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American Arrogance

87 Comments

13 December 2010

There have been many comments about American arrogance.  During my travels to 48 United States and over [65] countries -- most of those states and countries multiple times -- some themes have emerged.

There is a pervasive sense in the United States that we are THE best.  I've seen this in four other countries: Canada, France, India, and China. While many Americans think they/we are THE best in the world (whatever THE best might be to the thinkers of those thoughts), significant numbers of Canadians and French will inform you they are superior to Americans (and to Germans and Brits), while Indians and Chinese are superior to all of us.  Oh, and don't forget Israelis who have a tendency to burst out saying they have the "Most moral country in the world!" (They say that with exclamation mark.) Israelis also say, "We have the most moral Army in the world!"  Wasn't so long ago that the Germans were likewise self-convinced.  Today the Germans are convinced they are superior to Austrians who are superior to Germans.  Both are superior to Turks and Americans, while Polish are superior to Russians who are superior to all their neighbors and to Americans.  Czechs are superior to Slovaks.  Many people accuse Koreans of a superiority complex.  Goes on—in fact, this thought could go on for hours. There are many Thais who feel superior to hill tribesmen, Cambodians, and plenty of others, and Chinese who are superior to Tibetans, (but that's redundant because Chinese are superior to everyone). Except Egyptians and Saudis, who both are superior to Indians and Chinese.  And let's not get started on religion—because the Hindus are convinced they are superior to all, and of course Jews have their own thoughts, as do Yezidis, Christians, and let's not forget Muslims, Mormons, and Rastafarians, all of whom are “the chosen people,” like those found in Saudi Arabia.  The first religion, and therefore most superior, is Yezidism, Hinduism, and Zoroastrianism and only God knows what else.  Muslims look down on Sikhs.  The first people on Earth were Koreans, Africans, Yezidis, and Adam & Eve, though some scientists say we came from monkeys.   Many scientists believe all true science is superior to religions, but apparently this leaves, ironically, anthropology out in the cold, because anthropologists (isn’t that what this is all about?) can’t even make up their minds if they are scientists or not.  Arabs are superior to Persians.  But what exactly is an Arab?  Do you know?  I don’t.  I tried to figure out what an Arab is and got very confused.  In any case, Persians are superior to Arabs, and to Kurds, while Kurds also are superior to Arabs, though Arabs look down on Kurds.  Some Arabs are Sunni Muslims while others are Shia or something else.  Sunni think Shia are dumb.  All Arabs and Persians are superior to Afghans who are superior to Russians and to Pakistanis who in turn are superior to Indians (apparently not realizing that Indians are superior to everyone, except Egyptians, Saudis, and Chinese), while Nepalese are superior to Indians, but again, the Nepalese apparently don't realize the Indians don't care because they will soon surpass China in population! (Which Indians will also say with an exclamation mark.)  Inside Nepal, Brahmans are superior to Sherpas, though pretty girls prefer Gurkhas.  This generation is inferior to that, while writers look down upon photographers and staff are superior to freelance.  Newspapers were superior to bloggers.

Northern Europe is superior to the whole of Southern Europe.   Marines are superior to Soldiers. Oh Lord, I travel too much. Could go on for hours about all the arrogance out there. Just a little more: Aussies are superior to Americans and to Kiwis, while Kiwis are upset when we don't know where they are. Gators are superior to Seminoles, but there is actually truth to this because Seminoles actually are inferior to Gators.  Mammals are superior to reptiles.  And to birds.  And to fish.  Bacteria and viruses are superior to mammals but neither talks about it.

So there.  Top that!

For Thai Readers

1 Comment

03 December 2010

Merry Christmas Thailand!  I see Christmas decorations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.  (Though it might be strange for Buddhists.)  I've also seen many Christmas decorations in places like Hanoi, Singapore, and even Jakarta.

Two articles featuring my work are in the October and December editions of the magazine "Guns & Tactics."  (Thai version.)

Please join my Facebook; there are many updates on Facebook.


 


Just got this Email from Office of Secretary Gates

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Q:  WikiLeaks:  Post-WikiLeaks reaction.  What's your sense on whether the information-sharing climate and environment created after 9/11 to encourage greater cooperation and transparency among the intelligence communities and the military led to these three massive data dumps?

And how concerned are you now there may be an overreaction to clamp down on information dispersal because of the disclosures?



A: SEC. GATES:  One of the common themes that I heard from the time I was a senior agency official in the early 1980s in every military engagement we were in was the complaint of the lack of adequate intelligence support.  That began to change with the Gulf War in 1991, but it really has changed dramatically after 9/11.

And clearly the finding that the lack of sharing of information had prevented people from, quote/unquote, "connecting the dots" led to much wider sharing of information, and I would say especially wider sharing of information at the front, so that no one at the front was denied -- in one of the theaters, Afghanistan or Iraq -- was denied any information that might possibly be helpful to them.  Now, obviously, that aperture went too wide.  There's no reason for a young officer at a forward operating post in Afghanistan to get cables having to do with the START negotiations.  And so we've taken a number of mitigating steps in the department.  I directed a number of these things to be undertaken in August.

First, the -- an automated capability to monitor workstations for security purposes.  We've got about 60 percent of this done, mostly in -- mostly stateside.  And I've directed that we accelerate the completion of it.

Second, as I think you know, we've taken steps in CENTCOM in September and now everywhere to direct that all CD and DVD write capability off the network be disabled.  We have -- we have done some other things in terms of two-man policies -- wherever you can move information from a classified system to an unclassified system, to have a two-person policy there.

And then we have some longer-term efforts under way in which we can -- and, first of all, in which we can identify anomalies, sort of like credit card companies do in the use of computer; and then finally, efforts to actually tailor access depending on roles.

But let me say -- let me address the latter part of your question.  This is obviously a massive dump of information.  First of all, I would say unlike the Pentagon Papers, one of the things that is important, I think, in all of these releases, whether it's Afghanistan, Iraq or the releases this week, is the lack of any significant difference between what the U.S. government says publicly and what these things show privately, whereas the Pentagon Papers showed that many in the government were not only lying to the American people, they were lying to themselves.

But let me -- let me just offer some perspective as somebody who's been at this a long time.  Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time.  And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases.  And this is a quote from John Adams:  "How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not."

To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel."

When we went to real congressional oversight of intelligence in the mid-'70s, there was a broad view that no other foreign intelligence service would ever share information with us again if we were going to share it all with the Congress.  Those fears all proved unfounded.

Now, I've heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on.  I think -- I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets.  Many governments -- some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us.  We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.

So other nations will continue to deal with us.  They will continue to work with us.  We will continue to share sensitive information with one another.

Is this embarrassing?  Yes.  Is it awkward?  Yes.  Consequences for U.S. foreign policy?  I think fairly modest.



A Moment of Peace

7 Comments

23 November 2010

One evening last year in Laos, I saw this monk reading in a window.  With the holiday season upon us, I remembered this moment of peace and thought you might like to share it.

Please click to download a free Moment of Peace.


LONG LIVE THE KING

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23 November 2010

This photo download is for all my Thai friends and associates who have extended such hospitality while I am in the Kingdom of Thailand. Thank you! I made this photo near Mt. Everest inside a guesthouse. I bet the Thai people who put this flag on the wall never expected to see it on Facebook.

Please click LONG LIVE THE KING for a free download.


Moonshine on Ama Dablam

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First Published: 22 November 2010

Recently, I published an image that became popular.  While perusing the photos from that night in the Himalaya in Nepal, a similar but better image popped up.  The moon shining off the mountain grabbed and held my eye, and I thought some people might like to share this moment.

Moonshine on Ama Dablam” can be downloaded for a single personal use.

My Facebook page stays plenty busy.

Heavenly Shower

16 Comments

Published: 16 November 2010

The Himalaya near Mount Everest are ruthless and serene, while the stars tracing above are without love or grudge.  Seasonal tides of fair and foul weather wash in thousands of trekkers, and more ambitious climbers who kletter by night and day.  Many reach their aspirations and many die trying, their bodies abandoned frozen on the mountains like nameless starfish stranded in finality upon a beach.  The names of the unremembered can never be forgotten.

While the Earth turns the heavens seem to shower down onto the mountains and over the horizon.

A copy of this image may be downloaded for a one-time personal use.

 

To Wish Upon a Star

8 Comments

Monday 15 November 2010

One night during my recent walk to Mt. Everest there seemed to be a million stars.  And so the camera was pointed at the treacherous mountain known as Ama Dablam, or “mother’s necklace,” and at the stars above her shoulders.  The serious climbers consider this mountain more difficult and dangerous to climb than Mount Everest.  Kaksher, my Sherpa guide, had reached the summit of Everest twice, and the summit of Ama Dablam eight times.  Some days after this image was made, a Japanese climbing team got into trouble.  I was told they used a satellite phone to ring help in Japan, who called the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu.  A rescue helicopter was launched and one climber was brought to safety.  The helicopter returned for the second climber.  As the rescuer was lowered by rope, winds apparently buffeted the helicopter sending the pilot and tethered rescuer down the mountain to their deaths.   Kaksher Sherpa was a friend of the lost pilot, and said was a good man.  Two more helicopters were sent to search, eventually finding the remains of the two rescuers, which were flown back to Kathmandu and cremated at Pashupatinath.  This was all last week.  While the two rescuers were killed, the two climbers survived.

If you look very closely into this image taken days before the accident, you can see four shooting stars.

To download a copy of this image for personal use, please click To Wish Upon a Star.

Mt. Everest

11 Comments

Published: 04 November 2010

Nepal

Before returning for third time to Afghanistan this year, have made another trip to the Himalaya.  I made this image of Mt. Everest about a week ago.  You are welcome to download a copy for personal use.

Please also buy a copy of my upcoming photobook, "Inside the Inferno."

You won't be disappointed.


Wikileaks: Statement from Office of U.S. Secretary of Defence

13 Comments

This just came in my email from Geoff Morrell:

"We deplore Wikileaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world, including our enemies. We know terrorist organizations have been mining the leaked Afghan documents for information to use against us and this Iraq leak is more than four times as large. By disclosing such sensitive information, Wikileaks continues to put at risk the lives of our troops, their coalition partners and those Iraqis and Afghans working with us. The only responsible course of action for Wikileaks at this point is to return the stolen material and expunge it from their websites as soon as possible."

 

The Linda Norgrove Rescue Tragedy

44 Comments

Published: 11 October 2010

Ms. Linda Norgrove was kidnapped on 26 September during an ambush in eastern Afghanistan.  A trusted and knowledgeable source told me he expected there was a high likelihood she would be killed by these particularly brutal people.  Several days ago, during a rescue attempt led by U.S. forces, Ms. Norgrove was killed.  There is some speculation surrounding the circumstances of her death.

Today, I emailed the office of General Petraeus regarding the tragedy surrounding Ms. Norgrove. After two wars, General Petraeus is one of the sources I greatly trust. I did not speak to him directly about this. The general's staff responded immediately with emails and a phone call.  I asked Major Sunset Belinsky in Afghanistan to email an account of the situation.

Read more: The Linda Norgrove Rescue Tragedy

Our Muslim Friends Suffer, Too

60 Comments

Published: 29 September 2010

Terrorism knows no bounds.  This atrocity happened in Iraq and the sadness still lingers in many hearts.

I republish these two emails with permission of CSM Jeffrey Mellinger.

Mohemmed's name has been changed to protect his family.  May God cherish his brave Soul.

SGM Mohemmed al-Ahbab

Read more: Our Muslim Friends Suffer, Too

Even as the World Watched IV: Peaceful, or Pistol?

26 Comments

Thai Soldier Watching for Snipers in Bangkok (May 2010).

12 July 2010
Chiang Mai, Thailand

During the Thailand fighting in May, the rain of media mixed with the dust of politics, creating mud that left honest people feeling bogged down.  People desiring clarity slogged knee deep, then waist deep, and it kept coming.

My reports avoided politics largely because I do not understand Thai politics.  There can be value in this, just as a Korean, for instance, can come to the United States and observe from a “here and now” perspective and, quite possibly—if he sticks to what he sees and not what people tell him to see—render a more accurate observation from a riot.  The “mouths of babes” are not restricted to children.

Read more: Even as the World Watched IV: Peaceful, or Pistol?

Even as the World Watched III: Getting Hit to Get the Shot

19 Comments

Bullets fly fast


Published: 07 July 2010
Chiang Mai, Thailand

During the Bangkok fighting in May, radio interviewers back America kept asking about the overuse of force by the Thai Army.  I answered that’s not happening, and there seem to be hundreds of journalists crawling over the streets, and I see them with cameras on tripods on balconies (like mine was) or peering through windows.  How could the Thai government hide a herd of elephants in front of all those cameras?

Read more: Even as the World Watched III: Getting Hit to Get the Shot

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