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Truthdigger of the Week: Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis

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Posted on Feb 17, 2012
stripes.com

It may seem quaint that a high-ranking Army officer with a career spanning some 27 years would look to Jimmy Stewart’s everyman hero in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” for inspiration in his own life, but it’s a darned good thing that Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis holds such old-fashioned ideals as truth-telling in high regard. For refusing to hew to the military party line about the supposed success of America’s military strategy in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Davis is our latest pick for Truthdigger of the Week.

As The New York Times’ Scott Shane reported in a Feb. 5 article that sent shock waves through the Capitol, Davis quietly summoned the resolve to act on his convictions late last year, after he returned from his second lengthy tour of duty in Afghanistan. Problem was, what he’d seen there didn’t square with the story the government was selling to the American people about the war over there. Davis turned to two trusted moral guides while preparing to serve his conscience over his superiors.

The New York Times:

Since enlisting in the Army in 1985, he said, he had repeatedly seen top commanders falsely dress up a dismal situation. But this time, he would not let it rest. So he consulted with his pastor at McLean Bible Church in Virginia, where he sings in the choir. He watched his favorite movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” one more time, drawing inspiration from Jimmy Stewart’s role as the extraordinary ordinary man who takes on a corrupt establishment.

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In January, Davis kicked off his whistle-blowing campaign, which involved writing and releasing two reports, one classified and one unclassified, speaking with select Congress members and colleagues and contacting the NYT. Here’s Shane’s sum-up of the thrust of Davis’ message:

The New York Times:

“How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?“ Colonel Davis asks in an article summarizing his views titled “Truth, Lies and Afghanistan: How Military Leaders Have Let Us Down.” It was published online Sunday in The Armed Forces Journal, the nation’s oldest independent periodical on military affairs. “No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan,” he says in the article. “But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.”

Colonel Davis says his experience has caused him to doubt reports of progress in the war from numerous military leaders, including David H. Petraeus, who commanded the troops in Afghanistan before becoming the director of the Central Intelligence Agency in June.

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On Feb. 10, Rolling Stone magazine published Davis’ unclassified report, “Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leader’s Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort,” in full, as the Pentagon, not surprisingly, had refused to release it. In the report, dated Jan. 27, 2012, Davis comes out swinging and makes a strong case for his decision to flout military convention and question the chain of command all the way up to Petraeus.

Dereliction of Duty II:

Senior ranking US military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the US Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable.  This deception has damaged America’s credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan.  It has likely cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars Congress might not otherwise have appropriated had it known the truth, and our senior leaders’ behavior has almost certainly extended the duration of this war.  The single greatest penalty our Nation has suffered, however, has been that we have lost the blood, limbs and lives of tens of thousands of American Service Members with little to no gain to our country as a consequence of this deception.

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Although Davis didn’t release any classified information to the public, as he is “no WikiLeaks guy Part II,” he writes that the American people “would see the dramatic gulf between what is often said in public by our senior leaders and what is actually true behind the scenes” if they had access to both versions of his bombshell reports. Regardless, the gesture registered in the halls of Congress and at the Pentagon, but as Shane noted in his Feb. 5 NYT article, the potential repercussions against Lt. Col. Davis may have been contained “partly because he has recruited a few supporters among the war skeptics on Capitol Hill.” And on Feb. 16, a group of five House members who supported Davis’ effort invited him for a congratulatory huddle and to hear more about what he saw in Afghanistan and was forthright enough to tell in full. We’ll round that out by saluting Lt. Col. Davis as a deserving winner of our weekly Truthdigger award.


Here’s a clip from the Feb. 15 edition of “Democracy Now!” in which Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings talks about Davis’ report:

Democracy Now!:

 

 


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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, February 21, 2012 at 4:50 am Link to this comment

Forever to remain a light colonel.

Bring back the draft and our moral compass would find itself again. 

Only when all have a dog in the fight will the nations representatives take notice when the torches and pitchforks gather outside their offices.

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, February 21, 2012 at 12:20 am Link to this comment

Here! Here!

May the truth always be welcome in America.

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blogdog's avatar

By blogdog, February 20, 2012 at 1:19 am Link to this comment

it’s worse than Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis reports - there is no plan to win anything -
NATO’s mission is simply to fail states - any state standing in the path of global
finance hegemony is scheduled for failure - failed states are lain open and bare for
the insertion of proxy puppet regimes - regimes that will work with global
hegemons to protect their interests over those of the state’s citizens

as citizens of the so-called ‘free world’, it’s our duty to the entire world to de-
fund the globalist hegemons’ principal weapon - the US Military Industrial
Complex - as the central charge in NATO’s troika - now led by Obomber,
Sharkozy and Cameruin - war criminals to the man, whose destiny with the World
Court on charges of Crimes Against Humanity is paramount

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By rewiredhogdog, February 19, 2012 at 10:56 am Link to this comment

Urekismet, you are an asshole.

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By pundaint, February 19, 2012 at 10:54 am Link to this comment

Does this mean that the biggest liar now runs the CIA?

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By - bill, February 19, 2012 at 9:22 am Link to this comment

My original post, vector, said that I was

“not willing to let others off the hook and JUST (emphasis added) blame those in uniform”

(you even quoted this in your response), which hardly suggested that I was letting the military off the hook entirely.

In my next post I said that the American people are

“every bit as responsible as Lt. Col. Davis”

(this time explicitly noting the shared responsibility), and yet in your next post you said

“Question: are not “the Troops” also “the American People?”  Correct me if I am wrong but it seems that you “imply” that they (Troops) are “guiltless” automatons who are “just following orders”.”

which certainly SOUNDED as if you had not understood either of those two previous indications that I held BOTH groups responsible.

I then indeed corrected you (as you had invited me to) with

“My contention (which I think I stated fairly clearly) was that Lt. Col. Davis is no more responsible for our deplorable military adventurism than the American people”

and yet you responded with

“Part of that “us” also includes the Troops”

- certainly appearing once again to have failed to understand that this was precisely what I had been saying.

Now, I admit that I can’t determine whether you failed to understand what you were purportedly responding to or failed to write your own responses competently, but it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was one or the other.

You’re now veering away into a different discussion about whether the average rank-and-file troop (or even mid-level officer) is MORE to blame than our civilian population.  That’s certainly a legitimate discussion to have, but is not the area in which I was challenging your competence.

I’ve already briefly described why I disagree with you on that point.  While actual war crimes have been committed and should be prosecuted, MOST of the combat and associated activity, violent though it has been, does not fall into that category in terms of those doing the actual fighting:  they’re merely doing what we’ve asked of them within the rules of combat that have been laid down (though at HIGHER levels some of the orders that have been given, up to and including the order to invade Iraq at all, DO constitute war crimes which should be prosecuted).

As for your concluding question, if I were in the situation you describe I’d spend the rest of my life trying to find a way to strike back directly at those who ordered and supported the carnage rather than waste my effort and resentment on the often-less-than-enthusiastic tools they used to carry it out (yes, there are conspicuous exceptions like the gunship occupants in the Wikileaks video, but I believe that painting the entire military with that brush is not only wrong but counter-productive - see anarcissie’s comment).

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, February 19, 2012 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

“I guess you’re not just wrong, vector:  you seem to be illiterate as well.”

“I’ve said, very clearly, three times now that I blame the troops as much as (but in most cases no more than) our general population.”

Bill: I will not be “baited” into being uncivil.

I am not “illiterate”, I disagree!

You blame the Troops as much or equal to the rest of us, I hold them responsible for the actual acts of unimaginable violence they have committed against men women and children in the name of what ever cause they were “duped” into killing for by corporate America.

“What if the had a war and no one showed up?”

It would seem that guys like these (the Troops) always “show up” for a paycheck or some mislead feelings of “glory”.  The poor, killing the poorer by the millions for the Super Rich; there is no greater crime against humanity!


If a third world family hiding in a basement while their city is “carpet bombed” watching their love ones being burned alive by napalm or white phosphorus; who do you think they would resent more, the suits in Washington or the guy in the plane?

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, February 19, 2012 at 7:06 am Link to this comment

Many popular revolutions have succeeded because they brought at least the rank and file of the military and the police over to their side.  The practical effect, and maybe the purpose, of denouncing the military and the police can maybe be guessed from this observation.

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By - bill, February 19, 2012 at 4:54 am Link to this comment

I guess you’re not just wrong, vector:  you seem to be illiterate as well.

I’ve said, very clearly, three times now that I blame the troops as much as (but in most cases no more than) our general population.  Please read what I’ve already written a lot more carefully before responding incompetently yet again.

(And, incidentally, I DO blame those vigorously beating the drums for war considerably more than I do either MOST OF the general population or MOST OF the military, because there’s a real difference between passively accepting a situation as the result of sustained manipulation by your government and its complicit mass media and actively promoting it.  However, the buck does finally stop with us, so the ultimate blame I believe is ours.)

The broad-brush attitude you and JimBob have toward all members of the military reminds me of the similar attitude that strident militarists used to have (and may still have, though they seem to be somewhat quieter these days) toward ‘commie-pinkos’ anywhere to the left of them.  You may find it personally satisfying to denigrate those who don’t share your opinions, but it’s not the best way to gain adherents (if that, rather than merely beating your chests and venting, is of any importance to you).

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, February 18, 2012 at 8:09 pm Link to this comment

JimBob; I am with you brother and so is Carlin:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDkhzHQO7jY

Bill; “Citizen Solider” trained every other week end, plus a very small skeleton crew of permanent military training personnel could provide all the security we would need once we pulled out of other countries and allowed them to run their own affairs.

As you said, I too blame “us” more then the 1% in Washington and on Wall Street. Part of that “us” also includes the Troops. And please, don’t give me this “they wanted to serve their country crap!” Most who go into the military are “dirt” poor. Personally, I see nothing wrong with being poor. What it comes down to is “who do I have to kill to get Government Health Care (Dental and Vision) and a steady pay check for me and my family?”

Answer: get on a plane, go across the ocean and snuff out millions of people who are poorer than you are for Multinational Corporations! 

Poor people killing even poorer people for the “scraps” from the tables of “Billionaires” and hiding behind such words as “honor” and “Justice”!

Hell, we even have a “Dream” Act that provides endless cheap “Cannon Fodder” from South of the Border. We don’t mind sacrificing them and they don’t seem to mind killing other poor people to get a shot at citizenship.

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JimBob's avatar

By JimBob, February 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm Link to this comment

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’ve never believed a
word out of the military’s collective mouth when they
tried to put lipstick on the pig that is our invasion of
Afghanistan.  They call the Taliban “insurgent” when the
Taliban was the government when we got there. We
established a puppet government of our own and called
the Taliban insurgents for trying to topple it.  When
you hear bullshit on that level, why would you believe
anything else being said?  And since the military was
never able to define their goals in Afghanistan in the
first place, why would anyone believe something is being
achieved? 
When listening to the military mind being spoken, it’s
always necessary to realize first and foremost that THEY
LOVE WAR.  War is when they get to do their thing.  War
is what makes them important. War is what gets them jobs
in the private sectors they have enriched during
conflict.  War is what makes their little pee-pees hard. 
So, whatever they say about it has to be discounted with
that in mind—just as if you were hearing a six-year-
old tell you about the healthy properties of ice cream.
We have no one to blame but ourselves for believing
these clowns in their stupid little suits with the crap
all over their chests showing what brave little soldiers
they are.  Fuggem!

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By - bill, February 18, 2012 at 4:08 pm Link to this comment

You are indeed wrong, vector, and I’m happy to correct you.

My contention (which I think I stated fairly clearly) was that Lt. Col. Davis is no more responsible for our deplorable military adventurism than the American people, rather than being the caricature of personal evil portrayed by UreKismet and to some degree you as well.  In fact, he has not apparently even been more personally instrumental in helping carry out that adventurism than a large percentage of non-uniformed Americans (who help supply our military with equipment, medical supplies, or even just food:  it’s all required to carry out their activities).

So I’m hardly suggesting that Davis is guiltless, just that he’s not notably guiltier than most of us and therefore not deserving of any greater disparagement.  And the fact that he’s willing to actively buck the establishment which is leading the charge to the kinds of depravity that we both abhor (rather than just sit back and comfortably ignore it, as most of the country seems to) is a definite plus in my book.

I’ll suggest that in a world where oceans no longer constitute the impediment to sudden attack that they did in Jefferson’s time the idea that we need NO standing military (with NO professionals ready to organize it) is a bit out-dated.  To me, the question is not whether to have one but how large it should be (which I touched upon earlier) and how restrained our use of it should be (actual defense - plus humanitarian efforts where appropriate - being about the limit I can countenance, and I’m talking about physical defense, not ‘defending our national interests’ which sounds far to close to the rationales being bandied about by Germany in the late ‘30s for my comfort).  And if we’re going to have a standing military, Davis is certainly far closer to the kind of person I want helping to manage it than many of those now in charge of doing so.

While we may just have to agree to disagree on the need for a standing military (a question on which I suspect you’re in an even smaller minority than I’m in on most issues, and that’s saying something), we seem to be in complete agreement that we need far fewer in the military and far greater concentration on diplomacy and citizen responsibility.

In any event, my intent here was to try to stand up for someone who has, in my opinion, done something right which needed to be done, rather than allowing generalized and arguably knee-jerk reaction based simply on the fact that he wears a uniform to obscure that.  I’ve reacted similarly myself in the past, but have eventually come around to the view that while individuals in the military do commit war crimes and should be vigorously prosecuted for them, pillorying EVERYONE in the military for following the rules of conduct which they have sworn to follow and doing what we, as a country, have ORDERED them to do constitutes an attempt, unintentional though it may be, to shift the real responsibility from where it belongs:  with us).

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, February 18, 2012 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

Bill: I am reluctant to press the issue, because generally speaking I agree with you:

“Those with ultimate responsibility for all the unnecessary killing our military has been engaging in around the world are the American people.”


The American People are at the core of the “millions” slaughtered just in my life time for corporate profits.

Question: are not “the Troops” also “the American People?”  Correct me if I am wrong but it seems that you “imply” that they (Troops) are “guiltless” automatons who are “just following orders”. 


“I applaud Lt. Col. Davis for helping ensure that we as a people have a sufficiently complete understanding of how our military is being used that we cannot hide from our responsibility for it. “

Jefferson spoke feared a “cult of the military” where the professional warrior class would over shadow civil society. He (Jefferson) was against “standing Armies” and wanted “citizen soldiers”.

Davis is a professional soldiers, an abominations!

We need less professional killers and more diplomats and citizens.

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By - bill, February 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment

Sorry, vector:  either you didn’t understand what I said, or just don’t get it in a more general sense.

Those with ultimate responsibility for all the unnecessary killing our military has been engaging in around the world are the American people.  They’re responsible for allowing themselves to be deceived over anything more than a single election cycle by their government (because they elect it).  They’re responsible for the actions of their military (because they tolerate and in many cases, as you note, glamorize what they’re doing).  They’re responsible for the out-right atrocities carried out in their name (and for assiduously ignoring them).

So they’re every bit as responsible as Lt. Col. Davis whom UreKismet took it upon himself to denigrate.  Davis does not appear to have been personally much involved in despoiling the world and in fact seems to have been pretty much off to the side of even the chain of command that has been helped direct such destruction.  If he does not rail against our general behaviorhe’s still at least trying to make us better aware of how it’s turning out, and that in my opinion is a significant service (as well as being somewhat above and beyond what his nominal military duty may be).

So as one of those people who “elected to never join the imperial forces” back at a time when such a decision carried noticeably more personal risk than it does today I’m perhaps more inclined than some to weigh in against armchair revolutionaries who see everything in black and white and don’t hesitate to disparage anyone who doesn’t.  If we’re going to succeed in changing things we need all the help we can get, and Lt. Col. Davis strikes me as both helpful and by virtue of his attempts to be a moral individual a potential friend.

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, February 18, 2012 at 11:57 am Link to this comment

“so am not willing to let others off the hook and just blame those in uniform.”

Bill; what you imply above is just opposite of the reality we now live in. At present 90% of America kneel at the alter of the “cult of the military”. The norm is the “Troops” can do no wrong! Davis and his elk are considered “the tip of the spear” (that is driven into countless little “third world” bodies).

Yes, I blame Bush, Obama,Congress, and all in the chain of command that keep our constant “blood bath” afloat! But with out the “life takers and heart breakers”, none of this would be possible. Guys in $300 suits don’t kill third world babies!

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By allen, February 18, 2012 at 10:27 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Paul_GA writes:

“...And the most dangerous time is when an empire is clearly declining towards its fall, and its leadership (which can’t admit publicly that such is the case) gets desperate.”

While agreeing with the general thrust of Paul_GA’s comment, I think we must concede that it is not the leaders of an empire alone who are in denial (of the decline).  The citizenry must also be indicted as co-conspirators (in the deception) or enablers, to borrow a term from psychiatry.


When we are told that we possess the most powerful military in the world, an assertion I cannot dispute, there arises the natural belief that our ability to project that power in order to protect “American interests” remains unparalleled.  This despite evidence from the relatively recent past that overwhelming military superiority does not necessarily translate into victory (cf. Vietnam).

The degree to which the citizens of the empire continue to regard military power as the most important indicator of a country’s strength assures that other indicators take a back seat, no matter that those other indicators may be “flashing red” (e.g., the economy; unemployment; the percentage of the populace that lacks the education required to enable them to join the workforce except with respect to the most menial jobs; or the percentage of the populace that lacks health care.)

Without denigrating the men and women who serve in those armed forces or their ability to execute the missions they are given, I believe we must concede that military might alone is no measure of a counry’s “greatness.”

And if the populace believes otherwise, whether out of general ignorance or pure willfulness, then, as Mr. Bumble says in Oliver Twist in another context about another subject, “Then the law is a ass—a idiot.”

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By - bill, February 18, 2012 at 9:26 am Link to this comment

As one of those who “elected to never join the imperial forces” and in fact refused to do so after receiving an induction notice in 1968 (and was lucky to be reclassified as a conscientious objector as a result rather than spend time in jail), I have no problem with Lt. Col. Davis.  He seems a conscientious member of a military establishment which most people in this country would admit is to SOME degree necessary (though in my estimation could fulfill its role at less than 25% of its current funding), and is standing up for a level of truth from that establishment that would allow civilian leaders (and ultimately those who elect them) to make informed decisions about how it is used.

Because it’s ultimately those voters who are responsible for how the military IS being used.  I feel responsible even though I vigorously oppose that use (because clearly there’s more that I could have done in such opposition), so am not willing to let others off the hook and just blame those in uniform.  And while I’d hope to see members of the military refuse to participate in and actively oppose behavior which they can see is illegal, actively opposing anything short of that is not within their legal purview (true, they could have refused to join in the first place, but that’s a bit too facile a hindsight for me to apply from the comfort of my keyboard).

So I applaud Lt. Col. Davis for helping ensure that we as a people have a sufficiently complete understanding of how our military is being used that we cannot hide from our responsibility for it.  It will then be the job of those of us who feel we should be using it quite differently and far less to make the case to the rest of our country for doing so.

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Paul_GA's avatar

By Paul_GA, February 18, 2012 at 6:45 am Link to this comment

With respect, Anarcissie, empires don’t retreat; they keep going regardless of the consequences for their own people and for others when the inevitable fall occurs (and all empires fall). And the most dangerous time is when an empire is clearly declining towards its fall, and its leadership (which can’t admit publicly that such is the case) gets desperate.

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, February 18, 2012 at 6:36 am Link to this comment

UreKismet took the words right out of my mind!” I could not agree more;

“The real amerikan heroes are those men and women who have elected to never join the imperial forces.”

“Dan Davis is no promoter of peace, or even truth.  He just wants the killing machine to kill more efficiently and effectively. “


Davis, Petraeus and the other “corporate military types (in my opinion) are the “Domestic Enemies” spoke of in the constitution. Include many of the Cops who crack our heads and peeper-spray us when we dare to exercise our first amendment rights. 

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/14/1036293/-Cops-Domestic-Enemies-?via=blog_744899

It never was a battle between “Us” (the many) and “Them” (the few); it has always been a struggle among ourselves on their behalf.

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UreKismet's avatar

By UreKismet, February 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm Link to this comment

One man’s ‘truthdigger’ is another man’s deceitful and self-deceiving enabler of grand scale murder, mayhem & larceny.

The real amerikan heroes are those men and women who have elected to never join the imperial forces.  They remain steadfast no matter how poor they are/were and desperate to support their families they may be. Staunch despite the hysterical cries/lies of media and military, who have been unaimously screeching amerika was about to succumb to unwhite armies, navies or terrorists.

The fact that this dude; allegedly a senior ranking officer in the most technologically advanced machine of slaughter & oppression the world has seen; stops and consults with the witch doctor of an ancient & discredited superstition, before he dares criticise the methods of slaughter & oppression the machine has been utilising, aptly illustrates the logical disconnect at the heart of the amerikan empire.

Another enabler of empire.  Dan Davis is no promoter of peace, or even truth.  He just wants the killing machine to kill more efficiently and effectively.  The need for all this killing is based upon the greatest lie of them all.  If Davis were honest he would tell amerikans the truth about their military.  That is in the 200+ years since amerika’s foundation, there has never been a single instance where amerika has been under any substantial or existential external threat.

To the contrary, the only time any entity of substance has felt sufficient enmity towards amerika to wish amerika ill, that enmity has been the direct result of amerika’s violence towards that other entity.

Davis is as much a part of the problem as Petraeus or any of the other hypocritical sociopaths who inhabit the pentagon.

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By Aarky, February 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I read most of the report and he is scathing against Petraeus and his surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also spends time ripping into General William Caldwell for lying about how well the Afghan Army and police forces function. Both Caldwell and Petraeus lied through their teeth about the shaped charge explosive devices from Iran (easily made in Iraq from plans available on the Global Research.org website)as part of a Cheneyesque plot to justify attacking Iran. The top Generals stopped this diabolical madman, but the two Generals were rewarded very well with promotions. He also rips the Rumsfeld DOD for hiring compliant retired Generals to hype the need for war against Iraq and the almost sychophantic media for not questioning the lies that were so obvious. The Generals and Admirals will ignore the report. There is too much money and potential promotions in Afghanistan if the quagmire can be kept churning for a couple more years.

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By Peter Everts, February 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Only wish we had someone of this courage before I was sent to Vietnam in 1968 and witnessed courage, depravity, waste and humanity in my fellow soldiers, most of whom were conscripts.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, February 17, 2012 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment

It’s also possible, of course, that the U.S. ruling class has decided to retreat from its rather extended, vulnerable and expensive positions in Central Asia and is permitting some of the skepticism about the project to surface.  (I think the conquer-Central-Asia project has been pretty much dead since the Georgia-Ossetia caper didn’t come off at all well, but it has taken a long time to fall down.)

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