Afghanistan – The Never-Ending War

Ronald Reagan meeting at the White House with Afghan “freedom fighters”

Well the Emperor Don I has been traveling the world, criticizing our friends, p articularly Russian controlled Germany while his own senior staff sat at the table and visibly cringed.  After doing his bit to put the fear of God into our NATO allies he will stop in London for tea with the Queen as tens of thousands will be protesting his presence in the streets.  Then on to a chit-chat with Vlad about old times.

Meanwhile the trade war with China, Europe, Canada and Mexico heats up with BMW announcing that it will move some of it’s manufacturing from South Carolina to a factory outside of the U.S.   All those folks in Spartanburg who voted for Emperor Don who lose their jobs have no one to blame but themselves.  Same goes for those grain and dairy farmers and cheese-heads in Wisconsin who make the cheese that will now de priced higher in China and Canada.

Don’t whine to me.  I voted for the other guy – err, woman.

Not to mention we still have a couple of thousand kids sitting in “summer camp” waiting to be reunited with their parents; seems we are very efficient in separating families at the border but not so good at remembering where we sent them.

But today, after a visit to my ophthalmologist this morning (clean bill of eyes) I want to write about Afghanistan.  You remember Afghanistan – the 16 year longest running war in American history where thus far absolutely nothing has been accomplished.

That “nothing accomplished” has probably cost us a trillion dollars, with a “t”.

Before becoming Emperor Don I, as a private, rich, white businessman, he  was actively hostile to American involvement in Afghanistan, dwelling on the high cost of the lengthy conflict and suggesting there was no way for the United States to succeed.  In a 2012 Twitter post, Trump questioned why American forces continued to train Afghans tweeted  “Afghanistan is a complete waste.  Time to come hone!”  Of course he said that when Obama was President.

Now of course he has changed his tune.

“We are not there to nation build!  We are there to kill terrorists!

He has decided to continue the war but will no longer  speak of an exit date.  After all that is foolish; it lets our enemies know when we plan to leave.  We are going to beat them on the field and force them to the negotiating table.  Right.

If I recall that policy has failed before.

Herewith a lesson from the history books, still deployed as needed today – a conversation after the negotiations in Paris which ended our war in Vietnam.

Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr. (Chief of the U.S. Delegation): “You know you never defeated us on the battlefield”

Colonel Nguyen Don Tu (Chief, North Vietnamese Delegation): ”That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

— From Summers’ On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (1982).

Today some 40% plus of Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban, bombings and political murders occur daily and even Kabul is not safe.  Americans can no longer use the road from the Green Zone to the airport for fear of being attacked; they have to take a helicopter.

Massive corruption continues.  Pakistan continues to aid Taliban forces and here in American there is no longer a definition of “victory” in Afghanistan let alone an actual one.

Afghanistan has been forgotten.  Remember Hamid Karzai and his green cape?  Well who is the current President of Afghanistan?  Know his name?  Bet you don’t.

Two American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan this week.  Just think “The casualties were few.”  No one seems to know how many troops we have in Afghanistan currently but it certainly exceeds 8,000 plus perhaps another 5,000 NATO forces.

Remember when our forces were commanded by Generals whos names you knew?  Stanley McChrystal?  David Petraeus?

McChrystal, who had a background in special operations, came in with a mandate to remake the war effort with the help of “surge” troops ordered by Obama. A year into that push, an article in Rolling Stone magazine quoted members of McChrystal’s team making disparaging comments about their commander in chief and other senior administration officials. Obama called McChrystal back to Washington to explain and forced him to resign.

-Petraeus took over the Afghan command to fill the void left by McChrystal’s abrupt departure and agreed to serve for one year. He completed that term and then retired from the military to become CIA director in September 2011. Petraeus resigned as CIA director on Nov. 9 after he had an extramarital affair with his biographer. The affair came out as part of an FBI investigation into suspicious emails between the biographer and another woman.

Now we have “nameless” Generals.  Afghanistan has become a place where a three star General who lacks combat command experience can spend 18 months in Kabul and brush up his resume for that 4th star.  Wars are a necessary component of effective careerism.

No one seems to know how to “win” yet the war goes on.

Why does the U.S. field the best soldiers and equipment and lose so often?

Interesting question.  Perhaps it is because “It’s not our fault!” has replaced “No excuses.”

“The American public is to blame!”

The American public does not support wars like Vietnam or the War on Terror long enough or with enough money. There are too many constraints – let the  military “take the gloves off!”  These are odd claims considering the massive devastation caused in Vietnam and Iraq and the fantastic costs.  The WOT is in its second decade but more blood can be spilt and more money spent.   Since more is possible failure is not the fault of the military.

Or failure is due to the President and his senior civilian advisors. This is another excuse which never grows old.  It is not the fault of the Army or Marines as institutions, or their Generals or their culture or their methods.  It is the fault of the President and his civilians,

“Armies that lose respond to defeat with excuses; armies that win respond to defeat with “no excuses!”

At the Battle of the Kasserine Pass in 1943 American troops suffered a crushing defeat in it’s first encounter with Rommel’s Afrika Corps.  Eisenhower responded by sending Major General Lloyd Fredendall home and appointing George Patton to replace him.

When’s the last time you heard of a U.S. combat general being relieved after ineffectiveness in the field while leading troops in battle?

“No excuses” is the motto of armies that win.  It is possible that this attitude has been lost and perhaps that is why we don’t win anymore.  We keep trying what other nations have tried against insurgencies for generations and we continue to fail.

Soviet MIGs at Kandahar – 1980

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during Jimmie Carter’s administration brought overwhelming initial victory, a quick occupation of all of the major urban areas in the country and the instillation of local communists to head the new Socialist Republic of Afghanistan.

In the urban areas women were brought out of their houses, educated, allowed to work and show their faces.  Men could get shaves if they wished.  Movie theaters were opened where women could sit with men.

Feudalism was officially abolished and vast estates were broken up in a land reform program.   Stoning of women was officially banned.

But the government had no religion – the atheist cities surrounded by a sea of Islam.

And so the mujahedeen, the Taliban began guerilla war against the Soviet occupiers, supported by the United States.  The media at the time referred to the Taliban as “the students,” kind of like young kids in the sixties fighting for “freedom” and democracy.  What a joke.

And so began  ten years of bloody conflict with atrocities on both sides until the USSR finally decided it was time to leave.

We have learned nothing.

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Remember Sherri Finkbein

thalidomide bottle

Back in 1962…

For those of you to young to remember: The BBC Reported:

“1962: Abortion mother returns home

An American mother-of-four is on her way home amid a storm of controversy after being given a legal abortion in Sweden.

Sherri Finkbine, a TV presenter from Phoenix in Arizona, was denied an abortion in her home state following intense negative publicity surrounding her case.

The 30-year-old mother decided to terminate her fifth pregnancy after discovering that tranquilizers (a morning sickness pill)) she had taken in the first few weeks of her pregnancy contained the drug Thalidomide.

In recent months there has been increasing evidence suggesting Thalidomide causes severe fetal deformities including missing limbs, deafness and blindness.

Mrs Finkbine, known to millions as the host of children’s television programme “Romper Room”, told her story to the local newspaper, believing it would alert other mothers in the same situation to the dangers of the drug.

But she became the focus of an intense anti-abortion campaign and worldwide public condemnation.

The negative publicity led her local hospital in Phoenix to withdraw a tentative offer of a legal abortion for fear they may be held criminally liable – the current law in Arizona, as in all the rest of the U.S., states that abortion can only be carried out to save the mother’s life.

Mrs Finkbine and her husband, Robert, a school teacher, took the case to the Arizona State Supreme Court but were unsuccessful.

Despite vilification from anti-abortionists across the United States and the world she flew to Sweden where the operation was carried out.

After the operation it was confirmed that the fetus had no legs and only one arm .

When she returned to Phoenix Mrs Finkbine’s local doctor asked her to register with another physician.  He wouldn’t treat her anymore.

She was dismissed from her job, and her husband was suspended from his high school teaching post.

Their children were hounded, anonymous death threats poured in by post and telephone and the press swarmed around their home.”

Today is a good day to think about Sherri Finkbine for tonight the Emperor will announce his pick for the Supreme Court from the Gang of Four, all of whom share the “originalist” philosophy of late Antonim Scalia.

There has always been a heartless cruelty behind the conservative “legal philosophy.”

On every issue, from gender and racial equality, affirmative action, voting rights, abortion, gay rights, marriage equality, money in politics, the death penalty, the right to own guns, Bush v. Gore, Antonim Scalia, for all his brilliance and education, was on the wrong side.

His argument against abortion rights for example was essentially that it isn’t in the Constitution therefore if the nation wants abortion rights they should be legislated and not established by the Court’s “activism” in striking down state laws against abortion.  He refused to recognize that the Court has been striking down laws it considers unconstitutional since Justice John Marshall.  The Court didn’t make an abortion law; it struck down anti-abortion laws made by the states.

One could make the same argument against school segregation.

He raged when the Court struck down Texas’ sodomy laws ranting that it would lead to homosexual marriage – marriage equality.  And indeed it did to Scalia’s dismay.  Still, the sun rose over the Republic.

Scalia opined that it was ok for Oklahoma to execute someone who was 15 years old when the crime was committed, mocking the majority’s claims that a national consensus had emerged against the execution of those who killed while under age, and noted that less than half of the states that permitted the death penalty prohibited it for underage killers. He castigated the majority for including in their count states that had abolished the death penalty entirely.

That’s cold.

No one in the back alleys of our cities, in those mean little houses in the dismal corners of our great land, where that American dream has been long forgotten, where a rusty coal stove sits in the living room, daddy smells of gasoline, momma is unpredictable, and where there is not a single book, none of these human beings was helped by the god like presence of Antonim Scalia. 

His passing might have brought about a heart felt  flood of grief and tears from the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized -but didn’t.  He never stood with them.  He stood always with power.

His education and ‘brilliance” benefited no one but himself.  Certainly not the common man.

Four of his acolytes now sit on the Court and with confirmation of one of the Gang of Four the Court will move solidly rightward for decades to come.

The time is coming for the Republican women Senators and blue dog Democrats  to place their names among the Profiles in Courage – to cast the vote for which they will be  remembered or to be part of herd of nameless water-carriers.

I remembered Sherry today.

Today everyone else should too.

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The Supremes

No not the girl group. The Supreme Court.

Well tomorrow night at 9 PM on national television the Emperor will nominate a new Supreme Court Justice to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy.

If he wanted to rise to the level of a statesman he would nominate Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland who, because of the odious Mitch McConnell, never even got a hearing, let alone a vote.

But no; we can count on the Emperor to nominate a right wing ideologue, a believer in “originalism” and heir to my paisano, the dear departed Justice Scalia.

There are currently three candidates being considered (a possible fourth has been mentioned but I don’t think his nomination is very likely) – two men and a woman.  Confirmation by the Senate will move the Court to the right for decades to come.

Most of you know our Supremes are split 4 – 4 between the conservative and “librul”  blocs; Justice Kennedy was considered the “swing” vote.  He was mostly a right winger but was a liberal on social issues, particularly on gay rights.

Now Justice Kennedy in preparing to move on in to cushy retirement didn’t do us any favors as he moved toward the door.  He is leaving at the end of the current term, July 31 but he announced he was leaving on June 27, hand carrying his letter to the White House.  He could have waited a month before announcing he was leaving which would have delayed the confirmation process until after the mid-term elections in November.

But no.  He made sure he announced early in order to give the Emperor maximum leeway.  The list of nominees was already prepared so it is quite possible that the White House knew the retirement announcement was eminent even before the announcement.

Why did Justice Kennedy do that?  Well the Kennedy and Trump families are old buddies.  One need only follow the money.

Enter Kennedy’s son Justin.  The Kennedy’s and the Trump’s have a long-standing relationship through their children and their children’s success.

Justin Kennedy was head of real estate lending at Deutsche Bank, the only bank which would do business with the Trumps after several of their business bankruptcies.  Deutsche Bank loaned up to a billion dollars to fund Trump “deals.”

After a decade with DB, Justine left and joined NPR Properties.

Enter Jared Kushner.  The Kushner’s bought 666 – 5th Avenue in Manhattan for the astronomical sum of $1.8 billion.  It was a classic case of underwriting failure; the deal was so highly leveraged that the cash flow from rents covered only 65% of debt service.

The loan soon ran into trouble and Deutsche Bank knew it would go into default as soon as the established reserves had been used up. So it sold off the loan to guess who?

NPR Properties and Justin Kennedy.  Both sons were now CEO’s of their respective companies.  NPR restructured the loan into interest only with a maturity in 2019 and arranged for Vornado to take an equity interest in the building (which stretches foran entire city block on 5th Avenue).

Vornado is an owner of NPR Properties.  Nice.

The Emperor passing Kennedy recently was overheard “Say hello to your son; he’s a good boy!”  Rich white guys helping out other rich white guys in a pinch.

And that is why Justice Kennedy couldn’t wait until the end of the current term to announce his retirement.  So much for Justice Kennedy as the “swing” vote on the Court.

Back to the current nominees.

Current contenders are Federal Appeals judges  Raymond Kethledge, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Thomas Hardiman

Kavanaugh had close ties to the Bush administration and is already raising hackles on the right for being soft on social issues so I consider his nomination unlikely.

Hardiman also has ties to the Trumps having served with Trump’s sister who is a Federal Judge on the Philadelphia circuit.  She has recommended Hardiman to her brother.  He is probably the easiest to get approved by all Republicans and perhaps some blue-dog Democrats.

Which brings me to Amy Coney Barrett.

Your “legal career is but a means to an end, and … that end is building the kingdom of God. … If you can keep in mind that your fundamental purpose in life is not to be a lawyer, but to know, love and serve God, you truly will be a different kind of lawyer.”

The words above were addressed to the graduating class at Notre Dame Law School in 2006 by Amy Barrett.  She is a woman and a Catholic.  Now being a Catholic is no longer a bar to high office – four of the current Justices are Catholic.

But Amy Barrett is more than a run of the mill Catholic; she is a member of “People of Praise,” a charismatic “Jesus movement” outside of the hierarchy of the Church and considered by many to be a cult.   She has a great deal of support among the evangelical right wing and is considered a virtual lock to overthrow Roe v. Wade.

She described abortion as “always immoral” on a White House questionnaire last year.

Opposing her for what I consider to be her delusional religious beliefs runs the risk of being called an anti-Catholic bigot.  I don’t oppose her for that – I oppose her because she is a theocratic fascist.

The problem with her nomination is that two critical Republican votes will be cast by women – the relative moderates Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.  Collins has already made it known she will not vote for a nominee who will overturn Roe.

Odious McConnell has already recommended nomination of one of the two males which he feels would assure speedy confirmation before the midterms by the Republican majority.

With on a 51 -49 majority the G.O.P cannot afford to lose two votes unless they can pick up blue dog Democrats.  Either of the two white males as nominee would probably have an easier time of it.

Unfortunately none of the three can be counted on by women to view Roe as “settled law.”

So to all of you middle class, married suburban women who voted for the Emperor because you wanted a “strong leader.” a business man while at the same time supporting a woman’s right to control her own body, all I can say is that sometimes Karma’s a bitch.

Don’t whine to me.  I ain’t listening.  Doesn’t affect me none.  My girls are grown.  Keep voting for the likes of the Emperor and you will wind up back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, where you were when this old man was a boy.  You have betrayed all of the woman (and men) who fought for and are still fighting for your equality.  Shame on you.

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Running With Stars – Poem #136

I am nothing
I do not exist
I am invisible
with no Facebook page
no Twitter follows
Does anyone know I’m here?

Hello?

In the vastness
that is space and time
how many thinking beings
have lived and died forgotten?

Contemplate the living billions
few of whom have made a mark;
I count myself as one of them
a clump of earth then soon forgot.

Back when Caesar walked the earth
I’m sure the millions thought the same
never having done great things
so unlike the brave Achilles.

Some of us have dreams no longer,
some incapable of dreams;
As for me I still do dream
while contemplating poetry

to strive to write what others read;
to know myself;
of the City of Ideas
a full citizen be

for in the end
I am a soul
carrying a corpse
someday running with the stars

and if no one remembers these poems
save my children and their children
well then, is that not too
a glorious thing?

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Clark’s Fourth!

What’s the Fourth? It’s a Holiday!!

Calls for lunch with Daddy!

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Paints and Ladders – Poem #135

You gaze upwards at the ceiling
peeling and stained with smoke
from the candles you light daily
taking prayers to heaven

You shake your head in despair;
              it needs paint                        
yet you are unable to hire a painter;
should you pray for one to appear?

There is a ladder in the room
and buckets of paint, all the right color;
you light a candle and say a silent prayer
to Luca, the patron saint of painters

Morning comes and no painter appears;
God has forsaken me.
“Not so!” says a voice;
“You have been given a ladder and the paint!

If the ceiling remains unpainted
it is not the fault of the Lord!;
There are as many unpainted ceilings
as there are poor, suffering injustice

You have been given the means
now you must find the will
for unpainted ceilings, poverty and injustice
are not the fault of God but of man!”

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“Gold Star Mother” – Poem #134


The “Gold Star Mother” – 50 plus years ago

We sailed across the Narrows
before the bridge came on the scene
when I was only twenty
and you were seventeen

aboard the “Gold Star Mother”
that took us cross the bay
I never saw so many stars
 that prom night long ago in May

We stood together at the bow
tuxedo, formal dress aplomb
kissing in the gentle breeze
dreaming of our life to come.

It seemed that we were flying
our feet were off the ground
just like in the movie
that too was yet to come.

We didn’t sail a mighty ship
across the ocean sea
but I was Leo, you were Kate
long before they were to be.

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