Meaningful Distinction:

Patrick S. Lasswell Look outward for something to accomplish, not inward for something to despise.
pslblog at gmail dot com
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Cash In Iraq

Representative Blumenauer,

Yesterday Rep. Waxman asked the presumably rhetorical question "Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone?"

Apparently Rep. Waxman is oblivious to the lack of banking systems in Iraq, the impoverished state of the Iraqis after twelve years of sanctions, and the utter necessity of replacing a national currency dominated in its iconography by the image of the dictator we just deposed.

Even as a consultant in Iraq, I have to take in every penny I expect to spend rather than go through circuitous and expensive wire transfers.

I find it distressing that the chair of the oversight committee holding investigations into the conduct of operations in Iraq displays such abysmal ignorance of conditions on the ground.

Who in their right mind expects the ATMs to work in a war zone?


Patrick S Lasswell

Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The Junior Senator from Virginia Does Not Speak For Me

In his response to the President's State of the Union address, Senator Webb of Virginia put words in my mouth.
The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military.

That is emphatically not my feeling or the feeling of the majority of US servicepersons I have spoken to around the world this last year. I know of no US military person who has gotten to know real Iraqis who is willing to throw them all to the wolves.

In the future, I would appreciate the junior Senator from Virginia not stealing my voice to make his political points. When the junior Senator from Virginia comes up with and presents a better and more cohesive military strategy that has the support of his party it will be a matter of some interest to those of us who serve. To date, we are still waiting for any plan other than surrender to be advanced.

Saturday, January 13, 2007
Open Letter to Congress Regarding War Funding

Right now people in Washington, D.C. are advocating de-funding the war in Iraq to prevent President Bush from surging troops and I urge you to keep faith with the troops. It is unconscionable to withhold the tools of victory from troops you have sent into the field. If you have a better plan for victory in this war, I urge you to present it to the American people and I will help you however I am able. In the Second World War, then Senator Harry S Truman did magnificent work making sure that the troops got their gear without getting swindled. That is the apex of congressional involvement of war funding. Please do not establish a new nadir. If all you have is a willingness to trade the lives of our troops for callow political advantage, I must urge you to constrain the impulse to betrayal.

I have the privilege of serving the nation as a Navy Reservist. I expect to be called up for a tour in the next two years, and I am still more than ready and willing to serve. As a civilian consultant, I traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan this year and I assure you that Iraq can work. About one third of Iraq is doing well and growing rapidly under the protection of Iraqi forces. The only coalition forces in Iraqi Kurdistan are protected by Iraqi forces and are engaged in reconstruction projects with the help of a grateful populace. I was welcomed into people's homes and treated with the highest honors simply because I am an American. The only thing is, everywhere I went, the most educated people quietly begged me not to let the American people forget them to death.

I promise you that everyone on active duty and in the reserves will remember a decision to de-fund the war, and so will their families and friends. Six million people in the Kurdish region now enjoying the most prosperous time in ten thousand years will remember, too. Around the world our enemies will remember that Congress handed them victory for temporary political advantage.

There are more important fights in Congress right now. Earmark transparency leaps to mind as an example of politics worth doing that will have a lasting benefit for the United States. There are safe nuclear power designs, generations more advanced and stable than anything built in the US, designs developed at OSU in Corvallis. These power plants will meet rising electrical demand and reduce our dependence on foreign energy if we can get them through the mindless red tape that is stalling their construction. You could do that and be thanked by a grateful and prosperous nation.

Please do not abandon us for temporary political gain.

Patrick S Lasswell
Portland, OR

Thursday, January 11, 2007
Lock Up Your Triticale

Representative Wu from here in Oregon has declared on the floor of the House of Representatives that the White House is staffed by Klingons. In another citizen media scoop, recordings of Rep. Wu's last visit to the Executive Mansion have been discovered. I do not know why Rep. Wu decided that this was the time to out himself as a Tribble-American, but I think we should celebrate his courage in doing so. Regrettably, the only things tribbles are good for are eating, making more tribbles, and detecting Klingons. Most Congressmen can't make more tribbles or detect Klingons, so perhaps we should celebrate the new capacities.

Why we should elect mindless little vegans whose only skills are self-perpetuation and screaming like little girls eludes me for the moment. On the other hand, it's not like tribbles have any less of a plan for Iraq than the current congressional leadership. Now if we could just get them to stop screaming and make the nice purring sound, we'd all be a lot happier.

Saturday, January 06, 2007
Key to GOP Victory in '08: Overexposed Democrats

I am a big fan of competition in a democracy. Regrettably, I live in a country where elected officials are doing everything in their power to avoid actual contests on polling day. The result of this is a lot of congress are marginally competent and barely articulate political placefillers who have been in office forever. These people have not been out of office in decades and do not regularly encounter, let alone confront, reality. This does not generate statesmanship or great oratory. As exhibit A, I present Representative Barney Frank confronted and confounded by fast pitch softball questions.

Anyone can have a bad day, but if you are going on national TV, you should either bring your big game or stay home. Watching that painful video makes me wonder if Rep. Frank every took a high-school speech class. I do not know how he got elected, but I am sure that it did not involve a lot of personal appearances. He may be great in deal making and other aspects of power management in D.C., but he is not a strong speaker.

Last night I watched every news show air massive coverage of new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. While her public persona is stronger than Rep. Frank's, she is not actually a national favorite. The most recent poll numbers show her trailing Bush in public approval ratings. I strongly suspect that to be a continuing trend.

What is interesting in all this is that the traditional media looks at the Democrats with a inherent approval that is impervious to feedback. The media really does not appear to understand that for significant fractions of their audience, Rep. Pelosi's exposure is like fingernails on a blackboard and Rep. Frank is less comforting than that. While accepted political wisdom is that any coverage is good as long as they spell your name right, the hundreds of hours of coverage that are about to descend on some unsympathetic Representatives are going to spell their names "D". All of that will be magnified by the contributions of the worst moments replayed forever on YouTube that Congressmen will be confronting in coming elections.

I suspect that in the coming elections the worst moments on YouTube will be a significant factor. Since the Democrats will be getting more exposure with their greater power, their worst people will be generating more worst moments and bringing down the whole side. This is going to grind them down.

I really wish that we could find ways to attract men and women of talent, integrity, and conviction to public office. Instead our current system seems to reward people of the thickest skin, shameless endurance, and most detached self-image. None of this addresses issues like the deeply entrenched and self-perpetuating bureaucracy that no longer delivers results. In the absence of meaningful accountability, I suppose that we will have to settle for change. Overexposure of overripe political placefillers will be the agent of change in 2008.

Friday, January 05, 2007
Representative Blumenauer Responds

It appears that someone from Rep. Blumenauer's office has taken the time to respond to my earlier mail and post opposing a draft. Here is the response:

Dear Mr. Lasswell:

Thank you for writing to me about H.R.4752, the "Universal National Service Act of 2006."

I have great respect for my colleague from New York, Congressman Charles Rangel, and what I think he's trying to get at with his bill to reintroduce the draft. I personally don't think that now is the time to abandon our volunteer military. The reinstatement of the draft is just simply not going to happen, nor is it necessary.

It does underscore two items. The first is that a lot of the enthusiasm for a more aggressive military-only response comes from people who themselves have never been involved in combat, like the President and Vice President, while great reservations have been expressed by current and former generals in the Pentagon, who have been there. Rep. Rangel is also a veteran who was wounded in Korea and has reservations about a military only strategy to deal with the threats we face. Second, very few people in positions of power will be putting their own sons or daughters in harms way. The point is well taken, but we don't need to reinstitute the draft to make it.

I do feel that there should be more opportunities for national service - whether it's military service, Peace Corps or Americorps - that would provide young Americans a way to be involved. There is more and more sentiment for this concept of a more comprehensive approach to national service. The bottom line is that Rep. Rangel is making a point that he is singularly qualified to make. We're not going to be reinstituting a draft, nor do we need to but I do think that we need to be more sensitive about the use of force and the consequences on young Americans, while at the same time we ought to be more ambitious about opportunities for service to America and people around the world.

Thanks again for writing.


Earl Blumenauer

Member of Congress

I appreciate the Representative responding to my correspondence. I must fault the logic of the response in several particulars. Getting drafted and getting hit doesn't make you an expert on strategy, it makes you an expert on getting drafted and getting hit. The Iraq war is the largest insurgency the US has ever fought or contemplated fighting, which makes the input of generals whose career was focused on dueling with Soviet tank corps in the Fulda Gap less compelling.

Finally, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have been under threat of death for better than two decades due to their proximity to power. Every day a horde of nutbars is contemplating ways to kill these two, and we'll never know how many times they've almost gotten lucky. I've only been through three war zones in the last year, and only been around anything resembling a shot fired in anger while in uniform once, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have placed themselves and their families at risk more than most soldiers ever will. Rep. Rangel's exposure to fire more than fifty years ago does not grant him absolute moral authority or even a pass with an idea this flawed.

Patrick S Lasswell

Saturday, December 30, 2006
Do Not Mourn the Brutal Dead

It was my honor to visit a successful Iraq this year, that part of the country longest free from Saddam's control. Despite being surrounded by three hostile and suspicious countries, Iraqi Kurdistan is flourishing with a liberal democracy. I cannot say that everything the Kurdish Regional Government is doing is right, but I can say that they are earnest in their support of the genuine success of those willing to be free. It appears they contrast strongly with Saddam's behavior whenever possible.

Where Saddam concentrated power and wealth to his family, tribe, and sect, Iraqi Kurdistan allows opportunity to anyone who respects the law and will create lasting value.

Where Saddam made the security forces of Iraq an incompetent slave army with a record of pillage and rape, Iraqi Kurdistan has an effective volunteer Peshmerga who are decent professionals. I was not ever concerned that the Peshmerga would rob or abuse me in any of the hundreds of checkpoints I crossed. This was not because I was a valued foreigner, but because I was not there to cause harm.

Where Saddam put the concerns of minority Sunni Arabs over everything in Iraq, the Kurdish Regional Government values the contributions of all the many peoples of the region.

Where Saddam drove the economy and industry of the country into the ground, in Iraqi Kurdistan they are building new production capacity...and not just oil. As an example, nations bordering Iraq make beautiful rugs, and they are imported to the country in the middle because sources of revenue not under central control were destroyed by Saddam. Even the Taliban didn't destroy the Afghan rug industry, but they had less time and central authority.

Where Saddam accumulated so much death that we are still finding mass graves and buried arsenals, Iraqi Kurdistan is experiencing the biggest baby boom in the world.

Where Saddam gave his sons and torturers license to steal and rape, the sons and daughters of Kurdish leaders are expected to serve Iraqi Kurdistan in full public scrutiny.

The unflattering comparisons keep going on forever. I do not know if Iraqi Kurdistan would have made so many good decisions without Saddam's excruciating evil to push against. Arguing that Saddam was necessary to create the conditions of Iraqi Kurdistan is insufferably vacuous. He had no capacity to create wealth and power he did not control. The fact remains that Saddam Hussein was a petty, vicious, and criminal tyrant.

Do not mourn the brutal dead. The rest they receive is better than they deserve. Do not yield one more second of the future to them, they have stolen too much already.


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