Monday, April 2, 2007

Running in the direction of away

I have to wonder what these guys are going to do after "public" service.

Bush will go back to running oil companies that drill dry wells and make negative money (but he's the ex-Pres, so there's a certain cachet in having him make bad decisions while waiting for the Saudis to bail out the company). Cheney will probably go back into the "government contracting" industry, since I doubt Halliburton will re-hire him. Or will they?

Almost everyone in the Bush administration has gone on to something a little more lucrative.

Tommy Thompson, ex-Secretary of Health and Human Services, has gone onto a profitable career in the medical industry. Fancy that - he regulated it, then he gets to work for it! Perhaps he did a few deals for his friends before he left? He's of course lobbying for firms that he formerly regulated, and I'm sure, doing it out of the goodness of his heart.
John Ashcroft, ex-Attorney General, is now one of the most powerful Repugnican lobbyists on K Street. Most famous for his singing voice, covering up naked statues, leading a prayer group every day, and being anointed with some form of oil on his assumption of the AG post.
Donald Evans, ex-Secretary of Commerce, is currently scouting out a location for the George W Bush Presidential Library, and not finding any takers. Possibly because much of what will be included in the library may be fiction (no, really - they're looking for writers who will "flesh out" the soon-to-be-ex-president's term with buffed-out versions of what actually happened - just what you want as a permanent record of a presidency - fiction).
Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor, made a name for herself in the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think-tank that doesn't approve of organized labor, which is what the Secretary of Labor is supposed to regulate.
Mel Martinez was the Secretary of HUD. He is now the junior Senator from Florida, and won by smearing his primary opponent as being a "friend of homosexuals" for supporting hate-crimes legislation. There was also some question as to who actually won the final election. Florida is still having issues with voter-rolls scrubbing and denying the franchise to some citizens.
Gale Norton, ex-Secretary of the Interior, was a lobbyist for National Lead Industries. Also known to have unfortunately close ties to Jack Abramoff, a now-convicted felon, formerly a lobbyist on behalf of various Indian Tribes and their casinos, something else the Secretary of the Interior has say over.
Robert Zoellick, ex-Undersecretary of State and a US Trade Representative, is now working for Goldman Sachs, fairly soon after Goldman's ex-CEO Hank Paulson was hired by the Bush administration to be Treasury Secretary. While he did some laudable things (like trying to make the world more aware of Darfur, though not doing much about the situation), mostly he was very much a corporate free-trader, knocking down regulations between countries and weakening labor rules in other countries to forward US interests.
Tom Ridge, ex-Homeland Security chief, is on the board of Home Depot and Savi Technologies, neither of which had anything to do with government anything, as far as I know. He is also (inexplicably) an adviser to the government of Albania. Most famous for the color-coded alert system, which moved up and down the scale depending on who was having trouble getting elected.
Then there's those recess appointments, where the Shrub can appoint people who weren't approved by Congress, as long as the Congress is not in session. This last Easter, he appointed three - Sam Fox, a Swift boat supporter, as Ambassador to Belgium; Susan Dudley, a woman who believes that markets can dictate all the regulation anyone needs (over things like arsenic in drinking water, for example), to head the department that oversees regulations on business and things like, oh, arsenic in drinking water; last but not least, Andrew Biggs, former Cato Institute think-tanker, to Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration - which he wants to privatize.
Most famously, the appointment of John Bolton to the post of UN Ambassador. Bolton was so infamous for his hatred of the UN, there was no way in hell he was going to get past even a friendly Repugnican congress. So Bush waited for summer recess, and appointed him anyway. Once his confirmation hearings came up, he voluntarily resigned.

Somalia, 1993 - Boutros Boutros-Ghali (head of the UN at the time) was seen by the majority of the Somali population as a friend to the formerly popular dictator Siad Barre. After a nationalization program to bring Somalia into the 20th century, Barre began trying to bring more and more Somali territory in by invading other countries that had large Somali populations. This included Kenya and Ethiopia. Various clans began fighting Barre's government, as he was seen as responsible for alienating the only international support Somalia had had, the Soviet Union. Barre was ultimately deposed by the Habr Gidr clan, led by Mohammad Farah Aidid. The clans began fighting amongst each other.
To put it nicely, things were not going well in Somalia. Drought, famine, warfare. Hundreds of thousands dead. A meeting was called amongst the warlords, and many sent representatives. During the meeting, in which the discussion turned on "How do we move our country forward?", American helicopters flew by and shot a bunch of missiles into the second floor of the building where the meeting was taking place. Many of the possible reformers of Somalia were killed, and their relatives vowed vengeance.

The UN came in and did their humanitarian thing, bringing in tons and tons of food. Aidid controlled the food supply, and with it, tried to control the country. The UN sent in various peacekeepers in an attempt to get the food to as many people as possible, but it didn't work very well. The UN was still seen as a negative influence in the country. 24 Pakistani soldiers in UN uniforms were killed by Aidid's militia. The US said "enough" and dropped in a few hundred Army Rangers and a few dozen Delta guys. We kept trying to capture Aidid or his lieutenants, and every now and then we got someone important.

The Somalis had learned how to shoot down Black Hawk helicopters from Osama Bin Laden - set up your rocket-propelled grenades with proximity fuses. As soon as it gets close to the tail rotor, BOOM, and the helicopter can't stay airborne. They shot down two of ours on one of these raids, and the Battle of Mogadishu began.

In Mark Bowden's excellent book, "Black Hawk Down", the military engagement is portrayed as an incredibly one-sided battle. The US is seen as concerned about their wounded and dead ("leave no one behind" is a commendable, but often dangerous, US Armed Forces dictum), and the Somalis seem completely unconcerned by their own potential deaths. Many in the politically correct world lambasted the movie as portraying the Somalis as crazed, bug-eyed fighters, the unstoppable primitive. If you read Bowden's book, that is how they looked to the Americans fighting there. Aidid's fighters were generally hopped-up on a drug called khat, a pretty powerful stimulant. They would throw themselves in screaming waves at moderately fortified positions, or (smarter) already had themselves nice fortified positions up in the buildings. In many ways, the fighting in Somalia was a prelude to fighting in Iraq - urban desert warfare in concrete buildings.

While any loss in warfare is tragic, our losses were nothing compared to the Somali's. I believe we ended the battle with about a hundred guys dead. The Somalis lost about 4,000. Congress withdrew funding for military action in Somalia when they heard about the Battle of Mogadishu, which was seen as a disaster. What others saw was that if we were engaged and started losing men, we'd turn tail and run.

Not that I'm suggesting we should have stayed to get shot at. We might have had better success had we had armor and better air cover, but I'm no military strategist.

The other problem was cultural. Which is where we usually miss the point. If you ask the average Somali, "do you want peace?" the response is fairly predictable: "Why, of course I do!" Then you ask, "but what if Aidid is running things?"

"That BASTARD?!?" NEVER..."

So there's this little disconnect - peace is a good thing, so long as it's my guys running the show. Anyone else, and it's war war war.

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