a Someone should care, maybe not you....: June 2008 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Someone should care, maybe not you....

My thoughts on many things including the army, war, politics, the military corrections system, chaos, life, books, movies, and why there is no blue food. Feel free to comment on what I say. Feedback is nice.

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40+ year old former teacher, linguist, interrogator, soldier, and lastly convict. We all do stupid things every once and awhile. I am an economic conservative and a firm believer in civil rights. Starting a new life now and frankly not sure what I am going to be doing.

24 June 2008

An interesting energy post

Here is an energy post that I found interesting. You may find it interesting too.

If I were King

17 June 2008

Afghanistan again

Back in the day when he read my blog OPIT (Old Phart In Training) once said I should quit doing political posts and such and concentrate on the more personal ones. From a readership point of view that actually makes pretty good sense. I get more comments and response from cooking posts than I ever do from politics or international affairs. Unfortunately though, I really like writing the international affairs posts. And some of the political ones. So here we are, back in Afghanistan.

This past week the President of Afghanistan declared that he had the right to send Afghan soldiers across the boarder into Pakistan to kill the leaders of those people who are coming into Afghanistan to kill people. This came after a very large, well organized Taliban raid on the Afghan prison near Kandahar freed nine hundred prisoners of which more than three hundred were captured Taliban fighters. So yes, he was provoked. Needless to say the Pakistanis are somewhat less than thrilled about this. They constantly declare that they are doing all that they can to control the border. Musharraf actually began to crack down on the Taliban and Islamic elements that support them towards the end of his “dictatorial” rule. The new government there is “negotiating” with those elements. (read that as appeasement. It is an ugly word in politics but it applies here.) They deny that their settlements with Islamic forces in Pakistan have any relation to things that go on in Afghanistan, but every time they make a new deal more fighters cross into Afghanistan. Their spokesman asked the rhetorical question “What would we gain by destabilizing a brother country?” Well, to start with you would get all those Islamic fundamentalists to go fight over there instead of fighting you in Pakistan. That is a pretty big thing. Also, you keep Afghanistan weak and divided which puts to rest that question of “Greater Pashtunistan” that has been simmering ever since Brittan drew the Durrand line and declared it a border in total defiance of ethnicity, culture, and local politics. Those are pretty big things.

I am amused by the naiveté of the international press though. They keep repeating lines similar to “this threat of course carries no weight because the Karzai government is weak and can’t even keep control in the majority of their own country.” Now, I am sure that the press has been told this by "anonymous spokespersons” representing Nato and the US forces in Afghanistan. In truth, that fact that the Karzai government can’t maintain security in a lot of their country, (a fact that has a whole lot to do with the Taliban having a safe haven in Pakistan incidentally) shouldn’t comfort us, it should scare us silly. Think about it. What is it easier to do? Develop an Army and a Police force large enough and capable enough to control a long mountainous and wild border while at the same time build up from scratch a civil infrastructure sufficient to bring economic growth and stability to the country while fighting an ongoing insurgency operating out of a neighboring country? Or, take a few hundred picked troops, put them in civilian clothes and send them over to the border to kill a few well know, openly operating, leaders of that insurgency? Think about it for a minute. If Karzai could whack Baitullah Mehsud every non Taliban in Afghanistan would celebrate. And, if they fail, it would not be his fault but the would be because the national enemy of Afghanistan, Pakistan, had failed to support them and help in the simple task. And yes, when I say national enemy I mean it. I know I am operating from a limited pool of sources but I interrogated a lot of people in Afghanistan. Some of them were Taliban, some were HIG, some were criminals, and others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They ranged from former governors of provinces to goat herders, from intelligence officers in the Taliban government to Afghan police commanders. I used to ask all of them one question. “Who is the enemy of Afghanistan?” And the answer wasn’t the US, or the Russians, or the Taliban, al Queda, or any of the groups I would have suspected. It was, almost universally, Pakistan. With that level of distrust and dislike, an action like sending troops across the border would strengthen Karzai’s position.

So we should be worried. Very worried.

10 June 2008

Afghanistan, someone is learning......

There is an article in todays New York Times that talks about how a Marine company in Afghanistan is using the lesson learned in Iraq to pacify a village.

The village of Hazarjoft in Helmand province had been cleared of the Taliban before. Several times. Unfortunately the previous method had involved sending troops in, chasing the Taliban out and then going back to where the troops came from. Teh Taliban promptly comes back too and it is rinse, wash and repeat. One would think we would have learned this lesson. This didn't work in Vietnam (for the French or for the US). It didn't work in Iraq, it doesn't work in Colombia, in point of fact, I can't think of a single situation ANYWHERE were clearing then going back to base has worked.

Well this time the Marines set up camp there. They have been there for a month and the villagers are starting to come back. Marines are saying that the only way to stabilize the area to win over a majority of the population and empower them to resist the Taliban. Just like they did in Anbar Province in Iraq last year. This is of course so obvious that one would think everyone knows it. But it seems not becasue we keep screwing it up. (Does anyone at all think there would be peace in Bosnia now if we hadn't planted THOUSANDS of troops there and left them for years?)
The villagers are not totally convinced yet. They, for some reason. seem tot think the American troops will up and leave and a week or two. (Gee I wonder why they would that idea?) And then of course, the Taliban would start coming back.

What the marines are doing is good but it won't amount to much unless there is a serious effort at a command level to change how things are done. We can hope it will happen. Odds on that? Slim.

And Afghan elder sums the situation up best.

“If NATO really wants to bring peace and make us free from harm from the Taliban,” he said, “they must make a plan for a long-term stay, secure the border area, install security checkpoints along the border area, deploy more Afghan National Army to secure the towns and villages, and then the people will be able to help them with security."

Maybe someone in a position of authority will listen to him.

08 June 2008

Motorcycle diaries

No, I am not talking about Che and his wanderings around South America. I am talking about me and a motorcycle. I got one awhile back. A 1981 Honda CB750. I have since discovered through research that I probably paid more for it than I should have and, more importantly, that it is “…not a motorcycle for the first time rider.” (Not the CB750 itself but that general class of bikes) Joy.

I took it out and rode it around the field behind my house a few times and around my yard some but hadn’t taken it on the road because I didn’t have insurance or a tag for it due to lack of cash. But I finally got the cash as a birthday gift and bingo; I have a registered and legal bike. (Interestingly enough through shear random chance the last two letters on the license plate are MI) so I took it out on the road earlier this week. I had been having trouble keeping it going sitting in my yard so I had been fiddling with the idle. About 1.5 miles into my first real ride, the engine got good and warm and that fiddling turned against me with a vengeance. All of a sudden the bike was idling at about 4000 rpms. I didn’t have to touch the throttle control at all and I was accelerating up to 50 mph. Needless to say this got a bit hairy at stop signs. I stopped at one point to try and adjust it down which was difficult to say the least with the engine being very hot. I did eventually take my shirt off, wrap it around my hand and turn it down some, but not enough. It made the ride a bit nerve wracking. I tended to take corners WAY too wide but eventually finished the loop I had set out for myself and was heading home. Now, to complicate my life more I live on a dirt road. A friend who rides had told me that my road was going to be hell on a big road bike. I can see why. Soft sand is not a friend. But I took the .5 mile down that road an a creeping 10mph (with the engine still howling at its high rpms) and was having no problems. Until that is, I tried to turn off the road into my driveway. I was going too slow and the engine began to sputter and stall (I hadn’t down shifted properly) so I tapped the throttle and bingo……

Well, they say that there are those who have laid their bike down and those who are going to. I got that shit out of the way right quick. The back end kicked out in the sand and I was on the ground. Luckily it was slow and there was no damage to the bike or me (except a small cut on my left thumb of all things) Not a great success but it could have gone much worse. It had been about a 13 mile ride. On Saturday morning I got up early and went out to do it again. I had spent Friday evening fiddling with the throttle again and seemed to have it down now. I started off and got down the dirt road and out on the paved road with no problems at all. Took ,y first corner fine, not too wide at all then blew the second corner completely. I felt so uncomfortable that right as I started it I aborted and went straight. But I am going on a big P shaped route so, says I, “I’ll just do it the other direction at the next corner”. But my confidence had been blown at the first won and I aborted this one too. So I was headed off down a road and off my planned track. I quite easily turned into the parking lot of a small church (why could I turn here and not before? Who knows) turned around and went back. Made the corner this time easily (the left turn seemed easier than the right) took the next corner ok but too wide again. (This one is a bit more than a 90 degree turn and it is obvious from the wear on the side of the road that many vehicles fail to negotiate it well) This was why I am doing this riding in the morning when there isn’t a lot of traffic out. Now I am coming up to that first corner that I had aborted out of but from this side there is a stop sign which makes it easy. (Especially since my engine wasn’t howling like a demon every time I engaged the clutch.) then another corner with a stop sign and back to the dirt road. Turning on to the dirt road worries me. There is a LOT of sand right there at the intersection and I know I can’t go in at too much of an angle or too fast, but I cut it nicely and am once again creeping down the road at 10mph. This time I make the turn into my driveway with no problems and wrap up the ride. Much improvement.

The cornering situation interests me. I know HOW to do it in theory. Hell, I have down the same thing on Bicycles for years. But the weight of the bike and the absolutely unforgiving nature of ramming yourself into a ditch if you screw it up throw me off. It will take me awhile to get the feelings down right I suppose. I think it might be easier if I was riding with someone who could take the corner ahead of me and I could follow their line. We’ll see about finding someone to do that with. I am slowly getting the whole hand clutch foot shift thing down. It is coming faster than I thought it would. I still have problems remembering that my main brake is with my foot, not my hand. My years on a bicycle do not serve me well here. Needless to say I do not feel comfortable with the idea of driving in traffic yet but it is coming. I do think this would have been easier if I had gotten the first bike a looked at, a 250 instead. The smaller lighter bike would be easier to maneuver around but it is too late to worry about that now.

I do want to get this down well because I am very serious about that Mongol Rally thing I mentioned. And I think it might be cheaper and easier to do on a bike than trying to get a car. (Then again, in a car you have someone to talk to and a place to keep spare tires and gas cans.) We shall see.

03 June 2008

Anyone want to go on a trip with me next year????

I want to do this. Anyone care to join me?

The Mongol Rally