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Gary Brecher

The second I had to quit daily blogging they got Osama. That was just one of the joys of starting a new job: Seeing all that great material wasted on mainstream journalists who have got to be the dumbest, most gullible cage-raised pullets ever born.

I couldn’t do a thing about it. This new job is much tougher than the last one. All the new jobs are much nastier than the old jobs, from what I can see. They know we’re all scared to death, so they can push us all harder. And you better smile too, unless you want to join the Guatemalans standing by the offramp for yard work.

So I’m giving the job most of what little energy I’ve got. But it was hard focusing on civilian paper while all this Osama stuff was happening. I’d groan out of bed, stuff my gut into a starched office shirt and choke myself with the brightest most optimistic tie in the closet—I actually pick the ugliest ones because I figure they say “Cheerful employee!” more than decent ones–and head off to work. The commute was the worst, because I can’t drive without the radio talking to me and that meant I had to hear them talking about the Osama raid. Haven’t heard that much absolute sportstalk stupidity since 2003.

Oh, I planned lots of columns, believe me. I’d have a great idea and plan to write it down when they weren’t watching at the office like I used to. But then I’d catch a sight of my fat neck in the rear-view mirror and think, “God, I have to button that top button!” And I’d try, and realize that even though I buy these 18 neck shirts the damn thing won’t button, so I have to try to hunch the knot of the tie up to hide the gap and watch for sudden brake lights so I don’t rear-end some asshole’s giant truck. I’m the last man in town to drive a sedan, apparently if your car can fit under an overpass you’re a wimp, so I can’t see anything but brake lights at eye level.

And I can’t hear anything on the radio but “Osama Dies Yellow.” You ever hear that line, “Rocky Dies Yellow”? It’s from an old gangster movie, Angels with Dirty Faces—my grandma liked those Cagney things and I sat through them for her sake. Cagney plays this gangster who’s going to the electric chair, still tough as whitleather, and this minister who preaches to a bunch of slum kids (those Hollywood brat actors, they’re the “angels” in the title) goes to see Cagney in the Death House and says, “Rocky, could you please die yellow? For the kids, see.” Meaning: Could you act all chickenshit when they drag you to the chair so the sweet little bad seeds I’m pastoring, who all think you’re the toughest guy in the world and idolize you, will have this sudden Paul-to-Saul moment and go, “Jeez, foddah, I getcha now, dis whole gangstuh rumpus ain’t on da up-n-up”—I can’t do the dialogue but something like that.

Cagney doing “scared”

The preacher’s idea is if Rocky dies yellow, they’ll all be so disgusted they’ll change their ways, stop with the switchblades and go be lawyers and bankers like the guys who got us where we are—and what could be better than that.

So Rocky the gangster puts on a big show of being “yellow” when they fry him, all “No, please, help, Ma, Oh, I’m such a scaredy-cat!” They didn’t go in for underacting in those days. And so Rocky goes to Heaven, because he did it For The Kids. Or to put it another way, lying is fine when it’s for The Kids.

The only difference with Osama is that they shot him first, then yellowed him up. It was as corny, as obvious, as plain ridiculous as that Cagney movie.

The first thing you heard was that Osama used his wife for a “human shield.”

Any time somebody does that in a movie you know they might as well put up a subtitle, “deserves to die horribly” or “bad man.” Remember Heat, that fucked-up movie with de Niro and Pacino supposedly LA cops though they acted more like Hollywood producers with badges? Tom Sizemore was one of the hoods in that movie, and at first you like his character, seems like a good criminal–right up to the scene where Sizemore grabs a schoolgirl and uses her as a “human shield.”

That’s supposed to tell you: “Attention please, Mr. Sizemore’s character is now officially a bad man, so please cheer when Mr. Pacino’s character takes him out.”

One little problem: It wasn’t true. Here’s the headline from the same paper one day later: “Osama Was Not Armed and Did Not Use Wife as Shield.”

They put the little mistake down to “confusion.” But this kind of wartime “confusion” is a cheap out, like Keegan’s stupid cliché, the “fog of war.” While we’re at it, lemme tell you Keegan’s why Keegan uses that catchphrase all the time. His angle is simple: The Brits are always right. That’s hard to argue when you’re doing military history, because most European officers laughed out loud when you said, “British officers.” British troops, yeah—tough bastards, great fighters, but British officers? Waterheads.

So Keegan has a whole lot of idiocy to explain when he takes you through his favorite Empire’s various fiascos—and that’s how “The Fog of War” was born. Churchill wasn’t the dumbest military strategist of the 20th century—oh no, it was just “The Fog of War.” Gallipoli? Not noticing that machinegun bullets are faster than infantry? “Fog o’ War.” Total collapse of Singapore, Hong Kong…sending Repulse and Prince of Wales out with no air cover? F.O.W., F.O.W., F.O.Frickin’ W. Might as well call it “Fog of Sandhurst.”

It’s not fog, it’s smoke, as in “blowing smoke.” That’s what they were doing with the nonsense about Osama going out like Tom Sizemore, guns blazing, poor wifey held in front of him: Put the picture in the suckers’ heads first. Then, by the time you have to give the correction, everybody’s stuck with this Naked Gun scene of Osama shooting it out with the SEALs.

The only time you can blame the “fog” or “confusion” is when it goes the other way—first reports say Osama was shot unarmed, and didn’t use his wife as a shield, and then it comes out he did both. But don’t worry, that’ll never happen.

Next story was the reappearance of Goofy the Bounty Hunter, aka Gary Faulkner.

Faulkner negotiating: “How ’bout TWO million then?”

You might remember Faulkner if you follow news of the stupid. He was a one-hit character straight out of South Park, an unemployed Colorado mental patient who announced he was going to stalk Osama and kill him and claim the $25 million reward:

“Faulkner was found last year in the woods of northern Pakistan armed with a pistol, sword and night-vision goggles. The Greeley, Colorado, man says he believes he had a hand in forcing bin Laden out of the mountains where he supposedly was hiding.”

Faulkner is poster boy, an extreme case, of what’s wrong with the way American war nerds think. When they find him, he’s loaded down with gadgets, armed to the teeth right down to the Samurai sword from some Tarantino movie. But I will bet you anything you want that Gary Faulkner didn’t bother to learn a single one of the local languages before he loaded up for bear and started sneaking around Pakistan. That means the only way he’d ever find Osama is if he hitched a ride and Osama was driving. That’d be a good movie, like an update of that old movie Melvin and Howard where some hick picks up Howard Hughes in the desert and wants a chunk of the old nut’s billions: Osama and Gary, they could call it, and the big climax would be when Gary thanks Osama for the ride and saws his head off with the Samurai sword, which would be kind of awkward actually in a truck cab, not enough space for a real Samurai home-run swing (which is why people use knives, not swords, Faulkner, ya dummy!).

But in the grownup world, you couldn’t find the Fresno Chamber of Commerce by sneaking around with that gear.

Imagine a Pashtun tribesman who gets offered $25 million to go to Bakersfield and find some landmark, say the Barnes Cabin. This cabin is a big thing in Bakersfield, at least it was when the place was Okie. Barnes was an ex-Confederate who invalided out to Kern County—two sure proofs he was an idiot, he fought for the Planters and he moved to Kern County—but we went on a field trip, stood around looking at this Clampitt cabin going, “So?”

Mister Pashtun could try finding the old shed with night-vision goggles, an AK and a Samurai sword. But even if he didn’t get arrested, which he would—even if we just make a rule, “OK, this guy is also invisible to the police”—even then, he would never, ever find that cabin. He might bust into some houses in my old neighborhood where the people had gotten old and crazy because some of them looked a lot like a log cabin after about 40 years of senility and stray cats, but he wouldn’t find the official Barnes Holy Shack in a million years.

He’d wander around Bakersfield for eternity. Maybe that’s what Hell is, actually: billions of Pashtun ghosts wandering around Bakersfield. It’d be my idea of Hell anyway, especially in August. And when us Bakersfielders die, we have to wander around Waziristan like Faulkner. Nasty idea. Good thing Brother Archie never threatened us with that or I’d still be in the pews.

So how could Mister Pashtun actually find the cabin? Duh: He has to ask somebody. He has to schmooze. He has to bury that AK,sell the Samurai sword to the sodomite pawnbroker in Pulp Fiction so Willis can use it on him later in the movie, ditch the night-vision goggles and learn the local language, which in Bakersfield is English more or less—not Spanish, because Mexicans don’t get all weepy about old Anglo shacks. This Pashtun dude would have to shave, and smile like Mohammed Atta at the boarding gate, and come up with a good back story to explain why he’s there. My suggestion: He should tell them he’s a Christian Iraqi who was liberated by our troops. Do that, and the suckers would literally drive Mr. Pashtun to that cabin with tears in their eyes.

So this Faulkner—let’s pretend he was sane and intelligent for a second—would have to do the same stuff in reverse. Learn Pashto, schmooze–Above all,find some excuse for being there in the first place.

There are only two things that’d bring an American to that messed-up backwater; one’s CIA and the other’s opium. (Not that there’s a total split between the two—in fact, I wonder if they found Osama thanks to a drug connection: “Hey Hamid, we’ll let you send 150 keys straight to Manhattan if you give up the big guy!”)

So logically, the way to settle in to Waziristan would be marry a couple of the local girls, put a few hundred thousand into the opium business and sit in the tea houses bullshitting with your in-laws hoping to hear something. If Faulkner had a huge run of idiot’s luck, he might last long enough in the opium-smuggling business to maybe, maybe, hear somebody who couldn’t handle his high babbling about Osama. And if the idiot’s luck held, that one blurt might be the one out of a thousand that’s not bullshit. And that might get him somewhere.

Opium dealers talking product

So there’s another angle on irregular warfare nobody likes (or admits they like anyway): dealing drugs. A huge, huge part of most insurgencies. Pimping, dealing, joining the police or army—somehow or other, you’re going to have to do something totally sleazy. You say you’re ready to kill and die for whatever crap it is you believe in? Killing and dying, those are the easy parts. The clean parts. Not anywhere near the most important parts.

Irregular warfare is a social thing. That’s the last thing most of us want to face because most of you are like me, you don’t like people that much and want a nice clean war to cut down on them a little. I know, I know, me too, but if you want that you need a conventional army, which couldn’t find Osama either. If you want to do a job like that, it’s like my last boss loved to lecture me, “Gary, you can’t be afraid to talk to people.”

This leads me to maybe the most depressing thing I ever thought. You know who’d be good at guerrilla war? Ugh, I can’t say it. No, it has to be said. You know who’d be good at guerrilla war? Cheerleaders. What with the social skills and the pillow talk thing and…it’s too depressing and I’m not going to go on about it, but it had to be said. Jesus, what a world.

Maybe actually it’d be better to hire a high-price hooker, instead of a cheerleader. Yeah, that’s not so depressing somehow. Parachute someone like that into Waziristan and she’d get them talking…no, wait, they like boys—well, the male equivalent.

Or one of these expensive lesbian whores that specialize in women producers in LA. “Portia, America needs you to go to Waziristan! Ellen will wait for you and besides you might learn some stuff she’ll like from them Muzzie girls!” I bet there’s a lot of dykey angry multiple wives in Waziristan and I bet they know a lot more than their idiot husbands think. Slip one of them into the local chief’s harem and see what you get. I The Turkish lobby rented one to screw-and-blackmail Jan Schakowsky, a bleeding-heart Illinois crony of Obama. If it’s good enough for the US congress, it’s probably good enough for illiterate Pashtun wife-stock.

Jeez, I’m going to stop talking about this. War is one thing, drug dealing, OK…but pimping, that’s where I draw the line. I can do that, because I’m just an armchair irregular. But a real guerrilla can’t afford to draw that line or any line. A guerrilla NEEDS to be a pimp—among a lot of other things. A people person, in all the worst ways.

Gary Faulkner was not a people person, unless you count talking the voices in his head. And even if he had been, he was something like 40 years old when he hit Pakistan. He’s going to learn Pashtun at that age, when he’s probably never learned another language in his life, even menu Spanish? Ni modo.

He’s going to do what he ended up doing: Wandering around the hills—the only reason they didn’t shoot him must be they were laughing too hard—seeing if Osama shows up better when he put on his night-vision goggles. It’s the ultimate in gadget-fan stupid: “I got these cool goggles so if Osama is around he’ll light up like ultraviolet rocks!”

Sorry, Faulkner. All credit to you for having the titanium gonads to claim $7 million in reward money for not finding Osama, though. That’s real laser-bright logic: He says he “had a hand in forcing bin Laden out of the mountains.” Yes sir, you forced him to hunker down in a giant mansion in a vacation resort. That’s some forcin’ Faulkner.

Ever hear the joke about the elephant repellent? It ought to be the official joke of the whole counter-terrorism profession, engraved on the CIA’s HQ at Langley. But it fits Faulkner even better than the rest of the phonies. Goes like this: A guest asks asks, “What’s that weird ornament hanging there?”

The host say, “It’s elephant repellent.”

“Elephant repellent? There’s not an elephant in 10,000 miles of here!

“See? It works!”

Once Faulkner did his comic relief bit, the news people got back to the supposedly serious business. Which turned out to be nothing but more gadget-worship. For a day or so, all you heard about was the helicopters they used to get in and out of Abbottabad.

And there were lots of pictures of them, mostly from Pakistanis’ cell cameras. Because, uh…one of these top-secret hi-tech wonders of engineering, uh, kinda…crashed. Whoops!

Wizbang Chopper in Osama’s Yard (with privacy fence)

Now, I’m not making fun of the choppers or pilots or even claiming anybody messed up; choppers are inherently air-worthless under anything but perfect conditions, and the official explanation that it was high temperatures and altitude that sucked the air from under the crashed helicopter makes perfect sense.

Still, it was weird how everybody was looking at the pictures of the crashed helicopter like relics of a higher alien technology. They landed three and lost one; no reason to treat these machines like miracles.

The miracle, if there was any miracle in finding a guy who’s 6’5” (can’t exactly melt into a crowd at that height) after ten years of trying, belongs to whoever told the US where he was. It’s a people thing, in other words. But all we heard was gadgets, the magic choppers.

Jeez, It’s a machine, it’s just a muffled Blackhawk, “stealthed” up to be a little quieter and smaller on a radar screen than the production model, that’s all. And if you have to worship any chopper, why not the standard-issue Blackhawk? That is a truly fine craft, a real success, and nobody worships it. I’d bet any three Blackhawks off the assembly line could have done as well as the fancy souped-up models they sent.

But the hard part wasn’t killing Osama—Gary frickin’ Faulkner could’ve killed him. He looks pretty much dead already on the home video they released. I could’ve walked up and killed him, and I breathe hard going up three steps.

The hard part was finding him. And no chopper, no buffed SEAL, no cool NSA traffic analysis found Osama. A snitch did. Some sleaze of an informer fingered him, that’s how he was got.

It was like somebody finally half-figured out that this was about people, not gadgets, because the next phase of news nonsense was definitely people-focused. But in an embarrassing, totally off-base way, naturally. This was when the Navy SEAL cult that’s been perking along for a while finally percolated down to the great mass of dummies out there.

And what they want is Rambo all over again: muscles. Ripped. For a while it was like the whole world was doing gay porn. Just check out this bit from the Washington Post (I’m noticing that it’s always the Post that runs the most embarrassing, fake stuff. I thought they were respectable, but not from what I see). This is a Post writer quoting the idiot who wrote something called Rogue Warrior on what a Navy SEAL would look like. The guy seems to be just making up something from his own lousy book:

“He’ll be ripped,” says the author of the best-selling autobiography “ Rogue Warrior .” “He’s got a lot of upper-body strength. Long arms. Thin waist. Flat tummy.”

This gets me down even more than squeezing into work clothes. It’s bullshit anyway; Subotai was fat, damn it. Audie Murphy was 5’7.” The average VC had less muscle tissue than a Safeway chicken. They just won’t face the fact that the real hero here was a snitch, a snitch whose name we’ll probably never know. (He better hope we don’t, because if we know, both Talibans know too.)

It’s worth imagining that the snitch was the ugliest, fattest, wheeziest, lyingest, most treacherous Waziri you can imagine. Which he probably was, because snitching isn’t an aerobic exercise. He made it happen, this fat unwashed money-hungry, probably opium-dealing, sleaze. Keep that in mind. It cures you of all this gym-bred muscle-worship.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect the Hell out of the Seals. They’re very good, and unlike those three-letter agencies, they really do stuff, all the time. A lot in the middle east that you only vaguely hear about a long time later. Guy I know in one of those three-letter agencies wrote me years ago, “Frankly, if one of our guys says, ‘We’re doing a lot you don’ t hear about,’ you shouldn’t believe it. But when the Seals say that, you can believe it.”

The news creeps sniffed around for more dirt on Osama’s “compound” for days. As far as I know, they didn’t come up with much. Some of the funniest bits were the “vanity” thing, and the porn.

The vanity charge came from a home video clip released by the CIA showing Osama looking at old TV pictures of himself after 9/11. Whoever shot the video thought he was a great director because it starts out with just the TV screen and then pans back to Osama on the couch. The camera—I think whoever made the video, Mrs. Osama or one of the bodyguards, thought this was a funny joke or something, “Look! First here is Osama on television, now we follow the tv wire and look, ha ha, at the other end of the wire there is Osama himself, live and in person! Ha ha, what a funny joke on the Americans!”

As part of the whole smear-the-dead-guy routine, this video was supposed to show you what a conceited jerk Osama is. That was the official talking point, and it got around so fast that in a few days it was a talking point that you could use for anything else you wanted to talk about. Like here’s a column about, I don’t even know, reality shows or some girly crap like that, and this “humorous” lady writing it drags in Osama watching tv:

“Even Osama, lurking in his bunker, had his eyes glued to the television, huddled in the seasick glow of his own image. It was the one indelible moment of the last week.

Forget Norma Desmond. He looked like Gollum.”

Man, that’s writing, lady. That’s some kick-ass writing you did there, like “lurking in his bunker…” Except, uh, not to quibble, Ma’am, but that “bunker” was a goddamn mansion next door to an official Pakistani military academy, with a lot more than lurkin’ room. (We’re not going to have to rehash the “Did Pakistan know?” question here, are we? Of course they knew, Jesus).

She just goes on with the capital-R riting: “…had his eyes glued…huddled in the seasick glow of his own image.” Whoo, “seasick glow”! I bet you were an English major. Cuz we all know TV looks different when it reflects on terrorists, they’re like vampires that way.

And finally, “Forget Norma Desmond.” OK, fine. Easy, because I don’t know who she is and I’m not even going to google any name brought up by an idiot like this. So instead of our pal Norma, “He looked like Gollum.” Well, at least I know who Gollum is, but here’s a little witty repartee, Ma’am: no he fucking didn’t look like Gollum! He didn’t look like Gollum at all! He hardly even looked like Osama. Gollum looked pretty cool in a starved dangerous way; Osama just looked old and sad, like any Pakistani grandpa. If they say that was Osama, OK, it’s possible, maybe likely, but not on visual ID. On visual ID, that could be about a hundred million sick old Paki or Indian men. Maybe it’s the Nehru hat, I don’t know, or maybe because I used to go over to this half-Pak guy’s house as a kid and he had a grandpa who sat just like that in front of the tv. Same blanket over his shoulders even though it was Bakersfield, same drool, same whole thing, you’d say “Hello Mister Bhullar!” and he’d go, “Eennh” and sort of half wave his good hand and then it was back to Wheel of Fortune.

That’s what Osama really looked like: A sick old man. And he didn’t look vain, he looked depressed as Hell, for obvious reasons: There’s a younger and healthier Osama on TV climbing around Tora Bora in the video (although he didn’t look too spry even back in that video) and here I am now, a trembly old grandpa wearing a blanket in the heat. If this is great movie-making here, it’s the classic “poor old dude remembering his days of greatness” deal.

By this time, a chimp could have programmed the next step in the Osama Dies Yellow story: Some kind of sexual dirt. And right on time, out it came: “Porn Found in Osama Hideout.” And not just porn, either, but “Hardcore Porn.”

Of course Osama had several bodyguards who were young guys, stuck in a compound where all the women belonged to the big fella, so it’s not totally surprising one of them brought some videos to do one-handed curls with. But that’s not the way the story played. It was “…could fuel accusastions of hypocrisy,” which is chickenshit press-talk for “Osama was a perv phony.”

It was hard watching all this when I couldn’t talk back. Doing that blog was getting very comfortable to me, made me feel like I could laugh off all the lies because I got to talk back to them. But with work, no time. So I had to sit there in traffic with a tie choking me and just take it. Suddenly it was angry-world all over again. I’d just sit there waiting for the turn light to go green so I could legitimately honk at the idiots who take three seconds to move, like they need official verification that green means go, and grind my teeth wondering, When did everybody get so stupid?

For some reason I notice it most when I’m driving. I thought when I got to be over 40 I’d notice me slowing down and everybody else getting faster but people half my age drive like grandma. And they think worse than they drive. The same way, but worse: like old ladies. Safe and ultra-cautious and happy to be slow-witted. Safe It’s like if you’re not dumb and super-cautious and scared of being called “inappropriate” now, you feel weird.

What got lost in all the gibberish was what Osama’s death means, what Al Qaeda amounted to—the real questions. I want to talk about them next. If I make it through the week.

Posted: May 15th, 2011

You’re gonna have to give me the weekend off. I moved yesterday. To a new town, new job. Trusted Google Maps to get me there. Don’t ever do that. That’s what I think must have happened to that famous lost army: They used an early version of Google Maps.

I got there all right, but 45 minutes late. Great way to be introduced to your new co-workers. I had to change in the car, a great way to remind yourself of your waistline. I made the horn go off at the worst possible moment, reaching for the shiny new pair of shoes with the pants not as up as I thought. Parking Lot M hasn’t seen that much fun in a long time.

Then they took me around the office. Helpful. Seems my coat collar was up in back. Fixed that.

I couldn’t stop sweating. That’s what happens when a fat man runs through an office complex looking for his new building.

Nobody else was sweating. They looked like they could have leaned back and had a nap, they were so relaxed. But I kept wiping the sweat off my forehead, fixing my pants, and trying to use all the cheerful/team player lines I’d rehearsed on the 87-mile detour Google took me on.

They haven’t said I’m fired yet, so maybe the impression will wear off. Gonna come to work early, lose weight, all the usual lies.

But anyway, the upshot is I can’t blog today. I’ve done my best, 40 days and 40 nights, but you have to give me the weekend off. For the next two days I’m not going to be able to hear much except the yuppies laughing when my belly made the horn go off.

Would you like to know more? Gary Brecher is the author of the War Nerd. Send your comments to gary dot brecher at gmail dot com. Read Gary Brecher’s first ever War Nerd column by clicking here. The rest of his stuff is here.

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Posted: April 30th, 2011

Something’s been going on in Syria for a while now. I’ve already written about the Deraa protests as an example of the big role guerrilla funerals play in irregular war, but it’s time to look at the more general prospects in Syria.

It’s easy to fit Syria into the notion of a wave of protests spreading out from Cairo after the shock victory the demonstrators there had against Mubarak, but I’m not sure that’s exactly what’s going on.

(more…)

Posted: April 29th, 2011

Years ago I got an angry email from somebody claiming to be in one of the Baltic militaries. Whoever he was, he wrote in grammatically perfect English so he just had to be from Northern Europe. We can’t talk English so good as what them Germans and Swedes can, not nohow. I don’t know whether he really was a military man, but he seemed to know what he was talking about. (more…)

Posted: April 28th, 2011

 

Before I confess how wrong I was about a big issue, I’ll give myself a little pat on the head for being right about a much smaller deal, the Afghan jailbreak I talked about two days ago. (more…)

Posted: April 27th, 2011

There are times when you look back and wish you’d had the courage to say what you were thinking. With me it’s a spotty record: Sometimes I do, but more often I wimp out. I wish now I’d said the first thing that came into my head when I started hearing about Al Qaeda, which was, “No, it can’t be. Violates every rule of guerrilla organization.” (more…)

Posted: April 26th, 2011

You can’t keep a good Talib down. Or in jail, apparently. (more…)

Posted: April 25th, 2011