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Archive for October, 2010

Its Bureaucrats versus the Terrorists

Posted by heyrandy on October 30, 2010

Operation Dark Heart, Anthony Shaffer, St. Martin’s Press, 2010.

This book is the account of Lt. Colonel Shaffer’s experiences in Afghanistan as a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) member. Shaffer’s ostensible role was to develop intelligence to use in the Afghan war. His actual role was to fight the bureaucrats that are hindering the war effort. Some success was achieved against the bureaucrats in spite of the bureaucrats best efforts. The real battle, Shaffer says, is to get the different agencies to cooperate.

To see how the agencies fight, just look at the history of the book. The manuscript was cleared for publication by the Army. After printing and just prior to being sold, the DIA bought all the copies and insisted on another round of redactions. The book bears the evidence of the redactions in the black lines that are on most of its pages. Some of the redactions are a little odd. On page 114 the first sentence has a redaction of what looks like one letter in a word. Other places have names blacked out that seem to appear a few sentences latter.

The various intelligence agencies that make up the US intelligence apparatus are very jealous of their information and sources. It is always a turf war. Shaffer managed to break through this while in Afghanistan, but a lot of people in his agency did not like it. They did not forget it, either.

The bureaucrats have a long reach. Shaffer was persecuted because he spoke to the official 9/11 commission about how the project he was working on before the attacks, Able Danger, had identified two of the three terrorist cells as well as the lead hijacker, Mohamed Atta. Shaffer told the commission that the information was passed up to his superiors so they could pass it along to the FBI. The FBI never got it. This action could have embarrassed the DIA. In bureaucratic terms, this was the unpardonable sin. The DIA started to comb though all of Shaffer’s past looking for dirt. They found $300 worth. Shaffer had his security clearance suspended over three petty matters that even if they were true the would not have been pursued if he was still attached to the Army. But the DIA need its pound of flesh.

The book also details some of Shaffer’s personal life, such as his divorce and his almost second marriage (they broke it up on the morning  of the wedding day). But the book deals mostly with his experiences in the wars against the terrorists and the idiots. One thing that I found most troubling about his personal life was his relationship with a woman he call Kate. She was a non-commissioned officer and he was a major. This fraternization is a major offense in the military. If the DIA wants Shaffer, he put his head on the block with this admission.

While Shaffer has some good things to say about the general staff, he regards most of them as bureaucrats in uniform too averse to risk to do any good. Most of these guys are so afraid that something bad will happen on their watch that they play it safe. This allows the Taliban to make great gains. Careerism is the enemy’s best weapon.

Shaffer also says that refusal to adapt to the changing tactics of the Taliban is hindering the battle. The military is hide bound by its established procedures. Success on the battle field is defined as following defined military doctrine. This has resulted in a military force that is cumbersome, slow, and ineffective. We don’t think like the Taliban, Shaffer says, we think the Taliban think like us. Until this changes, we are doomed to an endless battle.

Shaffer concludes his book with a list of things to change to achieve success in Afghanistan. I disagree that victory is possible. The Afghanis have defeated every empire that was foolish enough to try to take their land. They will defeat the Americans too. Without men like Shaffer, it will be a lot easier.

 

 

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American Anomalies

Posted by heyrandy on October 7, 2010

American Conspiracies, Jesse Ventura with Dick Russell, 228 pgs., end notes, bibliography.

Beginning with the assassination of Lincoln and going through the 2008 Presidential election, Ventura and his co-author examine 14 different events in American history. Listing many oddities, anomalies, and investigate blunders and short comings, the authors try to interest the reader in a more skeptical approach to history. Ventura does not trust the official explanation of anything. If he did there would be no book. There is not much of a book anyway.

Each chapter begins with short synopses  of what happened, the official story, and Ventura “take.” Ventura is right to question the official line. The government has too often moved into cover-up mode when wrong doing is exposed for anyone to blithely accept the official version. Truth tends to leak out. Sometimes truth is forcibly expelled. But is there really as much to this as the author claims?

I am not convinced. There is always much to learn about events, but not everything is a nefarious plot to seize power. Ventura does not distinguish between the bureaucratic incompetence that pervades government and the truly perfidious cabal that runs large sections of the world. A bureaucrat’s favorite weapon is not the bullet but the delay. Bureaucracies simply out wait any reformer. It always works.

The writing in the book is often leaden. It is as if Ventura, the former commando turned professional wrestler turned state governor and now TV host and author, wrote it by himself. The book was not a joy to read.

The research is also questionable. He says Che Guevara is one of his “heroes.” Castro’s Minister of Justice (i.e., Chief Executioner) is no one worthy of admiration. Do your homework, Jesse. Che was nothing but a cowardly murderer. He surrendered without a fight even though he was carrying a loaded rifle.

If you are interested in any of the events Ventura covers, you may find a couple of questions to pursue with your own research, but the overall effect of this book is disappointing.

 

 

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