Saturday, January 16, 2021
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Jack Trammell Is a Candidate of Substance

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The crowd was unexpectedly large last evening at the home of Clark and Kelly Mercer in Ashland, Virginia. Expecting 50, more like 150 swarmed the unassuming Democratic candidate for Virginia's 7th Congressional District. The excitement was evident. Jack Trammell, has been thrust into a high profile race for Congress.

"I'm going to be a candidate of "yes." I'm going to be about the positive. I want to be able to reach across the aisle; I want to work with people. My career in academia ... I have friends here in the crowd who work at Randolph-Macon ... in academia we learn that research and social science functions within a peer review process where you work together collaboratively to solve problems."

Trammell's open and engaging personality is matched by his genuine sincerity and optimism. These qualities will more than make up for his freshman political status as he campaigns for soon to be former Congressman Eric Cantor's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is reflected in his supporters who are motivated by what is right about America rather than by bitterness and anger toward their own shadows.

"I like to say "yes" rather than "no." I say yes to change; I say yes to diversity; I say yes to ownership of your own body and mind; I say yes to possibilities; I say yes to equity; I say yes to opportunity; I say yes to responsibility to our collective good, we're too wealthy and too successful to stand by to watch that just happen without us; I say yes to a clean environment; I say yes to rules for fair play; I say yes to care before punishment; I say yes to access to healthcare; I say yes to love who you want to love; I say yes to access to education; I say yes to a fair wage."

There is much more to Jack Trammell as we will all discover going forward. My connection with him was immediate and personal as I learned his son attended Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro and later served in the Marine Corps. Mine served in Iraq; his Afghanistan. Mine returned whole; his was wounded by an IED (sadly, I don't have to spell out the acronym). There's just a whole lot more that I look forward to watching unfold.

Yes, Virginia, Trammell is positively a serious force to be reckoned with.

President Obama’s Afghanistan Speech; Tim Kaine’s Reaction

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Tim Kaine's statement on President Obama's Afghanistan speech follows. I mostly agree, although I'd tie our security more to Yemen and especially Pakistan (what a mess; Christopher Hitchens has a particularly harsh take) at this point than to Afghanistan, if we're talking about specific countries (as opposed to non-state actors) we need to worry about. All in all, I'm happy to see that we're finally winding down the two wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, that began in the aftermath of the 9/11/01 attacks. At this point, nearly 10 years later, we certainly need to keep Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups off balance and under constant pressure, but whether we really need to be occupying territory at such high cost, especially when we have such urgent needs here at home, is highly debatable. What do you think?
Tonight's announcement marks an important step for the United States in the global war against terrorism - a step that would not have been possible without the strategy employed by President Obama to dismantle al Qaeda's senior leadership and eliminate the organization's central command. I commend the President, our military leaders and the troops who carried out those missions, including the extraordinary Virginia Beach-based Navy SEALS responsible for capturing and killing Osama bin Laden, for a job well done.

Tonight is also a time to reflect on the sacrifice of so many American men and women who served in Afghanistan over the last decade as well as their families, many of whom are our neighbors and friends right here in the Commonwealth.

There is still more work to be done, but we are safer tonight than we were in the months following September 11th thanks to the leadership of our commanders and the bravery and dedication of our troops. As we move forward we must remember that our security is inherently linked to the situation in Afghanistan. I commend the President for his announcement and pray for a safe return of our troops still serving in the region.

A few facts about the military, and more, from Kristof

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The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.

That's the first of four bulleted paragraphs of facts about the military offered by Nicholas Kristof in a column titled The Big (Military) Taboo. You might know that. You might even know that we have troops at 560 bases outside the United States. That's the 2nd. And the third?

The intelligence community is so vast that more people have "top secret" clearance than live in Washington, D.C.

But I have not yet offered the most shocking, from the 4th of those paragraphs, for which I suggest you continue below the fold.

So You Thought We Were Winding Down Our Wars?

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With the United States having already removed its combat troops from Iraq with great fanfare, and obliged by agreement to withdraw all remaining forces by the end of 2011, and since President Obama has repeatedly assured us the draw-down of troops in Afghanistan will indeed begin in July 2011 as well, it is understandable that you might have assumed that American military adventures in foreign lands were being sharply curtailed, at the very least in Iraq and Afghanistan. You would, however, be wrong, as has been unequivocally made obvious in a not-so-tongue-in-cheek article by Tom Englehardt and Nick Turse from Tomdispatch.com, reprinted in AlterNet recently.

If we are leaving both Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011, why are we spending additional millions and millions of dollars building additional military facilities there, most of which will not even be finished by the end of 2011?  "Construction is slated to begin on at least three $100 million air base projects" which will not be completed until long after July 2011 (at Shindand Air Base for Special Operations, at the Marine base at Camp Dwyer for Special Operations, both in Iraq, and at Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan) plus there are requests for another $1.3 billion additional 2011 fiscal funds for military construction "pending before Congress." Englehardt and Turse are here quoting from Walter Pincus of The Washington Post.  

Live RPG Removed from Soldier

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The story is about Channing Moss, who was impaled by a live RPG during a Taliban ambush while on patrol. Army protocol says that medivac choppers are never to carry anyone with a live round in him. Even though they feared it could explode, the flight crew said damn the protocol and flew him to the nearest aid station. Again, protocol said that in such a case the patient is to be put in a sandbagged area away from the surgical unit, given a shot of morphine and left to wait (and die) until others are treated. Again, the medical team ignored the protocol. Here's a short video put together by the Military Times, which includes actual footage of the surgery where Dr. John Oh, a Korean immigrant who became a naturalized citizen and went to West Point, removed the live round with the help of volunteers and a member of the EOD (explosive ordinance disposal) team. Moss has undergone six operations but is doing well at home in Gainesville, GA. I think you'll find the video absolutely remarkable

Here is America at its best:

For Karzai, It’s About His Authority and 10%

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It isn't civilian casualties. It isn't the party hearty drinking, lurid behavior or frequenting Kabul brothels. It isn't even the bribes paid by contractors to the Taliban. Karzai sees an opportunity to take control of the funding and the patronage it buys, bringing potential challengers close to the breast.  

The majority of the contractors are not Americans or third country nationals. They include local militias large and small; mafia-like "insurance" providers. They are organized paramilitary forces and bands of thugs whose loyalty is bought and paid. This payoff money is funneled directly to them without the opportunity for a cut at the federal or provincial levels. To the Karzai government, they are a parallel shadow government. In reality they may be.

Karzai Liquidates the Surge

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Afghani sovereignty and self-determination may be making success even more distant. The unilateral decision by the Karzai government to call a halt to the employment of private security contractors means that net, net, the surge will be made meaningless. It will be spent on support functions not "winning the war."

"The security companies have to go." - Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar

From the beginning there have been complaints that private firms are poorly regulated, reckless and effectively operate outside local law. They certainly operate outside the constructs of the traditional laws of land warfare. This was viewed as an unique advantage initially, but incidents like the Blackwater shooting in which 17 Iraq civilians were killed in a Baghdad square have created contentious issues with allies and the host nations.

Forces in Afghanistan, particularly our NATO partners', manage to avoid most direct contact with the enemy and casualties by assigning the defense of their support functions, convoys and installations, to contractors. Thus the coalition's ISAF acronym has come to mean: I Saw Americans Fighting.

El General

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Where do we begin with Mexico? We must be prepared for the certain coming war in Mexico. That's war in Mexico, not with. Sort of like Afghanistan. There's an echo: "History casts a long shadow." A forest of shadows. Mexico is in America's shadow. Mexico's shadow is in America.

PBS is airing a documentary in its POV series that is essential viewing. El General provides a glimpse into the complex history of political and economic conditions facing Mexico's citizens. It is from the purposefully jumbled perspectives of members of one of Mexico's premier ruling class families. It gives voice to people in the streets struggling to maintain a subsistence level existence without hope of improvement or faith in politicians' promises. Their faith and hope rest with the Virgin of Guadalupe and the national lottery. History it is and isn't; President Plutarco Elías Calles's great-granddaughter Natalia Almada crafted the story from family records and recordings. Gut wrenching it is.  

Teaching Democracy With a Machine Gun

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Now that we have had a teaching moment of our own from President Obama about the basic structure of American democracy, i.e., the supremacy of civilian control over the nation's military, it is a good time to take a look at how our military conducted itself in The Surge in Iraq when Bush was President and CIC, putting down insurgents, pacifying the locals so as to teach them democracy---- and ask ourselves, is this what has been going on in Afghanistan under the immediate past commander, General McChrystal, under the guise of doing the same thing?