Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

It’s been a week now.

A week since Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed.

Despite dire predictions and the horrified wailing from the general direction of the American Southwest, there’s been no mutiny in the ranks, no revolt, no revolution.  There’s been no desertions, singly or en mass.   There has been no sudden collapse of good order and discipline.  Morale and esprit de corps remain high (or as high as you would expect given that we’re now entering our tenth year of perpetual combat operations).  Our military medical system hasn’t collapsed under the sudden onslaught of Teh Gay Diseases. Soldiers aren’t wandering about holding hands and sporting rainbow colored berets and pastel camies.

No, it’s been pretty much business as usual.

As you probably know, I spent most of my life in the US Navy.  Being retired, I’m no longer on active duty, but I’m not entirely a civilian either.  These days I work with both US Air Force and US Army personnel. I’m surrounded by the military on a daily basis.  Given my background and embedded as I am, I enjoy a vantage point that gives me a fairly good cross-sectional view of the US Military. I see things. I hear things. And you’d think the DADT repeal would be a hot topic around base.  You’d think, man, as big a deal as the repeal was on Capitol Hill, in Washington, at the Pentagon, military folks would be talking about it.  Given the sheer volume of pundit bloviating from FoxNews, and the squawking from those Lame Ducks, and the enormous amount of hot flatulent air emanating from John McCain, you’d think then that DADT would be a big damned deal around here. Wouldn’t you?

If you thought that, you’d be wrong.

Seventeen years ago, when Bill Clinton hammered out the deal that would let gays serve covertly in the military, I was stationed in Maine, a student at a small specialized training facility. The Lieutenant in charge shut down the course and gathered staff and students into the classroom to ask us all what we thought of the new policy.  He didn’t try to explain Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (probably because the regulation seemed fairly self explanatory) or what it would mean to the military or to us in particular – we were all involved in a highly classified and unusual program, and upon graduation, assuming we graduated, we’d all be headed off to small, very tightly knit, self-contained units in remote and isolated locations. In garrison we would live like any other small military unit ashore, but when deployed to the field our twelve person teams lived in each others’ pockets and there was no privacy at all.  Our ability to carry out our highly complex and difficult mission, often under extreme circumstance, depended entirely on how well we worked together, on how well we got along.  If we couldn’t trust each other, if we couldn’t come together as a team, we would most certainly fail.  Given our situation, there wasn’t much we didn’t know about each other – and I happen to know that more than one of those folks was indeed gay, but I didn’t ask and they didn’t tell and DADT didn’t really change much of anything.  The Lieutenant certainly didn’t explain how this change in policy would affect us, he just wanted our opinions regarding gays serving secretly among us (and frankly I’m pretty sure the LT was gay, but I digress).  As I recall, most of us didn’t care one way or the other, I know I didn’t. The exception, of course, was the fundamentalist Christian member of our cadre – who opined loudly that God had created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve (the first time I’d ever heard that particular expression. It wouldn’t be the last).

Oddly enough, my training group, the twelve of us gathered in that classroom wondering how to answer the Lieutenant’s question, was the first to incorporate women – two of them in fact.  

The program was fairly young in those days, only a couple of years old, but up until my class it had been a good ole boy kind of assignment.  Given the nature of the mission, the harsh physicality of it, the isolation, the close quarters, it had been designed as a male-only mission. The introduction of woman, by Congressional decree in the immediate aftermath of the Navy’s Tailhook Scandal, was received about like you’d expect in the male-dominated Navy of that time, i.e. not well.  The quarters, equipment, and machines we lived in, both in garrison and in the field, had to be modified in order to provide a bare modicum of privacy – something that had never been necessary before.  Odd questions came up, embarrassing questions, things that people didn’t know how to deal with.  Here’s an example (one of many):  In the field, we were self-contained. We lived and worked within specialized shelters, semi-trailers coupled together into a mission complex.  In one of the shelters there was a very small shower/toilet area. Given the parameters we had to operate under, our system could not store wastes, e.g. we had no sewage tank like you’d find in an RV. The shower and small sink therefore drained gray water to a pit outside. But, obviously, that wasn’t an option for the toilet.  Instead we used something called an Incinolet, commonly referred to as the “Atomic Shitter.” This foul monstrosity was a stainless steel throne with a clamshell device under the seat. You put a tissue-paper liner in the bowl, did your business, and when you were done you stood up and closed the lid and pressed a foot pedal on the base of the machine.  The waste bag would (hopefully) drop into a bin underneath and (hopefully) be incinerated into (hopefully) sterile ash by high voltage electric coils.  There were some drawbacks.  The bag didn’t always completely clear the clamshell, which meant that the machine wouldn’t work, sometimes you’d have to reach in there and fix it. Even when the bag dropped on the correct trajectory the system was complex and finicky and didn’t always work right.  It took twenty or thirty minutes per cycle, depending on, uh, well, the size of the load. It vented clouds of noxious smoke to the outside, which often, depending on the prevailing wind, blew directly into the shelter environmental control air intake and filled our life support system with the sickening stench of burning crap (more than once, the shelter’s Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological protection systems were activated in an attempt to filter out the foul cloud, often with less than complete success).  God help you if the power failed during a turd burn because then the exhaust system would shut down and the outside vent flaps dropped closed and the shelters would fill with dense shit-flavored smoke. At least once a watch, depending on usage, the unit’s ash pan would have to be emptied (people living on MRE’s tend to need to use the toilet a lot, it’s true, you can look it up), a job that was, shall we say, not particularly popular  – especially if the incinerator didn’t finish the job completely and left you with a honeypot of bubbling hot liquefied feces, or just failed to work altogether, which happened so often that it became a tired joke (remember, military equipment is built by the lowest bidder).  Another interesting quirk of the Atomic Shitter was this: you never, ever, ever, pushed the flush pedal whilst enthroned. Really.  Because, see, sometimes, the previous load was still burning down there under your bum and while this made the stainless steel seat nice and warm (something deeply appreciated when we operated in northern winter Maine or Alaska at -30F), pushing the pedal when the cooker was engaged would open the clamshell letting oxygen into the incinerator compartment resulting in orange sooty flames shooting up out of the bowl – filling the shelter with both the smell of burning turds and the smell of burning ass hair, usually followed by yelling and cursing. Yes, the Atomic Shitter was the source of much amusement, and much horror, and just something we lived with as part of the job. 

But see, here’s the thing, up until my class, nobody had ever wondered if the toilet would work for women – or to be more precise, women’s particular needs, say like feminine hygiene products.  Seems silly, doesn’t it? If the incinerator would (hopefully) vaporize human waste, it should (hopefully) have no problem with pads and tampons.  Right?  Well, no, actually. Or rather, maybe. Depending.  The system was designed to (hopefully) work with wet human waste (and it didn’t work all that great when operated within design parameters), what would happen when you introduced cotton, paper, and plastic?  You might have a fire, which in our self-contained system was a major concern.  The plastic or foam material from certain products could melt onto the electrodes, fouling (heh heh) the system. If it failed we didn’t have much alternative other than finding a convenient tree and dropping trou at -30F.  And what if we couldn’t put that stuff in there? What would we do with it? Store it? For weeks? Where? There were twelve to fourteen of us living inside a space about the size of a minivan (with a menstruating woman for God’s sake) – there wasn’t any extra room for the storage of biological waste.  What the hell were we supposed to do? Congress didn’t bother to tell us that, they just waved their flabby arms and said, “make it so.”

In the end, the manufacturer gave us a list of products that could be safely disposed of in the incinerator and the women used those for the duration of the deployment if it became necessary and the issue became moot (ultimately, and against regulation, we started ordering Port-O-Potties from a local vender whenever we happened to be deployed and just stopped using that stinking monstrosity altogether).  Again, seems silly, all this concern about something simple, doesn’t it?   Funny thing: after all of that, those two women didn’t work out and both left the program within a year – but many female Sailors followed them and by the time I helped decommission the program years later, women had been an integral part of the teams for so long that few even knew that it had ever been different. 

That same exact problem, the hygiene product problem, was a huge issue when women began going to sea on Navy combat ships in large numbers – as a combat ship’s sanitation system simply was not designed to deal with feminine hygiene products on a large scale.  When those ships were built, nobody ever thought about female crew, there were no such things.  But the Navy and military changed and somebody did have to think about it. It was a minor thing, comparatively speaking. But that and the myriad of other issues, some real, some imagined, some simple, some horribly complex, the difficult issues that come from putting young, physically fit, very active, and by design strongly heterosexual people together into small spaces, and isolated, stressful, and often dangerous situations for long periods of time had to be dealt with – and in fact we’re still dealing with it.  And it is  far, far more complex than simply waving a magic wand, or changing a law or a regulation, or saying, “make it so.”

But, it did happen.  Women were integrated seamlessly into the military.  And the military did what the US military always does, what we were designed to do, what we are sworn to do – we followed the orders of the civilian leadership and in the end we did make it so.

We lost people along the way, those who could not, or would not, change. 

But, we gained people too. Good people.  Many of them were women.

And the United State military became better for it, much better, more professional, more honorable, more capable, more diverse, more innovative, more flexible, more intelligent, more efficient. This result is unsurprising when you realize that we’d been keeping half our population, half our talent, half our ability, and half our viewpoints away, out of sight, out of mind. Stupid. Obviously. In retrospect. And nowadays, military folks look at you funny if you ask them whether or not women should serve on the front lines (well, most of them anyway).  Change in large systems is hard and often fraught with peril, but without it you get stagnation.  The military is a conservative entity by nature, by design, but it does change – even if sometimes that change is forced by direction. The Commandant of the Marine Corps said it best, to paraphrase: If you ask me my opinion, I don’t want DADT changed, but if you do change it then by God the Marines will lead the way.  And they will too, just as the Marines have always done, you watch and see if they don’t – one thing about Marines, they give their word, they damned well keep it or die trying.

You know, it’s funny, I often hear the veterans of my generation, and the ones that came before us, disparage the young men and women who serve today.  It’s good natured, mostly.  I guess it’s a right of passage, each generation considers itself better than the ones that come after, their trials are always harder, their triumphs always greater, their failures forgotten, their leaders better (or worse, depending on the nature of the story), and so on.  The kids nowadays just can’t understand what it was like back then, they’re soft, we had it hard not like it is now with your iPods and tongue rings and flush toilets.  I am, of course, as guilty of this viewpoint as any old vet, but, I’m still submerged in the military, and the “kids” who wear the uniform today – and, Goddamn if they don’t look younger every day – they are every bit as good, better in fact, than we ever were. They are smart and proud and gung-ho.  We’ve been fighting two wars for nearly a decade now, hard wars, tough, brutal, against a vicious and tenacious enemy, and yet this generation still volunteers to go, to put their lives on the line, over and over and over again, every single day.

These men and women, the ones who wear the uniform today, are not like we were, just as we were not like our fathers, and our fathers were not like our grandfathers.  The military of today is a new generation.  Their world is not ours. Their war is not ours. The challenges they face out there in the dark and dangerous corners of the world are not the ones I faced, or my dad faced, or my grandfather.  Or John McCain.   The men and women who serve today know what matters, they’re not kids, they’ve been to war – some a half dozen times now – and they know what matters to them.

In the last two weeks I’ve heard the DADT repeal come up in conversation exactly zero times.

Yes that’s correct. Zero.

And I’ve been listening for it.

The vast majority of the military simply doesn’t care.

They care about equipment that works, and intelligence and information that is accurate and reliable, and commanders who won’t waste their lives, and decent pay and benefits, and a schedule that gives them some time with their families between combat deployments, and a Veteran’s Administration that is funded and facilities that are maintained to reasonable levels, and a nation that remembers their sacrifice.  They care that the men and women who guard their flank when the bullets start flying can be trusted and they just don’t care who those people might be sleeping with.

Most of them simply don’t give a flaming bag of shit whether gays are allowed to serve openly or not.

There are issues that will have to be solved. There are.  Just as there were when women and minorities were integrated into the services.  Sensitive issues, the issues of housing and showers and privacy and relationships (both sexual and platonic and perceived) and benefits and who, exactly, is a military dependent.  Regulations will have to be changed, military law has to be changed.  Example: the UCMJ defines sodomy to such a degree that most heterosexuals would have to be prosecuted if military law was applied as written.  There is a significant number of Sailors and Marines who would have to spend time in the brig after every liberty port if the Adultery regulations were actually enforced as written. Military Law is outdated and long overdue for change, and it does have to be changed, it can’t be ignored – just as we couldn’t ignore the question of how to dispose of feminine hygiene products back in the day.   Integrating gays into the military openly will take time, the military will have to change – and it will, because it always does, military culture only appears static, in reality it is constantly reinventing itself – but it’s not as easy as waving your arm and saying “make it so.”  And it’s important to remember that.  Some changes will have to mandated, to change military law will require Congressional and Presidential authorization. It will require training.  Some changes will happen of their own accord, over time.  It will require many, many little changes, not all of which are apparent.

People will have to change.

Especially the old guard. Especially the leadership.

Because, of course, there are those who do care. Who won’t serve with openly gay comrades.  A few will get out, just as some I knew who left the service rather than serve at sea with, or for, women. Just as some did back when African Americans were integrated into the military as equals.  That’s their choice.  Go and good riddance. The world has changed, the military is changing, change with it or be left behind.  Because if you stay, if you choose to wear the uniform, then you are sworn to uphold the orders of the President and the officers appointed over you, whether you agree with those changes or not.  Period and no exceptions.  You held up your right hand and swore an oath. Either your word is good, or it’s not, there is no middle ground.

So help you God.

Oddly though, it’s those who hold God above all things that are having the most trouble with this change. 

I am, of course, talking about the Chaplain Corps.  A majority of which have voiced their opposition to openly gay troops.  Like my shipmate all those years ago who dogmatically maintained that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, many in the Chaplain Corps say that they cannot live up to their oath. These Chaplains, these Christians, say that they cannot minister to those who wear the uniform and serve their country and have sworn to give up their lives, if they are openly gay.  These Chaplains, these so-called men of God, who lay claim to superior virtue and morality, have demanded the right to perform their duty on a case by case basis.  They have demanded the right follow only the rules and regulations and orders they agree with (what if we give military surgeons the same discretion? Pull the thread on that and see where it takes you).  They have demanded that others live a lie so that they don’t have to live up to their oaths, an oath sworn before their country, their service, and their God.   In short, they protest because for them not to live a lie, others must – and they see nothing wrong with this.

I have a simple solution to this dilemma.

If you as a military chaplain, as a matter of conscience, cannot live up to your sworn oath, if you cannot put the orders of the President and the officers appointed over you ahead of the tenets of your religious conviction, if you cannot serve with and minister to both your straight and gay comrades without prejudice, without bigotry, without judgment, then you can get the fuck out. 

It’s really just that simple.

Resign your commission and get out. Now. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.  You’re officers, either start acting like officers or take off the uniform.

However, should you choose to stay, well then you have two choices:

1) Speak up. Refuse to stay silent. Refuse to minister to gay Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, or Guardsmen. Stand pat on principle. Do not allow the government or the military to dictate your beliefs, convictions, lifestyle, or relationships.

At which point you will be immediately separated from the service via Administrative Discharge.  Goodbye and good luck.


2) You can keep silent and do the job you swore to do.  We won’t ask you about your hypocrisy, and you don’t tell anybody.

We’ll call it Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. 

You think it’s such a good idea? You think it’s fair? You think it’s moral and just? You live with it.

Seventeen years from now, we’ll come back and see how it worked out for you.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010



Best present? Kid let us sleep almost until dawn. 

Dawn in Alaska this time of year is about 10AM.

Merry Christmas, Folks, hope yours is a good one.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas 1966



My younger brother, Mike, and I, Christmas 1966 (I think).  The dog’s name was Irish, as befitting the Irish field setter that she was.

The picture was taken in my parents’ first little house on Cottonwood Drive in Jenison, Michigan by my mom using her old  (then new) Brownie box camera (I know my mom took this picture, because all the pictures from this period taken by my dad had his finger over the lens, making them easy to identify – it’s a running joke in my family).  The original print has long faded into oblivion, but my mom kept the negatives all these years.  A while back the film was damaged in a fire, this on top of 40 years of fading and degradation of the film stock.   A couple of years ago I scanned them into digital format using an HP transparent materials scanner and found that the silver nitrate and the fixatives used back then had shifted the negative’s color far to the red over the years.  The negatives were scratched and damaged and dusty and some just weren’t recoverable.  But I ran what I could through  Corel’s Paintshop Photo Pro using the restoration tools package, this was one of those pictures.  It’s a little dark, but that’s typical of the old format and the flash bulbs used to illuminate the shot (if you’re too young to remember rotary dial phones and flash bulbs, well you can look forward to telling your kids about MP3 players and the wild wooly days of unregulated internet service).

Merry Christmas, Folks.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Total Lunar Eclipse, The View From Palmer, Alaska

It was pretty spectacular.


You can click on the picture for a larger image.


It was crisp and very cold out and we had a great view out the sunroom window looking straight across the MatSu Valley at the moon above Pioneer Peak.  I mounted the camera on the tripod and kept stepping outside to snap time exposure pictures, then back inside to warm up.  Taken with the Nikon D5000. F-stop 5.6. ISO 2000. 4 sec exposure. 300mm Nikor lens.  Only photoshopping is some cropping.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Day in Pictures: The Anchorage Polar Plunge

We spent yesterday in Anchorage watching a bunch of crazy people.

How do I know they were crazy?

Well, see, they were jumping into Goose Lake.

For those of you for whom the craziness is not immediately apparent, allow me to explain: see it’s Alaska, in winter. Yesterday in Anchorage it was about –6F.  The top four feet of Goose Lake itself is frozen. Solid. The water underneath is about 31 degrees Fahrenheit.   In order to jump into it, a large hole had to be chopped through the ice with saws. Then, these crazy people showed up in bathing suits, and gorilla suits, and clown suits, and so on and so forth, and variously jumped, dove, and bellyflopped into the water.


It’s called Freezin’ for a Reason at the Polar Plunge. It’s an annual event in Anchorage. 


Freezin’ for a Reason 2010

It’s a heck of a lot of fun – as long as you’re not one of the people jumping into the water – and it’s for a good cause. This year the Plunge raised over $271,000 for Alaska Special Olympics.  A couple of folks from my wife’s company were participating, so we bundled up and made a day of it.

I thought you might like to see some of the pictures I took.


It’s not quite as an insane as it might first appear.  Ok, scratch that, it is completely as insane as it appears – but there are a lot of safety precautions taken too. There are warming shelters and free hot soup for everybody (both those who take the plunge and those who don’t), there are specially trained paramedics on hand with special equipment for dealing with hypothermia – something Alaska paramedics know a bit about.  Those guys standing in the water are Anchorage fire/rescue dressed in arctic survival suits and there are more AFD guys on the ice to assist folks out of the water. Those step ladders are placed at the edge of the hole to make it easy for the plungers to get out of the water. Volunteers hand out giant towels and help people to the warming tents if needed.

Still, you get cold just standing on the ice. Dry. Fully covered. Wearing an Iditarod jacket. In snow pants. With a Blue Fox neck warmer. Seriously. 


My Wife, Becky

Imagine being soaking wet. 

Still, they appear to be having fun. Like I said, insanity.














After it was over we went back to the truck and turned the heater to full blast.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Obama Tax Plan: A Matter of Principle

And so it would seem that the President has become the Great Unifier after all.

Too bad he had to commit political suicide in order to do it.

But, hey, at least he managed to finally unify the majority of the country. Everybody, it seems, wants his blood now. Finally, something we can all agree on.


In the cold gray light of this bitter December morning, the howling has reached deafening volume and the knives are out.

The Right, of course, already hated him.  No, strike that, hate is not the right word.  Hate doesn’t include the gut wrenching disgust they feel knowing that Barack Obama is sitting in the Oval Office. Hate doesn’t include the gnawing fear they feel – fear that the wrong people, from the wrong side of the tracks, from the wrong side of the political aisle, from the wrong social class, from the wrong race, from the wrong school, from the wrong father, from the wrong world, are invading their private domain, stealing their country, usurping their place.  They loathe him, and they have with a furious red-eyed passion verging on gibbering violent insanity since the minute he first walked up the front steps of the White House.  Those staid conservatives remind me of old American Blue Bloods, those aristocratic lily white New Englanders from the old families who can trace their lineage back to Jamestown or the Mayflower.  The movers and shakers, the ones that live in the big houses in Martha’s Vineyard and the penthouses on 5th Avenue.  They own the money and the power, they own the factories and the businesses and the old department stores and high-class hotels.  They live in the right communities. They go to the right church. They have the right friends. They own the world.  It is theirs by inheritance, by tradition, by destiny, by birthright.  Their world revolves in accordance with a set plan, as it did for their fathers, and as it will for their children.  And then, one day without warning, their precious daughter, America, came home from college with her new boyfriend – a black man.  A goddamned black man. A liberal. One of them. There he sits at the dinner table, he’s polite and intelligent and articulate and a student of law – but all they see are those big jug ears and that white smile and it’s everything they can do to limit their appalled outrage to barbed soto voice comments about fried chicken and watermelon.  All they see is the help acting like an equal in their midst and they’re mortified at the thought of what their friends down at the country club are going to think. No, hate is the wrong word, it’s the wrong word because it doesn’t even begin to describe the sense of violation they feel knowing that later tonight he’s going to be giving their daughter the high hard one under their very own roof. They’ll never accept him. Never. And they’re going to do everything they can, whatever it takes, to end this relationship before it goes any further.  He’s not going to be their son-in-law.  There will be no progeny.  Never. Period. They intend to make it like it never happened. They’ve got powerful friends who know how to fix these things, morality doesn’t enter into it, that’s how it’s done. People need to know their place.

And the Left? Well the Left is now the woman scorned – and Hell, as they say, hath no fury like that bitter angry bitch.  They loved him once, yes they did.  They remember what it was like at the beginning, he was different and exciting and good in bed. He was exotic and maybe a little taboo.  He recited poetry and took them on fabulous dates. And at night he rocked their world.  In their head they’d already married him, picked out fabric swatches and named the children, a girl if I remember right.  Oh sure, he had his flaws, what man doesn’t, right? But they were going to fix those, turn him into the perfect Norman Rockwell painting.  He said he’d change, but after a while they came to the sickening realization that it was hopeless. It turned out that he had a mind of his own.  It turned out that he was just like all the rest.  What a goddamned disappointment he turned out to be.  And the most galling part? Listening to the Right and their mocking taunts, we told you so we told you so nyah nyah.  There is no hatred so bitter as that what used to be love.  They’re cursing his name to their friends and plotting revenge.  Monday they’ll talk to a lawyer and the bastard isn’t going to get a fucking thing.

Both sides are blinded by passion, different passions, but passion nonetheless.

However, in the cold gray light of this December morning, after waiting two days for the other shoe to drop, looking at the President’s decision on the Tax Cut Bill dispassionately, I think he did the right thing.

No, to answer your question, I haven’t lost my mind. Nor have I lost faith in this President. Just the opposite, in fact.

Yes, I know. Go on, get it out of your system, just try not to break anything important … and try not to hit anything with the bones of your hands, that’s what sticks and stones are for, trust me on this.

Perhaps it’s my military background. 

It is far, far too easy to win the battle ... and then lose the war. That’s what happens when you lose sight of the objectives. Far too often on the battleground you’re forced to choose between lousy options.  Far too often you don’t get to pick your enemies – or your allies for that matter.  You end up working with people you dislike, hurting people who are your friends, making choices you hate, and making sacrifices that will haunt you for the rest of your life.  Far too often you have to compromise, and compromise again, losing the respect of those you value, in order to achieve the real objective.  It is a foolish commander indeed who fights the imaginary conflict his nation thinks they are fighting.  It is the utterly ineffective and hapless commander who fights the war he wishes he was fighting.  It is the stupid and brutish commander who fights a war of inflexible political principle.  The wise commander instead understands that the real conflict is defined by the realities of the battlespace.  To expand on Bismark’s original thought: war, like politics, is the art of the possible.

This morning a lot of Democrats feel betrayed. 

The Huffington Post started spitting venom yesterday morning, they even stopped speculating about Wikileaks long enough for one editor to ask “Is Obama Stupid?” HuffPost commenters, liberals in the majority and normally generally supportive of the president, in large part agree that he must be, stupid that is – and I had to look twice to make sure that I hadn’t accidentally stumbled into a forum hosted by FoxNews or Yahoo. Soon to be ex-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi called the President’s tax plan “a bridge too far,” but an aide for a prominent Democratic Senator went further and was quoted angrily saying that “the president fucked up!”  The media and the internet are aflame with white hot passion and a lot of folks on the Left sound an awful lot like that aforementioned spurned ex.

I can understand this. I can.  But, it does you no good whatsoever, especially in Washington, to wish for those things that simply are not going to happen.  You can stand on principle, inflexible and resolute – you may win the battle, but you will lose the war.  You will.  If you want to achieve the real objective, you have to maneuver within the constrains defined by the battlespace. Politics is, indeed, the art of the possible.

What is possible may not be what you wanted, exactly.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: If you always get what you want, you’re not living in a democracy.

Yeah, sure, but neither is it a democracy if we never get what we want. Right? That’s the anger talking. The Left has gotten plenty of things they wanted in the last two years, and the Right too, and it won’t take you long to make a list if you stop and think about it dispassionately for a minute.  It’s easy today to point at the president and say, he sucks at compromise, he sucks at negotiation, we got screwed! 


What was the objective?

No, not what was your objective, not what was Democratic Party’s objective, not what was the objective of Democrats in Congress, what was the President’s objective with this tax bill?

He made it clear: 1) Do nothing to destroy the fragile economic recovery. Period. Debt and deficit reduction are secondary to that.  2) Extend unemployment benefits, this has to happen now and it should have happened a month ago, and 3) Do not allow the Bush Era tax cuts to expire for the middle class.

The Republicans in the current lame duck Congress have made it  abundantly clear that they aren’t going to do a goddamned thing, nothing, that serves the president’s agenda – and they will actively block any attempts to move legislation forward.

The Republicans in the new Congress have made it abundantly clear that they aren’t going to do a goddamned thing to further the president’s goals either – and in fact intend to reverse the gains the Left has made over the last two years.

The new Speaker of the House has stated publically that his primary objective is to ensure that the president is not reelected.

This is the battlespace the President must operate in. 

He could pretend it otherwise, he could wish it otherwise, he could stand pat on principle – and in each case there will be only one loser, those Americans who can least afford it. 

The Republicans will not lose, in fact, they’ll win the White House and Senate – and that’s exactly what they’re counting on. 

The Rich will not lose, because they never do. If they end up paying more, so will the poor and middle class. The difference is that the rich can afford it.

Hell, even Barack Obama will not lose. If he stands pat, he’ll lose the office, sure, but the way things are going he will anyway. He’ll be a one term Democrat. Another Jimmy Carter.  But when he leaves office he’ll still have been the first black president and history won’t be able to take that away from him and he’ll still be rich and he’ll still command million dollar speaking fees and he’ll still have a Nobel Peace Prize and he can always go back to teaching constitutional law at any college he so chooses.

No, the only people who will lose, if the president stands pat, is us - the republicans have made that absolutely clear and demonstrated their resolve.  The president himself said, it was like negotiating with hostage takers.  And you know what? It sure sounds good to say you won’t negotiate with hostage takers. It sounds noble and principled. Go on, kill them. We’re not budging. Sure that sounds good.

Unless you happen to be one of the hostages that is.

This isn’t the movies. Bruce Willis isn’t going to blast his way into Congress and take out the obstructionists.  You want the hostages back alive? You better give the sons of bitches what they want.

The president traded tax breaks for the rich, including the Estate Tax, for the things he really wanted, unemployment benefits, no rise in taxes for the middle class, and preservation of economic recovery.  It probably cost him reelection. It cost him the support of his own party.  It cost him the respect of you, his own supporters – the very people who would have lost the most if he had stood pat on principal.  He got the Republicans to agree, even if he had to buy their agreement, after they had firmly demonstrated a willingness to shoot the hostages. Time was running out, it’s now or never. If the lame duck session of Congress doesn’t act, we all lose. And the only way to get the lame duck to do anything was to buy the cooperation of the obstructionist Republicans, there is no time for anything else.  And the Democrats? They’ll agree too. Yes they will.  They already have, enough of them anyway, reluctantly, with gritted teeth, but they will pass the president’s bill.

Two years. The President bought two years.  

Why is that significant, I wondered? Why not extend them for four years or ten or permanently? Why two years?

And so I waited to write this post.  I didn’t figure I would have to wait for long.

You did catch the President’s interview on NPR on Friday morning, yes?  He intends to overhaul the tax code.  Think about that. Think about what that means.  Think about the timing. Notice the lack of Republican response. 

Sucks at compromise?

Sucks at negotiation?

Suck at getting what he really wants?


He did what he had to do to achieve the real objective.  Most likely he gave up any chance at a second term to do it.   I strongly suspect that the President of the United States sacrificed the respect of his own party and people and his political career in order to do what was right for the nation as a whole.  History will certainly tell.  I listened to his voice yesterday morning, and he sure as hell didn’t sound like a man who’d sold his people out. Again, maybe it’s my military experience. My particular military experience.  I’ve known a hell of a lot of self centered assholes in my time, those who could always be counted on to put their own careers ahead of their people every single time.  But I’ve known a number of fine, fine NCOs and Officers who would, and did, give everything for their men. 

And I know the difference when I see it. 


Well, you have to decide which of your principles really matter.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

WikiLeaks: Information Just Wants To Be Free

12/5/2010: Update at the end of the post

12/5/2010: Update 2 at the end of the post


A number of you have asked my opinion regarding the whole Wikileaks thing.

OK, here it is:  Very Interesting.

Thanks for coming and drive safely.




You’re still here, huh?

I can’t say that surprises me, somehow I didn’t think you’d buy that answer.

But it’s true, I think the situation is very interesting.

However, the reason I find it interesting is not for any of the reasons I’ve seen discussed in the press.

As a number of you know, I spent most of my life in the government secrets business. I’ve had a high level security clearance for longer than I haven’t and though I don’t work in that field anymore, for which I am eternally grateful, I do know a bit about secrets.

And I find this situation very interesting.

For those of you who’ve been living under a barrel these last few days, I am, of course, talking about the huge dump of secret US diplomatic information posted into the public domain by the Whistleblower site, WikiLeaks (I’d post a link, but it wouldn’t be valid for more than a couple of minutes). Most of the information released is in the form of thousands upon thousands of electronic copies of diplomatic cables. 

As a retired military intelligence officer, and as I’ve stated elsewhere, I don’t have much use for people who can’t live up to their oath.  I talk about a lot of things here on Stonekettle Station, but I never discuss the information I swore to protect and I never will.  It does not matter whether or not I agree with the reason why it was classified, it does not matter whether or not I think that the information should be in the public domain, and it doesn’t matter if I think the information is over-classified or outdated and no longer worth anything other than a couple of good sea stories.  I swore to protect that information until told otherwise by legitimate authority.  Either your word is good or it isn’t, there is no middle ground – it really is just that simple.  If you feel that you can’t keep your organization’s secrets, especially when keeping those secrets is a condition to being given access to that information in the first place, then you shouldn’t have taken the oath. Period. There really are certain forms of information that need to be protected.  There really is information that the public does not need to know, and in fact has no business knowing. There really are reasons to keep certain things classified.

Yes, yes, I see you there in the back. 

The libertarians are standing on their chairs screaming BULLSHIT! at the top of their lungs.  I know, I’ve met these people in person. I’ve had them scream at me. They believe that government should never, ever, keep secrets of any kind. It is their firm idealistic opinion that the public has a right to know everything.  To which I answer, OK, you pony up your Social Security number, Bank Account number and PIN, and the contents of your internet browser history file and we’ll start with that. That’s usually when the screaming starts. Just as there are legitimate reasons for an individual to keep secrets, there are legitimate reasons for governments to keeps secrets, both from their citizens and from each other.  If you don’t think so, you’re not living in the real world.

Ours is not a true democracy, our nation is a republic. We elect and hire those we hope will be the best stewards of our national interest, we bind them with laws and oaths and we entrust them with the authority to determine what we as citizens should know and what we shouldn’t.  Certainly there are those who are more worthy of this responsibility than others.  But, despite the clich├ęd image of the shiftless government worker or the boneheaded military jarhead, the vast majority are dedicated public servants who hold their oath as a sacred trust.  Just as certainly, some, a minority, do not.  And just as certainly the ancient adage of power corrupting and absolutely power corrupting absolutely is true – there are those entrusted with our government’s secrets who are corrupted by the power, who become patronizing assholes who revel in their secret knowledge or who become so enmeshed in that classified world that they cannot break free.

Government secrets have a tendency of becoming self perpetuating and self generating, spawning more and more secrets without purpose. I do know, probably better than anybody else reading this post, that governments have a bad habit of keeping secret things that really should be in the public domain. It is the nature of governments and their various organs to keep secrets.  On and off over the years I worked at the National Security Agency, I was certain that they would have classified the lunch menu in the commissary if they could have gotten away with it, firmly convinced that the availability of tuna salad was of vital National Security interest. There is absolutely no doubt that governments classify things that don’t need to be classified for any conceivable reason. There is absolutely no doubt that governments over-classify things if left unchecked. Creating secrets becomes habit until those who are in the secrets business end up keeping secrets from each other – which is why the CIA and FBI and NSA don’t play well with others, let alone each other. 

If I was free to talk, I could give you endless examples of information that was so over-classified, often to utterly ridiculous levels, that it couldn’t even be used – making its collection, processing,  and security an apparently pointless waste of government assets and money. 

But here’s the thing, it was not my call to declassify that information.  Period. 

Those determinations are made far, far up the chain of command.  If I thought that information should be declassified, or downgraded in classification, there was a process for bringing it to the attention of the proper authority.  And it works, there were numerous times in my career where I or others like me brought information to the chain of command via the proper procedure and saw it downgraded or declassified. But, there often are reasons to keep information secure that we, as individuals down in the trenches, are unaware of.  A seemly innocuous piece of information, combined with others, can destroy billions of dollars in capability (military, industrial, financial, and so on), compromise missions, ruin negotiations, ruin pending legal cases, impact treaties, give a contractor an unfair advantage, influence the stock market or elections or trade or any number of other things.  Release of information can literally kill people, ours, theirs, innocent bystanders – this is not hyperbole, but indisputable fact. Read up on the Robert Hansen case if you don’t believe me.  I shouldn’t have to spell out what would happen if the name of a confidential Mafia informant was inadvertently released for example.  If he wasn’t killed outright, it would cost the tax payers millions to protect him. It could destroy the State’s case against a mob kingpin.  It could, and has, compromised the public safety.

There are systems in place to prevent runaway over-classification. There are periodic reviews. Classification Authorities (those with the actual power to classify information, and there are very few) must answer to the President and are subject to oversight by Congress. The system is not perfect, it can’t be, but it tends to be self-correcting, if a bit slow and conservative.   The media and public are part of that process, periodic requests for information from both often drive and accelerate that review process and provide a form of persistent error correction that is both vital to the public interest and as a check on governmental power.  Restricting the press will not make you more secure, it will make you less. The Founding Fathers were well aware of this, which is precisely why freedom of the press was specifically spelled out in the First Amendment – no other private business enterprise was, just the press. It’s that important.

There are times – few and far between – where the system does not work. There are times where there is no alternative, no right course of action, where due to the nature of the situation it might be necessary, perhaps even honorable, to break you oath, to get the word out and let the public know what their government is up to and let the chips fall where they may.  Watergate comes to mind, where a President used the power of the Executive to manipulate the electorate, there was no higher authority to appeal to except the American people.  But that is a damned rare situation.  In almost every single case, the unauthorized release of classified information is because some faithless greedy self-aggrandizing  coward betrayed their oath – the case that first brought Wikileaks into the public awareness, Army Specialist Bradley Manning, is a perfect example.

Now, with all that said, I find the current WikiLeaks situation interesting on a number of levels:

- Despite the fact that this release of information is an astonishingly enormous and unprecedented security breach that directly and negatively affects dozens of nations, there is little mention from either our leaders or anybody else’s about the source of the information.  Julian Assange didn’t break into the State Department like some character in a Tom Cruise movie, so how did he get his hands on a quarter of a million classified US diplomatic cables? It could only have been an inside job.  Oddly, the White House has not stood before the American people and sworn to bring the traitor to justice, not really.  The president hasn’t definitively promised the US people that he’ll unleash the FBI and the NSA and the CIA and find the bastard.   I find it odd that President Obama has not aggressively addressed this issue. I find it odd that the press hasn’t called him on it.  I find it even more odd that his political enemies haven’t called him on it, not really – I find that very odd indeed.

- Yesterday, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made vague and disjointed statements about finding the source of the leak, but spoke mostly about the damage from the information release being limited – a very odd position for a woman known for her powerful and definitive statements, but even more peculiar when you consider that the leak must have originated from within her own organization. The bulk of the information is classified State Department diplomatic cables. More than that, they are diplomatic cables dealing with many, many countries.  A low level flunky would have only had access to his or her area of specialty, i.e. a particular diplomatic area of responsibility, access is limited to “need to know.”  Whoever released this information had full access.  And not only full access, but access in such a manner that it allowed him or her the privacy to copy those files from a secure network onto a portable storage device and get that storage device through security with a reasonable degree of confidence that they wouldn’t be caught. It means a secure private office. It means that they were confident that their computer transactions weren’t being monitored – and obviously were not or they would have been caught by now.   It means that they had working USB ports on a classified computer in a controlled space.  It means they aren’t the type of people who get searched upon exiting the building.  It means that whoever did this is somebody high up in the State Department.  I find it very odd that Clinton hasn’t sworn a blood oath to hunt down the source of the leak – based on the likely level of the leak, it’s probably somebody she knows personally.  And then, just to make the situation more peculiar, Clinton announced that she will retire from public service and will not seek another office following her stint as Secretary of State – though it’s possible, maybe even likely, that this is only a coincidence, I find that the timing of that announcement very odd indeed.

- Congress has not availed themselves of the opportunity to grandstand. Oh, they’ve made some vague statements and waved their arms around a lot, they’ve spoken about the damage (or not) this release of information has caused, they’ve bloviated at length about WikiLeaks itself – but none have out and out sworn to seek out and destroy the source the leak.  Neither Senators Lieberman or McCain have taken the opportunity to beat their chests in a manly fashion and make noises about a Congressional Investigation – which given the current political climate is extremely peculiar, because Lieberman and McCain convene an investigation if somebody leaves the toilet seat up in the Congressional shitter.  Sure, the usual cast of characters have condemned the White House for the situation, but they’re not using it to make the kind of political hay you’d expect given their recent track record. Why is that?

I’m no conspiracy nut.  But if I was, I’d have to wonder if this wasn’t done on purpose.


Well, that would depend on who released the information.

If it was done by the White House, it effectively eliminated Hillary Clinton as a rival for the Democratic nomination in 2012.  Conservative hatred of Barrack Obama is so strong that a number of prominent Republicans have said they’d vote for Hillary Clinton in 2012 if the Democrats nominated her.  A number of Democrats have expressed similar sentiments. That’s one hell of a bargaining chip and very real political threat. Politics at that level are brutal and cutthroat and utterly ruthless.  The Bush administration sacrificed a national hero for no less – and as a result Colin Powell will never, ever hold public office again let alone be President. President Clinton did the same thing, so did Reagan, and so did a lot of administrations all the way back to George Washington.  It is the nature of politics, it is how the game is played.   Hell, it might have been done with Hillary Clinton’s willing participation – and that too is how the game is played.  Time will tell, the proof will be whether or not she is cashiered the same way Powell was, or whether she is rewarded by the Democratic party and the White House somewhere down the road.

On the other hand, what if somebody in Congress set this ball in motion?  Prominent and powerful Republican members of Congress have sworn to bring the President down by any means necessary. They see it as their patriotic duty.  They see it as saving the country from socialism, or communism, or fascism, or liberalism, or all of the above.  If informants and spies and diplomats are sacrificed along the way, so be it.  Republican leadership has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice the pawns in order to place their opponents in check and there’s no reason to suppose they’d show restraint here. The same folks, Rove et al, are still pulling the same strings they did when they threw Valerie Plame under the bus.  Would they do it to take both Obama and Clinton out of the 2012 equation? Would they risk prison?  See, the President is the ultimate declassification authority, he could authorize the release of these documents by executive order, retroactively if necessary, but for a member of Congress or the GOP Leadership to do so would be treason. In time of war. We used to hang people for that. Would they take that risk?  And if they were behind it, why then haven’t they been making more of it?

Would the White House orchestrate something like this? Would the Administration’s enemies?  Even to speculate out loud makes me sound like those goofs who think George W. Bush blew up the World Trade Center with a nuclear bomb or those loons who think FDR let the Japanese attack the fleet at Pearl Harbor.  But here’s the thing, the release of this information has not harmed the United States – In point of fact, just the opposite is true and that is very, very peculiar indeed.


What does this information actually show?


First: This release of information shows what we all suspected, Iran is a threat and everybody knows it, including the rest of the Muslim Middle East. Following the disastrous intelligence failure that led to the Iraqi invasion, it was impossible to get international public consensus regarding Iran, especially among Arab States.  Islamic governments simply could not be seen, in front of Muslims, to agree with the United States and worse yet, Israel. In public. Privately, of course, they are as concerned about the those crazy bastards as we are.  Privately they stand with Israel. Hell, Egypt just offered, and Israel accepted, firefighting assistance to battle the blaze threatening Haifa. This is unprecedented.  Imagine how damned frustrating that must be for the diplomats, for the White House, for Congress, for our allies – hell, for the Arab leaders who really, really want us to knock the Ayatollahs on their pointy asses but can’t say so out loud because we screwed up Iraq so damned badly.

It’s out in the open now.

Iran damned well knows, now, that even their neighbors and fellow Muslims are arrayed against them.

The Muslim world knows that it is in their best interest to stand with Israel, at least on the question of Iran, and secretly they’ve been saying so all along.

That is an extremely powerful diplomatic lever, if placed upon the correct fulcrum. 

It makes me wonder if perhaps it was Clinton who pulled the strings on this information dump after all.  She is an exceptionally shrewd and intelligent individual who has labored largely in the background these last two years.  If true, it’s a masterful implementation of information warfare and potentially a diplomatic coup of the first magnitude. The way we’ll know, depends on what the White House and State Department do with the opportunity in the next two years. But, it would also fit the agenda of the warhawks on the Right, especially those pushing for war with Iran.  Again time will tell.  Watch and see, if after the new Congress is seated, there are calls for military intervention in Iran you’ll know where this leak came from. However, no matter the source or intention, both sides could use this opportunity to definitely pull Iran’s fangs for a long, long time – but they’ll have to work together. Frankly, I’m not holding my breath.


Second: This release shows that our intelligence is correct.  So far, the released documents directly support what our diplomats have been telling us.  The leaked cables go a long, long way towards restoring credibility in the US State Department and its assessment of the world situation – something sorely lacking since the intelligence and diplomatic failures that led to 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq.  Americans have been gradually losing faith in their government’s intelligence assessment since the Bay of Pigs. Now, it is unlikely that this release will do much to restore the American public’s faith in their government – hating the government while professing to love the country has become quite fashionable of late, especially on the right –  but it will go a long way towards restoring both our allies’ confidence in our assessment of the world political situation and that of our adversaries, such as Russia and China and maybe even Iran itself.  Not publically, mind you, but privately, within the circles of power where it counts most.

But then again, if the information coming to light doesn’t exactly restore Joe America’s faith in his Uncle Sam, it does speak directly to his bias. It’s odd, isn’t it? That the leaked diplomatic cables show the world exactly as most Americans perceive it to be? The French leaders are weak and cowardly and queer. The English are stiff and old fashioned. The Russians are comic book characters. The Chinese are cunning and inscrutable. The Iranians are evil and unpredictable and dangerous.  The North Koreans are insane.  Not surprising, this is what our leaders have been telling us for years, but damned peculiar that the cables, so far, show that and only that, i.e. the cables show that our government has been telling us the truth and other governments have been lying to their people (especially when it comes to Iran).  This, of course, could be deliberate depending on the nature of the leak, or it could be an artifact of perception on the part of the diplomats writing the cables, it could an artifact of selective release of information by WikiLeaks, or it could be an honest and accurate assessment of the situation in question. History will tell us eventually.


Third: This release shows just how damned hard it is to suppress information once it reaches the public domain.  One man, a handful hackers, and a website have become ghosts in the machine.  The information moves from server to server, distributed across the network, independent of borders and politics and power.  The most powerful nations in the world cannot shut it down, not for long anyway.  Kill WikiLeaks and it pops up somewhere else, under a different name, on a different server.  Nuke it from orbit, and from the smoking wreckage a hundred Phoenixes will rise. The information is out there now, it will be free.

Shutting down WikiLeaks is an exercise in futility.  Anybody who knows even the minimum about the Internet understands that.  WikiLeaks was only a convenient portal, a million more exist or will exist at any given moment. Killing Napster didn’t eradicate music downloads, hell, it very likely stimulated the development of distributed file sharing.  Napster itself has gone the way of Altavista, but the change in information flow and distribution it started is alive and well and growing at an exponential rate.  Information cannot be suppressed, it can be hounded, it can be hunted, it can be forbidden and made illegal, but it will be free.

With that said, if I wanted to see how my countermeasures worked in the real world, if I wanted to see how my adversaries’ countermeasures worked, this is one hell of a target of opportunity.  And just so you understand what I’m saying here, this applies to hackers, WikiLeaks, and those who sell information as well as some nefarious plot spawned in the basement of NSA. I would very much like to know who the hackers behind the DDoS attacks on the WikiLeaks servers work for.  I would very much like to know who in our government pressured Amazon into dumping WikiLeaks from their servers and by what authority that was done.  If I were truly a conspiracy nut, I would have to wonder if those who really created and operate WikiLeaks didn’t do this deliberately in order to draw those countermeasures out into the open, sacrificing a throwaway site and the patsy Julian Assange – before they set up their real operation.  Who is “they?” Beats me, if I was a real conspiracy nut, I’d say it was the Jews or the Masons or Illuminati or the Bilderbergs or space aliens terminators from the future. 

Or maybe it was organized by Tom Clancy, this would make a hell of a plot line for a spy novel.


I’ve postulated a number of things here in this post, none of which are more than wild speculation without a shred of proof.

It’s fun to think about it, fun to think like a conspiracy nut, but likely this release of information was simply the result of a cowardly, disgruntled, self-aggrandizing lone-gunman.  Frankly, I seriously doubt my government is organized enough to pull off some grand conspiracy.

But, as I said, the situation is interesting.



12/5/2010 Update:

Question: Didn’t the leak originate with US Army Spc Bradley Manning?

Answer: Unlikely.  Manning was a low level army technician (detailed here).  He released video from Army Apache attack helicopters, the type of thing he would have access to as a low level analyst in theater.


Question: Yeah but he had a security clearance and access to SIPRNET

Answer: There’s a big difference between security clearance and access.  Clearance determines a basic level of trust. Access to information is granted on a “need to know basis.”  For example, just because you have a Top Secret Special Compartmented Intelligence clearance which is required for your job analyzing, say, Chinese nuclear submarine capability, you don’t automatically get access to classified CIA Predator drone video of Taliban on the Pakistan border.  Both pieces of information are classified to the same level, but your job doesn’t require you to have access to the Taliban stuff.  Same here, SIPRNET is for the most part identical to the Internet, but the two are not connected.  SIPRNET contains Secret level information. Like the internet, much of the data there is accessible to all, but much of it is also controlled behind password/CAC card (an electronic security ID used by military and government workers) access – just like the internet.  There is a SIPRNET State Department front end that anybody on the net can access, but behind that is a CAC controlled firewall/gateway that grants access to State Department SIPRNET Intranet.  You don’t have the right access, you don’t get access.


Question: Yeah, but Manning tried to give 260,000 classified documents to Wikileaks. This leak is about 260,000 documents. Coincidence?

Answer: Yes.  Manning attempted to pass 260K docs to WikiLeaks editor Adrian Lamo.  Lamo supposedly refused and turned Manning into the FBI. Supposedly the documents were never transferred.


Question: Yeah, but the document count is the same.

Answer: Yeah, that’s roughly how many averaged sized PDF files fit on an 8GB thumb drive.  


I’m not saying it’s impossible, but based on the information available (which is assuredly of questionable veracity) , this leak and Manning are likely unrelated.

12/5/20 Update 2:

I have been corrected. Apparently the leaked information was widely available on SIPRNET and not protected behind a firewall. Which means Pfc Manning would have had access to it.

The popular press is attributing Manning as the source of the documents.   Certainly possible, though that directly refutes Adrian Lamo’s story and makes him a repeat offender, hacking and stolen information wise.  The question is, why are we hunting Julian Assange instead of Adrian Lamo? (that’s a rhetorical question, don’t bother to answer).

Manning may be nothing more than a convenient scapegoat. Or not.

But, as I said in the comments, here’s the real question: If indeed, Manning is the source of the documents, what then was his point? 

He supposedly released gun camera video purporting to show the US engaged in war crimes.  This is basically his entirely defense, I saw evidence of war crimes, I could not report them to my superiors because they were part of the criminal activity, I didn’t know what else to do, I couldn’t live with it, so I gave it to the public domain.   The recently released cables absolutely do not support Manning’s defense. Just the opposite.  The released cables directly refute Manning’s supposed justification.  So again, what was his point? 

Now, Manning doesn’t appear to be particularly bright, so this may simply be a case of abject stupidity, hoist on his own petard so to speak.  But on the face of it, you’d expect more gun camera video, or the type of information he was tasked with reviewing – not boring old diplomatic cables. 

Of course, we haven’t seen all the information yet.  Could be the stuff I’m talking about is there. 


Bottom line: Release of this particular information makes little sense from the standpoint of a disgruntled individual.  It makes a lot of sense if it’s coming from the government itself.   On the other hand, there is no hard and fast rule (or even a soft and squishy one) that says it does have to make sense from Manning’s standpoint.  He could just be an idiot.