Friday, December 23, 2016

The Secret

I encountered this video on my Facebook feed and it struck me as shameless glorification of the military industrial complex. You know how I feel about the military industrial complex. 

I am not saying that patriotism is a false emotion. Far from it. I am a patriot. But I know a thing about patriotism that you can only learn from combat. 

When you are in a heavy gunfight and you are terrified to the limit of your capacity to function, you will be fighting to live, and for your love of the man or woman beside you. Not for America.

In these moments, patriotism will feel like a cheap lie, America will be far away, and America will be an abstraction. If your family is far from you, even they will be an abstraction to you in these moments, when milliseconds can feel like an eternity.

Your comrades beside you are immediate and real. After your own self survival, they are the reason why you fight when others hide. They are also the means of your salvation, for if you fight bravely and compel them to follow your example, the odds rise that you will all survive. 

Those who train armies learned this millennia ago. Patriotism is a strong emotion, but it is not stronger than the fear of death when you are faced with mounting odds that you are already a walking dead man.

So I will explain the secret. 

Accept your death, embrace the inevitability of your death, and fight like you are already dead. Pray only to be brave and to be worthy of the warriors beside you. Pray only for this and for no more. Your God will hear you. 

Pray for a good death, so that you can rest in peace and honor, and be commemorated for your steadfast heart and for your bravery.

Never betray your comrades. That shame is the worst fate imaginable. Remember that the swordmaster Miyamoto Musashi told us that the way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death. Fight like you are already dead. This is the secret. It is also the way to survive.

When there is a time of peace to think about what happened to you, you will realize that patriotism is an artifice used by old men to send young men to war. This does not invalidate patriotism. It does put it in its appropriate place. We are not fools, we are warriors, and we call things by their true names.

Volunteer for war because you are a warrior of the American praetorian class. Do not worry about the morality of your wars. Your leaders and your politicians are not worthy of your sacrifice, so do not concern yourself with this.

Worry only about your own honor and pray to never fail your comrades. Pray for nothing else. Then go to war with a pure heart, and fight like a controlled berserker. Fight like you are already dead, and know that if you die, it will be a good death. 

As Ranger George Conrad taught me in my youth, the ideal death for an airborne Ranger is to die with empty magazines, your grenades exhausted, and smoke curling from the melted barrel of your weapon. 

The blood of your enemies should be on your bayonet, and your thumbs should be sunk deep into the eye sockets of the worthy adversary who overcame you. Surrounded by corpses, this will be a good death. 

If you survive against all odds, with your honor intact, you will know the secret.

Nothing in this life can be sweeter.

But make no mistake, and do not expect that patriotism will be strong enough to beguile you beyond fear. It is not strong enough. You will know fear and you will understand cowardice. 

So when you know that you will be dead within the next few heartbeats, embrace your death and pray to be brave. Then fight like you are already dead. This is the secret. Do not hesitate.

As we learned in our youth at the Infantry School on Fort Beginning, there are two kinds of people in this world: the quick, and the dead. 

There is no stranger satisfaction in this life than knowing that you should be dead, but that you were spared for an unknowable reason. You will never understand why you did not die. So cease trying. Just love every moment of your life, and live gloriously because better men than you cannot.

Remember them. Commemorate them. Never forget your dead. But live the life that they cannot live, live with dignity and honor because there is nothing in this life that is better than to be alive when you should be dead, and most of all, to know that you were brave when others buckled.

Never wallow in guilt. You will never understand why you lived when others died, so waste no time trying. Instead, live hard, live well, be dedicated to discipline and to honor, be kind to women, to children, to noncombatants and to animals, and be merciful to those that you vanquish on the field of battle.

In this way, you illustrate your self-control, your discipline, and your professionalism. 

Be a good friend and an implacable enemy, be present in every moment, because only someone who survives the distorted infinities of combat understands how miraculous that each breath is. You know the fragility of life. So celebrate it.

When others are overmastered by their fear of death, do not condemn their cowardice or feel contempt for them. Pity them, and demonstrate the way of the warrior through your strong example. 

Fate may give them an opportunity to harness their shame and to ascend to the acceptance of death that is your secret. Help them, and show them the way. Death commandos following a calm, competent leader win battles.

Enjoy patriotism. But know it for what it is. And never expect that it will sustain you when you are at the uttermost fringe of life, living what Kierkegaard called a margin experience, like combat. Only God can sustain you in these moments. Remember this, and you will not be misled, or disappointed. 

Love your comrades and fight with bravery and the certitude that you are already dead. Many others showed you the way. If they can do it, so can you.

Set a fine example for your subordinates, and display serene competence under conditions of chaos. As the master Sun Tzu taught us, this is the acme of excellence. That is your place.

Do it for your own self survival and for the love of your comrades. There is no better thing in life. Only the combat veteran knows this. There is only one way to learn it.

Consider yourself told. Because I just told you. If you wish to know this for yourself, there is only one way.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Idioms of Dreams: A Tale of the Grenada Raiders

The memoir that I started in 1991 is complete. A preview published by my friend Jake Siegel, a captain of infantry who fought in Iraq, appeared in the Daily Beast in October, 2013. Four years later, I am polishing the infamous chapter 33, the prologue, and the afterword. The book is finished. 

The memoir is now titled Idioms of Dreams: A Tale of the Grenada Raiders. I may change this title. If you have ideas, please say so. I long called this work Language of Nightmares. That felt too much like H.P. Lovecraft. The work is weird, but it is not in the Lovecraft tradition. Then I called it Dialects of Dreams. Now I call it Idioms of Dreams. Maybe it should be Idioms of Nightmares. I go back and forth. 

I envision two editions: the Ranger Edition, and the Hafftka Edition. 

The Ranger Edition of Idioms of Dreams will be a mass market edition with maps, photographs, foreword and afterword. It will be available in both physical and electronic versions. I think that the electronic edition may make sense for most readers, as there are so many photos in it that it will be difficult to publish in physical form. I think that pricing it at $9.99 for an eBook license is fair. 

I talked to Michael Yon yesterday, and he told me that one of his books ended up costing $100 a copy for a physical edition, and he still sold thousands of units. At least there is a precedent. Another of his books sold tens of thousands of units. Alas, I am not Mike Yon. 

I made the Ranger Edition to preempt critics. Some folks will dispute my narrative. It is personal, and nobody experiences combat the same, so I included photographs that support my representation of combat. The narrative is not history, but it is historical. Many will consider it history, no matter what I say.

Finally, the artist Michael Hafftka completed art for an illustrated edition of Idioms Of Dreams in 2013, and he continues working on its tapestry. It is a big job, illustrating a book like this. You can see Hafftka's preview on the Huffington Post

I talked to Hafftka today, and he will publish another preview on the HuffPo after his next illustrations are complete. I hope that Hafftka creates a modern Through the Looking Glass, but about war, with a dash of kabbalah. There is no telling what will actually happen. Even Hafftka himself cannot know. This is art. 

So that is it. My lawyer has Idioms of Dreams, and soon, The Rosetta Stone of Memories, and we shall see what happens. It is miraculous that I was able to complete this manuscript. Divine intervention played a role, and it will be even more miraculous if my lawyer finds an agent, and that agent a publisher. The odds are stacked against me. 

So we will go step by step. 

I dared many times over my lifetime to do what others insisted were impossibilities. 

I no longer remember all the people who told me that I could never be a Ranger or a Green Beret or a writer. I proved them wrong, and I published in the New York Times. Twice. So this is familiar ground. 

Never accept it when others tell you that you cannot encompass your dreams. You just need to visualize your future with your eyes wide open, as T.E. Lawrence said. 

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.
T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, 1922.  

I am convinced that we project our existence. Modern science does not know what 90% of the human brain even does. We project reality. So if you want to do something, visualize it. 

Obviously, gravity, death, sequentiality, are all implacable laws. But much depends upon decisions, and you make the decisions that determine your life. 

So dare greatly. 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

"Maddog" Mattis? Green Berets Beg to Differ

My brother Jason Amerine, who commanded a Special Forces detachment as a young captain during the early Afghanistan campaign, shared some criticisms of Marine LTG "Maddog" Mattis that he recently posted on his Facebook page. 

These comments are topical because the anniversary of the deaths by friendly fire of men under Jason's command is upon us yet again, and because "Maddog" Mattis is the choice of President Elect Trump for Secretary of Defense. 

I shared Jason's comments with my own Facebook network, preserving their limited distribution. If Jason wanted to limit distribution of his comments to our circle of Special Forces and Ranger veterans, that is his call. But I told him in a comment that I wished that he would post the comments in public, for public distribution. 

Jason messaged me, saying, "You can copy and paste the post and use it however you want." He explained his reluctance to "start another storm," then he thanked me for being there. I consider it an honor to know Jason Amerine, and it is an honor to publish his words. 

Neither I nor Jason seek to undermine our President Elect. But it would be an appropriate gesture for General Mattis to apologize for his timidity when the lives of Special Forces soldiers were at stake. 

None of us can demand perfection from our commanders in combat. We know the chaos of war, we understand how anyone can make a bad call on a bad day when everyone is just trying to do their best. 

So why share this at all? Will it be manipulated by a corrupt news media to undermine our President Elect? 

I choose to believe that we the people are smarter than that, we know very well that our mainstream news media is propagandistic and manipulative, and we are capable of filtering our news for ourselves. 

We the people will understand that on one day, in a long career, Maddog Mattis made a bad call. 

All that General Mattis needs to do to get this old Green Beret off his ass is to express regrets to the families of the fallen. Is that so much? 

Here is Jason's post: 
"Monday marks fifteen years since the friendly fire that killed JD Davis, Dan Petithory, Cody Prosser, Barigul and scores of other Afghans just north of Kandahar (I always felt fifty killed was a tragic but accurate estimate). 
It seemed fated that Mattis would be announced as SECDEF so close to the anniversary and many of my friends have been reaching out to ask me what he did or didn’t do that day.  
The delay of Mattis in launching MEDEVAC on December 5th was never in question, not even by him. The only debate was whether it was justified and how many died as a result.  
At the time of the friendly fire, my element was not in enemy contact and a surrender delegation was en route to us from the Taliban regime to end that stage of the war.  
The friendly fire that hit us was identified immediately.  
‘Fog of war’ would rightly have delayed the situational awareness of Mattis but he also had a Major and Sergeant Major from our own SOCCE (liaisons from 5th Group) begging him to fly to his face, along with radio calls from my element, JSOC and the CIA.  
His forces at Rhino, just outside Kandahar, were not in significant enemy contact and they had nothing else to do that morning: Mattis had asked days earlier to help with assaulting Kandahar and I, through Karzai, had them sit in place at Rhino so we could force the surrender without US forces causing the Afghans to change their minds.  
Mattis had an excuse to delay launching MEDEVAC while he gathered the facts but not the six hours it took for AFSOC, with the same information, to fly all the way from Pakistan in obsolete MH53s and MEDEVAC us to his landing strip at Rhino.  
Every element in Afghanistan tried to help us except the closest friendly unit, commanded by Mattis. Men were ready to drive to get us or send horses from the other side of the country if that was what it took.  
Mattis finally released his assets after AFSOC landed at Rhino, covering our first load of wounded in dust from their rotor wash as they launched. Cody died around the time we reached Rhino and I was told at least two Afghans died because of the delay but nobody knows for certain.  
None of that was assessed properly because 5th Group chose not to call for a formal investigation. 5th Group wanted to end the bad press associated with the friendly fire and the inaction by Mattis only made it worse so they buried my angry complaints and sought to shut me up about everything that happened that day.  
So I never stopped speaking out about it for the last fifteen years. Maybe Mattis was a good general later in his career by whatever standard you want but it has been bizarre to suddenly see these facts up for debate.  
He was indecisive and betrayed his duty to us, leaving my men to die during the golden hour when he could have reached us. AFSOC shamed him into action.  
Mattis was never held accountable but maybe he learned from it. After all, he relieved one of his battalion commanders two years later for being too hesitant in combat, just as he had been at Rhino (which we all found terribly ironic).  
When he was passed over for Commandant, I took that as an indicator that the Marine hierarchy recognized his flaws. Thanks to Facebook mob mentality, there has been a revisionist history of the man who left us to die but is now compared to Patton due to his juvenile quotes that demean all of us as service members.  
And that is all I have to say on the matter. In the coming days, I will instead reflect on the valor of all my men---American and Afghan---who fought an incredible campaign in southern Afghanistan.  
And I will be forever grateful to the AFSOC pilots who came to our rescue." 
LTC Jason Amerine, US Army Special Forces, retired."

Thank you, Jason. Thank you for being a great American. 

I am proud of you. 

ETA: Edited 5 December 2016. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Multiverse Sends Me a Smoke Signal

As I rode home on the underground today, a little girl, she must have been three or four years old, she smiled at me. Big deal, I can hear you saying.

It is a big deal, and I will explain why. 
She is at an age when a smile still means something. All little girls eventually learn to manipulate others with their smiles, but she had not learned this yet. When she smiled at me, the multiverse, or the Big Ranger in the Sky if you prefer, sent me a smoke signal. When this happens, you should pay attention.
I find myself praying a lot lately, and I learned the hard way that the way to pray is to simply pray to do the will of the multiverse, to do what you are supposed to do. You should never pray for self gratification. You can pray if someone is ill, or hurt, but again, you will find that a simple but heartfelt and humble prayer to the Big Ranger, to Jesus, to Allah, to Brahma, to Krishna, to Shiva, to Kali Ma, or just to God, is best. You should only pray: "may Your will be done."
I no longer pray for this or for that. I pray simply that the will of God be done, and that I perform my purpose for His glory. I am satisfied to receive the side-effects or the left-overs of His will. I find as I get older that I really do not need much more than I have, I do not really want much more. 
I should have died long ago. By some miracle I did not. Not yet. Maybe tomorrow. But for today, a little girl on the underground smiled at me, and it was a blessing. It took me decades to learn to appreciate a smile like that. For just one moment, I knew that I was precisely where I was supposed to be at that time, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Such a blessing.

The machinations of the universe are beyond us. It is human arrogance to think that we can ever understand it in all its infinite complexity. The most that we should hope to know is what we should be doing at any given moment.

Pray to do what you should be doing. Pray to be where you are supposed to be. Most of all, pray simply for the greater glory of your God. And leave the rest in His hands.

This was originally posted on my Facebook page. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Do You Feel Safe?

NSA is algorithmically capturing these keystrokes and archiving them in a technical database as you read them. They do this because this post mentions several subjects that their scanning algorithms prioritize: themselves, and Edward Snowden, among others.

Moreover, I am an American expatriate living overseas, and a survey of my pattern of life reveals that I interact with government employees in sensitive positions, as well as with ranking foreigners, and I was formerly employed by the federal government myself. So following its own rules, outlined in EO12333, NSA is within its rights to archive these words. It is legal. You could even say that it is defensible.

At this point, only NSA knows how long that they retain such data, and we would not be overreacting if we just assumed that it would be forever. I will say that I do not feel protected by such oversight.

You and I were never asked if we wanted NSA to mirror the internet, ostensibly to "protect us." The American people were never asked, "would you like us to spy on your every digital interaction and to archive everything so that we can survey it with algorithms whenever we like? In perpetuity?"

Think for a moment on what this means. It means that every word that you ever utter on the internet, in a private message, in an email, in a forum, can be catalogued and presented for an NSA analyst surfing keywords pertaining to you in XKEYSCORE.

I do not know whether a CIA supergrade actually was reading the email of Snowden's girlfriend, as is depicted in Oliver Stone's recent movie. I highly doubt it. If it did happen, well before Snowden ever went to Hong Kong, then an investigation needs to be mounted.

I suspect that this is poetic license by Oliver Stone. I wish that he did not do things like this. Because it is possible to make the same point by citing an actual fact that really did happen. Because a CIA supergrade probably could read your girlfriend's email, assuming that a host of prerequisites were satisfied. Even CIA has to follow rules. So does NSA.

What is true is that the Obama regime continued a system of suspicionless mass surveillance initiated by Dick Cheney that evolved into the most comprehensive mechanism for tyranny in the history of mankind. We just do not talk about it, or think about its implications, or even bother with overseeing it, because we are busy going to the mall.

Our deep state overlords depend upon our apathy as they burn through their billions in black budgets perpetrating FVEY. If you rebel at the notion of a deep state, then call them the mandarins of the national security state. Same people. There is no effective Congressional oversight. Nobody, and I mean nobody, knows the entirety of what they are doing. "Protecting us." So they say.

I have long said that Snowden should be granted safe passage back to the US to testify under a writ of immunity before a Special Committee on Mass Surveillance. Such a committee is overdue, as the last time that the American intelligence community was scrutinized was in 1976, with the Church and Pike Committees in the Senate and the House respectively.

After Snowden explains himself under oath, and helps us understand how our government spent trillions of dollars in classified black budgets that the Congress granted them, then we should ask ourselves whether Snowden should be pardoned or not.

First, gentlemen like Dick Cheney, Michael Hayden, and Keith Alexander have some explaining to do. Under oath.

This post was first posted on my Facebook page.