Thursday :: Jun 8, 2006

THIS Is What I Rail Against!

by pessimist

Regular readers of The Left Coaster know that I am no fan of violent video games. In fact, for those of you who might have missed an episode or two of my rants and want to see the reruns, I've written about them - or their negative uses or effects - on January 12, 2004, and November 14, 2004, and December 9, 2004, and September 25, 2005, and January 14, 2006, and May 18, 2006, and May 22, 2006 @ 03:33 AM, and May 22, 2006 @ 08:11 PM.

I took a lot of heat from game addicts who think that there is nothing wrong with them, that they are only fun and relaxation, when anyone who chooses to see can find much to support my opposition, but I guess that argument is too intellectual.

I have another and better reason to hate these vile wastes of human intelligence:

Whose killing game would Jesus play?

Jesus Loves A Machine Gun
It's the new 'Left Behind' video game, where you maim and murder and hate, all in God's name. Praise!
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
June 7, 2006

Are you a true believer?

Do you just know deep down in your black Wal-Mart socks that every word of the Bible is the absolute literal truth and nothing dare be doubted...? Do you feel, furthermore, that human cretins like, say, gays and Jews and Wiccans and all those hippie weirdos with their iPods and low-cut jeans and easy laughter are a plague upon this fine and holy land?

Do you think that contemptible books like The Da Vinci Code are not only blasphemy, but that you should probably go out into the street right now and behead a few lambs and perhaps mow down some Taoists with a Gatling gun just to deflect its horrible notions of the sacredness of the feminine divine?

You do?

Praise Jesus! Your video game has arrived.

I ask again - Whose killing game would Jesus play?

What's the game actually about? How do you play? I believe the pro-choice, pro-religion Talk to Action blog describes it best:
Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life.

You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City.

You are on a mission -- both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state -- especially moderate, mainstream Christians.

Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare";
all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice.

That means: "Kill them all, and let Jesus sort them out."

Is it worth delineating all the appalling whorings of Christ's true message in this thing?
Do you need to imagine the explosive reaction if, say, a powerful Muslim organization came out with a major video game where Islamic fundies killed hapless Christians with machine guns in order to restore the world to Allah?

Or if the KKK or Aryan Nation created a game where you get to "cleanse" 'Merka of all the Jews and blacks so happy white people can stop being so scared of hip-hop?

Verily, you do not.

But it is worth mentioning that, while the vast majority of sane Christians will recoil from this silly video game as violently as any sighing Wiccan, the bad news is the 10 Left Behind books -- a certified phenomenon, they -- have sold nearly as many copies as The Da Vinci Code (upward of 40 million worldwide).

[T]heir rabid fans are legion, and dominionist demagogue megapastors like Rick Warren (whose megaministry is tacitly connected to the game) and famed hatemongering homophobes like James Dobson of the AMA are indoctrinating countless new and militant Christbots into their happy shiny armies of God every single day.
We can never forget: These are the people who still whisper into Dubya's ear when he's playing with his little green army men in the White House bathtub. They have stained the Supreme Court, attacked science and open discourse, made the human female nipple a symbol of shame and humiliation. Their power may be waning slightly as BushCo crumbles, but their agenda remains deeply sickening.

But hey, everyone needs a fantasy, right? Everyone needs an outlet for their violent daydreams, even fundamentalist right-wing bonk-jobs and their hapless 13-year-old male children, for whom (presumably) this game is designed. It's venomous bigotry made fun! More good news:

The game should be ready just in time for Christmas.
Oh but wait! There's a lovely kicker:
When you get bored with the sanctimonious drabness of fighting on the side of a hateful Christ (which, invariably, you most certainly will), the game apparently allows you to switch modes and fight for the army of the Antichrist, unleashing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on the flesh of the righteous as you blow away Bible-thumping soldiers who, just before they die, secretly confess their intense gay love for their platoon commanders.
Isn't that thoughtful? It's also a bit of genius marketing - which is why the game could become the sleeper hit of the year. After all, aren't the villains always far cooler and sexier than the self-righteous and the holy?
The devil always has better vodka than God.
Sure, brainwashed fundamentalist kids will love playing on the side of God. For a while. Who wants to run around shooting Buddhists and praying, when you can don the armor of hell itself and drink and have dirtyfun sex and get tattoos and listen to Metallica and wear low-slung jeans and laugh easily?

No one, that's who.

But then the dark side will beckon. The irresistible scent of rebellion will hit their noses like hot porn pizza. They will fall into the clutches of a crazy self-defined happiness, they will squirm and giggle and feel anarchic and seditious and free, running clean in a place where the beer is cold and the dancing is hot and no one is telling them they have to kill someone because that person dared to believe that God isn't, well, a misanthropic, murderous jackass.

Now that's heaven.

But once our young, vicarious killers get turned loose out into the world, will their game experience teach them how to deal with this?

Concern Growing Over U.S. Troops' Ammo
Tests Raise Questions About Bullet For M-16 Rifle
CBS News
Jun 7, 2006

As American troop casualties in Iraq continue to mount, concern is growing they may be outgunned. That includes new questions about the stopping power of the ammunition that is used by the standard-issue M-16 rifle.

Shortly after the U.N. headquarters was bombed in Baghdad in August 2003, a Special Forces unit went to Ramadi to capture those responsible. In a fierce exchange of gunfire, one insurgent was hit seven times by 5.56 mm bullets, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian. It took a shot to the head with a pistol to finally bring him down. But before he died, he killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded seven more.

"The lack of the lethality of that bullet has caused United States soldiers to die,"
says Maj. Anthony Milavic.
Milavic is a retired Marine major who saw three tours of duty in Vietnam. He says the small-caliber 5.56, essentially a .22-caliber civilian bullet, is far better suited for shooting squirrels than the enemy, and contends that urban warfare in Iraq demands a bigger bullet. "A bullet that knocks the man down with one shot," he says. "And keeps him down."

Milavic is not alone. In a confidential report to Congress last year, active Marine commanders complained that: "5.56 was the most worthless round," "we were shooting them five times or so," and "torso shots were not lethal."

In last week's Marine Corps Times, a squad leader said
his Marines carried and used "found" enemy AK-47s
because that weapon's 7.62 mm bullets packed "more stopping power".
Bruce Jones is a mechanical engineer who helped design artillery, rifles and pistols for the Marines. "I saw the tests that clearly showed how miserable the bullets really were in performance," he says.
"But that's what we're arming our troops with.
It's horrible, you know, it's unconscionable."
To demonstrate to CBS News, Jones fired the larger-caliber 7.62 bullet fired by AK-47s used by insurgents in Iraq into a block of glycerin.

The hole cavity is 50 percent or more larger than that of the 5.56.

[A]t the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, the government's own engineers have done the most extensive testing on the 5.56 since 1990 and issued two draft reports. In the first, dated 2004, the 5.56 ranked last in lethality out of three bullets tested.

A second draft, dated last month, confirmed that rating, ranking the 5.56 dead last in close-quarter combat.

But never fear! Divine inspiration - er, political cronyism, is there to protect corporate profitability - er, our troops' lives:

The army issued a final report last week that concludes in essence that those test results are wrong and misleading.

That is the marvel of statistical/analytical management! You just keep tossing data aside until you come up with the answer you seek!

But I digress.

It argues the 5.56 has the "same potential effectiveness" of the 7.62 during the heat of battle. "You can't just go out and, you know, rig up a little block of Jello and shoot at it and prove anything," says Pierre Sprey, a former Pentagon weapons expert.

Since the early days of the Vietnam War, Sprey has been a champion of the 5.56, and believes it both lethal and light. "The brilliant thing about that bullet is that it allowed the infantrymen to easily carry 300 rounds," Sprey says. "Whereas the old sharpshooter's heavy, slow round — he could only carry 100."

Each 'heavy' bullet is a probable kill, however. Divide that 300 by the seven shots that one man took, and tell me how much better the 5.56 round is: approximately 43.

In the chaos of war, the more bullets the better, he says, because bursts of automatic fire beat one big bullet at a time.

And it sure makes the quarterly statement look great!

This is where the connection between violent video games and the reality of combat come together - and I have a man who isn't worried about how many men get killed in combat (as long as his sponsor's product continues to be bought by the Pentagon for use by our soldiers) to explain it for you:

"There is no such thing as a well-aimed shot in combat,
because combat is fought by scared 18-year-olds
who haven't been trained enough
and are in a place they've never seen before,"
Sprey says.

Let's tick off the points in detail:

* scared 18 year-olds, who should be back in Mommy's house playing Battles in Normandy instead of participating in the real thing;

* not trained enough - thousands of hours on the Game Cube playing Medal of Honor: Frontline doesn't count?

* a place they've never seen before - the real world?

Does your Xbox Ghost Recon III Advanced Warfighter game cover these contingencies? I doubt it.

Well, kiddies, let me offer you a glimpse of what you will be facing in that real world when Bu$hco comes for you:

Afghanistan’s Second Intifada
by Mike Whitney,
June 8, 2006

“We will continue our jihad until the foreign troops are driven out.”
- Mullah Hayat Khan

George Bush has broken every promise he made to the people of Afghanistan. In 2001 he said he would remove the Taliban, establish order, and rebuild the country along the lines of the Marshall Plan.

He lied on all accounts.

Is this Bush’s definition of a democratic utopia?

* The Taliban have reclaimed southern Afghanistan, reconstruction has been miniscule, and there’s been NO attempt to establish security beyond the capital of Kabul.

* Afghanistan continues to languish in grinding poverty with less clean water and electricity than before the war.

* It is a failed narco-state with 99% of the countryside under the iron-grip of the regional warlords and drug-kingpins.

* Afghanistan is a shambles and there is little prospect for improvement in the foreseeable future. There’s no more chance of a Marshall Plan in Afghanistan than there is in New Orleans.

* The only notable developments have been the American military bases which now dot the landscape like lesions on leper and the oil pipelines that snake through the barren countryside.

Apart from these the Afghan campaign has been a complete flop. Americans should be furious with this charade. We should have seen through Bush’s flag-waving, chest-thumping deception and resisted the call to war. Now the country is mired in another ruinous adventure with no end in sight.

Afghanistan’s President Karzai, is an ineffective, caricature of a man, who has no broad mandate or widespread public support. He’s simply another American stooge who is satisfied to drag about in flowing robes and comical cap with an entourage of 75 fully-armed mercenaries following his every step. His role as head-of-state is an irritant to every Afghan with even a drop of patriotic blood in his veins.

The Bush administration has had ample opportunity to wage a “hearts and minds” campaign in Afghanistan. Instead, they’ve shrugged off their duties and discarded the country like a poor relative. There’s growing recognition that America has no plan to honor its commitment to bring Afghanistan into the 21st century. Instead, Afghans are faced with the vexing disparity between well-fed occupiers and the grueling hardship of their daily lives.

Last week, rioting broke out in Kabul when the brakes on an army transport went out and the vehicle plowed headfirst into crowded traffic. 2 civilians were killed. The incident turned into a spontaneous demonstration of anti-Americanism which quickly escalated into a bloodbath. Trigger-happy American soldiers fired into the crowd killing 8 civilians.

Many readers will recall that a similar incident took place in Falluja in 2003 which had grave long-term implications for the US occupation. Angry Fallujans took to the streets to protest the appointment of the city’s mayor by American forces. The crowd was irate but nonviolent. Never the less, inexperienced US troops overreacted, as they did in Kabul, and fired into the crowd killing 14 civilians.

The incident soured the people on the occupation and became a powerful recruitment tool for the nascent Iraqi resistance. Three years later we can look at that day’s violence as a turning point in the course of events in Iraq and the genesis of the resistance. Now Iraq is embroiled in a full-scale war and the outcome is far from certain.

Will the same thing happen in Afghanistan?

Tim Albone, correspondent for the Times of London thinks so. Albone said:

“I’ve spoken to friends who’ve worked in Iraq and they say that there was one day when it all changed. That could be the case here….The Afghans realize that they can take on the police and take on the Americans—they could easily do it again.”
(The Day that Changed Afghanistan - M.K. Bhadrakumar)
Albone is right. Afghanistan is a powder-keg that was ignited last week by a simple incident of reckless driving. There’s been a steady erosion of support for the occupation as well as dramatic up-tick in the violence. “We don’t want these foreigners. They should go home,” says Faisal Agha. “They’re damaging our society and we’re so poor. And they are looting Afghanistan. Why aren’t they building factories?”
The American presence has only exacerbated the religious and cultural differences
that alienate the people from the occupiers.
Afghanistan has begun to unravel. The availability of alcohol and prostitution is deeply offensive to devout Muslims and is contributing the general sense of frustration and anger.

The Taliban have reemerged in the south and are engaged in a spring offensive that is disrupting wide swathes of the countryside. In many towns they roam freely during the daytime and are attracting more disgruntled locals to their cause. In some areas they are allowed to preach in the mosques and try to persuade adherents to join the struggle. 5 years of occupation have produced nothing for the rural people. Unemployment is soaring at 45%, the drug trade is booming, and the presence of foreign troops hasn’t improved security. As unsavory as the Taliban may seem, they are gaining ground in an atmosphere that is increasingly charged with religious fervor and Afghan nationalism. The riots in Kabul will undoubtedly factor in heavily in this new paradigm of burgeoning resistance.

In a recent Asia Times article the author, Syed Shahzad, spoke with the Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Hamid Gul. Gul has followed developments in Afghanistan since the days that the Taliban mounted their successful war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. He has a firm grasp of what is currently taking place on the ground. Gul said:

“When this sort of mass resistance starts, it means it is a collective decision of the Afghans. So, you can see that though the Taliban resistance is centered in a very specific area, sporadic incidents have erupted all over….This is the tip of the iceberg you are watching; the situation will further escalate as the whole environment is now conducive to resistance.”
Then Gul added ominously,
“The jirgas are unanimous…there will be an all-out war in Afghanistan”.
It is unlikely that anyone in the Bush administration will heed Gul’s warnings. Their bull-headedness makes it inconceivable that they would consider the advice of someone who has intimate knowledge of the country’s recent history and grasps the looming signs of disaster. Instead, America will blunder ahead creating another quagmire potentially as great as the one in Iraq.

Hamid Gul has been telling us what was going to happen for years now:

The Taliban have a policy to engage the US and the allied ground forces for a long time in Afghanistan. This will have an enduring impact on the US economy and it will force it to cut its military budget and pull out its forces from the Middle East, which is their main goal. Now, once the Taliban have given room to Northern Alliance forces, the US and its allies will also send in their ground troops, and this is what the Taliban's main objective is. Now the Taliban will draw them into a trap and do a real firework. Once the US nation starts receiving body bags, resentment will grow against the war and the US will be forced to fold this drama in the region.
- Interview: Hamid Gul by Syed Saleem Shahzad - Asia Times Online, November 13, 2001

My daughter Zookeeper went to school with a kid who just came home in a flag-draped box. Both of my regional newspapers covered his funeral, in color, and on the front page - above the fold.

Unfortunately, they focused on the usual patriotic stuff, and glossed over the problems facing US troops doing Bu$hCo's international dirty work:

Presently, the United States has 23,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. The NATO-led multinational force adds another 9,000 to that number. That provides one foreign soldier for every 35 square miles of territory; an impossible formula for establishing security. As a result, the US forces are compelled to use scattershot means of engaging the enemy which invariably end in the deaths of innocent civilians.

A recent bombing raid on an “alleged” Taliban stronghold resulted in the deaths of 16 civilians many of whom were women and children. The incident has only fueled the public’s rage and created a more volatile atmosphere.

Washington’s honeymoon in Afghanistan is over. The violence has resumed in the south and the dormant forces of political discontent are brewing in Kabul. America is sleepwalking into another catastrophe while Afghans are gearing up for their second Intifada in a generation.

There’s no cure for hubris except failure.
The US has been unable to adapt its strategy to the changing conditions; sticking with a bare-bones battle plan of bombing raids and mass detention. Their clumsy handling has only added to the public’s outrage. Imperial negligence is feeding the “cauldron of animosities” and transforming an effortless colonial enterprise into a brutal conflagration.

Drugs are being routed through Russia which casually ignores the trafficking since relations with Washington have gone downhill. The drug trade is now feeding the resistance, providing the Taliban the resources they need to buy weaponry and explosives.

Hamid Gul reports that these weapons include anti-aircraft weapons and some old US Stingers left over from the Russian invasion. The Stingers might not work anymore, but who would want to take that chance?

I remember thinking back when it was announced that the US was going to send Stingers to Afghanistan to assist the Muhajedeen (which at the time included a rich game-playing Saudi kid named Osama) that it was going to come back to bite us. It has.

Does your shiny new Xbox war game have the blowback upgrade? How are you going to deal with that reality when you discover you are in over your head? And the bullets you were issued are practice rounds?

Life doesn't have a reset switch to hit when you are losing. Just keep that in mind when your unit is appproaching Mogadishu, kid. The Pentagon is already planning on you being there. And keep your fool head down - in the same position it was when you played Army Ranger: Mogadishu. You wouldn't want your mother exposed to the likes of those who abuse Gold Star mothers of the war dead for fun - and profit - would you?

Even a practice 5.56 round could make that happen.

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