Backtalk, January 15, 2005

Conduct Unbecoming

P.C. Roberts may or may not be right in his opinion that the president, vice president, and secretary of defense have acted “unbecomingly.” He’s dead wrong in the sarcasm he fires off about the misguided punishment of the top Air Force (AF) lawyer for breaking “obsolete and quaint” rules against fraternization. I was a military judge for more than eight years, am an AF Academy grad, and have a son and daughter who are Academy grads. I presided over many high profile frat/sex cases. The reason we have to have these “old and impractical rules” ought to be fairly obvious. In today’s sexually integrated military and with a generation raised on MTV, sexual consent has become ambiguous. Consequently, a senior officer who dates a junior is only a change of mind away from an allegation of “I really didn’t want to have a relationship with him (her) but given the differences in our rank, I thought I had no choice. I want to files charges of sexual harassment/rape.” At that point, the least you’ll have is a messy she said/he said investigation and a lot of energy taken away from the mission. Consequently, the best rule is: don’t fish in your own pond, ever – even if the fish look like they’re willing to play. Nobody should have known that better than Fiscus, who once chewed me out for not taking more severe action against an officer accused of a lot less than he is reported to have done.

Take on Bush, Cheney, and Rummy, if you want, but don’t try to use Fiscus and his sordid hypocritical actions to make your point.

~ Pat Rosenow

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

I have received a number of responses from military people who claim that adultery and affairs are rife throughout the military to the extent of being a way of life, and seldom is anything done about unbecoming conduct. I do not know if these claims are true. However, it does seem clear that Fiscus’ decade long affairs with 12 women, both civilian and military, were not just suddenly discovered. They only became meaningful offenses when Fiscus stood up against torture.

I am writing in response to Mr. Roberts’ commentary on the administrative punishment recently handed to Maj. Gen. Thomas Fiscus, the Air Force Judge Advocate General.

Neither Mr. Roberts nor his readers should harbor any delusion as to the quantum of punishment handed to Fiscus. Fiscus was, in fact, given a kiss on the forehead compared to any number of similar offenders, both enlisted and commissioned.

At least two JAG captains have received Article 15s in the last couple of years for a single instance of consensual fraternization each. This is effectively career-ending for an officer, and these men were far younger than Fiscus (and, hence, not retirement-eligible). One of these officers was effectively fired from his job just this summer at Fiscus’ personal direction, while Fiscus was himself involved in sexual misconduct.

Fiscus, a married man, allegedly abused his authority to make unsolicited advances on dozens subordinates (enlisted, officer, and civilian), then started sexual relationships with the dozen or more who were receptive. When caught, he allegedly obstructed justice (apparently by telling the women to decline to make statements). While these offenses may sound positively genteel to someone without military experience, that’s not how the law sees it.

A number of senior officers have in fact been taken to general (i.e., felony-level) courts-martial for less aggravated sexual offenses than Fiscus’. The military services have had Judge Advocates General since the American Revolution, and Fiscus is the first ever to be relieved of duty, for any reason. In the context of the way similar cases have been handled (some by Fiscus himself), his punishments are laughably lenient, particularly given the fact that there is quite literally no man in the Air Force who should have been more schooled in the Air Force’s core values.

I have no idea whether Fiscus was brought under investigation for reasons related to his opposition to the administration’s posture re the Geneva Conventions (the Washington Post stated he was reported by an anonymous source), but understand that, once caught, he was treated with kid gloves, to a degree that disgraces the Air Force as a whole.

~ EL

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

My reply to Pat Rosenow also applies to “EL.” I would add that in the military selective punishment is often used to silence critics and innovators, to settle scores, and to sideline careers in the interest of better-favored parties. The present administration has proved, as in the cases of the purging of the CIA and State Department, that it only tolerates yes-persons. What is more important, having an affair, or stopping policies that turn the U.S. military into the Waffen SS?

Gen. Fiscus isn’t the only scapegoat: There is also Maj. Kaus.

Maj. Cathy Kaus is one of two Ohio soldiers imprisoned for taking Army vehicles abandoned in Kuwait by other units, so that they could carry out their own transportation unit’s mission to Iraq. It is astounding to me that someone would EVER get court-martialed for THAT. My Chinook unit had just moved up to Phu Bai (just south of Hue) just before TET ’68 happened. Our unit’s vehicles could not leave Chu Lai to join us. Our commander felt our unit needed at least one jeep, so he flew one of our Chinooks to Da Nang, and walked around ’til he found an unlocked and unguarded Jeep. He drove it back the to Chinook, drove it inside, and took it back to Phu Bai. Several months later our unit was to have vehicle serial numbers checked against what we were supposed to own. No problem; we rigged it up as a slingload and flew over and dropped it in the ocean.

~ Wade Kane, Hook crewchief, Company A, 228th ASHB, 1st Air Cav, June ’67-June ’68

The Neoconnerie’s Plan For Iran

I immensely enjoyed your characterizations of neocon logic as something akin to space cadets parked in orbit around Pluto, but your final stroke of the pen (or keyboard) of “a pest is a pest” rocked my cradle.

Your tongue-in-cheek summarization of neoconnerie exemplifies your mastery of the art of writing and command of the subject. I have to rank you as a serious competitor to Justin himself.

Justin: watch out!

~ Robert Koehler, St. Clair, Michigan USA

Ilana Mercer replies:

Dear Rob,

Thank you so much for enjoying my column, “The Neoconnerie’s Plan for Iran.” The Standard‘s “policy paper” must be credited for providing the inspiration – a truly unbelievable piece. “The Struggle for the Middle East” would not be so outrageous had Ben Shapiro penned it, but the thing was written by an adult.

The comparison to Mr. Raimondo’s skill is a huge compliment, but there are big differences, one of which is that Justin Raimondo writes prolifically and effortlessly; I have to work very hard at it.

Patrick J. Buchanan’s and Ilana Mercer’s filings of Dec. 29 continue to shed more light on the scurrying rats of this administration’s brain-free brain trust, but I wonder, are we really getting anywhere? The crusading conservatives of “red state” America remain immune from wider reproach despite the manifold failures of their actions and an unseemly degree of cheeky chutzpah in the face of mounting falsehoods. Thousands die or are maimed; cities are leveled; terror, isolation, and recrimination multiply; debt dangerously escalates; and these entranced missionaries do not fail to spout their sophistry and claim that “freedom is on the march.” Like the president in his former life as a failed oil prospector, these chattering ideologues continue to demonstrate an ability to fall into murky dry holes and still be picked up, dusted off, and sent back out into public with a wad of cash stuffed in their pockets. Failure, in this administration, has its rewards.

Someone, somewhere should add up the mounting worldwide death toll in both the military and civilian populations, the dollars spent on war and armament vs. dollars spent on civil or humanitarian efforts, the mounting costs of environmental carelessness (in particular, the death throes of the post-peak production oil economy), the continuing consolidation of oligarchic wealth in concert with repressive government and corporatist statism of all stripes as well as the ongoing rate of extirpation of a healthy middle class and publish these figures as widely as possible. …

American liberty and the rustic skepticism of the independent American citizen have been hijacked by mountebanks who peddle fear and war. We are in thrall to manifold perversions and hence cannot see the forest for the trees. The numbers would provide clarity and a platform from which to begin our reclamation as a revolutionary force. I believe it was Dominique de Villepin, the French interior minister and former foreign minister, who best summed up what confronted the Bush administration when it announced its plans to export democracy at gunpoint: “The world is a perverse place, ill-suited to grand plans.” The rabid evocation of the Peter Principle that has assumed the leadership of this country could not think its way out of a fortune cookie. Whenever and wherever it thinks, people are hurt and American principles are tainted. It is well past the time that we begin to do the thinking and acting for a government gone bad. While I am myself guilty of the personal pleasures of polemics, I am tiring of the noise and crave action and results. Truth in stark documented numbers is the platform from which to begin.

~ Dirk W. Sabin, recovering Republican, Washington, Connecticut

Ilana Mercer replies:

Dear Dirk,

Thanks for writing – and sharing – this remarkable and passionate polemic.

Today’s Conservatives Are Fascists

Mr. Raimondo,

Why do you always have to spoil a perfectly good article by including an out-of-the-blue attack on someone or something that you actually know close to nothing about (the proof being that what you attack you might even approve of, at least in part, if you knew more about it)?

The last time I commented on your propensity to disrespect the unfamiliar now, and only later familiarize yourself with what you had previously put down, was when you made an offhand remark about Noam Chomsky that implied that he could be lumped together with authoritarian Marxists – a notion that would come as a complete surprise to anyone who ever heard what he had to say about the Soviet Union and the whole tradition of Marxism-Leninism. doesn’t publish anything I contribute, so I’m not expecting anything different this time. But I hope Sam Koritz passes this on to you so you won’t embarrass yourself any more by referring to Sufism – a spiritual movement much older than Islam that became “Islamic” only to avoid persecution and … whose most famous (at least in the West) mouthpieces are the poet Omar Khayam (Some for the Glories of This World; and some/ Sigh for the Prophet’s Paradise to come; Ah, take the Cash, and let the Credit go, Nor heed the rumble of a distant Drum!) and the scholar Idres Shah (To those who seek truth in conventionalized religion: Until conege and minaret have crumbled/ This holy work of ours will not be done. Until faith becomes rejection/ And rejection becomes belief/ There will be no true believer…), both of whom probably qualify as libertarians and anarchists – as a “cult.”

~ Jeff Bogdan

Justin Raimondo replies:

I didn’t mean to imply that all Sufis are cultists, only that the particular group that Stephen Schwartz seems to adhere to, known as the “Islamic Supreme Council of America,” screams “cult.”

The text from Trotsky (“Whither France?“) that Justin cites as attributing fascism to the “enraged bourgeoisie” does no such thing. It attributes it to the enraged “petty bourgeoisie,” i.e., small business owners, farmers, artisans, etc.:

Naturally, the petty proprietor prefers order so long as business is going well and so long as he hopes that tomorrow it will go better. But when this hope is lost, he is easily enraged and is ready to give himself over to the most extreme measures. Otherwise, how could he have overthrown the democratic state and brought Fascism to power in Italy and Germany? The despairing petty bourgeois sees in Fascism, above all, a fighting force against big capital, and believes that, unlike the working-class parties which deal only in words, Fascism will use force to establish more “justice.”

~ Ken MacLeod

Dear Ken: About That Cakewalk…

Paul Roberts continues to write with refreshing precision respecting the real difficulty with which our nation finds itself in its catastrophic Iraq adventure: The person of George Bush. Unlike Pat Buchanan, who desperately clings to his Republican loyalties and to the delusion that the problem in Washington is simply neocon influence and not a neocon president (Buchanan endorsed Bush), Roberts speaks boldly, accurately, and without baggage. Among Roberts’ more incisive observations, although in another of his recent articles, that affixing the brown label to many of Bush’s very vocal true believers, was among the most resonant and frightening I’ve read. Far too much of the history of the Bush administration’s war policy parallels developments in Germany prior to the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, from the Big Lie to the kind of fuhrerprinzip currently in play respecting the torture of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba. Can it happen here? It’s happening here.

~ John Lowell

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

I appreciate John Lowell’s letter. It is wonderful to encounter realistic readers.

More Dissent in Pentagon Ranks Over Iraq

The marginalization of the State Dept. by the Pentagon prior to the Iraq invasion and the political infighting in Washington between these departments led to the Iraq debacle. Foreign policy made in Washington always determines the fate of others far away. In the case of Iraq it was a particularly arrogant, venal, and premeditated act of aggression promoted by rabid ideologues who, blinded by zeal and drunk with power, were willing to gamble with the lives of thousands in pursuit of their agenda. Having lost the debates and the ear of the president, the diplomats and foreign-service officers with expertise in the region declined to serve in the flawed Pentagon plan. Hence, the active recruitment by the Pentagon of a young, inexperienced, politically-connected staff of advisors to work for the CPA. Meanwhile, Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops were played like pawns as Pentagon plans inevitably went awry.

Condoleeza Rice and the president bear responsibility for not heeding the dissent from the State Dept., armed services, and various intelligence agencies prior to launching a war against an already contained adversary. Ms. Rice failed to bring everyone to the table and on board to hammer out a coherent and workable plan that every department supported in order to ensure the best possible outcome. For this abject failure she is ironically awarded the secretary of state position. The president lacked the erudition to ask the pointed questions that would have revealed the pitiful lack of postwar planning options, preferring to rely upon his faith-based gut feeling encouraged by his not-so-divine handlers. For his intellectual laziness, he is rewarded with four more years.

Conclusion: In the 21st century, it takes a village idiot.

~ Scheherazade

Train of Abuses

“Of course, it is institutionally impossible for the ICTY to acquit Milosevic, as this would invalidate the very reason for its existence.”

I do not agree. At Nuremberg, most of the war criminals were hanged, and a few were set free, if I remember. The same happened for a few war criminals at the ICTY: the Kupreskic brothers, who were set free for their participation in the Ahmici massacre. …

As for Milosevic, Biljana Plasvic has clearly established that he played an active part in the writing of the famous plan for the ethnic cleansing of all non-Serbs from Serbian villages or territories, which was to build the new GREAT SERBIA.

~ Arnold Reinheld

Nebojsa Malic replies:

You allege the existence of some sort of written plan (“famous,” no less) for “Greater Serbia,” but it has been repeatedly and decisively demonstrated that such a plan did not exist, Plavsic’s forced confession notwithstanding.

My claim that ICTY needs to convict Milosevic to justify its existence is drawn from the nature of the indictment against him, positing the existence of a vast criminal conspiracy with him at its nexus. It is not enough for them to convict Milosevic of not preventing atrocities he could have arguably prevented; they need to show him as the mastermind behind not just the atrocities, but the wars themselves. There is no such need in the case of the Kupreskic brothers, so they can be released for lack of evidence without hurting the ICTY’s credibility.

The Apartheid Wall


As I understand it, some time ago Israel built its barrier near Baqa al-Sharqiyah and Baqa al-Gharbia (a sister city to the east of it, on Israeli territory). The “Green Line” resides between these two villages, only Israel did not initially build the wall on the Green Line, but instead to the west of Baqa al-Sharqiyah. There was a large protest over this, which caught the media’s eye, and Israel pledged to rebuild the wall on the Green Line instead: first building a barrier between the two, largely following the Green Line, and then taking down the eastern barrier. This can be seen on most maps as the second dip (or dent) into Palestinian territory north of Tulkarm. I have been unable to find any solid new information as to whether this process of relocating the barrier was completed. I’ve also found no maps that represent the change. Does this mean that the route was never changed?

~ Dominic E.

Ran HaCohen replies:

A friend from Baqa al-Gharbia reports that the Wall is located between his village and its eastern counterpart, Baqa al-Sharqiyah.


“Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself.”
– James Anthony Froude

All I can say is you have never watched a cat with a mouse or a bird, or seen a hen coop after a fox has raided it.

~ Jon Smith

Michael Austin replies:

Dear Mr. Smith,

I must admit that a quick search has not yielded to me just in what context this quote was originally put, so its intended meaning is somewhat questionable. Your point is well-taken; certainly there are some animal species besides man that take a certain “sport” or amusement in hunting and killing their prey. Still, I believe that Froude’s point here is that other animal species’ main objective in killing their prey is to eat and survive. There are exceptions to this rule no doubt, but in general it seems a fair contrast to make.

Thank you for reading and for giving us your input.

The Fallacy of ’39

Are you saying that the nationalization of Yukos is acceptable because it was bought by Khodorkovsky at fire-sale prices?

~ Lino

Justin Raimondo replies:

No. I’m saying that the theft of Yukos is unacceptable because it did not amount to real privatization. The re-nationalization, however, will only make matters worse.

Casualties in Iraq

Martin Kay: Why don’t you print the number of casualties we have in daily car accidents in the USA? This way we can compare war casualties with car fatalities and draw a conclusion as to which is deadliest, car-driving or the war.

Michael Ewens: By your “argument,” we should also ignore premature births, colon cancer, etc. You have used what one calls a “false analogy“: Simply, you cannot compare the war on Iraq (a voluntary choice) and car accidents (by nature, accidents). If your argument is all that war supporters have left, then I have little left to do but sit back and watch your Iraqi project fail.

MK: No, not really. I just think that we lose more people to car accidents than this war. So put it in the correct perspective. Yes to premature births, cancer, etc. Then we can see, this war is less deadly than ALL those other items.

ME: No, I will not include those numbers because they are IRRELEVANT. Read that link I sent you. One must be logically consistent with his arguments, and the one you are making is not helpful and is in fact false. The men and women who are dying in Iraq are doing so because the Bush administration sent them there. Saddam was no threat, so the war was not legitimate. Ignoring the costs of that mistake is wrong. And putting the numbers next to irrelevant numbers is pointless and misleading. That seems to be your intention. What you seem to be arguing is that so long as the war deaths don’t top some arbitrary count of your choice, there is no point talking about them. That is wrong.

MK: There are soldiers getting killed in Humvees, even armor-plated ones, and we have a company called Force Protection producing armored vehicles that can withstand mine and IED blasts. Why don’t we buy those vehicles for our troops? It’s beyond me. I also don’t believe we should scare people by telling them how many people died in Iraq. If you do that, then tell them how many people die in car accidents, or premature births. Tell it like it is. You are too one-sided.

ME: No, I am just right and you don’t seem to have a counterargument to my criticisms. Again, the number of people dead from car accidents has NOTHING to do with Iraq. You have yet to demonstrate that it does.

What Kind of People Have We Become?

Thank you,, for being one of the most principled forces in America. The article today by George Hunsinger, about Gonzales – the man who violated the dignity of our nation by quietly endorsing torture – asks the question that so many Christians and non-Christians alike have wondered: “What kind of people have we become?”

Trouble is, we all know the answer; we just don’t want to come right out and say it. The kind of people we’ve become is the kind of people we were supposedly removing from power when George Bush talked us into attacking Iraq: Saddam Hussein used torture, and so do we. Adolph Hitler used torture, and so do we. The Spanish inquisitors used torture, and so do we. The good churchmen in the Salem witch trials used torture, and so do we.

These are the kinds of people we’ve become, which is why Americans of conscience should send Dr. Hunsinger’s article to everyone on their e-mail list without delay. We at are praying for a miracle: that America will be granted a last-minute reprieve from another evildoer within our ranks who would, if given power, continue to turn us into the kind of people we never dreamed we could become.

~ Dr. Teresa Whitehurst


Most folks I talk to seem to agree that Hugo Chavez and Venezuela are on the list after Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and N. Korea. Throw in Syria and another one and Venezuela is still in the top-ten list of foreign headaches that may lead to military intervention, yet there’s hardly ever a mention on your Web site. Why? Justin Raimondo, this one is for you.

~ E.V.

Justin Raimondo replies:

I have written about Venezuela, here. But I agree, it’s time for an update.

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