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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Things heating up in Ukraine and Iraq, the Tories sweep elections in the UK, and my book is on sale!

Link: Official Website for Mukhabarat, Baby!

Sometime in the next few days, This blog will return to its usual format.  The world just happens to be a very screwed up place at the moment, and there is no shortage of conflicts and social upheaval to write about.  In fact, I believe that the wars in both Syria and Ukraine are about to expand, with a terrible price to be paid by the innocent civilians caught up in this mess (I overheard someone at a restaurant last week comment that civilians in the Ukraine have themselves to blame for any casualties because "they've had plenty of warning" that it was time to pack up and get out of Dodge; sometimes people wear their ignorance like an accomplishment).  I imagine that the Obama Administration is aware of the worsening conditions on both fronts, as President Obama's legacy is truly in the crosshairs, AS IT SHOULD BE.  Our military/diplomatic strategy in both the Levant and the Ukraine are a shambles.  We have become a reactionary presence in international affairs, as opposed to proactive, which is what is expected from a world power.  I have great difficulty trying to piece together a long-term plan in either engagement.  But you can be sure of one thing: no ground troops.  Mark my word, and remember, you read it here.  We will have boots on the ground, but probably in Yemen before Syria or Iraq.  U.S. ground forces (Marines) will be in combat before this Administration packs up and leaves DC.  It really won't be that difficult of a political decision to make, because we parse words so effectively in DC nowadays.  One can argue that "ground troops" implies regular U.S. Army, therefore, a Marine incursion does not require an admission of change in policy.  One way or another, our involvement in international conflicts will increase over the next eighteen months, because the Pentagon and Congress will demand action.  Which will provide the Administration with another way out of the "no ground troops" pledge.  Just blame's always worked in the past.

I spent most of the last evening watching French television air election results from the United Kingdom.  I have something called a "French Bouquet" with my Satellite Dish package that allows me to have five channels of mainland French television.  Normally French television is awful, especially the variety shows (Pardonnez-moi, grand mere, mais certains de ces actes de varieties francaises sont difficiles a regarder.  And I beg your pardon, reader, for the lack of accents; I haven't determined how to change the keyboard just yet).  But French documentaries and news programs are informative and usually well-made.  Besides, not one U.S. news channel (its not like we don't have enough) was providing a live feed of election coverage.  Maybe its because I'm a Satellite customer as opposed to cable, or because I live in the southwest; whatever the case, I was grateful to have French television hier soir.  As for the results, I'm still trying to grasp the full meaning behind the near-complete disintegration of the Liberal Democrats and the internecine slaughter of Labour in Scotland by their best buddies, the Scottish Nationalist Party (who hate the Conservatives even more than Labour does).  The astounding growth of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) was muted by the antiquated electoral process in the UK.  The Liberal Democrats managed 2,415,888 votes, and came away with eight seats in Parliament.  UKIP had 3,881,129 votes, and was fortunate to get the one seat that they currently have.  But that was to be expected.  The real question is whether the UK electorate is moving towards a more Conservative era of government (The Tories and UKIP combined equal 50% of votes cast), or is this a temporary reflex response to recent terrorist events in Europe. With the continued growth of Marine Le Pen and the National Front in France, and Right-of-Center political parties showing increased strength across the board, I interpret this development to be a serious effort on behalf of Europeans to demand a common-sense approach to issues of National Security and Immigration.  The world is a much smaller place than it was in 1914 and 1939; television and satellite bring the battlefields of Iraq, Ukraine and Syria into the living rooms of middle-income families, where parents are struggling to ensure that their children will have the opportunity to live life free of constant fear from terrorism.  Don't expect this move to the Right to end anytime soon.

I have managed to keep one eye on current events as I continue to sail my ship, the S.S. NewAuthor, through the reef-infested waters of book-marketing hell.  When I made the decision to self-publish, I realized that the process would not be simple or free from headaches.  But I assumed that self-publishing was one way to ensure that some giant publishing company would not devour eighty-percent or more of the profits from book sales.  Early on, I was quite fortunate.  I chose to use Booklocker to assist with the conversion process, the printing, and the dissemination of my book to the various booksellers out there.  Booklocker has been fantastic and I can't recommend them highly enough.  But at the end of the day, everyone who wants to sell more than a handful of books has to go through Amazon; and when it comes to devouring profits, Amazon is just as hungry as any publishing company.  But the real difficulty for non-fiction authors who self-publish (I can't speak for fiction writers, who very well may suffer the same fate), is the struggle to become part of the conversation.  Publishing companies have staff publicists who create book tours and speaking engagements for authors under contract.  Self-published folks have to go knocking on doors, and believe me, you have to have a thick skin.  I assumed (big mistake...never assume anything in life) that my personal story, of a career CIA Case Officer who was poisoned while operational, and continued a successful career into Iraq and other garden spots, even while the symptoms of toxic exposure manifested themselves, would be of interest to the mainstream media.  Up to this point, I haven't created much interest.  The truth is, my book is much more than a story of poisoning.  In fact, it was never intended to be a focus on my particular circumstances.  I wanted to write about people, the nameless faces who work in thankless environments to collect valuable intelligence for our country, and who seldom receive more than a pat on the shoulder in appreciation.  These people are normal folks, just like the ones you go bowling with on Friday night, or sit next to at the local High School football game.  It was important to bring a sense of humanity to these hard working people, and I have to say that I believe for the most part that I succeeded.  Sure I detail the poisoning episode in my book, but its just one story among many, and I feel comfortable saying that after reading my book, you will have a much better understanding of the Agency's mission and the difficulties and dangers that officers face every in support of our national security.

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