives, he has extensive powers protected once again by the “classified intelligence” argument that absolutely should be augmented.

Example No. 2: Wall Street. The investment bankers on Wall Street brought the global economy to its knees. The economic destruction has likely lead to large numbers of early deaths, as well as having blow-torched the economic livelihoods of countless people worldwide. Not one executive has been prosecuted for this grand malfeasance and the public outcry is a whisper.

Example No. 3: Global Warming. U.S. fossil fuel consumption, extensive environmental destruction, and unchecked corporate transgressions to our air, water, food, ground have helped cause climate change, heralding mass storms, wildfires and floods that threaten the existence of towns, neighborhoods and people. Only in the most recent couple of years have the majority of Americans expressed their concern over this growing, looming danger.

Wreckage can be wrought and Americans – even with their access to information and freedom of speech – will turn a blind eye again and again. I have no doubt that, under the right set of circumstances, Americans will permit their leaders to conduct great evils in their name. Should I be amazed that Republicans support their leaders as they conduct voter suppression, attack the most fundamental rights of women and abandon the poor?

The United States of America is a wonderful country, but we, as its citizens, have an awesome responsibility to do right by each other and hold the powerful accountable. We cannot remain idle. We cannot keep quiet. We cannot ignore. That was the lesson of the Iraq War. Let’s not have to learn it again.

Writing this blog series has been a huge catharsis. I will never relinquish my responsibility in supporting the war, but I won’t stop talking about it, either.

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 1

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 2

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 3

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 3

The War Goes Bad Fast

The overthrowing of Saddam Hussein only took a matter of weeks, if not days. The bastard had gone into hiding and their army quickly disbanded. Shock and awe. It seemed like attaining victory would be much easier than we thought. Visions of Iraqis celebrating in the streets as they tore down statues and decimated murals of Saddam were fulfilling, stroking our egos and reinforcing our self-perceptions as benevolent Americans, intent on sharing (not imposing!) our freedoms and democracy.

Soon, however, things started to not feel right. At least, no to this young analyst. My sources in the Iraqi opposition were complaining that the U.S. was not keeping them informed of the goings on and weren’t making strides in helping establish a credible government.

Then the looting started. Iraq has previously been an epicenter of mathematic discovery, a bastion in terms of world academia, modernity, development before Islam and dictatorial rule snuffed it’s beacon for the pursuits of knowledge. Iraqi artifacts were second to none in comparison to the rest of global antiquities. And the black market for such priceless gems of history is boundless and insatiable. Was it surprising the U.S. was wholly illprepared to protect these treasures? Not for this Monday-morning quarterback.

Quickly, Iraqi’s newfound freedoms lead to a mass surge in sectarian violence. The majority of Iraqi Muslims are Shia, also the majority of Muslims in Iran, but the Sunni faction retained control of power in Iraq for centuries. This ended when the American military ended the rule of Saddam Hussein and did not anticipate the horrific civil war that would ensue.

Then an al Qaeda faction settled in, intent on fighting the Americans wherever they could find them. Over the months, as American troop and Iraqi civilian deaths mounted, the media reported time and again that the troops were not properly equipped with adequate armor to prevent the increasingly effective ambushes.

As the Bush administration handed out contracts to favored companies instead of bidding them out, their corporate cronies began their mission of attempting to bring Iraqi oil exports online. War profiteering among FOBs (friends of Bush) began on a mass scale as billions of U.S. dollars were absorbed out of the country, out of sight of the IRS, by American businesses while American troops came home in coffins, missing limbs, or even suffering severe brain damage.

For the life of me, I will never understand why the majority of servicemen and women and veterans vote Republican.

Iraq’s infrastructure was seriously third world. What did work didn’t work most of the time and was easily damaged by various attacking factions. This meant American companies getting their hands on Iraqi oil production was, quite literally, a pipe dream. Promises by Rumsfeld and Cheney that the war would be short, cheap and paid for by Iraqi oil production turned to dust.

The Iraq War had quickly become an unsolvable quagmire, highlighting the sheer stupidity of a president intent on showing up his father, surrounded by profit-hungry supporters, who failed in his primary mission of empowering, to the best of his ability, the U.S. military to find and destroy al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Next Up:

Even With the Iraq War Going SOOOOOOO Wrong, Bush Still Wins Election. So, Yes, This Could Happen Again. Quite Easily, In Fact.

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 1

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 2

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 4

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 2

In Truth, Convincing Americans Wasn’t Hard

Americans hated Saddam. Everybody hated Saddam. He unleashed chemical weapons on his own people in 1988. Uday, Saddam’s son, was in charge of the nation’s athletic programs and treated his flock as poorly as his father treated the rest of the country. Torture and murder by the regime was prolific and horrific. The accounts rendered by those who survived can keep you up at night. Most Americans had heard some of these accounts.

This was why, when Cheney and McCain proclaimed their belief that the U.S. would be greeted as liberators, most of us agreed. Who wouldn’t want their tyrannical dictator overthrown, killed or brought to justice?

This assumption goes to the very root of the ignorance of the majority of Americans regarding the war – which is fairly excusable. But it isn’t excusable for the administration not to have educated themselves on the culture, religion and politics of Iraq to delve deeper – beyond the atrocities of Saddam.

This should have been one of the main lessons from the Vietnam War. Understand your enemy, understand the field of war, understand anything and everything related to a military action that will certainly result in the loss of life. Vietnam introduced us to guerrilla warfare and the end of state-to-state conflict as we had known it across a millennium. One of the main reasons the U.S. failed so demonstrably in Vietnam was that they did not understand who their enemy was and how they operated. And tens of thousands of Americans perished or faced abysmal futures because of it.

But Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush and most of the neo-conservative hawks had never seen combat, many of them having gone to significant lengths to avoid the draft or stay out of the war. And men who have experienced military conflict firsthand are more reticent to engage, or send others to engage in warfare.

Had I been older, had I understood the lessons of our past, perhaps I would have been more dubious about going to war. But I wasn’t and I didn’t and I was just another ignoramus watching as the drums beat louder and louder.

So, we start with an ignorant American public and combine it with an ignorant presidential administration with ties to oil companies, a decade-old grudge and a commander-in-chief who would chew broken glass if it prevented him from appearing weak. All they needed was a catalyst.

September 11, 2001. Al Qaeda attacks the World Trade Center and the Pentagon successfully. An attempt on The White House is averted by a number of brave souls in the skies over Pennsylvania.

Now, the Bush administration had an entire country suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, ready for revenge. It could not have been more perfect.

Next Up:

The War Goes Bad Fast

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 1

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 3

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 4

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 1

MSNBC’s documentary, “Hubris: Selling the Iraq War,” based on Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s book of the same name was absolutely worth the watch. Not long enough, I say.

The documentary didn’t produce any revelation regarding the dubious case for the war in Iraq I had not seen previously. This is apparently the case for reading the book, which has many more examples of the lies perpetrated by the Bush administration in the run-up to the war. But the video footage alone easily brought me back to late 2002 and 2003 in the run up to the invasion.

I was glad we were going in. At the time, I was a twenty-something geopolitical analyst and actually conducting interviews with a number of higher-ups in the Iraqi opposition. Those men will spill it to a young, Western girl eager to get a scoop worthy to impress her former Russian military intelligence boss. All of us were anxious to see Saddam get what he had coming.

And He Had It Coming

The first Iraq War was my awakening to the world outside the United States. As a junior high kid living in Houston, my school bus would pass the railroad tracks upon which military equipment, tanks, etc. was shipped out. A good friend’s dad came back and let us all explore his gas mask and other camo gear. Video of scud missiles coated the television. And, while we were told the U.S. was coming to the rescue of an ally, it was clear at the time that our ally’s possession of oil was a major factor in our military participation.

The U.S. forces beat back the Iraqi invaders decisively, but Bush Sr. still lost the election. Americans have a short memory and an economic recession will trump war drums in every voting booth. Still, Saddam was now a figurehead of my youth. History, government, world affairs, international relations, development of civilization easily captured my academic attention. In other words, I was now plugged in, turned on to the goings on of our world.

The Soviet Union had collapsed, and American national politicians are forever in need of an international foe so they can scare up votes, donations, victory. And Saddam Hussein made a much easier political boogie man than North Korea’s Kim Il-Sung, his son Kim Jung-Il afterwards, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, and Iran’s Ayatollah.

It’s his own fault, really. Saddam wasn’t content with his decades-long dictatorship, wealth of palaces, iron grip on power, he also liked to fuck with everyone. If he thought he could get away with expanding the borders of his control, he would have – but a war with Iran and his failure in Kuwait taught him otherwise. So, instead, he spent the latter part his life screwing with global powers. Defying no-fly restrictions, throwing U.N. weapons inspectors out, keeping alive the question of the mortality of U.S. MIA soldier whose fighter had crashed during the war and much more.

And though genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia, as well as the Japanese economic implosion and the emerging Chinese economy, and the creation of the Euro zone demanded U.S. foreign policy precedence, Saddam was always, always on the periphery. Just being a goddamned asshole and doing everything he could to make everyone think he was a much bigger threat to our lives and countries than he actually was.

He was writing his own end long before he actually met it. So, when 2003 came, good. The motherfucker was asking for it.

An Unnecessary War?

The Vietnam War has had little bearing on my direct life. I have no close family who fought in Nam. An amazing history teacher at my high school who had seen the worst of the worst during the war was generous enough to share his history in detail with us; but that was it. The words “unnecessary war” meant nothing to me.

Furthermore, in college, I learned the origins of war. Desire for power is the leading cause for conflict. Whether it’s money, religion, territory, the male hunger for domination lies at the foundation of most hostility between nations, tribes, cultures, states.

An interesting development, however, has emerged in the last century. Democracies tend not to war with each other.

This has become a leading contention in neo-conservative Bush doctrinaire decision-making. Sure, we can spend long hours parsing the daddy issues George W. Bush brought to his administration that made him primed for the intentions of the draft-dodging hawks who surrounded him. But, for the rest of us, an offensive war in Iraq was justified not only because Saddam was a huge dick and would harm the U.S. given the chance, but because democracy in the Middle East meant peace in the Middle East. And the U.S. – under Bush II – could deliver that.

Next Up:

In Truth, Convincing the Public Wasn’t Hard

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 2

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 3

Hubris: I Was an American Idiot. Part 4