They Marched into the Fog of War

They Marched into Sunlight is worth reading, especially for people like me who are interested in the Vietnam War but too young to remember it. Maraniss tells two main stories, based on interviews: an ambush of US soldiers in Vietnam and an antiwar demonstration gone wrong on the U. of Wisconsin campus, both of which occurred in October 1967. Maraniss expresses an affectionate acceptance of his (non-fictional) characters that reminded me of War and Peace, and made it unusually easy to identify with most of them. The two mains stories are, as Walter Isaacson’s jacket blurb notes, “set against the backdrop of the helpless agony that is engulfing the White House of Lyndon Johnson.” Unlike some other readers, though, I can’t say that my empathy extended to Lyndon Johnson. I kept thinking, pull the troops out if you’re so upset.

While I was reading They Marched I went to see The Fog of War, the documentary film about Vietnam-era defense secretary Robert McNamara. The movie was interesting but kind of creepy and unpleasant, with McNamara spinning his life story and, it seemed, trying to make himself appear wise, erudite and philosophical. At one point he recounts traveling to Vietnam in the early ’90s and meeting with one of the former leaders of the Communist forces. A heated debate ensues about cause of the war: the Vietnamese leader claims that his side fought for independence against imperialist foreigners, and McNamara claims that US war leaders fought to keep Vietnam free from the rule of a Soviet and Chinese puppet government. The Vietnamese replies something like “you must never have opened a history book, since Vietnam fought China for centuries.” The audience laughs.

My Former Sec of Defense Went to Cuba and All I Got Was This Lousy Near-Apocalypse

McNamara describes going to Cuba for a Cuban Missile Crisis villain reunion. Sure enough, the incompetents almost ended civilization in a nuclear war in the early ’60s. I’m gonna go out on a limb here & opine that the wooly-headed liberals are right on this one: the citizens of all 9 axis-of-apocalypse countries should get organized and insist that “their” governments destroy those useless inherently terrorist weapons. And let’s do it quickly before we’re too far along in the post-post-Cold War era, and the loonies think up a new excuse to keep them.

As I mentioned previously (“Sold Short), while the US government was busy ignoring prominent Saudi terrorists in California (& what’s the deal with this Saudi government-funded San Diego-based bigamist /alleged terror financier with a penchant for international travel?) and promoting jihad in the Balkans, was providing (absolutely free) warnings of the domestic terrorist threat. While the SEC was busy chasing a Jersey teen short-seller Manuel Asensio was uncovering deception in the markets and posting the info (absolutely free) on his website. Here’s another one: while the US military was invading Iraq to stop an invisible wmd program, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (May 2003 issue) warned the world of a real program by re-publishing Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan’s centrifuge sales brochure. This is the same Khan that President Bush shielded from US intelligence, according to a BBC report: “CIA and other agents told BBC they could not investigate the spread of ‘Islamic Bombs’ through Pakistan because funding appeared to originate in Saudi Arabia.”

(The Pakistan proliferation double-standard is another example of the Axis of Allies phenomenon I’ve commented on before, though perhaps Axis of Bait-and-Switch would be more accurate. According to a UPI survey, the vast majority of the terror suspects being illegally held by the US military in Cuba are citizens of nations allied with the United States. 160 of them are Saudis and 82 of them are Pakistanis, while only a single prisoner is an Iraqi, and there are no Iranians or North Koreans.)

Of course there’s no such thing as a free scoop, which is why has periodic pledge weeks and can always use a contribution. Here’s another good reason to give: it might make you happier. According to a recently-published book, You Don’t Have to be Rich, giving to charity is one of the five habits statistically linked to feelings of financial satisfaction. And while we’re on the subject, a good book about personal finance for hard-working high-earners is Your Money or Your Life.

For self-directed stock market investors, The Battle for Investment Survival is a fun read by a veteran trader, Gerald M. Loeb. It was originally published in 1935, and has that era’s fear of risk. Loeb advises that we try to view our stocks as if we don’t own them; any that we wouldn’t buy, we should sell. This is meant to overcome the “endowment effect,” a term (from the “new science” of behavioral economics) that describes the quirk of human nature in which we value something that we already own more than we would value the same thing if we didn’t own it.


Nestled inside another Economist article is this little tidbit about the Iraqi governing council’s take on freedom of the press:

    Though appointed and not elected, the council is reasonably representative of Iraq’s various groups. But it also has its flaws, one of which is a growing allergy to criticism. Its members say they believe in a free press but have shut down, albeit temporarily, the Iraqi operations of two of the Arab world’s most popular satellite channels.

The Missing Body Count

The current count of Americans killed in Iraq is 548. According to The Economist, the number would be much higher if the military was not outsourcing the more dangerous jobs:

    What the figures suggest is that the number of attacks is going up even more sharply, though the number of potential American targets is going down as their force is reduced in size. Moreover, the American and British armies have hived off a lot of dangerous jobs (driving military vehicles, for instance) to contract workers, mostly Asian, whose deaths rarely get listed. The many British security companies in Iraq tend to hire people from Nepal or Fiji to guard bases. Another British-run company, Erinys International, now deploys 14,000 Iraqis to guard Iraq’s oil installations.[Emphasis added]

An internet search turned up nothing. If any readers have leads on this hidden component of the occupation, I would welcome some links.

Sold Short

Back in 2000, Justin Raimondo wrote an article called “An Electronic Pearl Harbor?” about curious Kosovo war-related hacker attacks and the role of Network Solutions, the then-monopolist of Internet domain names. Interested readers can revisit this story in Sold Short: Uncovering Deception in the Markets by famed short-seller Manuel Asensio.

Short-sellers are, essentially, people who bet that certain stocks will fall. It’s risky business; a stock can rise more than it can fall so gains are limited but losses are theoretically unlimited. And as the old trader ditty says: “He who sells what isn’t his’n, must buy it back or go to prison.” Short-sellers have a bad reputation but during the height of the millennial excesses, while the Feds were chasing a New Jersey high school student, Asensio was uncovering deception in the markets and posting the information for free on his website (much like posted warnings about the domestic terrorist threat while the government was busy aiding jihad in the Balkans).

Asensio’s book primarily chronicles his successes, but in a chapter called Abusing the Process, in a section called “Fiends [sic] in High Places: Network Solutions,” he details a notable failure:

“Network Solutions (Nasdaq: NSOL) achieved its fortune on the basis of a government affirmative action contract that was snatched up by a huge, money-laden defense contractor. The contractor then leveraged this prize many times over by working the political system, applying a political headlock at the highest levels of the federal government. …

“In March 1995 McHenry and his partners sold Network Solutions for $48 million to Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a huge, privately owned, astonishingly well-connected defense contractor based in San Diego.

“SAIC has about $4 billion in annual revenues, roughly 80 percent of which are derived from federal contracts. SAIC board members include Retired Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, who was offered the job of defense secretary by Bill Clinton, and two retired generals, from the army and the air force. Past board members have included former Defense Secretary William Perry; Melvin Laird, Nixon’s defense secretary; Donald Hicks, former head of research and development for the Pentagon; and former CIA directors Robert Gates and John Deutsch. The firm and its executives contribute over $100,000 to political campaigns in each election cycle. …

“All of the facts indicated to us that NSOL should not have been successful in retaining the interests that if did in the domain-name registry. The amount of money it was allowed to change for its registry service is offensive. The terms were imposed on the market through the influence that Network Solutions has with the federal government. That’s what makes this case completely different from any other company we’ve publicly shorted.

“When you’re dealing with the president of the United States and the secretary of commerce, you’re beyond the law and beyond logic. These people create the rules. We bet … on free market forces. There was a lot of money involved here – and a lot of companies that could do the job. We believed that potential competitors in both the registry and registrar services were going to balance out Network Solutions’ political power. But SAIC’s influence in the federal government was greater than the force of the free enterprise system, stronger than those competitors that were willing and able to provide better services at far lower cost than Network Solutions. Who would have thought it? Not I – not at the time, anyway.”


Buy Sold Short: Uncovering Deception in the Markets (and help!

Read “Network Solutions: By Any Other Name, a,” by Debra Sparks.

Read “An Electronic Pearl Harbor?” by Justin Raimondo.

Read “Jonathan Lebed: Stock Manipulator, S.E.C. Nemesis – and 15,” by Michael Lewis.


Read “American Interventionism and the Terrorist Threat,” by Jon Basil Utley.

Read “Washington Behind Terrorist Attacks in Macedonia,” by Michel Chossudovsky.

Army docs question DU

In addition to knowing that 548 soldiers have been killed, 9500+ wounded — many missing arms, legs and eyes — and almost 1000 having been treated for psychiatric problems, military personnel will have to worry about the residual effects of depleted uranium and other chemical poisons they have come into contact with. Medical professionals and researchers as yet have no prognosis of what the future holds for our returning troops, but contact with much lower doses and far less exposure time to DU during Gulf War I has already been blamed for many serious and persistant medical complaints. In what appears to be an effort not to sound alarmist, there is almost a ho-hum attitude in today’s Stars & Stripes’ article which leaves you with the impression that if all the Army forms are correctly filled out by returning troops, there will be nothing to worry about. These statements by Army Col. Allen Kraft, director of force health protection for Europe Regional Medical Command and U.S. Army Europe, furthers the feel-good euphoria. You will note that although data collection is barely in its infancy stage, he already “knows” that cigarette smoking is more dangerous than DU:

    … people need to keep things in perspective. Ingesting particles of depleted uranium certainly isn’t desirable, Kraft said, but he noted that people who smoke do their body more harm. In a place such as Iraq, medical officials are just as concerned about other toxicants, from oil field emissions to lead paint. DU, Kraft said, “is on the low end of the totem pole” of things to worry about. The word ‘radiation’ scares people,” Kraft said, “but you are exposed to [levels of] radiation every time you step outside.”

Even back in May 2003, scientists were already debating the dangers of DU exposure to troops and civilians in Iraqi.

    “Depleted uranium is toxic and carcinogenic and it may well be associated with elevated rates of birth defects in babies born to those exposed to it,” said McDermott, who is a physician. Before the current war, Iraqi doctors were blaming high rates of cancer and birth defects in Basra and other southern cities on U.S. munitions fired 12 years ago — when fighting was concentrated along the southern border with Kuwait. Iraqi officials claim their number of cancer patients has risen 50 percent in 10 years, although complete medical surveys have not been conducted. Some U.S. veterans also blame certain mysterious symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome on DU exposure.… read

The British, in December 2003, were also a bit more open about the potential hazards of DU.

    Depleted uranium shells used by British forces in southern Iraqi battlefields are putting civilians at risk from ‘alarmingly high’ levels of radioactivity. Experts are calling for the water and milk being used by locals in Basra to be monitored after analysis of biological and soil samples from battle zones found ‘the highest number, highest levels and highest concentrations of radioactive source points’ in the Basra suburb of Abu Khasib – the centre of the fiercest battles between UK forces and Saddam loyalists. Readings taken from destroyed Iraqi tanks in Basra reveal radiation levels 2,500 times higher than normal. In the surrounding area researchers recorded radioactivity levels 20 times higher than normal. … read

I sincerely hope our young men and women will not have to pay the ultimate “friendly-fire” price for having served. The sooner we bring them home, the less exposure to DU and other toxins they will have. As for the people of Iraqi who will have to permanently live with this nightmare …