It’s probably no secret that many of us ‘Lopers are ex-denizens of the great Central Valley of California. We all fled the land of raisins, heat, and smog for a variety of reasons (for me it was the educational opportunity at a UC school). However, there remain behind some last bastions of civilization who continue to ply their craft, whatever it may be. I have many friends and family members who continue to fight the good fight against the forces of ignorance and darkness that litter the valley floor like so much white trash.
One person in particular who seems like a lonely voice in the wilderness is the self-styled War Nerd, Gary Brecher. He is hands-down Fresno’s, and good lord, maybe the country’s, foremost authority on the history and art of war, considering he spends (by his accounting) upwards of eight hours per day researching the subject. But Brecher is more than just a pimply-faced geek who fantasizes about slaying hordes of orcs and trolls in his next Dungeons & Dragons campaign. He is a writer of uncommon capability who says things about the nature of war that we all want to avoid but secretly agree with. It’s a nasty business and even though the winners get to rewrite history into a simplistic good vs. bad metaphor, the truth is far more nuanced. The 115 columns Brecher has penned for a Moscow-based online journal called “The Exile” contain the kind of poetic verbal acrobatics that would bring tears to Lao-Tzu’s eyes.
No conflict in history is too big or too small to escape his reach. A recent article on why he hates World War II is followed soon after with an entertaining look at an unbelievably obscure nineteenth-century battle between Indians and American troops in the remote northeast corner of California.
However, he reserves his considerable epistolary vitriol for the unbelievable idiots running our war machine today in “Mess-o-potamia” (apologies to the Jon Stewart Show). Reading another recent column, I found myself shaking my head in amazement that someone else shared my, perhaps controversial, opinion that we should have put Saddam Hussein back in charge of Iraq instead of killing him. Yes, indeed, the only person who was able to keep the lid on that powder keg for the past 100 years. You may have disagreed with his methods, but is there anyone out there who thinks the situation now is better than it was ten years ago? ANYONE? Oh we all get warm and fuzzy about democracy these days but we’re talking about a part of the world where women are still treated as chattle. There is no hope for a shining city on a hill in a place where people are clamoring to strap bombs on their chests so they can get their 79 virgins in heaven. (And by the way, when is someone going to break it to those loonies that virgins are WAAAAY overrated?)
Allow me to offer a small taste of Brecher’s devastatingly accurate critique of our enormously brilliant neocon war planners in Washington. Realpolitik has never tasted quite so good:
The Surge. Jeez, just that title, “the Surge” – what Stan Lee fan thought of that? The DoD is addicted to these corny titles. Can’t just say we’re going to increase troop numbers in Baghdad. No, it’s “The Surge”! Like the name you’d give some lame X-Man added for ethnic balance, maybe a gay Samoan cripple who can turn himself into a tidal wave when danger threatens. One minute he’s a mild-mannered Green-Zone accountant making $800 a day, and then — Kaboom! he becomes a Tsunami of freedom, washing the scum off the “Arab Street.”
If only. Unfortunately, this isn’t a surge, just a reinforcement, and a pretty small one. And if you have to ask whether it’ll work, you don’t understand guerrilla war. Of course it won’t work. Classic guerrilla doctrine – Hell, plain common sense – says when the occupier floods the city with troops, the guerrilla lays low. Which the Iraqis are doing. And yet people are so stupid they’re already crowing that “incidents are down” since the Surge.
Well, duh. That’s the idea: avoid battle, watch the Arabic-subtitled Dynasty reruns, let the clueless foreigners zoom up and down the alleys. Meanwhile, every soccer-playing kid in the street is memorizing patrol times and tipping his uncle off about the vulnerable small outposts we’re now occupying as part of our meet-&-greet policy. Just yesterday the Sunni hit one of those mixed Iraqi/US outposts in daylight: two GIs killed, 17 wounded.
There’s no point watching this like a Dow Jones graph, because any sane primate knows where it’s going. Bush drove our car into a tree, and it’s not going to un-total itself. All the crazies on Free Republic who screech “Nuke it from orbit!” are actually talking sense compared to Cheney & co. Because nuking the Sunni Triangle would work – might cause trouble elsewhere, but it would solve our problems in places like Ramadi. Whereas feeding more troops in, putting them on show to be blasted by IEDs – that’s not warlike, that’s…see, I can’t even come up with a word for what these neocons are. They’re not warmongers, that’s for sure, because they’ll never use our nukes. They’re tinkerers, that’s what it is – home improvement assholes who hit the sewer main with their first dig, then try to pretend the shit isn’t filling up the basement. They won’t nuke or leave, just hope their salaries rise faster than the sewage level.
Lastly, and here is where it gets interesting, Brecher, which is almost certainly not his real name, is so reclusive nobody knows if he even really exists. He claims to work a McJob as a data entry clerk in Fresno. His articles frequently mention the local topography or climate and the redneck attitude of his fellow townfolk so at the very least he is quite familiar with the Central Valley. He has engaged in online verbal fisticuffs with an idiotic former Fresno State professor and ersatz military historian named Victor Hanson (who single-handedly makes higher education look terribly overrated).
The photo that accompanies Brecher’s articles is that of an obscure Norwegian musician, although one could certainly imagine him holding a similar countenance considering his often self-deprecatory references to his girth and unhealthy eating and exercise habits.
Now go, all of you, revel in the glory of war.