Sunday, August 19, 2007

the good, the bad, and the ugly

I think I'll make this news roundup a Sunday morning tradition.

The good:
Valerie Plame's agency classmate and my favorite former spook Larry Johnson, as well as five distinguished soldiers in the 82nd Airborne, weigh in on the surge. Don't be fooled by the ridiculous propaganda barrage that is currently meant to clear the way for the Petraeus branded report before congress next month.

From Larry Johnson's post at no quarter:
As for the U.S. military strategy in Iraq, can anyone explain how it took us 3 years to rediscover ‘clear and hold’, and a 4th to begin implementing it? Has any other counter-insurgency strategy ever worked? The Viet Nam experience was so traumatic that we refused to learn anything from it.
From the airborne "All-Americans" at the NYTimes:
The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere.
At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably.
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.
The bad:
This article titled "Ammo shortages squeezes police forces," in which an intrepid AP reporter exposes higher small arms ammo costs, but uncritically relays the explanations given by police departments and ammunition manufacturers.
In Trenton, N.J., a lack of available ammunition led the city to give up plans to convert its force to .45-caliber handguns. Last year, the sheriff’s department in Bergen County, N.J., had to borrow 26,000 rounds of .40-caliber ammunition to complete twice-a-year training for officers.
In Phoenix, an order for .38-caliber rounds placed a year ago has yet to arrive, meaning no officer can currently qualify with a .38 Special revolver.
The three calibers mentioned in those paragraphs just aren't in significant use in Iraq. They are all handgun/submachine gun calibers, in other words, rounds which are almost never fired in anger over there unlike actual rifle ammo like .223.

The real story here is that ammunition manufacturers are diverting production to the .223, and not just because the military is buying more of it. The military makes most of its own; the increased demand comes in the form of
wannabe paramilitary wankers plinking at paper targets and Mexicans so that they too can experience the thrill of war as conveyed to them via YouTube, and the private firms in Iraq whose personnel nearly match the number of military forces there. And the higher prices quite simply reflect Halliburtonesque price gouging: because they can.

Then you have a collection of policeman who solemnly nod that they literally can't find the ammo they need, when in fact all they really want is to pour a little fear onto the ammo price hike in the hopes of bigger budgets. And more power to them. But please, let's not pretend that America of all places has suddenly run out of handgun ammunition.

The ugly:
Sitting here in Berlin, in a part of the world where government actually functions, bridges don't disintegrate, mines don't collapse, and getting sick doesn't bankrupt you, I can't watch this video and think anything but ugly thoughts about the junta in Washington, who wouldn't have survived a week in a parliamentary democracy after something like this:

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