“Too Late” in Iraq?

More bits of good news about Iraq.  Key quote from the article:

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.

 After four bloody, wasteful years, have we hit on something that works? I’d give anything for them to be right.  

But I keep remembering those fateful words of Gen. Douglas MacArthur:  

 The history of the failure of war can almost be summed up in two words: “too late.”

* Too late in comprehending the deadly purpose of a potential enemy.
* Too late in realizing the mortal danger.
* Too late in preparedness.
* Too late in uniting all possible forces for resistance.

* Too late in standing with one’s friends.

Here’s hoping we find an exception to MacArthur’s “too late” rule.


Barry, Barry Bad: Solving the ‘Roid Problem

The Sultan of Swing….Hammerin’ Hank. . . and now, The King of the ‘Roids.

Soon-to-be-indicted slugger Barry Bonds is just 2 whacks away from setting the ******NEW HOME RUN RECORD****, which will live in  infamy–and should live in asterisks– forever.

OK, I dislike Bonds*, but I suppose  reasonable people can disagree over the whole doping era. Insurance titan and regular reader Phillip Brown, who describes himself as a “drug libertarian,” says that baseball is “the cheating sport” anyway, and believes that’s “part of its charm.” Brown goes on:  

  It’s hard to see why a guy who throws spitters is cute (and Hall-of-Fame worthy), but a guy who takes a shot (that wasn’t against the rules) so his arm bounces back quicker after 8 innings is a bad guy. Maybe it’s because the other team MIGHT be able to detect the spitter and complain OR,  even better,  retaliate somehow (and aren’t  those things exciting).

Now that leads to a wild fantasy–retaliation! What if baseball simply acknowledged  that certain players had gained an advantage through chemical enhancement? Okay. They come clean, and they get to keep juicing/shooting/creaming, keep playing, and keep any records they set.

But–why should they be the only ones to boost their chances with chemicals? Each team will now have a  “Designated Shooter” armed with one of those long, African-pygmy blow guns equipped with fast-acting tranquilizer darts. Whenever a Steroid Slugger comes to the plate, he’s fair game for the DS. Ping him on the first pitch, and he may be snoozing before the at-bat is over.

 Of course we’d have rules. The DS would have a set spot in the dugout, couldn’t aim below the shoulders, and so on.  Maybe there’s a tiny target painted somewhere on the Steroid Slugger’s uniform (sponsored by Target?). Hit that, and the guy’s automatically out. Otherwise, he can keep swinging as long as he stays awake.

Are you listening, Bud Selig? You owe me for this.

Poetry Break

I’m constantly promising to get more poetry onto this blog. Here’s one inspired by  those odd (and, I hope, infrequent) moments when you walk into the kitchen to do something and suddenly…you have no idea why you went  in there. It’s by former U. S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins.


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

If you’d like to hear Collins read this poem, go here. Scroll down to find “Forgetfulness.”  

Marine Blogger: “We Are Freaking Winning Out Here”

Anyone interested in the Iraq war can do something that very few people could do in previous wars: hear directly from soldiers at the front lines, via the many military blogs from Iraq. I check a few of these blogs from time to time, and I almost always find that they are more optimistic about the situation than the everyday media.

That doesn’t mean that every military blogger is right about everything. Maybe they only have the small picture, the blocks and neighborhoods they’re patrolling, and lack the bigger one.  Still, their point of view deserves attention. Here’s a recent post from a blogger at the Fighting 6th Marines’ blog in Fallujah, http://www.fighting6thmarines.vox.com

The change over the past year has been amazing. Hell, even the change since we got here in January has been noticeable. The sheiks and the tribes they lead have thrown in their lot with us despite a constant murder and intimidation campaign by Al Qaeda. Our approach to counterinsurgency is working and is an illustration that given enough time, ordinary men and women — the Iraqis we work with every day — will say “Enough violence is enough.” They’re tired of their children dying, and of fearing for their lives just because they had the nerve to try to keep their neighborhoods safe.

I could go on for pages. I think if you talk to the vast majority of Marines out here you’ll see that the optimism we’re pushing out is legitimate. . . .  the recurring story here is that the Anbar people have thrown up their hands and seen that we are the good guys.

The bottom line is that we are freaking winning out here. And the really astonishing thing is that Coalition Forces aren’t the main effort — we’re simply an enabling factor.

That “Gulag” in Cuba

Every time you think that the Age of Hyperbolic Smear has reached its zenith, you’re wrong. 

 Reviewing a book called Soldier’s Heart: Reading Literature Through War and Peace at West Point, by an English professor named Elizabeth Samet, I came across Amnesty International’s labeling of the U. S. Guantanamo detention center as “the Gulag of our time.” 

Yes, the Gulag of our time. I blinked, too.

As you’ve seen in previous posts (here and here, for example),  I often wonder  whether those who toss around accusations of “fascism” and “Nazi tactics” in our politics  have ever cracked a history book or have any idea why names like Hitler, Himmler and Goering live on in infamy today. Now, to the list of the historically amnesiac, we must add Amnesty International.

Ask them: Would it have not been possible to condemn Bush/Cheney/Gonzales/Ashcroft/Guantanamo  in strong, acidic, paint-stripping terms without making such a naive, wildly off-base comparison?

If you don’t know anything about the real, historical Gulag, do a quick check on Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, etc. Or glance over this article  here about the millions killed in the real Gulag.

 Amnesty, which has done real good in the world by decrying horrible abuses in various failed states and dictatorships, squanders its credibility when it strains to make such dishonest comparisons. And this headline-hungry rhetoric dishonors the millions who died at the hands of Stalin. Just ask Alexander Solzhenitzyn.

Ain’t That Black Enough?

A lingering question about a question from Monday’s YouTube/CNN debate, when Sen. Barack Obama was asked why some voters don’t seem to think he’s “black enough.”

What in the world do people mean when they ask this? Is there some Platonic ideal of perfect Blackness by which we can measure and evaluate someone according to how closely they approach the ideal?

 If so, what/who  is the ideal? Who is a sufficiently authentic black, and how does he/she differ from Obama? I’d love to see a thoughtful African-American writer dissect this matter, but fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

 To this pale Caucasoid, the whole business seems weirdly old-fashioned, refracted through a long-outdated view of blacks. 

Perhaps during the heyday of Jim Crow, before the Civil Rights movement, there might have existed, in the minds of most white people at least, some monolithic idea of the “black” person. Any such simplistic image, of course, would have been possible only because so many white people had such limited experience with black people, and many of the blacks they were likely to meet were poorly educated and in  subservient positions.

Today, with so many avenues of advancement open to African-Americans,  the reality is much more variegated.  There are dozens,  hundreds of black images.   Is Puffy Combs black? Colin Powell? Randall Robinson? Leonard Pitts Jr.? Barry Bonds? Oprah Winfrey? Spike Lee? Ron Kirk? Chris Tucker? Shelby Steele? Seal? Henry Louis Gates? Michael Vick?  Louis Farrakhan? Joe Morgan?

Are they saying Obama is way more educated than most black folks? He is, yes. (He’s also way more educated than most white folks.) Are they saying he’s got much more money than most black folks? (ditto whites). 

I’m guessing here, but I wonder if some of the “black enough?” questioners have a limited and pretty negative idea of the black experience they believe Obama has not shared.  Are they saying he hasn’t suffered enough of what they take to be, even in 2007, the oppressive racial reality of blacks? Obama seemed to pick up on that aspect of the question when he half-jokingly said he’d had trouble hailing cabs in Manhattan–thus establishing solidarity with poor and middle-class blacks who’ve been similarly dissed. 

 Is he being forced, unfairly, to define his essential  life experiences downward (I’ve been racially profiled by cabbies, like you) rather than upward (Uh, yes, I was the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review)?

The next time this question comes up, and it will, I wish Obama would just say, “What are you talking about? Explain. Define this Ideal Black.” Then we could all get in on the discussion.