bureaucracybusters

CAPTAIN QUEEG AS PRESIDENT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 20, 2017 at 12:03 am

Watching President Donald Trump’s first press conference, some viewers might have flashed back to the climatic scene in the 1954 movie, The Caine Mutiny.

Based on Herman Wouk’s bestselling novel, it centers on the minesweeper USS Caine. Stationed in the Pacific during World War II, its captain is by-the-book Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart).

Mutiny 0.jpg

Queeg is determined to bring a sense of discipline to the ship’s lax seamen. But he can’t admit mistakes, and his bullying approach to command alienates both officers and crew.

Soon after, a typhoon overtakes the Caine. Queeg becomes paralyzed with fear. His executive officer, Steve Maryk (Van Johnson), relieves the captain of command to prevent the loss of the ship. Maryk turns the Caine into the wind and rides out the storm.

Maryk is tried by court-martial for mutiny. His case looks hopeless: Queeg has been found sane by three Navy psychiatrists.

Naval Prosecutor Lt. Commander John Challee depicts Maryk as a reckless mutineer. And Queeg portrays himself as the persecuted victim of a malignant conspiracy by his own officers.

Knowing that Queeg reacts badly to stress, Maryk’s attorney, Lt. Barney Greenwald (Jose Ferrer) relentlessly cross-examines him:

GREENWALD:  Did you steam over your tow line?

QUEEG: I’m happy to dispose of this particular slander. When we were towing the target, I saw some anti-aircraft bursts. I turned to avoid them. My unreliable helmsman failed to warn me about that. But I saw it and reversed course. We didn’t steam over the tow line.

GREENWALD:  Did nothing else distract you?

QUEEG: Not that I recall.

GREENWALD: Weren’t you reprimanding a seaman for having his shirt-tail out while the ship turned?

QUEEG: That only took two seconds.

GREENWALD:  Were all your officers disloyal?

QUEEG:  I didn’t say that. Only some were disloyal.

GREENWALD: Mr Keith and Mr Maryk?

QUEEG:  Yes.

GREENWALD: Did you turn your ship upside down searching for a phantom key?

QUEEG:   I don’t know what lies have been sworn to here, but a key definitely did exist.

PROSECUTOR LT. COMMANDER JOHN CHALLEE: The witness is understandably agitated. I request a recess.

QUEEG:  I don’t want a recess. I’ll answer all questions right here and now.

GREENWALD:  Did you conduct such a search?

QUEEG:  Yes, I did.  My disloyal officers failed me, and the key couldn’t be found.

GREENWALD:  Wasn’t this whole fuss over a quart of strawberries?

QUEEG:  The pilfering of food in large amounts or small is a very serious occurrence on board a ship.

GREENWALD:  You were told that the mess boys ate the berries. There was no key.

QUEEG: The key was not imaginary. I don’t know anything about mess boys eating strawberries.

GREENWALD: Have you no recollection of a conversation with Ensign Harding? Didn’t he tell you that the mess boys ate the strawberries?

QUEEG: I remember he was grateful for his transfer. His wife was ill in the States.

GREENWALD:  Do you know where Ensign Harding is now? He’s in San Diego. He can be flown up here in three hours if necessary. Would it serve any useful purpose to have him testify?

QUEEG:  Now, there’s no need for that.

[He reaches into the pocket of his Navy coat and removes two little steel balls, which he rolls together whenever he feels under stress. He starts rolling them together now and continues to do so throughout the rest of the proceeding.]

caine-mutiny-bogart.jpg

Now that I recall, he might have said something about mess boys. I questioned many men, and Harding was not the most reliable officer.

GREENWALD: The defense has no other recourse than to produce Ensign Harding.

QUEEG:  Now, there’s no need for that. I know exactly what he’ll tell you–lies. He was no different from any other officer in the wardroom. They were all disloyal. I tried to run the ship properly, by the book, but they fought me at every turn. If the crew wanted to walk around with their shirt-tails out, let them. Take the tow line–defective equipment.

But they began spreading wild rumors about steaming in circles. And then “Old Yellowstain.” I was to blame for Maryk’s incompetence and poor seamonship. Lt. Maryk was the perfect officer, but not Queeg.

But the strawberries, ah, that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes. But I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt and with geometric logic that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox did exist. I could have produced that key if they hadn’t pulled the Caine out of action. I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officer.

Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory. If I’ve left anything out, just ask me specific questions and I’ll be glad to answer them one by one.

[The courtroom falls silent–except for the tinkling of the steel balls that Queeg keeps rolling in his right hand. The judges stare at him as he does so. They say nothing, but it’s clear they know they’re looking at a man at the end of his sanity–and naval career.]

GREENWALD: No further questions, sir.

Maryk is acquitted.

* * * * *

So much for fiction. Now for the terrifying reality.

TO HYPOCRISY–AND BEYOND

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 17, 2017 at 11:00 am

On May 20, 2010, Mexico’s then-President Felipe Calderon addressed a joint session of the United States Congress–and attacked the Arizona law that allows law enforcement officials to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

Felipe Calderon

According to Calderon, the law “introduces a terrible idea: using racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement.”  

And to make certain his audience got the point, he offered: “I have said that Mexico does not stop at its border, that wherever there is a Mexican, there is Mexico.”

The hypocrisy of Calderon’s words was staggering.

Racial profiling?  Consider the popular Latino phrase, “La Raza.”

This literally means “the race” or “the people.” Its meaning varies among Spanish-speaking peoples. In the United States, it’s sometimes used to describe people of Chicano and Mexican descent as well as other Latin American mestizos who share Native American heritage.

It rarely includes entirely European or African descended Hispanic peoples.

So when Latinos say, “The Race,” they’re not talking about “the human race.” They’re talking strictly about their own. 

Other races need not apply.

In his lecture, Calderon condemned the United States for doing what Mexico itself has long done: Strictly enforcing control of its own borders.

From a purely political viewpoint, it’s makes sense that Calderon didn’t say anything about this.

From a viewpoint of fairness and common sense, his refusal to do so smacks of the vilest hypocrisy.

Mexico has a single, streamlined law that ensures that foreign visitors and immigrants are:

  • in the country legally;
  • have the means to sustain themselves economically;
  • not destined to be burdens on society;
  • of economic and social benefit to society;
  • of good character and have no criminal records; and
  • contribute to the general well-being of the nation.

The law also ensures that:

  • immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor;
  • foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
  • foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
  • foreign visitors who enter under ralse pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
  • foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned are deported;
  • those who aid in illegal immigration will be sent to prison.

Calderon also ignored a second well-understood but equally unacknowledged truth: Mexico uses the American border to rid itself of those who might otherwise demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Anyone who doubts the overwhelming need for such reforms need only read Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields.  

Written by Investigative Reporter Charles Bowden and published in 2010, Murder City offers a terrifying, almost lethally depressing portrait of what happens when a city–and a country–disintegrates.

Among the casualties of Mexico’s drug-trafficking cartels: 

  • Mexican police pay big bribes to be assigned to narcotics enforcement squads. The reason: Not to suppress the rampant drug trafficking but to enrich themselves by seizing and selling those narcotics. 
  • Residents awaken at dawn to find bodies of the drug cartels’ latest victims dumped on streets–their hands, feet and mouths bound with silver and gray duct tape. 
  • Mexican policewomen are often snatched off the streets and raped–by members of the Mexican Army. Honest policemen–and even police chiefs–are routinely gunned down by cartel members.
  • Members of drug cartels live like kings–until violence catches up with them.
  • Their bribes and violence have corrupted all branches of the Mexican government, military and police forces.
  • Ordinary Mexicans live in grinding poverty, thanks to American factories paying starvation wages

Meanwhile, the Mexican Government still remembers the bloody upheaval known as the Mexican Revolution. This lasted ten years (1910-1920) and wiped out an estimated one to two million men, women and children.

Massacres were common on all sides, with men shot by the hundreds in bullrings or hung by the dozen on trees.

A Mexican Revolution firing squad

All of the major leaders of the Revolution–Francisco Madero, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, Alvaro Obregon–died in a hail of bullets.

Francisco “Pancho” Villa

Emiliano Zapata

As a result, every successive Mexican Government has lived in the shadow of another such wholesale bloodletting. These officials have thus quietly decided to turn the United States border into a safety valve.

If potential revolutionaries leave Mexico to find a better life in the United States, the Government doesn’t have to fear the rise of another “Pancho” Villa.

If somehow the United States managed to seal its southern border, all those teeming millions of “undocumented workers” who just happened to lack any documents would have to stay in “Mexico lindo.”

They would be forced to live with the rampant corruption and poverty that have forever characterized this failed nation-state. Or they would have to demand substantial reforms.

There is no guarantee that such demands would not lead to a second–and equally bloody–Mexican revolution.

So Felipe Calderon and his successors in power have found it easier–and safer–to turn the United States into a dumping ground for the Mexican citizens that the Mexican Government itself doesn’t want.

AFGHANISTAN: DYING TO CIVILIZE THE UNCIVILIZED

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 16, 2017 at 1:02 am

On February 9, Army General John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee he had enough U.S. and NATO troops for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. 

But he needed more to sufficiently “train, advise and assist” the Afghan forces.

There are now 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and another 5,000 troops from NATO countries.

To put this latest troop request into human terms:

On December 21, 2015, a suicide-bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.  Six American troops and an Afghan were killed.

One of the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective and 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. A technical sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, he had been deployed three times–once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

IMAGE: NYPD Detective Joseph Lemm

Joseph Lemm

Lemm left behind a daughter, Brook, 16, a son, Ryan, four, and his wife, Christine.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 23 in Lemm’s honor.

“Staff Sergeant Joe Lemm served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Lemm’s death was a double tragedy–that of a dedicated man who should not have died so needlessly.

In short: It’s long past time for the United States to quit its failed mission to civilize Afghanistan.

The history of American conflict in Afghanistan began on September 11, 2001.

On that date, 19 Islamic highjackers slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted–and the highjackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

The administration of President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011–less than one month from the 9/11 attacks–American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

The whole point of the campaign was to pressure the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

But the Taliban held firm. Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then ultimately escaped into Pakistan.

After December, 2001, American Intelligence completely lost track of Bin Laden.  CIA officials repeatedly said he was likely living in the “no-man’s-land” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan–to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

There was, admittedly, a great deal to detest about the Taliban:

  • When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they turned soccer stadiums into execution plazas for mass beheadings or shootings.
  • Taliban “fighters” have proven their “courage” by throwing acid into the faces of women who dared to attend school.

Taliban religious police beating a woman

  • On August 8, 1989, the Taliban attacked Mazar-i-Sharif. Talibanists began shooting people in the street, then moved on to mass rapes of women. Thousands of people were locked in containers and left to suffocate.
  • The Taliban forbade women to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative and wearing the burqa–a traditional dress covering the entire body. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten.

Yet, as horrific as such atrocities were, these did not obligate the United States to spend eternity trying to bring civilization to this barbaric country.

And, in pursuing that goal, both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014) didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he was viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • The same can be said for his successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan feel surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • Afghan “insurgents” are fighting American forces because (1) they are in a civil war; and (2) they believe their country has once again been occupied by foreigners.
  • Counterinsurgency is being preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan–where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied just as firmly to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their so-called South Vietnamese allies as American troops now feel about their Afghan “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed up how Americans had really felt about their supposed South Vietnamese allies.

American surgical team in Vietnam

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person. The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps.  The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].  The fourth was VC [Viet Cong].

“And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

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