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Steelers star Franco Harris is hosting a golf tournament fundraiser for Soldiers’ Angels in Tampa (site of the Super Bowl) this week. He’s great guy and strong supporter of the troops, as he’s proving here. Milbloggers Chuck Z, Toby Nunn and Andi Hurley are among those representing SA at the event.
I can't golf but would love to see some of that swing action.
There's a few pics at Chuck's
Here's the article excerpt:
Pinellas golf tournament benefits soldiers' support group
Army Maj. Charles Ziegenfuss plays in the Franco Harris/Lydell Mitchell Gridiron Golf Tournament at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on Friday.
It's people like Ziegenfuss that NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris and Penn State teammate Lydell Mitchell were trying to help Friday during their 12th charity golf tournament.
The Franco Harris/Lydell Mitchell Gridiron Golf Tournament, featuring 120 golfers (including about 30 former NFL players), benefits Soldiers' Angels, an organization that supports American troops overseas by writing letters and sending care packages.
Ziegenfuss starting getting help from Soldiers' Angels at Walter Reed Army Medical Center when he received a call from founder Patti Patton-Bader.
"She asked me what I wanted," Ziegenfuss said. "I said a laptop so that I could communicate with my troops. It didn't dawn on me that I couldn't use my hands."
To assist Ziegenfuss, Soldiers' Angels purchased software that allows users to completely control a computer with their voice. Ziegenfuss said Soldiers' Angels have provided more than 3,000 laptops with the software for soldiers.
"It's nice to be in a position to be able to have a positive effect on people's lives," said Harris, who won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers and rushed for 12,120 yards in 13 seasons.
When he played for the Baltimore Colts, Mitchell rushed for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Named to three Pro Bowls, he led the NFL in pass receptions in 1974 and 1977.
"We try to get involved in the community," Mitchell said. "To give back and to help a person is a wonderful feeling. We can't cure the world but we can certainly give back and try."
Fallen on Hard Times? VA May Help With Health Care.
The VA offers an assortment of programs that can relieve health care costs or provide care at no cost to veterans who are struggling financially because of a job loss or decreased income.
Veterans whose previous income was ruled too high for VA health care may be able to enter the VA system based on hardship if their current year's income is projected to fall below federal income thresholds. The fall must be caused by job loss, separation from service, or some other financial setback.
Veterans determined eligible because of hardship can avoid copayments applied to higher-income veterans. Qualifying veterans may be eligible for enrollment and receive health care at no cost.
"With the downturn in the economy, VA recognizes that many veterans will feel the effects," says VA Secretary Dr. James B. Peake. "Therefore, it is important that eligible veterans learn of the many ways VA has to help them afford the health care they have earned."
Also eligible for no-cost VA care are most veterans who recently returned from a combat zone. These veterans are entitled to five years of free VA care. The five-year "clock" begins with their discharge from the military, not their departure from a combat zone.
Enrollment coordinators at each VA medical center across the country can provide veterans with information about these programs. Veterans also may contact the VA's Health Benefits Service Center at (877) 222-VETS (8387) , or visit the VA’s Health Care Eligibility and Enrollment Web site at www.va.gov/healtheligibility.All done!
Via Big Hollywood
by Sgt. Welsh
Almost 90% of Americans believe the war in Iraq is and was a waste. The Hollywood media feeds the public wasteful, depressing, and horribly fabricated stories. When did the U.S. military become the bad-guys? We are stereotyped “Generation Kill.” I guess that is all we do. All we do is go to Iraq, hunt innocents and slaughter them. I guess that is what I did for eight months while I was there.
I guess I really didn’t save Iraqi families from being tortured by foreign jihadis. I didn’t set up the first ever Iraqi elections. Or see my brothers blown up, shot, maimed, and killed. Getting attacked from Mosques and hospitals–and you know what? We just took it, day after day we took it and we kept going. An IED blowing up underneath me each day. We couldn’t fight back; we were ordered not to. No matter how much vengeful, pent up aggression I felt, or how much I wanted to kill, I didn’t act on it. We have a code, Rules of Engagement. “RULES,” rules that are followed.
But according to then Senator and now President Obama, all I did was air-raid villages and kill innocent civilians.
Thank you so much American media, special thanks to Hollywood. Our entire sacrifice was a complete waste. My friends died for nothing. We are exploited and lies are told. The truth is never reported. The good outweighs the bad. But you will never see it.
Please watch these clips and tell me if you buy into what is portrayed. Honestly, tell me what you believe
You can see clips and what is portrayed of our US Military here.
Update: Comments over there are quite interesting, Pat Dollard highlights one here and this guy isn't happy with GWB either.
Prediction: In order for Hollywood to show their love for the troops; because it's cool now to do so; Hollywood will play the victims script for our military and all their woes will be that self obsorbed tyrant, Geaorge W Bush's fault.
As we have mentioned before, Taking Chance is the exception to the rule of Hollywood.
Would you like to see one of the world's largest privately-owned collections of military vehicles, including 70+ operational tanks? The National Museum of Americans in Wartime (NMAW) is inviting interested MilBlog Conference attendees to experience vintage military vehicles (World War I forward) up close, on display and in demonstration.
The folks over at The National Museum of Americans in Wartime have organized an optional field trip for MilBlog Conference attendees. The trip is not part of the official conference, but attendees are invited. Anyone interested in attending will spend a couple of hours at a vintage Tank Farm 9:00-11:00 AM, Sunday, April 26. Below is a preview of the experience:
If you can join us or have questions, please click here to RSVP
Andi has more here
Yes we'll be playing with tanks after the conference but the conference isn't just a bunch of milbloggers gathering to score "cheap hits", we actually do have engaging and meaningful and professional exchanges, apparently enough to peak the interest of the President who invited a few of us to the White House for some engaing conversation in an hour long conference. First time in history a President has met with MilBloggers.
Over at the US Naval Institute Blog - Vice Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr. says he's not entirely on board for that whole “milblog” program
...With respect to your comment concerning participation in the blogosphere and the upcoming milbloggers conference, let me speak pretty plainly - most of the blogs I’ve dropped in on and read on a regular basis leave me pretty cold. Too many seem to be interested in scoring cheap, and anonymous, hits vice engaging in meaningful and professional exchanges. There is also a general lack of reverence for facts and an excess of emotion that, for me, really reduces the value of the blog. Incorrect/inaccurate data and lots of hype may be entertaining for some, but just doesn’t work for me.
Guess we won't see him at the conference. I assume this blog stuff is pretty new to him, and he needs a bit of encouragement so I'd like to invite him to at least come to the MilBlog conference, maybe then he can make a better assumption on our critical thinking abilities.
Message received at "the office*" via email: "Effectively immediately, all photos of former President Bush should be taken down and the attached document should be put in the frame."
Here's the attachment:
According to Change.gov "It is the first time that an official presidential portrait was taken with a digital camera."
The photo was taken by Pete Souza, the newly-announced official White House photographer, who, according to his biography page, "worked as an Official White House Photographer for President Reagan."
*My office is on a military installation, in case someone missed that somehow. And the original email order - which took a while to forward down the chain of command to my very humble inbox, was dated January 20.
...and the Goodwar begins.
The Washington Post:
Suspected U.S. Missile Strikes Kill at Least 20 in Pakistan"No comment" being perfectly okay with WaPo reporters, who then explain it's just normal, smart business on the part of the US: "The United States generally does not comment on or confirm whether it is behind missile attacks."
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 23 -- At least 20 people were killed in northwest Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan on Friday in two suspected U.S. missile strikes, marking the first such attack in Pakistan's tribal areas since President Obama's inauguration.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs refused to take questions about the incident at his regular briefing for reporters in Washington on Friday.
The Post also has reassuring advice for those who worry about "collateral damage" from such attacks - don't. The attack was a "precision strike": "The precision strike leveled a compound, which was owned by local tribal elder Khalil Malik", who was - according to additional details provided by the Post before the dust had settled around the impact crater - a very bad man:
The Haqqani Network has been linked to dozens of suicide and roadside bomb attacks on U.S., coalition and Afghan government forces in Afghanistan, including an assassination attempt last April on Afghan President Hamid Karzai.That second reference being to the other very bad man hit in a precision strike this week in which no innocent civilians were harmed. Previously, any attacks on al Qaeda or Taliban targets in Pakistan or Afghanistan would invariably hit wedding parties instead. If you're wondering why the sudden and " notable change in tempo and reported accuracy", the Post explains that, too:
In South Waziristan, a number of missile attacks have targeted compounds linked to Pakistani Taliban leader Mullah Nazir. Nazir was appointed the top Taliban commander of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe in 2006
Samina Ahmed, director of the International Crisis Group in Pakistan, attributes some of the change to increased cooperation between the United States and Pakistan.
"Given the fact that the past few strikes have actually gotten their targets with minimal or no civilian casualties, there is obviously better cooperation between the U.S. military and Pakistan,"
Zardari and other Pakistani officials were critical of the United States in the wake of several missile strikes last year. But there was notable silence in Islamabad about Friday's missile strikes with few public officials commenting on the attacks.
Update/more: at Instapundit, Gateway Pundit, Michelle Malkin, and Hot Air. I've looked for some "left-wing" blog commentary to balance the above, but if memorandum is definitive, there's really little to none (as of this link).
For my part, I'm reminded of this:
January 20, 1993: William J. Clinton becomes President of the United States.But the Obama administration has clearly learned from Clinton's mistake. Strikes in Pakistan will be different now, and not merely a continuation of Bush administration policies, as Time Magazine hastens to explain. They're on board for the Goodwar, and salute the enlightened change in approach here:
January 21, 1993: A F-16 and an F-4G escorting a French Mirage reconnaissance plane over northern Iraq attack an Iraqi missile battery after the site's search radar began tracking them.
January 22, 1993: An F-4G fires two missiles at a SAM site in northern Iraq.
January 26, 1993: A Voice of America broadcast makes clear that a new US administration will continue the Iraq policy:
President Clinton stressed that United States policy on Iraq will not change. "It is the American policy," he said, "and that is what we are going to stay with."
Secretary of State Warren Christopher also stressed the continuity of U.S. policy toward Iraq. "The United States intends to protect our pilots in the 'no-fly' zone," he said. "The Iraqis know perfectly well what it takes to comply with the U.N. resolutions and with the establishment of the 'no-fly' zones." Secretary Christopher said the U.S. attack on the missile site shows the determination with which the Clinton administration will pursue its policy toward Iraq.
The Washington Post has a good assessment of the emerging Obama policy toward Pakistan--continue the effective Predator strikes against terrorist targets in the Northwest Frontier areas on the one hand, while rebalancing U.S. aid to Pakistan, away from the untrammeled military aid of the Bush Administration, most of which was used by the Pakistanis to build up their arms on the Indian front, and toward more economic and humanitarian development projects:I think they're trying to say that we're getting the job done there and not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.
In the past it was common practice, to allow the military color guard to stay and watch the game from the side lines, in honor of their service to our country, this time it seems they are not welcomed to stay.
The Soldiers' Angels hero adoption waiting list is over 900 today.
All these heroes waiting to be adopted are currently serving overseas, away from their families. It means so much for them to know "regular" people back home are thinking of them.
Won't you please consider adopting a hero today? All is takes is the commitment from you to write a letter a week and send one small care package a month during the length of the deployment. To adopt a hero, click here now.
If adoption does not suit you but you'd still like to help, there are many opportunities for everyone to get involved. Just click here to find out more.
As everyone knows, times are tough right now. Every industry that makes up the backbone of our country seems to be getting some bailout money.
However, last time we checked, MilBloggers were not on the list! The employees of VA Mortgage Center.com have decided to bypass the government and directly fund the MilBlog Bailout of 2009.
We love reading what every soldier, veteran, friend, and family member has to say and blogs are a great way to facilitate that communciation.
Through this program, we are offering to pay your blog hosting bill for one year. Our employees have decided to do this because the MilBlogging community has done so much for us. So many of you have been gracious enough to give us publicity, inspire us, and participate in our community at YouServed.com.
In addition, many of you have given us the privilege of helping you finance the home of your dreams through the VA Loan Program.
To qualify for this program, you must currently run a military blog and be able to send us a copy of your hosting invoice. This is only for MilBloggers and categorization as such is at our discretion.
We will send you a check for your hosting costs for the last year or current term, up to $150. If you host on a free service such as Blogger.com or Wordpress.com then we will reimburse you for a new hosting account and new domain registration if you would like to move your blog over to its own domain.
To sign up, simply fill out the form at the bottom of page here.
...and flubs his oath
UPDATE: Do over, no bible needed.
This week in the history of the Iraq war:
January 13, 1993: With Iraqi missile sites still operational south of the 32d parallel, and Iraqi troops making repeated forays across the newly demarcated border with Kuwait, President Bush orders punitive strikes against 32 Iraqi missile sites and air defense command centers.
January 15, 1993: Iraqi AAA fired on a pair of Provide Comfort F-111Fs in two separate incidents. Neither aircraft was hit; neither returned fire.
January 17, 1993: Iraqi AAA fired on two Provide Comfort F-16s. Neither plane was hit and neither returned fire. About an hour later, an F-4G attacked an air defense site that was targeting French reconnaissance planes. An hour and a half after that, a Provide Comfort F-16 shot down an Iraqi MiG over northern Iraq. In the south, US warships fire 45 cruise missiles against the Zarfaraniyah nuclear fabrication facility near Baghdad in response to Iraq's refusal to cooperate with UN inspectors. Eight buildings at the facility, located just outside Baghdad, are hit. One missile, apparently struck by Iraqi anti-aircraft fire, crashes into the Al Rasheed Hotel, killing two civilians.
President elect Clinton issues a statement: "Saddam Hussein's continuing provocation has been met by appropriate and forceful response. I fully support President Bush's actions. Saddam Hussein should be very clear in understanding that the current and the next administration are in complete agreement on the necessity of his fully complying with all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions."
January 18, 1993: Provide Comfort F-4Gs attack surface-to-air missile sites in northern Iraq after being fired on, and F-16s drop cluster bombs on Bashiqah airfield after being attacked by AAA fire. In the south, JTF Southern Watch sends 75 US, British, and French aircraft to attack Iraqi missile sites south of the 32d parallel.
January 19, 1993: In two separate incidents, Provide Comfort aircraft clash with Iraqi air defenses. An F-4G fires a missile at a SAM radar site east of Mosul after the radar "locked onto" the Weasel. About three hours later, two F-16s drop cluster bombs on a AAA site after being fired at. Iraq informs UNSCOM that it will be able to resume its flights (S/225172).
January 20, 1993: William J. Clinton becomes President of the United States.
January 21, 1993: A F-16 and an F-4G escorting a French Mirage reconnaissance plane over northern Iraq attack an Iraqi missile battery after the site's search radar began tracking them.
January 22, 1993: An F-4G fires two missiles at a SAM site in northern Iraq.
January 26, 1993: A Voice of America broadcast makes clear that a new US administration will continue the Iraq policy:
President Clinton stressed that United States policy on Iraq will not change. "It is the American policy," he said, "and that is what we are going to stay with."But eight years later,
Secretary of State Warren Christopher also stressed the continuity of U.S. policy toward Iraq. "The United States intends to protect our pilots in the 'no-fly' zone," he said. "The Iraqis know perfectly well what it takes to comply with the U.N. resolutions and with the establishment of the 'no-fly' zones." Secretary Christopher said the U.S. attack on the missile site shows the determination with which the Clinton administration will pursue its policy toward Iraq.
Jan. 16, 2001: U.S. and British aircraft launch attacks on five air defense sites both in the southern no-fly zone and in the central area of Iraq. Some two dozen aircraft participate.
Jan. 20, 2001: U.S. aircraft launch attacks on radar systems and anti-aircraft guns in the southern no-fly zone. All coalition aircraft depart the area safely.
Jan. 24, 2001: Iraqi forces launch SAM and fire anti-aircraft artillery from sites north of Mosul while ONW aircraft conduct routine enforcement of the northern no-fly zone. Coalition aircraft respond to the Iraqi attacks by dropping ordnance on elements of the Iraqi integrated air defense system.
Jan. 28, 2001: U.S. aircraft strike Iraqi SAM sites in the southern no-fly zone "following recent Iraqi violations of UN Security Council resolutions."
A day later, the Washington Post would opine "Of all the booby traps left behind by the Clinton administration, none is more dangerous -- or more urgent -- than the situation in Iraq."
Over the last year, Mr. Clinton and his team quietly avoided dealing with, or calling attention to, the almost complete unraveling of a decade's efforts to isolate the regime of Saddam Hussein and prevent it from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction. That leaves President Bush to confront a dismaying panorama in the Persian Gulf.
Last year Chuck raised over $5000 for the FOA ride. He'd wants to exceed that this year, by at least a 50% increase to $7500. Donation link can be found here
The timing of this will conflict with the MilBlog conference but if you like to go for a ride instead, they're going to need teammates and support personnel during the event, and a few other needs. More here
If you cannot participate in the ride, you can still participate bydonating here
We'll miss you at the conference Chuck but this is a worthy cause.
My friend James Hooker sends along his song and video ¨Thank You¨ to President Bush.
James says: "I met President Bush in March of 2001. We had lunch and I had a chance to talk to him - I don´t remember that much except I remember saying ¨Mr President, I´m glad you´re here¨. He said ¨Thanks, I´m glad to be here too!¨ This was before the September 11th attacks, of course, and we both had no idea about the coming days and months."
More at the link. And more music from James here.
On Jan. 7, Dena Adams and Bonnie Pearson, who teaches business and marketing at the school, presented a program to explain the school’s Give Us Hope donation drive to the students. The goal of the drive is to collect enough supplies and financial support to send 500 school kits, packaged in 1-gallon zip bags, for distribution to Iraqi children. Preparations began back in September as mother and son began determining what the children needed most and what would be allowed through military security inspections. [...]
Students were transfixed by a slide show of photographs of Marlin and other Marines with Iraqi children amid backdrops of bombed-out buildings and shattered window panes. Many students wiped tears from their cheeks at the program’s end.
Dena Adams shared with the students an e-mail from Marlin that emphasized the importance of helping the Iraqi people.
“The people will gravitate towards the side that provides a higher quality of life,” Marlin wrote, noting that U.S. military forces have helped with reestablishing electricity and giving out food and blankets to the poor. “Projects like this get the people on our side. By having people on our side and denying the terrorists the ability to conduct operations, it improves security and gives the Iraqi security forces a buffer within which to grow and become more professional … The second reason that I wanted to help here is simply the fact that it’s the right thing to do.”
It is becoming increasingly clear that a small group of radicalized feathered foes are hell-bent on destroying our way of life.
But thanks to a former Air Force fighter pilot for overcoming this attack.
The plane had suffered “a double bird strike,” one of the pilots told an air traffic controller at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control.
Teterboro, in New Jersey, the controller replied, and instructed the pilot to fly south along the Hudson River, then swing back to the north to land there.
Instead, the pilot told the controller that they would ditch the plane in the river. They then cleared the George Washington Bridge by about 900 feet, according to controllers, and at a point near the end of West 48th Street in Midtown Manhattan, the plane slid into the river’s smooth, gray waters.
Captain Sullenberger, known as Sully, flew the F-4 for the United States Air Force for seven years in the 1970s after graduating from the United States Air Force Academy. He joined USAir, as it was called at the time, in 1980 and became a “check airman,” training and evaluating new pilots or those changing to new aircraft or moving up to captain. He also was an accident investigator for the union, the Air Line Pilots Association.
So much more here
In case you missed this:
J.R. Martinez was featured in the Daily News
You can find his blog here
Via Patti's Email:
Greetings Angels I wanted to share this with as many of you as I can and also wanted to thank those that sent Christmas cards and well wishes via email. It was great to be home this Christmas and to be able to see my older brother again, last time we saw each other it was over a cup of coffee in Iraq. The family and I are doing well.
As many of you know I not only serve in the military but I also do all I can to take care of my brothers and sisters especially those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that are severely wounded.
JR Martinez is a very good friend of mine and we met while we were doing events to increase public awareness of the wounded coming home. He is an awesome young man that I greatly admire and would do anything in the world for him. My daughter fell in love with him the first time she met him and they too keep contact.
OK I will get to the point, JR is now on the soap opera All My Children. Please check out his guest appearance on the TV show the View www.youtube.com/watch?v=skRsfp2nfYI
I just want you to see the difference each one of you makes in the lives of our troops.
...who Blows Off Security Fears? Whatever has become of our military?
To all those who donated in the past to Valour-IT, this is what your donations have given.
(click on image for story)
H.R. McMaster in World Affairs: The Human Element: When Gadgetry Becomes Strategy.
Not disagreeing with him here, but in reading any analysis of any sort of strategic shortfall in 2003-2004 Iraq planning and execution, I remind myself that all such shortfalls are defined by enemy responses to our actions. As the enemy would have responded differently to different actions, those could now be identified as failures too had we executed them with something less than perfect results. (A likely outcome regardless of our actions.)
As specific example, it's easy to claim that many of the problems we faced in Iraq (and those that linger) could have been prevented by sending more troops initially - easy because it's true (or at least as true as speculation can be). But to claim we wouldn't be confronted with a different set of problems altogether (along with many of the same) is much more an exercise in wishful thinking.
Many of those hypothetical problems would - like our current reality and that of the past six years - have been predicted by someone. And many of those someones would now be participating in some degree of righteous chest-thumping. To break it down to a simple model:
If we follow option z, we may be confronted by a, b, and c. But if we choose y, then c, d, and f may follow. Along with that are various "x" factors within the spectrum of results. But ultimately, one weighs the risks and makes decisions in full knowledge of the consequences. As I said, that's a simple model. Reality is that simple model compounded with infinite options, permutations, possible outcomes and unknowns. That applies to much more than combat - it's every aspect of life in a nutshell. No doubt you've encountered experts (sought or unsought) at various way points in yours who've been willing and eager to point out what you could have done better.
That said, some such expert advice or opinion is authentic, informed, useful, and welcome to the wise. McMaster's falls into that category. The lingering question is who are the wise.
"Of all the booby traps left behind by the Clinton administration," opined the Washington Post in late January, 2001 as the Bush administration was setting up shop, "none is more dangerous -- or more urgent -- than the situation in Iraq."
Over the last year, Mr. Clinton and his team quietly avoided dealing with, or calling attention to, the almost complete unraveling of a decade's efforts to isolate the regime of Saddam Hussein and prevent it from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction. That leaves President Bush to confront a dismaying panorama in the Persian Gulf.And confront it he did.
Because you can actually vote more than once (just not on the same day), feel free to do so for my friend Mike Totten.
More on that Pirate story:
Abukar Haji, uncle of one of the dead pirates, blamed the naval surveillance for the accident that killed his pirate nephew Saturday.
"The boat the pirates were traveling in capsized because it was running at high speed because the pirates were afraid of an attack from the warships patrolling around," he said.
"There has been human and monetary loss but what makes us feel sad is that we don't still have the dead bodies of our relatives. Four are still missing and one washed up on the shore."
Pirate Daud Nure said three of the eight passengers had managed to swim to shore after the boat overturned in rough seas. He was not part of the pirate operation but knew those involved.
"Here in Haradhere the news is grim, relatives are looking for their dead," he said.
Third in a series, previous entry here.
More from Adam Weinstein, on the near-future of the Sons of Iraq program.
Anbar grassroots movement reaches milestone:
Sons of Iraq registration underway
By Adam Weinstein
MNC-I Public Affairs
December 26, 2008
BAGHDAD – In June 2007, the once-restless and violent western Iraqi province of Anbar produced a grassroots security movement that came to be known as the Awakening. The movement grew rapidly throughout the country with Coalition help, speeding the nation’s return to peace and stability. Today, the original Awakening movement members in Anbar - now commonly known as the Sons of Iraq - are preparing for another first: They are transferring from Coalition to Iraqi control and preparing for new jobs in the service of their country.
“They have invested in the future of Iraq. And the Government of Iraq is offering them hope and an opportunity to play yet another important role in the future of this country,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, the chief of reconciliation and engagement for Multi-National Corps - Iraq. “They’re going to be part of that.”
The transfer process – dubbed “the leading edge of reconciliation” by MNC-I’s deputy commanding general, Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter –begins on Feb. 1, 2009. On that date, Anbar’s Sons of Iraq will join thousands of other members across the country, transferring from the Coalition forces to the responsibility of the Iraqi Government -- which has promised them long-term employment in the army, police, civil service and other meaningful job fields.
Retired Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, left, representative of Iraq’s Implementation and Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation, speaks with Maj. Gen. Tariq, director general of the Iraqi Police, at a meeting in Anbar Dec. 20 to discuss the transfer of Sons of Iraq control from Coalition forces to the Government of Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric J. Martinez)
The groundwork for the transfer was set in late December, in a series of meetings between SoI leaders and representatives of the Iraqi government. “The Government invited the SoI leaders to stand up and ask questions,” Kulmayer said. “And some of them ask pretty tough questions.”
In Anbar, the SoI leaders’ concerns revolved around how all their men would be paid and employed after the Coalition forces handed the reins over to the Iraqis. The registration process has been challenging, but all parties agree that the SoI should be taken care of, given their sacrifices and contributions to normalcy and peace in western Iraq.
“In 2008, approximately 500 Sons of Iraq have been killed in the line of duty, and more than 750 wounded,” Kulmayer said. “That’s men out there risking their lives to secure and protect Iraqi citizens and their neighborhoods. It’s a substantial sacrifice.”
Retired Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, right, representative of Iraq’s Implementation and Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation, speaks with Marine Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, ground commander, Multi-National Forces - West, at a meeting in Anbar Dec. 20 to discuss the transfer of Sons of Iraq control from Coalition forces to the Government of Iraq. (U.S. Army photo bySpc. Eric J. Martinez)
Judging from previous transfers, the sacrifices of Anbar’s SoI will not go unrewarded. In Baghdad - home to more than half the nation’s 95,000 or so Sons of Iraq - the members have already received their second monthly paychecks from the Iraqi government. Many of the Baghdad SOIs are now in training to be police officers or workers for a variety of civic projects and other meaningful jobs. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons from Baghdad,” said Iraqi Army Major Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, vice chairman of the Iraqi Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation.
The transfer has special significance in Anbar province, where the original Awakening movement was born. In late 2006, Anbar was among the most violent areas of Iraq, with elements of Al Qaeda in Iraq operating freely in populated areas.
Al Qaeda had launched a deadly campaign of intimidation and violence campaign against the citizens of Anbar, which included the indiscriminate killings of dozens of innocent Iraq men, women and children as well as Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. It was here that dissatisfied Sunni tribal leaders first found common ground with the Coalition against al Qaeda, and started neighborhood watches to push the terrorist group out of their communities.
“We helped organize them and eventually began to fund them to provide critical infrastructure and security throughout Anbar,” Ferriter said, “And it quickly spread to many of the other provinces.”
Gov. Mamoun Sami, right, Anbar provincial governor greets representatives of the Iraq Army at a meeting in Anbar Dec. 20 to discuss the transfer of Sons of Iraq control from Coalition forces to the Government of Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric J. Martinez)
Some of the Sons of Iraq had previously fought against the Coalition. But Ferriter points out that “reconciliation is something you do with your adversaries, not your friends.” And, as he told a group of SoI leaders in Anbar on Dec. 20, “There is a common agreement: We don’t want these men to turn to Al Qaeda.”
The SoI volunteers’ success in Anbar helped turn the tide of war in dramatic fashion. Today, Anbar averages less than one attack per day, and the province was returned to Iraqi control in September. “The blows we have struck against Al Qaeda in Anbar have implications far beyond Anbar’s borders,” the White House said in a release last September.
Retired Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, hand raised, representative of Iraq’s Implementation and Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation, addresses representatives of the Sons of Iraq, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition forces at a meeting in Anbar Dec. 20 to discuss the transfer of Sons of Iraq control from Coalition forces to the Government of Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric J. Martinez)
Kulmayer is confident that the Sons of Iraq transfer will be no less historic. “It’s so important to look at this as a reconciliation issue,” he said. “If you go back to the beginning, you had insurgents, who reconciled with the coalition. And now we’re following that up with a reconciliation between the Sons of Iraq and their own government.”
“That,” he said, “is the way to put Iraq back together.”
Retired Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, left, representative of Iraq’s Implementation and Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation, speaks with Gov. Sami Mamoun, Anbar province governor, at a meeting in Anbar Dec. 20 to discuss the transfer of Sons of Iraq control from Coalition forces to the Government of Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric J. Martinez)
More to follow...All done!
No - make that a happy update:
LANDSTUHL, Germany — On Thursday afternoon the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan lent a hand to a soldier wounded in Afghanistan.Lots more, and many pictures, at the link.
Linda Ferrara, the mother of the late Vicenza, Italy-based Capt. Matthew Ferrara, helped Spc. Stephen Stout sort through a box of donated goods at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Stout will fly back to the States soon for surgery, and wanted to find a teddy bear for his son — whom he’ll meet for the first time.
The trip came about because of a series of improbable events surrounding Matthew Ferrara’s 2007 death in Afghanistan, a robbery in southern California and a blog run by an American living in Germany.
And while you're there, don't miss this story.
Low on gas, the helicopter pulled away. Then Blanchet, a 30-year-old pilot from Florida with six years in the cockpit, angled his Pave Hawk toward that wedge of rock and decided on a new approach.All done!
"We actually backed the helicopter kind of around the corners of the cliff," Blanchet says.
In that position, the helicopter began to descend lower into the funnel, so the cable could reach the men on the ledge.
"It was really loose shale rock, so their footing was really precarious," Ringheimer says. "So we really had to be careful not to blow those guys off the rocks."
Ringheimer moved to the other side of the helicopter to help with the cable.
He was stunned when he saw the rock wall looming out the window.
Continuing a series begun here.
As 2008 drew to a close, Adam Weinstein, MNC-I Public Affairs, sent us the following update on the transfer of the Sons of Iraq program to Government of Iraq control.
Progress for Peace: Reconciliation
Diyala Sons of Iraq transfer underway
By Adam Weinstein Multi-National Corps – Iraq
December 30, 2008
BAGHDAD – Along with a new year, Iraq is ringing in an important step toward national reconciliation and sovereignty on Jan. 1, 2009. On that date, the nation’s government will take over control of the Sons of Iraq from Coalition forces in four key provinces across the country -- including Diyala, one of the most diverse provinces, where al-Qaeda in Iraq once terrorized and intimidated local residents.
In all, 76 percent of the nation’s SoI members will be under Iraqi government responsibility by New Year’s Day.
“We are beyond the tipping point with the Sons of Iraq,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, the chief of reconciliation and engagement for Multi-National Corps – Iraq. “They have invested in the future of Iraq. And the Iraqi Government is offering them hope in the future. They’re going to be part of that.”
The transfer marks a dramatic turnaround in Diyala province in particular. “Diyala is a small Iraq,” said Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, vice chairman of the Iraqi Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation. Home to Kurds as well as Sunni and Shi’a Iraqis, the region is more varied than Baghdad, where SoI members have already been successfully transferred to Iraqi control.
Retired Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Muzhir al-Mawla, left, vice chairman of the Iraqi Follow-Up Committee for National Reconciliation, speaks at a meeting on Forward Operating Base Gabe in Diyala province Dec. 23 to discuss the transfer of responsibility over Sons of Iraq from Coalition forces to the Government of Iraq, as Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, deputy commanding general, Multi-National Corps – Iraq, looks on. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric J. Martinez)
In 2007, this mostly Sunni area northeast of Baghdad had been considered one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq, and it lacked an infrastructure to support many basic services for its residents. But, as AQI’s targeting of innocent men, women and children in areas like Diyala took its deadly toll on residents, concerned local citizens joined a movement called the Awakening and organized neighborhood watches to roll back terrorist gains in their communities.
The following year, the movement’s members -- who came to be known as the Sons of Iraq -- joined forces with the Coalition to fight AQI, with spectacular results. The addition of more than 100,000 SoI members helped to thicken the security forces and enabled the improved security environment experienced today.
“They have been critical to finding caches, bringing down IEDs, keeping al-Qaeda out of the towns, because they know everybody,” Kulmayer said. “They know who’s who in their towns and villages.”
Now, after helping bring greater stability to the region, 20,000 SoI members in Diyala, Babil, Wasit and Qadisiyah provinces will have opportunities to serve their country in new roles. In early December, they began to register with the Iraqi government to receive their regular paychecks. As responsibility for the SoI transfers to the government on Jan. 1, the group’s members will transition into a variety of meaningful jobs intended to secure the nation’s future. Twenty percent are slated to join the Iraqi Army or Police; the rest will enter public or private employment in a variety of roles, from civil engineering to electrical maintenance to working in the government’s multiple ministries.
“The goal of this program is to eventually hire these people into meaningful jobs,” said Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III, commanding general of MNC-I. “While many of them are working in security positions right now, ultimately they’ll transition and go into other meaningful jobs, and that’s the goal.”
The program has met with a number of challenges. Before working with the Coalition, many of the SoI actively resisted it. Some members worry that their previous activities might be held against them.
So far, though, the SoI and the government have interacted well, confirming that this is “the leading edge of reconciliation,” according to Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, deputy commanding general of MNC-I.
Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, left, deputy commanding general, Multi-National Corps – Iraq, and other Coalition forces leaders meet with Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Abdul Kareem, right, Diyala Operations Center commander, on Forward Operating Base Gabe in Diyala province Dec. 23 to discuss the transfer of responsibility over Sons of Iraq from CF to the Government of Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric J. Martinez)
In the past three months, more than half of the country’s SoI have already been transferred smoothly to Iraqi control, including all the group’s members in Baghdad. SoI registration in Anbar Province is nearly complete, in preparation for a Feb. 1 transfer to Iraqi control. Ninewa, Kirkuk and Salah Ah Din provinces are scheduled to transfer in early spring. Authorities said a rehearsal of the Diyala transfer on Dec. 23 went off without a hitch.
“Diyala is considered to be a very complex province, but in fact the registration of the SoI has gone very well,” said Kulmayer, adding that nearly 9,000 SoI members would register with the government in the province. “We have a very large turnout there. It’s exceeding the expectation of how many would come in and register.”
“The Sons of Iraq feel as if they’re being taken care of,” Austin said. “They’re apprehensive, but that’s to be expected. This is new and building trust takes time.”
Civil Service Corps projects continue to be the main focus of non-security job efforts, with more than 4,100 SoI currently enrolled in various apprentice programs. Iraqi-led jobs programs for the SoI, such as CSC and public works projects, remain in development. The government of Iraq is also looking at opening a number of job-training centers around the country to address the needs of unskilled SoI members.
“Those results have come about because of determined leadership,” Austin said.
Ferriter echoed those comments, adding that, at the end of the day, all the parties were on the same page. “We have a common goal: We don’t want the Sons of Iraq to turn to al-Qaeda,” he said.
“The Coalition forces don’t want that; the Iraqi Prime Minister doesn’t want that. Together, we’ll make this work.”
Brig. Gen. James C. Nixon, left, deputy commanding general, Multi-National Division – North, speaks with Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Khalid, commander, 5th Iraqi Army Division, at a meeting on Forward Operating Base Gabe in Diyala province Dec. 23 to discuss the transfer of responsibility over Sons of Iraq from Coalition forces to the Government of Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric J. Martinez)
Now that transfer has occurred...
Diyala Governer Ra'ad al-Tamimi (left), greets Lt. Gen. Abdul Kareem (right), commander, Diyala Operations Center, prior to signing the security agreement outlining how the transfer and payment of the Sons of Iraq in Diyala province from coalition forces to the Government of Iraq will be carried out , Jan 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante)
Diyala Governer Ra'ad al-Tamimi (left) and Lt. Gen. Abdul Kareem (right), commander, Diyala Operations Center, sign the security agreement outlining how the tranfer and payment of the Sons of Iraq in Diyala province from coalition forces to the Government of Iraq will be carried out, Jan 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante)
Lt. Gen. Abdul Kareem (second from the right), commander, Diyala Operations Center, and Diyala Governer Ra'ad al-Tamimi (left) and Lt. Gen. Abdul Kareem (right), shake hands with local leaders after signing the security agreement outlining how the tranfer and payment of the Sons of Iraq in Diyala province from coalition forces to the Government of Iraq will be carried out, Jan 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joy Pariante)
"Thickening the lines: Sons of Iraq, a combat multiplier" (pdf), Major Andrew W. Koloski, U.S. Army, and Lieutenant Colonel John S. Kolasheski, U.S. Army.
The reader will note the linked account ends around May, 2008 as the authors' tour of duty came to an end. They left Iraq with some understandable concern for the future of their efforts - and at the time that future was uncertain at best. For an update on subsequent progress, see this account from early December on the transfer of the Sons of Iraq movement to Iraqi government control.
While I wasn't directly involved in the effort, events recounted at the first link were among the many going on in my neighborhood back in 2007. More discussion on all that here later.
Meanwhile, here's a related discussion on another - and complimentary - effort to the "Sons of Iraq" program. This from veterans of the 101st, who operated in the AO immediately west of the 3ID's 3rd BCT (who controlled the ground described in the Military Review piece). Both approaches were used in each location, however, and in all others where American forces operated in Iraq. They define "counter-insurgency" as executed today.
Update: part two here.
I want the ending of this story to be true. That's just one reason I don't think it is.
I’m constantly amazed by the attitudes of some in our industry toward the military. Personally, the fact that I’m a former Marine is often met with incredulity. Apparently, I’m “pretty cool for a Marine” and I “seem so normal”. My favorite is the look on someone’s face when they ask, “Why would you join the Marines?” while they visually inspect for some previously undetected mental defect.
That brings to mind this interview with actor James Ransone, who portrayed Marine Cpl. Ray Person in HBO's "Generation Kill":
Q. Did you ever meet Cpl. Josh Ray Person, the character you play in 'Generation Kill'?All done!
A. I never met with Josh. Josh and I talked, and still talk today. I really like him. I get along really well with a lot of the Marines who are military advisers. They actually became really good friends with me. But I sort of made a point not to talk to Josh until after we started filming. It was too big of a head trip, just because of the size of the part. I didn't know, when I was coming to Africa, that my part was going to be as big as it was. When I got there, there was actually some significant revamping that I did with that character. I kind of, originally, was playing him a little more white trash, a little bit more southern.
Q. What made you alter your portrayal?
A. Just being around the other Marines. And realizing, for their sense of humor and stuff, they're actually really, really smart. And [the show's military adviser] Eric Kocher sort of telling me stories about Josh. I was starting to get a different feel for him altogether. I think actors have a tendency, when they're playing soldiers, to have this like Southern accent. Actors live in coastal cities, where it's like (pompous voice) 'Oh, I would never join the Marines, and I'm a thespian. If I was a soldier — (hick voice) Well, I got mah chaw!' That's so [expletive] far off base.
If success in Iraq can be defined as "establishing an American-style democracy" then success appears to have been achieved.
The Los Angeles Times: "Iraq's Novice Political Candidates Embrace Campaigning"
In Jan. 31 provincial elections, 14,400 hopefuls are vying for 440 seats. Many are running like pros, undeterred by the threat of violence or other candidates' questionable tactics.A quote from a
Provincial council candidate Fareeq Khazaali moves through the crowds of shoppers on Mutanabi Street with the confidence and ease of a veteran politician, shaking hands and smiling, as his children, wearing homemade campaign T-shirts, distribute leaflets.
When he's not pressing the flesh, he's sending frequent text messages ("Greetings. Please elect your candidate Fareeq Khazaali.") and making friends on Facebook -- surprising political sophistication for a novice candidate in a country taking baby steps toward democracy.
After shaking Khazaali's hand, Mohammed Saleh Faiz, 33, said, "I respect the way this candidate is campaigning. He is now living among the people. They can ask him about himself or his political program. We rarely see such frankness and transparency among the politicians."
Khazaali, 45, has also mobilized young people. Many on his campaign team are enthusiastic university students or recent graduates. They've taken his message door to door and have "no fear like old men," he said.
To get elected, Khazaali says, he must distinguish himself from other candidates. That is why he's using text messages and Facebook -- tips he learned from candidate training with the National Democratic Institute, a nongovernmental organization.
"Some people ask me, 'The other candidates gave us gifts. Why don't you give us something?' I tell them it is because I am not a thief."
"I'm a young man. I'm not employed, not married," he said. "People told me if this guy won, he will employ you, give you money and a house and marry you to someone. . . . I don't believe he's going to help me. As soon as he wins the election, he will forget us. But he gave me money and a car, and they said, even if he doesn't win, I can keep the car."From the same report: "Several candidates have complained that their posters, plastered on concrete blast walls across the capital, have been ripped down or defaced."
The AP, however, reports one area of contrast with American democracy: Iraq Seeks Fair Coverage, Issues Reporters' Code:
The government wants to require foreign and Iraqi journalists to sign a code of conduct in exchange for permission to attend this month's provincial elections, raising concerns among media analysts that independent coverage could be undermined.However, as in America "Most of Iraq's political parties operate their own newspapers and television stations".
Parts of the 14-page code require that reports be balanced and unbiased and prohibit media from falsifying or misrepresenting information.
My prediction: within four years Iraq will have a "community organizer" group (probably called "Date Palm") involved in voter registration.
A view from two Iraqi brothers, a New Iraq Emerges from Tyranny and War
The headlines for those cynics do not go beyond the throw of a shoe, whereas my headlines look into the future and speak of a new Iraq. My headlines speak of agreements with our friends in American industries who will help us have 24 hours of electricity and equip a strong army dedicated to serving and protecting the Iraqi nation. This is a future where Iraq’s billions are used in transparent contracts to build the country and improve economic ties with our true allies and friends, not in shady deals for building palaces, supporting terrorists, and procuring tools of aggression.
My headlines speak of symbols of sovereignty returned to Iraqi hands, of France forgiving Iraqi debts, and of the first Christmas festival ever in downtown Baghdad. Iraqis gathered on the beautiful street of Abu Nawas to celebrate Christmas and to honor Iraqi Christians who stood with their brethren courageously against the forces of evil.
My headlines look up to new elections in which many incumbent and new parties will compete for Iraqi’s votes. Whether those parties are qualified or not is something for the Iraqi voters to decide. What popular participation in elections by both voters and parties indicates is that everyone knows their part in building the country, through ballots not bullets — more and more people are adhering to the model of the future and moving away from the shadows of a dark past.
My headlines speak of universities, airports, businesses, and parks that we build with patience and hope.
My headlines say that coup rumors were, well, rumors and that all officers arrested have been released with dignity. Today in Iraq the state does not execute people on mere suspicions, as was the case in the past. Today in Iraq power is transferred by means other than coups.
When hypocrites and extremists sober up from their shoe hangover they will see a new Iraq which will not be easy for them to recognize. Even harder for them will be to contain the tides of freedom and democracy which are bound to reach their shores and shake the foundations of dictatorships and extremism.
Read the complete article hereAll done!
Cori Dauber - an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill whose blog was a long-time daily read (and is sorely missed by your humble scribe) has published "The Truth is out there: Responding to Insurgent Information and Deception Operations" (link is to pdf) in the Jan-Feb 2009 Military Review.
She presents the most compelling series of case studies of Iraq-based "insurgent" use of Western media outlets (a highly effective and symbiotic relationship, to use a mild term for it) for information warfare purposes I've ever seen compiled in one brief document. It should be mandatory reading for journalism students - but it won't be. It will be read by those who study military issues - if those on our side conclude that "Quick Reaction Forces" could be as critical (and ultimately as lifesaving) in information warfare as in street fights then that battle, at least, is won.
A brief excerpt:
Insurgents have sometimes gone even further, manipulating existing images to create something new and essentially fictitious and they have become increasingly sophisticated in finding ways to do so. ABC news reported that after one Soldier lost a “video diary” he had filmed for personal use in Iraq, parts of it popped up soon after on the internet and on al Jazeera — but with the original audio track stripped out. It had been replaced with the voice of another English speaker purporting to be the voice of the Solider, explaining to his mother, in a Christmas message home that, among other things, “‘the crimes by our Soldiers during break-ins started to merge, such as burglary, harassment, raping and random manslaughter,’ says the voice. ‘Why are we even here? the people hate us.’"You can view that full video here.
Those who made the video went too far when they ended their piece by saying that it was a tragedy this poor soldier had been killed in Iraq before ever making it home for Christmas. Unfortunately for the insurgents, ABC was able to verify that multiple claims made by the speaker were false (starting with the fact that it was unlikely the Soldier would have been making a “Christmas message” for his family when he had actually left Iraq six months before Christmas.) ABC therefore framed the story as being about a brazen (but ineffective) attempt at propaganda. Thus, while this may have worked with the Arab audience, it did not successfully make the jump to the American audience.
In truth, in an interview with the author, the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for the 101st Airborne Division, the Soldier’s home unit, told me that the insurgent effort was actually quite effective: ABC was preparing to do a story about the tragedy of an anti-war Soldier killed in Iraq, essentially picking up the story precisely as al Jazeera reported it. Despite the large number of inaccuracies in that story and the over-the-top nature of the claims made, it was only by finally producing the living Soldier that the PAO was able to prevent al Jazeera’s story from appearing on ABC news. This was, remember, a story created when a script written by the insurgent group the Islamic Army of Iraq provided the basis for an audio track subsequently added by al Jazeera. Lieutenant Colonel Ed Loomis, the 101st’s PAO, said: the “only thing that they [ABC news] said was going to pull the plug on it was, I had to put Tucker [the Soldier in question] in front of the camera. the fact that Tucker was alive, and the fact that they got the rank wrong, and the fact that there was no way that this was a Christmas letter by Tucker to his family in that he had left Iraq six months before Christmas… —lie, after lie, after lie [was not enough].
Loomis points out that while the script was written by the Islamic Army of Iraq, “al Jazeera did the soundtrack; reading the letter was al Jazeera’s construct, something for which they have apologized to me over the phone,” although he doesn’t know whether al Jazeera ever issued a retraction on the air.
Given the current situation in Iraq, one might be tempted to dismiss all this as old news. But even if the shooting war there doesn't flare up again we can anticipate that this battle will. Similar efforts are underway in Afghanistan, (and now in Gaza, too) and we'll likely see more in the months to come.
This story includes no links to or citations of mainstream media reports from Afghanistan. It's a pure-milblogger look at elements of counter-insurgency warfare there. The key piece: a report of denial of an illumination round, and its impact on one mission (failure). Said denial apparently (from what I gather from one side of the story and some personal experience) based on fear that the (parachute-equipped) round could potentially damage the area (perhaps the fire threat?) and therefore do more harm than good.
Meanwhile, ISAF releases a video (not too graphic - the camera fails) of a terrorist strike killing over a dozen school children. The impact of such an episode is blunted when the enemy can counter with examples of collateral damage caused by our own actions, "intent" being an argument that carries little weight with the jury of public opinion.
No one can deny the importance to successful counter-insurgency ops of minimizing our own collateral damage while exploiting the enemy's desire to maximize the same, or the equal importance of getting that same message out to a public both within and beyond the borders of Afghanistan. But while both are crucial battles in the same war, is this the right balance between winning hearts and minds and successful kinetic ops? Can we win both?
And if not, which is more important to winning the war?
Small Wars Journal - Close Air Support and Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan:
American airpower seems to have lost some of its mystique in the war in Afghanistan. American air dominance, including its ability to conduct airstrikes in close air support of coalition troops, has been and continues to be critical to the Afghan war effort. Close air support, in particular, is allowing the United States and NATO to fight an energized insurgency with far fewer troops than it needs. Yet if one follows press reports from the Afghan theatre, what Eliot Cohen once characterized as an "unusually seductive form of military strength," has become a source of consternation for the United States and a ready cudgel with which to beat America's troubled prosecution of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Tragic news stories of American airstrikes gone wrong and their resultant civilian casualties trump more mundane analyses of the Afghan government's failings or the (by now routine) atrocities committed by Afghan insurgents. American airpower, it seems, has become a victim of its own misunderstood successes in the Persian Gulf War and Kosovo bombing campaign. Its famed precision makes any costly error unacceptable, inflames Afghan and international public opinion, and forces American defense officials and military leaders to observe endless rituals of public apology. The irreconcilable conflict between the immutably violent nature of war and the fiction of a "bloodless" use of force has trapped the United States between the Scylla of military exigency and the Charybdis of public sentiment.
This paper will briefly examine the issue of airstrikes during close air support (CAS) operations in the Afghan theatre. It will give a broad overview of the use of airpower in OEF, then examine the controversy surrounding American airstrikes in Afghanistan. It will take the position that given the existing constraints on the American war effort (troop shortages, the vast and difficult Afghan terrain, limited human intelligence, cross-border insurgent sanctuaries, and increased insurgent activity), CAS is vital to the prosecution of the Afghan war. It will further argue that, even as mounting civilian casualties are alienating the Afghan populace, excessive restraint in the use of airstrikes may be handicapping U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts.
More at the link.
Elsewhere, this report from Afghanistan by milblogger Vampire 06 indicates the "err on the side of caution" approach to warfare there isn't limited to "smart bombs".
The sweat under my IBA and in my ACUs is starting to freeze, I can feel it against my skin. I'm wishing right now that I'd put on some long underwear before we'd come out here, it's too late for that now. Currently, we're holding about 200 meters short of the target khalat, it's aprox 2330. The moon has finally risen giving us better illumination than when we started this about 4 hours ago.
The ANA have no night vision capabilty, so a key piece of this plan is that the US will fire illumination rounds via 60 milimeter mortars once we dismount allowing the ANA to see as we move through the woodpiles. All of the ETTs have night vision.
Sounds great, we're going whack these guys that have been trying to kill us for three days. Yeah Team!!
The ANA reach the dismount point and we all get out, prepping to move through the wood piles. These piles could hide anythig, giant stacks with limbs and logs sticking out everywhere, trying to see a person in this is going to difficult at best. Once we're all ready I call for the illumination rounds.
DENIED! Because the battalion commander 100 miles away thinks it's to dangerous. His concern is that the canister that the illum round is in will land on a khalat in the area, this canister weighs about 8 pounds. Disregard the fact that without this illum the ANA can't see anything. 8 pounds hitting a house or us not being able to see? I'm coming down on the side of us being able to see the enemy.
I call for the illum round again. DENIED! What the...? This guy is 100 miles away and making decisions that should be made by us on the ground, we're the ones closing with the enemy. I guess empowering subordinates and letting ground commanders make the call isn't taught anymore.
We now have a serious problem. The ANA can't see but the ETTs can, guess we'll now have to move in front of the ANA clearing through the piles of wood. So that's what we do. The ETTs get in front and start moving forward. There are about 50 of us in this position and only four of us can see anything.
Read the whole thing. I'd add only that an illumination round is parachute-equipped, and designed to fall slowly to the earth.
And for more insight into the Rubik's Cube of warfare, morality, and Aghanistan, this from Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure.
Yes, Afghanistan is a Rubik's Cube. Many people have solved Rubik's Cubes at some point in their lives; sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and we are spinning the individual blocks around in a seemingly disjointed and random pattern instead of in a coordinated series of movements that see the whole cube. I, like CPT Hill, 1SG Scott, and Vampire 06, was working at moving one or two of the little blocks that make up the larger cube, and every once in a while the Big Hand reaches in gives the cube a couple of quick twists that undo considerable effort or short-circuit a favorable turn in battlefield fortunes. We in the Army have a polysyllabic yet simple word for this effect, but I'll give you a more generally acceptable and family-friendly word that starts with the same letter; counterproductive.
As the warnings of many experts and pundits ring, our window of opportunity in Afghanistan is growing smaller and smaller. It's time to reconsider... read unscrew... ourselves in how we are approaching this war. A symptom of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Moral conundrums have never troubled the enemy.
That's a video of an apparently well-timed attack that killed over a dozen school children. "It's another aspect of this war that makes it tougher on our own troops," John Donovan writes, "especially when their professional prowess and skill cause the enemy to deflect to softer, easier targets - those targets are precisely the people they are trying to protect."
The video was released by HQ ISAF and CJTF-101, prompting this response from John:
The message from CJTF101 is simple - it was the closer to the notice. These photos and videos provide further proof the Afghan militants are not interested in the welfare or benefit of the Afghan people.
And one can hope that the Afghan people see it that way, though we're swimming against an millenniums-long experience that tells these people to submit to he who has the stronger tribe. And that ruthlessness is a component of strength. They know they can get upset with us about civilian casualties, and we will abase ourselves, express heartfelt remorse, and, perhaps most importantly, pay. Unfortunately, for many Afghans, that's a sign of weakness, not strength, whereas we see it as a component of strength, strength tempered with compassion.
They know the Taliban will remain, they aren't sure about us.
Video: Jimbo from Blackfive talks information warfare on CNN, and answers the question "why are the insurgents better at it than we are?" (Some background on the CNN/terrorist video he references - and al Qaeda's media strategy - here.)
And Afghanistan vet Troy Steward (who just welcomed his son home from a year in Afghanistan) offers a poll: "How would you handle Afghanistan if you were President?" Vote!
(And thanks, Glenn!)
UPDATE: Via Email:
When the fuze functions on an illum round, it pushed the flare and attached parachute out of the aft end of the projectile. The baseplate and the casing then go wherever they will -- the casing usually carries on more or less on the original trajectory, and the baseplate falls somewhere behind it. Both are falling chunks of metal without parachutes, so there is some possibility of injury on the ground. Whether in a combat situation that's worth caring about is another question -- I used to have to pay attention during peacetime range operations, but that's a different story.
LTC FA, Ret Mark B. Wroth
When you see this picture, its always worth clicking.
I stay away from the milblog category of the Web Log awards, for reasons I've stated here before. (But for those who enjoy such things, participate, vote. I've got no problem with those who don't share my position.) But Michael Totten isn't in the milblog category, he's up for best Middle East Blog. And he and I shared Pizza in Baghdad once. And he's right - Juan Cole is an insufferable ass.
Okay, that exact quote is actually from me, not Michael. But click here, read, and then vote - because (and this is something else Totten doesn't say but I do) he damn well deserves to win.
I was talking to a guy a few months ago about his pending disability claims. He was getting out of the military, mostly due to chronic back problems. He had injured himself during a four month tour in Iraq, initially (so I'm told - I wasn't with him) during a work out at the gym, later aggravated by carrying something heavy in the line of duty. He completed his full deployment though, but like many he never left the FOB, never fired a weapon, etc, etc. That wasn't his job.
But in addition to his back pain, his VA counselor told him (or so he told me) that he'd get an additional disability rating boost for PTSD. "Everyone gets PTSD", he assured me - meaning the diagnosis, not the actual disorder. (And "everyone" meant everyone who'd been to Iraq or Afghanistan, at least.)
The goal for many who are leaving service is to "score" as high as possible in the disability game. Higher scores equate to increased compensation, hiring preferences, tax breaks, and a host of other benefits designed to ensure that those who've been injured in the line of duty are not merely tossed out in the streets to fend for themselves for the rest of their lives. The individual I was talking to was hoping for a disability retirement instead of a separation, and the PTSD score added to the points for his back injury would be very helpful in reaching that goal.
A PTSD "score" can be as low as 0 percent or as high as 100 percent. He was under the impression he'd been told - by a benefits counselor, not a health care professional - he would be getting a 10 percent rating because "everyone did". That might immediately qualify him for retirement instead of separation, and later on that ten percent boost might give him an edge over the next guy in applying for a government job.
But throw a Purple Heart into the mix and you also (in many States) get free license plates for life, and other benefits. Hard to resist that, eh?
General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders:And yes, those who are legitimately disabled get screwed by the system. Ain't life a bitch?
Total occupational and social impairment, due to such symptoms as: gross impairment in thought processes or communication; persistent delusions or hallucinations; grossly inappropriate behavior; persistent danger of hurting self or others; intermittent inability to perform activities of daily living (including maintenance of minimal personal hygiene); disorientation to time or place; memory loss for names of close relatives, own occupation, or own name 100
Occupational and social impairment, with deficiencies in most areas, such as work, school, family relations, judgment, thinking, or mood, due to such symptoms as: suicidal ideation; obsessional rituals which interfere with routine activities; speech intermittently illogical, obscure, or irrelevant; near-continuous panic or depression affecting the ability to function independently, appropriately and effectively; impaired impulse control (such as unprovoked irritability with periods of violence); spatial disorientation; neglect of personal appearance and hygiene; difficulty in adapting to stressful circumstances (including work or a worklike setting); inability to establish and maintain effective relationships 70
Occupational and social impairment with reduced reliability and productivity due to such symptoms as: flattened affect; circumstantial, circumlocutory, or stereotyped speech; panic attacks more than once a week; difficulty in understanding complex commands; impairment of short- and long-term memory (e.g., retention of only highly learned material, forgetting to complete tasks); impaired judgment; impaired abstract thinking; disturbances of motivation and mood; difficulty in establishing and maintaining effective work and social relationships 50
Occupational and social impairment with occasional decrease in work efficiency and intermittent periods of inability to perform occupational tasks (although generally functioning satisfactorily, with routine behavior, self-care, and conversation normal), due to such symptoms as: depressed mood, anxiety, suspiciousness, panic attacks (weekly or less often), chronic sleep impairment, mild memory loss (such as forgetting names, directions, recent events) 30
Occupational and social impairment due to mild or transient symptoms which decrease work efficiency and ability to perform occupational tasks only during periods of significant stress, or; symptoms controlled by continuous medication 10
A mental condition has been formally diagnosed, but symptoms are not severe enough either to interfere with occupational and social functioning or to require continuous medication 0
A veteran who has been out of the military for 15 years and recently received his AARP card was stunned when he received notice he will be deployed to Iraq. The last time Paul Bandel, 50, saw combat was in the early 1990s during the Gulf War. “(I was) kind of shocked, not understanding what I was getting into,” said Bandel.
In 1993, Bandel took the option of leaving the Army without retirement and never thought he would be called back to action. “Here he’s 50 years old, getting his AARP card, and here he’s being redeployed with all these 18-year-olds,” said Paul’s wife, Linda Bandel. “I can understand, say, ‘Here, we have this assignment for you stateside. Go do your training,’” said Paul Bandel. “But, ‘Hey, here’s a gun, go back to the desert.’” Involuntary recall allows the military, regardless of age or how long someone has been out of service, to order vets back into active duty. “Anger’s not the word. I was more concerned about the financial impact it’s going to do. My pay’s probably cut in half,” said Paul Bandel.
This is open for comments. What say you?
The Purple Heart will not be awarded to service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the Pentagon confirmed Monday.
“It’s not a qualifying Purple Heart wound,” said Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez, although she added that “advancements in medical science may support future re-evaluation.”
The decision, reached Nov. 3 but not made public until now, followed months of evaluation by military and outside officials. That evaluation was spurred when Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked at a May press conference whether he would support awarding the Purple Heart to PTSD sufferers.
However, Susan Keating asks :"Should we acknowledge PTSD within the context of an award? "
...there is a big "however." The evidence shows unequivocally, PTSD can wreck lives. My own father was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat in Korea. He recovered well. But I am convinced that PTSD, for which he received no medal nor treatment, had a hand in his death.
I understand that much stigma is attached to the PTSD label. Troops remain reluctant to acknowledge symptoms. In addition, both society and the military leadership view the disorder with mixed feelings. Is PTSD an easy out for malingerers? If you have it, does it mean you're nuts? If we admit that combat is bad for the troops' mental health, does this mean we can't ever go to war? The short answer, to all three, is a resounding "no."
Nevertheless, we remain faced with the question: Should we acknowledge PTSD within the context of an award? The Pentagon has issued its ruling. But in doing so, DoD also has used code words that betray its prejudice:
The PTSD-award decision is best left to the troops themselves. I'd very much like to see their thoughts on this matter.
The title isn't a final score from the British Premier League. It's from the best milblog post I've read this year - and it's not about combat. (At least, not directly.)
(And yes, it's early in the year, but this will be hard to top.)
Michelle Malkin rounds up 'original reporting' done by conservative bloggers over the past year. I'm sure a similar effort could be made on behalf of those on the other side of the political fence. I'd like to see it done.
"This is by no means a comprehensive list." She adds. "I did not, for example, include the priceless work of milbloggers, many of whom are conservative, but who prefer not to define themselves along partisan lines."
Which is exactly right.
Equally right is the statement that many are not conservative but prefer not to define themselves along partisan lines. Still others are unapologetic Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc. etc. But for whatever reason, the bulk of milbloggers have drawn more attention from the right than the left. (Please spare me the example exceptions that prove my point - I can name more of them than you can.) I've often wondered if that would be the case had Al Gore won the election in 2000, likewise I wonder what shifts may occur in the coming years. I suspect that the role of milbloggers as counter balance to an adversarial media (and that's but one role among many) will shift, as I anticipate a massive shift in media response to presidential actions in the next few years to a far less adversarial position. I suppose whether military members end up as victims or beneficiaries of that shift will determine their future audience (and size thereof, if any) in the political blog arena. Regardless, most of us - and all of us who actually blogged from down range - were (and are) writing about the war where we were and as we saw it, a distinctly different conflict than the one waged in the infinitely more comfortable environs of Washington D.C. or Yourtown, U.S.A. If we kept a weary (and wary) eye or made an occasional remark upon that conflict, too, it was with the knowledge that it could make ours better or worse - and usually worse.
But while their stories aren't from the past year, by coincidence I had just yesterday taken a look back at some of those milbloggers who had reported from Iraq in 2005. Original reporting? You bet. Milbloggers in war zones have unmatched opportunities for that. Unavailable in the mainstream? Check that block, too. Counter to whatever narrative was available in the mainstream media? Yes to that, too - in a big way.
And re-reading their blogs reminded me of the shift in what could be called the "right wing narrative" on the war over the past couple of years. That's transitioned from "the media is only reporting the bad news and ignoring all the good!" so popular in the 2004-2006 time frame to the current "everything before the surge was bad but now we've won!" mantra often repeated today - without a second thought given to what that implies about all those years of unreported "good news" preceding "the surge". I'm over-simplifying for the sake of this discussion, but I hope you catch my drift. My admittedly too-brief initial mention of that thought caused some confusion (albeit in someone apparently pre-confused who may have mistaken my frame of reference as the "war" in America instead of the actual war in Iraq) but even as I wrote it I intended to expand.
Which I have not yet begun to do in full. More to follow.All done!
...amidst larger ones:
Baghdad-based sports fans have one more reason to look forward to this season’s Super Bowl.Hell, there might already be some there.
Multi-National Division–Baghdad has received permission to let its units enjoy an honest-to-goodness beer on game day instead of the near-beer soldiers usually quaff in downrange DFACs. The approval comes with plenty of time for the beer to be shipped into theater.
Of course, with the kick-off at 0200 on a Monday morning the free coffee and rip it in the DFAC might be more popular than the beer.
(Via the Dawn Patrol, of course.)
Should it be legal? I don't particularly enjoy doing it, but I say "sure". Heck, if you wanted I'd even let you hump my ruck while I watched, know what I mean? Might even thank you when you finished...
In compiling the entry below, it occurred to me there may be readers here who don't have a copy of The Blog of War: Front-Line Dispatches from Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Blackfive-compiled collection of milblog entries from what might be called "the golden age". If you're one of those folks I'd urge you to get one.
Reading (or re-reading) these stories you (like me) might be reminded that everything done before "the surge" was not stupid, pointless, and wrong - and you might even come to share my complete disgust with those who now believe otherwise.
Adam Ashton of the Modesto Bee reports on a California Guard unit's return to Iraq:
Veterans from the first tour describe it as marked by constant roadside attacks and ambiguous results. Some left with mixed feelings about Iraq's future."The battalion lost 17 of its roughly 700 Baghdad-deployed troops in 2005," Ashton reports. And that wasn't their only misfortune:
"My experience last time wasn't the greatest," Adame said. "When we left, it hadn't gotten any better. It was just as active as when we started. We took hundreds of detainees, hundreds of rockets, off the streets, and there were still IEDs."
Other veterans who'd joined the battalion since that tour said they had similar doubts about Iraq after they finished deployments with different Army and Marine contingents.
"Last time I was very unsure," said Spc. Jeremy Calgaro, 27, of Patterson, Calif., who's on his third tour in Iraq. His past deployments brought him to the country with the Army during the 2003 invasion and in 2005.
He came back wanting to see how Iraq had changed.
The Army ousted its first commander in Iraq, Lt. Col. Patrick Frey, in the wake of a controversy over abused detainees in one of his companies. A roadside bomb killed his successor, Col. William Wood, in October 2005, three months after he'd taken over.But shortly after, Robert C. J. Parry - a veteran of the deployment - would write in the LA Times:
The battalion persevered and returned home with fanfare in January 2006. Gov. Schwarzenegger dubbed the troops "true action heroes."
From the first weeks of our mobilization in August 2004, we were in the spotlight. We were the battalion “mired in scandal.” We were, according to the disgruntled, poor in training and morale. Once in Iraq, we were the battalion that suffered casualties seemingly faster than anyone could count: 17 killed in action and nearly 100 wounded in 12 months. We were the battalion whose commander, Col. William W. Wood, became the highest-ranking soldier to die in action. Our previous commander was relieved of duty after a scandal involving the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Even as we rolled out each day to confront terrorists, we were known at home primarily for things that had nothing to do with the job we did or how we did it.And if all that sounds familiar to milblog readers, it's not just because the story is typical of media coverage of most units that deployed to Iraq when the fighting was heaviest, the outcome uncertain, and the battle far from won. Milblog readers will recognize the story as that told by Major K, Red2alpha, Rusten Currie, and Danjel Bout (Thunder6) on their blogs Maj K, This is Your War, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, and 365 and a Wakeup.
Over the course of 18 months, the 600 soldiers of the 184th experienced almost every high and low a band of brothers could, from great distinction to shocking heartbreak. But what never made it into print were the things that will mark our hearts until well after we become the old-timers down at the VFW.
We served with honor. We served with valor. We earned distinction.
Google us to find the litany of supposed woe. But if you want to know the real story of our battalion, go find Sgt. Thomas Kruger and ask him about April 5, 2005.
On that bright spring morning, with his legs shattered, Kruger dragged himself across 100 feet of debris and shrapnel to reach Cpl. Glenn Watkins, who had been mortally wounded moments earlier by the same ghastly roadside bomb.
You might also ask anyone from our ranks about Staff Sgt. Steve Nunez. Broken and bloodied by an IED, he was ordered home to recuperate after refusing to go voluntarily. He rejoined us to carry the fight forward, refusing the chance to stay home.
There were no front-page headlines for Kruger, Nunez or even Sgt. 1st Class Tom Stone, who covered a wounded subordinate’s body with his own to protect that soldier from a secondary attack that could have come at any moment.
Stone, a Los Angeles Police Department officer, and Kruger, a paramedic on movie sets, were awarded Bronze Stars for their valor. Nunez, a Riverside metalworker, received our awe and admiration, and I hope yours too.
Equally deserving of recognition were Sgt. 1st Class Chris Chebatah and 1st Lt. Ky Cheng. One terrible September night, an armored personnel carrier in their patrol was destroyed by a tremendous blast and flipped, pinning a soldier. Even while taking enemy fire and directing the care for casualties around them, they rigged a chain to pull the 10-ton vehicle off him. The effort was successful but ultimately futile.
So far, 14 of our soldiers have been decorated for valor and another 48 have earned the Bronze Star for service. But that cannot be found in print.
Our unit – supposedly just a band of weekend warriors from the National Guard – was selected by the Army’s renowned 3rd Infantry Division to take on its primary challenge: taking control of a sector of south Baghdad that was home to leading Baathists and Al Qaeda fanatics. In that capacity, we conducted more than 7,000 combat patrols totaling nearly half a million man-hours. We captured more insurgents in one month than did whole brigades. We stand nominated (with the rest of our brigade) for a Valorous Unit Award.
But instead, people who didn’t know the first thing about us trumpeted the misdeeds of a handful of young men who scoffed at the concepts of honor and duty that our commander invoked.
From their first man lost (Watkins) through the previously mentioned morale-breaking scandal to the December, 2005 elections they brought home the highs and lows of the warriors' war - including even the battles they couldn't win. And then they came home.
"I patrolled the streets of Baghdad’s elite Karrada neighborhood and its insurgent-rich Doura sector, shaking people’s hands and learning their problems." Parry wrote in his Times op-ed in February, 2006 - in stark contrast to the now popular (and erroneous) narrative that 'everything before the surge was wrong'.
I lived and worked alongside American contractors upgrading a key power plant. I trained Iraqi police, saw their enthusiasm and came to understand their different approach to things. I worked as a junior officer on our battalion staff, witnessing how the decisions governing the street fight were shaped. I was shot at and attacked with IEDs.
I saw the successes. I struggled with the failures. But most important, I saw people who once had nothing now bursting with hope and thanks.
And now, three years later, in defiance of the also-current narrative that there are no stories left to tell from Iraq, reporter Adam Ashton is with the Battalion for their return.
"Last time I was very unsure," said Spc. Jeremy Calgaro, 27, of Patterson, Calif., who's on his third tour in Iraq. His past deployments brought him to the country with the Army during the 2003 invasion and in 2005.Along with that, in one of the most disheartening signs of victory I've ever heard, Calgaro says he "also sees less mail from the states, another sign to him that the war is going well."
He came back wanting to see how Iraq had changed. He sees the differences in flourishing agricultural fields that remind him of home in the San Joaquin Valley, and in positive interactions he's had with Iraqis.
"Here we are, we're doing our jobs and things have gotten much better," he said.
Spc. Ralph Salazar said he was enthusiastic about his mission in Iraq as a Marine in 2003 and 2004. He'd smoked a cigar with a close friend on the roof of a Baghdad palace to celebrate his 20th birthday in 2004.
His feelings about the war began to shift around 2006, when news reports showed Iraq descending into bloody sectarian violence.
He heard about improvements before he left the U.S. for his current tour, but the better conditions still startled him when he arrived in November.
"I was still expecting to spend some time running for the bunkers," said the 24-year-old from Fresno, Calif. "I do have to say I appreciate the calm.
"The fact that we've been here and made all this progress, it validates everything for me," Salazar said. "It did matter."
Mudville night at the movies...
The full feature is below.
Bonus features for the "Mudville edition":
Mutiny on the bounty (full text of the 1932 novel) by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall.
Men Against the Sea (1933, second book of Nordhoff and Hall's Bounty trilogy)
Pitcairn's Island (1934, conclusion of the trilogy)
The Mutiny on the Bounty - collected text of original narratives, journals, documents, letters, and court martial transcripts.
Trivia - Christian was portrayed in films by:
Errol Flynn in In the Wake of the Bounty (1933)
Clark Gable in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Marlon Brando in Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
Mel Gibson in The Bounty (1984)
President-elect Barack Obama will probably tear down long-standing barriers between the U.S.’s civilian and military space programs to speed up a mission to the moon amid the prospect of a new space race with China.Raising the question: who will be the first milblogger on the moon?
Obama’s transition team is considering a collaboration between the Defense Department and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because military rockets may be cheaper and ready sooner than the space agency’s planned launch vehicle, which isn’t slated to fly until 2015, according to people who’ve discussed the idea with the Obama team.
Meanwhile, Chinese state-owned companies already are assembling heavy-lift rockets that could reach the moon, with a first launch scheduled for 2013.
A New Year prediction from J.D. Johannes: "The SOFA agreement with Iraq will be broadly interpreted to keep US Forces in most Joint Security Stations."
"When asked how they feel about President-elect Barack Obama as commander in chief, six out of 10 active-duty service members say they are uncertain or pessimistic." Says the Army (and Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) Times.
More specifically, only 25 percent say "pessimistic". Thirty-three percent responded "optimistic", and a slightly larger group (35%) answered "uncertain" - with another eight percent claiming "no opinion". Some may be inclined to offer exclamation points to those results, but this analysis sounds about right to me:
Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University who has written extensively about civil-military relations, said a degree of uncertainty among service members toward Obama is appropriate, given their questions about how he will govern as commander in chief.The survey results are from just under 1,400 respondents. From personal experience I'd speculate that if there's any difference between these results and those from a hypothetical survey of every man, woman and child in the US military today it would be a larger percentage of "uncertain" responses at the expense of the optimistic and pessimistic crowds in this result. But uncertainty is anathema to the military mind; in training, planning, and execution of military operations one hundred percent of the effort is aimed at reducing it. In a change of Commander-in-Chief a degree of uncertainty is unavoidable, amplified when his or her political affiliation is different from that of the previous CinC, and immeasurable in the specific case of Barack Obama, whose exposure to military members (and political experience in general) is perhaps less by orders of magnitude (if such things were measurable by some unit) than any previous president-elect. This is not to imply he's unqualified for the job, doomed to failure, or undeserving of the support of the troops - far from it, in fact. Just that "uncertainty" is the only sensible response to the question, and that uncertainty makes most military people uncomfortable (most people, for that matter), to say the least.
“Those numbers don’t convince me he has got a big problem on his hands because what he is seeing is not military hostility, but rather military caution, and caution that is reasonable because he has never been in the position of this office,” Feaver said. “It’s sensible and understandable that they have doubts about him.
But most can accept a degree of temporary uncertainty. A large percentage of military members tend to be pragmatic (if not jaded), and with a history of being promised much and given little tend to be of the "I'll believe it when I see it" variety - and apply that philosophy to forecasts of doom or improvement. "Plan for the worst and hope for the best" is a well-honed sword (or perhaps solid shield) found in the arsenal of all successful military leaders. Some might say "I'm hoping for the best, therefore I'm optimistic", others that "I'm planning for the worst, therefore I'm pessimistic" - but there's little real distinction in their positions. Likewise there's not much separation from those who have "no opinion" or express uncertainty; all are describing the same terrain from their own perspective, but all are standing on common ground.
Having served under four presidents myself I offer generic advice to younger troops: "You will be disappointed and delighted by events of the next four years". That and "hope for the best, expect the worst, plan for both and everything in between".
A little preview of JD's new movie "Baghdad Happens"
While SAT scores may be “considerably lower” than those of Columbia and New York University, students come to Lang not as a substitute for these universities but for a completely different experience.A college that specializes in "social theory and social protest", Who'da thunk?
We came to the New School’s undergraduate liberal arts college in search of a creative and critical community of students who were interested in social theory and social protest. We wanted to know how the world worked, and we wanted to experience New York City in its most unmitigated form.
Many of us could have easily gone to Columbia or N.Y.U., with acceptance letters and scholarships — yet we chose a college and university where are voices could be heard.
It is heartening to see that this practice continues and has permeated all parts of the university, and no doubt the undergraduates are continuing in the tradition of criticism and protest.
A little after 11:30 p.m., Mr. Kerrey emerged from a university building on Fifth Avenue south of 14th Street to a sea of a few hundred protesters chanting for his resignation. As Mr. Kerrey walked down Fifth Avenue toward 12th Street, about 30 protesters began following him, some of them shouting insults.Cannot say I have always agreed with his politics but these protesters will never be equal to Bob Kerrey
As the crowd’s pace quickened, so did Mr. Kerrey’s. Then, Mr. Kerrey, who lost a part of his leg in Vietnam and wears a prosthesis, broke into a run. The protesters gave chase. Mr. Kerrey turned left on a cross street and ducked into a brownstone.
At some point in the confrontation, a protester threw a tomato at Mr. Kerrey.
Mr. Kerrey, the former governor and United States senator from Nebraska who was given an overwhelming vote of no confidence from the university’s faculty in recent days, showed up at 11:30 a.m. asking to address the dissident students, but they voted not to hear him out.
The student demonstration began Wednesday evening in the ground-floor cafeteria, with about 50 of them staying overnight citing a list of grievances with the Kerrey administration, dating back to his early support of the Iraq war. They adopted a list of eight demands including a greater student voice in university affairs and the resignations of Mr. Kerrey; James Murtha, the executive vice president; and Robert Millard, treasurer of the board of trustees, who students said was connected to a private security firm working in Iraq.
“Once the faculty vote came out, we thought now is the time,” said Jacob Blumfeld, a graduate student in philosophy.
On Wednesday night, the students pushed wooden tables against the cafeteria’s front door and blocked a rear corridor to the street with heavy recycling bins. Marcus Michelson, also a graduate student in philosophy, said the sit-in was meant to show that the students were serious about having a seat at the negotiating able. “This is about starting a dialogue, and to do that you have to be seen as an equal,” he said. “People just don’t give equality, you have to take it.”
Via InstaAll done!
So, as part of our holiday tradition I sent Mrs G up into the attic a few weeks ago to drag out all the Christmas decorations. Way back in a corner under an old milk crate practically hidden by spiderwebs she found an old video from one of my early-70s T.V. appearances. This might have been filmed for Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve '73, I can't remember. Anyhow, here it is...
"Hey", you might ask, "how come we never see your face?" Simple, really. Back in those days (or so they told me) David Cassidy had a contract with the network guaranteeing they'd never show anyone better looking than him.
"What about the rest of your band?" You inquire. Also simple: they were just too shy.