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...about to be exposed? IVAW's Carl Webb claims to be a deserter, and encourages others to follow his lead. But his lack of credentials has attracted the attention of the guys at This Ain't Hell, who've been doing yeoman's work exposing members of the stolen valor crowd.
He knows they're looking (see comments there). If I was him I'd provide proof of my claims. Documentation of that sort should be readily available - if it exists.
Administrative note: speaking of comments, we're putting some site upgrades in place, so comments here are unavailable at this time. Hope to have them restored shortly.
Now that Rolling Stone has included Small Wars Journal on the 2009 Hot List, how long until we see these at the local PX (or grocery store):
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Just completed a roundtable with Col. James Harris, Regional Police Advisory Command-South: "Col. Harris, headquartered in Kandahar, Afghanistan, is responsible for mentoring and advising Afghan National Police in southern Afghanistan. He will discuss Afghan National Police Mission Essential Tasks."
The phone line was a bit more crowded than usual. Here's the audio, I think you'll find it interesting. Further discussion to follow.
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Dave Dilegge asks "What do Lady Gaga and Small Wars Journal have in common? One is on the cover of the Rolling Stone and one isn't - but sure enough both made the Rolling Stone 2009 "Hot List" - go figure."
"This time," an anonymous Rolling Stone editor says of the list, "we're banking on an assortment of movers, shakers and muckrakers that runs the gamut from the warfare digest "Small Wars Journal" to Hot Issue cover girl Lady Gaga."
(Administrative note: we're putting some site upgrades in place, comments are unavailable at this time. Hope to have them restored shortly.)
Site maintenance is on tap for tonight. Hopefully we won't destroy everything in the attempt to improve, but if you experience the unexpected here that's why.
Comments currently don't work. Sorry, working the fix.
A friend and Afghanistan vet emails regarding this story, noting two USAF members killed by an IED "near Bagram":
"That place is safer than Scranton. This would be VERY bad."
Safe is relative. I don't know enough about Scranton (or what"near" means in the context of the DoD press release) to provide additional details. But neither Afghanistan or Bagram are what they used to be, per this headline from earlier this month: US predicts 50 percent spike in Afghan IEDs:
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan--Strategically buried in the middle of dirt roads, packed in culverts and attached to trip wires, a heightened hidden danger awaits the thousands of U.S. troops pouring into Afghanistan to fight a tenacious Taliban.And this Mudville entry from March:
The U.S. military expects a 50 percent spike this year in roadside and suicide bombings, which surpassed the number of similar strikes in Iraq during the spring. These types of bombs killed 172 coalition forces last year -- and far more Afghan civilians -- according to military figures.
"We don't hide the truth from them. We tell them if you are going to be killed or injured in Afghanistan, it is probably going to be by an IED," said Command Sgt. Maj. David Puig, 51, of Fort Lewis, Wash.
He's back now - but other friends are there, and still more are inbound. We'll be keeping in touch.At least four rounds of indirect fire hit or struck near Bagram Airfield on Thursday night, with one round hitting the detention facility on base.I spoke via phone with a friend at Bagram this week, one who was with me in Baghdad in 2007. I'd heard about that car bomb story immediately before he called, but I didn't ask him about it directly, instead asking a more general "How's security?".
On Wednesday, an attacker set off a car bomb and a suicide vest device near a base gate. Only the bomber was killed, though three contractors were injured in that incident.
"Here?" He replied, "Not bad. No where near as bad as we had it in Baghdad."
Your results may vary.
Clint Watts ("a former US Army Infantry Officer, former FBI Special Agent and former Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point") at Small Wars Journal:
Current Western counterterrorism (CT) strategies, largely overshadowed by counterinsurgencies (COIN) in Iraq and Afghanistan, place great emphasis on eliminating the supply of foreign fighters at their intended targets. These strategies fail to adequately mitigate the demand for jihad by young recruits in foreign fighter source countries.Whether justified or not is a matter of opinion, but the argument that we're fighting them over there so we won't have to fight them here is true enough. A would-be jihaddi appreciates convenience as much as anyone else; why travel to the U.S. when you can kill the Americans next door?
The key to success for future CT strategies will be the disruption of terrorist recruitment in foreign fighter source countries using a mixture of cost effective, soft power tactics to engage local, social-familial-religious networks in flashpoint cities – cities that produce a disproportionately high number of foreign fighters with respect to their overall population.
But regardless of destination, any efforts on our part to stem the flow at the source have been either non-existent or very much under the radar. Obviously an "American face" (especially a military one) on that effort would probably be counter-productive, so perhaps we're more involved in that than I know. If not, we should be.
It should also be noted that numbers - given potential numbers - of recruits for al Qaeda efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan have been generally small (though undeniably lethal). But whatever inferiority in numbers they suffer from has always been balanced by information warfare dominance, success at which simultaneously lowers enemy (us in this case) morale and boosts "homefront" recruiting. As I've said repeatedly, contra John Kerry al Qaeda will always have someone willing to be the last man to die for a mistake. Turning off the media PR machine that's been running full steam on their behalf over the past eight years might be difficult, but it should prove do-able and helpful in keeping our (including allied) soldiers and their would-be opponents (who inevitable die in even larger numbers then we do) alive. (Not to mention the thousands of civilians murdered in the cross fire.)
By the way, soft power - if you hadn't caught on yet - is a new kewl kidz buzzword (but - as with all kewl kidz buzzwords - nothing new). You'll be hearing it a lot in the near future. I should write a separate post some day about kewl kidz buzzwords and their utility in historical re-writes and continuation of old policies with new names.
Senior Airman Ashton L. M. Goodman was 21 years old and in the Air Force for less than three years; Lt. Col. Mark E. Stratton came up through the ranks as a navigator and left his Pentagon desk job for a year in Afghanistan.That's on the heels of this story from last week:
On Tuesday, both died when a roadside bomb exploded as they drove in Afghanistan near Bagram Airfield.
Goodman, a vehicle operator dispatcher, was assigned to the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team and deployed from the 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C. She grew up in Indianapolis.
Stratton, 39, commanded the PRT. He was deployed from the Joint Staff’s plans and program office at the Pentagon, an Air Force spokesman said.
Provincial reconstruction teams specialize in helping Afghan communities with development projects such as building roads and schools, expanding medical services and providing electrical power. Panjshir Province is located in the mountains north of Bagram Airfield.
First Lt. Roslyn L. Schulte, 25, an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations officer assigned to the 613th Air and Space Operations Center, died May 20 near Kabul, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered by a roadside bomb.
The lieutenant was a 2006 graduate of the Air Force Academy. She was the Academy's 10th graduate, and first female, killed while supporting operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
When Air Force 1st Lt. Roslyn Schulte, a member of the U.S. intelligence team in Afghanistan, traversed the dangerous mountain roads, she usually did so side by side with a Navy colleague, Lt. Shivan Sivalingam.Read Lt Sivalingam's tribute to his friend here.
On Saturday, Lt. Sivalingam was making one of the longest trips of his life, and he was doing it alone. He was on his way back to the U.S. for the funeral of his friend, Roz Schulte, 25, the first female U.S. Air Force Academy graduate to be killed in action.
I've admired J.D. Johannes for his work for some time, and finally got to meet him at this year's MilBlogs Conference. There he and I talked deep into the night on new media and war, our experiences in Baghdad in 2007 (and earlier).
I just received this e-mail from someone involved in an Army-based web forum called "CompanyCommand.com" (whose sister site is "PlatoonLeader.com"). Seems that, with projected budget "cuts", the first thing to go isn't bloated programs like the F-22 Raptor or the Army's Future Combat System, but rather, inexpensive projects which have actually yielded impressive results by spurring innovation from the field...Projects like Company Command and Platoon Leader (actually limited access dot mil sites), where past, present, and future professionals in those positions compare notes and share innovations and lessons learned.
While visiting Abu M's place yesterday I read his account of Lunch with Casey:
I made only my second trip to the Pentagon today to have lunch with General George Casey and about seven other defense policy wonks and a few journalists."The entire lunch was on the record, so I will write down what I wrote in my notes" sez Exum. The focus is on a sustainable force, with an emphasis on troop levels and combat rotation frequency that won't "break" the Army. Given that our view of the future is at best imperfect, planning for that must be done on a sort of worst reasonable case scenario - with allowances for conditions better or worse than expected.
When invited to spend a bit of time with the Chief of Staff, Army, it's useful to know a bit about the man's job and his role in that planning process. (Here's a wikipedia version) . Exum does, as he demonstrates by ending a discussion of the effectiveness of troop levels in Iraq with this: "Obviously, this is Gen. Odierno's problem more than it is Gen. Casey's. I was just curious to hear his thoughts given his time in Iraq."
On the other hand, here's the AP coverage:
Army chief: Troops could be in Iraq after 2012It's all about the perspective, I suppose. But what stands out to me is that duration of our stay in Iraq is hardly comment-worthy at Abu Muqawama (by the blog operator or the many wise and experienced commenters there) but is (shocka!!!) headline fodder for the AP. I suspect that's an illustration of the disconnect between people who know what's going on in the military and understand what's at stake in Iraq and those who are striving to develop a narrative on Iraq - one that could potentially sell newspapers. When I saw the AP headline hours after reading Exum's account of the meeting I wondered at first why anyone would think that headline was newsworthy, and that wasn't because a blogger beat them to the story.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States could have fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade, the top Army officer said, even though a signed agreement requires all U.S. forces to be out of Iraq by 2012.
I've been to a few in my day - you usually don't hear this sort of thing from the departing commander...
A top NATO leader says the alliance’s politicians are effectively absent without leave in the battle against Afghan insurgents.Usually it's more along the lines of "Hey, the wife and I had a great time here, proud to serve with all of you, my replacement over there is a great guy and if you're ever in [next assignment] look me up."
General John Craddock, the outgoing Supreme Allied Commander, was referring to the fact that countries such as Canada, the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands are doing most of the fighting in Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions.
“I’m probably being harsh here, but I also believe that much of this is due to the fact that political leadership in NATO is AWOL,” the U. S. Army general told the Atlantic Council of the United States.
(Footnote: Yes, I know that wasn't his actual change of command speech.)
Roundtable with Brig General Walter D. Givhan, Commanding General, Combined Air Power Transition Force, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Kabul, Afghanistan. I joined this one late...
"Brig. Gen. Givhan discusses how his unit works alongside Afghan pilots and ground support Airmen to build a capable and sustainable Air Corps for Afghanistan. The CAPTF mission is to set the conditions for a fully independent and operationally capable Afghan National Army Air Corps to meet the security requirements of Afghanistan."
Join us for a live online discussion Tuesday, May 26, at 11 am EDT culminating our feature "Digital Warriors: Our 21st Century Military." The forum will cover a wide range of issues raised in our online videos and blog, including cyber-security, drones, virtual reality training, virtual reality medical treatment, and the "Soldier 2.0".I'll be there. You can sign up for an email reminder (or even ask your question in advance) at the site.
A panel of three distinguished experts will discuss the issues and answer visitor questions about the U.S. military's applications of modern digital technology. Guests include Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder, commander of the 8th Air Force, Air Combat Command, at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, where he served as the first commander of Air Force Network Operations and led the development of the cyberspace mission for the Air Force; Christian Lowe, award-winning military journalist and current editor of DefenseTech; and Dr. Albert 'Skip' Rizzo, research scientist and professor at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and developer of the Virtual Iraq treatment for combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Lt. Gen. Elder is also commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Global Strike (JFCC-GS), underneath US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). The JFCC-GS plans and executes strategic deterrence and global strike operations for USSTRATCOM.
From June, 2008...
The American soldier is the most dangerous man in the world, and the Iraqis had to learn that before they would trust or respect us. But it was when they understood that these great-hearted warriors, who so enjoyed killing the enemy, are even happier building a school or making a neighborhood safe that we really got their attention.Mike Yon, Moment of Truth in Iraq.
This week Robert Stokely sent me some more photos he'd just received from Iraq.
"The purpose of what was labeled the Mike Stokely Foundation Yusufiyah Project", Robert writes, "was to establish a humanitarian link with this region and help the local school children have needed school supplies."
Robert described the email that came with the photos:
The words of LT Dreschner in his email to me today are words Mike and his 108th CAV never knew - 'things in Yusufiyah are very good". Just three years ago, when Mike and his fellow 108th CAV were in Yusufiyah things were the extreme opposite - very very bad. The Triangle of Death has now become a peaceful place where our soldiers are able to concentrate more on humanitarian relief and seldom encounter hostile action or IEDs.
"Coincidentally", Robert adds, "at the same time, the Nathan Barnes Foundation (honoring Nathan Barnes, 10th Mountain Division who died in the region) also sent supplies to be distributed by the 101st AB DVN."
The Christian Science Monitor covered the Nathan Barnes Foundation here.
The Mike Stokely Foundation also awards scholarships to American students - as does the Maupin family's Yellow Ribbon Support Center: "It has sent thousands of gift boxes to troops overseas and awarded 180 scholarships in honor of fallen soldiers."
From December, 2008...
"On 23 October, we seized it with a two-company assault from the Golden Dragons, and since then it's been known as Patrol Base Dragon."
October 23, 2006 - before "the surge" began. That's from the post-deployment "wrap up" by Colonel Mike Kershaw, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division ("Commando"). Its become all too common these days to approach declaring everything before the surge as "failed" in Iraq - in spite of the fact that all of the tactics used during the surge were tried and proven in the years prior, in Tal Afar and Qaim and Ramadi and other locations throughout the country, and nowhere had American troops surrendered the battle.
"We initially looked at this is a classic counterinsurgency, and we moved in and secured the people. We had several examples we were able to follow and studied the counterinsurgency doctrine that our Army has been pushing to the forefront and were able to apply that immediately upon getting here." Colonel Kershaw wrote, and added praise to the previous unit in the AO: "our predecessors from the Strike Brigade of the 101st literally had their way into the heartland of this al Qaeda sanctuary. Their hard fight really put us in a good position to launch our counterinsurgency operations, which commenced 20 September 2006, as we assumed this area of operations from our Strike brethren."
In December, 2005, Robert Stokely wrote me an email that began with this:
Came across your blog this morning, and thought I'd share my thoughts as the dad of an American Soldier killed in action four months ago. My son was standing cover flank for two buddies checking out a suspicous location in the roadway while on patrol at 2:20 A.M. 16 Aug when an IED exploded. He was the only one killed. Two soldiers suffered serious injuries and are now home on permanent medical leave, but both will live normal lives after they finish med rehab and surgery.We miss him so much. Robert wrote. "We hurt inside. But we burst with pride in our son and brother. His memory will not fade nor will our love for him."
Mike didn't die for a "just cause", he died JUST BECAUSE - just because he loved his country enough to want to serve it since the time he was in middle school; just because he loved his family enough to want to protect them; just because he loved his friends enough that he would rather fight a war "there" than here; just because he believed in our order of government whereby the civilian government rules and the military obeys, and when the President, with lawful authority, calls upon soldiers to go and fight, he believed it was not only his duty, but his honor to go; just because he wouldn't let his fellow soldiers - his guys - go it alone; and just because he wanted to do for others - the Iraqi people - what he would do for his own country....and he signed that email
Robert Stokely, Lucky and Proud to be the Dad of- The very area that would later pass to the control of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain.
SGT Michael "Mike" James Stokely, KIA Operation Iraqi Freedom 16 Aug 05
2nd Platoon, E Troop 108th CAV 48h Brigaded GA NATL GUARD
15 miles south of Baghdad near Yusufiyah / IED
And they had not forgotten.
In July, 2007, I was able to send Robert Stokely this email from Baghdad:
One of my guys was on a trip down south and this was likely taken at one of the fiyahs - they were waypoints on his trip.Robert knew the circumstances of why each name was on that memorial:
Both Mahmudiyah and Yusifiyah are now receiving a lot of attention. When you hear of the battle for the Baghdad belts, they are two of the key points. The 3ID has the lead in that part of Iraq - though now in Iraq the Division is referred to as Multi-National Division Central (MND-C) and is basically comprised of most of the surge Brigades announced last Winter.
The last of us got here in late May, the battle wasn't truly joined until mid June, and though I doubt you are hearing much of it we are taking it to the enemy hot and heavy in this AO - so Georgia's own are here carrying on.
Hollar and Draughn killed Sept 1, 05 by IED while on patrol near their FOB at Mahmuhdiyah, while Mike was killed 16 Aug 05 8 miles west near his FOB at Yuufiyah - they were CAV Scouts with E Troop 108 CAV; Saylor, Strickland and Dingler died 15 Aug 05 due to combat related vehicle roll-over into a canal near Mahmuhdiyah and were CAV Scouts with the 108th Armor. Mike's unit had been detached to and assigned to work with the Armor unit.Robert had a plan though. He wanted to collect school supplies to send to the children of Yusifiyah - the location where his son had died. I told him I'd see what I could do to help make that happen, and although 2/10 was (as implied above) then otherwise engaged that perhaps the time for such an effort might come soon.
[July] Fourth was a good day, although bittersweet. While some blame in bitterness, our family has chosen to remember with honor, and pride, the life we shared, and that was given so willingly for this country.
"Otherwise engaged" - as also described in this news story from November, 2008:
Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins of Bozeman was killed in Iraq in June 2007 when he tackled a suicide bomber and saved the lives of three other soldiers.The Commando Brigade lost 54 soldiers killed and over 270 wounded in action in Iraq.
The Army posthumously honored the 10th Mountain Division soldier Friday with the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest medal for heroism, outranked only by the Medal of Honor.
Atkins' unit was patrolling on June 1, 2007 in Abu Sarnak while helping search for two other 10th Mountain Division soldiers -- Sgt. Alex Jimenez and Pvt. Byron Fouty -- who were captured in an attack south of Baghdad in May 2007. The bodies of Fouty and Jimenez were not found until this past July.
The unit encountered a group of suspected insurgents and were searching them when one resisted and began fighting hand-to-hand with Atkins, said Col. David Miller, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
During the fight, Atkins realized the man was trying to trigger a suicide vest he was wearing under his clothing, Miller said.
Atkins tackled his attacker and pinned him to the ground, shielding three of his soldiers from the blast as the insurgent set off the bomb.
"Besides the Medal of Honor, there is no higher award that can be given to a service member so it speaks volumes of what Sgt. Atkins did. I can think of nothing more selfless than giving your life to protect the lives of your fellow soldiers," Miller said.
Atkins was serving his second tour in Iraq when he was killed. He was part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. After attending the University of Montana, he re-enlisted in the Army and was sent to Iraq in the summer of 2006.
Now we've begun to see what's been called the Anbar awakening in other parts of Iraq spread to our AO. That happened about four or five months ago. My reconnaissance squadron, the 189 Cavalry, began working with some local leaders that were becoming disenchanted with the way that al Qaeda was terrorizing the local area. And what was first a marriage of convenience for the local insurgents and al Qaeda, from really a nationalistic resistance, really became splintered.And,
We were able to capitalize on this, and as al Qaeda overstayed their welcome by forcing, you know, extremist kind of Taliban types of heavy-handed approaches to the insurgency and take liberties like, you know, marriages of convenience with the local females, restricting smoking to the local villagers and just these type of coercive acts, forcing them to emplace IEDs -- it really eroded the support that al Qaeda may have had for the local insurgents.
And the results from an attack standpoint have been amazing. Since we've been working with these concerned citizens, they've turned in or given us some information which has led to the apprehension of over 85 terrorists, three of whom we have been tracking since our arrival in country. One was wanted for leading the attack against our predecessors' unit, killing and capturing two of our fellow soldiers. And literally we have been searching for this guy since our arrival in country, and they turned him over within three weeks of us beginning these operations.
We've also had great success as tribal leaders have come to us and worked with this program, and the security situation has changed really for the better. We're now able to work on projects in the local areas. It helps stimulate the economy on a limited basis, as more people turn their backs on al Qaeda and move to take care of their own people.
With these concerned citizens establishing their own local checkpoints in their own local areas, the roads are now secure. Workers, government of Iraq programs can now move into areas that were previously denied to them by the insurgency.
We've had a huge decline in the number of IEDs and attacks against, you know, our forces. You know, the two-week increments, by which we track attacks, where we used to have indirect fire, it was really daily around here. Now, we only get two, at most five, attacks over a two-week period, and our casualties are significantly down. The numbers of IEDs turned in and caches has increased substantially, and we're able to transit roads that we couldn't six months ago.
One of the legacies I think we'll also leave behind here is our shared partnership with the 4th Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Army. It's a very capable brigade. It's very well-led. They've conducted almost 138 air assaults, 53 brigade-level operations, 69 battalion-level operations. And in fact, we really conduct almost no operations where we do not have Iraqi forces either embedded with us or where they are in the lead.By the fall of 2007, 2/10 had completed their tour of duty in Iraq, their replacements from the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne were inbound.
"What we're trying to do is bring a sustainable lasting peace to this area and to date the results have been very favorable, although, really, they're still tenuous," Colonel Kershaw wrote. "You can rest assured that although we've had some heavy sacrifice, that our contributions have been significant and that we're going to leave south Baghdad better than we found it."
More to follow...
Related: This was the Surge
Via comments here:
Today the media has insulted the fallen. In an article on corruption charges against the Iraqi Trade Minister the photo included is of the return of SFC Brian Naseman's remains at Dover AFB. The reporting agency should issue a public explanation of how the photo relates to the story outside of trying to tie every story about Iraq to emotionally charged photos of the fallen.
- Gary Walters
From Robert Stokely, Gold Star Father:
Memorial means "serving, or intended, to preserve the memory... to keep in remembrance". Here is an Excerpt from the Order designating May 30, 1868 as Memorial Day:2009-05-25 09:57:28
...We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten...
The gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery graced by U.S. flags
Ask yourself an honest question - Is that how America views Memorial Day? Honestly, I have to say that before my son went to war and died, it wasn't for me and from what I have observed, it isn't for most of America.
There are many costs of Freedom, but on Memorial Day we should only focus on and Remember the Fallen with Honor for their sacrifice is the highest cost to maintain freedom - A Lifetime of Love.
On Memorial Day, let us each strive to serve with intention to preserve the memory of the Fallen, for as has been said, a nation who forgets its Fallen will itself soon be forgotten.
Duty Honor Country,
The proud dad of SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq
USA E 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG
From February, 2009...
Guest post from Gold Star father, Robert Stokely:
Tonight, as I watched President Obama's speech on his plan for the stimulus, I could not believe some of the lame (nice way of saying stupid) questions he was asked out of context for the message he was delivering.
What did he think about Alex Rodriguez admitting steroid use? I have to say President Obama showed great restraint in how he answered the question, but who could have blamed him if, given the seriousness of what we face economically, he had said "you got to be kidding, somebody show this idiot where the door is and take his press credentials when you throw him out on Pennsylvania Avenue...." Really, is it the most important thing most of us (much less the President) need to be concerned about given that Alex Rodriguez is at best an overpaid jock who got outed after he has continually lied that he used steroids?
But that was not such a bad question compared to Ed Henry with CNN, who asked the President whether he thought the arrival of American coffins at Dover should be accessible to the media to "show America the real cost of the war...." and would he reconsider the policy of not allowing the media in. Ed Henry and CNN seem to want to make it a spectacle to "behold" when our FALLEN Heroes arrive at Dover on their final trip home to an honorable rest. Absolutely not!!!! Why shouldn't we let the media have access to film and put it on the evening news? Well for the same reason the media should not be the first to know the identity of the fallen before the family is told.
It is a very personal moment when a fallen hero arrives home. And the first to see that should be the family, not America.
Our family made a decision which granted me a special privilege and honor for me to go alone and meet Mike's body as he arrived from Dover at Hartsfield Atlanta Airport on August 24, 2005. A quiet singular reception, so I could ride in the hearse to take him to the funeral home 25 miles away on a road he and I traveled many times as I carried him to and from for weekend, holidays, and other visitation as a divorced dad. It was a "LAST RIDE TO TAKE MY BOY HOME". I wore a favorite blue blazer and red and blue tie as my way of showing respect to my son. As they uncrated his casket and draped the American flag over him I saluted from nearby, tears streaming down my cheeks as a number of busy airline air cargo employees suddenly stopped in stunned silence, only then realizing what was taking place. I held my salute, poor as it was for an untrained civilian, until the flag was completely draped and the edges evenly corned out. Then, I stepped outside to call my wife Retta who loved him like one of her own and as she answered the phone, tears still streaming down my cheeks, with a quiver in my voice, I said "our boy is home."
Others families did it "their way" and that is how it should be.
Mike Stokely and many others like him died for America. I was once asked what I thought the cost of freedom was. Freedom has many costs, but for the fallen and their families the cost is a Lifetime of Love. Is it too much to ask, given what we have paid for America and the likes of Ed Henry and CNN to be free to have that first moment to be ours and not America's? Should we now be asked to give more so that something so private can be used, not for furthering the first amendment, but to sell advertising to ensure a media's profitable bottom line? While black corporate ink is in most cases a good thing, it can not be so when it comes at the cost of dishonoring the spilled Red American Blood of our FALLEN.
Mr. President, I hope your answer to ED Henry, CNN and the likes will be an unequivocal, unwavering and unapologetic NO WE WILL NOT TURN THE HONORABLE SANCTITY OF DOVER INTO A MEDIA SPECTACLE!!!! You Sir, must protect our fallen and their families and the privacy of Dover.
After all Mr. President, that is little enough to ask given that the fallen gave their lives to protect you and your's.
DUTY HONOR COUNTRY.
proud dad SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq
USA E 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG
UPDATES by Mrs G: Heres what others have to say:
Gates Orders Review of Policy on Soldiers’ Coffins -- [NY Times]
God, I hate the media. - [Chuck Z - From my Position]
Has The Time Come To See The Fallen? -- [Wolf - BlackFive]
Dear President Obama -- [Carrie - Villianous Co.]
Tug of War -- [Cassandra - Villianous Co.]
Propaganda, Agendas, And The Sanctity Of Dover -- [Old Blue - Bill and Bob's Afghan Adventure]
A must read from Robert Stokely -- [Greta - Hooah Wife]
Public or Private: A Policy Under Review -- [Andi - Spousebuzz]
Another Must Read -- [Tammi's World]
Military.com took a poll on whether the policy should be overturned. RESULTS HERE
From March, 2009.
"ISAF" is the acronym for International Security Assistance Force - the NATO coalition in Afghanistan. There's an inside joke among some that it actually stands for "I saw Americans Fight."
I'll bet no one ever told Erin Doyle that.
It took three rockets to kill him. Take three minutes and read the link.
(Via the DP, as always)
From April, 2007...
Navy SEAL Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz Jr., fell in action in Afghanistan in 2005:
Petty Officer Dietz, 25, was awarded the Navy Cross, the service's second-highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor, for fighting off an ambush by insurgents in Afghanistan despite being mortally wounded. His actions were credited with helping a fellow Navy SEAL escape.
Littleton, Colorado, plans to honor his sacrifice with a statue:
Plans for the memorial began last summer when the city started working with Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, and the Dietz family. The family raised $42,000 to cover the costs, with no public funding involved.Some of the locals are, of course, protesting:
A bronze sculpture of Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny Dietz Jr. showing him cradling his rifle across his chest is scheduled to be unveiled July 4 at Berry Park here, where he grew up and attended school. The statue was modeled after a photo of the young serviceman.
But a group of parents wants the city to recast the statue or place it elsewhere, arguing that the site, near three elementary schools and two parks, is a hub for young children who could find the weapon disturbing.Read this, too.
"While our hearts go out to the family of this brave young man, we have serious concerns regarding the graphic and violent detail the statue portrays," stated a flier distributed recently in a nearby neighborhood.
Note: Originally from February, 2005, this tribute to a hero of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM is being presented as part of Mudville's Memorial Day weekend, 2009.
The Navy has announced it will name a ship for Air Force Technical Sergeant (E6) John A. Chapman.
TSgt Chapman was working special ops in Afghanistan, where on March 04, 2002 during a flight over mountainous terrain the helicopter his team was in came under fire and Navy SEAL Neil Roberts fell to the ground.
Supposedly...as the helo was on final, it came under fire. An air-crewman fell off the back ramp and was dangling by his tether. Neil reached down to pull him back in. An RPG hit the nose of the helo (didn't explode) and the pilot subsequently made an evasive maneuver. Neil tumbled out (the air-crewman may have also mistakenly pulled Neil out while Neil was trying to recover him or that may have not even of happened - doesn't matter - bottom line, Neil fell from about 10ft and was on the ground alone). It is unclear as to whether or not the guys on board the helo knew that they lost a man. Helo peeled away, developed hydraulic problems, and crash-landed about a click away.
Neil turns on his beacon and low crawls to a position under fire. Neil takes the offensive, firing and maneuvering against the enemy and allegedly storms a machine-gun nest. Neil was shot several times, but continued the fight. Apparently, the video shows the mortal wound and Neil falls to the ground (an hour after he fell from the helo). He had expended all of his ammo, both primary and secondary, as well as his grenades. The video has Neil point shooting with his pistol at very close ranges to the enemy. He was dead by the time the enemy arrived and dragged him off. Not sure on whether they intended to use Neil's body as a decoy for an ambush or as a bargaining chip or for another Somalia street dragging episode.
Meanwhile, the heavily damaged aircraft egressed the area and made an emergency landing. TSgt Chapman contacted an AC-130 gunship to provide close-air support and a helo to extract the team and aircrew members, then volunteered to rescue Roberts from the enemy. On insertion his team made immediate contact with the enemy.
The remainder of the story is best told in the citation accompanying the award of Chapman's Air Force Cross. A Service Cross is the military's second highest medal for valor in combat, surpassed only by the Medal of Honor. Since its creation in 1960, the Air Force Cross has been awarded to only 23 enlisted airmen. Chapman became the third person since the end of the Vietnam War to receive the award.
Citation for award of the Air Force Cross to John A. Chapman
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, U.S.C., awards the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an armed enemy of the United States as a 24th Special Tactics Squadron combat controller in the vicinity of Gardez, in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan, on 4 March 2002.
On this date, during his helicopter insertion for a reconnaissance and time-sensitive targeting close-air support mission, Sgt. Chapman?s aircraft came under heavy machine gun fire and received a direct hit from a rocket-propelled grenade which caused a United States Navy sea-air-land team member to fall from the aircraft. Though heavily damaged, the aircraft egressed the area and made an emergency landing seven kilometers away. Once on the ground Sgt. Chapman established communication with an AC-130 gunship to insure the area was secure while providing close-air support coverage for the entire team. He then directed the gunship to begin the search for the missing team member.
He requested, coordinated and controlled the helicopter that extracted the stranded team and aircrew members. These actions limited the exposure of the aircrew and team to hostile fire. Without regard for his own life Sgt. Chapman volunteered to rescue his missing team member from an enemy stronghold. Shortly after insertion, the team made contact with the enemy. Sgt. Chapman engaged and killed two enemy personnel. He continued to advance, reaching the enemy position, then engaged a second enemy position, a dug-in machine gun nest. At this time the rescue team came under effective enemy fire from three directions.
From close range, Sgt. Chapman exchanged fire with the enemy from minimum personal cover until he succumbed to multiple wounds. His engagement and destruction of the first enemy position and advancement on the second enemy position enabled his team to move to cover and break enemy contact. In his own words, his Navy sea-air-land team leader credits Sgt. Chapman unequivocally with saving the lives of the entire rescue team. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and the dedication to the service of his country, Sgt. Chapman reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
More details on the ship from the Fayetteville Observer:
The cargo ship that will become the Chapman is currently named the MV Merlin and has been operating in the Mediterranean. The ship is one of seven container and roll-on/roll-off ships. The ships are used to preposition munitions in the Mediterranean, the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocena and Saipan in the western Pacific. These ships are loaded with military equipment and supplies needed for a war or other operations. The ships are positioned in key ocean areas to be able to provide equipment, fuel, and supplies around the world on short notice.
The 670-foot logistics ship joines several named in memory of special operations veterans with ties to Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base.
The USNS Shughart and USNS Gordon are large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ship named in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Randall D. Shughart and Gary I. Gordon, Delta Force soldiers who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for their actions in the battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
The USNS Benavidez is a large, medium-speed roll-on/ roll-off ship named in honor of Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez, a 5th Special Forces Group soldier who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War in 1968.
And the USNS Sisler is a large, medium-speed roll-on/roll-off ship named for 1st Lt. George K. Sisler, another 5th Special Forces Group soldier who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War for his actions in 1967.
Lots more links with details of the story here. As the PJ site says,
...the Pentagon called it "Operation Anaconda." The press have also referred to it as the battle at Shah-i-Kot Mountain. But the men who fought there, call it the battle on Robert's Ridge.
Many of the details of this battle are still classified. We do know that Combat Controller John Chapman and Pararescueman Jason Cunningham were killed in action. The SAR objective was USN SEAL Neil Roberts, who was left on the ground on during a team insertion by a CH-46 on 4 March 2002.
Below is information obtained from multiple unclassified sources. Also on the ground during the battle was Combat Controller Gabe Brown and Pararescueman Kerry Miller. They also fought bravely and provided close air support and emergency medical care to many wounded until the casualties were medevaced out.
I suggest that you read the below articles in the order they are listed. Doing so may allow you to extrapolate what John and Jason were doing when they were killed. The PJs who have access to all the classified documents tell me that if anything, the unclassified information understates the heroism of John Chapman and Jason Cunningham. Both these men died "So That Others May Live."
Neil Robert's body was recovered, as were the others, and all were evacuated.
The ridge is now called Roberts Ridge.
(Originally posted 2005-02-25 20:06:02)
From earlier this month...
As the buffer fills, skip forward to 22:30 in this video...
News from Vietnam:
This extremely graphic 1945 film by Frank Capra was made to "prepare soldiers who had not seen combat to go to Germany for the US occupation after the May 8, 1945 unconditional surrender." The film was, however, never used for its intended purpose.
Before viewing you might want to review my earlier Memorial Day warning.
Run with me.
Don't worry if you haven't lately, or don't have the right shoes, this run won't hurt a bit. It's virtual, of course. You can be 10 again, or 12, or whatever age you were when last you ran for the sheer joy of it. I run for many different reasons now and joy is still one of them. I'm grateful that I can run. There's joy in that. I've planned a route. Ready?
We're out the door. We walk across the patio, turn the corner around the house, and in three steps we are in the woods. Here we can start to jog, to warm up. The path under our feet is soft and smooth, the smells are of pine rather then the car exhaust and until we begin breathing harder later the loudest sounds we'll hear are the call of birds.
I start my watch, but the time is important today only as to total duration of this run. It's a short one - half an hour at a fairly easy pace - distance is not important but the hills along the route will separate this endeavor from a truly easy day. This initial stretch is flat though, the surface soft and smooth as I said, and will serve to work out the stiffness and minor aches that keep others on the couch.
A quarter mile through the woods and the scenery changes as we emerge from the trees and enter the farm country, our path now an unpaved 'road' between a horse pasture and a planted field. The surface is flat but uneven, closer attention must be paid to ankle-twisting ground below, especially those stretches where tire ruts are deepest. This is not a traveled road, so grass grows tall and disguises treacherous footing. But eyes can not remain on the ground; we run along a hillside, and though only half way up the view is fine. Hills roll in the distance on the far side of the valley below, fading from green to purple to grey in the distance. On roads below a few cars seem like toys and move slowly through the countryside. The entire scene, even the viewing perspective, is like looking at a model railroad layout on a table. A Gods-eye view of pastoral country, quiet and serene. The parallel to hill country in my past is unmistakable.
A tree line ahead marks the turning point in the trail. We're only a half mile along, but we've been speeding up ever so slightly as we've gone. Now we must think slower as a left turn takes us in an uphill direction. Running at our current pace on this early incline will render the remaining distance a bit uncomfortable. Not a steep hill, but a quarter mile at an increasing grade will still start the real heart rate increase and elevated breathing rate that indicate an entry into "the zone" - the just beyond comfort level I'd like to maintain for the duration of this run. The hilltop is in sight, a final push and we're there.
A ridgeline actually, with a paved, single lane road running along it, a mile-long strip of concrete connecting two small towns. Turn a 360 while jogging in place and claim the reward for every hill climb you'll ever complete: the view.
Ahead the little town grows closer. I'd seen it many times from above, a postage-stamp size town from that perspective, looking for all the world like the perfect German version of a Courier and Ives postcard village offering a year-round look at life in four seasons. Snow-covered winter with smoke curling upward from chimneys gives way to spring when the fields stretched out along the valley are brought to life. Summer arrives and the ground becomes a verdant patchwork green.
Autumn follows and the fruit trees planted neatly like soldiers in formation on the hillside are ready for the harvest. I'd never visited this side of the ridgeline until just a couple days ago when I saw the village transform from matchbox town to real as I descended on this road. Now we enter it together. See the large, two story houses on either side of us? Old but solid, and the closer to center we get the older they appear. These small German towns survived two World Wars, mostly without physical damage; the battlegrounds were in other countries and there was no industry here to attract allied bombs.
The comparison to hill country towns in America is unavoidable, inescapable. Homes, small shops, and people appear virtually indistinguishable from their counterparts across the Atlantic. Slight variations in architecture and clothing, and Opels instead of Chevys in the streets, but otherwise I'm sure I've found the archetype for many a small American community.
I have a high-detail Atlas of this part of Germany back at the house. Even though it's highway system is the envy of the world, the vast majority of Germany's roads are narrow country lanes, often unpaved and rarely traveled by traffic faster then bicycles. The countryside is crisscrossed with these roads, utopian for those like me who consider the run or ride through this scenic beauty as the highpoint to plan a day around. I scouted the route the other day, before that first trip through this town. I couldn't resist when I saw the symbol for "monument" on the map in the village center. What sort of monument could such a small town boast? Surely there were no more then one hundred homes here, and a hand full of shops. I had an idea what I would find, and mostly I was right. We're approaching it now.
The paved road beneath our feet is leveling out from the downhill, the effort required to maintain forward motion is increasing. A different set of muscles is in use. My stride is returning to "normal". Around the slight bend ahead is the center of town, and though we've said hello to a few folks along the way so far no cars have passed to force us to the side of the road. We'll slow our pace now to prepare for a brief stop at the monument ahead.
And there it is, just across the main street that intersects this one at the center of town. A small fenced area, gravel covered with nice garden type landscaping and a couple benches facing a five-column memorial. The center column is about fifteen feet tall, capped with a crucifix, and bears two dates. I'd assume the first is the founding of the town and the second the date of the erection of this memorial, though based on the state of the engraving on the other four columns it appears older then it reads.
Those other four columns bear lists of names below years. 1914 is the first year listed, then 1915 and so on, until about halfway down the second column a jump from 1918 to 1940. A 22-year break from war deaths, then increasing numbers for every year of the Second World War. Fifty-six names in total, the dead of two world wars from a town that now, 60 years later, consists of about 100 homes, perhaps a few more or less.
What a price to pay. Could any of the few families of this town be untouched? Most of the twenty or so last names are repeated. The last name listed first below 1914 is Schneider, and six more follow, four in the first war and 3 in the second. The supply of Schneiders was lower then, perhaps? Klinks, Wagners, Braums and others are listed. All German names, but all of which can be found in any American phonebook, or any American military graveyard.
My heart rate is slowing; we must resume our run soon. But note this: the last year listed is 1947, though hostilities in Europe ceased in 1945. Are the additional dead based on the year they died, or the year their deaths were discovered? Did they die then from wounds received years before in combat?
All I have are the names. No cause of death, no place of death. France? Germany? Russia? Poland? Jeep wreck, gunshot, plane crash, disease? The people of this town don't need that, I suppose. They know. And this strange American in their midst will not ask them. Not today. A quick prayer then and we're off on a different road out of the town.
It does not take long to exit that speck of a village, that small cluster of humanity that seems to have paid a high price for the madness of a few. The road rises slowly out of the valley once the last of the homes of the Schneiders are behind us. We are gradually climbing up the far side of the narrow valley from which we entered. We are passing the fields and orchards we viewed as a distant patchwork quilt from the opposite ridgeline, and the incline is becoming steep. There are no farm houses here, for farmers live in the villages and work the fields. Currently there are no farmers out; we have the world to ourselves here.
Save energy, for after this long steady climb we'll have a choice. We could enjoy the view briefly then turn and take a straight and steep route back into the valley, then immediately climb straight to the top of the first ridge, then down to home. This is the shortest route, but neither the climb nor the descents are easy. The other option involves following this road, which you may notice is now rough and crumbling pavement, along the ridgeline through about 3/4 of a mile of dense and scenic woods to where it intersects the first ridge, then following the road along that ridge to our point we first joined it, then down the hill to home. Slightly longer but no steep climb. We can decide once we hit the top. We can't stop now though, we must after all, get home.
Please don't complain. After all, you agreed to join me on this run. You may feel better if you take in the view as we climb out of the valley. Spectacular. And not uncommon for this area. This beautiful and now serene part of the world has changed hands a few times in a once seemingly endless series of wars between Germany and France, and clearly a significant number of people in that town below us felt it was worth dying for.
I researched the name Schneider after my first visit there. It's literal translation into English is cutter, but its meaning is actually "German, occupational name referred to the tailor who made and sold outer garments." So Taylor then, for the English equivalent. I don't know any Schneiders, nor any Taylors, though I'm sure I've met several over the years.
Keep moving... we're almost at the top...
Did you know 17 Schneiders have their names etched in stone on the Vietnam Memorial Wall? I started counting 'Taylors' too but quit after 60. Seventeen Schneiders died for America in Vietnam. None were from West Virginia. Parts of Germany look a lot like West Virginia. I have an uncle who agrees with this. He spent some of WWII here as a POW.
Top of the hill at last, and I don't know about you but I'm sucking air and my heart's pounding like a jackhammer. A cliche, I know, but true, so I said it, though I can't talk too well right now. We'll go slowly until we return from this anaerobic intensity level, okay?
During Vietnam, West Virginia had the highest casualty rate in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. The state had 711 casualties -- 39.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
I did not know that before today. Just discovered that fact on The Wall page. West Virginia rightfully doesn't brag about it.
When my grandmother passed away some years ago the family spent long hours in that house on the hill sorting her lifetime's accumulation of things. My wife found a bible that belonged to my uncle - he did not want it. It's a hardcover, but showing its age, and probably signs of the rigors of its journey to that house. It's English language, King James Version...
And stamped on the inside cover is the imprint of the Stalag where he spent the latter part of WWII, having been shot down over Germany on a fighter mission.
I've brought that book back to Germany where it sits on a shelf in my living room. near a picture of my father in his army uniform from WWII and my Grandfather in uniform from WWI.
In my living room in a house in a small town in Germany; surrounded by hills and forest and tranquil beauty. What would be the thoughts of those who made this possible, at such high cost, to look upon this now?
Look at the view now. Did I promise you it would be worth the climb? You can see nearly the whole course we've run, stretched out behind us and over there on the far ridgeline. And look there, that's the road home, the route is in plain view. Or that longer route, if you'd prefer. It's mostly viewable except for the bit in the trees up ahead. I always tire a little in the valleys, when so little of the course is in sight. How is it I get an energy boost at the top of the hills when I can see the entire road, where I've been and where I'm going? Why are the valley roads sometimes such a chore? I know the road is there, why do I need to see it?
Part of the human condition I suppose. Come, rest awaits us at home, by the fire.
Though we've still got a long way to run.
This 1930 Academy Award winning film (Best Picture and Best Director) has a place on many "all time" lists.
The film is based on the 1929 novel by German World War I veteran Erich Maria Remarque (birth name Erich Paul Remark). The book was banned and burned by the Nazis, who also "issued propaganda stating that he was a descendant of French Jews and that his real last name was Kramer, a Jewish-sounding name, his original name spelled backwards." By that time, however, Remarque had already left Germany:
In 1943 the Nazis arrested his sister Elfriede Scholz, who had stayed behind in Germany with her husband and two children. After a short trial in the "Volksgerichtshof" (Hitler's extra-constitutional "People's Court") she was found guilty of "undermining morality." Evidence supports the contention that the verdict and the associated death sentence were issued to punish her brother: Court President Roland Friesler declared, "Ihr Bruder ist uns leider entwischt - Sie aber werden uns nicht entwischen" (your brother has unfortunately escaped us - you, however, will not escape us). Elfriede Scholz was decapitated by axe on 16 December 1943.Ironic trivia: During the first World War Remarque and Adolf Hitler both served at the Third Battle of Ypres.
The full feature film, below:
From our old friend James Hooker, for Memorial Day:
You'll really want to see that in a larger version. James says "This is the official page for legally downloading, free of charge, my song ¨Callin All The Clans". All I ask, in lieu of payment to me, is that you please consider supporting SOLDIERS ANGELS."
Lot's of other great videos from James at that link. Enjoy.
A May, 2008 follow up to an even earlier story...
WESTMORELAND: O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
-- Shakespeare, Henry V
November, 2003 - the MilBlogs Ring was brand new, but I was surprised at the number of folks who'd joined. There might have been two dozen milbloggers operating at the time, and at least 20 had already linked up. Active duty, Guard and Reserve, guys who'd been to Iraq, guy's who'd go there and Afghanistan later, spouses, and veterans. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines were all "represented" in those small numbers.
One purpose of the MilBlogs Ring is to promote awareness of the individuality and humanity of the members of the US Armed Forces. Members are aware of the liklihood of difference of opinions between fellow members, and although we may not agree with each other on everything we say we will fight for the rights of each other to say it.In hindsight, I shouldn't have been surprised. While individuals start blogging for individual reasons and have individual stories to tell, military folks are already bound by virtue of service, understand what it means to be part of something, and instinctively grasp the concept that the total exceeds the sum of the parts.
We mean that literally.
The United States was founded with a militia tradition of citizen-soldiers, and a cultural aversion to the excesses of the peacetime standing army of England's King James II. A national army was raised during the American Revolution, but in 1783, after the United States won independence, the Congress discharged the Continental Army that had defeated the British, except for 80 soldiers retained to guard the military stores at West Point and Fort Pitt, plus a proportionate number of officers, none above the rank of captain. This congressional action set a precedent for a military force, composed exclusively of men, that was to be mobilized during wartime through calling up the militia, recruiting volunteers, and occasional conscription, and was to be demobilized during peacetime. This pattern persisted until the mid-20th centuryBack in those early days of milblogs, Blackfive had written a post called The Warrior Caste, initially inspired by other milbloggers:
-- America’s Military Population, by David R. Segal and Mady Wechsler Segal
Recently, Doc Russia mentioned it to me when I left a comment at his blog. LCDR Smash had a post in response to Professor Atlas' editorial about the widening divisions between civilians and the military. Those who continue to serve have less in common with those who don't, and this gap widens with every generation.Sadly, most of those links are no longer available. If Professor Atlas' editorial exists anywhere on the web now, I can't find it.
For most of U.S. history, less than 1 percent of the population served in the military, except for brief periods when the country was at war. There were notable surges in the relative size of the force during the first half of the 19th century for the War of 1812 and the Mexican War of 1846-1848, but the annual military participation ratio (MPR)-the percentage of the total resident population serving in the active-duty military4-did not approach 3 percent of the population until the U.S. Civil War in the mid-1860s. More than 1 million men, mobilized largely by militia call-ups and conscription, served under arms between 1861 and 1865. The MPR then declined again until the First World War, when almost 3 percent of the population-almost 3 million men-served. Again, mobilization involved calling up the militia, supplemented by selective conscription.I had just read the Stars and Stripes story on Jonathan Falaniko and his father, and seeing the connection I made my own post on the topic. As you can see from the trackbacks there and at Blackfive, many other milbloggers joined the discussion. The Ring was off and running.
-- Segal and Segal
The pattern of surge and decline in the size of the armed forces changed when the country mobilized for World War II. About 16 million people were brought into the armed forces in the 1940s, including more than 200,000 women. The men were largely conscripts (10.1 million); women were not subject to the draft, and all women in uniform were volunteers. The World War II armed forces represented about 12 percent of the population and included about 56 percent of the men eligible for military service on the basis of age, health, and mental aptitude.-- Segal and SegalAtlas' op-ed might be long gone from the web, but I'm familiar with the message. There have been many like it since. A small number are fighting for the few. The gulf is widening between military and non. Some go farther: There is a class distinction between those who serve and those who don't. Those who don't are unworthy of the sacrifice of those who do. If only we had a draft people might protest this war more! Americans aren't suffering enough!!!
There may be fewer people now related to active duty service members than there were in the (anomolous) 1945, but as has been true throughout our history, everyone in the military is related to someone who isn't.
WESTMORELAND: O that we now had hereAnd there is nothing new under the sun.
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
KING: What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
-- Shakespeare, Henry V
Note: this entry, originally from November 2003, is re-posted as part of Mudville's Memorial Day 2009 salute to the fallen.
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking;
Dream of battled fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking.
-- Sir Walter Scott, The Lady of the Lake
I have been thinking about the American Warrior Caste for a long time, now. The Warrior Caste is made up of families that serve in the military for generations.That post, coupled with the fact that my own son will turn 18 next month, has had me pondering the issue for the past week. It's one of those things we're all aware of, but the realization that the next generation of my family will soon be able to make his own decision (hopefully not without some input from me) about service was at the forefront of my mind when I read this story from Stars and Stripes, regarding a son of a Command Sergeant Major (the highest Enlisted rank in a unit) serving in Iraq with his father:
So why did I serve? Why does a family continually have children that decide to serve in the military?
I think we can definitely dismiss the case for riches and wealth. Some liberals would like to believe that we were "Born to Kill" (think Full Metal Jacket). That's not it either. And while I definitely took advantage of the college benefits, that's not the motivation.
Almost all of us military folks bleed red, white and blue. We tear up when the Star Spangled Banner is played because we imagine Francis Scott Key captured and desperate, hoping to see his beloved flag flying. We tell people at the ball park to take their hats off during the national anthem.
We defend our country no matter who is in the White House. We suffer when the leadership is poor and we thrive when the leader ship is good.
But how does a family serve for generations?
The reason is that there is a feeling of obligation for the benefit of living in a country built on ideas. That we understand that freedom is not for free. That somebody has to defend it. And we are actually willing to do it.
GIESSEN, Germany - When Jonathan Falaniko was training to be a combat engineer at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., several sergeants made a point of stopping by to see the 20-year-old recruit.There's more, and the more you read the more proud you may be to be an American. Then please take a minute and pray for strength and recovery for the Falaniko family, if you would.
They wanted to meet him and welcome him into the fold. Their chats were often casual, but formality figured into the mix as well. It had to be that way, because his father, who was in Iraq, would have it no other way.
Encouragement was one thing. Favoritism was something else.
"I realize that you get a lot of respect being the man you are," Jonathan wrote in a July 24 letter to his dad, the command sergeant major of the 1st Armored Division Engineer Brigade.
He penned the note at 9:30 p.m., a precious time of the day for young recruits like Jonathan Falaniko.
"I realize what you've done [for] your soldiers and how you [have] earned their respect," Jonathan continued. "In my opinion, I think they respect you because you're a hard man [who] takes his job seriously, [and] not because of your rank. I've met a lot of sergeants here and they've told me stories about you. ...
"I wonder what it's like being [a soldier] under you. I've never seen you in action at work, and I think it'll be weird calling you a "sergeant major" on the job, instead of "Dad," but that's [the] Army values that I have to show. I hope I'll be able to see you in uniform, again, before you retire."
In fact, the Army private did get to see his father in uniform - and in action, though it was ever so brief.
On the morning of Oct. 27, a month after Pvt. Jonathan Falaniko arrived in Iraq, a rocket-propelled grenade killed him just after he and several other engineers cleared two improvised explosive devices along a Baghdad road. The RPG, which pierced the engineers' cargo Humvee, wounded five other soldiers.
Command Sgt. Maj. Ioakimo Falaniko was in the division's tactical operations center at the time of the attack, but didn't know his son was on that particular mission. About an hour later, he knew that his son had been killed. Though they had met a couple of times since Jonathan's arrival, neither was intimate with the other's daily routine. Protocol, location and the pace of activity kept contact to a minimum.
"We talked about it," the father said of dying in combat, recalling one of the last conversations the two had. "I knew the danger of our mission. I told him, "Don"t lose focus of why we are here.""
Despite losing his son, Falaniko, 49, hasn't lost his focus.
The 27-year veteran escorted his son's body back to the United States for burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The service was attended by at least eight general officers and more than 20 sergeants major. Falaniko read excerpts from some of his son's letters, written before Jonathan was assigned to Alpha Company, 70th Engineer Battalion at Fort Riley, Kan.
"I don't think there was a dry eye in the place," recalled Command Sgt. Maj. Michael L. Gravens, U.S. Army Europe's senior enlisted soldier.
Falaniko is now back at his brigade headquarters in Giessen, Germany, but he plans to return to Iraq after Thanksgiving. His heart may be "broken," he said, but his spirit remains intact.
Returning to Iraq, Falaniko said, "is part of the healing process for me. I need to get back in the groove. I need to go back there and do my job."
Senior leaders up and down the chain of command have told him that isn't necessary, offering to transfer him and his family to wherever they want to go. Falaniko knows they mean well, but he still wants to rejoin his unit.
And re-read Blackfive's words on the topic of how such families can persevere:
The Warrior Caste serves for generations because it has deep faith. Faith that your leaders won't send you to the far corners of the earth to do wrong. Faith that your fellow citizens will care for your well-being, keeping you equipped and fed. Faith that our Founding Fathers were right in that fighting for freedom is worth dying for. Faith in your fellow soldiers.I'll not even pretend to compare my thoughts and feelings to those experienced by CSM Falaniko. But sometime in the next few weeks my son, who has already spent his entire life in and around military installations, will register for the selective service. He turns a corner in life and begins to enter a world where he is his own man, a man of free will, responsible ultimately for himself. A world far from peaceful, with unfortunate need for a warrior caste.
"Faith that your fellow citizens will care..." indeed. We will see this thing through to it's conclusion together, won't we America?
"We talked about it," the father said of dying in combat, recalling one of the last conversations the two had. "I knew the danger of our mission. I told him, "Don't lose focus of why we are here...""And the rest of us should strive to do no less.
Falaniko, the senior enlisted soldier for the roughly 4,500 engineers in and around Baghdad, was there for his son when the private flew into the Iraqi capital on Sept. 28. Bear hugs were exchanged, and at some point the son began to address the father as "sergeant major," but not before he made the following pledge: "Dad, I will try my best not to disappoint you."
Now, it's the father who doesn't want to disappoint his late son.
(Original post 2003-11-22 11:48:08)
Part one of this film is here.
Part two is here:
An October, 2004 salute to World War Two veterans, re-published here as part of our Memorial Day 2009 salute to the fallen. "WWII era vets don't leave much of a legacy on the internet," I wrote at the time. That's changing now too.
Over the weekend, Smash visited a military cemetery, a trip that inspired a worthy challenge. Could we milbloggers create tributes to those whose names he found?
It may come as a surprise to some, but the largest group of recent additions to that garden of stone - significantly more than the numbers of deaths from Iraq - were the veterans of the Second World War. But that's to be expected, as time accomplishes what the enemy could not.
And it may surprise others to discover what I did earlier this year - the WWII era vets don't leave much of a legacy on the internet. I found this out while looking for some trace of existence of one of my uncles - who flew for what's now called the United States Air Force through WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and slipped this earthly bond this past year too. I reaffirmed it by seeking for mention of several more this weekend - worth the time, but ultimately without results.
It would be foolish to mourn their absence from this virtual world, for they live on in places more important and real. Back in October 2004 I received the following via email from a stranger - one with whom I could identify quite readily. I'm honored to be able to re-publish it today as we continue our salute to the fallen, as tribute to a man and his generation, and as salute to all those who simply served and survived and went on to lead good lives.
My father and uncles were all veterans of World War Two. Many of them stayed in the service for 30 years through Korea and Vietnam. When I received this email from Jack Spadoni I knew exectly how he felt. "I know you don't know me but I would like to ask a favor. My father just passed away. I have always felt that he was a great man and was always proud to be his son. I was wondering if you could post the following on your blog."
Absolutely Jack. And I never knew your father but I agree with you - he was a great man. One by one the lights of the WWII generation fade, and we'll never decline an opportunity to render fitting respects to such men as these.
Meet Joseph Spadoni, Lt Col,USAF, in the words of his son:
On October 15, 2004 LTC Joseph Spadoni USAF (retired) died of cancer at the age of 82. Born in 1921 in Martins Creek, Pa., he grew up during the Depression. Both his parents had passed away by the time he was 14 and he was raised by his older sister.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps. in January 1941. He helped train gunners for B-17 crews in Idaho, and ended up in Kunming, China with the 10th Air Force. Along the way, he flew across the South Atlantic, saw the pyramids of Egypt and crossed the Himalayas in a C-47. In China, he spent most of his down time helping the locals in their rice paddies. He enlisted as an Airman and was discharged with the rank of Captain.
Recalled to active duty in 1948, he served in the Strategic Air Command and was stationed on Okinawa during the Korean War. He retired in 1966 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He continued in Government service for the next 15 years, working for the Defense Personnel Support Center in Philadelphia.
He moved back to Martins Creek and there was hardly a person in town who didn't know "Joe". Quick to lend a hand, he was always helping people. Whether it was electrical, plumbing, automotive, structural or landscaping, he could fix it. And if he couldn't find the part, he would make it. The original Macgyver you could say.
He was a expert shot with rifle and handgun, an avid hunter and fisherman, and had a deep appreciation of nature. He was the nicest most easy going man around, at least until he lapsed into "Colonel Mode", which would be announced by a hardy "OK men, this is what we're going to do!"
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, daughter Barbara and two sons Joe and Jack. He always stood up for what was right and never backed down from a challenge. He was a loving husband, loving father and truly a good person. I believe he was a great man. He has left this world because his work here is done.
He was my Dad and I shall love him always.
Jack D. Spadoni
Ride along with the crew of the Memphis Belle on their final combat mission via this 1944 color documentary from William Wyler.
In its entirety, below:
Note: this entry, originally from April 2006, is re-posted as part of Mudville's Memorial Day 2009 salute to the fallen.
While it was true at the time of publication that the American media had ignored and overlooked so many of the stories of the heroes of America's War on Terror, I believe that claim is less true today. Perhaps milbloggers and their allies had something to do with that change.
Without further ado, meet Rafael Peralta, American.
Sergeant Peralta’s younger sister, Karen, 13, was left to confront life without a father and now older brother. She worried that his life and legacy would soon be forgotten: “I know that right now, people are really nice and everything. When it’s going to be like, one year, or two years, they are going to forget about him….Right now they are giving medals to my mom for everything. But I know that when it comes to later on, they are going to forget him, they’re gonna forget about him.”
The following is an excerpt from Home of the Brave : Honoring the Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror by Caspar Weinberger and Wynton C. Hall. The story of Sgt Rafael Peralta is one of many such tales contained therein. My thanks to Mr Hall for authorizing this early look at what promises to be one of the most significant books of this or any summer.
Wynton tells me, "This is, first and foremost, a book about people. People who happen to be the best damn kind of people—military people—on the face of the earth."
And of Cap Weinberger he adds "That was the reason he wanted to write Home of the Brave; he wanted it to be his final salute to the 2.4 million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who defend freedom each day. To the end, he remained committed to lifting up our service members and their families and expressing gratitude for their many sacrifices.
"In that spirit, I hope readers will remember Cap for what was, I believe, his greatest legacy as Secretary of Defense: he stood with those who fought for us."
“Be proud of being an American. Our father came to this country, became a citizen because it was the right place for our family to be.”
Rafael Peralta was not born in America, but he died defending her.
It’s the stuff you hear about in boot camp, about World War II and Tarawa Marines who won the Medal of Honor,” said Corporal Rob Rogers, one of Peralta’s platoon mates.i
A Mexican immigrant, Peralta joined the Marines the day he received his green card. His love for America was no secret; it showed in everything he did. Even the walls of his bedroom were a testament to his patriotism. On them he had hung a picture of his boot camp graduation and replicas of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.ii
But ultimately it was Marine Sergeant Peralta’s actions on November 15, 2004, while serving as part of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment that proved the depth of his devotion to his country. Just days prior, Peralta had sat down and wrote his first and final letters to his brother and youngest sister:
“Tomorrow, at 19:00 hours (7 p.m.), we are going to declare war in the holy city of Fallujah. We are going to defeat the insurgents. Watch the news, it’s going to be all over. Be proud of me, bro, I’m going to make history and do something that I always wanted to do.”iii
As his story reveals, Marine Sergeant Rafael Peralta kept his word. True to the Marine code, he remained Semper Fidelis.
It had been almost a year since her tragic death, and yet still, Rafael Peralta’s recurring dream about his fiancée, Maritca Alvarez, just wouldn’t go away.
Maritca and Rafael had met in a Tijuana nightclub two years before their engagement. Even after his family moved to San Diego, his father continued the commute to Tijuana, where he worked as a diesel mechanic. In September 2001, Rafael had been deployed overseas the day his father died. It was Sergeant Peralta’s memory of the pride his father had displayed the day he had become an American citizen that had in part inspired him to become a marine. That meant his mother, Rosa, a housekeeper, would be forced to face her husband’s death without her oldest son at her side. Yet it wasn’t before long that Sergeant Peralta began to assume his father’s mantle as head of the family.iv
But the death of Peralta’s father would be just the first in a series of tragic events that would soon unfold. Just days before Rafael and Maritca were to be married, Maritca’s mother died. Then, while traveling to bury her, Maritca herself was killed in a truck accident. Having just lost his future mother-in-law and wife in a matter of days, Rafael and his mother bonded in the way that only people who have lost the loves of their life can.v
So when Sergeant Peralta shared his recurring dream with his mother, she remembered it. Rafael said he would see Maritca’s face. She would approach him. And then Maritca would say that she had come to take him with her so that they could be together again.
He knew his actions in battle might one day turn his dream about Maritca into reality, and he had prepared himself and those he loved should he ever meet his fate on the battlefield. “He said he was ready to die,” said his oldest sister, Icela Donald. “He had reconciled with God and (he wanted Rosa) to be strong. She had to take care of my little sister and brother. He would always tell my mom that there was a possibility that he might not come back.”vi
And perhaps it was this sentiment that drove Sergeant Peralta to sit down and write letters to his younger siblings, Karen and Ricardo, the night before the Battle of Fallujah began. “Just think about God and we will all be together again,” he wrote. “If anything happens to me, just remember I lived my life to the fullest and I’m happy with what I lived.” In Karen’s letter he added, “Be good and do your best at school. Don’t be lazy.”vii
Education and hard work—these were two things Sergeant Peralta valued. After completing elementary and junior high school in Tijuana, his family moved to San Diego, where he graduated from Morse High School before taking classes at San Diego City College. It was in 1997 while attending high school that he first wanted to enter the military. But his pride in America and love for his new country were not enough to overcome his non-citizen status. If his dream of becoming a US Marine were to be realized, he would have to wait until 2000 to receive his green card.
And that’s exactly what he did.
The very day he became a legal resident, Rafael Peralta enlisted to become a United States Marine. In so doing, he joined the long, proud history of the United States Marine Corps. In all he did, it was that lineage, that long line of all the heroic Marines who had come before him, that Peralta strived to honor—especially that fateful day in Fallujah, Iraq.
For most Americans, the very name conjures up the ghastly images that shocked the nation on March 31, 2004. It was a scene reminiscent of the Black Hawk Down incident in Mogadishu, Somalia. The bodies of four American contractors—individuals who had gone to Iraq to help citizens rebuild their nation—had been torched and dragged through the streets of Fallujah before being hung from ropes tied atop a Euphrates River bridge as mobs of cheering, laughing Saddam loyalists, both young and old, danced in jubilant celebration.
That the city of Fallujah would become the most difficult battle waged in Iraq was hardly a surprise. Located just 40 miles from Baghdad, the Sunni-city had become a rat’s nest filled with Baathists and Islamic Fundamentalists seething with anti-American hatred. The most wanted terrorist in Iraq, Jordanian born, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, had helped turn Fallujah into a base of operations for his terror group. Zarqawi became widely known to the world when he began appearing in videotaped beheadings. But his history of brutality and terror are decades long, prompting the U.S. government to offer a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture.
The horrifying scene of American civilians dangling from the Euphrates River bridge opened up a debate about how to handle Fallujah. Some argued for immediate action, while others supported waiting. Yet with the historic Iraqi elections scheduled for January 30, 2005, everyone agreed that for elections to go forward the Battle of Fallujah must be fought and won. The city was filled with jihadists eager to murder the over 8 million Iraqis determined to exercise their newfound freedom. Defeat, therefore, was not an option.
The 10,000 marines, soldiers, and Iraqi troops gearing up for the massive 11-day assault knew the dangerous nature of urbanized warfare. The city’s labyrinth of buildings and alleys would force them to go room-to-room, building-to-building, with danger lurking around every corner. The insurgents hidden inside these building would be thousands in number and among the fiercest and best trained. They would also be armed to the hilt. Out of Fallujah’s roughly 1,000 city blocks, 203 had weapons caches and ammunition storehouses. Weapons found included 1,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, 800 mortar rounds, hundreds of grenades, 86 anti-tank guided missiles, 6,000 artillery and mortar fuses, 87 122mm and 107mm rockets, 328 rounds for recoilless artillery pieces, and uncounted numbers of Kalashnikov automatic rifles and other small arms.viii
But even more lethal than their weapons were the tactics they employed, which included: using 60 of Fallujah’s 100 mosques as firing stations to shoot at U.S. and Iraqi forces; waving white flags in surrender and then opening fire; booby trapping just about anything imaginable and planting over 650 Improvised Explosive Devices (IED); using injured enemy fighters as bait to lure U.S. medics to rush to their aid before detonating grenades; threatening to murder those civilians who had yet to flee only to then use them as shields during the battle; and using three of Fallujah’s hospitals as defensive positions from which to launch RPG and fire machine guns at American and Iraqi forces.ix
In sum, the Battle of Fallujah would be pure hell, and every soldier and marine going in knew it. But more than that, almost to a man, each one believed it was something that needed to be done. Among these was Sergeant Rafael Peralta.
Lance Corporal T.J. Kaemmerer, a combat correspondent who had been attached to Peralta’s Company and witnessed his act of extreme valor, recounted the series of events that unfolded that day. Kaemmerer points out that Sergeant Peralta’s status as a platoon scout meant he could have chosen to remain in a safer position while the squads of 1st Platoon entered the insurgent-filled streets of Fallujah. Yet having interviewed the Leathernecks who knew him best, Kaemmerer discovered that according to Peralta’s teammates, he would constantly ask whether he could help out by joining a “stack” (the term marines use for a six-man group).x
And that was the case on the morning of November 15, 2004, when Sergeant Peralta and his Marine brothers woke at day-break in the abandoned house they had made a home for the night. For seven days now, First Battalion, 3rd Marines had been embroiled in some of the most brutal fighting of the war. Eliminating the diehard insurgents who longed for martyrdom meant sweeping every house and building, room-by-room. After wolfing down a breakfast MRE and shaving, the marines of Alpha Company were locked, loaded, and ready to roll.xi
Lance Corporal Kaemmerer had decided to join Peralta’s 6-man stack. Marines use two stacks to clear a house. Kaemmerer remembered that he had been placed as the third man of his stack. After they had cleared three houses and were moving to their fourth, however, Kaemmerer said he and Sergeant Peralta switched positions, placing Peralta directly in front of him. Lance Corporal Kaemmerer’s stellar account explains, in his own words, the events as he witnessed them unfold:
When we reached the fourth house, we breached the gate and swiftly approached the building. The first Marine in the stack kicked in the front door, revealing a locked door to their front and another at the right.Indeed, had he been able, Sergeant Rafael Peralta would have probably told us the same thing that so many of the men we were privileged to speak with said: “I wasn’t the only one out there; I was just doing my job; I was surrounded by heroes, my marine brothers, men whose hearts contain the same amount of love for their friends and freedom.”
Kicking in the doors simultaneously, one stack filed swiftly into the room to the front as the other group of Marines darted off to the right.
"Clear!" screamed the Marines in one of the rooms followed only seconds later by another shout of "clear!" from the second room. One word told us all we wanted to know about the rooms: there was no one in there to shoot at us.
We found that the two rooms were adjoined and we had another closed door in front of us. We spread ourselves throughout the rooms to avoid a cluster going through the next door.
Two Marines stacked to the left of the door as Peralta, rifle in hand, tested the handle. I watched from the middle, slightly off to the right of the room as the handle turned with ease.
Ready to rush into the rear part of the house, Peralta threw open the door.
‘POP! POP! POP!’ Multiple bursts of cap-gun-like sounding AK-47 fire rang throughout the house.
Three insurgents with AK-47s were waiting for us behind the door.
Peralta was hit several times in his upper torso and face at point-blank range by the fully-automatic 7.62mm weapons employed by three terrorists.
Mortally wounded, he jumped into the already cleared, adjoining room, giving the rest of us a clear line of fire through the doorway to the rear of the house.
We opened fire, adding the bangs of M-16A2 service rifles, and the deafening, rolling cracks of a Squad Automatic Weapon, or “SAW,” to the already nerve-racking sound of the AKs. One Marine was shot through the forearm and continued to fire at the enemy.
I fired until Marines closer to the door began to maneuver into better firing positions, blocking my line of fire. Not being an infantryman, I watched to see what those with more extensive training were doing.
I saw four Marines firing from the adjoining room when a yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped grenade bounced into the room, rolling to a stop close to Peralta’s nearly lifeless body.
In an act living up to the heroes of the Marine Corps’ past, such as Medal of Honor recipients Private First Class James LaBelle and Lance Corporal Richard Anderson, Peralta—in his last fleeting moments of consciousness—reached out and pulled the grenade into his body. LaBelle fought on Iwo Jima and Anderson in Vietnam, both died saving their fellow Marines by smothering the blast of enemy grenades.
Peralta did the same for all of us in those rooms.
I watched in fear and horror as the other four Marines scrambled to the corners of the room and the majority of the blast was absorbed by Peralta’s now lifeless body. His selflessness left four other Marines with only minor injuries from smaller fragments of the grenade.
During the fight, a fire was sparked in the rear of the house. The flames were becoming visible through the door.
The decision was made by the Marine in charge of the squad to evacuate the injured Marines from the house, regroup and return to finish the fight and retrieve Peralta’s body.
We quickly ran for shelter, three or four houses up the street, in a house that had already been cleared and was occupied by the squad’s platoon.
As Staff Sergeant Jacob M. Murdock took a count of the Marines coming back, he found it to be one man short, and demanded to know the whereabouts of the missing Marine.
"Sergeant Peralta! He’s dead! He’s f------ dead," screamed Lance Corporal Adam Morrison, a machine gunner with the squad, as he came around a corner. "He’s still in there. We have to go back."
The ingrained code Marines have of never leaving a man behind drove the next few moments. Within seconds, we headed back to the house unknown what we may encounter yet ready for another round.
I don't remember walking back down the street or through the gate in front of the house, but walking through the door the second time, I prayed that we wouldn't lose another brother.
We entered the house and met no resistance. We couldn't clear the rest of the house because the fire had grown immensely and the danger of the enemy’s weapons cache exploding in the house was increasing by the second.
Most of us provided security while Peralta's body was removed from the house.
We carried him back to our rally point and upon returning were told that the other Marines who went to support us encountered and killed the three insurgents from inside the house.
Later that night, while I was thinking about the day’s somber events, Corporal Richard A. Mason, an infantryman with Headquarters Platoon, who, in the short time I was with the company became a good friend, told me, "You’re still here, don’t forget that. Tell your kids, your grandkids, what Sergeant Peralta did for you and the other Marines today."xii
But Sergeant Peralta’s actions had expressed more than his words ever could.
“Fallujah is going to be right up there among the most successful battles in Iraq, said Major Tom Davis, 45, of St. Cloud, Minnesota, “It’s where the rubber meets the road. That is where our heroes did their best.”xiii Winning had come at a gut-wrenching cost claiming the lives of 71 American soldiers and marines. However, a consensus among the men who fought in Fallujah, military analysts and experts has emerged: the victory in Fallujah proved pivotal in paving the way for the historic Iraqi elections two months later. American and Iraqi forces eliminated an estimated 1,600 insurgents and wounded and captured hundreds more. Today, with reconstruction still underway, military leaders have declared Fallujah one of the safest cities in Iraq.
General John Satler, commander of the Marine Expeditionary Force that waged the Battle of Fallujah, said that the city will become a model for how democracy can take hold in Iraq. While stressing that much hard work remains ahead, Satler said that the victory was not only an essential component to holding open and free democratic elections. Victory also provided a great psychological boost as well.xiv And while morale for the mission’s success was high, the task of burying the marines who had died would weigh heavy on each heart, especially for the families.
When Sergeant Peralta’s body was returned home to the States, he would receive a hero’s funeral. The event would be emotional. Indeed, the explosion from the blast had been so violent that his family members had to rely on the tattoo on his shoulder in order to properly identify him.xv On Nov. 23, 2004, Peralta, 25, was buried at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California, following a moving funeral Mass at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.
For his marine brothers, it was a time for grateful reflection and remembrance. “He saved half my fire team,” said Corporal Brannon Dyer, 27, of Blairsville, Georgia. Platoon mate Corporal Rob Rogers, 22, of Tallahassee, Florida agreed: “He’d stand up for his Marines to an insane point.”xvi
But for Peralta’s mother, Rosa, and his siblings, Icela, Ricardo, and Karen, the death of their beloved Rafael had stirred up a range of emotions. They had experienced so much loss and tragedy in such a short span of time. It had only been three years since the death of Rafael’s father. And then, on the eve of Rafael and Maritca’s wedding, they had lost Maritca’s mother. So when Maritca herself was killed in a truck accident while traveling to bury her own mother, it had seemed as if life couldn’t deal the family another tragedy.
But it had.
In a Thanksgiving Day closing segment on ABC News, Icela expressed her internal struggle: “It’s just hard, because I know he saved a lot of people. And it’s something that I should be proud of. But I’m kind of hurt because I needed him. I needed him over here.”xvii
Sergeant Peralta’s younger sister, Karen, 13, was left to confront life without a father and now older brother. She worried that his life and legacy would soon be forgotten: “I know that right now, people are really nice and everything. When it’s going to be like, one year, or two years, they are going to forget about him….Right now they are giving medals to my mom for everything. But I know that when it comes to later on, they are going to forget him, they’re gonna forget about him.”xviii
Karen Peralta’s worries might soon subside, however. While Sergeant Rafael Peralta has already been awarded a Purple Heart, he is currently under consideration to join Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith as the only other individual in the War on Terror to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Indeed, Sergeant Peralta seems to be on the mind of President George W. Bush quiet often these days, as he has mentioned the heroic marine in a number of his public appearances and speeches.
During his 2005 Memorial Day radio address, for example, President Bush said, “Rafael Peralta also understood that America faces dangerous enemies, and he knew the sacrifices required to defeat them.”
Then, on June 16, 2005, at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., the president paid tribute to Sergeant Peralta again:
Finally, we see the love of neighbor in tens of thousands of Hispanics who serve America and the cause of freedom. One of these was an immigrant from Mexico named Rafael Peralta. The day after Rafael got his green card, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. Think about that. While serving in Iraq, this good sergeant wrote a letter to his younger brother. He said, "Be proud of being an American. Our father came to this country, became a citizen because it was the right place for our family to be." Shortly after writing that letter, Sergeant Peralta used his own body to cover a grenade an enemy soldier had rolled into a roomful of Marines.For the marines inside that room in Fallujah—the men for whom Sergeant Peralta gave the last full measure of devotion—they will unquestionably do as the president suggests, they will remember. For the Peralta family, it is unthinkable to imagine that a day will pass when thoughts of their hero will not fill their hearts and minds. And yet even when Sergeant Rafael Peralta, a man who signed up to serve his country the first chance he could, is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, his 13 year old sister’s question will linger: Will Americans forget?
This prayer breakfast, we remember the sacrifices of honorable and good folks like Sergeant Peralta, who have shown their love of neighbor by giving their life for freedom.
Or will they celebrate the life of a young man who awoke each morning to the sight of his Boot Camp graduation picture, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence? A young man whose last words written to his little brother echo the sagacity of the generation of heroes that came before him: “Be proud of being an American.”
Home of the Brave : Honoring the Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror will be published by Forge Books on 16 May 2006. Pre-orders can be made via the preceding link, or at a bookseller near you.
2006-04-21 18:23:29All done!
To the Shores of Iwo Jima was a 1945 Kodachrome color short war film produced by the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. It documents the Battle of Iwo Jima, and was the first time that American audiences saw in color the footage of the famous flag raising on Iwo Jima.
The film follows the servicemen through the battle in rough chronological order, from the bombardment of the island by warships and carrier-based airplanes to the final breakdown of resistance, though, after it shows the taking of Suribachi, it then switches to the footage of the second flag raising.
The film ends by acknowledging the 4,000 who had died in the month-long battle, and tells the audience that their deaths weren't in vain, showing a bomber aircraft taking off from the island for a mission over Japan.
Four cameramen, including Bill Genaust, who shot the famous flag raising sequence, died bringing this footage to the public. Ten were wounded.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Here's the full (20 minute) movie:
Oscar Returned To The ArmyAnd here's Prelude to War:
The 1942 Oscar presented to the U.S. Army for Frank Capra documentary Prelude To War has been removed from the auction block and returned to the military.
The statuette, a duplicate Academy Award requested by and granted to the Department of Defense in 1958, was among items up for sale at an upcoming Christie's auction.
The unofficial Oscar went missing following the closure of the Army Pictorial Center, where it was housed, in 1970, and military officials only learned of its whereabouts when auction bosses came to them for authenticity.
A spokeswoman for the Academy says, "As Christie's auction house was offering the statuette for sale they notified the Army which asserted its claim on the Award. Christie's was pleased to see the statuette put back into the Army's care."
U.S. Army spokesman Brigadier General Jeffrey E. Phillips says, "We are very grateful that the Academy contacted us and has returned the Oscar to the U.S. Army. There is immense pride in our Special Services heritage and I cannot think of a better historical example of the importance of communicating with the public for our current generation of Soldiers than this statuette.
"The award will be proudly and prominently displayed at the Department of the Army Headquarters for Public Affairs Office at the Pentagon for all to see."
The Why We Fight film collection, which featured Prelude To War, is widely recognised as the most effective of the many films produced by the armed services to educate Americans in general, and new servicemen in particular, about the nation's objectives in entering World War Two.
The original Oscar for Prelude to War remains in the care of the Capra family.
I thought about writing this when I heard the message, too. But John did it, so I don't have to.
I don't object to what he's saying here. I really don't. And in a lot of places I go, people *do* thank me for my service, if they know I served. And much of what the President said in his message is apt for every day, or, at least, now and then when you can.But many fine Americans share that same Memorial Day/Veterans Day confusion. That said, a warning for those who might casually wander by: The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior, and good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
But most of what is in that message is... Veteran's Day. The day for the living. Memorial Day is... set aside to remember the lives that were spent so that we could live ours, those who served and survived, but have since passed, and, of course, for our family and friends, whether they served or not.
Memorial Day is where we resurrect the pale shadows of those who have gone before - so that, in a sense, as long as they live in us, they still walk among us.
This is Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy it. Celebrate it - the people who died to give you that right would appreciate it. But they didn't die peaceably in their beds, these dogs who fell protecting sheep from wolves.
But consider this a note of caution - a word to the wise: It's Memorial Day in Mudville, and here we know what that means. Remember that should you choose to scroll on...
If faded images like these from the Gettysburg battlefield disturb you, you are a sane and normal individual. Imagine their impact when they were new.
But they aren't that old, either. When I was a young sprout I spoke with my grandfather - who was a battlefield medic in World War One and whose sons fought in World War Two - about his grandfather, who fought (for the Union) in the Civil War.
If images like these leave you speechless, give thanks that another found a few words he thought worth saying at the time:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.All done!
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Our Memorial Day 2009 salute to the fallen continues. Originally from September, 2005, this two-part salute to a living hero of the Korean war is a reminder of those who fell in actual death camps - a term that's been much cheapened in recent years.
Meet Tibor "Ted" Rubin, survivor of the Nazi death camps, and an American hero:
Nazi guards made sure Rubin understood despair at the age of 13. A Hungarian Jew, he was forced into the Mauthausen Concentration Camp toward the end of World War II. But Rubin defied odds: He survived. After the war he moved to New York, and eventually joined the same Army that liberated him from hell on earth.In the early days of the Korean war the US, after withdrawing to the Pusan Perimeter, counterattacked and crushed the North Koreans in a rapid advance to positions in mountainous terrain near the border with China. At this point, however, the Chinese entered the fray.
From the horror of the Holocaust arose a bravery that few can match. Rubin went on to fight in the Korean War and was taken prisoner by the Chinese communists. This time, he breathed life into his fellow captives, who were dying at the rate of 40 a day in the winter of 1950-1951.
Of the Nazis, Rubin remains baffled by their capacity to kill. He was just a boy when he lost his parents and two little sisters to the Nazi's brutality. "In Mauthausen, they told us right away, 'You Jews, none of you will ever make it out of here alive'," Rubin remembers. "Every day so many people were killed. Bodies piled up God knows how high. We had nothing to look forward to but dying. It was a most terrible thing, like a horror movie." American Soldiers swept into the camp on May 5, 1945, to liberate the prisoners. It is still a miraculous day for Rubin, indelibly imprinted in his heart. "The American Soldiers had great compassion for us. Even though we were filthy, we stunk and had diseases, they picked us up and brought us back to life." Rubin made a vow that day that he's fulfilled ten times over.
"I made a promise that I would go to the United States and join the Army to express my thanks," said Rubin. Three years later he arrived in New York. Two years after that he passed the English language test -- after two attempts and with "more than a little help," he jokes -- and joined the Army. He was shipped to the 29th Infantry Regiment in Okinawa. When the Korean War broke out, Rubin was summoned by his company commander.
"The 29th Inf. Regt. is mobilizing. You are not a U.S. citizen so we can't take you -- a lot of us are going to get killed. We'll send you to Japan or Germany," Rubin remembers being told.
"But I could not just leave my unit for some 'safe' zone," Rubin said. "I was with these guys in basic training. Even though I wasn't a citizen yet, America was my country."
Rubin got what he wanted and headed for Korea -- to the good fortune of many Soldiers who served alongside him.
At the end of October 1950, thousands of Chinese troops were laying in wait. Masters of camouflage, they blended into the brush and burned fires to produce smoke to mask their movements. When Soldiers of the 8th Cavalry Regiment were stretched before them like sitting ducks, the Chinese swarmed in.That's just the beginning of the story that's still far from over. The White House announced September 14 that Cpl. Rubin, in recognition of his courageous actions in Korea from 1950 to 1953, will be awarded the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor will be presented to Rubin during a White House ceremony, September 23.
"The whole mountain let loose," said Rubin, who was then a corporal serving in the 8th Cav.'s 3rd Battalion. On Oct. 30 the 3rd Bn.'s firepower dwindled to a single machine gun, which three Soldiers had already died manning. By the time Rubin stepped up to fire, most of his fellow Soldiers felt doomed in the confusion of battle.
"Nobody wanted to take over, but somebody had to. We didn't have anything else left to fight with," he said. Rubin's buddies say he was a hero, selflessly defending his unit against thousands of Chinese troops.
Battle raged for three days around Unsan, then the Chinese pushed the Soldiers south. Those who survived retreated with little or no ammunition and hundreds of wounded. More than 1,000 men of the 8th Cav. were listed as missing in action after the battle, but some returned to friendly lines or were rescued by tank patrols in the following weeks.
Earlier in the war, as the 8th Cav. moved toward the Pusan Perimeter, Rubin kept to the rear to ward off North Koreans nipping at his battalion's heels. At 4 a.m., while defending a hill on his own, Rubin heard gunfire from what sounded like hundreds of enemy troops. "I figured I was a goner. But I ran from one foxhole to the next, throwing hand grenades so the North Koreans would think they were fighting more than one person," he said. "I couldn't think straight -- in a situation like that, you become hysterical trying to save your life." "He tied up the enemy forces, allowing the safe withdrawal of Allied troops and equipment on the Taegu-Pusan road. The enemy suffered, not only tremendous casualties ... but it slowed the North Korean invading momentum along that route, saving countless American lives and giving the 8th Cav. precious time to regroup to the south," wrote CPL Leonard Hamm in his nomination of Rubin for the MOH.
And when Hamm himself later lay fallen, it was Rubin who fought to go back for him when the first sergeant issued orders to leave him behind. "But we didn't know if he was dead," Rubin said. "All I could think about was that somebody back home was waiting for him to return." Rubin was pinned down by snipers and forced to low-crawl for several hundred yards when rescuing Hamm, whose body was so loaded with shrapnel that he could hardly lift a limb.
"Rubin not only saved my life by carrying me to safety; he kept the North Korean snipers off our butts," said Hamm.
When battle ended in Unsan, hundreds of Soldiers were taken prisoner by the Chinese. They were forced to march to a camp known today as "Death Valley," ill-dressed for winter's freezing temperatures, exhausted and hungry. Many of them grew sick with dysentery, pneumonia or hepatitis. Others died. "It was so cold that nobody wanted to move, and the food we got was barely enough to keep us alive," said former Sgt. Richard A. Whalen.
Update: Watch video of the ceremony here.
Our Memorial Day 2009 salute to the fallen continues. Originally from September, 2005, this two-part salute to a living hero of the Korean war is a reminder of those who fell in actual death camps - a term that's been much cheapened in recent years.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Corporal Tibor Rubin distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period from July 23, 1950, to April 20, 1953, while serving as a rifleman with Company I, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in the Republic of Korea. While his unit was retreating to the Pusan Perimeter, Corporal Rubin was assigned to stay behind to keep open the vital Taegu-Pusan Road link used by his withdrawing unit. During the ensuing battle, overwhelming numbers of North Korean troops assaulted a hill defended solely by Corporal Rubin. He inflicted a staggering number of casualties on the attacking force during his personal 24-hour battle, single-handedly slowing the enemy advance and allowing the 8th Cavalry Regiment to complete its withdrawal successfully. Following the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, the 8 th Cavalry Regiment proceeded northward and advanced into North Korea. During the advance, he helped capture several hundred North Korean soldiers. On October 30, 1950, Chinese forces attacked his unit at Unsan, North Korea, during a massive nighttime assault. That night and throughout the next day, he manned a .30 caliber machine gun at the south end of the unit's line after three previous gunners became casualties. He continued to man his machine gun until his ammunition was exhausted. His determined stand slowed the pace of the enemy advance in his sector, permitting the remnants of his unit to retreat southward. As the battle raged, Corporal Rubin was severely wounded and captured by the Chinese. Choosing to remain in the prison camp despite offers from the Chinese to return him to his native Hungary, Corporal Rubin disregarded his own personal safety and immediately began sneaking out of the camp at night in search of food for his comrades. Breaking into enemy food storehouses and gardens, he risked certain torture or death if caught. Corporal Rubin provided not only food to the starving Soldiers, but also desperately needed medical care and moral support for the sick and wounded of the POW camp. His brave, selfless efforts were directly attributed to saving the lives of as many as forty of his fellow prisoners. Corporal Rubin's gallant actions in close contact with the enemy and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.
See the video of the Medal of Honor ceremony here. (2009 Update: This video was deleted from the White House website by the Obama administration.)
Additional videos, including an interview with Tibor Rubin here.
Our previous entry detailing Corporal Rubin's heroic acts here.
Corporal Rubin's actions in Korea earned him four recommendations for the Medal of Honor. He was also nominated twice for the Distinguished Service Cross, and twice for the Silver Star. Had he received all those awards, he would have become the most decorated American veteran of the Korean War. But two Purple Hearts and a 100 percent disability were the only recognition he received - until now.
A look at "what took so long" here.
Name Hitchcock's most terrifying movie... Psycho? The Birds?
The liberation of Belsen was the first real wartime media event in the modern sense. The first correspondent on the ground was John D'Arcy- Dawson, the Sunday Times reporter, who arrived early enough to see the camp commander, Josef Kramer, led half-naked past his former inmates. The reporter watched as the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Taylor, turned to Kramer and spat to an interpreter: "Tell him that when he hangs I hope he hangs slowly." British officers did not usually talk like that in the presence of reporters.The film follows below.
Kramer did, indeed, hang -- some 70,000 inmates had died because of his neglect, incompetence or cruelty -- and the British-led trials of the Belsen staff were a revelation for the British public. It marked the beginning of an intense period of anti-German sentiment in Britain.
Correspondents poured into the camp. The Holocaust was on British kitchen tables. Army film units, with Alfred Hitchcock's involvement, produced stomach-curdling footage. The British at home, though battered, had no previous idea of how it looked to die of hunger. Some of the pictures emerging showed naked bodies with missing hearts and livers, clearly cannibalised.
Although later Auschwitz was to take the central position in the narrative of the Holocaust, it was Belsen that provided the most immediate, the most graphic account. "When I talk to ordinary Britons who were 10 or 8 at the time of Belsen," Dr Smith said, "they will often tell me: 'That was the day I grew up and realised the world was not a nice place.' "
Anne Frank, the Dutch schoolgirl, was the most prominent victim of Belsen, but the liberators and their accompanying press corps would also rise to prominence, ensuring that Belsen continued to shape the consciousness of a generation.
Note: this entry, originally from June 2005, is re-posted as part of Mudville's Memorial Day 2009 salute to the fallen. (Now, of course, Jules has a blog of his own.)
This isn't my story, let's set that straight right away. This one was sent to me by Jules Crittenden, a friend of Mudville and a reporter for the Boston Herald. But Jules didn't write it either, it's by his brother, an Army SNCO stationed here in Germany. It's their family's story, though by giving me permission to post it here I suppose it's everybody's story now. It transcends time and place, spans generations and continents, and I'm proud to be able to share it with you. I'm posting it in two parts. This first installment is background, and an amazing story of discovery. Like so many families who lost relatives in that distant time and place the Crittendens knew little more than a few basic facts; they had an uncle who was killed when his plane was shot down over Europe in 1941, and that's about it. I'm of the same age, so I grew up knowing little enough about details too. I could look through my parents' war time High School yearbooks and find tribute pages to those recent graduates who had fallen in Europe or Africa or somewhere in the Pacific. It was a small school, too, but a surprising number of names were on those lists.
"What happened to him?"
"Oh, he was killed in the war"
And that was that.
It was a small school, everyone knew everyone.
Repeat several hundred thousand times, and you have several hundred thousand stories, all worth telling, few ever told. Some can still be retrieved. It's never too late, as SFC Peter Crittenden is about to explain.
P. J. Crittenden
When I was very young my Dad told my brothers and I about our Uncle Philip who had died in the war in Europe. This meant nothing to me at the time, I was too young to understand the meaning of it all. It was just another of Life's mysteries; Uncle Philip died in the war. He was shot down. We accepted it and asked no further questions.
When I was a little older, as I began to develop a grasp of the great World War II, I asked my father what type of airplane Uncle Phil flew. "A Wellington bomber," he told me. I had never heard of a Wellington. Spitfires and Mustangs and B-17 Flying Fortresses I knew of, but I'd never heard of a Wellington. I looked it up in my big brother's book of world aircraft. It was an ugly looking thing, an ungainly behemoth. It looked like a sitting duck for a Messerschmidt; which, I later learned, was exactly what it was.
The Wellington was a pre-war model; a wooden frame covered in canvas, one of the precursors of modern aircraft design. By the time Uncle Phil was shot down in 1941 the Wellington already belonged in a museum.
In 1974 our family visited Canberra. At the Imperial War Museum my younger brother Jules located Uncle Phil's name inscribed within the dome. Years on, when I was living with my Grandfather in Melbourne, I came across Uncle Phil's wings, and the telegraph informing that he'd died in the war. It surprised me to see that his wings were Canadian Air Force insignia; I later learned that he'd trained in Saskatchewan before shipping over to Britain.
That's as much as we ever knew. The older generation never talked about it. It was the War, the Big One. A lot of people died, a lot of families lost more than we. Uncle Phil died in Europe, it was over; that was it.
Then last December an email arrived from brother Jules. He had put an ad on an R.A.F. Bomber Command website, seeking information. The reply was from a young man in Britain, James Fitzmaurice, the grandson of the sole survivor of the shootdown of Uncle Phil's plane. SGT P.G.E.A. Brown has since passed away, but he'd left behind a treasure trove of information.
We never knew there were any survivors; it never crossed our minds to even wonder. The fact that Uncle Phil had died so far away from home was a tremendous loss, overwhelming in and of itself. No questions were ever asked; we were just told about the telegraph, and accepted the lack of detail as part of the fog of war.
James Fitzmaurice sent us photos and diagrams scanned from the journal. There were maps of where the camps had been located, near Frankfurt, then northwest of Berlin, then Czechoslovakia, Poland, Lithuania, and finally near Hamburg. There was a photo of a Wellington IV and a photo of a Messerschmidt BF-110, the twin-engined nightfighter that shot down Uncle Phil's plane. There was even the name of the aircraft, the FU-D - "Wimpy IV", and their outfit; Royal Australian Air Force Squadron 458. It was a Commonwealth composite crew, an R.A.A.F. aircraft filled out with R.A.F. crewmen. Of course by this time it was more than Uncle Phil's plane; there were the names of the crew:
PILOT: Sergeant Peter John Maxwell Hamilton, R.A.F. (Killed In Action), age 22
CREW: Sergeant Philip George Crittenden R.A.A.F. (Killed In Action), age 20
Pilot/Officer David Kimber Fawkes, Observer, R.A.F. (Killed In Action), age 25
Sergeant Thomas Jackson, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, R.A.F. (Killed In Action), age 26
Sergeant Andrew Young Condie, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, R.A.F. (Killed In Action), age 23
Sergeant P.G.E.A. Brown, Air Gunner, R.A.F. (Prisoner of War)
There were photos of the crewmembers graves, in Belgium. There were photos of SGT Brown with the crew, standing by the tail gun of the Wellington, as he described shooting down a Messerschmidt ME-109 the previous night. Looking at this last photograph, on the screen of my laptop, was like looking through a time portal. I tried to distinguish which one was my Uncle Phil but I couldn't; they are all wearing the 1940s aviator's helmets, with their goggles up.
We're not sure if this is the crew of the FU-D - Uncle Phil's plane - or SGT Brown's previous crew, because he was just assigned to the FU-D the day they before they were shot down. Likewise, we don't know if the jacket insignia - "SATAN RIDES TONIGHT" - was the FU-D's nose art, or that of Brown's previous bomber. It really doesn't matter - these are relics directly from the event. What was significant was that we finally had the story, and the sensation was overwhelming.
On the evening of 20 October, 1941, at 1829 hours (6:29 pm), Wellington IV FU-D took off from R.A.F. Base Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, Yorkshire. It was 458 Squadron's first operation, a part of a larger air raid; the target was possibly Bremen, or perhaps Antwerp. The flight consisted of 82 Hampden's, 48 Wellington's, 15 Stirlings and 8 Manchester's. FU-D's target was Mont-sur-Marchienne, directly south of Charleroi, Belgium.
Six hours later, at around 0030 hours in the morning, 21 October, 1941, Wellington IV FU-D was shot down by a German Messerschmidt BF-110 nightfighter.
Fitzmaurice's grandfather, Sergeant P.G.E.A. Brown, was the tailgunner. Because of his position in the tail he was able to escape by turning the turret around to the right, and with the door facing outside he jumped and "hit the silk".
The rest of the crew didn't make it; they are buried in Charleroi, Belgium. SGT Crittenden had the dubious distinction of being the first Australian serving in Bomber Command to be killed flying with an R.A.A.F. squadron.
SGT Brown landed safely although the exact location is not known. He was picked up by the free French (French resistance) and was dressed up as a mute Belgian Farmer, and was passed through the French resistance until he was turned in at the last post to German forces.
SGT Brown went on to establish a career as a POW escape artist; he escaped five or six times, each time being re-captured within a couple of days and sent to camps further east, in (now) Czech Republic, Poland, and Lithuania. During the time he was a POW, Brown kept a journal, which he somehow managed to hang on to throughout his entire three-year ordeal.
P. J. Crittenden
31 May 2005
Greyhawk here: That was part one of the story, part two will follow tomorrow. Reading it led me to seek out more information on the Wellington Bomber.
Here's a picture of one, pre-mission:
Here's one flying a mission:
And here's one on the ground, its mission done:
As SFC Crittenden said: The Wellington was a pre-war model; a wooden frame covered in canvas, one of the precursors of modern aircraft design. By the time Uncle Phil was shot down in 1941 the Wellington already belonged in a museum.
But they kept 'em flying. Mostly. Here's a story of another from 1941 (source of the photo above). Here's one from 1942, and here's one from 1943. The Wellington was used until the end of the war, and actually only two survive in museums today.
Canvas stretched on a frame, thousands of feet above Germany, through flak from below and Messerschmidts from above. A far cry from today's endless discussion of the Army's failure to armor every Humvee.
(Part two of this story is here)
Note: this entry, originally from June 2005, is re-posted as part of Mudville's Memorial Day 2009 salute to the fallen.
This is the conclusion of Generations, by SFC Peter J. Crittenden, US Army Special Forces, currently serving in Germany. Part one of the story is here.
Pete's brother Jules Crittenden writes:
As Pete mentioned, we don't know a lot about Phil. He had a literary bent like a few of us in this family and was getting his start as a reporter, freelancing for small newspapers, when the war came along and he enlisted. He was the eldest of four sons, raised in a string of pubs his old man owned at different times in Melbourne and several country towns in Victoria. He played the piano. He was a sleepwalker as a kid, and broke his ankle falling out a second story window. Phil didn't have much luck with night flights.The Crittenden's story is everyone's story now, because a small group of people from all over the world have made sure it won't be forgotten.
I have an old leather-bound copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Kayyam, returned with Phil's effects. It is inscribed "To Philip, on your 80th.'' Presumeably a joke when he turned 20. He didn't make 21. As is the case with a lot of families of our generation, his absence is something that can never be fully measured, not just one person we never knew, who died violently for all of us and lies in a foreign place, but also those he might have brought into the world and the things he might have done with his life.
My father tried to enlist while still underage, but his father, distraught over the loss of his eldest, refused to sign the papers. So my father went to work in the shipyard at Williamstown, repairing ships that came in from the Pacific War and taking them out on sea trials. Once there, they wouldn't let him leave. It was a vital industry. This may well be the reason Pete, myself and our brothers are here today. All of this on one family's loss in a long-ago war only serves to underscore the nature of sacrifice for all of them, past and present, and the importance of remebrance. Thanks again for posting our family's story.
P. J. Crittenden
I'm stationed in Germany so there was no question; I would go and visit the graves in Belgium. I contacted the Fitzmaurice family and we made a plan to link up in Charleroi on May 30, which is American Memorial Day. I explained the whole incredible story to my wife and children. Our two daughters, ages eight and nine, struggled to grasp the meaning of it all, the same as I had when I first learned about Uncle Phil. "Oh, he died... ...Oh..."
Our excursion took on the atmosphere of a holiday outing. It was Memorial Day; we were hitting the road like Americans do every year. We loaded up the VW Turbo Diesel Passat wagon and headed her down the mighty German Autobahn at an average speed of one hundred miles per hour. Next stop, Belgium! I told the kids we'd have chocolate-coated Brussels sprouts on waffles for dinner!
Arriving in Charleroi was a deja-vu unlike any other I'd experienced. Perhaps it was the extensive map-recon and the photos I'd looked over; the place was just as I'd imagined. A small city, a ring road, some dilapidated mining apparatus to the south and viola, we were at out hotel. While Wife and Kids got settled in I went in search of the cemetery.
There was some confusion. James Fitzmaurice had described the cemetery as being at Florennes. I believe this confusion comes from the R.A.F. Bomber Command website; the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website describes the cemetery as Charleroi Communal Cemetary and gives clear directions. This did not make navigating the maze-like back streets of Charleroi any easier, but I found the place after interrogating a few natives and stretching my grasp of the French language to the limits.
Everyone I spoke to made me as an American right away (I don't know how because my French is impeccable pied-noir). One of the locals told me how much he loved the American military, how happy his mother was on June 6th when the Allies landed, how much she laughed and jumped up and down. What do you say when somebody tells you something like this, shaking your hand and not letting you go? It's a great honor; they haven't forgotten, they will never forget.
Charleroi Communal Cemetery is a traditional European graveyard, something out of a Victor Hugo novel. Large family sepulchers featuring urns, statues of angels, and obelisks, spread out as far as the eye can see. There is a huge monument to the local war dead from 1914-1981; you go down into it and there are the crypts. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission sector lies in a little corner to the left as you enter the main gate. There are 333 graves there, mostly from the First World War, or as the Belge call it, "la Guerre de quatorze/diz-huit." The Commonwealth section stands quite out from the dark, gray civil tombs beyond; the sun shines on the white marble headstones surrounded by a carpet green, green lawn, neatly mowed.
The crew of FU-D are buried all in a row, up against the cemetery wall, next to the Great Cross which is a feature of every Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery I have ever visited. I found Uncle Phil's grave right away.
Sergeant P.G. Crittenden Royal Australian Air Force 20th October 1941, age 20
Loved Eldest Son
of G.W. and B.A. Crittenden
of Melbourne, Australia
There was a strange feeling, of course, as I knelt and looked at his grave. Beyond just seeing my own surname on a headstone in such a far away land; I was looking across the generations, across a vast gulf of time, at the monument of someone I had never known, someone who was loved by those who loved me.
When I first told my father I was going to visit his brother's grave in Belgium, his comment was, "I don't know what on Earth you're going there for." I've long learned to accept this sort of attitude from my Dad. It's a thing his generation seems to have about the past sometimes, a sort of denial, like a delayed stress thing about the war; that sort of thing haunts you for life. Later, after I returned from Belgium, I called Dad and told him about the inscription. I sensed a wonder in his voice. "An inscription," he said, "What do you know? So they did it right..."
* * *
The next day, Sunday, we were to meet with the family of SGT Brown; the Fitzmaurice's. I stressed to Wife and Kids that this was not a funeral, that the funeral had been conducted sixty four years ago; this was a memorial, and we weren't to get all worked up and over-emotional. Stiff upper lip, English blood runs cold, that sort of thing. I put on my uniform because it seemed the right thing to do. The little girls wanted to handle the wreath; they were very concerned about how to do it right.
SFC Peter J. Crittenden, with his daughters Charlotte (L) and Amanda.
We waited at the cemetery while the Fitzmaurice's made their way from the UK via the Channel tunnel. While Wife and Kids read all the inscriptions on the headstones, an ancient Belgian gentleman came up to me and told me of his adventures during the war; how he'd been a refugee, he and his family went to France. The French vaccinated him, and his vaccination became infected all up and down his left side so that he couldn't get on the boat to England, and how he eventually ended up a forced laborer for the Germans. He even had photographs to back up his story. The old man couldn't stop shaking my hand, telling me how great the Americans were, how great the Allies were, how much he loved us. We spoke for the better part of two hours. Funny thing with the French language, how it grows on you after a couple of days incountry; I understood every single word he said.
And then the Fitzmaurice's arrived. Wonderful people, a lovely family. Young James was the star of the show, of course, because it was his endeavors that had helped bring our families together at the graves of the crew of the FU-D. He had brought the items his grandfather had saved; the POW journal, photographs, badges of rank, insignia, and the incredible SATAN RIDES TONIGHT logo from the leather flying jacket. It was all so overwhelming.
Then one of those moments came where everyone looks at me because I'm the tallest, I'm the guy in uniform, and I realized it was time to say something. As verbose as I am I always choke when I'm put on the spot, but this was a historic moment for all of our families so I had to deliver.
I told them we were very grateful, that our family was so very thankful that they had all this information about our Uncle Phil and thankful that they'd come to honor the dead crewmen with us. I told them how the family of Peter Hamilton had been in touch, and that they were looking forward to hearing about the visit to Charleroi. I said how we had known nothing, nothing, for so very long; how it had been a great emptiness in the story of our family and now, thanks to them, our Uncle Phil was back with us again, in a way, forever.
In the middle of a speech like this you learn how to look away at the right moment, to time your phrases to keep from losing it. I looked to the sun shining down on this hot day.
Uncle Phil wrote this poem when he was in flight school in Saskatchewan, and it was printed in the local paper there:
The Two Australians
Their's was to die with laugher in their hearts,
In a clean land, fresh blown by snow-kissed wind,
Made sweet by early spring and sun.
This was their stage then, this their last sports field.
Their eyes made brave in southern lands
Had not yet looked on Death -and yet-
They chose that which was Death's playmate
And blithely played him out.
Some fool-made query- "such a pity 'twas so young."
They had not shirked, complained, nor asked
For aught but what their day might bring;
They held a pride within their hearts,
Australian pride, and strength of England's strain.
They died -'twas seemly so- their blood
Enriched the ground on which it fell;
They won't begrudge - their heads are in the sky.
He signed it "From a Comrade". He could have been writing about his own crew.
P. J. Crittenden
31 May 2005
2005-06-03 22:24:15All done!
On January 16, 1942, Lombard, who had just finished her 57th film, To Be or Not to Be, was on a tour to sell war bonds when the twin-engine DC-3 she was traveling in crashed into a mountain near Las Vegas, killing all aboard.
In 1942, following Lombard's death, Gable joined the U.S. Army Air Forces. Before her death, Lombard had suggested Gable enlist as part of the war effort, but MGM was obviously reluctant to let him go, and until her death he resisted the suggestion. Gable made a public statement after Lombard's death that prompted Commanding General of the AAF Henry H. Arnold to offer Gable a "special assignment" in aerial gunnery. Gable, despite earlier expressing an interest in officer candidate school (OCS), enlisted on August 12, 1942, with the intention of becoming an enlisted gunner on an air crew. MGM arranged for his studio friend, cinematographer Andrew McIntyre, to enlist with and accompany him through training.
However shortly after his enlistment he and McIntyre were sent to Miami Beach, Florida, where they entered USAAF OCS Class 42-E on August 17, 1942. Both completed training on October 28, 1942, commissioned as second lieutenants. His class of 2,600 fellow students (of which he ranked 700th in class standing) selected Gable as their graduation speaker, at which General Arnold presented them their commissions. Arnold then informed Gable of his special assignment, to make a recruiting film in combat with the Eighth Air Force to recruit gunners. Gable and McIntyre were immediately sent to Flexible Gunnery School at Tyndall Field, Florida, followed by a photography course at Fort George Wright, Washington, and promoted to first lieutenants upon completion.
Gable reported to Biggs Air Force Base on January 27, 1943, to train with and accompany the 351st Bomb Group to England as head of a six-man motion picture unit. [Link]
Another Mudville Memorial Day Weekend movie below:
Memorial Day weekend is a great time to join.
A Mudville Midnight* Movie for Memorial Day weekend...
*or whenever you happen to watch it...
Gustafson outlasted an estimated 100 Taliban fighters despite his badly wounded right leg, Gates said.
“With his right leg in shreds, Corporal Gustafson kept firing, and as a result, in his words, ‘We didn’t lose a single Marine,’” the secretary said.
The Navy Cross was pinned on his chest by Lt. Col. John M. Reed, the commanding officer of 2/7, and meritorious corporal chevrons to his collar by Maj. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser and Sgt. Maj. Randall Carter, the commanding general and sergeant major of 1st Marine Division, at a ceremony held March 27 at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Grey Field. The ceremony included speeches from his former and current commanding officers.“Anyone I served with would have done the same,” said the Eagan, IL native. “Heck, if it wasn’t for everyone else out there, I wouldn’t have made it.”
Gustafson accepted his medal at a perfect position of attention, despite missing his right leg below the knee. His entire battalion was in attendance as well as Marines from across the nation, former service members, family and friends.
According to eyewitness accounts, Gustafson’s actions that fateful day in July 2008 met and exceeded the requirements for a Navy Cross.
On July 21 Gustafson was manning the turret of the lead vehicle, a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP, during a four-vehicle mounted patrol riding through the streets of Shewan, Afghanistan.
That’s when things got ugly.
Here's the rest of the story.
"Any soldier who goes into battle against the Taliban in pink boxers and flip flops has a special kind of courage."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
Previously: What's better for combat: Boxers or Briefs?
I'm kidding about "Obama lied" - but that's an actual NBC photo caption.
The Steelers and the Obama administration used their time together to create 3,000 care packages for U.S. troops as part of a Wounded Warriors initiative.So good for them.
And if you were wondering, last season's #44 for Pittsburgh was Najeh Davenport:
Prior to entering the NFL, Davenport allegedly defecated in the laundry basket of a Barry University woman in her dorm room on April 1, 2002. In a plea bargain, his felony charge of second-degree burglary and misdemeanor count of criminal mischief were dropped in exchange for his completing 100 hours of community service.
After joining the Steelers, Davenport was given the nicknames "Dookie" and "The Dump Truck," both plays on the Barry University Incident.
On October 12, 2007, Davenport was charged in Cleveland with domestic violence, child endangering, and unlawful restraint in an incident involving the mother of his five-year-old son. He entered a plea of not guilty days later and the case went to trial on April 4, 2008. After a four-day trial, an eight-member jury spent three and a half hours deliberating before finding Davenport not guilty of all counts.
Update - the rest of the story: Besides the Steelers, "50 Wounded Warriors from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center and their families" were invited to the White House to join with the USO to assemble care packages for troops. Guess that part didn't fit the NBC story.
For years they've been Bob Hopeless, but now "Vice President’s Visit Boosts Soldiers’ Morale".
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo, May 21, 2009 – Vice President Joe Biden offered heartfelt thanks to the troops at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, noting that their service gives them a rare opportunity to be able to tell future generations what it was like when the Balkans became part of a free Europe.No word on whether he landed under fire.
Biden visited the troops at Camp Bondsteel to boost soldiers’ morale and show support for the Kosovo Force mission.
And here's your morale-boosting Biden quote of the day: “Here in Kosovo, you protect the innocent; you protected innocents decade ago, and now you're providing Kosovars the security they need, and the space they need, to build an independent, democratic, and most importantly multi-ethnic state.”
Remember that this Memorial Day weekend as you honor the fallen from America's wars: "multi-ethnic" is more important than independent or democratic.
...is apparently more than just soup, eaten with a knife.
So this must be some sort of food pyramid...
While watching this video on the opening of a new power plant in Iraq I noticed the appearance if U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill.
As near as I can tell, that story went virtually unnoticed in mainstream news. (Yes - I missed it too, but I don't pretend to closely track the State Department here.) Obviously it's not front-page banner headline material, but if you ever find yourself debating someone as to whether the Iraq surge was successful or not, ask your opponent who the "top general" and ambassador to Iraq are. If they respond "Petraeus and Crocker" you can rest your case.
De-constructing a report on Rumsfeld at the Daily Howler - where Rumsfeld has few fans:
Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld destroyed the known world, with plenty of help from Powell/Rice/Wilkerson. If you have to embellish to make a case against these guys, you should exit the case-making business.Once at the link you'll need to scroll down a bit to find the 'unbearable vagueness' header; I urge you to do so. All too often pundits on any side of an issue are quick to latch on to "news" that supports their position. The author of this piece recognizes that the practice says less about the subject (or the issue) and more about the credibility of his critics. Providing a detailed examination of the technique used (especially since it's often used) is a service worthy of praise.
Of course, embellishment can sell magazines—and it mightily pleases the demo.
J.D. Johannes: A Strategy Only President Obama Can Deploy. "President Obama's relationship with the media," says J.D., "will allow him to do what his predecessor could not--engage in the media battlespace."
True. By 2007 it was far too late - if it was ever possible after early 2003 - for his predecessor to engage. J.D. writes that the success of the Surge was becoming obvious in late 2007 - a point on which I agree. But review media accounts from that summer and you might draw a different conclusion - as did so many who experienced those same accounts when they were "news".
But J.D. and I were somewhat insulated from the potential negative impact of that media coverage. We were in Iraq at the time. Though we weren't too far away from one another, we never actually met. Until the milblogs conference in D.C. this year.
We met by chance in front of the hotel one night, each returning from wherever and determined to call it a night. It was late already, but we started talking and somehow started talking about being in Iraq for the surge and our attempts to tell the folks back home what was happening in Iraq during the surge and before we knew it, it was very late. After all, there was much to be said. Those were epic times, and in the entire world there are a handful of us who could have had that conversation and we're generally not in the same places at the same time these days.
One conclusion I've drawn: what we knew and what we learned in those days would matter more in the future than it did then or does now.
You probably haven't heard much about the efforts of the Global Islamic Media Front - al Qaeda's "public relations" team. The group is well known to those who monitor terrorist web sites, but rarely reported on by the mainstream media. (Although the group's recent release of a video game in which the player's goal is to kill President Bush did get some coverage in the Washington Post.)January, 2007
But another recent effort from the group won't likely be reported anywhere in the western media - at least not directly. Titled "Working Paper for a Media Invasion of America", the recently translated document was originally posted on a known jihaddist web site, but has received scant public attention from it's target audience.
And in that we see both the political savvy and naiveté of the Global Islamic Media Front. They recognize the advantage - and relative ease - of turning as many Americans against their President as they can (dividing the enemy into opposing camps to be eliminated in turn being a primary goal of effective propaganda) but fail to grasp the idea that this requires no effort on their part whatsoever. Still - you can't blame them for being willing to accelerate the process, or contribute to the cause.
There's nothing shocking or earth shattering here - except perhaps an actual exoneration for mainstream media outlets that may have previously been accused of conspiring with the enemy. Many close observers and participants in the war on terror have accused the media of touting terrorist propaganda for years. But the Global Islamic Media Front, in calling for an actual organized effort to that end, has demonstrated that any such apparent cooperation prior to this publication has been purely coincidental.
KURTZ: Pam Hess, has the sending of 20,000 additional troops gotten a fair hearing in the media or has it gotten caught up in this wrenching, emotional debate about whether the war itself was a mistake?October, 2007:
PAM HESS: I think it's gotten caught up about it, and the debate about it is actually all wrong. What reporters know and what Martha says is that 20,000 really isn't that big -- isn't that big a jump. We're at 132,000 right now. It's going to put us even less that we had going in going across the line.
What we're not asking is actually the central question. We're getting distracted by the shiny political knife fight. What we need to be asking is, what happens if we lose? And no one will answer that question. If we lose, how are we going to mitigate the consequences of this?
It's so much easier for us to cover this as a political horse race. It's on the cover of "The New York Times" today, what this means for the '08 election. But we're not asking the central national security question, because it seems that if as a reporter you do ask the national security question, all of a sudden you're carrying Bush's water. There are national security questions at stake, and we're ignoring them and the country is getting screwed.
Howard Kurtz : I believe that these newscasts in 2005 and 2006 played the biggest single role in helping to turn public opinion against the war."More to follow... but now go read J.D. All done!
Chris Cuomo: "And I think you really have a unique brand of intelligence in this book about this. It's easy to say, 'Oh, well. The war was unpopular. People were looking for the unpopularity of it. At some point, the networks gave that to them.' But you have a more penetrating look at it. You take a look at it in terms of the role of the nightly newscasts in shaping the ideas about the news, even though we had the internet, even though we had the cables upon us at that time. Why do you believe that?"
Kurtz: "Well, we're drowning in information but somebody has to sort it out. So, when it came to the war, despite enormous pressure from the administration that said to the media, 'You folks in the media are being too negative. You're distorting the picture.' We had brave correspondents bringing us the carnage night after night, into our living rooms, what was going none Iraq. And you had the anchors framing the story in such a way that it really punched through.
A Mike Yon photo essay on a helo night ride over Baghdad.
I've taken a few such rides myself, they do inspire the inner wordsmith.
Look at the horizon in this photo (there's a larger version at Mike's). The blur is from the lights below illuminating the layer of smog and dust a few hundred feet aloft. That layer isn't really "in the distance" - the helo is probably in it. It's neither dense nor thick in vertical extent - stand on the ground and look upward on most nights and you won't see it - you'll see through it to the stars above. But if you're in it and gazing through the horizontal it will be noticeable as that increasing blur with distance. On a bad night it can trouble even the sharpest eyed pilot. Fortunately, as with the unrestricted upward view, the view to the surface (and all the possible hazards thereon) is less obscured.
More fun with science: once the desert sun sets the earth begins to cool. But warm air rises, and the air that slowly baked near the surface all day lifts but becomes trapped beneath the same inversion that traps the dust and sand and smog visible in that photo. Those who've flown a few night time missions can tell you what it's like to launch from almost tolerable 80-90 degree surface heat and feel the temperature increase with altitude, to eventually rediscover the 100+ Fahrenheit environment waiting for you to rejoin it just a few hundred feet above the ground.
And oh - did I mention the wind? Ask an OH58 pilot about that if you should ever meet one...
I took a night flight from FOB Kalsu to Victory Base in early July, 2007 - rode in the back of a Chinook over the "Triangle of Death" at the time of some of the heaviest fighting ("frequent kinetic ops", for you kewl kidz) of the surge. The ramp was open; silhouetted against the stars I saw the second of the two-ship formation following. I was sitting next to one of the gunners, he was alert and scanning below (much as Mike describes in his post); I could turn my head (while staying out of his way) and enjoy much of the same view. Below us the surface was well lit by the lights of the towns along the way.
That was July, 2007. Though just published, Mike's photos are from November, 2008. "I'd planned to do a series of embeds," says Mike, "but Army admin hassles caused me to leave Iraq and head to Afghanistan." I wondered why he'd left so soon at the time. But I'd also wondered - back in the summer of 2007 and reminded now looking at images from 2008 - at the number of lights in a country where reportedly electricity was available only a few hours of every day. Too many to be explained by personal generators - perhaps my flight just so happened to coincide with those hours. If that's a question it's one for which I have no answer.
All I can say is that in one of the worst times and places in Iraq there were more than a few lights shining in the darkness.
Stolen from our good friend MaryAnn:
There are still eight slots available to Army patients for participation in this study. The other service branches have filled their quota.
If you or anyone you know was injured while serving in the Army and is experiencing either or PTSD and/or TBI, please pass this on!LSUHSC to conduct study of hyperbaric treatment for TBI & PTSD
Dr. Paul Harch, an LSU Health Sciences Center emergency medicine professor, has been treating TBI with hyperbaric oxygen for 19 years and is starting a pilot study for vets with chronic TBI and PTSD.
The study will examine 30 participants, half with TBI and half with TBI and PTSD.
Round trip airfare to New Orleans will be provided to all veterans approved for the study. Depending on branch of service, housing and meals are free or at highly discounted rates.
For more information or to find out if you qualify, call 504-309-1445 or 504-309-4948
...damned if you don't.
Al Jazeera TV:
Though a discussion about what to do with the Bibles was captured on video, Pentagon officials said the end result that the Bibles were not distributed but confiscated by the chaplain -- which is not shown in the footage.CBN:
"A documentary filmmaker was allowed onto Bagram last May to shoot footage of religious sessions involving troops," the Pentagon said. "He recorded a session where a participant displayed Bibles translated into Dari and Pashto that had been sent to him by his church back home. After a discussion of how or if they should be distributed, the chaplain running the service reaffirmed Gen. Order No. 1 and the Bibles were not distributed and were confiscated."
As to the Lt. Col. Hensley urging his congregation to hunt people for Jesus, the Pentagon official said the chaplain was speaking in general terms and not urging them to go out into Afghanistan to convert locals. [Link]
This story hasn't received much attention but it caught the eye of The Brody File. The Pentagon has confiscated a stack of Bibles sent to an Evangelical soldier in Afghanistan. The Bibles were printed in the local Pashto and Dari languages. Military rules forbid proselytizing. By the way, the Bibles were burned because the rules on the base say that all garbage is burned at the end of the day. But just asking here; if the U.S. Military seized a stack full of Korans, would they be burned? You think that might cause a little outrage in the Muslim world? [Link]
Frank Rich/NY Times:
There are many dots yet to be connected, and not just on torture. This Sunday, GQ magazine is posting on its Web site an article adding new details to the ample dossier on how Donald Rumsfeld’s corrupt and incompetent Defense Department cost American lives and compromised national security.Response:
Draper’s biggest find is a collection of daily cover sheets that Rumsfeld approved for the Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Update, a highly classified digest prepared for a tiny audience, including the president, and often delivered by hand to the White House by the defense secretary himself. These cover sheets greeted Bush each day with triumphal color photos of the war headlined by biblical quotations.GQ is posting 11 of them, and they are seriously creepy. [Link]
The suggestion that Rumsfeld would have composed, approved of, or personally shown the slides to President Bush is flat wrong. It did not happen.Perhaps soon the Huffington Post will interview the Pope on Rumsfeld's denial of Christ.
Given that Draper used anonymous sources for this charge as well as for the rest of the innuendo in his piece, one would think he might have at least done a cursory review of the facts. He might then have avoided being taken by people with an axe grind. When Draper goes back and checks reality against his reporting, he might also check whether GQ is in need of a new gossip columnist. [Link]
Good stuff, John:
He adds, "Those bills that include a website in red are being pushed by various veterans groups for passage and by clicking on that website you can forward a preformatted message to your legislator requesting he/she support the bill."
I joined in on the blogger roundtable last week...
Robert Hale, undersecretary of Defense, comptroller and chief financial officer discussed President Obama's Department of Defense fiscal year 2010 budget submission of $664 million to Congress with online journalists and bloggers during a DoDLive Bloggers RoundtableIt occurred to me immediately before asking my first question that no one else on line was going to ask anything about the personnel part of the budget - the largest growing slice of the pie in comparison to the previous year. So I switched my question at the last minute. I knew the answer to my first part, but for the second part honestly thought I was giving him an opportunity to address some specific improvements in personnel programs he might enjoy sharing. (Yes - I knowingly threw a softball.) Anyhow, here's how that went...
Q The biggest growth, looks like, from 2009 to 2010 is in military personnel. Is that a significant reflection of increasing the size of the force, or are there other programs that are increasing? And if so, what are some of the success stories from that part of it?Fair enough. That Army "now at target end strength" bit will make an interesting lead-in to any future stop-loss discussion, but that isn't in the budget guy's lane. The rest of the questions were a bit tougher, coming from folks better prepared on details than I. (For my second shot I went for something that I didn't anticipate would actually be answered. Short version: "This is going up Capitol Hill. And what comes down might look somewhat different from what went up. But is there anything in particular within this budget that is considered both vulnerable and critical, that you would not want to see transformed as it makes its way through the halls of Congress?" - but I wanted to hear how it wasn't answered.) The full transcript and audio are here - I've also included the audio below.
MR. HALE: Well, you hit the biggest reason. We've been expanding both the Army and the Marine Corps. They are now at their target end strengths, and that is fully funded in this budget. And we've also halted the growth in the Navy and the Air Force. They were declining in size, and we have stopped that decline given the needs for personnel. So that is a major reason.
There was also -- and it sounds like you're all pretty well tuned in, so if -- but if I'm using jargon that's not helpful, tell me -- we call it supp-to-base transition. As you know, we've been submitting -- or have had some of our personnel costs in the supplementals. We are now moving toward all of our personnel costs being funded in the base budget. So that also caused some of the growth in personnel.
To my mind, it's a good-news story. We believe that we have fully funded the military personal (sic) accounts for fiscal year '10, consistent with the larger Army and Marine Corps, and halting the declines in the Navy and the Air Force. So I think it's a good-news story.
And here's the wrap:
LT. CMDR. SANDOZ: Okay. And thank you all. I think we've had some great questions and comments today. As we wrap up today's call, I'd like to ask Mr. Hale if he's got any final comments.Thank you sir - we'll keep an eye out for specific success stories on that "taking care of people" part.
MR. HALE: Well, thank you. I'll just repeat what I said before, and that is, we are trying to make significant changes in the Department of Defense. This is, in my view, a reform budget and, as I mentioned before, I think, qualifies in my 30-so years of experience of a handful that really are reform budgets, and both in terms of reshaping toward more regular and unconventional war and also changes in the way we buy equipment and services.
And the one other theme I would emphasize -- we didn't touch on it too much here, but it's probably the most important one -- not probably, both the secretary and chairman have said it's the most important -- is taking care of our people. We need to maintain the all-volunteer force. It's a stressful environment with two wars going on, as well as taking care of our civilian personnel.
So all of those themes are important. I hope, as you write about them, you will at least say I believe this is a reform budget and that those three themes are key.
...can result in real death.
Accusation's that U.S. military members assassinated Benazir Bhutto aren't the first such allegations built on the foundation of Seymour Hersh's fable of "Dick Cheney's Death Squads" - and Hersh isn't the only "credible" source providing fodder for world-wide conspiracy theorists. They should be the last. They won't be.
Former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on the orders of the special death squad formed by former US vice-president Dick Cheney, which had already killed the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafique Al Hariri and the army chief of that country.More news from Pakistan:
The squad was headed by General Stanley McChrystal, the newly-appointed commander of US army in Afghanistan. It was disclosed by reputed US journalist Seymour Hersh while talking to an Arab TV in an interview.
US journalist Seymour Hersh on Monday contradicted news reports being published in South Asia that quote him as saying a “special death squad” made by former US vice president Dick Cheney had killed Benazir Bhutto. The award-winning journalist described as “complete madness” the reports that the squad headed by General Stanley McChrystal – the new commander of US army in Afghanistan – had also killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafique Al Hariri and a Lebanese army chief. “Vice president Cheney does not have a death squad. I have no idea who killed Mr Hariri or Mrs Bhutto,” Hersh said.Hersh offers this warning about quoting him: “This is another example of blogs going bonkers with misleading and fabricated stories and professional journalists repeating such rumours without doing their job – and that is to verify such rumours.” That's true - for a previous example of professional journalists using Hersh stories without fact checking them see "Abu Ghraib": When Hersh was caught lying on video regarding that story he was quick to walk it back, too: “I actually didn’t quite say what I wanted to say correctly,” Hersh now says. “It wasn’t that inaccurate, but it was misstated. The next thing I know, it was all over the blogs.”
Translation: "I'm a liar, and if you repeat what I say without fact-checking me I'll call you a liar too."
Funny, in a way. But far away from the comforting embrace of home, Seymour's fevered mouth actually will get Americans - and those he inspires to fight them - killed.
Much of the "Dick Cheney's executive assassination ring" story can be traced back to a Hersh speaking event in March:
"Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us."Keith Olbermann was on the story in no time flat:
Hersh‘s bombshell allegations about the assassination ring, the result of reporting for a book he says might be still a year or two away from being published. Hersh is telling MinnPost.com in an email after the event, that the disclosures are, quote, “not something he wanted to dwell about in public.”For added "authority" he called in Newsweek magazine's Howard Fineman to participate in the hyperventilation:
The toothpaste, however, is already out of the proverbial tube here.
First, we‘ll call in our own Howard Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine, who‘s book, “The Thirteen American Arguments” has just been released in paperback.CNN ran with the story, too - and "progressive" blogs followed soon after.
Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If Sy Hersh alleges here, the vice president, the former vice president and a covert assassination ring operated without talking to the CIA, how exactly would the CIA be in the position to call Mr. Hersh‘s reporting “utter nonsense”?
FINEMAN: Well, moreover, Keith, if there a—if there in fact is such a thing as Seymour Hersh‘s reporting seems to indicate and the CIA was kept in the dark about it, the last thing they would want to do right now is admit it. So, either way, they don‘t have an interest in confirming no matter what they know at this point.
In checking around in the intelligence community today, I can say this, you know, Seymour Hersh is somebody they respect.
OLBERMANN: . just because we might not be surprised by what Mr. Hersh is alleging, I mean, people who look at Dick Cheney would say, well, yes, that sounds plausible if it isn‘t actually true—should that make this revelation any less shocking or if true any less egregious and essentially terrifying to the nature of the democracy?
FINEMAN: Well, depressing is another word I would use and infuriating. If it pans out, if when Sy‘s book comes out, it‘s all there - because it would be of a piece with the picture that‘s emerging. “We became what we beheld,” to use a phrase from a great movie called “The Untouchables.” And I think it‘s clear in the days right after 9/11 that, especially Vice President Cheney and he managed to convince George W. Bush, and maybe he didn‘t need a whole lot of convincing, that secrecy and really, lawlessness was the way to go in the early days.
And rather than focus on catching Osama bin Laden, to use another phrase, they didn‘t let a good crisis go to waste. And they used the atmosphere of crisis after 9/11 for all kinds of aggregation of power—accumulating power in the executive and really within the vice president‘s office in a way that we haven‘t seen outside of declared wartime and even there, with more strictures than were the case here.
OLBERMANN: Could this report or report of a report—since he doesn‘t have anything on this yet other than his allegation—could it possibly put some muscle, some steam behind the truth commission that Senator Leahy is calling for, but a truth commission that would allow for the necessity of prosecutions? Because if this is true, you have to prosecute this, there‘s no way around this.
Today, CNN interviewed Hersh and former Cheney national security aide John Hannah. Although he expressed regret for revealing the story (calling it a “dumb-dumb”), Hersh stood by his initial statements. “I’m sorry, Wolf, I have a lot of problems with it,” he said about the assassination scheme:Note that here Hersh took his story one step further - claiming the authority to "whack" someone was delegated to troops in the field.HERSH: I know for sure…the idea that we have a unit that goes around, without reporting to Congress… and has authority from the President to go into the country without telling the CIA station chief or the ambassador and whack somebody. … You’ve delegated authority to troops in the field to hit people on the basis of whatever intelligence they think is good.
That was two months ago - time enough for Hersh's remarks to be almost forgotten in America but also to have spread around the world. It should surprise no one then that this week's "news" isn't the first time the conspiracy theory-hungry Middle Eastern media have run with the ball. Here's a translation of an al Manar (Lebanon) television report citing a Russian TV interview with another "investigative journalist" on the topic:
Dick Cheney, the name that always pops up whenever there is talk about a serious crime someplace in the world. Well, Cheney had his own death squad CIA unit which he ran from the white house. By Cheney's orders, the assassinations unit killed former Lebanese minister and Lebanese Forces chief Elie Hobeika on the 24th of January 2002 and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on the 14th of March 2005, prominent investigative journalist Wayne Madsen said. Madsen who is known for his close ties with active circles in the CIA, was speaking to the Russia Today television when he revealed that the same squad that had assassinated Hobeika in coordination with former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon's office, had also assassinated Hariri.Nice for Hersh that blogs reported the major media coverage of his comments - so that now he can blame them all for not "investigating" what he said. The rest of us can only hope al Manar viewers have more well-developed personal truth filters (aka "bullshit detectors") than Keith Olbermann's; that readers of news in Pakistan can process information with a bit more discretion than Newsweek subscribers. Because while Olbermann fans might be satisfied with the thrill of merely demanding "Truth Commissions" to validate their fantasies, overseas victims of this fraud have other targets closer to home. Here's more of Hersh's original comment:
"Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.And as he made clear on CNN, authorized to "whack" on their own.
"It’s complicated because the guys doing it are not murderers, and yet they are committing what we would normally call murder. It’s a very complicated issue. Because they are young men that went into the Special Forces. The Delta Forces you’ve heard about. Navy Seal teams. Highly specialized.
He's used to tossing that sort of stuff out without being questioned. Here's Hersh quoted in 2006 on American troops in Iraq:
If Americans knew the full extent of U.S. criminal conduct, they would receive returning Iraqi veterans as they did Vietnam veterans, Hersh said.Of course, if he wanted to Hersh could point to other "authoritative" sources. Those sources aren't limited to fraudulent "Iraq Veterans Against War" members, either. Here's Iraq vet (and "veterans group" founder) Jon Soltz writing in the Huffington Post on U.S. Army Rangers in Afghanistan:
“In Vietnam, our soldiers came back and they were reviled as baby killers, in shame and humiliation,” he said. “It isn’t happening now, but I will tell you – there has never been an [American] army as violent and murderous as our army has been in Iraq.”
You don't mistake someone from 10 yards away. But, was it murder or negligence? Was this a deliberate homicide?Soltz assures us he doesn't believe what he's saying - much the same way Hersh assures us he doesn't say what he's saying. Funny how that doesn't stop people from hearing them anyway.
It is inevitable, then, that unless the president comes clean, rumors about Tillman's death will take hold. By stonewalling, there is no way to stop people from wondering, "Was the man the White House used to promote the war ordered to be killed because he was becoming increasingly critical of the war in Iraq?"
It's become far too easy to make accusations like these, far too easy to casually slander members of the armed forces and far too easy for those doing so to back-pedal, or claim they're blaming the leaders of these troops - that these murderous thugs are as much victims of those leaders as are the corpses they've left in their wake.
It's far too easy to merely shake your head in disgust at the entire state of affairs, shrug and wander away. It's harder to fight back - it always is. The miscalculation made by those who'd continue their attacks time after time after time was to assume veterans wouldn't notice they were being branded, or that they would welcome that "victim" status, or simply choose that easy shrug and walk away.All done!
...inspired by David Bellavia's statement here: "The very same people who scream about the homelessness of veterans call Post Traumatic Stress a “disorder.” "
Why do people who want to "de-stigmatize" post-traumatic stress call it a "disorder"?
Update: One answer.
Something to consider regarding the non-release of abuse photos: This is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action. Rather, it has gone through the appropriate and regular processes. And the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken. The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.
Those aren't my words - but I agree with them whole heatedly. I know them to be fact.
And that isn't a quote from Dick Cheney, or Don Rumsfeld, or George Bush - though it's what they've been saying for years. So if you thought someone from the previous administration was the source that's an understandable mistake.
That was actually an excerpt from President Obama's explanation of why he (rightfully) decided not to release those photos:
In other words, this is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action. Rather, it has gone through the appropriate and regular processes. And the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken.It's easy to not be the President of the United States. Billions of people do it every day. Being President can be tougher. Doing the right thing based on fact should never be difficult, but in a world full of billions of non-Presidents whose emotions are fueled and feelings are formed by what they see on television day after day it all too often is.
It's therefore my belief that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.
Here's the full statement - I think it took courage to make it:
Now, let me also say a few words about an issue that I know you asked Robert Gibbs about quite a bit today, and that's my decision to argue against the release of additional detainee photos. Understand, these photos are associated with closed investigations of the alleged abuse of detainees in our ongoing war effort.All done!
And I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib, but they do represent conduct that did not conform with the Army Manual. That's precisely why they were investigated -- and, I might add, investigated long before I took office -- and, where appropriate, sanctions have been applied.
In other words, this is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action. Rather, it has gone through the appropriate and regular processes. And the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken.
It's therefore my belief that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.
Moreover, I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse. And obviously the thing that is most important in my mind is making sure that we are abiding by the Army Manual and that we are swiftly investigating any instances in which individuals have not acted appropriately, and that they are appropriately sanctioned. That's my aim and I do not believe that the release of these photos at this time would further that goal.
Now, let me be clear: I am concerned about how the release of these photos would be -- would impact on the safety of our troops. I have made it very clear to all who are within the chain of command, however, of the United States Armed Forces that the abuse of detainees in our custody is prohibited and will not be tolerated. I have repeated that since I've been in office, Secretary Gates understands that, Admiral Mullen understands that, and that has been communicated across the chain of command.
Any abuse of detainees is unacceptable. It is against our values. It endangers our security. It will not be tolerated.
All right. Thank you very much, everybody.
There is one republican presidential candidate that President Barack Obama's campaign manager fears the most in 2012...and his name is Jon Huntsman Jr.May 16:
President Obama on Saturday selected one of the nation’s leading Republican governors to serve as the ambassador to China, nominating Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman for the diplomatic post that Mr. Obama called “as important as any in the world.”
Greg Bruno in Council on Foreign Relations (via Small Wars Journal):
Under President Barack Obama's directive, the army is rewriting its information operations manual, FM 3-13 (PDF), last updated in November 2003. Lt. Col. Shawn Stroud, who until May 2009 served as director of strategic communication at U.S. Army Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas--which is coordinating the update--says previous versions of the army information doctrine gave senior officers far from the battlefield the responsibility for making decisions on communication and outreach. The goal of the new manual, scheduled to be released in late 2009, is to "empower commanders" closer to the fight. The need for swifter communications decisions is especially pressing in Afghanistan, where Taliban fighters--who often accuse U.S. troops of killing civilians during operations--are believed to stage civilian deaths and post videos of the fabricated footage. Stroud says U.S. field commanders need the tools to combat counterproductive messaging quickly, like speaking directly to the news media or even filming operations and posting their own combat footage online before the Taliban can. "It's almost like we've surrendered the information battlefield and said, 'Well, we don't play by the same rules as them because we have to tell the truth,' " Stroud says. "The key is, we've got to be first with the truth. So we've got to build systems that do that."Kilcullen and Exum in the New York Times (via Exum):
Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, in an April 2009 interview with CFR.org, said Kabul--which has made efforts to improve its image among the population--nonetheless needs help countering the Taliban's messaging prowess. But that will not be easy, noted Michael Doran, a former deputy assistant security of defense, in a lecture on public diplomacy (PDF) at the Heritage Foundation in February 2008. Doran said that in Afghanistan, U.S. forces carry out an operation "and within 26 minutes--we've timed it--the Taliban comes out with its version of what took place in the operation, which immediately finds its way on the tickers in the BBC at the bottom of the screen."
Having Osama bin Laden in one’s sights is one thing. Devoting precious resources to his capture or death, rather than focusing on protecting the Afghan and Pakistani populations, is another. The goal should be to isolate extremists from the communities in which they live. The best way to do this is to adopt policies that build local partnerships. Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies must be defeated by indigenous forces — not from the United States, and not even from Punjab, but from the parts of Pakistan in which they now hide. Drone strikes make this harder, not easier.Recent/related:
Imagine, for example, that burglars move into a neighborhood. If the police were to start blowing up people’s houses from the air, would this convince homeowners to rise up against the burglars? Wouldn’t it be more likely to turn the whole population against the police?
Pink boxer shorts, a red T-shirt and bedroom slippers aren't everyone's idea of the ideal uniform for fighting the Taleban.
But a young US soldier found himself battling the enemy in his underwear when his platoon came under a sudden attack by Taleban militants in Afghanistan on Monday.
Zachary Boyd, 19, was sleeping when the ambush occurred and only had time to put on his helmet and body armour before grabbing his gun and rushing into action, leaving his "I love New York" pink boxers on full display.
The moment – at Firebase Restrepo in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan's Kunar Province — was captured by an Associated Press photographer and placed on the front page of The New York Times.
Army Specialist Boyd, fighting in Afghanistan with the US Army First Battalion, phoned home to warn his family of his sudden notoriety, much to the amusement of his parents.
“He said, ‘I hear the Times is what they put on the President's desk’,” said his mother, Sheree Boyd. “Then he told us, ‘I may not have a job any more after the President has seen me out of uniform’. [Link]
It coulda been worse.
Update: Email conversations with fellow combat zone-experienced milbloggers indicates a developing consensus answer to the headline question: "Commando."
Had Specialist Boyd exercised that option, the readership of the NY Times would have been in for a memorable breakfast/commute.
And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, "Kid, you're our boy."
- Arlo Guthrie, Alice's Restaurant
"We will kill bin Laden"
- Barack Obama, campaigning for president
At the time I thought the only unparsable (other than "we"), unequivocal defense promise the then-candidate made might be "bluster designed to comfort (or even excite) McCain "national security voters"." It certainly is an audacious and risky vow - contrary to criticisms and finger pointing over the years the task is demonstrably not an easy one. Beyond that, other than "great PR for a week" the results of success might be less of an impact on various battlefields of the war on terror than many imagine. I'm sure focus group research indicated that was a fine campaign slogan, but as a foundation for national security strategy it would be cause for concern. (That said, I'd certainly and gleefully shoot the f%$ker without hesitation if I had the chance.)
But events of this past week have me re-thinking whether that campaign promise was serious. No doubt there were several reasons for the decision to replace McKiernan with McChrystal in Afhganistan - I believe Secretary Gates when he indicates there was no specific single "cause" for that decision. Recall his dismissal of the USAF Chief and Secretary last summer - our current Sec Def doesn't seem the sort to wait for a possibly headline-making "event" to dismiss those whose overall performance isn't in line with his vision. Kudos to him for that. In D.C. it's a rarely-exercised leadership prerogative that shouldn't be second-guessed from above, below, or elsewhere - assuming the man exercising it is comfortable accepting responsibility for the real-world events (vice petty criticisms) that result. Few are, hence "rare".
But during the hiring process for McKiernan's replacement, certainly this resume line would appeal to someone whose nod was required to make it so - and who'd promised America that "we will kill bin Laden":
He is credited with masterminding the eventual demise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and didn’t waste any time getting to the scene of the al-Qaeda in Iraq’s death to see for himself the results of a long 2 ½ year manhunt. I participated in that hunt for over a year under McChrystal’s overall command and his presence was well known and consistent. Another indicator of his stamina for the fight."We" is now a bit better defined. And if "we" had to break a few eggs to make that Zarqawi omelet... well, so it goes.
From my perspective, our rules of land warfare, our respect for human life, and our strategic constraints handcuff us to the point that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. But, with LTG McChrystal at the helm now all bets are off.It certainly won't be a one-dimensional campaign, but this dimension certainly seems assured of some focus in the months ahead. The assumption is that bin Laden is alive, and that's something worthy of change.
Fake veterans among us! I'm shocked - shocked I tell you - to hear of this. But if you see it in the Times, it must be so...
And Mr. Strandlof, who contrary to his claims never graduated from the Naval Academy or served in the military, is a 32-year-old drifter with a history of at least one criminal conviction, for car theft in Nevada. As a condition of his probation in that case, he was ordered to appear in a mental health court.Nice to see they read milblogs. If you really want some deep background on that, read this. Once the story broke (because real vets in the organization he founded saw right through his fraud) it was too easy to get the rest of the story.
Or maybe not - maybe years of practice at exposing these guys just makes me think it's easy. Besides that, while "Rick Duncan" was busy speaking at Obama rallies, cohosting "several events with then- congressional candidate Jared Polis" and appearing in VoteVets ads supporting their Party's candidates American newspaper and television reporters were already working overtime exposing "Joe the Plumber" as a mere apprentice with a lien on his house whose name was misspelled on his voter registration card. Besides which, surely the media darling group Iraq Veterans Against War - whose members are often cited but never as such in media reports - vets their veterans, right?
Well, no. In fact, after repeated exposures of frauds in their midst Iraq Veterans Against War has finally abandoned "Iraq veteran" status as a requirement for membership. The group is now led by a former Coast Guard member who never served east of Bermuda, and while they (like VoteVets) are busily eliminating all traces of existence of "Rick Duncan" from their web site (even as members of the Colorado Veterans group that exposed the fraud in their midst decide to fold up shop) other FraudVets are still embraced. IVAW remains on speed dial for media outlets whose resulting stories - the more outlandish the better - still prompt congressional demands for Pentagon investigations. (Even as real Iraq vets leave the group in disgust.)
Rick Duncan isn't the first IVAW fraud to be exposed. He is, however, the first to make the New York Times. (Although the coverage, it should be noted, omits any IVAW or VoteVets connection.) Clearly something has changed since the time - at the height of combat during the surge - Rush Limbaugh was excoriated in the media for this conversation with a caller:
LIMBAUGH: "Save the -- keep the troops safe" or whatever. I -- it's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people.Rather than take efforts to clean house and expel the frauds from their midst, real "anti-war" veterans, including VoteVets founder and Democratic Party activist John Soltz, were quick to assume a mantle of hurt feelings, feigned outrage and absolute moral authority over the remark.
CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.
LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.
That prompted (surprise!) a rapid congressional response, and ultimately led to this NY Times coverage:
After Rush Limbaugh referred to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as “phony soldiers,” he received a letter of complaint signed by 41 Democratic Senators. He decided to auction the letter, which he described as “this glittering jewel of colossal ignorance,” for charity, and he pledged to match the price, dollar for dollar.But search the New York Times for a reference to Jesse MacBeth (the then-most recent fake vet whose atrocity tales made him an IVAW darling and prompted Limbaugh's comment) and your efforts will be in vain.
But Jesse wasn't the first either. There were many before him and many between him and "Rick Duncan". But change has come - for any considering a future attempt, be advised: the New York Times is watching.
Previous coverage from this and other milblogs:
And huge, HUGE kudos to my fellow veterans at This Ain't Hell - those guys have been at the forefront of exposing these frauds for a long time now.
...for books here in Mudville: Interrogation of Morals by CPT Jason Meszaros
The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism by Andrew Bacevich
Each of which, judging from the opening chapters, you'll be hearing more about here. Of immediate note, Meszaros book - an account of his 2004 tour of duty in Afghanistan ("Interrogating Senior Al Qaeda Operatives -Ambushed by 700 Taliban -GTMO Detainees released and returning to fight in Afghanistan -Taking down the most sought after Taliban Commander in Afghanistan, aka "Taliban Billy the Kid"") reads very much like a well-written milblog. (That's a good thing.)
Shocka - the guy complaining about shower quality in the "Stealing Water" story from CBS TV's Houston affiliate KHOU was an IVAW member.
“You can eat Subway, Burger King, you can buy a $1,200 Oakley watch, but you can’t have clean water to brush your teeth with, what’s the real priority here,” Sgt. Porter said.He's lying through his teeth. You don't get potable water from a tap there, so if you don't want to brush your teeth with that you use one of the thousands of bottles of water within a few yards of any place on the camp. (By the way, one of the reasons for that and other "long-term temporary" sorts of 'fixes' is because - despite what you "learn" from watching television - for six years the U.S. has operated under a mind set that we are not staying in Iraq forever.)
Again - the idea that soldiers have been in Iraq without water for six years without knowing it is a crock of s#^t that only a moron could swallow.
Anyway, at least Porter was in Iraq. And he was an IVAW member - he recently left the organization over ideological differences. Apparently some members have certain convictions that others don't share, others lack convictions altogether, and still more are awaiting trial. One of his fellow members Porter had issues with was fraudulent "Afghanistan veteran" Matthis Chiroux, as explained in this excerpt from his resignation letter from the group:
IVAW treats its members with inequity and lacks credibility. While an admitted rapist, and being a party to rape on more than one occasion, Matthis Chiroux, is accorded accolades for making a big deal out of something that required no action on his part to begin with. There are also allegations that he used donated money from IVAW members and activists to pay his rent and buy drugs. But the board does not seem to be concerned with investigating or kicking him out. They even posted his “confession” on the main page of the IVAW site! Where he only brings up the rapes not out of a moral awakening but because he got called out on it. Furthermore, he blames the Army for it. The Army mindset and training made him a rapist. That is just a load of garbage and any who believes that is a fool.If you thirst for truth, read the whole thing for more.
I also talked to the Executive Director, Alex Bacon, about this. I brought up how this is public relations nightmare and that Matthis must be dealt with. But he believes that this will not be big issue.
He spoke at a Barack Obama veterans rally in front of the Capitol in July, co-hosted several events with then- congressional candidate Jared Polis and attacked Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer in a TV ad paid for by the national group Votevets.org.What they don't say is that local media there - as in Houston - had the IVAW clubhouse on speed dial and never missed an opportunity to help them perpetrate their frauds (while missing every chance to expose them) - and thus granted them the credibility that made them irresistible to certain political candidates in the first place.
And the mostly Democratic candidates he supported — looking for credibility on veterans issues and the war — lapped it up appreciatively.
Update - Slurp! - they heard "water" and drank the Kool Aid::
"I want to find out what's going on at the Pentagon," said Gene Green.Hey - if you see it on Tee Vee it must be true, right?
Now, a half-dozen congressmen, many who’ve personally been to Iraq, are demanding answers from the Secretary of Defense.
“We are dismayed to hear these accounts and believe the health and safety of our service members must be a priority and taken seriously,” said a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, signed by U.S. Reps. Gene Green, Al Green, Solomon Ortiz, Ralph Hall and Ron Paul.
"If it's a problem, solve the problem and find out also who's responsible for the problem," Poe said.
Still more - via email from TSO: "If you watch the KHOU video, the guy corroborating the Sgt Porter story is Brian Hannah. And who is that? The President of IVAW-Austin Texas."
"From my perspective," writes the pseudonymous Dalton Fury in Small Wars Journal, "our rules of land warfare, our respect for human life, and our strategic constraints handcuff us to the point that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. But, with LTG McChrystal at the helm now all bets are off."
LTG Stanley McChrystal’s meteoric rise through the ranks is no surprise to anyone that has ever had the opportunity to work for or with him. I was fortunate, from a subordinate officer perspective, on numerous occasions.Read the whole thing.
Few know the facts just yet as to why GEN McKeirnan was moved out of command in Afghanistan. Regardless of the reasons, and I’m certainly not read on to the scuttlebutt, I do know that America’s interests, America’s warriors, and America’s mission in Afghanistan couldn’t be in better hands under LTG McChrystal. My biggest concern is that I hope the senior officers in Afghanistan soon to be under LTG McChrystal’s command are well rested.
...and the pirates. (I couldn't resist a chance to write that headline.)
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi (aka "Botox the Magnificent") says "I was fighting a war in Iraq at that point, too, you know."
True enough - but she lost her war. And she ain't a lovable loser.
Update - from comments:
"I was fighting a war in Iraq at that point, too, you know."Too easy:
I am glad you posted that - I had heard that on the radio and thought I must have been hearing things. I wonder what patch is on her right shoulder...?
Wear is optional.
Update: Whoops - was reading an old reg. In the 1970 change, "wear is optional, but if authorized member is wearing this patch then they must wear the above to cover it up. However, it is acceptable that in many instances portions of the underlying patch will likely show through, and expected that this will likely increase over time."
And yes, these patches are also available:
To qualify for wear, member must simply repeat "we support the troops" whenever hearing the word "war" until it becomes the only response they can offer on the topic, and one they believe is a unique and reciprocal quality they share with no one else.
In many cases both the elephant and donkey patch may be worn simultaneously, but should be kept on opposite sleeves to limit view of both at once.
There's a scene in the movie Kingdom of Heaven where the hero attempts to stop the army from marching into the desert for a battle without taking water along. He's the only one smart enough, you see, to know that they will need to drink water - especially in the desert they've been living in for years - to avoid death. (You can read the actual story of that battle here. Water does play a significant role.) It was an awful moment in a mediocre movie. As much as I understand expediency I thought the scriptwriters could have come up with something better - no one on earth could be ignorant enough to believe that plot device. Even in the days of the Crusades people weren't that stupid.
"It really hit me the day I was with my commander and we're stealing water," Robey said, describing how they raided supplies at the Baghdad International Airport.I'm not sure why anyone would steal water at BIAP when there are thousands of pallets of bottled water there, distributed all over the place and free for the taking - no forms, no orders - just help yourself.
But if you want to believe American soldiers have been living without water in Iraq for six years and no one has heard about it until now - be my guest (but please sterilize yourself before contaminating the gene pool). No doubt over the years some incompetent commanders and Senior NCOs allowed their unit supplies to run low, or failed to check each individual's personal supply prior to a mission, but the idea that there's any previously suppressed corporate shortage of water is one only the most gullible would believe.
As for the water in the shower facilities - it is "not drinkable" and heavily advertised as such. Everyone knows not to drink the water from the sinks - you are told to use bottled water even to brush your teeth (hey - there are oceans of the stuff laying around). Most people I knew who had been there long enough didn't care and brushed their teeth with tap water anyway (including me). As for substandard quality of water from pipes in the showers? Boo freakin hoo. A better shower was one of the many things I looked forward to having at home. (But weeks in the field without a shower was something I got used to twenty years before).
"Stealing air" is the correct term for what the peddlers of this story are doing.
Update: More here.
It seems an anti-war “Marine” from IVAW has now been unmasked as a lying mental patient. He’s never served a day in the Marines, as he has claimed.
“Rick Duncan” (Richard Glen Strandlof) of Colorado Springs was a prominent anti-war activist who claimed to have served in Iraq on three tours of duty AND survived the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
Greyhawk updates: Real Iraq veterans get suckered into joining IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against War), too. Here's a resignation letter from one of them that offers insight into what this fraudulent "anti-war" group is really all about.
Hell, even their leader (allegedly a former Coast Guard member) isn't an Iraq vet. (At least he admits it.)
More from Greyhawk:
He was not an "escaped mental patient" - unless there's more news to follow.
Our hero (or someone else named "Rick Strandlof") was trying to run something called the "Reno Tahoe Grand Prix" in 2005/2006.
RENO TAHOE GRAND PRIX FOUNDATION NEW YEAR’S BASH AND FUND-RAISER Dec. 31, 2005 and Jan. 1, 2006Coverage from the Nevada Appeal, April 23, 2006:
Home of Rick Strandlof, Incline Village Participants spent a fabulous evening at picturesque Lake Tahoe partying to the menthol-cool sounds of San Francisco-based DJ Pete Luscious and bidding on items ranging from a weekend spa getaway at The Village at Squaw Valley to 500 gallons of gas. The auction and donations raised a total of $25,000, benefiting the Reno Tahoe Grand Prix Foundation. The RTGP Foundation raises and distributes funds primarily for kids’ charities. RTGP funds initiatives that promote kids’ health, support for education, and help for families who cannot afford food, shelter, health insurance, and more.
I had the opportunity last week to speak with a gentleman named Rick Standlof, who is the moving force behind the proposed Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix, a street race through the streets of downtown Reno.Corrected the following week:
An endeavor of this magnitude takes a lot of planning and organization, but it looks as though Standlof has his ducks lined up.
The entire event will be privately funded, with some of the proceeds going to local charities. A fund-raising event planned for this coming August will benefit the Washoe Association for Retarded Citizens, helping that organization to purchase new vans to replace their old ones, which were damaged in the New Year's flood. Standlof's goal is for the Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix to become an annual event that will rival Hot August Nights in terms of bringing in visitors and dollars to Reno and the surrounding area.
Computers are wonderful. You make one little mistake, and it will propagate it through an entire document. So my computer and I apologize to Rick Strandlof of the Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix for misspelling his name throughout last week's column. Just remember the old adage, Rick: "Any publicity is good publicity."Computers are wonderful. But speaking of Nevada Appeal - around that time Strandhof was appearing in court regarding a guilty plea he had entered in a criminal case before a Nevada Mental Health Court Judge the year before*.
I recently reported that Las Vegas had signed a Champ Car race for 2007, noting that the Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix concept for 2009 might be in jeopardy as a result. Well, a couple of readers asked me for an update on the Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix and I attempted to contact founder Rick Strandlof.The next week:
The website for the race is not currently online, and the phone number I have for the organization is not working. So Rick, if you're reading this, please contact me and let me know what's going on so I can share the information.
Once again I've had inquiries about the Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix. Not being a professional skip-tracer, I don't have any more news. The website is down, the phone number I had is not working, and there is no record of Rick Strandlof, the erstwhile promoter, that I can find. So I can only conclude that another race promoter has overstated the facts and I gave him the benefit of the doubt.And more:
It's not the first time I've been led astray by a race promoter, and it may not be the last. The race promoter's motto seems to be a paraphrase of one of Abraham Lincoln's famous statements. "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and that's usually good enough."
According to Nevada court records, a Richard Strandlof completed 24 months probation in 2006 in an "unlawful taking" of a motor vehicle case in Reno.So not for Grand Prix Fraudo.
I'd bet that Strandlof - as part of his plea bargain, was receiving outpatient "mental health treatment" during his probation period (during which he was also "setting up" the Grand Prix) - and that's the extent of his "mental patient" status.
Regardless, immediately after Strandlof completed his probation (at about the time the "Nevada Appeal" writer was looking for him for follow up) he could be still be found in Reno - if you knew where to look. Far from hiding, he was quoted as a representative of the communist group "World Can't Wait" in an AP report (now archived on Michael Moore's website, among other places) on an "Anti-Bush Rally" held weeks before the 2006 elections:
In Reno, Rick Strandlof with World Can't Wait said his coalition opposes "the Bush regime's record of corruption, fear, incompetence and tyranny."Apparently he had found some easier "marks" than Race Fans.
"We are at a defining moment for this country and our people," he said.
When "Rick Duncan" started the group Colorado Veterans Alliance he used the same "charity" tactic as with the Grand Prix hustle. (In this case, helping "homeless veterans".) But when real veterans began to join the effort, they quickly identified him as a fraud:
The man, who called himself Rick Duncan — purportedly a former Marine captain and 1997 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy — is in fact 31-year-old Richard Glen Strandlof, a former mental patient who never served in the military and falsely claimed he was in the Pentagon during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to David Walsh of the Colorado Veterans Alliance, which Duncan founded.Now, "According to Walsh, federal authorities are looking into fundraising by Strandlof conducted under his real name in Nevada. He purportedly raised $25,000 during a New Year's Eve event near Reno, Nev., on Dec. 31, 2006."
Walsh, who joined the CVA board at Duncan's request last year, said his colleagues in the organization grew suspicious of Duncan after discovering "significant inconsistencies" in his personal story.
In a search of the Colorado secretary of state's office records, for example, they found that the name Colorado Veterans Alliance had been reserved by Rick Strandlof, whom they had never met, Walsh said.
While probing Duncan's past, Walsh said, the group found evidence that he was a patient in a mental hospital in Washoe County, Nev., at the time of the roadside bombing in Fallujah, Iraq, that Duncan claimed left him severely wounded.
That would be the Grand Prix fraud noted above - though the date was actually December 31, 2005.
Kudos to the real veterans in the CVA who saw right through this phony. Once the story broke, I was able to discover everything above in about an hour with Google.
That IVAW, on the other hand, fails at this at every opportunity is no surprise. The more outlandish the stories he could tell, the further he could go in the organization - and beyond. From IVAW he moved to appearing in videos for Democratic political candidates and posting "recommended diaries" at VoteVets. He weighed in on several issues, citing his six troops who were killed because of Bush, claiming he was an openly gay commander well respected and admired by his brothers in arms... each of his lies (see here) disgraced actual veterans (gay or straight) - but all were embraced without question by the "anti-war" vanguard.
Greyhawk's Law will never be repealed: "There are two types of combat veterans that have a tremendous appeal to the anti-war crowd - the fictional and the dead."
Still more: "Veterans' group disbands after founder exposed as impostor" - wrong group, right thing to do.
*Correction/clarification on timeline: Strandlof's initial court appearance was April, 2005)
Wow - some of us look straight even in Village People people outfits - others on the other hand, can make Jack Bauer look totally...
Well here, you finish the thought.
Rep. John Murtha's opponent in the 2008 election claims the Pennsylvania congressman's chief of staff has threatened to have him recalled to active duty and court-martialed for campaigning while in the military, which is in violation of military code.Although Murtha's district has been heavily gerrymandered (by his political opponents) he felt enough pressure from Russell last year to make a last-minute grab for a half-million in campaign funds and have the Clinton's over to lend support - so lingering hatred may be very real.
Bill Russell, an Iraq war veteran who served with the Army, told FOXNews.com that Murtha's chief of staff, John Hugya, made the threat on two occasions -- first to his former commanding officer and then to his face in March.
He also attacked Russell as a "carpetbagger". Not sure what Pennsylvania focus group that appealed to.
For the record, although Russell was retired from the military by last November's elections, he "was on active duty for a three-month period -- from April to July -- of his campaign for Congress last year. But he said he did not campaign during that period, as Hugya was suggesting, and so did not violate military code that prohibits doing so."
There's a great introduction to concepts of strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war within this Small Wars Journal entry on application of those terms to discussion of the modern piracy issue. Well worth reading whether you are currently confused by the various definitions or not.
For a pop quiz, once you've read the above, tell me which of the three strategies this tactic employed and endorsed by the U.S. Navy indicates is ours:
Lookouts on the USNS Lewis and Clark spotted the approaching pirates and the ship immediately took bold action, using "evasive maneuvers and increased speed" in an attempt to escape. But the "suspected pirates" were relentless in pursuit, and even "fired small arms weapons" at their prey. It was at this point, realizing contact was imminent, that the ship "continued to increase speed and the skiffs ceased their pursuit".
"The actions taken by Lewis and Clark were exactly what the U.S. Navy has been recommending to prevent piracy attacks - for both commercial and military vessels," said Capt. Steve Kelley, Commander, Task Force 53.
Corporate jets go "out of style". That's a good way to put it - whether they can afford them or not companies learned a lesson from the media assault on "The Big Three" last fall - in the current business climate even the appearance of prosperity is a dangerous thing.
By March, the pending second and third-order results of that were obvious in in my neighborhood:
SAVANNAH, Ga. -- When Gulfstream Aerospace settled in Georgia with 100 employees in 1967, there was little hint the company would take hold as Savannah's largest private employer and as the Ferrari of private jet manufacturers catering to celebrities and CEOs.Given the rapid pace of "change" these days, (including an increasing focus on "green" energy) perhaps converting to buggy whip manufacture will soon be a viable option.
So the announcement that Gulfstream is laying off 1,200 workers -- many of them at its Savannah headquarters -- and will furlough an additional 1,500 employees here for five weeks this summer has this coastal community bracing for a major economic blow.
"It's going to hurt all the local businesses in town," said Kelly Heino, whose family owns and operates Ronnie's, a mom-and-pop restaurant near the Savannah plant. "We're open from 6 a.m. to 10 at night, and I would say we get their employees for breakfast, lunch and dinner."
Fierce debate: "is he more a '70s Pr0n Star or Sam Elliot clone?" I'll let others decide.
But "Village People Member" is right out.
(Meanwhile, Hugh Laurie weeps, forgotten.)
Because the first one wasn't:
President Obama met with White House counsel Greg Craig and other members of the White House counsel team last week and told them that he had second thoughts about the decision to hand over photographs of detainee abuse to the ACLU, per a judge's order, and had changed his mind.I think the question "Americans could die because of this - how many is too many?" weighed heavily on his mind.
Unfortunately, I also think that as bad as they might be the actual pictures wouldn't have lived up to the ones in the imaginations of those who were most looking forward to their release. (Not that they would ever admit that.)
Former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne thinks the best solution may be to let the troops themselves document the story. “We need to make sure we capture the news cycle by providing our troops with something like a combat blogger,” Wynne tells Danger Room.(Via today's Dawn Patrol)
Wynne thinks it’s time to let military bloggers have a freer hand. “This thing of letting the Taliban, letting Al Jazeera, letting the enemy public affairs unit get a hold of 24 to 48 hours of news cycle and then you announce that you’re forming an investigative team — what is that?” Wynne says. “The sad part is, that when [the military] forms an investigative team, it looks like it’s only for one reason: to cover it up.”
Let's draw a distinction here between milbloggers (military and civilian) and deployed milbloggers (military). The first group is thriving - so much so that we can gather in conferences dealing with wide ranging issues from diverse points of view. We visit the White House and the Pentagon, interview high-ranking officials (on and off the record), embed with combat troops, and accomplish host of other tasks only dreamed of a few short years ago (when I wondered if the dozen or so of us running what could be called "milblogs" would even be willing to link those sites in a "ring"...). This access is a good thing - doors opened by smart people who responded to our knocks - an undeniable sign of progress.
But speaking of conference, I mentioned this at this year's: back before the DoD's efforts to destroy deployed military bloggers achieved an amazing success (that couldn't quite be matched on the physical battlefields of the war) we came very close to achieving something like what Wynne describes above. When a suicide bomber struck a DFAC in Mosul in December, 2004 there were several first-hand, eyewitness accounts provided by milbloggers on the scene. In my mind the potential for coverage of future events exceeded the impact of this specific one. "Potential", however, is a matter of individual perspective, and undoubtedly not everyone who perceived potential trouble from immediate ground-truth reports from multiple points of view of a battlefield were members of the media. Attempts to gain control of the then-becoming robust information platform ensured it's potential good was never achieved. The downside, on the other hand, was predictably unstoppable.
Off the top of my head I can think of one subsequent example of rapid, real-time "IO victory" by deployed milbloggers. While the DoD has made great strides forward in putting Humpty together again over the past two years, by the time the surge was launched in 2007 my distant early warning that if milblogs were outlawed only outlaws would have milblogs was (with few notable exceptions) effectively fact. I was in Iraq in December, 2004 - and back again for the surge. But among the few deployed "milbloggers" during that second tour (not many more in all of Iraq than were in that DFAC in 2004) the most well known and widely-read was The New Republic's DFAC correspondent Scott Thomas Beauchamp. Funny how that worked out.
On a closing note (for now): soldiers don't quit, and milblogs won't die. There are still guys in-theater - Iraq and Afghanistan, blogging away. (And we still follow them here.) Their numbers are small, but another point I made at the milblogs conference is worth repeating here: for that they are a national treasure.
National Security Advisor James Jones on repealing Don't Ask/Don't Tell:
JONES: So it's a complicated issue. It will be teed up (ph) appropriately and it will be discussed in the way the president does things, which is be very deliberative, very thoughtful, seeking out all sides on the issue and trying to ...So these folks must be caddies.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if the president is against the policy, why not suspend prosecutions and investigations while that review continues?
JONES: Well, maybe that's an option that eventually we'll get to but we're not there now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it will be overturned.
JONES: I don't know. We'll have to - the president has said that he is in favor of that. We'll just wait - we'll have to wait and see - as a result of the deliberations and as a result of the - in the months and weeks ahead. We have a lot on our plate right now. It has to be teed up at the right time so - to do this the right way.
Update: "White House: Law only answer for gays in military". Are there any sane arguments against that?
One briefing (General Odierno, 8 May 2009) - two headlines:
New York Times - General Sees a Longer Stay in Iraq Cities for U.S. Troops "The top American general in Iraq said Friday that one-fifth of American combat troops would stay behind in Iraqi cities even after the June 30 deadline that the United States and Iraq had set for the departure."
AFP - US on track to exit Iraqi cities by end June: commander: "WASHINGTON (AFP) — US forces are on track to pull out of all Iraqi cities by the end of June in line with a deal struck with Iraq, Washington's top commander in the country said on Friday."
And a bonus: We don't need US troops in cities: Iraq PM tells Pelosi
But the first paragraph of that last story exposes the lie in the headline: ""We don't need big numbers of (US) military forces inside the cities after we get control of them," Maliki said..." - so chalk that up as another obvious example of why people who read headlines alone aren't as "well informed" as the rapidly dwindling number of morons who believe the text they read beneath them.
As for the other two headlines, they're reminiscent of the time of the announcement of the surge, when both President Bush and General Petraeus explained that we were sending in more troops, but the solution to Iraq's problems weren't exclusively military. The media created a fictional disagreement between them by giving each credit for half the quote - but this is the first time I recall them actually attempting to fabricate a General who wouldn't listen to himself.
The American media-created myth of withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities continues unabated. But the reality isn't that complicated and has not changed since the SOFA (pdf) and Strategic Framework Agreement (pdf) were signed last Fall. Prime Minister Maliki understands it - reduced numbers of ("non-combat") U.S. troops will remain in Iraqi cities functioning as enablers (coordinating air support and other services the Iraqis can't yet provide themselves) and advisers (trainers, etc.). Others stationed outside the cities will be available if needed to provide security.
American military commanders understand this too - and are willing to take as much time as necessary to explain it very carefully to American reporters. U.S. Brigade Combat Teams (now called "Advise and Assist Brigades") preparing to deploy to Iraq are training for that role - and even learning the basics of providing essential city management services. In Iraq, efforts are ongoing to ensure Iraqis are informed of and understand the continued presence of American troops in cities there after June 30th. In the Western media, an equally vigorous effort is underway to ensure the rest of the world is ignorant. (An alternative explanation exists - that reporters simply can't comprehend and are effortlessly sharing their confusion with others.) For additional details including audio and video interviews with American commanders on this topic, see here.
As for the briefing that resulted in both the headlines above, here's the transcript of General Odierno's attempt to update the press last week.
First order of business, there are now only two cities where "combat" troops remain, Baghdad and Mosul, and there's a possibility "combat" troops will remain in Mosul after June 30th:
...frankly, we're basically out of all the cities except for two, Baghdad and Mosul. We are on our way out of Baghdad. We've been slowly turning that over to the Iraqi security forces now for about three months, and I think they've made some pretty good progress.As for how many troops ("enablers" and "advisors") will remain in cities throughout Iraq after June 30th, the General doesn't have an exact answer:
We still have a major operation going inside of Mosul with all forces assisting and helping out. We expect that to end here within about 30 to 45 days, and then there'll be a decision to be made. I think if you ask the prime minister today, I think he would say that we will be out of the cities by the end of the 30th of June, and it is his decision.
But we'll continue to conduct assessments. I was just up there Saturday, and we conducted a joint assessment -- myself, the minister of defense, the minister of interior -- and we got a full brief from both Iraqi leaders as well as the U.S. leaders on an assessment of Mosul. And based on that assessment, there's some problems that we have to work through. But in fact, there's potential that they can handle the mission post starting on 1 July.
Q What's your best assessment of the number of U.S. troops that would stay behind as enablers in the cities after June 30th?So lower level commanders will maintain latitude on decisions regarding troop levels to meet the needs of their missions - good.
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, again, what I don't want to do is -- I've left that to the local operational commanders to figure that out. But let me give you some broad guidelines that I've given everyone; is that we will continue to have liaison elements inside of all the joint security -- inside joint security stations, one that we've agreed to. We will continue to have advisory and transition teams embedded with Iraqi forces in order to provide them enablers. That will be determined, the size and how many -- I'm letting each local commander determine that, because that is something that they have to agree upon between the Iraqi security force leader and the U.S. leader. But those are the general guidelines that I've given the commanders, and they're working their way through that.
Q There's no number you're going to tell us about?
GEN. ODIERNO: There isn't a number. I mean -- I mean, I don't know what it is. And what I tell you today might be different 30 days from now, because they're working that out on the ground. And that's why I don't want to get into that.
Q But is there an order -- is there an order of magnitude? Is it hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands?
GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I -- you know, I would say -- no, I would say it's probably -- let me -- I would say it's probably about 20 percent of what it is now.
As the briefing drew to a close, someone must have woken up a dozing reporter who then offered this question:
Q After June 30, will there be any U.S. military advisers embedded with Iraqi forces in the cities?It shouldn't be that damn hard to write a story explaining that - unfortunately, the media have had this story wrong since last Fall, too.
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah.
Q So they will continue that role?
GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. I mean, our plan is, in joint security stations, there'll be -- there'll be liaison officers and there'll be advisers -- adviser teams with the Iraqi security. Not all, but some. And it depends on the level of where they're at.
Barring disaster, Iraq on July 1st won't look much different on June 30th, which won't look much different than Iraq today. As an Iraq-bound Brigade Commander explained earlier this month, the process is evolutionary - not revolutionary. Transition of the U.S. role to more of a build/support/"enable from overwatch" posture has been ongoing since early 2008 - a result of the military successes of the year before.
Q And are you considering or looking into a program that would be similar to the Sons of Iraq, where you would actually start paying some of the tribes, that the U.S. money would go to some of the tribes to get --Last week:
GEN. MCKIERNAN: No, the difference in Afghanistan is that needs to be an Afghan-led effort to engage the tribes.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE AIRBORNE, Afghanistan - Provincial, local and tribal leaders, along with special operators and 10th Mountain Division soldiers deployed here, today gave Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates their stamp of approval on a new program that's getting local Afghans to help build security in their communities.
The Afghan public protection program is an Afghan-led initiative that recruits and trains local people to serve as community guard forces in unsecured regions. Operated under the Afghan interior ministry, it helps to ensure law and order and build governance at the community level, a U.S. special operator serving here as a mentor told reporters traveling with Gates.
"This is an Afghan program," he said. "Our role is to facilitate."
Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and NATO's International Security Assistance Force, also praised the program that's been compared to the "Sons of Iraq" program in Iraq. APPP applies a "bottom-up approach" to security, with community members serving as a local security force in support of the police, he said.
McKiernan called the salaries the United States pays the participants – less than a police officer's starting salary – a good investment with a potentially big payoff. "And that's security," he said.
On Afghanistan, strategy and new leadership:
Beyond citing "time for new leadership", both declined to provide definitive answers to any direct questions on cause for relieving General McKiernan. At one point Secretary Gates pointed out that "I would tell you that those who are speculating on the ingredients in this decision, if it's not Admiral Mullen or me or General Petraeus, have no inside information on our thinking."
Gates' response to a question regarding McKiernan's troop level requests ("No, that had nothing to do with it, as far as I was concerned") was the only yes/no answer any related questions received.
Question: Admiral, you said, we can and must do better. And so I'm surprised you don't have any more solid idea of how we need to do better.
Admiral Mullen: I can't think of a more important decision than putting in new leadership, with respect to that, and then having the impact that is so critical.
Question: Actually the secretary said, "we must and can do better". Any thoughts on how?
Secretary Gates: Well, I think, that's the challenge that we give to the new leadership. How do we -- how do we do better? What new ideas do you have? What fresh thinking do you have? Are there different ways of accomplishing our goals? How can we be more effective? The admiral and I aren't the source of those ideas. General McChrystal and General Rodriguez are. And that's what we expect from them.
Question: Let me ask it a different way. One of the criticisms of General McKiernan was that he hadn't implemented a joint campaign plan, essentially an implementation of the way the strategy would be used on the ground. When the new leadership gets there, do you have a sense that then they will provide new feedback that could change the Af/Pak strategy as we know it? And what might it be?
Gates: Well, I -- first of all, the new strategy is a strategy approved by the president. And it is a whole-of-government strategy. If there are any changes that they would recommend, it would be in the military part of that strategy.
...reminds me of another recent discussion in D.C.:
Maybe we'll see that plan soon.
Ending months of political stalemate, the Iraqi Oil Ministry and the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq reached an accord Sunday that would allow the Kurds to export oil for the first time.Maybe they were on their best behavior for Nancy Pelosi's annual visit.
Back in May, 2008 she went to Iraq with Jack Murtha to tell the troops they were proud of them and to talk to them about the faulty intelligence that got us into this war:
This year I'm sure the "hot topic" that would be interesting to start discussions with war zone troops with is waterboarding. (Or maybe not.)
A multi-event sports and rehabilitation program for military service veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems. Attracting more than 500 athletes each year, the National Veterans Wheelchair Games is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world.
Competitive events at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games include swimming, table tennis, weightlifting, archery, air guns, basketball, nine-ball, softball, quad rugby, bowling, handcycling, trapshooting, wheelchair slalom, power soccer, a motorized wheelchair rally, track and field. Exhibition events are also being planned. Athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience or age.
Free. The public is most welcome.
Check it out.
0900 11 May 09: Christell Pitts Stokely, born April 21, 1928 died at age 81 Piedmont Fayette Community Hospital.
No person has ever been born who did not have a mother,but I was fortunate to have a Momma and the best to say the least.
Chris Stokely was as sweet a woman as ever were. She was a devoted wife who did not work outside the home and was there for each of her children every day. But, she worked harder than if she had an outside job. Taking care of three boys who could find a lot to get into and prone to break a lot of bones along the way. I was youngest of the boys and our sister came eight years after me, completing my Mother. A fifth child, William Thomas Stokely, was an "unexpected' but happy pregnancy. He was born February 28, 1963 and died during child birth. In the years to come, his death would have been prevented with the invention of the fetal monitor which alerts doctors to the need to do a C-section when the baby is in distress prior to birth. I shall never forget holding his tiny hand in his tiny casket. Each February 28 Momma and I would spend time remembering William Thomas - it was our private bond, one which I think was ironic since it would be me who would one day bury a son. In another ironic twist, William Thomas Stokely was given the first name of my great great grandfather - William G. Stokely who was a SGT with E Company, Florida Cavalry in the Civil War. Even more ironic is that William Stokely (actually spelled Stokeley then) died as a prisoner of war in Federal custody at Camp Chase Ohio, two months before the Civil War ended. Mike Stokely was a Cavalry Scout with Troop E 108 CAV 48th Brigade Georgia National Guard and was KIA 16 August 2005 in Iraq. Broken hearts understand each other.
But, in all this, there were many many happy memories and much to be thankful for. Chris Stokely lived a full life, always making the best of it when times were tough. She was the best cook - I often said I would rather eat her food cold than anyone else's hot. She cooked for several years for the Wednesday night Supper at her church with 100 - 150 eating. A fresh home cooked meal prepared on her stove and served hot - I don't' know how she did it but she did. Folks signed up to come eat, even carrying out food. More came to eat than stayed for church - I guess they thought eating her food was heaven enough and no need to listen to the preaching that was to follow. The Church finally made it a rule you had to stay for the preaching if you came an ate. Attendance went up and Momma cooked for the church late into her sixties.All done!
Momma was an expert seamstress - she could hand sew the finest fabrics with the most difficult hand cut patterns. She could look at a dress or gown in a window and make her own pattern. People traveled 40 miles from north Atlanta well to do neighborhoods - wealthy at that - to bring her fabric to make their custom to fit evening dresses and gowns. To say Momma was industrious and handy is an understatement. And her ability to bake and make desserts, especially her own recipe of Divinity candy - sorry so many of you all missed out!!!
Momma had heart and she had courage and she could make friends with anyone. She knew how to be tough in spirit without being rough on the spirit. She made boo boos better and made the scary sounds of a dark night go away. She was was funny and witty. Once while taking me and some of my friends for a baseball game to play another school she inadvertently turned down a one way street. A police officer happened to be right there and waved her to stop, telling her "M'am, did you know this is a one way street?" to which she replied with charm "I'm only going one way." The policeman laughed and given it was a quiet street and we were almost to the end just waved her on.
She buried her husband of 40 years when he was but age 62. In her late fifties, she had a lot to "figure out" since my daddy handled most of the money and business of the family. She came up to speed pretty quick and did right well for herself. You would think burying a son and husband would be enough, but then, she buried a grandson. August 16, 2005 it was tough to break the news to her of Mike's death in Iraq. But she handled it this way - from her wheel chair she reached up and pulled me to a hug and said with experienced loving confidence "Son, you'll make it, you will...." With full-time oxygen and other health problems she came to Mike's Memorial Service, sitting there for an hour and half up on a stage in front of a thousand people, and then greeting many afterwards. A few days later she demanded to make the 70 plus mile ride to go to Mike's funeral service, even to the graveside as hot as it was on August 27. A year later, as I went by to see her, she asked what I had planned for the rest of the afternoon. I told her I had my trailer hooked up and going to work on Mike's grave and plant new sod. She looked me in the eye and said "I am going with you - you might need some help." It was good to have her along that day and we talked as I worked. Two years later she rode in my brother's car as part of the 140 plus motorcycles and thirty or so cars that were part of the "Ride to Remember...." to raise $25,000 to endow the Memorial Scholarship in Mike's name at Georgia Military College. Then she helped host a BBQ lunch for 500 people after the ride, staying until everyone was served and full. Chris Stokely may have had sit down due to her medical problems the last few years of her life, but she didn't sit life out especially when time came to be there for her family, especially to honor and remember Mike.
Now, she is the first to see Mike again for our faith led us to believe that there is a God and there is a heaven and our faith in Jesus will re-unite us there along with William Thomas.
Sad but in a very sweet way, the Moon over Yusufiyah has a special glow tonight.....
lucky son of Christell Stokely and
proud dad of SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq
USA E 108 CAV 48th BCT
Current events have me thinking about what a great job the USAF photographers do capturing "American Airpower" in flight under a variety of conditions. To really appreciate these you might want to see them in glorious full size (many are available here) but even in reduced versions the awe-inspiring clarity and quality is spectacular. Of those that aren't readily available at the link above, some are from previous galleries I've displayed here - they link back to the original posts (with more and larger versions). For those I first found via other bloggers, the photos link back to their posts, too.
I hope you won't glance too quickly at the images, but will instead take a moment to enjoy the awe-inspiring, breathtaking results of the photographers' efforts to bring you these incredible juxtapositions of nature and technology. As you ponder man's dominance of the heavens I think you'll agree that it's simply amazing what can be captured for posterity even while camera and subject move at speeds undreamed of even few decades ago.
And yes, I suppose the one with the Space Shuttle actually launched could be criticized as sub-par by some, but really, you only get one attempt at a shot like that. Cut them some slack.
Part one ("Red Cross complains that Obama is just airraiding villages and killing civilians.") here.
Coincidentally, at the same time Secretary Gates was in Afghanistan:
KABUL, May 6, 2009 – The new U.S. Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, with more troops and nonmilitary resources to flow into Afghanistan to support it, opens a window of opportunity to break a security “stalemate” here, the senior coalition military official in Afghanistan said today.“What do you need out here that you are not getting?” I wonder if McKiernan answered the question wrong?
“It’s a time where there remain some deep-rooted, definite challenges in this region and this country,” Army Gen. David D. McKiernan told reporters traveling here with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. “But it is also a time, I think, this year, when there are some opportunities with the increased emphasis that this administration has placed on Af-Pak as a region and the resources that are coming with that.”
McKiernan commands NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
Gates arrived here today to get a direct assessment of how the new strategy is starting to take shape and what gaps remain to be filled to ensure its success. Before arriving here, he said he plans to spend much of his time here in the field, asking troops directly: “What do you need out here that you are not getting?”
McKiernan offered no illusions of the plus-up being a short-term proposition, and said the time to reassess if yet more troops will be needed won't occur until at least after the elections. He predicted the increased troops will be required for "at least the next two to three years," but said there's no way to assess now exactly how long.
Gen. David McKiernan is out as the Defense Department implements a new strategy for Afghanistan, a senior defense official told FOX News on Monday."Gen. Stanley McChrystal, current head of Special Operations Command, is said to be the replacement".
The announcement is expected to be made by Defense Secretary Robert Gates at an afternoon Pentagon briefing.
McKiernan has been the top general for NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The official who spoke on condition of anonymity as the announcement had not yet been made characterized the decision as one that was not McKiernan's and said McKiernan is not stepping down, but is being replaced.
Update: It's official:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates replaced the commander of the Afghanistan war on Monday, saying the Obama administration needs "fresh thinking" to turn around the war against a resurgent Taliban.Which is good - since the civilians won't be helping.
Asked if McKiernan's resignation ends his military career, Gates said, "Probably."
Gates visited Afghanistan last week to see firsthand what preparations and plans are under way to set the president's counterinsurgency strategy in motion.
"As I have said many times before, very few of these problems can be solved by military means alone," Gates said Monday. "And yet, from the military perspective, we can and must do better."
And this might cause some discomfort in certain quarters...
McChrystal also came under fire for his role in the furor surrounding the friendly fire shooting of Army Ranger Pat Tillman - a former NFL star - in Afghanistan. An investigation at the time found that he was "accountable for the inaccurate and misleading assertions" contained in papers recommending that Tillman get a Silver Star award.But:
The Army overruled a Pentagon recommendation that he be held accountable for his actions.
The defense secretary said he reached the decision following consultations with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command; and after gaining approval of President Barack Obama.
I'd call it the most frustrating thing you'll read today, so if frustration depresses you than we're both right.
The idea was to train the Iraqis so that when the time came to distribute the wheelchairs, Blauser and the 20 or so U.S. soldiers who coordinated the giveaway could fade into the background as Iraqi troops presented 32 fully assembled wheelchairs to disabled children.A worthy goal, but...
"We're trying to build rapport," said Staff Sgt. Craig Jackson, 34, of Pennsylvania, one of the squad leaders working with Blauser. "Show them that their government is trying to help its people."
Thirty minutes into the assembly tutorial, the crowd of Iraqi soldiers thinned as curiosity gave way to boredom. Soon, Blauser, 43, found himself surrounded mainly by U.S. troops.A good question. Unfortunately, instead of an answer from the reporter who was apparently on scene we get more questions:
"What happened to all the people who were supposed to be helping put these together?"
It raised questions that haunt U.S. troops as they prepare to pull out of Iraqi cities by June 30: When the Americans leave, how will the Iraqi forces behave?...leaving us to come up with answers (from half a world away) on our own.
First, let's dispense with this: US troops aren't leaving Iraqi cities by June 30th - that's a media fiction. In fact, the "non-combat" troops who will remain will be doing a lot more than distributing wheelchairs - so let's roll.
Like all military members I had ample opportunity to conduct training in my career. I confess to having seen yawns from the crowd (limited to the late night party animals, I'm sure), but never having someone up and walk away. Had it happened, I'd have swiftly trained them on that subject, too - in a manner memorable to all. But as for why the Iraqi troops wandered off, the possible answers are endless. Language barrier? Could be. Resentment of America? Who knows? Beneath their dignity? No idea. Lack of enthusiasm? No doubt. Ineffective trainer? Partly, at least. (Certainly the reporter doesn't explain, but not everyone is aware of their failure to effectively convey information even in the face of visible evidence in midst of the effort.)
Perhaps the trainees simply don't see wheelchair distribution as part of the job description. Certainly few in the pre-1990 U.S. military would view that sort of thing as a core competency - though a history of Berlin candy bombing and Toys for Tots has demonstrated the advantage of that weapon in the arsenal of Democracy. Bringing that spirit to distant battlefields has become unofficial (and effective) American military doctrine and offers stark contrast in a hearts and minds campaign to an enemy that offers public beheading as an alternative. Resulting "feel good" stories for the folks back home are nice, but efforts abroad are often life-essential; hunger, for example, is a feeling best not ignored.
Even without the minimal homefront PR gains, our small-scale, localized efforts to improve quality of life in Iraq and Afghanistan should continue on their intrinsic merits. The additional benefit - softening the public image of the tough guy GI, the master of blowing up things and killing people - is certainly worthwhile, but if an Army hasn't established that reputation in the first place (and it is useful as a deterrent to other "armies" who would like to establish it using you) its soldiers might not embrace the objective with the same level of enthusiasm as ours.
There may be a cultural component involved in their lack of enthusiasm, too. A certain fatalism grips the region, and non-Muslim Americans who view the Insh'Allah factor as eradicable by example are in for endless disappointment - or worse. What many Americans perceive as unwillingness to act, obstinacy, or downright laziness among individuals may indeed be examples of some or all of those aspects of human nature, but when validated by religious doctrine and centuries of custom those character traits become more than intractable.To the incautious or unaware, discouraging that behavior becomes less annoyance and more blasphemous in the mind of the "trainee"; results of that are predictable. (Patient indifference, at best.) This is not to imply hopelessness; Zakat (setting aside alms for the poor, preferably in secret) is one of the Pillars of Islam - but the approach to task by the non-believer is best done with caution.
Then again, it's possible the non-participants in this exercise simply didn't want to take part in a fraud.
"We're trying to build rapport," said Staff Sgt. Craig Jackson, 34, of Pennsylvania, one of the squad leaders working with Blauser. "Show them that their government is trying to help its people."Which would have been fine if their government had somehow been involved, but this is the story of Brad Blauser and the folks back home:
Reach Out and Care Wheels, a Montana nonprofit organization that distributes pediatric wheelchairs assembled by South Dakota prison inmates, agreed to provide some to Blauser for $200 apiece, significantly lower than the retail price of similar chairs. Blauser reached out to friends, relatives and strangers online, seeking funds. By the end of 2005, he had raised $20,000 -- enough for 100 pediatric chairs to distribute in a country where they are a rarity.Noting the "prompting", I feel Alaa's pain. Perhaps the Iraqi government will help "lots in the future". But their current priorities stop somewhere short of wheelchair distribution. Given the other issues they currently confront, that's excusable. Blaming Iraqi soldiers for not playing along with an attempt to provide cover in this example is less so. Citing this well-intentioned effort by a small group of American soldiers as an example of why "billions of dollars and thousands of lives spent propping up and legitimizing the Iraqi government" might "have been a poor investment" is certainly dramatic but hardly an accurate picture of progress in Iraq - military, civilian, or otherwise. Unfortunately it's more indicative of what passes for journalism in America today. It also strongly reinforce a pre-existing "screw those people" mindset in many Washington Post readers, as evidenced by their comments appended to the online version of the story. If that was the author's goal he most definitely scored.
"In this culture, children with disabilities are a curse from God, so you leave the children in the house, preferably in the back room," Blauser said. "When the parents get the wheelchairs, they say: 'To hell with this curse mentality. I'm going to take them to the market.' "
Blauser had raised an additional $56,000 by the end of 2006, including a $34,000 donation from his employer. The inmates in South Dakota could barely keep up. As of May 2007, as the U.S. troop "surge" was getting underway, Blauser had 100 wheelchairs ready for shipment.
By that time, Blauser had been promoted to a management position, making $170,000, nearly double his initial salary in Iraq.
By the time CNN did a report on the project in February 2008, Blauser's organization, Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids, had distributed more than 230 wheelchairs. The piece triggered a flood of e-mails, donations and queries from people who wanted to get involved.
The donors included Ben Werdegar, an 11-year-old in Woodside, Calif., who raised $10,000 by playing his guitar at outdoor venues and who said he intends to keep at it until he brings in $1 million.
Blauser began thinking more ambitiously, realizing that his days as an unpaid humanitarian worker were numbered as the U.S. footprint in Iraq continued to shrink under a withdrawal timetable. Earlier this year, he put together a plan proposing that the Iraqi Health Ministry invest $20 million to build a wheelchair factory where dozens of newly employed workers would assemble 50,000 wheelchairs in five years. He presented it to the top U.S. military surgeon in Iraq, who works closely with the ministry. The minister politely declined.
The pediatric wheelchairs distributed in Fadhil were part of the last shipment Blauser had. Having spent the last year unemployed, he has burned through half of his personal savings.
"We're out of money and out of wheelchairs," Blauser said. "There's nothing left."
Prompted by the Americans, Alaa Dagher, head of the local council, gave a speech in the clinic's lobby.
"We are giving these wheelchairs to kids who got injured," he said. "We will help you lots in the future."
He then left, as did the Iraqi soldiers.
Previous/related: Going Through Withdrawals
Or was the expectation "no accounting"?
Regardless, the repetition of the "gullible" defense gets old. However it's phrased, "I'm gullible", "I'm easily deceived", I'm an easy mark", "I'm just a rube" or even "dammit, they tricksied me again!!!" - coming from the U.S. Speaker of the House - doesn't inspire confidence.
The President's pending Euro trip will include a D-Day commemoration and a stop at Auschwitz or Buchenwald (whichever),
But he will be aware of the sensibilities of his German hosts before the D-Day commemoration and by travelling to Dresden — a city destroyed by ferocious Allied bombing in February 1945 — Mr Obama will also acknowledge how Germany suffered during the Second World War.(HT: Jammie Wearing Fool)
An added advantage of Dresden over Berlin is that he will not be seen to be backing Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, at the outset of her election campaign.
SOMEWHERE OFF THE SOMALI COAST: The pirates on board the two skiffs must have thought they had an easy target - but they were in for an unpleasant surprise. Their prey was actually a U.S. Navy vessel, transiting northward to join other U.S. Navy and coalition ships operating in the area.
Lookouts on the USNS Lewis and Clark spotted the approaching pirates...
...and the ship immediately took bold action, using "evasive maneuvers and increased speed" in an attempt to escape. But the "suspected pirates" were relentless in pursuit, and even "fired small arms weapons" at their prey. It was at this point, realizing contact was imminent, that the ship "continued to increase speed and the skiffs ceased their pursuit".
"The actions taken by Lewis and Clark were exactly what the U.S. Navy has been recommending to prevent piracy attacks - for both commercial and military vessels," said Capt. Steve Kelley, Commander, Task Force 53, to which Lewis and Clark is operationally assigned. "Merchant mariners can and should use Lewis and Clark's actions as an unequivocal example of how to prevent a successful attack from occurring."
The Lewis and Clark is a cargo ship, not a destroyer - but it had recently been modified for a new mission - a prison ship for captured pirates:
The USNS Lewis and Clark, usually used to haul cargo and ammunition, has been reconfigured to hold as many as 26 suspected pirates — signaling a paradigm shift in the Navy’s counterpiracy missions, which previously did not allow for the capture of such suspects.
The Lewis and Clark joined Combined Task Force 151 as "a staging platform," from which the Navy can launch either of the SH-60 Navy helicopters now assigned to the ship, or serve as a temporary holding center for suspected pirates.
(HT: War is Boring)
As for the "Navy captures pirates" story, that was the French Navy earlier this week:
France intercepted 11 suspected Somali pirates on Sunday after they mistook a French naval ship for a commercial vessel and started heading toward it in preparation for an attack, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.The Nivose is operating as part of the European Union’s anti-piracy fleet.
"They confused the Nivose with a commercial ship and rushed toward it, to intercept it," the spokesman said.
"The Nivose then put its own craft in the water with its commandos and sent out a helicopter and stopped these 11 pirates who were on these three boats."
"The pirates are currently on the Nivose".
MANAMA, Bahrain, 3 May - The U.S. Navy transferred command of the Combined Maritime Forces' counterpiracy task force to the Turkish Navy today, in a ceremony held aboard Naval Support Activity Bahrain.No word yet on the presence of Turkish prison ships in the fleet.
During the ceremony, Rear Adm. Caner Bener relieved Rear Adm. Michelle Howard as commander, Combined Task Force - 151. Howard was not able to attend the ceremony as she was conducting operations at sea.
While Howard was not present at the ceremony, she said this change of command has tremendous implications.
"Turkey has been a part of CTF-151 for some time now and their participation has been nothing short of invaluable," she said. "This demonstrates our commitment to fighting piracy as an international coalition."
Howard commanded CTF-151 from April 5 to May 3, after relieving Rear Adm. Terence McKnight who stood up the task force.
"With the Turkish navy at the helm, we'll have new perspectives on the mission that I expect will enhance the strong international cooperation in place," said Howard. "There are a lot of experiences we can all share with one another to help make the waterways a better place for everyone."
Nexus Consulting Group of Alexandria, LLC, today announced the immediate availability of armed guards to assist global shipping organizations in the delivery of cargo and to protect on-site crew while traveling through dangerous waters occupied by Somali pirates.Perhaps the U.S. Navy could hire some to protect their ships - next time the pirates might have faster boats.
Elsewhere - Navy-centric blogs
And in this case "code" doesn't mean html.
...question: You're a commander whose unit mere moments ago captured a terrorist in the act of planting an IED. Two of his companions escaped. You want to ask him some urgent questions, but he immediately informs you that he hasn't slept in over two days. Would asking those questions before allowing him a good night's rest ("sleep deprivation") be torture? (Correct answer below, but make your own command decision before reading).
Answer: trick question. Any answer you give amounts to defining torture, and any action you take could cost you your career, get your troops killed, and potentially end up with you dead or sharing a cell with Abdul. It sucks to be you.
Glenn Reynolds: "You know, if someone asked me to go hire a a gay Arabic linguist, I wouldn’t know where to start. But the federal government seems to be firing them every time I turn around."
Yep, I've noticed that too. And apparently there aren't enough straight Arab linguists to go 'round:
“On Monday, September 10th 2001, a message was intercepted by the State Department: tomorrow is zero hour. Despite its simplicity, nobody was able to translate it. Any of the dozens of linguists already discharged for being gay at the time would have done so easily.”I have no idea how many bilingual homosexuals have fallen victim to State Department (or other government agency) purges over the years, but as for the military, 26 gay Arabic/Farsi linguists were reportedly discharged between 1998 and 2004, and the trend continues to this day.
But here's an interesting option being presented to Sniffington Post readers:
The "don't ask, don't tell" law requires the military to fire anyone found to be gay or lesbian. But there is nothing requiring the military to make such a finding. The president can simply order the military to stop investigating service members' sexuality.The problem with that approach is that ain't how it works. If the military was "investigating service members sexuality" then the President could arguably order them to stop, If they were investigating per congressional mandate (aka "law") that could set the President at odds with Congress, but if he feels strongly enough about the issue he could certainly take them on. (And too bad for the military - caught in the middle of that one.)
But the "don't ask don't tell" policy includes an apparently obscure clause that this argument overlooks. "Don't ask" - this is the part that forbids the investigations the President is being urged to forbid, and the military holds up it's end of the bargain quite well. In reality it's violation of the "don't tell" part that leads to expulsion of so many gay Arabic linguists, as gay Arabic linguist Ian Finkenbinder explains here.
But there are two reasons for a military member - gay or straight - to "tell". One is to stand up for their rights as a homosexual, the other is to get out of the military. The other reason is used far more frequently than gay rights activists would like you to know. (The numbers would be difficult to determine, but how many of the dozens of booted Arabic linguists have you noticed campaigning for their right to return?) Don't confuse my statement of experience-based fact for opinion - for my part, I'll answer any question regarding my opinion on don't ask/don't tell truthfully and as straightforwardly as I can: Don't care.
Meanwhile, "Democrats in Congress also believe there's a dangerous shortage of Arabic speakers in uniform" CNN assures us in the video above. They forget to mention it's congress that drives this particular train. Arguing whether or not the President should override their authority - or urging the military to selectively obey Congress or the President - is a non-starter. As ideas go that one's totally... wrong.
Update: heh - President Obama sends note to gay Chinese-American Christian female soldier saying he won't be repealing DADT any time soon because of Congress.
Funny, the number of simultaneous news stories on this topic. Sort of reminds me of the heavy spontaneous coverage given to a CNN reporter asking President Obama a question about flag draped coffins at Dover just before the policy was modified. A suspicious-minded person would think some sort of coordinated conspiracy was at work here.
Other milblogs I've checked so far: 'nuttin. They might be in the "don't care" category too.
In a May 5 letter to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., released by McCain's office today, Secretary Gates wrote that he is "concerned that this highly public and visible mission did not include an appropriate public affairs plan nor adequate review and approval" senior Air Force Department of Defense officials.Odd wording - the issue isn't Secretary Gates' "druthers" - it's what is and isn't legal. Obviously Gates would rather obey the law, but that's an odd way to state it.
Gates also asserted that he was "concerned about the use of an Air National Guard aircraft operating in Title 32 status as a participant in this event."
The F-16 that carried the photographer was provided by the Alabama Air National Guard, on loan to the Washington DC Air National Guard. Title 32 is the status under which National Guard units are activated by their state governor. Under Title 10 the President can federalize national guard units.
Presumably, Gates would rather have had an active duty U.S. Air Force aircraft and pilot to be flying the F-16, not a plane and pilot from the Air National Guard.
But some might recall the "training mission" explanation from the immediate aftermath of the event. (And reiterated in the ABC story above: "It turned out that some of the three-hour mission was training for the pilots") "Training mission" is the description of any non-operational mission - so a lot of things can be accomplished on "training missions" that couldn't be done otherwise. However, buzzing the rooftops of New York without warning is not one of them. But if successful training can be measured by lessons learned, this one could be called a smashing success.
Update - further explanation/definitions in non-military terms:
You're taking your learner's permit-holding son/daughter out to get some experience behind the wheel. Your wife says "while you're out, stop at the store and get some milk."
Your wife tells you to go to the store and get some milk. You say "Okay - and I'll take Jimmy and let him drive."
Military examples are more complicated. In general, if using taxpayer assets to accomplish "X" could be seen as fraud, waste, and/or abuse, in many cases doing "X" during a valid training mission - at no increase to cost - eliminates that concern.
Another update: "White House Military Office director Louis Caldera has submitted his letter of resignation and the White House has accepted." No word on whether his wife asked him to pick up milk on the way home.
Mrs G in the foreground, with a group of other young kids trailing, in the middle of the Pentagon:
They were there to visit the elderly shut-ins, as explained here.
Jimbo says it's "a fanciful tale", but I was there. I know better. And dammit Jim, I'm a milblogger, not a photoshopper - but I know photoshop when I see it.
(Bumped as showtime approaches...)
Do whatever it takes - set an alarm, tie a string around your finger, program your computer to remind you - but don't miss tonight's YouServed radio:
CPT Roger Hill from Dog Company 1/506th, 4th BCT, 101st will be on the show for an hour to talk about his Article 32 hearing and how he is trying to get the Army to change his discharge type so he is able to leave the service with some benefits after giving so much. P.W. Singer, author of "Wired For War", a book studying robotic and drone warfighters and explores how these new war machines are changing the very nature of human conflict.Those have both been hot topics here. Listen live (or later recorded) tonight (Thursday, May 7) at 7PM ET. For those who do listen live, it's a call-in show, so your voice can be heard, too.
All of the 25 images included in publicity material showed white men, despite 9 per cent of Armed Forces personnel being women and 6 per cent being from ethnic minorities.However, in the wake of complaints "it was announced today that, although the dolls exclude Gurkhas, female and black soldier figures will be released at a later date."
The figures will be priced from £14.98, with the MoD taking a cut from each sale.You can never have too much publicity, whot?
Officials said the revenue would be added to the military's publicity budget rather than helping to ease the department's crippling cash crisis.
(Via War is Boring)
Headline: "Gian Gentile: Exposing Counterfeit COIN" - at AntiWar.com.
I'd assume someone with authentic anti war views would chose "none of the above" in the conventional vs COIN debate. However, I can see where one could make a case for maintaining anti-war cred while still favoring COIN as humanitarian nation building. Or at least they could in the years before a Republican President tried doing it, necessitating a counter-argument that it's imposition of Western values at gunpoint therefore imperialism in a new guise. Given the real world (and real scary world) beyond our borders, I guess Isolationism is the last refuge of the thus-dispossessed.
But if you're wondering what side of the COIN/conventional line some among the "anti war" crowd might fall upon, here's a clue about what it's not:
It's population-centric counterinsurgency that clears, holds and builds, while winning hearts and minds, turning local populations against the bad guys and building up civic institutions and the legitimacy of the central government. Certainly not new theory, but dusted off and tweaked by Gen. David Petraeus & Co. for the Army's new field manual released in December 2006, dovetailing conveniently with the Surge plan crafted by the neoconservatives at the American Enterprise Institute (and ultimately appropriated by the Bush Administration) in the same month."Crafted by the neoconservatives at the American Enterprise Institute" gives excessive credit to a group that played a small (arguably not insignificant) part in developing the surge (Generals Keene and Odierno might feel slighted, too.) But "neocon" can apparently still - by mere invocation of the term - be relied upon for drawing a visceral emotional reaction from certain audiences. If this is theirs, then ours is elsewhere - and let's get there in a hurry.
Get where?, this piece seems to ask. The author's answer: "I have no idea."
Perhaps it's this Center for a New American Security place. But although we're not informed of the presence or lack of neocons there we are warned that it's the current non-DoD tip of the COINdinista* theory spear, and is "now a greased-up policy feeder for the administration." Perhaps I'm not kewl enough to know a new definition of "greased up" - but it hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement.
I imagine they're betting on COIN as the "winning" side in the COIN/conventional debate, and are gearing up to oppose it with the same vigor they would conventional were the outcome reversed. The brief chuckle-worthy humor in that is magnified by the knowledge that no one who even vaguely comprehends the discussion sees it as an either/or.
Update - Andrew Exum:
Uh, ma'am, Gian was the subject of a prominent article by elite news media journalist Yochi Dreazen (C '99) in the elite news media Wall Street Journal. I don't know a single defense policy journalist for a major U.S. news organization who doesn't know Gian either by name or personally. And for goodness sake, just do a Google News search for Gian's name.I believe he's chuckling, too.
*COINdinista: the super-hot new buzz word all the kewl kidz at the super "critical foreign policy webzines like Antiwar.com" are trying out, with some concern for contamination due to possible neoconnish roots.
“We have some other information that leads us to distinctly different conclusions about the cause of the civilian casualties,” said the senior American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan. He would not elaborate but said American and Afghan investigators were already on the ground trying to sort out what had happened.As this example demonstrates so well, if the U.S. military can't comprehend the need for speed we'll "lose" the war.
In a phone call played on a loudspeaker on Wednesday to outraged members of the Afghan Parliament, the governor of Farah Province, Rohul Amin, said that as many as 130 civilians had been killed, according to a legislator, Mohammad Naim Farahi. Afghan lawmakers immediately called for an agreement regulating foreign military operations in the country.
But that's not news:
...the motto of the US military might be "we'd rather lose a war then release a statement before we've had several months to investigate the issue and clear it with our attorneys."Elsewhere:
It's frustrating, but there are good reasons for slow response. First among them is a real desire to get the facts and a knowledge of "the fog of war". While this may seem quaint and charming to a reporter whose job is to sell papers or attract viewers (and who may or may not be motivated by a desire to shape opinion), and is certainly an exploitable weakness by an enemy who wants to recruit suicide bombers, it's still a worthy goal. There are reasons for that beyond whatever value one places on "truth". Among them, "the Army" (as opposed to the enemy or a reporter) while portrayed as "the accused" in any such story is actually the agency that must investigate and possibly prosecute any incident. This task is taken seriously, and public statements can infringe on rights of the actual (or potential) accused. Factor in that anything "wrong" in an initial response will make headlines for days ("coverup" "incompetence" etc. etc.) and the case for accuracy over speed becomes unbeatable.
But this doesn't eliminate a need for speed, and thus far "the Army" ain't gettin' it done.
Danger Room: Officials: Taliban May Have Faked Civilian Slaughter
And this should certainly make for some interesting conversation tonight.
Next: Revelations (III)
AP Headline: US military: 15 militants killed in southern Afghanistan.
Beyond the headline, a milblogger in Afghanistan links the story, saying "We made the news."
Classic milblog line: "Not much of a firefight, the Taliban was pretty dumb attacking us. I mean' c'mon, I had time to take pictures during the whole thing." And great pictures they are - the photos and story are at the link.
While you're visiting Afghani Kush, don't forget to bookmark/blogroll.
And if combat ain't your thing, try the puppy pictures. (One with another classic only in a milblog caption: "We're reading Vonnegut.")
The BBC's Ian Pannell, from Wardak Province, Afghanistan:
The deputy governor has been pleading with the new US troops deployed to Wardak province to come to the rescue. The last time the 2nd battalion, 87th infantry came here, in March, they were attacked.And more news from Wardak via MaryAnn:
The response is operation Call of Duty, rather aptly named after the video game.
It is an integral part of America's new strategy. The troops of the 10th Mountain Division are the first to have been deployed as part of the US-led "surge". Their mission is to push the Taleban away from Kabul, which neighbours Wardak.
About a year ago, a handful of US soldiers were tasked with holding down the entire Wardak province. (To understand the impossibility of that task, read this.) Now, thousands of troops led by the 10th Mountain's TF Spartan have a chance of making real progress.Follow that "read this" link and you'll learn the fate of the man who commanded the handful of troops that once did the job shared by well over 1,000 today. They'll need more than numbers, skill, and training to get the job done - the "no right answer" decision Cpt Hill was forced to make (and that ended his career) had nothing to do with those factors. Without effective and coherent policies and support from on high, the twentyfold increase in troops will simply bring failure on a larger scale.
Michael Phillips of The Wall Street Journal has written a good, solid article about the challenges facing the Task Force and what they've achieved so far.
...and there weren't any other piggies. So the rhyme ends there.
Afghanistan's only pig quarantined in flu fearUpdate: I've received unconfirmed rumors of pigs in the DFACs. Checking...
Afghanistan's only known pig has been locked in a room, away from visitors to Kabul zoo where it normally grazes beside deer and goats, because people are worried it could infect them with the virus popularly known as swine flu.
The pig is a curiosity in Muslim Afghanistan, where pork and pig products are illegal because they are considered irreligious, and has been in quarantine since Sunday after visitors expressed alarm it could spread the new flu strain.
Army Newswatch episode 09-10: Medical correspondent, Col. Paul Little, M.D., introduces us to a courageous and strong Soldier who is serving as the point of the spear for the next generation of prosthetic limbs.
...wins a battle - but the war goes on.
Lt Col Chessani was mentioned at the Savannah, Georgia Tea Party last month:
Many of you remember DJ, who was blown up in Feb 2007 in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq's Anbar province.
In the Mail:
I hope that you are all doing well. I know it’s been a while since we’ve asked for help or support for our hero, but there has been a new flurry of activity in the Emery camp recently!
An incredible organization, “Homes for our Troops” is building an ADAPTIVE home for DJ! This is a wonderful organization and an incredible opportunity for DJ and Carlee! Since 2004 this nonprofit organization has built 40 specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans who have returned from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. These homes, and DJ’s home, will be built at NO COST to the veteran, but only with our help!!!! Homes for our Troops is looking for foundation grants, corporate sponsors and volunteers to make this project possible! Fundraisers are also needed! DJ’s dream has been to build a home for himself and Carlee that includes a therapy room and is fully accessible to him, I am so excited that this dream of his is coming true! Below is the link to DJ’s page on the Homes for our Troops website where you can donate or sign up to volunteer. There will also be a registration day for interested trades-people and volunteers to sign up to help build the home for DJ from 1-8 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday 5/7/09) at the Ramada Conference Center at 1450 S. Atherton St. in State College. There will also be a presentation given at 6:30 by project manager Rick Goyette. DJ will be participating in the presentation!
Please, please, PLEASE pass this email along to anyone and EVERYONE you know. It is going to take A LOT of wonderful people stepping forward to make this the success that DJ deserves!!!!
DJ has had ups and downs in his recovery and he and his new little girl really deserve more ups.
Any support would be greatly appreciated!
...with more documents that won't be released soon.
Unless, maybe if some Abu Ghraib photos are mistakenly printed on them...
Update: More transparency.
Women and children were among dozens of bodies in two villages targeted by airstrikes, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported Wednesday, after sending a team to the district.Fortunately, the NY Times was able to get in front of this story, publishing an an interview with a "Pakistani logistics tactician for the Taliban" who "showed himself to be knowledgeable of Taliban activities, and the information he provided matched up consistently with that of other sources". Among the shocking revelations, civilian casualties are actually part of the plan:
“The Americans cannot take control of the villages,” he said. “In order to expel us they will have to resort to aerial bombing, and then they will have more civilian casualties.”Although he admits that the drone attacks are actually the most effective weapon used against Taliban/al Qaeda forces:
The one thing that impressed him were the missile strikes by drones — virtually the only American military presence felt inside Pakistan. “The drones are very effective,” he said, acknowledging that they had thinned the top leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the area. He said 29 of his friends had been killed in the strikes.One must conclude that successfully bringing internal and international pressure on the Obama administration to halt the attacks is a significant enemy goal, and the higher the number of civilian dead the more swiftly that goal can be achieved. Obviously, "International Red Cross" reports like the one relayed by the AP in the first link above - regardless of how well intentioned - further this goal. Certainly such reports should never be withheld or concealed, but we're fortunate indeed to have the New York Times explaining this tactic to their readers who can then put the entire discussion in its proper perspective.
I'll resist the urge to condemn them for not acknowledging this back in 2006 when tangible evidence of the use the media tactic first became available and will suppress my personal desire to speculate why they choose to expose rather than play along with Taliban/al Qaeda sources now (certainly something must have changed) and instead welcome what appears to be their first tentative steps to "our side" in the battle.
They could be coming "just in the nick of time".
Continued: Revelations (II)
- That's the headline over a story that begins with this: "Scores of lawmakers yesterday viewed unreleased photos and videos of Iraqi detainees being sexually humiliated and physically threatened."
Apparently the attraction was standing room only:
The private screenings arranged by the Pentagon -- one for senators, one for House members -- surely ranked among Congress's more bizarre scenes. House members silently crammed into a standing-room-only committee room as hundreds of images, some described as pornographic, flashed on a screen for a few seconds each. Lawmakers emerging from that session, and from a less-crowded Senate room, seemed almost at a loss for words."There were some awful scenes." Sen. Richard Durbin said of the presentation that included images of "U.S. troops having sex with each other", overcoming his "loss for words" long enough to add "It felt like you were descending into one of the rings of hell, and sadly it was our own creation."
Although a world-wide public release of "more Abu Ghraib images" is pending (though inclusion of those of "US soldiers having sex with each other" is unlikely), the quotes above are from a May, 2004 Washington Post story, published a few days after CBS aired the photos they'd received from Abu Ghraib prison guard Ivan "Chip" Frederick's uncle Bill Lawson.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the photos showed a number of soldiers, as many as seven or eight in one photo, observing some of the scenes. He said that is evidence that knowledge of the abuse went beyond the few soldiers who have been accused to committing it.According to the accused, at least one "higher official" who was aware of the abuse long before CBS broadcast the initial images but failed to take any action was Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
"The question is how far up the chain of command did this order go," he said.
A few days prior, the NY Times:
The irony, Mr. Lawson said, is that the public spectacle might have been avoided if the military and the federal government had been responsive to his claims that his nephew was simply following orders. Mr. Lawson said he sent letters to 17 members of Congress about the case earlier this year, with virtually no response, and that he ultimately contacted Mr. Hackworth's Web site out of frustration, leading him to cooperate with a consultant for "60 Minutes II."In addition to the pictures, Frederick's family provided a list of those elected officials they had attempted to contact months earlier:
Jack Reed D RI *SASC, emailed Feb. 2004, no response.And yes - the list included only 15 lawmakers, while quotes indicated 17. But it should be noted that the vast majority of assertions made by the defense in the early days following the broadcast of the Abu Ghraib photos were demonstrably false. Among them, the Frederick's family claim that "The purpose of the photos were to show new arriving prisoners what could happen to them if they did not cooperate with MI interrogators" - a claim echoed by others:
Mark Dayton D MN *SASC, emailed Feb. 2004, no response.
Robert Byrd D WV *SASC, emailed Feb. 2004, required by office 500 words or more, no response (1)
Bill Nelson D FL *SASC, emailed Feb. 2004, no response.
Evan Bayh D IN *SASC, emailed Feb. 2004, no response.
Mark Pryor D AR *SASC, emailed Feb. 2004, no response.
Edward Kennedy D MA *SASC, emailed Feb., no response, office requested copy of Frederick notes during senate hearings in May 2004.
Benjamin Nelson D NE *SASC, emailed Feb. 2004, no response, office requested copy of Frederick notes during senate hearings in May 2004 and senator called Frederick 's uncle.
Hillary Clinton D NY *SASC, emailed Feb. 2004, no response.
Joseph Lieberman D CT *SASC, emailed Feb. 2004, no response.
Daniel Akaka D HI *SASC, emailed Feb. 2004, no response.
Roscoe Bartlett R MD hand written letter Feb. 2004, patronizing form letter received and another from the US Army, no further response (2).
Paul Sarbanes D MD hand written letter Feb. 2004, patronizing form letter received, no further response (2).
John D Rockefeller D WV Intelligence Committee, typed letter Feb., patronizing form letter received (unable to help since Frederick is not an immediate family member), remainder of letter on abuse at prison ignored, senator left 3 messages on answering machine in May 2004, no further response (1).
Mark Warner Governor D VA, typed letter Feb. 2004, no response.(3)
Guy Womack, who represents Spc. Charles Graner, told USA TODAY that military intelligence soldiers worked behind the scenes to tell military police how to pose Iraqis in humiliating positions. Giorgio Ra'Shadd, an attorney for Pfc. Lynndie England, said intelligence soldiers responsible for interrogating prisoners used England to humiliate the prisoners depicted in the photographs.Then-PFC England would initially claim "I was instructed by persons in higher rank to 'stand there, hold this leash, look at the camera,' and they took picture for PsyOps (psychological operations)".
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said he believed some of the photographs were taken to threaten inmates who did not cooperate.
Ra'Shadd said England was pulled into the situations by intelligence agents who subverted the military chain of command. He said they used England to humiliate the men being photographed so they could show the pictures to more important prisoners and threaten them with the same treatment.The larger narrative was that the guards couldn't possibly have come up with the idea of photographing naked Iraqi prisoners on their own, and therefore must have been instructed from "on high". The Frederick family would take the argument one step farther: "Had the MP's been trained in Arab customs they would not have taken the photos. SSgt Frederick and his entire family are regretful and would like to apologize to the Iraqi people. The MP's intent was to cause the prisoners the least amount of physical pain and accomplish the mission MI had given them [to humiliate prisoners and take photos for blackmail]."
Those long-abandoned claims were effectively derailed by the revelation that long before CBS producer Mary Mapes claimed the story as her own, then-Spc Joe Darby, a fellow member of their unit, had actually first reported the abuses (and provided the photos) to Army authorities.
The earliest pictures were from October of 2003, but I didn’t discover them until January of 2004. I found the pictures on a CD that Graner had given me. To this day, I’m not sure why he gave me that CD. He probably just forgot which pictures were on it, or he might have assumed that I wouldn’t care.Actually, Graner's history of "accidentally sharing" his home-spun porn collection pre-dated his deployment to Iraq:
In March 2003, she went with Graner and another soldier to Virginia Beach. During the trip, Graner took pictures of himself having anal sex with England. He also photographed her placing her nipple in the ear of the other soldier, who was passed out in a hotel room. Soon, it became their new game: Whenever Graner asked her to, England would strike a pose.
After the Virginia Beach expedition, England and Graner rented a car and drove to eastern Kentucky, where her parents and grandfather were turkey hunting in Daniel Boone National Forest. Sitting between Graner and her parents at a picnic table, England asked Graner to share some scenic pictures from their trip to Virginia Beach. Graner handed an envelope to England's father, who opened it and scanned the images, then handed them to Terrie. They showed nudity and sexual scenes. Apparently, Graner had given them the wrong vacation shots. "I was really bent out of shape," Terrie says.
Today, one of most ignored voices in the Abu Ghraib debate is that of Ivan Frederick's lawyer, Gary Myers, who recently dismissed claims that newly-released CIA memos "prove" his client's earlier claims.
But in years past, Spc Darby was a lone voice of dissent*:
Everybody thinks there was an order from high up, or that somebody in command must have known. Everybody is wrong. Nobody in command knew about the abuse, because nobody in command cared enough to ﬁnd out. That was the real problem. The entire command structure was oblivious, living in their own little worlds. So it wasn’t a conspiracy—it was negligence, plain and simple.And for that he paid a high price:
After my name got out, I knew I had to get home. The media was swarming all over the house like vultures. They were taking pictures every time my wife came in and out, the phone was ringing nonstop, and they were coming to the door one after the other with presents and ﬂowers, even after she told them to go away. Most of the neighbors didn’t support her, either. Some did, like the postmaster—he’s a Vietnam vet, and he told my wife that he understood. But as soon as somebody else walked in, even he stopped talking to her. Because a lot of people up there view me as a traitor. Even some of my family members think I’m a traitor. One of my uncles does, and he convinced my brother not to talk to me anymore. So my wife had to hide in a relative’s house, and when the media tracked her there, she had to be taken into military custody. I still have a lot of bad feelings toward the press.But in fairness, let's give the last word to the defense - once again, the family of Chip Frederick:
I was stuck in Iraq, powerless to help her. I needed to get home. I asked for emergency leave, and at one o’clock in the morning they came to my room with a two-hour warning. They said, “Get out of bed, get what you need, turn in your ﬂak vest. You’re getting out of the country.” So I grabbed everything I could ﬁt into two duffel bags, gave my weapons to a friend, and went down to wait for the plane. It’s a long ﬂight, and I managed to sleep for most of it. Finally, we land in Dover, Delaware. We’re taxiing on the runway when all of a sudden, the plane stops. You can hear the hissing of the hydraulics, and the plane door is opening up. But we’re still on the runway. The loadmaster of the plane looks at me and says, “What the hell are we doing?” And then these three guys in suits come on, and they point at me and they’re like, “Let’s go.”
There was a van sitting there on the runway, and I was saluted by a colonel, who said, “Your family’s waiting. We’ll take you to them.” I couldn’t believe it when I walked through the doors and saw my wife. I had no idea she was actually going to be in the airport. I was just hugging her and crying. Then they took us to a house on the post for the night, and after a while, I went outside to talk to Major Chung, the provost marshal for my unit based in Cumberland. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I said, “I just want to go home.” And he said, “You can’t go home. You can probably never go home.”
He was right. I never went back to my home. I’ve only been back to my town twice: for my mother’s funeral and for a wedding. Even then, I was only in town as long as I needed to be. I’m not welcome there.
How do mountain people feel about Sgt Darby around West Virginia and his part in all this?The West Virginia congressional delegation had no comment.
In Appalachia there are three kinds of people. There are those who agree, those who disagree and fence setters. Everyone in the hills who either agrees with you or not, are to be greatly respected whether alive, dead or in the process. Accordingly a fence setter will steal your stove, come back for the smoke, are the lowest form of weasel, far lower than whale feces and bear considerable watching. It is understood that Fort Ashby , West Virginia won't be saving the last piece of pie for Sgt. Darby.
*Update/correction: Others besides Darby were indeed opposing the Ivan Frederick/60 Minutes/Seymour Hersh version of the Abu Ghraib story. Major General Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib incident following Darby's revelation, concurred - testifying to congress (at the same time as the first story above) that ""We did not find any evidence of a policy or a direct order given to these soldiers to conduct what they did. I believe that they did it on their own volition and I believe that they collaborated with several MI (military intelligence) interrogators at the lower level.""
Headlines following his testimony would read "Taguba blames leadership for prison abuse".
Jet Blue is offering an AWESOME military special during the month of May. It makes me wish I was still stationed in the DC area. In addition to the great offer, they’re going to support a great cause.CJ at You Served has the details
What can and can't be classified, as applied to photos of Air Force One.
And yes, given the much ballyhooed upcoming release of Abu Ghraib VI, Photos from Another Angle the irony meter is pegged.
Mudville readers should recall this story about Captain Roger Hill, an infantry (air assault) Company Commander formerly serving in Afghanistan. If not, please take a moment to review it - it's a powerful story, more so for hearing him tell it in his own words.
But here are more details, again in his own words. Captain Hill’s farewell letter to his company and his letter to the Commander of Army Human Resources Command detailing the events that led to his discharge from the Army describe the framework of tragedy - one likely to be repeated among many beyond the individuals involved in this specific case. In my mind reading those documents strongly reinforces my initial conclusion: Captain Hill informs us that 1,200 - 1,500 soldiers will replace the 89 members of his unit in Wardak - a part of the "Afghanistan surge". If they're forced into a position to make the decisions he did that won't be enough. No number will.
On a smaller scale, the wrongs done to Cpt Hill and a few of his soldiers can never be made right, but they can be made better. A nation at war can't turn its back on its warriors and expect to survive - and Cpt Hill stood tall where few will ever tread. He'll be joining Troy and CJ on their Youserved broadcast this week. Read this for the background, and be there for him.
Iraq's government said Sunday it won't extend a June deadline for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraqi cities despite concerns about ongoing attacks in cities like Mosul.That's fine - but what isn't is the willful propagation of ignorance on this topic by the American media. Anyone who believes the overly simplistic story CNN is pedaling here is in for a rude awakening at the end of June.
Baghdad still expects its security forces to take responsibility for Iraqi cities after U.S. troops leave, and does not plan to request an extension, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.
"The Iraqi government is committed to the agreed-upon withdrawal dates, whether it's the June 30 withdrawal of the U.S. troops from all cities and towns or the complete withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011," al-Dabbagh said in a written statement.
From the milblogs conference Q&A session with Major General Michael Oates, commander, Multi-National Division-South (MND-S), a two minute explanation of what U.S. forces will be doing in cities in Iraq after June 30th - per the security agreements between Iraq and the U.S.:
Given the referenced effort to ensure Iraqis are informed, it's a damn shame to see an equal - if not stronger - effort on the part of CNN to ensure Americans are kept as ignorant as possible. And while we're on the topic of possible, I should acknowledge that CNN is possibly ignorant about this too, and thus telling truth as best as they can possibly understand it as opposed to half truth (or outright lies).
First - the key passage from the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement: "All United States combat forces shall withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities no later than the time at which Iraqi Security Forces assume full responsibility for security in an Iraqi province, provided that such withdrawal is completed no later than June 30, 2009." Got it? Good.
Because the next Brigade Combat Team heading for Iraq (for MND-S, even) won't be called a combat team:
A city manager's course, civil affairs training and Border Patrol class have not been typical training for brigade combat teams headed to Iraq - until now.I may have misunderstood the purpose of that training, but learning "essential city services" seems an odd way for someone to spend their time if they won't be in cities.
The 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division from Fort Bliss, Texas, is headed to southern Iraq and will serve as "proof of principle" for a new "advise and assist" brigade concept.
At least six other brigades are also training to deploy under this new stability operations concept, said Col. Peter Newell, 4-1st AD brigade commander.
About 20 of his Soldiers attended a city manager's course in Austin, Texas. The El Paso city manager's office also worked with the troops to help them understand essential city services.
"For instance, if there's sewage backup in the streets," Newell said, "it's helpful to know where to look to find the problem and the person who might be able to solve it.
In addition to the stability operations training, the brigade also underwent full-spectrum combat training. Newell said he expects that his troops would be able to switch gears from civil support and move into combat, if needed, on short notice.
There have already been some invocations of Orwell associated with the name change. But I took the opportunity to participate in the same roundtable that resulted in the story above, and in this two minute excerpt Col Newell addresses my question about those criticisms:
You can find full audio and text transcript of the roundtable discussion here. Whatever they're called doesn't matter - what the Brigade will be doing in Iraq is continuing the effort along a trajectory established well over a year ago - the transition to effective Iraqi control. That won't be easy, and success is by no means assured, as recent increases in violence demonstrate all too well. Controversy surrounding their mission will not help.
It might behoove the Obama administration to make an attempt here in the States to match the Iraq government's efforts at educating citizens regarding American presence after June 30th. Reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that "she and Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander [in Iraq], agree that the uptick in bombings shouldn't change American plans for withdrawal" probably don't actually provide the needed clarification - in fact, they might exacerbate the potential problem. American troops will be operating in the cities, and those cities will likely not be without danger. Assuming CNN et al aren't simply reporting what they've been instructed to, there's likely to be an ugly surprise for someone in the news this July.
Fifteen minutes on the issues - here's the remainder of the Iraq-pertinent Q&A with Major General Oates from the milblogs conference:
Previous/related posts:All done!
Over the weekend:
Special forces on a Portuguese warship seized explosives from suspected Somali pirates after thwarting an attack on an oil tanker, but later freed the 19 [pirates]. Hours later and hundreds of miles away, another band of pirates hijacked a cargo ship, a NATO spokesman said Saturday.As for that ongoing NATO "catch and release" program, here's a well-crafted Reuters headline from a few days prior: NATO looks to beef up anti-piracy mission. The story:
Pirates are now holding 17 ships and around 300 crew, including the Greek-owned cargo ship Ariana, hijacked overnight with its Ukrainian crew.
Somali gangs have made millions of dollars seizing vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, driving up insurance rates and other costs in key sea lanes linking Europe to Asia.
Sailors are aware that pirates generally attack during the day and that some guidelines suggest designating a safe room with a bulletproof door where crews can lock themselves in case of an attack. Such a room would still be vulnerable to being blown open with explosives.
NATO states asked military planners on Wednesday to strengthen the rules of engagement for its ships tackling piracy off Somalia after legal restrictions forced some to free pirates they had captured, a spokesman said.That echoes "UN solution" statements made by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to military bloggers (here and here), but the Reuters report misses a key point regarding why NATO's response needs to be "beefed up" in the first place.
Alliance spokesman James Appathurai said the 28 NATO ambassadors also asked the planners to look into the possibility of an expanded, longer-term mission with a stronger mandate.
Appathurai said NATO would see if arrangements could be made with regional countries for the detention of captured pirates. It also considered that a U.N. role in the form of a tribunal could be worth exploring.
I recently had the opportunity to question NATO/SHAPE Chief of Staff General Karl Heinz Lather on that topic. Here's the audio:
Beyond that, this excerpt from the General's summary remarks following a roundtable that touched on a variety of topics (from Afghanistan to Georgia to the Somali Coast and beyond) is worth noting:
"This alliance is as strong as the consensus that we can build. Now we are talking about 28 sovereign nations, and each has the same say. This alliance acts only if there is consensus. It does not act if there is no consensus. One has to bear in mind - I think one has to resist the appetite to become uneasy because decision making or consensus finding is so difficult. It's worth the effort because I think if 28 democratic, sovereign nations task themselves to go forward for a better future who would stop them?"
Sadly, one answer to that hypothetical (and given evidence in Afghanistan, it's difficult to move beyond that) question might be "a handful of guys in a small boat." Bill Roggio made the right analogy here:
Nexus Consulting Group of Alexandria, LLC, today announced the immediate availability of armed guards to assist global shipping organizations in the delivery of cargo and to protect on-site crew while traveling through dangerous waters occupied by Somali pirates.
It's back (but I'm still debating whether Mrs G's vacation was with or without pay).
Coincidentally, though I'm not a regular, I was in D.C. last weekend.
A couple of reporters (apparently also not regulars) seeking access through the gate I used were politely sent to the correct one.
I've never been in the press room, but if I had I'd like to think I'd have put a sign like that there myself. Their sanctum sanctorum is hardly the place for bloggers, after all. But if I have the time and it seems important enough I do enjoy comparing the actual full transcripts of what goes on there with the resulting reports. That's always fun.
Here's another picture:
In a space dominated by the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt (to include his Medal of Honor and Nobel Prize - the second I didn't even notice) it shouldn't be surprising to see the work of one of his contemporaries on display. That's Frederick Remington's "The Outlier". The nice lady on the other side of the door behind me in the photo assured me the version on the wall near her desk was the original, painted by Remington when he was legally blind. "That's why the rider's eyes are shut." I've no reason to doubt that. Most of the rest of the conversations were less presidents and paintings and more pirates and Pakistan.
As for the "mainstream" press, let's not deny them whatever comfort they gain from not seeing bloggers in their midst.
January, 2009 NY Times headline: OBAMA WILL SHUT GUANTANAMO SITE AND C.I.A. PRISONS
May, 2009 NY Times headline: "U.S. May Revive Guantánamo Military Courts"
Which brings Tom Maguire to condemn (tongue firmly in cheek) "That darn U.S., undoing Obama's good work."
But prompts me to repeat (even though this isn't directly in his lane), "good luck, Phil." (And be careful out there.)
Long-time (in milblog terms) milblogger Sarah on why her husband is only a casual milblogs reader: "All of the interesting stuff he does is opsec, and the stuff that bloggers can write about, the non-opsec stuff, is less interesting to him. It doesn't float his boat to read milblogs because his life is a milblog."
I get that. I didn't start this site with the idea that active duty military people would flock to it to find out what was going on in their lives. And most of what I did as an active duty guy was opsec, too - though much of even that would be interesting or useful to only a select few who weren't actively engaged in combat against us.
So where do military people spend leisure time on line? The same places everyone else does. Because the vast majority of active duty military people are a representative cross-section of America, with interests as varied as the non-military population. Off the top of my head I can't name any site that's uniquely popular to military members or universally popular among military members.
So who reads milblogs? Well, you do, for one (and thanks). And if you aren't military that might be why you understood Sarah when she said "stuff he does is opsec" - a phrase that the average American would consider about as decipherable as ancient Greek. You might not even have recognized it as an insider phrase.
And per my observations above (along with emails and comments I receive), military people read milblogs too, probably in the same proportions as non-military members of the general population - at least,those military people who do so on leisure time. Others read for other reasons, among them the seekers of those ever frightening but mostly elusive opsec violations but beyond that those who wisely want to anticipate what hot topic might be looming.
Which is also why mainstream media reporters read milblogs, too - though their search for a story might have different motives. And certainly non-milblogger bloggers are frequent visitors, especially those whose sites are primarily political in nature but who see the obvious overlap and utility of citing a subject matter expert - at least, when it supports their point.
But they come and go - as both political parties (and subsequently most "mainstream" media) are too busy with "big" issues to devote significantly limited resources to any wars we're engaged in (a situation similar to the 1990's, btw) that once-larger flow is currently sporadic. (A circumstance compounded by a change in administration - those who developed a support/oppose the war/troops when my guy is/isn't in charge are likely having a tough time adapting to new realities. Meanwhile milblogers - at least, those who weren't primarily politically motivated, have nothing in that regard to adapt.)
Which brings me to a group I believe (based on years of comments, emails, other milblogs, and milblog conventions) comprise the largest milblog "audience share". For want of a better term, I'll call them "one offs".
They aren't active duty military, but they are spouses, parents, retired military, or veterans - or in many cases grown children of active duty military (yes, "military brats"). These are all very different groups with clear distinctions between them - though many individuals are members of more than one - and vast diversity within. All are motivated by maintaining contact with "the inside", in some cases looking for the details son/daughter husband/wife mom/dad doesn't want to talk about at home (for the same reasons they might not read milblogs) . Vets - retired or otherwise - who felt for a variety of reasons a real connection or value to their time in like to maintain that connection, and milblogs provide one link (perhaps for some the only).
Many who are members of those groups are also contractors, or other folks doing business with the military. That group is another "one off" - and sharp ones will appreciate the insight they can gain from milblogs.
And a final group I'd argue is only a close fit for the "one off" designation (which I intend in no way as pejorative): Guard and reserve members. They exceed the number of active duty milbloggers by an order of magnitude. You could probably count on one hand the number of actual active duty milblogs, from the front or otherwise, that have the combined longevity, consistency, and resulting quality (and subsequent readership) of those launched by guard/reserve members. This is less due to the time and effort factor and more a reflection of Sarah's husband's point that began the discussion: not "being military" on a daily basis year-round and year after year makes milblogs (reading and writing) a bit more interesting to them when they do have time to spare.
None of which answers the question "what the hell is a milblog"? A question that after so many years many milblog readers or authors might think silly, but also (as I saw demonstrated at the milblogs conference) answer wrong.
(More to follow).
But maybe you can help sort the truth from fiction here.
Summer soldiers, summer coasties...
Kelly Dougherty, one of the founders of the subversive organization, is stepping down from the post she's held for nearly three years. Ironically, the new executive director of IRAQ VETERANS Against the War is - get this - NOT an Iraq veteran!Icing the cake: "The public line by IVAW is that she "wants to spend more time with her family""
The new IVAW executive director is a "man" named Alex Bacon. Like all good IVAW members, Alex is an AWOL former Coast Guardsman. Heaven forbid they get anyone with honor to be at the helm of such a prestigious organization like IVAW. Alex is also the creator of a coffee house outside Fort Lewis that caters to other yellow-bellied ass clowns like Ehran Watada who can't hack military service and don't understand the meaning of military service.
Update - one way deserters can make a living while they're "hiding" out: "For the past three months, the federal government has actually employed him as a census worker in Austin."
In the History of Milblogs book there will be a chapter (at least) devoted to Chuck and Carren Z. If you want a story that defines milblogs, look no further - theirs is it.
This is Carren writing to tell Chuck's faithful readers that he has been injured, but is in stable condition.Mrs G and I were right near Landstuhl, so that rather quickly led to this, and a whole lotta attention to Chuck and Carren's site, and an alert through the still fairly new Soldier's Angels network that ultimately led to the creation of Valour-IT. Meanwhile, Carren (and later Chuck) kept on blogging through his ongoing recovery.
...Chuck sustained shrapnel wounds to his legs and arms from an IED. He and an Iraqi civilian were the only ones injured. The Good Lord above was looking out for him in a BIG way! He is probably in Landstuhl (sp?), Germany by now and will be back in the states in the next week to 10 days.
I could go on and on with little details of why this story is as cool as it is (yes - the blown up in Iraq part sucks), how great it was to finally meet Chuck and Carren at the last milblogs conference, why Chuck was only available for a brief appearance at this year's, and...
Anyhow, I said I could go on but no matter how fast I could type, the story would keep getting better and better at a pace I couldn't maintain.
Follow that last link.
This past week I joined in on a roundtable discussion with Col Peter Newell, commander of the 1st Armored Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team - the first Brigade deploying to Iraq as an "Advise and Assist Brigade." More about that mission later (of course you can also listen in to the recorded interview at the link - much good Q and A). For now, suffice to say the Colonel and the troops he leads have many challenges before them as they blaze a new trail in Iraq in more ways than one.
But he challenged us too - he's got a goal we can help him achieve: "I'm looking for 4,000 fans out there" for the Brigade's Facebook page. (You have to be a Facebook member yourself, but if we can do it you can too.)
Too easy. Let's help make it happen.
Watch this (there's a brief commercial first, then the show starts), then send the link to every WWII veteran you know - and their children and grandchildren.
CJ provides the long-awaited* video here.
*But those who tuned in to his blogtalk radio program knew he's been sick** this week.
**No, not Swine Flu.
Transferability of GI Bill education benefits will be limited:
The rules for Post-9/11 GI Bill transferability are in the final stages, and Clark said the Defense Department expects few changes, if any.So a guy like me - who just retired after 24 years and two tours in Iraq and actually has college age kids will not have the option, while someone who gets out after 10 years of Stateside duty will.
In a nutshell, any enlisted or commissioned member of the armed forces serving on active duty or in the Selected Reserve on or after Aug. 1 will be eligible to transfer their benefits - as long as they qualify for the Post-9/11 GI Bill in the first place and meet specific service requirements, Clark explained.
He emphasized that, by law, anyone who has retired or separated from the service before that date - even if it's July 31 - won't be entitled to transfer their benefits. Also excluded will be members of the Individual Ready Reserve and Fleet Reserve.
Most servicemembers who have at least six years of military service as of Aug. 1 and agree to serve an additional four years qualify, he said.
The magic date is August 1, 2009 - after that things keep getting worse (I think - the following is poorly worded - there's a difference between "eligible to retire" and "with an approved retirement date" and I can't deconflict them as written below):
- Those eligible for retirement on Aug. 1, 2009, would be eligible to transfer their benefits with no additional service requirement.So again, someone with ten years is good enough, twenty is not. (And you might see an unusually large number of people electing to retire on 1 August this year as a result of this.)
- Those with an approved retirement date after Aug. 1, 2009, and before July 1, 2010, would qualify with no additional service.
- Those eligible for retirement after Aug. 1, 2009, but before Aug. 1, 2010, would qualify with one additional year of service after electing to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
- Those eligible for retirement between Aug. 1, 2010, and July 31, 2011, would qualify with two additional years of service after electing to transfer.
- Those eligible to retire between Aug. 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012, would qualify with three additional years of service after electing to transfer.
I get the retention bit (although this gives someone contemplating an exit at ten years more incentive to do it) but in many ways this is a slap in the face to many veterans who worked awfully hard to earn this benefit (in more ways than one.)
In my case, my intent was to use the benefits for myself - I'm glad to have them and I was even concerned that my kids could be denied other student aid/scholarship funds if my benefits could be transferred to them. But it seems to me the (surely well-intentioned) folks who make the rules regarding this and other veterans benefits work awfully hard to ensure some small subset of the veteran population gets screwed. Every. Time.
Summer soldiers, some aren't, and summer more against the war than others. Which leads to civil war in IVAW*. (At least, it's civil so far. Just go read.)
*Iraq Veterans Against War, who - among other things, are considering limiting their membership to Iraq veterans. Among the current membership, summer outraged over that. Like I said, just go read.
The Washington Post reports that "the recent release of Justice Department memos authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques" has given soldiers convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib "new reason to argue that they were made scapegoats for policies approved at high levels."
However, the simple, unvarnished truth is that the individual conduct of those at Abu Ghraib was clearly in violation of existing criminal statutes, and those accused of abuses at Abu Ghraib had no actual knowledge of the memoranda.
Those aren't my quotes - they're from Gary Myers, defense attorney for Abu Ghraib guard (then Staff Sergeant) Ivan Frederick:
"The simple, unvarnished truth is that the individual conduct of those at Abu Ghraib was clearly in violation of existing criminal statutes," he says.Frederick entered a guilty plea at the start of his trial.
A lawyer specializing in military law, Myers represented then-Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick, convicted of Abu Ghraib-related charges that included conspiracy, dereliction of duty and maltreatment of prisoners.
In those criminal statutes, under the heading of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Congress has set out what is considered the bedrock of military law.
The code details how military members worldwide are to conduct themselves, including their interactions with prisoners.
And it requires the court-martial of any military person "guilty of cruelty toward, or oppression or maltreatment of, any person subject to his orders."
"You can't maltreat prisoners -- it's a law," Myers says. "And the CIA is not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice."
So even if the CIA imported its harsh tactics -- or the mindset that flowed from the Bush administration's torture memos -- military personnel at Abu Ghraib should have known better, says Myers. Longtime military law attorney Patrick McLain agrees.
"There's no way in the world that what was going on in Abu Ghraib was in any way part of their orders," says McLain, who is based in Dallas and has served as a court-martial trial judge.
"Nothing in the evidence of that case suggested that the individuals who were maltreating their charges were doing so at anyone else's direction," McLain says. "They were just a bunch of punks that had freedom and lack of supervision."
Says Myers: "Those accused of abuses at Abu Ghraib had no actual knowledge of the memoranda." And even if they did, he says, lawyers would face a legal conundrum.
"If what was written in those memos is a crime, it can't be law," Myers says. "And therefore, nobody could rely on it -- particularly those subject to a statute pertaining to detainee abuse."
Myers said he spent many hours examining whether he could find legal footing for making a memo-related argument. His conclusion: The memos did not have the status of law and so could not pre-empt the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Charles Graner did not. His lawyer argued a slightly different defense than the one he uses today:
In opening arguments here at the court-martial for the soldier, Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr., his lawyers insisted that he was simply following orders and using lessons from his civilian life as a prison guard to try to maintain discipline in a war zone. Using naked and hooded detainees to make a human pyramid was much like what cheerleaders "all over America" do at football games, the lawyer, Guy Womack, argued, and putting naked prisoners on leashes was much like what parents in airports do with their toddlers.Among those testifying against him, Ivan Frederick:
Still, Private Frederick and other soldiers testified, commanders did not know about the kind of treatment shown in the photographs and would not have sanctioned it.Actually it was Lynndie England's birthday - but that's another story.
Several soldiers described their alarm as they watched the abuse unfold, particularly on one evening that began with several soldiers running and jumping into a pile of detainees.
"It made me kind of sick, almost; I didn't know what to do," said one, Specialist Matthew Wisdom, who has not been charged. "It just didn't seem right."
Asked to explain photos of detainees masturbating, Private Frederick said Specialist Graner "said it was a present for our birthday." Soldiers also said commanders explicitly told them not to take photographs.
During last night's blogtalk show Troy Steward announced the launch of Afghan Lessons Learned for Soldiers - a blog begun by four Afghanistan vets (Troy, Old Blue from Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure, Vampire 06 from Afghanistan Shrugged, and the eponymous author of War on Terror News) for future Afghanistan vets.
We post information to help share knowledge from those who have been there to make it easier for you to find what you need to know to come up to speed in Afghanistan. This site is unofficial. It does not represent the DoD or the U.S. Army. All opinions expressed are the opinion of the authors and do not claim to be official policy.There's already a lot more than "how to pack your ruck" stuff, so check it out - even if you aren't heading downrange.
Speaking of the radio show, Scott Kesterson provided some candid, on-scene observations of the current state (and progress) of the Afghan security forces. You can listen to the program (#36) archived here. (In which former musician Greyhawk calls in to talk about the nature of combat in Afghanistan and the musical soundtrack to the At War film.)
Now that it's official, best of luck to Phil Carter:
The Obama administration has chosen a lawyer and Iraq War veteran who has denounced U.S. detention policy to direct detainee affairs at the Department of Defense.Long before he moved to the WaPo Phil was one of the earliest milbloggers, and one of the first in the MilBlogs Ring.
A former Army captain, he also blogged on national security issues at a Washington Post website, Intel Dump.
Phil was also at last year's Milblogs Conference, where we were on a panel together (video evidence) discussing "are milblogs still relevant"? The answer is "yes". (But don't start one in hopes of using it as a launch pad to eventually being in charge of DoD Detainee Affairs - the job is filled.)
Besides which, here's what the job pays:
Not enough. (But neither does "Army Captain in Iraq").
Update: Okay, in addition to being a milblogger I suppose these accomplishments are worth mentioning, too:
While with MLA, Carter has written extensively on legal and military issues for a variety of publications including Slate, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He has also been a leading advocate for veterans, and helped found the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, playing a central role in the organization's efforts to fully fund veterans' healthcare, increase funding for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries, and pass a new GI Bill. During the 2008 election, Carter served as a policy adviser to the Obama campaign, and later as the Obama-Biden campaign's national veterans director.