What candy & war share in common (our appetites)


See’s Sampler

Looking back with hind-sight that is not yet 20/20, ‘life is paradox’ is certainly understatement. I was one of those American kids who’d been forced to sit at the table and face excess quantity of food, all the while reminded of all the starving kids in China and how blessed I should feel, while staring at a large plate I did not wish to finish.

I would suppose the ‘China’ admonition had been replaced by Africa in the ensuing decades, and there will be many more candidates for this winter, the southeast of Ukraine, perhaps, and certainly this winter will be difficult and deadly for many in Syria.

In the year of my birth, 1951, the beginning of the American Civil War was only 90 years in the past, and a handful of child soldier veterans of that conflict were still alive. One of my great uncles (or older cousins, this is early childhood memory) was named (or nick-named) ‘Forrest’, giving up the fact I’m of Confederate heritage. Without going into detail, the ‘Daniel’ family of the old South, from England via Virginia (1600s), thence Alabama, Arkansas, and finally California, is my maternal line. My great-great grandfather was an early (1861) casualty of the Civil War, orphaning my great-grandfather who was born that same year. My maternal roots are White, southern ‘patrician.’ Some folk would be proud of that lineage, but for myself, it is simple history, without going into the politics it implies. That was then, this is now. Or not. My orphan great-grandfather subsequently immigrated to California, with extended family, after the Civil War. There, they’d managed a way station for the Butterfield stage coach line and later ran a small hard-rock gold mine before eventually settling in Pasadena. Literacy was valued and my more than 1,000 cousins who’re California natives include teachers, doctors and other professionals.

Now, I should point out, the draconian disciplinarian that passed for my step-father, the man who admonished me with Puritan authority (often with the ‘strap’) on how privileged I should feel at having to sit and stare at food I did not wish to eat, caused me to worship my maternal grandparents who would spoil me behind his back, often with treats of ‘See’s Candy.’ How this all translates into my having voluntarily starved with impoverished Native Americans for several years later in life, is a puzzle I’m still working out.

Now, having looked a bit into the history of my lineage, it is fairly certain there is one constant; to the time of my service in Vietnam, I represent a family line that has served in every war America had fought, or that is to say eleven wars (if you count the ‘Boxer Rebellion’ & ‘Moro Rebellion’)

For some reason we seem to have skipped the so-called ‘Indian Wars.’ I’ve no idea why, but it seems we generally we had been on friendly terms with these people, up to and including my childhood and youth. This, however, altogether excludes my paternal lineage where there is suspiciously dark blood appearing in family photo albums, unexplained in lineage also friendly to Indians, an ancestral line liberally populated with soldiers, bandits and madams.

From the beginning of the American revolution to the conclusion of Vietnam is approximately 200 years. Divided by 11 wars, my family had, to time of my service, served the United States in a war on average of every 18 years. Coincidentally (or in a sense, perhaps not) 18 is also the age we are entitled to enlist and serve without a parents permission.

Following initial service with the 199th Light Infantry in Vietnam, I’d served with the 82nd Airborne (our self-sobriquet was ‘The Jumping Junkies’, in those days) and after, had served a stint with the 19th Special Forces as a reservist in the Montana National Guard:


^ Service Number redacted

The 199th and 82nd, in those days, were considered ‘elite’ conventional forces and the 19th Special Forces, where I was assigned as 11F40 recon/intelligence NCOIC (non-commisioned officer in charge of operations intelligence), was a step up to experience with elite troops in unconventional & asymmetrical warfare. Without going into detail, my military resume reads like a ‘See’s Sampler’ of various experience, including, but not limited to, recon/scout, intelligence, and operations planning. It is at this last level of experience one begins to get a grasp of social order and how it is this plays out in war. Essentially, we were trained to understand our adversaries social hierarchy and discover ways to exploit this. The other side of that ‘coin’ (counter-insurgency doctrine) is, some of us were radicalized in various ways.

Propaganda and psychological warfare in relation to the ‘Action Anthropology’ (integrating to the culture you encounter in the course of operations) typical of soldiers trained in elite counterinsurgency are interesting things. You can imagine my surprise when I went to my first ‘Rainbow Gathering’ (I’ve been to two) and discovered Special Forces veterans (other than myself) in attendance. But you actually would have to imagine my surprise, because in actuality I was not surprised at all. But before I move on, I should mention Special Forces training in COIN (counter-insurgency) is not really ‘counter’ as much as it is ‘insurgency.’ We are trained as insurgents, primarily, and then it is a matter of what we are assigned to deal with, determines whether there is ‘counter’ in the ‘insurgency.’ For instance, when working with the mountain tribes peoples of Southeast Asia, American Special Forces were training anti-communist insurgents. When based out of Panama and operating in Latin America, such as in the hunt for Che, an open secret in American Special Forces was, long before declassification of relevant documents, the Green Berets (operating as CIA paramilitary) had tracked Che to his hiding place for the Bolivian Army Rangers they’d trained as elite combat troops. This led to the capture and extra-judicial murder of Che Guevarra, following a brutal combat. Understanding and excelling at skills in insurgency, is critical to counter-insurgency. This prompts a thought; on behalf of my nation, I apologize to the family of Che, and to Evo Morales & Bolivian people, for the crimes the USA has perpetrated in Bolivia. I would like to think this could be a meaningful statement.

Returning to propaganda and psychological warfare, and the role of intelligence in manipulating populations in endeavors of warfare that essentially benefit corporations at the cost of ordinary people’s lives, it is interesting to reflect on how this impacts certain veterans of special operations units. If ‘Counterfeit COIN‘ is my professional assessment of where we had gone wrong in the larger geopolitical picture, this is a more personal essay.

The frailty of the human psyche is such that we can easily experience detached reality. When American veterans of special operations, and in my day it was a majority, can return to a life in an ordered and mostly law abiding, and very importantly, untraumatized society, it is a transition appealing to most. Certainly there were always those who became mercenaries and shopped their skills abroad, but this was the exception, not the rule. The special operations veterans I knew, all of them, transitioned to a more ‘normal’ American life, becoming firemen, teachers, and so forth, and went on to experience ordinary events, unremarkable but satisfying lives in some cases, and bankruptcy in later life with the ‘burst bubble’ of 2008 in at least one case. All experienced life that might be expected of more or less successful transition. But much has changed since my era.

In my time there were a) those minority who pursued life as a mercenary, b) those majority who returned to a more or less normal civilian life, and c) a minority who returned to civilian life but never really made the adjustment to ‘normal’, rather had become suspicious of the special operations experience and devoted themselves to discovering what was really going on. For the very fact of understanding propaganda and social engineering in a context of psychological operations, the minority category c) opted out out of mainstream reintegration. That I am not unique as a member of category c), is confirmed in conversations with Special Forces veterans I’d encountered at Rainbow gatherings in the 1970s, we engaged in conversation on the avenue of counter-culture and possibilities to effect change. Our training had immunized us against reintegration to the mainstream culture we recognized as socially engineered with propaganda and associated psychological operations. Ultimately I did not take the counter-culture direction but opted for refuge in Native America or my ‘Life in Indian Country.‘ Understanding ‘action anthropology’ eased my transition to life as an Indian:


^ My summer life on the Blackfeet reservation

 See’s Candy began as a typical ‘mom & pop’ cottage industry in Pasadena, California, about the time my maternal ancestral line had also become established there, in the 1920s. Likely my then young grandparents had met and were on a friendly, first-name basis with the owners of this candy business, 1920s Pasadena was a different world to today. Accordingly, See’s Candy is one of my earliest childhood memories, present at every special occasion or family gathering. These were honest, principled, hardworking people who’d no idea their legacy was already poisoned by Corporate America, and by extension, the United States military. This legacy only came to light in the domestic American scene in the 1930s with General Smedley Butler’s exposé:

As a matter of fact, we already owed our standard of living, and excellent opportunities of those times, to exploitations of nations ‘less fortunate’ than ourselves (without factoring in our national amnesia of the holocaust we visited on Native Americans.)

It was about this time as well (1920s) Edward Bernays, an American nephew of Sigmund Freud, had begun applying Freud’s principles of psycho-analysis to advertising, with a focus on manipulating (social engineering of) society. This devil’s advocacy sold to America’s corporate boards (as well, adopted by the 3rd Reich master of propaganda, Josef Goebbels) captured the innocence of a majority of the American people and perverted us, over the span of just a few generations, into the most narcissistic, morally inverted, disingenuous, confused, and paranoid people on the planet. We are manipulated, with psychological operations, to be uncertain, fearful and anxious. We are manipulated to be aggressive towards each other. And we are manipulated to turn our aggression on the world, here is a succinct example:

The Somali pirates arose when there was no longer an effective Somali government and there was no protection of the waters off Somalia. This led to the areas fish stocks exploited in the absence of any protection of coastal waters. The worst offenders were Japanese trawlers with drift-nets is my recollection. With no coast guard protecting Somali fish stocks, unscrupulous commercial fishermen had stripped the fishing grounds to an ocean desert. And that is precisely when the trouble had begun with the pirates, when the Somali fishermen no longer could make an honest living, they turned to piracy. But it was US Senator Charles Grassley and friends had arranged to arm Somali dictator Mohammed Said Barre to the teeth previous to this, and he used those weapons to wreak a biblical terror on his own nation, setting the chain of events into motion that led to all loss of order in Somalia. This is how the Somali government had vanished. This phenomena had resulted in rule by warlords and endless civil war resulting in fundamentalism drawing people desperate for order into their ranks … and we all know the rest of the story, it’s called ‘Black Hawk Down.’ This had opened the door for Osama bin Laden to turn on the USA in the 1990s. Previous to this, in the 1980s, Osama had been our CIA’s asset in Afghanistan.

The American war of every 18 years on average, to my participation in Vietnam, has become war without end since 2001. It really doesn’t matter whether 9/11 was perpetrated by 19 Arab hijackers or was perpetrated by unbelievably corrupt corporate personalities except for one simple fact; the effect is as though it had been perpetrated by unbelievably corrupt corporate personalities, regardless of the details of who initiated 9/11. The undeniable, simple, fact is, corporate personalities are those profiting from our reactionary, mass murders of people around the globe, no different to what Smedley Butler had described in the 1930s, except for exponentially vast scale in the present. And we, the American people, are the ones who are perpetrating the slaughter. There is no longer any excuse for a failure to see this in the age of information or, as I’d pointed out in my short monograph, Stupid is as Stupid Does:

When reading these succinct examples of American trained commandos gone rogue, keep in the back of your mind that a dozen men trained in elite special operations skills can turn that knowledge into hundreds who in turn can pass the knowledge on to thousands of insurgents:

“Los Zetas’ [drug cartel] training as a local version of the Green Berets constitutes their foremost asset. In cooperation with their U.S. counterparts, the Mexican military created the Gafes in mid-1990s. Foreign specialists, including Americans, French, and Israelis, instructed members of this elite unit in rapid deployment, aerial assaults, marksmanship, ambushes, intelligence collection, counter-surveillance techniques, prisoner rescues, sophisticated communications, and the art of intimidation” -George Greyson, Foreign Policy Research Institute (2008)

“Syrian rebels who would later join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan, according to informed Jordanian officials.

“The officials said dozens of future ISIS members were trained at the time as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The officials said the training was not meant to be used for any future campaign in Iraq” -WND 17 June 2014, ‘Blowback! U.S. trained Islamists who joined ISIS’

“The secretive program, financed in part with millions of dollars in classified Pentagon spending and carried out by trainers, including members of the Army’s Green Berets and Delta Force, was begun last year to instruct and equip hundreds of handpicked commandos in Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali” -Eric Schmitt, New York Times 26 May 2014

And finally:

“In 2013, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) … had special operations forces (SOFs) in 134 countries, where they were either involved in combat, special missions, or advising and training foreign forces” -The Tucson Sentinel, 18 September 2014



Deep State V Economics & counter-insurgency

Life in Blackfoot Country