Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Sisyphus of Kabul (Part Two)


"To each comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour..." -- Winston Churchill

In Part One, I mentioned the Rulez of my business: quality of input and validity of process makes for good computing. Today, I want to take a look at the process of Post-9/11 America and how it led to disgraceful retreat from Afghanistan.

Picking up where we left off last time, we have to remember what happened in the direct aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. 

Here in New York, panic ensued, for certain. Terrorists were now everywhere; anthrax was being mailed all over the country; the airplane was no longer safe, the airport all but considered a potential death trap. Heavily-armed police and National Guardsmen in riot gear, wearing gas masks were everywhere. Public transportation was shut down, as was Wall Street. There were curfews. You could not go anywhere without being patted down, showing ID or opening a briefcase or handbag. It was not uncommon to encounter bomb-sniffing dogs everywhere you went, even five years after the fact.

There are still places, notably the transportation hubs, where the security is seemingly still that tight, and passing through them on a regular basis often puts you on a first-name basis with both the officers and the dogs on duty.

At this point, considering the riots, the random shootings, the increase in crime, the show of force is just that...a display of (unused) force. Even when the show moves into the realm of reality, it usually depends largely on the ineptitude of the terrorist for it's successes, as for examples, the would-be Brooklyn Bridge bombers thought they could just buy explosives from some guy on the internet (the FBI is selling fake explosives to everyone on the internet, huh?), or the attempted Times Square bomber builds a faulty explosive device that fails to detonate and then was stupid enough to leave his ATM card, address book and housekeys in the glove box.

This is New York, 20 years later.

The worst of the hysteria died down within a few years. The Towers were replaced with the phallic monstrosity that is the "Freedom Tower", a building you'll never get me to enter--  it's very name a monument to the shallow marketing mentality that infects all of American Life -- and the remainder of lower Manhattan post-collapse has been turned into a mixed bag -- part Disneyland of grief and sorrow, part urban high-rise facsimile of suburbia.

The same high school dropouts and illegal aliens who were working "airport security" that day are probably still on the job, but  now they're federalized and unionized. They didn't get fired before for missing 19 guys on No-Fly Lists and they're better paid and even-more-unfirable now. Going to the airport is an exercise in both stupidity and theater -- you get felt up in the "security lines", everyone is intensely interested in your shoes, I doubt they take that many x-rays in a hospital on a daily basis.

And still, every year there's a report out that records all the myriad failures of airport "security". This is the stupid part.

The theater is that any of it makes you safer. It's a show of cardboard force. It has been pointed out a million times that the gates are protected, but the rest of the airport isn't. If someone should take advantage of that and shoot up the terminal or the baggage claim, the authorities will put a show of force there, too, inconvenience the innocent even more, and the next attack will occur on the sidewalk outside the terminal. Next thing you know, the security will be moved outwards to the airport entrance, and someone will attack the traffic jam this creates. The threat simply radiates outwards: as each "soft" target becomes "hardened" the softness is simply displaced.

We now have a "Department of Homeland Security" which is a load of crap. I think the idea originated in a Dale Brown novel. If there's anything worse than having 200 government agencies doing nothing, it's the idea of combining 200 government agencies that do nothing (and very badly and expensively) into a single superagency that does even less....fantastically expensively.

This kind of thing ties into a phenomenon I'll be talking about later, but it is a common CYA tactic in Big Business. When something fails terribly and people are scrambling to avoid the shit storm, invariably the "solution" to the problem that brought the shit storm always involves initially shifting responsibility from the guilty party (a failure of an individual becomes a team failure; an organizational failure becomes a communications problem, and so forth), creating a new system of overlapping responsibilities (this is presented as "oversight" and "backup". In effect, it results in not knowing who to blame the next time things go tits up), and "firming up" the chain of command (essentially, reshuffling the Organization chart).

It is all for appearances sake. The fundamental issue that created the initial problem (usually incompetence, lack of attention to detail, poor management and bad process) still remain.

Those factors are now sufficiently buried, one hopes, at least until the new system begins to suffer from the same defects.

And the same people remain in place so as to fuck up again. Because they haven't learned any lesson from their failure in their rush to cover it up. We had the same problem here.

Case in point: The so-called "9/11 Commission". I think this was the moment when I truly became aware of how stupid the ruling classes believe the rest of to be, and it was the first indication of how stupid the ruling class is.

For on that august panel of paid prevaricators sat many of the people who brought you 9/11 in the first place. I remember writing at the time (I can't be bothered to fish it out now) the sheer sense of anger I felt when Jamie Gorelick was appointed to the panel. If you don't remember her, let me refresh your memory: she was the Clinton Administration apparatchik at the DoJ who was the genesis of the policy wherein various departments of the federal government were prohibited from sharing information relating to law enforcement or national security matters.

So, for example, if the FBI has Zaccarias Moussaoui in custody (the would-be 20th 9/11 hijacker), and they have his laptop with Mohammaed Atta's contact info and flight simulator software on it, they have credible evidence he's attempting to enroll in flight school and TELLING the flight schools he only needs to learn to fly -- but not land -- a plane, the FBI is not allowed to share that data with CIA -- who is looking for Atta and his gang and has identified them as security risks. The FBI has to get search warrants to examine evidence -- a laptop -- it already seized under the previous arrest warrant. In other words, even if the original warrant specified that the investigators could take electronic devices, it could not perform a forensic examination of the data they contained without a separate warrant.

And if they found anything related to national security, they could not pass it to the organizations that undertook that mission.

We then discover the Immigration Service has sent Atta a rejection letter concerning his visa. This means the Immigration Service and the Post office have Atta's address, but the FBI and CIA apparently did not. We also found out the Immigration people sent Atta that notice six weeks after his death.

So that at least four government agencies know the whereabouts or suspected whereabouts of at least, two, perhaps more, of the men involved in the conspiracy and none of them can make use of this information, check it against other federal databases, or otherwise do anything productive with the data because they're either prohibited from doing so by Gorelick's policy (but not law), or they're all dumber than your goldfish -- the one with Down's Syndrome

But Jamie Gorelick gets to sit on the very body that is reviewing her own flawed policies. The witnesses called are all old Clinton hands in full cover-your-ass mode.

We then discover that Clinton National Security advisor, Sandy Berger, is slated to be a witness. In order to prepare for his testimony, Berger is allowed access to the National Archives where he attempts to steal or destroy evidence that reveals the Clinton Administration was offered Usama bin Laden's ass on a silver platter no fewer than seven times by various countries where he took refuge.

The Clinton administration passed on taking bin Laden into custody because it did not have any evidence of his direct complicity in terrorist operations, even though Al'Qaeda took direct responsibility for bombing American embassies in Africa. The Clinton Administration considered terrorism to be a law enforcement problem and not a national security one, despite what CIA and the rest were telling it.

(To be fair, Billy Jeff DID execute a cruise missile attack on a "suspected Al'Qaeda base" in Somalia, but which only managed to infamously destroy "an aspirin factory", bin Laden having been conveniently elsewhere. This swing-and-a-miss led to the famous George W. Bush quote of "I'm not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 tent and hit a camel in the butt" (paraphrased)).

Besides, the Clinton Administration had it's own religiously-oriented zealots to kill in Waco several years before and learned the lesson that great, big demonstrations of force (preceded by 51 days of embarrassing siege) made for bad optics. Especially if you're a moron. Bin Laden? Small peanuts compared to 100 or so armed-to-the-teeth Apocalyptic rednecks in Texas. Not important enough to waste time on when you have Cuban children to deport in the dead of night at gunpoint.

The Commission shat out a report that basically told you everything you already guessed: the Government response and preparation was inadequate. It did not tell you why the government response and preparation was inadequate. It's recommendations? Reshuffle the org chart and do the commonsense thing and let FBI and CIA co-operate. We see where that led us in the Impeachment Trials of Donald J. Trump.

The Commission was followed by the passage of the "Patriot Act" (there's the marketing, again!). In essence a most un-patriotic creation since it has resulted in the loss of more civil liberties than the Taliban could ever hope to destroy in a century. You are safe, you see, because the NSA can read your e-mails and blog posts, and despite all that and all the "chatter" they pick up from around the world, it somehow still manages to miss the lone gunman who shoots up a gay bar in Florida, and the guy who massacres an office Christmas party in California.

This despite the fact that the neighbors have complained to law enforcement about them numerous times (or, alternately not complained to avoid the charge of "racism", more on that in Part Three), they've had numerous run-ins with law enforcement, already, and they have typically left an online trail of neon-flashing breadcrumbs behind them in cyberspace. The very agency tasked with collecting all sorts of electronic information and sifting it for hints of terrorism somehow can't get data from local police databases, can't read the manifestos of deluded minds posted on message boards and Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or whatever the fuck, and then can't put the data it does collect into a coherent pattern to stop an act of "domestic terrorism" -- from an immigrant -- before it starts.

But it can join forces with the FBI to fake the data on a FISA warrant to interfere with the smooth transition of power after an election?

The Left's main objection to the Patriot Act was telling, in the sense that it was informative about how they would use such power if they had it. Their biggest fear was that right-wing religious zealots would use this power to go after people other than terrorists, specifically, abortion activists, gay rights people, the Clintons. Their objection was not the abuse of this power; it was that their enemies were going to exercise it first and they would be defenseless against the onslaught.

Somehow the dems would manage, under Obama, to not only continue the Patriot Act but to expand it, and in the process, expand the capabilities of the NSA and other agencies. We know what use they put them to, already, so no need to repeat that. We also know it has failed in its primary mission on more than one occasion.

But, how did we get to The War? Specifically, in Afghanistan.

George W. Bush put the problem of response to 9/11 in very simplistic terms (mostly because he was a very simplistic man). Our first goal was to "bring those responsible" (for 9/11) "to justice". There it is: the continuation of the previous-regime's stupid policy: Terrorism is a law enforcement problem. But this time the Right would put their special brand of fucktard on it and combine law enforcement with a military operation, because if there's anything the Right does better then the Left, it's WAR, dammit.

There was, if I recall, a three-week long debate in Congress. The Left, in general, was opposed, but that's only because they only like wars they start (until they start losing them, and then it's somehow The Other Guy's fault). But there was still a stinging sense of butthurt in many Libs from their opposition to the First Gulf War (Desert Storm/Desert Shield...more marketing), particularly if your names were John Kerry and Joseph Biden. These guys voted in favor of this war. hedging their bets, but ready to resort to sedition at a moment's notice.

So did a certain Carpetbagging Senator from New York named Hillary Clinton, whose (nominal) husband, you may recall, was the guy who let bin Laden get away.

And so Afghanistan was invaded. And within a very short time it became apparent that bin Laden simply wasn't there. So, it would appear that George W. Bush did, in fact, fire off more than $2 million worth of missiles to blow up tents and camels. It would later be revealed that the Bush Administration KNEW that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, information that allowed Barack Obama to execute him in a daring raid that, happily, coincided with my birthday.

I say "executed" bin Laden because there was no frickin' way anyone was going to bring him back to the United States for a trial for a variety of reasons that you can easily guess at. The body was supposed to have been dumped at sea, with full Islamic funeral rights -- a courtesy not given to 2,977 Americans -- and, we were told, the War on Terror would now come to an end so that we could waste the money saved on ObamaCare (but that's another subject).

The Afghan mission soon began to suffer from "Mission Creep". I am assuming that once it was obvious that bin Laden was not to be caught, the operation turned to "giving freedom" to goat-shagging inbreds who had no idea what that was and no idea of what it was good for.

The same process would play out in Iraq, albeit, we did get Saddam Hussein. The differences between the two campaigns pretty much ended here. Once it was all "Mission Accomplished" the mission changed. Now we were going to make Iraq safe for Apple, The Gap and AT&T and turn it into massive replica of The Mall Of America. Suddenly we're inundated by photos and video of smiling, cheering Afghans and Iraqis, sporting purple thumbs, only they had only managed to choose among the choices we left them. Choices we then propped up with American treasure, guns and lives. They may have been bastards, but they were our bastards.

So much for democracy.

The reason why this happens has to wait for Part Three, as it is part and parcel of the infantile mindset of the modern liberal of both parties.

But the lead up to the Iraq War was somewhat different, as was the aftermath. Whereas Afghanistan was seen by both Left (even if reluctantly) and the Right as "the Good War", Iraq was a different animal. Here, the debate over whether to go after Saddam was a months-long affair interspersed with political debate in the Congress, presentations to the United Nations (after which  Colin Powell would find himself suddenly disgusted with his own policy recommendations after the execution was piss poor and change sides) and the President of the United States was identified as the Devil by such an august personage as Hugo Chavez ("I can still smell the sulfur", Hugo said after Bush's speech to the Security Council).

And then it all became a political football.

The 2004 election revolved around questions of the Iraq War, with John Kerry having to half-ass his initial support of the War in Iraq ("I voted for it before I voted against it") in a feeble attempt to mollify his anti-war wing, Hillary Clinton (and most-notably the fat, bloated carcass of the coke-and-booze-addled rapist/murder Ted Kennedy) claiming they were "lied to" about the presence of WMD's in Iraq.

Even The New York Times would finally admit (in 2014) that 5,000 chemical and biological weapons were found in Iraq and were wounding American soldiers. I recall Kerry going on television in (I think) 2008, after reports of Polish troops finding chemical shells and bombs in Iraq, and trying desperately to refute them by insolently claiming "yeah, but, those aren't new WMD's --created during or previous to the 2003 invasion of Iraq -- they're OLD ones.

(Author's Note: The Original Times report is now behind a paywall. Hence the link to Larry Elder)

Well, yes, Asshole, if they were new in 2001 or 2003, then by definition and the rules of objectivity they would be old in 2008 . They'd be even older in 2014 when the truth was finally reported by the left-leaning media. How bad does -- and blatantly obvious -- it have to get before even the Times does some of that actual journalism shit?

In the 2008 election ,Iraq was front and center again, as the prototype of Joe Biden -- John McCain -- took to the national stage to insist in curmudgeonly dudgeon that Iraq was somehow the lynchpin of the entire anti-terrorism strategy and that you should listen to him, because he knew all about war an' shit.

Frankly, not to piss on the late-Senator's grave (I'd rather shit upon on it), the Senator's experience of war largely consisted of almost blowing up his own ship and getting shot down and spending years as a POW. If I were a soldier and John McCain were Commander-in-Chief, I don't think I'd like to be standing anywhere near him, let alone taking orders from him.

The fact is, the whole strategy of The War on Terror was planned, executed, voted upon, and then fought over, by a generation of people who had no idea what victory looked like. This was the Vietnam generation -- two Clintons, Bush, Obama, Kerry, McCain, Pelosi, Boxer, Schumer, and many others like them -- and they had only ever known Cold War and defeat in Korea and Vietnam. They were all still infected by the incredibly immature political outlook of the Flower Children and scared to fucking death of presiding over another Saigon.

I'll get to this personality, again, in Part Three. However, if you were a soldier, sailor or airman in 2001, did this lineup of idiots give you any confidence? Did their continuous switching of mission priorities not confuse you? Did their incessant bickering not cause you to lose faith in your leadership?

Because while you were all dodging IEDs and bullets (and thank you for it!) in the Biggest Toilets the World Has to Offer. here at home, "Homeland Security" money was being passed around like a $10 whore at a biker party, so that even the smallest and remotest police force in America suddenly had a SWAT team, armored vehicles, mobile command centers, and NBC teams on the payroll. The local police in Pigfucker Hollow, Idaho or Hayseed, Arkansas had become military forces, empowered by  local legislatures copying federal policy in order the get even MORE anti-terrorism funds.

Stockpiles of supplies were laid in in preparation for terrorist attacks. Infrastructure was "hardened" and given redundancies to protect it in event of attack. Hospitals and first responders undertook repeated disaster drills.

And then came COVID. You tell me: was the money well spent? Did all the drills have any value? Did the redundant, hardened system respond well?

Are the militarized police any better at preventing crime, protecting you, or are they becoming a nuisance in some places?

In the end, bin Laden has won, after all. Your communications are routinely monitored, your rights routinely ground into the dust, government has taken on more power to do things it has already proven itself incapable of doing, you can't go to the airport without the right ID or passport, when you get there you're given a proctological exam before being allowed to board, once you get on the plane the drunks and the crazy that slipped through "security" have to be duct-taped to their seats. mid-flight.

Purple thumbs are fine and dandy for people living in the Mud Age, but our electoral system is a mess, and easily subverted under the threat of "national emergency". The government is obsessed with exporting social issues and questionable values -- because what both Iraq and Afghanistan really needed was more Gender Studies majors, after all -- that it doesn't even notice the Taliban creeping towards Kabul right under it's nose. It doesn't even know -- after 20 years of direct experience -- that Afghans either run away or switch sides with alarming frequency when confronted.

The Process is broken. The evidence is manifest: we have a Military that does not win wars, a Homeland Security regime that doesn't even secure our own borders, a Public health Clusterfuck, lavishly funded, that can't agree on paper masks or life-saving drugs and which sends money to foreign countries so that they can create super-diseases they can't contain. Our Congress is little more than a rubber-stamp for anything a President can force through it. Our president* is a fraud elected by a system deliberately slanted under the guise of national emergency. Nothing works -- from the very basics at the DMV all the way up to a State Department that decided the real trouble with the Islamic World was a lack of Diversity, too few Gender Studies majors, and homophobia. An intelligence apparatus which can effectively destroy American citizens and plan coup d'etat within our own borders, but not see an enemy ten feet in front of it who has been under observation for two decades.

I forget who said it, but every government program or action eventually devolves into a racket. Even war. This "War on Terror" (more marketing!) has been short on the "War" part. If there had been a real War, then Afghanistan would today be a smoking, glass-topped,  self-lighting parking lot. Instead, the fighting and the equipping of the so-called "Afghan National Army" went on for two decades because it was lucrative -- the defense industry got to churn out Hummers and helicopters, the "contractors" got contracts, the academics sucked in piles of grant money to make Sandy Podunk safe for Transgenders, the Generals and Admirals could look forward to post-retirement gigs at Boeing, Bell, Honeywell, General Dynamics, the think tanks and the lobbying firms. The bureaucrats get fat and stay fat despite failures. All business as usual.

If you ever want to see something last forever, get the American government to declare "war" on it.

The reasons why this happens are mainly are personal and political. 

Next time, in discussing the "input" portion to our little computer analogy, I will identify the fantastically flawed people that create this chaotic bullshit, get paid exceedingly well for fucking up, and what they have done to us as a nation.

Part One can be read here.
Part Three can be read here.
Part Four can be read here.


Anonymous said...

This was thoughtful analysis with equal portions of humor, passion and abject truth highlighting the errors in our foreign policy (honest mistakes as well as enrichment schemes)and the brokenness of our leadership. A particular point, which needs further clarification, is that Jamie Gorelick was not only responsible for the serious breakdown of response to the 9/11 hijackers, but she went on to leadership in the Fannie Mae/ Freddie Mac mortgage meltdown of 2008 which enriched her, but seriously depleted the financial stability of the U.S. and world economies. The Peter Principle illustrated in living color!

Matthew Noto said...

And the 2008 mortgage crisis was caused by Clinton tinkering with creditworthiness requirements (Community Reinvestment Act) and government insuring of mortgages (essentially, Fannie/Freddie bought more mortgages than they had reserves to cover in the event of default).

I remember the notice from the Fed that was sent out on that day informing everyone that $500 billion dollars had suddenly vaporized, and the sell-off that resulted in Fannie/Freddie default. Story for another time, but to this day, no one has explained how the Fed "lost" half-a-trillion - computer glitch, did the money even exist, act of economic terrorism?

GMay said...

In a collection of quotable material that reads like Churchill Uncensored, it's tough to single out the best, but I need to know if this is from you, or you lifted/paraphrased it from someone else:

"If you ever want to see something last forever, get the American government to declare "war" on it."

Not that I plan on giving you proper attribution (I'm going to steal it without compunction), but I at least want to salute you before plagiarizing it.

Matthew Noto said...

Go ahead. I did. I do not remember the origin of the quote. I think it might have bene Krauthammer?