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August 9, 2011
"Looks like you blew a seal,"By Greyhawk
... said the auto mechanic to his customer, who stared back for a moment, confused. "Oh! - No," The senior administration official finally replied, with hand quickly rubbing chin, "that's probably just mayonnaise from my lunch."
(Tasteless? You're about to see tasteless redefined - and that's no joke...)
Twenty-first century product placement:
On the morning of Sunday, May 1st, White House officials cancelled scheduled visits, ordered sandwich platters from Costco, and transformed the Situation Room into a war room.
I don't live near one and I never knew anything about Costco before I saw that odd detail. Curiosity led me to this profile of the store and its customers ("members") from 2004.
Like today's Democratic Party, Costco favors highly trafficked urban and edge-city locations--it has three stores in New York City. And it caters to a decidedly upscale crowd. As John Helyar reported in this excellent Fortune profile, the average salary of a Costco member is $95,333. The company's merchandise mix reflects the fact that its customers shop at discounters by choice, not by necessity. They're New Luxury suckers who like to save on staples, more Jean Chardonnay than Joe Six-Pack.
And Costco's where they can save without fear of running into one of those people of WalMart you've seen in all those emails. Good for them. I'm all about the power of choice. And now they've been mentioned in association with the bin Laden kill, too. More power to 'em.
And more on that in a moment, but first -
YEEEEEEEHAAAW!! Spike that football!!!!:
That's Maureen Dowd in the New York Times - announcing another upcoming version of the killing Osama story, sounding peeved, but still ending on a high note. As for any White House plumbing problems - maybe Team Obama has "tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration," - but that's just those who leak stuff they don't like. These days when you read something like this...
A current U.S. official and a former U.S. official said the Americans included 22 SEALs, three Air Force air controllers and a dog handler and his dog. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because military officials were still notifying the families of the dead.
...you can bet those US officials don't have anything much to worry about.
But back to her observation that "Boal got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently -- to the surprise of some military officers -- at a C.I.A. ceremony celebrating the hero Seals." I'm sure they were surprised, and probably wondering who the hell invited the guy who wrote that "Kill Team" story for Rolling Stone.
If you've already forgotten the "Kill Team" story, it's another in an endless series on how soldiers identified as killers and busted by the US Army prove that all American soldiers everywhere are baby killers.
Speaking of babies - those born in the year that Charlie Sheen movie about "real SEALs" came out are old enough to drink now - and somehow I've survived those decades without seeing the film. I'm sure that whoever they get to star in this upcoming blockbuster (you can bet that every agent in Hollywood is speed-dialing Columbia/Sony even as you read this - but sorry, Charlie - the lead SEAL role is Matt Damon's for the asking) I won't be there to witness it being sprayed on the wall in my local theater either - even if they offer free admission and a sandwich buffet to military ID card holders.
Now back to our twenty-first century product placement.
On the morning of Sunday, May 1st, White House officials cancelled scheduled visits, ordered sandwich platters from Costco, and transformed the Situation Room into a war room.
As I said, that passage leaped out at me the first time I read it in Nicholas Schmidle's bin Laden take-down piece in The New Yorker. For one, it hints at his sources (or leakers, if you prefer). That seemingly trivial detail didn't come from the Pentagon, it came from someone with knowledge of what that small, elite group of folks in The Iconic Photo nibbled on while they watched bin Laden die.
But it tells us something else about those sources, too - how they want the story told. I can identify two words in that paragraph that can be deleted without diminishing its authority - the first is "from." But if keeping those two words in the final doesn't boost the credibility of Schmidle's piece, it does provide a nice little pat on the corporate back to Costco, a company whose CEO's half million dollars in campaign contributions to Democrats over the years has earned him a high place in this "Business Executives' Hall of Fame." (Business executives - not to be confused with billionaires or celebrities or media - moguls and otherwise.) His employees are also generous in that regard, having dropped another half million-odd dollars into various Democrat campaign buckets since 2008. (Including to candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.)
So certainly all that ought to buy you some sort of place at the president's table for the bin Laden takedown - even if it's just in the story written about it.
But is it true? Who knows. Maybe Secretary Clinton's concealing a dainty little bite of a ham and cheese croissant right here...
It probably is true, but what's damn sure true is that it's in the script, and whether it's actually true or not doesn't matter; if you want access to this White House, to get the sort of leaks needed to get your name listed as author of a story, you damn sure better write what you're told.
But hey - we killed Osama bin Laden.
That I'm sure we did, even if who ordered the salami hold the pickles? is a detail I don't need.
But "Determining what wasn't true was just as important as what was," this Washington Post story says of Schmidle's methodical approach to his coup. Still,
Schmidle says he wasn't able to interview any of the 23 Navy SEALs involved in the mission itself. Instead, he said, he relied on the accounts of others who had debriefed the men.
Though who exactly supplied him with the accounts of others who debriefed the men (and whether their breath smelled like onions) isn't said.
I thought the point that it wasn't the SEALs was notable, too, so I included that in my first post about the story. Not having the WaPo piece available I cited Schmidle's quote from a PBS interview the day before: "I have not spoken to any of the 23 SEALs who were on the raid, no." It seemed like straight-up honesty to me - even though his only actual in-story disclaimer that "some of their [the SEALs] recollections--on which this account is based--may be imprecise and, thus, subject to dispute" was less so. (What, you mean they were all like totally super flustered and nervous?)
A few days later others started noticing, too, including Christine Fair, "an assistant professor at Georgetown University and the author of Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States" - a book subtitled "A Dinner Party Approach to International Relations." I'd have expected someone with that background to have caught on to that bit about the Situation Room snack menu, but she seemed more concerned with the line Schmidle was told the SEALs used to confirm the kill:
How would a proclamation that Bin Laden was killed "for God and for country" be read in a place like Pakistan where the war on terror has been largely seen as a war on Islam and Muslims?
Especially when, as she notes, "Since 9/11, countries with Muslim minorities have been gripped by Islamophobia..." and
Several states in the United States have even introduced ludicrous and shameful bills to outlaw Sharia.
Several states with WalMarts, I'm sure... But all that would be a more valid critique if it was applied to this passage from Schmidle's story too:
At one point, Biden, who had been fingering a rosary, turned to Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman. "We should all go to Mass tonight," he said.
She seems to have overlooked it - but like most of Schmidle's piece that's another detail that appeared in earlier "leaked accounts" of the raid, too:
And seriously? "Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. fingered his rosary beads"? That'll play better in Peoria than Peshawar - but of all the things better left unsaid about this op... hell, why not just call it a crusade?
That was me again, last May. But now that I think about it, that explains why Biden (who doesn't even have a car, I'm told) - his hands too busy to grab a sandwich off that platter - didn't have potato salad and mustard stains down the front of his shirt in that photo.
"From an American point of view," writes Fair, "the story reads like the film script Schmidle may well aspire to write."
It confirms all that we wanted to know about the raid and the bravado of our SEALS. The shooter, who finally killed Bin Laden, even managed to mutter "For God and Country" in the femtoseconds that his synapses took to pull the trigger, according to Schmidle.
Assuming he wasn't too flustered and nervous to accurately remember what he said, of course. But if Schmidle aspired to write the film script, too, he might be disappointed to discover that's a task that's been assigned to Mark "Kill Team" Boal - since he's done most of the work.
Whoever gets the script credit, I've already written the perfect ending for the movie (it won't be used) - and now that I think more about it, I can envision another great cinematic moment, the climax of the film, done with fast cuts back and forth...
Joe Biden fingers his rosary - in slow motion Ben Afleck shoots Osama's wife and tackles the two girls. Hillary chews a chunk of ham and cheese - while whoever's playing America's first ever female SEAL puts a round into center mass bin Laden. Obama stares impassively from his corner - Matt Damon puts the kill shot into bin Laden's eye, his brains splatter the wall.
As an homage to the Christening scene in The Godfather (one that college film study majors will be instructed to appreciate well into the next century), Biden's chanted Hail Marys provide a continuous soundtrack - broken only by gunshots. As the echo of the last one fades, a "counterterrorism expert" in the Situation Room says:
A long awkward silence follows, until Biden says "We should all go to Mass tonight," then Hillary chokes a little on some bread.
I'm glad I live in the country that came up with the idea of the Navy SEALs, the only one in the world that could transform that concept into reality. I love movies, too - but I won't go see that one, and I don't care if they give ten cents from every ticket sold to charity (and they will). Sony, Columbia, (that reminds me - nice try on the trademark thing, Disney/ABC, better luck next time) and whoever wants product placement in it or profit from it can spend a few hundred million making it over the next year, even as Barack Obama breaks campaign contribution records to collect another billion plus to fund the goal of four more years. Not only will I not see it, I won't see any other movie playing in a multiplex while it's there, and I won't see the next movie made by anyone associated with it.
It doesn't get much mention in the papers - what with all the troop drawdowns and all - but the numbers of Americans killed and wounded in combat have been climbing steady since January, 2009. When that movie does come out, I'll take the fifteen bucks (or twenty, or whatever a ticket might cost by then) and give it to a military charity, where even as small a donation as that will do more good than all the mis-directed millions mentioned above.
There will be plenty of need for it, as far as I can see.
Posted by Greyhawk / August 9, 2011 8:25 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com