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...DB and I were standing on the parapet of the Hesco wall on the phone to the Country manager when, without warning, a massive explosion occurred about 50 metres away from us and in front of Gate 1. DB and I were blown off the parapet and by the time we gained our feet, heavy small arms fire had broken out to our front and in the LN compound that borders ours. We bolted for our gear screaming 'Contact' at the tops of our voices which, on reflection, was an idiotic thing to do because it was bloody obvious were in contact...
There's a key point in the story it could be easy to overlook:
The ANP (Afghan National Police) got to us very quickly with a ranger detachment and mobile patrols. They cleared the LN compound and a house that we had taken fire from. It was good to have them there.
The progress of the ANP is one of the many big questions that when answered will determine our withdrawal date from Afghanistan - and the character of that withdrawal. Not to attach too much emphasis to one reading of the tea leaves, but that brief account is a hopeful sign in the midst of a bad day. (Which was ultimately worse for the attackers - read the whole thing.)
Very cool: "1500 pilot-volunteers helping wounded soldiers get together with family."
"My own experience is the genesis of this operation, " founder Walt Fricke tells Bill Whittle. "I was a combat helicopter pilot in Vietnam. I was wounded by shrapnel from a rocket that exploded outside my helicopter, and medevaced home and spent six months in a hospital a long way from home... I remember it to this day..."
Check out Veterans Airlift Command here.
On a related note, here's a report on retired SFC Mike Schlitz' (a vet featured in the video linked above) return to Iraq:
No, actually, they kind of track some blogs:
Every week, the defense contractor MPRI prepares for the brass a "Blogosphere and Social Media Report," rounding up sites' posts on military matters. It's meant to be a single source for top officers to catch up on what's being said online and in leading social media outlets. Items from about two dozen national security and political blogs are excerpted, and classified as "balanced," "critical," or "supportive." The vast majority of the posts are considered "balanced" -- even when they rip the Army a new one.
Here are three recent reports...
If I know bloggers as well as I think I know bloggers they'll flood defense contractor MPRI with requests to add them to the watch list.
Here's a video I just put together for my friend Mitch Bell, with audio excerpts from his Michael Smerconish radio interview and text from the Philadelphia Inquirer story on fraudvet Andrew Diabo.
Not a great quality picture of Diabo, but it's a face people should see and remember - he's on the run. (Hopefully his next photo will be a mug shot). Visit Mitch's blog The Sandgram for the latest updates on the story.
Chuck Yeager: "That kind of flying had kept me alive over Germany and later over Korea, Vietnam and Pakistan."
What kind? This kind - which couldn't happen today. (That's mostly a good thing.)
At Registan - Guest Post: How to Write About Afghanistan.
Most reporters are familiar with this style guide, and any reader will recognize examples of its widespread use.
...this is me passing along a message I know is important to a lot of vets and active duty folks out there.
If USAA is unable to invest in the same diversified manner it presently does, the result is likely to be higher auto and home insurance premiums and significantly less competitive life insurance products and annuities. So, we are making every effort, and enlisting your help, in amending this legislation.
If you haven't already done so, Follow the link for more details. They've also made it easy to contact your senator and representative.
By the way, USAA informs me they've recently expanded membership opportunity to anyone who's served (honorably separated - officer or enlisted) in the military, meaning a lot of vets have a great opportunity to join the best financial service organization around ("the only fully integrated financial services company in America") - I've been a member for years, as are most active duty folks I know. I've never known anyone who offered anything but praise for USAA. (Hey, how many other companies can rally tens of thousands of customers to speak up for them?)
The US Army War College has its own YouTube channel, and it's a treasure trove for those interested in military strategy and history, with video lectures, speeches, seminars and other presentations from those who formulated those strategies or lived the history.
In keeping with the recent Vietnam theme here, (and once again combining it with the embedded reporters theme) this example features Joe Galloway, co-author of We Were Soldiers Once... and Young. After opening with excerpts from the film version of the book, Galloway discusses his (and Lt Gen Hal Moore's) experiences preparing We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam, the sequel to that must-read account of the battle at Ia Drang. (And a bargain book at Amazon now - while supplies last.)
On a side note, here's one of the many comments from Galloway that really got me thinking... "As we pursued these trips back, we pressed the North Vietnamese," he said of his efforts to arrange a trip to the nation where so little time and so much of their lives had been spent.
Evidence, I suspect, of the degree to which experiences can condition one's thoughts. By then it had been nearly a quarter-century since any such place had existed elsewhere than old maps.
I don't mean that as a critique of Galloway or his account. We're fortunate to have this available, and it's the tip of an iceberg of an archive from which there's much to be learned.
For real, no joke, no internet scam. Details here.
They're an advertiser (disclaimer satisfied) but that doesn't mean I have to watch PBS' My Lai documentary.
But I will.
"Buck" Thompson isn't around any more, but his is a story every American (in uniform or not) should know.
Update: you can now watch the full program online here.
Lawrence Colburn, Helicopter Gunner: Mr. Thompson calculated they had less then thirty seconds to live. He told us, "I'm going over to the bunker and get these people out myself. And if these American soldiers fire on these people or me when I'm getting them out of the bunker, shoot 'em." I remember thinking - how did we get into this?
Something I said on a related discussion bears repeating:
It's an action that many of us would like to believe we ourselves wouldn't take were we in similar circumstances. There are any number of such things we like to imagine ourselves capable or incapable of - from rescuing victims from a burning building or a horrific car crash to exhibiting calm courage under fire (sure - I could do all that!); to enraged battlefield bloodlust (never - I don't even curse when I bump my head!) to fleeing the scene of a car crash we witnessed (not even when late for work!). But reality and our imaginations are two different places...
The man you want to be is Buck Thompson, that's one of many lessons of My Lai, and the most important.
A great bit from the comments on Cassandra's recent (and excellent) post.
BillT: I knew a couple of reporters in RVN who wrote accurately and *favorably* about what we were doing in the Delta -- and I'd read what they filed, because they liked to hang around with us whenever they were in the neighborhood.
What was published often had nothing in common with what was filed, except the location of the action, the units involved, and the reporter's by-line.
Cricket: BillT, a question here: In RVN, those reporters prolly had experience covering wars but things were changing at home. Do you think the editors of their stories changed them to reflect it?
BillT: I know they did on at least one occasion, Lady Cricket.
We flew an RF/PF platoon into an area on a recon patrol, and they bumped into an NVA recon element.
Bear that in mind. We were deep in the Mekong Delta and ran into an element of *North* Vietnamese regulars at a time when the MSM meme was that there were no North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam.
Long story short, we eventually inserted a full battalion of 9th ARVN Division troops to counter what turned into a meeting engagement with at least that number of NVA. The ARVNs kicked the NVA's butts. We had a few aircraft take hits, the ARVN and Ruff-Puffs took some casualties, but the NVA lost at least 50 KIA, by actual count, and about fifteen prisoners. The reporter who wrote the story interviewed several of the US advisors with the RF/PF and the 9th ARVN, and questioned two pilots from my platoon. He wrote the story on *my* typewriter, with me looking over his shoulder to answer questions.
He filed what he wrote -- no changes.
Two days later, a story appeared under his byline about a resounding *defeat* a local Viet Cong unit had inflicted on the 9th ARVN, and that three US helicopters had been shot down by hostile fire.
No mention of North Vietnamese troops (there weren't more than a squad of VC involved -- as scouts), none of our helicopters were shot down, and the fight was a *win* for the good guys.
The reporter was livid, and we didn't blame him -- his *editor* had flushed his good-standing with his friends and sources in the field.
So, don't always blame the reporter for "bad news." I'm glad to see the whole story - with more insight from Bill ("One of the self-deprecating terms we Combat Assault pilots had for ourselves was "Taxi Driver" - as in, "I drive an olive drab taxicab." It gave outsiders the comforting illusion we were actually humble souls (rather than suicidal maniacs)...") as a post of its own at the Castle.
This quote from Joe Klein's Time Magazine article was one of many from his account that disturbed me:
"We've been asked to do a lot of different things," says Major Korey Brown, the battalion's executive officer. "They detached us from our brigade, which is headquartered in eastern Afghanistan, and sent us out here to Zhari district to be storm troopers -- that's what General Vance called us -- and that's what we were trained for, that's what we like to do.To find, fix and finish the enemy." But the mission changed with the arrival of General Stanley McChrystal, as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in the summer of 2009. "It's not about how you engage the enemy so much now. It's how you engage your district governor," says Brown. "That's a huge change for guys like us -- call us knuckle draggers or whatever, but we weren't trained to do COIN."
Probably no more than a handful of Time readers understand that beyond the words "we weren't trained," which, if true, is really the only point that matters in the quote anyway. But now the quoted officer, Major Korey Brown, has responded:
First, the quote used in the Times Magazine article was taken out of context and I have contacted Mr. Joe Klein and let him know how disappointed I was at his "partial" use of it.
Second, other uses of quotes that were attributed to me were not mine. "Knuckle-draggers," storm-troopers," find, fix, finish the enemy" were not used by me......
Major Brown's full response appears in the comments on this Tom Ricks post, where they won't get near the notice Time provides. But here's a bit more:
I often say, and said to Mr. Klein the day I was interviewed, that the current fight we are in with the Taliban is a fight for the population. It does not matter how many Taliban are killed or captured, if you do not gain the trust and confidence of the population, we will not succeed.
I have been in the Army 18 years, third deployment.....I have seen what works and what does not. I know "population centric" operations is the way to succeed, the only way to win.
The quote about not being trained in COIN was grossly used out of context and the intent of that quote was, "we cannot use not being trained in COIN as an excuse, no-one wants to hear, we were not trained in COIN!"
Not getting into the COIN debate in this post, just highlighting what appears to be another unfortunate example of a bit of reportorial slight of hand - or misunderstanding. Klein's not a military reporter, but he is a talented writer. Whether that's a factor or not this could serve as a useful reminder that "well written" and "accurate" are two different things.
Mitch "Taco" Bell tells me he'll be on the Michael Smerconish radio show Monday, 0730 eastern, talking about the Andrew A. Diabo case. If you aren't listening in your car, tune in here ("Listen live" button is on upper right...)
"...the Taliban's definition of themselves may at times differ considerably from the mass media's often ambiguous use of the label 'Taliban.'"
Anne Stenersen has written a new FFI report on the organizational structure and ideology of the Taliban. The report is based on field research, analysis of online Taliban propaganda and a thorough review of the secondary literature. This is essential reading for anyone working Afghanistan.
One of her conclusions caught my eye: "For the time being, it looks like any attempt to negotiate with the Taliban leadership directly would serve to strengthen the insurgent movement, rather than weakening it. A more realistic approach is probably to try to weaken the Taliban's coherence through negotiating with, and offering incentives to, low-level commanders and tribal leaders inside Afghanistan."
Published by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), here's the full report: The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan - organization, leadership and worldview. Not for "experts" only - a good introduction to the topic, too.
My friend (and long-time milblogger) Mitch "Taco" Bell:
In January, a friend of mine sent me an email asking for help. Her brother-in-law was interested in a guy named Andrew A. Diabo, and he needed a set of Marine eyeballs on this guy to verify that he was actually in the service. The email included links to two stories published by Amanda Cregan at the PhillyBurbs.com.
They were about a Marine LtCol who was back from the war, and was about to lose his $530,000.00 home. In the story, the Marine was recalled after 9-11, and was sent over to the war for four or five years. Somehow he was behind in his mortgage payments to GMAC. The neighbors were a bit upset at the nearly completed eye sore across from their elementary school. They wanted to know what happened to their neighbor, and why the house was in the state it was. When it was published, and folks discovered that he was a "wounded vet," a ground swell of support began, touching many hearts in the local area.
And many wallets, too.
"Enter Lt. Col. Mitchell Bell," reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, "an Iraq veteran in Texas who had gotten wind of the questions surrounding Diabo..."
Unfortunately, at this point in time Diabo is on the run. So be on the lookout, as they say, and read the whole thing.
(And those who attended the milblogs conference might recall Mitch as one of the most entertaining panelists of the weekend...)
Update: Taco tells me he'll be on the Michael Smerconish radio show Monday, 0730 eastern, talking about the case. If you aren't listening in your car, tune in here ("Listen live" button is on upper right...)
Following up on this post yesterday ~ here's a look at some of the guys it was my pleasure to cross paths with at the milblogs conference this month.
Matt Bernard ran a milblog, and was a panelist at the 2009 conference. ("Taking Care of Veterans," video here.)
You're going to have to watch the videos and read those links to get the point, but to take this one step further...
It's sad that some employers (regardless of motivation) would deny themselves the services of some of the smartest, most dedicated, and proven performers available anywhere - but that gives an obvious advantage to their competitors who don't.
...the question any company in America should be asking isn't "golly - should we hire vets?" It's "how soon can you start?"
But again, if you don't ask those questions, someone else will.
Bret Michaels is in critical condition suffering from a brain hemorrhage, his publicist said Friday. Joann Mignano confirmed a report on People magazine's website Friday that said the former Poison frontman was rushed to intensive care late Thursday after a severe headache. The report said doctors discovered bleeding at the base of his brain stem.
The 47-year old rocker recently underwent an appendectomy, and is diabetic. But that latter condition didn't keep him from doing a USO tour through Iraq, in 2007 - smack dab in the middle of the surge.
This video begins with a package report, but I've tacked on some "b-roll" stuff, that will really give you a feel for what it was like to be in the crowd. IIRC, most of the folks you'll be "with" were from 2/10th Mountain, 3/101st (the latter was in the process of RIP/TOA with the former at the time) or 3d Combat Aviation Bde.
I didn't go to his show, had to get some sleep that night, but as it turned out I didn't miss it either... I could hear it just fine from my bed. Honestly I didn't mind, it was good to hear the troops having a good time, and as you can tell from the footage above even those who were babes in arms during the heyday of Michaels' band Poison were having an authentic blast. (The sort you don't mind in a war zone.)
Thanks for that, Bret, and get well.
My father, the man I most loved and respected in the world, passed away last Friday -- one day after his 73rd birthday. He leaves behind 7 children, 19 grandchildren, & 5 great grandchildren.
"My father served his country as a Marine," Rusty tells us, with a mix of sadness and pride. Semper Fi.
And safe travels, Rusty. Kind words appreciated here, I'm sure.
...that everyone will find something disagreeable about this.
Employers are afraid to hire recent vets, Leo "Three Sticks" Shane of Stars & Stripes reports, because of fear that PTSD and TBI could make them go postal. Actually I think it probably is more from fear that PTSD and TBI will drive up the costs of employer-provided health insurance.
It's sad that some employers (regardless of motivation) would deny themselves the services of some of the smartest, most dedicated, and proven performers available anywhere - but that gives an obvious advantage to their competitors who don't.
In 2003 I offered advice for deployed milbloggers on dealing with those long-winded folks who just wouldn't listen: "they're making noise, and we're making history."
So when I see that sentiment reflected in posts from deployed troops today I notice:
I've dealt with several reporters out here in Afghanistan. It's not surprising that the journalists who make their way out to our remote and dangerous outposts are usually a little cockier and more arrogant. After all, their job is to find action and to sell the story of the amazing things they've seen. At first, I found that cockiness endearing. I saw it as a means of trying to relate to the atmosphere of the Army's combat arms units. Ten months into my tour in Kandahar, that arrogance has lost its charm. I view journalistic arrogance on the front lines more as a defense mechanism used to cope with the fact that they are only writing about history, not making it...
That's one brief clip from a post by Rajiv Srinivasan, one of the very few downrange milbloggers around. There's not a word he writes here that won't challenge someone (and that someone won't make noise about). Read the whole thing.
From our friend Kanani Fong:
Last year, Logan Lynch, an eighteen year old high school graduate, met up with Amy Sun, one of the lead coordinators along with Keith Berkoben of FabLab Afghanistan. The two hit it off --meaning Logan was adept at rising to all of their directions. Logan was rewarded with being asked to work with Fab Lab. His latest challenge involves creating a photography class for the young men and women who take classes at the Jalalabad Fab Lab computer center.
Read the whole thing, an awesome story from Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
For much of 2007 and 2008, I was an embedded reporter with a platoon of airborne infantry at a remote outpost called Restrepo, which was attacked up to four times a day. Many soldiers had creases in their uniforms from bullets that had brushed them. In one firefight a bullet hit a sandbag six inches from my head.
Now, the military has retreated, saying that the valley is too isolated and that the American presence was possibly pushing the locals to side with the Taliban.
...The men at Restrepo seemed to make "sense" of combat in a completely personal way. They were not interested in the rest of the war and they were not much concerned with whether it was just, winnable or even well executed. For soldiers, the fight is what gives a place meaning, rather than the other way around.
In that sense, the Korengal was literally sacred ground...
Outpost Restrepo was named after Juan Restrepo, a platoon medic who was killed on July 22, 2007. He was one of the best-liked men in the platoon, and his death was devastating. The men took enormous pride in the outpost they built, and they can now go online and watch videotape of it being blown up by an American demolition team. It is a painful experience for many of them, and in recent days, e-mail messages have flown back and forth as the men have tried to come to terms with it. One man became increasingly overwrought from watching the video over and over again, wondering what all the sacrifice had been for. Another soldier finally intervened.
"They might have pulled out but they can't take away what we accomplished and how hard we fought there," he wrote to his distraught comrade. "The base is a base, we all knew it would sooner or later come down. But what Battle Company did there cannot be blown up, ripped down or burned down. Remember that."
And if you seem to recall reading something else about the Korengal Valley recently, it could have been this.
Staff Sergeant Matthew S. Kinney, United States Army, distinguished himself through exceptionally heroic conduct on 16 October 2008, during a daring Medevac hoist rescue in the forbidding Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. His actions not only reflect the highest credit upon himself and his unit, but saved the lives of eight critically wounded U.S. and Afghan Soldiers and an entire Medevac crew.
There's a video there, too.
And if images of US forces abandoning a valley seem familiar, you may be remembering events in the aftermath of the attack on Keating last Fall. If none of that sounds familiar, or if anything about this story seems shocking, you might want to read this, this, and this, for an intro to events last year (when the decisions were made that you're seeing played out now).
For a too-quick summary, General McChrystal was given a number of troops to accomplish the mission he said he could accomplish with that number of troops. He had proposed bigger things for bigger numbers, too - but that wasn't meant to be. In the end (meaning a decision was made - the troops aren't there yet) and after too much delay for all the wrong reasons - he got a "medium" response. Obviously given more he could have done more, but he got what he got, and certain tasks therefore fall below the red line. Among them, remote spots like Restrepo and Keating. That leaving such locations leads to Taliban propaganda videos is hardly a surprise.
"...the air travel situation and the follies of the European authorities, who undertook unprecedented closures based only on computer generated dispersion models, not on what was actually happening."
This is less about a volcano, and more an issue of weather forecasting - perhaps bad forecasting. I say perhaps, because as with tangible objects when information flows there's a chain of custody involved, and (unlike with tangible objects) it's difficult to state with certainty where along the chain something went wrong. Information moves from people to computers, then back to people who make decisions and talk to others who make decisions who brief others who are very busy - and so on. If there are enough people in the chain who want to 'err on the side of caution' and adopt a worst case scenario approach (or simply make bad decisions), you end up with exactly what Europe got.
That there's something called "science" involved is something of a moot point. It's certain science wasn't used well, the results were catastrophic.
Evidence is certainly useful when making your case.
I have in my possession compelling evidence of General McChrystal's smear campaign. It's been sent to my attorney. The sad part is that McChrystal is incompetent even with a smear campaign. Official statements by his people -- in writing -- have been defamatory and libelous. A writer must be able to spot libel just as ...a soldier must be able to spot IEDs. It's part of the job. If you can't spot it, you will get hurt. Further evidence of McChrystal's incompetence is the ease with which he jerks a writer from the field and gets a laser on himself/staff for lying. And then his own staff commits defamation and libel. They fight like children. They are giving me their ammo. It's saddening. We cannot win such a complex war with people like that in charge. This is not a winning team.
The world awaits.
A tale of men behaving badly?
Military men, of course, who in a moment of levity turned to fun with axe and gun, in part to release the tension of war. Fortunately no one was hurt, but a superior reported their behavior to the world...
The Staff discussion upon the share we were to have in the major assault upon Japan became heated and led to an amusing incident. Each of the joint Staffs had behind them a considerable group of twelve to twenty high Staff officers, a quivering audience, silent, with gleaming eyes. Presently the chairman said, " I think we had better discuss this without our Staffs being present," upon which the group of high Staff officers filed out into a waiting room. The quarrel was duly settled, as usual, and Mountbatten, whose position as Chief of Combined Operations gave him a seat on the British Chiefs of Staff Committee, seized this opportunity to ask the chairman if he might give a demonstration of the special mixture of ice which his scientists had found. This was called Pykrete.* On receiving permission one of his Staff wheeled in on a large dumb-waiter two blocks of ice about three feet high, one common or garden ice, the other Pykrete. He invited the strongest man present to chop each block of ice with a special chopper he had brought. All present voted General Arnold into the job of "strong man". He took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and swung the chopper, splitting the ordinary ice with one blow. He turned around, smiling, and, clasping his hands, seized the chopper again and advanced upon the block of Pykrete. He swung the chopper, and as he brought it down let go with a cry of pain, for the Pykrete had suffered little damage and his elbows had been badly jarred.
Mountbatten then capped matters by drawing a pistol from his pocket to demonstrate the strength of Pykrete against gunfire. He first fired at the ordinary ice, which was shattered. He then fired at the Pykrete, which was so strong that the bullets ricocheted, narrowly missing Portal.
The waiting officers outside, who had been worried enough by the sound of blows and the scream of pain from General Arnold, were horrified at the revolver shots, one of them crying out, "My God! They've started shooting!"
But who in war will not have his laugh amid the skulls? - and here was one.
- From Winston Churchill's The Second World War, Volume 5: Closing the Ring.
Well, for accuracy that should say possible ash plume, but the point is, troops wounded in Afghanistan are being sent to Balad, home of the biggest military medical facility in Iraq, which lately hasn't been used as much as it once was.
Troops wounded in Afghanistan are evacuated to Iraq
The U.S. military has diverted the medical evacuations of about 20 servicemembers wounded in Afghanistan to a hospital in Iraq because of the ash plume preventing usual air travel into Germany.
To accommodate the sudden influx of patients, hospital wings that had been shut down -- due to the upcoming Iraq withdrawal -- were reopened.
Okay, I would say you don't shut down wings due to an upcoming withdrawal, (and they haven't - they "shut down" because the number of wounded troops has declined by orders of magnitude, even if the number of troops in Iraq hasn't) but I've already been nitpicky enough.
Really, the moral of the whole volcano story is who cares about accuracy, anyway?
...I hope. If so, it will be among the finest ever written. 'Til then, there's this.
He finally lays back, exhausted. People slowly leave. But his nurse stays - as always - hovering, watching his vitals, carefully checking all of his many lines and the machines connected to them.
I move back to his side and he tries to say something, but his throat's raw and he can't talk. I lean in, apologizing because I can't understand.
"How much... how much... longer?"
I know these guys. He wants to know how much longer he has to stay here before he can...
..and down for the dirt nap:
"Abu Ayyub al Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al Muhajir, Abu Omar al Baghdadi and a number of al Qaeda leaders in Iraq were killed during a security operation in al Thar Thar region in Anbar," Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki told reporters at a press conference in Baghdad, according to Voices of Iraq.
US Forces Iraq, the US military command in Baghdad, confirmed the report in a press release.
As Bill notes, "Al Masri was hand picked by Ayman al Zawahiri to take control of al Qaeda in Iraq after its founder, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, was killed in a US airstrike in Baqubah in June 2006."
At the time, there was much talk of the likelihood of Zarqawi's death leading to the ascension of an even more competent, formidable leader of AQI. What actually followed close on the heels of that event was something everyone knows now as the "Anbar Awakening." In 2006, those battles in Anbar were well-blended into the popular "Iraq civil war" narrative. But now, of course, we know the Awakening Movement (and certainly not that "surge" thing) is what really won the war. (/sarcasm)
Even hindsight isn't always 20/20 - the historical re-writes on Iraq are a continuous operation. Pay attention to events in real time and those re-writes aren't necessary. (Does anyone remember "the Devlin report"?) (/advice no one will take.)
Alice's Scott's Restaurant Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC):
"Air Mobility Command can quickly adapt its operations to account for adverse weather conditions or other global events," said Col. Arlo Guthrie, a senior leader at the 618th TACC.
The center is around the back of the base, just a half a mile from the railroad tracks.
But seriously folks - these are the people responsible for maintaining airlift capability to Iraq and Afghanistan (and the rest of the world) throughout the European volcano disaster - and always. "Routine" or "day-to-day" ops are tough enough, they're unsung heroes, all.
Bottom line questions: How many milbloggers who were not on active duty (hence sent to the war as a troop) have spent more than a year in the wars? I know of zero. Does one exist? The milblogging community is largely a hurricane of hot air.
There are some ...good and responsible writers working milblogs but most of them are less accurate than the MSM they oppose.
Please name the top five milblogs -- and one person from each -- who has spent a year (less than 15% of the war) as a civilian journalist/writer inIraq/Afghanistan. Start with http://www.longwarjournal.org/ and Blackfive. People who are seriously tracking the war seriously don't track these guys.
I know why Mike wants to lash out at Blackfive (though "all milbloggers are shit" is a foolish, juvenile, but sadly unsurprising response to being ostensibly called out for "mCChrystal iz teh poopiez monkey PAOs and Karzai sux" posts), but that aside everyone who is seriously tracking the war does read Long War Journal. (Likewise everyone who is seriously tracking the war is seriously concerned for you, Mike.) Bill''s efforts (and the contribution of other fine and insightful writers) place LWJ high on anyone's list of the best resources for tracking the war. (Not the only - anyone who says "I get all my news from [any single source]" is woefully uninformed.) And I know (and didn't support - frankly it disgusted me) why Mike attacked Bill Roggio before, but why now?
Honestly, I want to get news of the war from Mike Yon, too. But for quite a while now he's been doing little more than announcing who's on his shit list. That's an obvious (and probably effective) invite for others to dish him all the dirt they can ("I'll be supporting my assertions later..."), but besides the Mean Girls/'burn book" aspects it raises obvious questions on future objectivity and motive.
(Disclaimer: I met Bill in Baghdad in '07, Mike Totten, too. In fact, knowing his difficulties getting an embed at the time I had contacted Mike Yon offering to help. I wasn't a public affairs guy, but I knew the right doors to knock on - but IIRC he was already cleared for his Diyala embed at the time. Later I wrote this review of Yon's book for the New York Post.)
Avoid the Snake Oil. Good advice, from someone there.
...begins a life in full.
...Some distant sunset, vision fading
And tired eyes gaze 'pon folded flags
While distant drums beat their refrain
Saluting fallen friends whose names
And youth will never fade
Here's to those on distant shores,
for them live well, the price is paid.
Update - via email from Robert:
Thank you for thinking of Mike and our family today. We did well. Tonight, we had Honors night at one of the local high schools and gave out the first of seven scholarships. Tonight as I gave out the scholarship I thought of this past weekend when a soldier in the town right next door - just seven miles away - was buried after being killed in Iraq. 1 LT Robert Collins, West Point 2008, was from Tyrone GA and the only child of Deacon and Sharon Collins, both retired Army LTC.
How much more could they have given? And I thought of how they want to remember their son by doing a scholarship in his name at Sandy Creek High School.
And I thought how lucky I am to have two children to share life with.
"You know the rest. In the books you have read," said Longfellow.
A word that shall echo for evermore? Through all our history, to the last? Perhaps. It certainly is the sort of thing that should be handed down through the generations. Not too very long ago schoolchildren memorized that poem, along with the preamble to the Constitution, and various other writings of profound significance to world history and our national psyche. (After introducing them to that poem, here's a great gift for any schoolkids in your life.)
For the more advanced reader - Happy Patriots Day.
Today, we mark the day in 1775 when Americans took up arms against their king, and bled, at the crack of terrible dawn.
It's the Massachusetts & Maine-only holiday that should be a national one.
I'll drink to that! (And apparently, that's what the originals would have done, too.) Speaking of the originals, "Here's how it unfolded that April morning 235 years ago today, in their own words..." sez Jules, who then delivers.
The shadow grows:
The eruption in Iceland has released a plume of volcanic gas and ash that moved southeast over Europe. The plume is quite attenuated, and represents no threat, but there has been a spectacular over-reaction by timorous authorities, and huge disruption to air travel. Essentially the system has shut down for much of the continent. Whole nations have closed their air space. Yet the plume is so thin that observers on the ground cannot even discern any haze in clear blue skies. How could it possibly gut jet engines?
That's from last Thursday. The ash cloud, to whatever degree there was one, has since dissipated further. This isn't the first volcanic eruption in the history of the world, but even without direct damage from the event itself, it may be the most costly.
How dangerous are the skies over Europe? It isn't evident from the reporting, but that's a question with only a theoretical answer. But regardless of whatever theory you might subscribe to, for the sake of accuracy it's more correct to blame fear of the volcano (or concern, if you prefer) for halting air travel in Europe rather than the volcano itself. As seen on TV, science says there's an invisible but deadly ash cloud over the continent - at all levels of the atmosphere where planes could otherwise safely fly. Governments have endorsed that science (they are the sponsors of the practitioners, so on the face of things that's neither surprising or suspicious).
Others - motivated by a desire to see science improve and bring improvements to our lives - may question the science, and in fact they are. It's good that can be done without fear of repercussion, of being branded as a threat to good order, a heretic or worse. We've certainly come a long way from the days when pronouncements from on high were thinly supported by calls to faith and accepted without question by a population that as a whole rarely pondered the difference between fact and superstition, when virgins were tossed headlong into the flaming maw to appease the volcano god, or fear of falling off the edge of the world kept mariners from sailing too far from shore, right?
In Iceland a volcano erupts - embedded in a massive smoke cloud, ash and other particulate matter are flung skyward. An impressive sight if you can get close enough to view it...
...but the ash cloud spreads and dissipates as it's carried downwind, and doesn't appear on infrared or visible satellite imagery.
"Seeing" the ash cloud requires additional enhancement of the data - as in the (April 15) image below where it's visible as the grey band stretching left to right across the upper half of the picture.
And forecasts of the progress of that plume are based on computer-generated models, with output similar to the animated images below.
That was the only "view" anyone had of the ash cloud over Europe. By the time any spread over the Continent, it was not visible to the naked eye.
You've no doubt already heard that concern over the possible presence of that ash cloud has temporarily halted air travel in Europe. It's an unprecedented event on this scale. Volcanic ash, unlike "regular" clouds composed primarily of water, is solid particulate matter, and can wreak havoc on aircraft engines. Concerns are very real, and photos of empty major European airports or stranded travelers are a common site on the internet and television news this weekend. The financial impact is enormous, but the impact of halting flights over Europe goes beyond backlogged civilian cargo or business and pleasure travel to and from those many hubs.
Europe is the normal first stop (or last stop, if they are inbound) for all American military personnel departing the CENTCOM area of operations - whether they are troops rotating home at the end of their tours, going on leave, or evacuated for medical issues - including those wounded in action in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Flights in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been directly impacted by the volcanic ash cloud, and won't be. Prevailing winds and dispersal with time will eliminate any threat there.
However, flights from the AO to Europe have been canceled - including missions to deliver sick and injured troops to Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany. By the end of last week, "one medical evacuation flight from downrange has been re-routed directly to Joint Base Andrews outside Washington," said Navy Capt. Kevin Aandahl, a spokesman for U.S. Transportation Command. From there patients will be transported to Walter Reed or Bethesda.
Quality care can be provided downrange - but hospitals there may experience a bit more crowding than normal. And once a backlog has been created it can take quite some time before it's cleared. It took over one week to catch up the delayed patient transports after just one missed flight caused by closing the airspace over Washington DC for President Obama's inauguration last year.
So planners, schedulers, and crews of the medevac flights aren't likely to get much "down time" in the aftermath of the volcano. But troops leaving Afghanistan are just one part of the equation.
From Stars and Stripes:
Ramstein Air Base in Germany, normally the busiest military hub on the continent, had recently boosted flights into and out of Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama's order for 30,000 additional troops there.
Flights headed downrange, needing to cross the Atlantic Ocean from the States, are "at a halt," said Air Force Lt. Col. Jim Dryjanski, 86th Operations Group deputy commander at Ramstein.
All flights and heavy-lift aircraft operations into and out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, have also been postponed due to the volcanic ash, said base spokeswoman Air Force 2nd Lt. Kathleen Polesnak.
About half the additional airlift missions tied to the buildup in Afghanistan were to route through Ramstein and Spangdahlem, Air Force officials announced earlier this year.
And just as with moving wounded troops, backlogs in the system can take significant time to clear.
Fortunately, any clearing operations required may begin soon. European airline "test flights" this weekend have been successful, with no problems reported from any ash that might be present. However, the EU is struggling with this unprecedented (millions of travelers stranded, cost to the aviation industry alone at least $200 million a day) problem.
Diego Lopez Garrido, state secretary for EU affairs for Spain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said that "now it is necessary to adopt a European approach" instead of a patchwork of national closures and openings.
"Probably tomorrow one half of EU territory will be influenced. This means that half of the flights may be operating," Lopez Garrido said about conditions Monday.
Meanwhile, "the announcement of successful test flights prompted some airline officials to wonder whether authorities had overreacted..."
My latest, and possibly the last report I ever do on Iraq - a snap-shot of the Post June 30, 2009 operating environment for the 1st Inf. Div. Museum in Wheaton, IL.
Don't miss it - a great intro to Iraq today, from a guy who's been there more than a few times over the years, and knows his topic.
(For those who've lost track, the "post-June 30" reference is to the date we pulled all "combat troops" out of the cities, per President Bush's SOFA.)
A reminder - an ever-growing collection of photos and links to online coverage of the Milblogs Conference can be found at the Facebook Fan of Milblogs page .
And that's open to posting by anyone - so you can even add your own. And it's not just about the conference - it's the online virtual milblogs conference that continues year-round. Have you found (or written) a story of interest to milbloggers? Link it there! Want to plan an in-person local/regional milbloggers meet-up in your neighborhood? This is the place to connect.
Looking for some weekend reading? Are you interested in the future of our efforts in Afghanistan? Try the Tribal Engagement Workshop at Small Wars Journal. From Dave Dillege:
The Small Wars Foundation (Small Wars Journal's non-profit 501(c) parent organization), the Joint Irregular Warfare Center, the U.S. Marine Corps Center for Irregular Warfare, the U.S. Army / U.S. Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center, and Noetic hosted a two-day Tribal Engagement Workshop (TEW) focusing on Afghanistan, March 24-25, 2010, in Fredericksburg, VA. The workshop was designed to address conceptual issues associated with tribal engagement and explore the considerations that operators and planners would have to address in order to implement a tribal or local engagement program.
A group of subject matter experts, all with firsthand experience with tribal engagement, or local operations in Iraq or Afghanistan were invited to participate. The group deliberately included individuals with significantly differing opinions on how to undertake tribal engagement or whether it should be undertaken at all. The ensuing discussion covered a variety of topics from strategic, operational and tactical perspectives.
Participants were tasked with evaluating the value and feasibility of a tribal engagement approach in Afghanistan; assessing what secondary effects adoption of a tribal engagement strategy would have on the political and military situation; and identifying the operational components of a tribal engagement approach in Afghanistan.
A 6-page summary report captures the key themes and ideas covered in the workshop, but is not intended to (nor could it) capture the rich debate participants engaged in. The major sections of this report include TEW findings, tribal versus community engagement, connecting Afghans to their government, addressing corruption, building Afghan capacity, transition, information operations and strategic communications, U.S. unity of effort from the strategic to the tactical, and how community engagement might fail.
TEW participants largely agreed that focusing efforts at the sub-national level could potentially provide a necessary game changer to the current ISAF mission, with some important caveats: (1) Tribal engagement must be recast as community - or local - engagement in order to reflect the wide variety of local social and power structures across the country. (2) Community engagement must be accompanied by reinvigorated efforts to link the national with district level governments - in essence , a "top-down, bottom-up" strategy must be employed or the international community risks further balkanization of Afghanistan. (3) The focal point for the engagement must be at the district level, as this is the level at which the interface between the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) and the Afghan population occurs. (4) Government accountability and transparency must be improved at the district level, either through actually conducting district elections or by holding local community jirgas to appoint district representatives. Afghan communities will have little to no desire to reach out and interface with their local GIROA leadership unless District leadership is credible, legitimate and accountable.
Concerning tribal vs. community engagement it was agreed that the U.S. and the GIRoA should undertake tribal engagement, participants next considered the nature of those interactions. The general consensus was that engagement should occur with a variety of entities (alternately referred to as local or community, this document will refer to "community engagement"), not just tribes. Consensus was also broadly achieved on the need to simultaneously undertake 'top down' and 'bottom up' approaches in Afghanistan. TEW participants also addressed corruption, building Afghan capacity, transition, information operations and strategic communications, U.S. unity of effort from the strategic to the tactical, and how community engagement might fail.
Concerning how community engagement and how it might fail TEW participants identified four groups whose action - or inaction - could result in the failure of a community engagement program: the enemy, the U.S. government, the Government of Afghanistan and the Afghan people.
The resource is growing, integrating additional commentary and papers from participants in the project. The entry page is here.
For a introduction to the thinking that sparked the effort, try this.
It's worth noting that in many regards the "tribal engagement" strategy (at least a military component thereof - the current vision incorporates many non-military aspects) was used in 2001 - seen then as a quick, relatively low-resource (dollars, American troops and equipment) approach to toppling the Taliban. It was successful - insofar as Kabul and Kandahar fell much faster than the most optimistic predictions suggested* - but we rather swiftly turned our focus to creating and sustaining a strong federal government in Kabul. That, too was a decision prompted by economy of force considerations, as all such use of available resource decisions (in the military, government, or your household) are - and will be. So, as noted at the beginning of this post, those interested in the future of our efforts in Afghanistan will certainly want to spend some time here.
* For two recent, well researched, and highly accessible books on the Special Forces/boots-on-ground perspective of those first weeks in Afghanistan see The Only Thing Worth Dying For and Horse Soldiers.
...the Dustoff Flight Medic of the Year.
Don't miss the incredible story. (And it was an honor to fix that video, and be the first person outside the room who got to hear what he had to say.)
The opening lines of Saving Abel's song '18 Days' get stuck in my head, and the only thing I can do when songs are stuck in my head is let 'em out, sometimes louder than others. The family's used to the once-upon-a-time would-be rock star in the house...
"'18 Days' - what's that title all about?" I asked Eric Taylor, the band's base player. "What inspired that?"
Producer Skidd Mills says it was that song that convinced him the band had a destiny beyond their hometown of Corinth, Mississippi. "It was '18 Days' that hooked me. The first time I heard it I was like, 'these guys are the real deal; they'll be doing this for a long time.'"
And it's one of those songs that captures separation - and separation is one of those things that service is all too often about. So at first Taylor's answer surprised me.
"Buford Pusser. You know who Buford Pusser is?"
"Yeah - Walking Tall. Dude, I remember when that movie came out - I mean the first one."
Damn - I realized I'd reminded the rock star I was old enough to be his... er, older brother, but he didn't step back. We'd been talking for a while, he'd probably noticed that slight age difference early on in the conversation - and hell, these guys had even rocked some Creedence as part of the concert they'd just put on for us milbloggers. That's proper respect for the elders, says I. And while I'd already told him about how my own experience in a bar band led to a military career (a pretty common story, really) he was more interested in what I'd done in Iraq.
"Well, Pusser's from our part of the country," he continued. "And one day one of the guys in the band was watching Walking Tall, and there's this scene where Pusser's been in the hospital with his face bandaged up. They come to take the bandages off and he says 'It's been 18 days since I've looked at myself' - so that inspired the song."
"I remember that scene," I told him.
On the pre-dawn morning of August 12, 1967, Pusser's phone rang, informing him of a disturbance call on New Hope Road in McNairy County. He responded, with his wife Pauline joining him for this particular ride. Shortly after they passed the New Hope Methodist on New Hope Road, two cars came alongside Pusser's; the occupants opened fire, killing his wife and leaving Pusser, who had suffered a shotgun wound to the face, for dead. He spent eighteen days in the hospital before returning home, and would need several surgeries to restore his appearance.
Inspiration is a strange thing, from that point comes a song with universal appeal.
"Then one of our fans whose husband is in the military made a video for him, and she used our song," Eric said, in a tone that showed he was awestruck that she had done it. "She put it on Youtube, and someone showed it to us. And that's where we got the idea for our own music video for it."
And it all made sense, that these guys from Corinth made a song inspired by a guy who cleaned up the neighborhood that inspired a video from someone whose husband had a similar job to do, and who felt how that music fit, and that circled back to the band who took it another step.
"We did the USO tour, it was incredible," Taylor told me. And he meant it was incredible to have a chance to perform for those crowds - to entertain the men and women who are putting it on the line. It sounds corny to say it, and he's not the first guy I've spoken with who's searched for the right words to describe it, (that might have been Robin Williams...) but that stumbling search for the right words is authentic. "You get a chance to let them enjoy a few moments, let them know there are folks back home who haven't forgotten them... it's just..."
I've been in the audience for those shows - in Baghdad and other garden spots, and it's much appreciated.
"And I saw the one you guys livestreamed," I told him, "that was a great show. I captured that video - it's awesome - but don't worry, I won't put that one up on the web..."
Which isn't to say I wouldn't put some highlights from it on the internet...
Because it was a great show - I hope they'll make it available on DVD some time in the future. The audio/video quality of the original is far superior to what a capture converted to flash (as in the above) can provide.
Eric and I had been talking since Ponsdorf grabbed me by the arm and said, "hey, tell this guy over here what milblogs are all about," and introduced us. Saving Abel's singer and guitar players were doing an unplugged show for the 2010 Milblogs Conference, leaving the drummer and bass player to hang out with the crowd.
"So yeah," I tell him, "there are guys here who wrote weblogs while they were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just telling their stories, keeping in touch with the folks back home. I did it myself, but there are a lot of others - right over there is one who just wrote a book..."
"We were on tour over there," Eric tells me, "and we'd be at some little combat outpost, just hanging out with the guys, talking to them. And they're telling us about what they do, great stories, and it's getting really late, and we've got to sleep, and get up and get on a helicopter and go to another place, but we don't want to stop, we want to hear more."
And here they were, rocking the Milblogs Conference - they'd flown in on their own dime between a couple of other shows. And here I was, swapping questions and answers with a guy who was as interested in listening to me as I was in listening to him. These kids honestly think people who served their country are some kind of rock stars or something...
"These aren't just Iraq and Afghanistan vets," I told him. "There are family members here too. And we've got people here who served in Vietnam - even before. Hey, tomorrow we'll be joined by a guy who served with the Marines in the Pacific in World War Two - Tarawa and Iwo Jima."
"But tell me, when's the new album coming out?"
"June 8th. The recording's all done, just got to finish a few other things. But we've got a single ready to release this month, on April 19th. It's called "Stupid Girl (Only in Hollywood)"."
"Where'd you guys get your name?"
"Saving Abel? That came from hearing a preacher talk about the story of Cain and Abel. Once Cain slew his brother he felt great regret, but there was no saving Abel..."
But there is a Saving Abel - and I'm glad for that. Their web page is here (full music videos and free music downloads - sweet!), and Amazon store here, and more than a few fans of the group all over the world.
My friend Marcus the Marine:
After Maj Hatch's panel, we broke for lunch. I was completely surprised when Mary Ripley of USNI invited me to join Maj Hatch and a group of other bloggers to break bread. I was very lucky to be able to sit next to Maj Hatch and across from fellow Marine and blogger Taco Bell as Maj Hatch told more stories from his time on Tarawa and Iwo Jima. I felt as history was coming to life around me and I could hear the sounds of war as he told each story. I can't believe how sharp he still is at the very young age of 89.
The most memorable story Maj Hatch told us over lunch took place after the flag raising when he returned to Washington, DC. He was a Warrant Officer at the time and a LtCol had met him with a car as he got off the plane. Hatch was expecting to return home after five days of traveling across the Pacific and the US, but that wasn't going to happen. Instead, he was taken to Henderson Hall where headquarters was during that time. The Commandant wanted to see him.
The (great) story continues here...
Major General David Hogg, Deputy Commanding General, Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan, live from Afghanistan to the milbloggers in D.C. Great Q&A, but what would you expect from this crowd?
Those interested in our future in Afghanistan will appreciate this, as everything about our strategy there hinges on training up the Afghan forces to replace us - and that's his mission. (Note: Use the lower "play" button on these vids - the one in the middle doesn't work...)
And it was great to meet Navy Lt Jennifer Cragg in person. She threatened me with bodily harm if I don't make good on my promise of more participation in upcoming blogger roundtables. I take being wanted as a compliment, and that's one I can't resist. :)
...can only happen at a Milblogs Conference:
Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury fame was also in attendance - funny(ish) story - Taco Bell and I walked up to a gentleman thinking he was Garry - in our defense the two could be twins - and I asked him if I could get a picture of him with me... turns out that the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Director of National Intelligence has a great sense of humor - who knew?
My (newly published) friend Matt (Kaboom) Gallagher, on NPR's Talk of the Nation:
And if you haven't yet read Matt (MountainRunner) Armstrong's piece (mentioned at the conference by Admiral Harvey) you really should.
One of the few, if perhaps the only, serious attempt to respond to "Collateral Murder" is another YouTube video titled "Wiki Deception: Iraq 'Collateral Murder' Rebuttal"...
UPDATE: The "rebuttal" video was removed from YouTube for "violation of the YouTube Community Guidelines." The cause of action: "graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed in YouTube videos." The "rejection notice" at right was sent by someone close to the "rebuttal". Neither Collateral Murder nor the unedited video have been removed from YouTube. It appears the "rebuttal" video is a clear victim of manipulation by supporters of Collateral Murder or its cause...
Perhaps they'd claim the old excuse "all's fair in love and war" applies?
Like milblogs, the Milblogs Conference is a collaborative effort - one that's grown far beyond the ability of one person to capture and report - a team effort is required.
So we've made it easier to do that. Here's the Fan of Milblogs Facebook page. Anyone can post entries, links, photos, and videos there, and it's the place to go for just that. If you're looking for reports or images from the conference just click here and enjoy.
And if you've written about the conference (or just found something written online about the conference) have links, photos or videos to add, or just want to join the conversation there - don't be shy, jump right in. (For those who missed my message during the first panel - jumping right in is the future of milblogs...)
Didn't see a picture of yourself or a friend in the above? Maybe there's one here...
At Small Wars Journal, a Milblog Conference report from Starbuck, and a few more observations at his place.
Including this one:
I also kind of wonder what went through Greyhawk's mind when the official MultiNational Corps-Iraq screensaver featured a screen shot of the Mudville Gazette emblazoned with the words "Bloggers--are you violating OPSEC (Operational Security)?"
I tried hard not to notice, but that was especially tricky whenever I walked into Division and saw it repeated 1,000 times in the 40 acre open cubical farm...
This was a great conversation in Baghdad, too:
Me: Hey boss, my wife is meeting with the President of the United States this week.
Boss: Really, how come?
Me: Well, he wanted to see me, but I'm too busy over here.
Boss: Get outta here.
At least that's the gist of it. Truth told, rules obeyed. Not believed? Not my problem.
(That might be one of the stories Starbuck's talking about here.)
This image, used to "teach" students at Langley High School, in McLean, Virginia, has caught the attention of more than a few veterans.
Here's an example of what I meant by "more than a few veterans." This message (received here through very trusted channels, and authorized for public release) to the school from Norman Hatch, Major, USMCR (retired) offers a great lesson to students of history everywhere...
Dear Mr. Ragone,
It has recently come to my attention that one of your teachers has committed a terrible error in using the iconic Iwo Jima flag raising picture that took place on the fourth day, of a vicious month long battle in the Pacific during WW II. She super imposed a McDonalds advertising logo over the flag and showing it to her class as a supposed example of the nation fighting the war for commercial purposes.
I have more than just a personal interest in this matter as I am a retired Marine major who was on Iwo Jima, as the Photographic Officer of the 5th Marine Division. I had three photographers on the top of Mt. Suribachi that day and one of them S/Sgt William H. Genaust filmed the flag raising in motion pictures that have been seen around the world. Unfortunately he was killed eight days later and never had the chance to see the effect his film had on the public.
To think that a teacher, at the high school level, would stoop to the level of spin and rhetoric and confuse her pupils about the reason and history of our efforts at Iwo Jima where over 6000 Marines, Navy and Army died and over 16,000 were wounded is unconscionable. All died in a battle against the Japanese Imperial Forces that had first attacked us at Pearl Harbor.
I am unaware of what administrative measures you have to correct such ignorance but I implore you to take immediate action to see that such things do not happen again. History should not be prostituted to prove a point. I am a strong believer in the First Amendment but I think this particular action crosses the line, especially in a school of learning!
Norman T. Hatch Major USMCR (Ret)
I imagine the folks at Langley High School will be a bit surprised to learn that many of the people who made the history they don't teach are still around - and more than willing to set the record straight.
(A recent post on Major Hatch - including his Tarawa video - here.)
ABC News' Person of the Week: Norman Hatch.
And don't miss this video interview with Hatch from USNI.
Meanwhile, here's his Academy Award-winning documentary ("The footage of the carnage was like none that had been seen before -- President Franklin D. Roosevelt had to grant special permission for it to be shown to the public in newsreels. 'That footage that was shown of the bodies floating in the water bothered president Roosevelt quite a bit. He was afraid it would scare the people,' Hatch said.") With the Marines at Tarawa. Amazing color film of the battle.
A final quote from the ABC profile:
As much as Hatch and his generation accomplished during WWII, he now sees the men and women currently serving the United States as the ones to admire.
"We have been labeled the greatest generation, but I think the one's that's over there now is greater, doing their stuff in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The fifth annual Milblogs Conference - the time is now, the event is sold out. (If you live in the D.C. area and aren't registered, do not - repeat: DO NOT show up at the door begging for admission - we love you, man, but no can do.) There are lots of great things in store. (Trust me - I have the inside scoop - there are surprises coming.)
Can't make it? Not a problem (though I wish you could be there...). This year's conference will be livestreamed on the web here. (Thanks to the good folks at VA Mortgage, the same folks who bring us YouServed.) Click and enjoy. Note: archived videos from previous conferences are streaming when this one isn't "live" - don't be fooled - check the schedule.
The schedule for Friday evening's events is here. The kickoff panel (including your humble scribe) will be streaming from 6:30 - 7:45pm ET.
Saturday's schedule is here. I'll be hosting the 10:45 - 12:00am "National Security Smorgasbord." Satcom willing, I'll be joined first by Mike Yon from Afghanistan, followed by Abe Sofaer, whose new book The Best Defense? Legitimacy and Preventive Force is particularly timely.
Those are just my panels - there are plenty of great things going on throughout the event. Keep up with any schedule changes here, and if you can't make it in person, be sure to join us for the live streaming video here.
"The girl was wounded in the stomach and the boy in the lower chest. Both were said to be in stable condition." That's a quote from David Finkel's first report (in July, 2007) on the incident that resulted in the deaths of two Reuters reporters and several other non-media members no one gives a damn about. Lets face it, had there not been two reporters (more importantly to the media two reporters apparently employed to some degree by a Western news organization) splattered with them that day this particular bit of snuff porn would have been just one of many you can find on Youtube. For snuff porn fans the appearance of children near the end of the video of the event released this week is a bonus, but for the human beings among us concern for those kids was the first thing that came to mind.
Thanks to the wikileaks folks, al Jazeera was able to track them down for a highly-charged news segment this week:
They failed to mention a few key points - but we'll get to those...
Finkel was there that day, and "I remain in touch with many of the soldiers from that battalion," he wrote this week, "including one who picked up and held one of the wounded children, and he has been having a difficult time ever since he made the discovery. I won't go into details without his permission, but I can assure you that in his case he is haunted."
Iraq can be a haunting place - that comment reminded me of reporter Pamela Hess' account of a 2005 visit there: "I was never in immediate danger," she wrote by way of introducing a list of the few times she came close - a list that included seeing "a car bomb burn at a police check point in Tall 'Afar, the explosion killing no one but the people inside the car -- a man, a woman and two young children." Hard to forget a thing like that.
Speaking of vehicles, here's an interesting photo from the web page hosting the video
That's the caption from the site. But curiously, if you've seen the video you know that's not what the van looked like after the attack. This, however, is:
You can even see the soldiers rushing one of the wounded children to the hospital in this screen capture. There are many such inconsistencies, errors, and frauds to be found throughout the sloppily researched and poorly documented content of the site, including within their doctored version of the video (another example: the false assertion that the wounded children were denied care at an American hospital, more on that shortly) but snuff porn fans aren't exactly seekers of accuracy or insight.
Or things like plot or context in their videos.
From his book The Good Soldiers, David Finkel's account of the dawn of the morning of July 12, as soldiers prepared to roll out...
The neighborhood was Al-Amin, where a group of insurgents had been setting off IEDs, most recently targeting Alpha Company soldiers as they tried to get from their COP to Rustamiyah for Crow's memorial service a few days before. Two IEDs exploded on the soldiers that day, leaving several of them on their hands and knees, alive but stunned with concussions, and now Kauzlarich was about to swarm into that area with 240 soldiers, 65 Humvees, several Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and, on loan to them for a few hours from another battalion, two Apache helicopter gunships.
All together, it made for a massive and intimidating convoy that at 5:00 a.m. was lining up to leave Rustamiyah when the radar system picked up something flying through the still-dark sky. "Incoming! Incoming!" came the recorded warning as the alert horn sounded.
"But most did nothing," Finkel writes. "Because the bullet had been fired, it was only a matter of time, and if they knew anything by now, it was that whatever happened in the next few seconds was the province of God, or luck, or whatever they believed in, rather than of them."
"What's helpful to understand," Finkel says now of the video, "is that, contrary to some interpretations that this was an attack on some people walking down the street on a nice day, the day was anything but that. It happened in the midst of a large operation to clear an area where US soldiers had been getting shot at, injured, and killed with increasing frequency. What the Reuters guys walked into was the very worst part, where the morning had been a series of RPG attacks and running gun battles."
I was there because I was writing a book about the experiences of an Army infantry battalion in the surge. That battalion happened to be the one involved in the 2-16 incident. They were in Baghdad for 14 months; I was with them for eight months. They had a tough area and a tough time -- June, for instance, was four KIAs, one who lost a hand, one who lost an arm, one who lost an eye, one who was shot in the head, one who was shot in the throat, eight who were injured by shrapnel. Many, if not most, of those injuries occurred in the area that on July 12 they were attempting to bring under control.
By 2007 many American soldiers in Iraq were multiple tour veterans - so they knew they weren't going out to distribute candy. Such practices were largely abandoned, or at least approached with caution following events a few years prior:
A sane person might hope that no one else would prove capable of committing such a horrific attack, but four months later:
BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden SUV killed at least 27, including an American soldier, late this morning in the deadliest insurgent attack in more than two months.
Many, if not most of the dead were children loitering and playing near U.S. soldiers at an impromptu checkpoint in Baghdad al-Jadida, a lower-middle class residential district populated by Shiites, Sunnis and Christians.
At the nearby Kindi hospital, hundreds of distraught parents mingled in blood-soaked hallways shouting and screaming as they looked for their children, many of whom were badly mutilated.
"Most of them are children. The Americans were handing out sweets at the time of the attack," a duty policeman at the Kindi Hospital said.
"We have received the bodies of 24 children aged between 10 and 13," said an official in charge of the morgue.
A suicide attacker steered a car packed with explosives toward U.S. soldiers giving away toys to children outside a hospital in central Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 31 people. Almost all of the victims were women and children, police said.
"It was an explosion at the gate of the hospital," a woman who had wounds on her face and legs told the AP. "My children are gone. My brother is gone."
With no room left at the hospital, emergency workers rushed victims to hospitals in Baghdad, about 15 miles to the north. And when the hospital morgue was full, the workers were forced to place the dead in the hospital garden so family members could find them.
Given the pace of tour rotations, most likely the veterans preparing to roll out of Rustamiyah had last been in Iraq when those events occurred.
Anthony Martinez is a multi-tour Iraq veteran, too. "For those unaware of my background," he writes, "I have spent quite a lot of time (a conservative estimate would be around 4500 hours) viewing aerial footage of Iraq (note: this time was not in viewing TADS video, but footage from Raven, Shadow, and Predator feeds). I am certain my voice can be heard on several transmissions with several different Crazyhorse aircraft, as I have called them to assist troops on the ground more times in my 24-months in Iraq than I could even attempt to guess."
I need no reassurances to determine the presence of an RPG7 or an AK-variant rifle, especially not from a craft flying as low as Apache (even after the video has been reduced in dimensions to a point at which it is nearly useless).
And (like anyone else paying attention to what they're seeing in the video) see them he does. As Finkel recalls, "If you were to see the full video, you would see a person carrying an RPG launcher as he walked down the street as part of the group..."
Another was armed as well, as I recall. Also, if you had the unfortunate luck to be on site afterwards, you would have seen that one of the dead in the group was lying on top of a launcher. Because of that and some other things, EOD -- the Hurt Locker guys, I guess -- had to come in and secure the site. And again, I'm not trying to excuse what happened. But there was more to it for you to consider than what was in the released video.
But while the presence of multiple weapons in the group initially targeted by the Apaches that day is well documented (everywhere other than the Wikileaks "collateral murder" site and video) the real unresolved questions of the day surround the attack on the van that arrives immediately thereafter, and the horrific discovery of children inside.
Firing on the van is a morally repugnant act that has legal (and some moral) justification - in that regards it offers an informal definition of war. It's an action that many of us would like to believe we ourselves wouldn't take were we in similar circumstances. There are any number of such things we like to imagine ourselves capable or incapable of - from rescuing victims from a burning building or a horrific car crash to exhibiting calm courage under fire (sure - I could do all that!); to enraged battlefield bloodlust (never - I don't even curse when I bump my head!) to fleeing the scene of a car crash we witnessed (not even when late for work!). But reality and our imaginations are two different places, and in reality there is no zoomed-in slow-motion instant replay - and here I will leave it at that. For what it's worth, it's a considered conclusion with which I suspect most of my fellow Iraq vets would agree.
But it is worth noting that while the official investigation validated the actions, the conclusion (redacted) included suggestions for avoiding a future repeat. (Click image for larger version.)
But what shouldn't stand without comment is a demonstrably false accusation (made in the "collateral murder" version of the video) that the children - unseen until that moment - were denied treatment in an American medical facility.
While some might consider Finkel's first report too vague:
An officer who saw a medical report about the children said they were injured by shrapnel from the Apache strafing. The girl was wounded in the stomach and the boy in the lower chest. Both were said to be in stable condition.
...or deem the actual report of the investigation into the incident unpersuasive (click images for larger):
...two final pieces of evidence can be found on the "collateral murder" web page - the actual records of treatment for both children from the 28th Combat Support Hospital (CSH). (Click images for larger versions.)
Those few (certainly relative to the number of people who've seen the obvious falsehood contained in their video - a statement they know to be misleading as evidenced by these documents hosted on the same site) who actually discovered these documents (identified there only as "medical records") and viewed the full versions would know that both children were diagnosed (to include CT scans) and treated at the 28th CSH - where (tragically) the doctors, nurses, and staff are well practiced at treating children. "Each month the CSH treats half a dozen boys aged 10 to 15 who have been maimed while planting IEDs for the terrorists," the Times (London) reported in September of that year.
And ironically, the (decidedly non-combatant) head nurse of the hospital's intermediate care wards had been murdered in an "insurgent" mortar attack on the mostly-civilian populated (including many Iraqi civilians) International Zone just two days before.
On July 10 a mortar exploded near by. Many were injured. Major White was called to a trolley and found himself staring down at one of his nurses, Captain Maria Ortiz.
"We'd been talking an hour before," he recalled. "She told me, 'I've just got my wedding dress. I've got to lose two sizes. I'm going to the gym to work out'. She was coming back from the gym when the mortar hit."
The parade of dead and wounded soldiers and the unexpected extension of their tour of duty wasn't all the 28th's staff had to endure this year. One of their own, Army nurse Capt. Maria Ortiz, was killed in July by indirect fire from a mortar attack in the International Zone as she was walking back to the hospital from one of the area's gyms with fellow Army nurse Maj. Stephen Williams. She was the first military nurse to die in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Williams was seriously injured and returned to the U.S. to recover.
The staff, especially the intermediate care wards where Ortiz was head nurse, struggled with her death.
A death that went mostly unremarked, and generated no international outrage.
2007 was a rough year for many of us in Baghdad. But (per the link above) "September, October, and November brought some relief to the 28th CSH as the surge began to work and the number of dead and wounded noticeably declined."
Indeed it did - though not without some effort and sacrifice. This graph depicts "insurgent" attacks on coalition forces with time...
...and this one could be called "insurgent" attacks on Iraqis.
I've placed a vertical red line on July, 2007 in each. There and to the left you can see the world we lived in.
To the right the world we made.
(Part one here)
Well thanks, Pig, but I think there's another, stronger parallel between the latest snuff porn video sensation and Abu Ghraib: two known (but ignored) stories become sensations when pictures or video are added. Obviously this benefits not just porn fans, it introduces the topic to examination by the illiterate (in English language, at least), too. (Then the "sensation" can be a news story of it's own... it "has legs," as they say.) In the Abu Ghraib case, in January, 2004 (when the Army's investigation of the case began after a soldier reported what his fellow troops were up to on the night shift) there were press conferences and news releases on the story, including a CNN story on January 26 of "reports -- all coming from fellow soldiers" of photographs showing detainees with "clothing removed." Another round followed when investigations were completed in March - the military announced six guards "are being charged with criminal offenses to include conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts with another." CNN (maybe others) reported again - but the world yawned.
Mary Mapes, on the other hand, knew if she could get her fingers on some samples of those "home-spun" prison porn pix she'd have a hit. And when the Army moved forward to prosecute, she scored - selected snaps made their way from one of the accused soldiers to her. (Via his Uncle Bill Lawson: "The Army had the opportunity for this not to come out, not to be on 60 Minutes," he said. "But the Army decided to prosecute those six G.I.'s because they thought me and my family were a bunch of poor, dirt people who could not do anything about it. But unfortunately, that was not the case...") The infamous 60 Minutes broadcast followed (along with an "Army cover up" story - but lacking any acknowledgment that CBS had actually obtained the photos as part of a deal with one of the accused) and the world noticed, to say the least - and almost everyone got to make up their own fantasy background story to "explain" the images. (Many of which are now considered actual "history".)
People love that porn - no one knows that better than those in the "news" business. The more pornographic they can make their stuff, the more viewers they can get. (Check the content of your local "news" program during a ratings "sweep" period for confirmation.) And when porn is presented as "news," people who would otherwise never see it get to enjoy a dose - they can even pretend to be outraged about it to assuage their guilt at the pleasure. That applies to nudity/bondage/domination-fantasy stuff, as in the Abu Ghraib shots, or snuff porn as exemplified by this week's "hot new" Apache gun camera imagery from 2007. Highly-sought after (in the news or terrorist recruiting businesses) photographs or videos of wounded/dying US troops fill this perverse need, too. Even images of "flag draped coffins" provide a sort of "soft core" version. But in this most recent example of the phenomenon, even more so than the Abu Ghraib case, the events were already known, including acknowledgment by the military at the time and last year's detailed (non-military source) description of the video.
I was in Baghdad in the summer of 2007, so I can't say how much attention the story of the deaths of two Iraqi journalists in a combat situation got back in the States when it actually happened (I know it was at least some - probably more than the death of Atwar Bajat - these guys were working for a Western news agency, after all) but I do know the subsequent reports were completely ignored. The video, on the other hand, is a sensation. (Worth noting - wikileaks apparently "scooped" the mainstream media this time, but as with post-scoop Abu Ghraib most "legitimate" news organizations are sharing the story now.) The video will be mostly forgotten within a few hours (if it hasn't been already... quick - name the two journalists killed in it), among other reasons because there are more gruesome examples of the genre widely available. But for now, at least, it's drawing more viewers than Green Zone.
Hopefully it will be forgotten. Beyond ratings, the nifty thing about war porn, in the eyes of a news person, is that it often inspires others to go out and create more war porn, some of which could become available for future broadcasts. The number of dead resulting from Mapes' "scoop" can't be calculated, but there's one immediate "Abu Ghraib success story" (from the media perspective) that stands out.
Twenty-three-year-old Nicholas Berg, a friendly Californian - part entrepreneur, part youthful wanderer - was traveling by himself in Baghdad when he disappeared in mid-April. In mid-May, the terrorist Zarqawi posted a video on his web site, Al Ansar. The grainy pictures showed a bearded and gaunt Berg, clad in an orange prisoner jumpsuit, sitting in a white plastic chair in front of a beige wall. Five men clad in black, with facemasks and green chest vests holding AK clips, stood behind Berg as Zarqawi proclaimed retaliation for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Then shouting "God is great!" Zarqawi drew a long knife and leaped upon Berg. There was a scream, and a few seconds later Berg's severed head was placed on his bloody torso. The gory videotape made the prime-time news on Al Jazeera.
But only edited clips and still photos were broadcast in the US - this one was a bit beyond triple-x.
This imagery was quite the sensation in it's day though:
When told by a reporter about the Web site, Berg's father, brother and sister cried in their front yard in this Philadelphia suburb.
"I knew he was decapitated before," said Berg's father. "That manner is preferable to a long and torturous death. But I didn't want it to become public."
"My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this," Berg said in an interview with radio station KYW-AM.
The New York Times, the President on nuclear Iran:
"I'm not going to parse that right now," he said, sitting in his office as children played on the South Lawn of the White House during a day-long Easter Egg roll.
Then somewhere nearby a Unicorn smiled as gumdrops fell from the sky.
2007, Baghdad, Iraq:
On July 12, Kauzlarich ate a Pop-Tart at 4:55 a.m., guzzled a can of Rip It Energy Fuel, belched loudly, and announced to his soldiers, "All right, boys. It's time to get some." On a day when in Washington, D.C., President Bush would be talking about "helping the Iraqis take back their neighborhoods from the extremists," Kauzlarich was about to do exactly that.
I believe it's fair to conclude from the above quote that its author crafted it with little sympathy for the unit commander, the President of the United States, or the larger mission the latter had dispatched the former to conduct. But if unsympathetic, it's still likely fact. Selected fact, to be sure, but David Finkel spent a good part of that year embedded with that unit in their part of Baghdad, and told their story in his book The Good Soldiers.
"Military's Killing of 2 Journalists in Iraq Detailed in New Book," read the Washington Post's (Finkel's paper) headline on its release last September.
A new book by a Washington Post reporter provides a graphic, second-by-second description of the U.S. military's 2007 killing of two Reuters journalists in Baghdad, an incident that the news organization says it cannot investigate fully because the Pentagon has withheld key records of the event.
That event occurred on July 12, 2007 - the day that began as Finkel describes above. And in the book he does provide "a graphic, second-by-second description" of the U.S. military's 2007 killing of Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen, Saeed Chmagh, "seven other Iraqi men, two of whom appeared to be holding a rifle and a grenade launcher," and two other men who arrived later.
By now you may have actually seen the video, referred to in the Post report as "a video taken from the gunship that captures the complete sequence of radio communications and imagery that unfolded on the streets below," and (curiously) as a recording that "appears to form the basis for a description of the incident in one chapter of the book." (Emphasis added.)
We must presume, then, that whoever wrote that passage in the book had seen the video. It seems reasonable to presume further that it was Washington Post reporter (and book author) David Finkel. (For some reason the Post account neglects to clarify that point.) In the book Finkel mentions the video but doesn't claim to have seen it - but it's hard to reach another explanation for detailed passages like "One minute and fifty-five seconds before the first burst, the two crew members in one of the circling Apaches had noticed some men on a street..." and "what they were seeing now - one minute and forty seconds before they fired their first burst..." or "one second before the first burst, Noor-Eldeen glanced up at the Apache."
More from The Good Soldiers:
"Okay, I got a guy with an RPG."
"I'm gonna fire."
But the building was in the way.
The Apache needed to circle all the way around, back to an unobstructed view of the street, before the gunner would have a clean shot.
Ten seconds passed as the helicopter continued to curve.
"Once you get on it, just open--"
Almost around now, the crew could see three of the men. Just a little more to go.
Now they could see five of them.
Not quite. One last tree was in the way...
So, what happened to Namir Noor-Eldeen, Saeed Chmagh, and the unidentified men (with and without RPGs and AK47s) accompanying them that day has been known for some time - it was reported when it happened (yawn) and the second-by-second description was last September's (ignored) news. So, people who are concerned about such details of war and its many associated risks and horrors (soldiers, journalists, and those who live in war zones, mostly) or even those with just a passing interest in same were well informed long ago on this particular example.
The release of the video this week, however, has brought the event to the attention of a much larger group of people than the small set of "those interested in issues surrounding war." This new, larger group - larger by orders of magnitude - is snuff porn fans. If you just learned the names of those two Reuters journalists this week by watching that particular video, you might be among them.
"There's a power in people who dream big and try hard," reads the simple statement at the top of Jenna Wilcox' milblog. If you've never read it, it's still online - but she won't be adding new entries.
"This will be my last entry," the young U.S. Air Force captain recently posted. "Both Scott and I are home, safe and sound and I no longer have a reason to continue with this blog."
She and her husband had completed their Afghanistan tours - Air Force officers serving with the US Army. On Jenna's Blog Captain Wilcox documented life in a combat zone, from collecting school supplies for local children to efforts to curb violence against Afghan women to her frustration with certain "strategies and tactics," she captured it all - including love...
Love in a war zone unlike love anywhere else. It is simple. Unrefined.
There are no quarrels, because death is imminent. Do you really want your last conversation to be in anger?
I might as go ahead and explain how I was on a convoy that was hit with an IED. It happened in early November and we were on the way back from the mission when one of our trucks took a baby IED. I wasn't in the truck...I was very far away but I heard the explosion and saw the cloud of smoke. I think my heart literally stopped and the next two minutes were the scariest of my life. I kept on waiting for the secondary attack, but thankfully it never came. Luckily, everyone was okay, no injuries, and we only had to replace the tire on the truck.
So now everyone will worry about me as I head back to Afghanistan for the final two months. But please don't! I know that Scott and I are being protected. Too many uncanny things have happened for me not to know that we will be okay.
And they did return safely to their "home station" - RAF Mildenhall, the UK. Then she and Scott set out on a well deserved vacation.
The tire exploded - a blast that "blew out the windows of the couple's sports car, left the 27-year-old critically injured and her husband Scott, who also serves in the US air force, wounded."
The couple - who were holidaying in Scotland having both recently returned from Afghanistan - had changed the wheel of their black BMW Z3 after spotting a bulge in the tyre. They replaced it with the space saver tyre but could not fit the full-size wheel in the boot because it was full of luggage, leaving Ms Wilcox to hold it on her lap.
They had pulled into the forecourt of GP Autos on Dalkeith's Edinburgh Road last Saturday afternoon when the explosion happened.
Local chip shop worker Jamal Alobaidi, 49, was one of the first on the scene after the blast. He was at the window of the shop on the town's High Street when he spotted the car pull up. "Seconds later I heard a loud bang, almost like a gunshot," he said. "I rushed out and I could see the man screaming for help. I rushed back to phone the emergency services.
"When I came back, the woman was lying on her back on the road, not moving, with her eyes closed.
"She was taken to Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, where she succumbed to her injuries," said Scottish Police Inspector David Muir. Captain Wilcox was assigned to RAF Mildenhall's 100th Civil Engineering Squadron, and originally from the Buffalo, N.Y. area. She was 27.
From Stars and Stripes:
Judge: Lejeune can't ban car decals linking Islam, terrorism
After his son was killed in the attack on the USS Cole, Jesse Nieto put decals on his car that included "Islam=Terrorism" and "We Died, They Rejoiced."
But the Marine Corps deemed the decals offensive and told them he had to remove them or he could not park on federal installations.
So he went to court, and won.
Nieto works at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune, which bans "extremist, indecent, sexist and racist" decals, court records say.
But a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the base cannot ban anti-Islamic decals while allowing decals that say "Islam is Love" or "Islam is Peace."
"While the military may have greater leeway in restricting offensive material in furtherance of securing order and discipline among its troops, it may not do so in a manner that allows 'one message while prohibiting the messages of those who can reasonably be expected to respond,'" wrote Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard.
Of course, you can substitute any other word you want for "Islam" in the story above.
More on the St Elijah Monastery:
A December, 2009 story and photo album at The New York Times.
January, 2009 DoD photos.
A September, 2008 Smithsonian report.
A November, 2007 NPR story.
In other news, the Indianapolis Star has apologized to Duke Blue Devils' Coach K for picturing him as a blue devil on the front page of their sports section.
...the U.S. was withdrawing its forces from Vietnam, my ship was off the southern tip of South Vietnam, replenishing some small boys, and headed to Thailand for liberty. But on March 30, 1972, we were ordered to make best speed for the gunline off the DMZ because the North Vietnamese, with tanks and regular army troops were rolling across the DMZ...
The first three and a half days of what came to be known as the Easter Offensive of 1972 were a near rout.
It was clear early on that the town of Dong Ha was a strategic target for the NVA. Offering the only bridge over the Cam Lo-Cua Viet River capable of supporting the heavy T-54 tanks now being used with such tremendous effect, the enemy needed to take it intact. Control of that one bridge would open the South for further exploitation. At a minimum, the turnover of Dong Ha would assure the loss of the northern provinces.
The allied unit closest to the gathering storm at Dong Ha was the Vietnamese Third Marine Battalion. As fate would have it, Capt. John Ripley was the covan (the Vietnamese name "co-van" for U.S. Marine Corps advisers means "trusted friend") that day about to enter the arena.
The saga of "Ripley at the Bridge" is now part of Marine Corps legend...
On April 3rd, 2004, forces loyal to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al'Sadr stormed police stations and government offices in Sadr City (a city of over 2 million). They knew the Americans would come, and they wanted a fight. Muqtada Sadr was working them up into a religious frenzy. And he had his thugs murder anyone who he thought might stand in his way - even other Shi'ite clerics. His forces were known as the Mahdi Army.
American forces quickly surrounded Muqtada al'Sadr's quarters.
On April 4th, 2004, al'Sadr's Mahdi forces blocked roadways and bridges with burning tires, vehicles and trash. Visibility was less than 300 meters anywhere in the city. They began to attack American vehicles on patrol throughout Sadr City - some were protecting Shia worshipers (Holy Arbayeen) while others were escorting city government vehicles.
A battle raged across Sadr City. Insurgents assaulted American troops while looters and mobs formed and stormed through the streets. Word spread quickly across the American FOBs that there was trouble.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment were ambushed with RPGs and pinned down and dying. While fighting off an attack himself, the Commander of the 2/5th, LTC Volesky, called for help. A Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was formed of volunteers - their mission was to go out and rescue the American troops.
Casey Sheehan's Sergeant asked for volunteers. Sheehan had just returned from Mass...
Full stories at the links.
Or: "Heres You're Sign"
I don't care who you are, that's funny:
It's from the hawtest new flickr page on teh innernets - Teabonics:
These are signs seen primarily at Tea Party Protests.
They all feature "creative" spelling or grammar.
This new dialect of the English language shall be known as "Teabonics."
Get it? It's like "Ebonics," except it's Teabonics. It's super witty, get it? Get it?
Well, like it or not, credit whoever came up with the idea (or stole it - 99% of the images were on Daily Kos last September) because with the thousands upon thousands of protesters takin' it to the streets with their unprofessional, non-union shop hand-drawn signs over the past year the law of averages says there will be plenty of "typos" and grammatical errors to keep the viewers entertained for quite some time.
And unlike that first example, many of the pictures in the album are of Americans protesting with their quickly-drawn, homemade signs - and most have gotten multiple comments regarding the bearers and their message. While a few of those comments reflect violent tendencies ("I want to have a fight with this man," says one commenter. "A physical fight. What a vile prick") most are just examples of sneering superiority from the kids who worked harder to win the spelling bee than you .
Teabonics fans aren't just smart fellers who can spell smart, they're so sharp they don't even need people in the pictures to picture the people who aren't there:
If you're having trouble finding the error in the sign, it's "a" used where "an" should have been. But what's amazing beyond the eye for detail is the ability to determine that by the grace of Medicare an elderly man must be the recipient of this scooter (and maybe some Viagra?) and creator of that sign - even though a quick scan through the entire album will reveal the majority of its subjects are women too young for that government benefit.
But not this guy - he (like me) is a veteran and proud of it.
If I had to guess, I'd guess that photo is from around the time the Department of Homeland Security report warning America about right wing extremist veterans came out - and this vet didn't appreciate it (I didn't either). But his misspelling of extremist earned him these jeers:
Harsh - perhaps extreme, even, but this sign really set the crowd to raging hate mode:
The "kiddie pornography" comment was so original and witty it appeared elsewhere (maybe it will spread like those "Buck Fush" bumper stickers, hats, and t-shirts all the lefties were sporting at the anti war rallies a few years ago...)
The sign appears by itself on the Teabonics page - the bearer has been cropped out. But once again our human spellcheckers can picture exactly the sort of person who would hold it.
"I did'nt serve 22 years for Socialism"
No, you served it for possession of child pornography and child molestation.
Seems the three Rs for Teabaggers is Retardism, Racism, and Recidivism not that librul reading, riting and rithmatics.
Simpleton white dumbfuck retards, all.
Well, not all... in fact, if the "Teabonics" folks hadn't cropped that image you'd see the guy holding the sign.
Dayum. They don't allow black veterans on their site? The military has been desegregated for over 60 years now, but my brother vet (I served 24 years) got cropped out? Like he ain't fit to be seen on their little white web page 'cause he's black? 'Sup wit dat?
So, you can't win 'em all:
But to cheer up, here's a bit of lighthearted fare: the comic book version of the search for alternative fuels, this one's from Leatherneck Comics, a collection of syndicated newspaper cartoon strips distributed to Marines in the Pacific during World War II.
Click image for full version, or here for the complete book.
[Karzai] accused Galbraith of telling an election official he would be "digging himself an early grave" if Karzai was declared first round winner and said Morillon had tried to block the announcement of results to force Karzai to accept a political alliance.
A true account or not, that's not a direct death threat, it's simply a prediction in line with what many people thought would be the outcome of a Karzai victory.
Which makes the Wall Street Journal re-write somewhat puzzling.
At one point, Mr. Karzai claimed, the then-deputy chief of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith, threatened to kill a member of the IEC, telling the man he would "dig his grave with his own hands."
A lot of other reporters are pretending to be stupid, too. But obviously, Obama's latest attempt to explain to Karzai what an awful job he's doing over there in Kabul didn't go well. (But by the way kids, this - another "Karzai's brother is a criminal, some say" report - and not Karzai's comment, was actually post-visit round one.)
I once set out to write a recap of all those events swirling around the Afghan elections, but stopped after this much. Maybe it's enough.
Any invitations Steve Clemons might have had to the best parties just got canceled:
What I have learned after discussions over the last several days with several journalists who either have regular access to the White House or are part of the White House press corps is that there is a growing sense that access is traded for positive stories -- or perhaps worse, an agreement that things learned will not be reported in the near term.
The White House is working hard to secure deals that yield fluffy, feel good commentary about the Obama White House. One American White House reporter used colorful terms to describe the arrangement. The reporter said, "They want 'blow jobs' first [in the press sense]. Then you have to be on good behavior for a bit or be willing to deal, and then you get access."
The "best follow-up headline" award goes to philly.com, for "Access of Evil."
But really, isn't the more salient focus the effect of access on daily/hourly/constant journalism?
Why yes, Spencer, it is indeed.
But much of the outrage directed at the White House can be attributed to jealousy or resentment on the part of "journalists" (really though, with "7-figure deals" on the line, who can blame them?) who would write nothing but glowing accounts of the Obama administration anyway - deal or no deal. (Basically, it's the way groupies feel about hookers - some of the folks who've been providing those BJs for free have discovered others are cashing in - and are starting to feel a bit under-appreciated.)
In the interest of honesty (and for those folks not familiar with Casablanca), I'll note I'm not shocked at all. Here's a post I began last June but never hit the publish button on.
According to this New Republic story, there are at least "half a dozen major reporters under contract to write books about the nascent Obama presidency and the 2008 campaign". But the White House has concerns:In early May, White House Counsel Greg Craig circulated a memo inside the West Wing. Part of a series of memos on protocol, it explained how to deal with writers researching books and articles on the White House. (Craig's unsurprising instructions: Clear interview requests with the press office.) While the memo didn't mention any journalists by name--and while there are currently no fewer than half a dozen major reporters under contract to write books about the nascent Obama presidency and the 2008 campaign, any of whom could conceivably end up embarrassing the administration--there is one person in particular the White House is undoubtedly nervous about: Bob Woodward.
That may be a result of lessons learned in the Clinton era. The current Secretary of State's husband is described as "furious at Woodward's portrayal of his administration" ("freewheeling and dysfunctional") - enough so to replace his chief of staff.
In contrast:From the outset, the Bush White House decided to cooperate with Woodward. ...Bush himself urged staffers to cooperate with Woodward, especially then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was reluctant to grant an interview (he did). "The message got down to everybody: 'Talk to him,'" Fleischer says.Woodward completed four books on the Bush years in the White House. Based on sales, "going negative" is money:The War Within, sold just 159,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, far below his third Bush installment, State of Denial, which sold more than half a million.
Still, as subsequent events have revealed, Kurtz, Woodward, and the Post aren't completely opposed to "working with" the White House.
Update: Coincidence? (Yes, probably.) "Actor Kal Penn is leaving his White House job to film another sequel to the Harold & Kumar movies." I wonder where they'll go this time?
"I haven't talked about this incident on TV or anywhere, and I've been approached to talk about it on every national TV show," said Rep. Cleaver in an interview with FOX 4 News. "I never, I never reported anything, never a single thing in Washington, not one thing."So, is this a lie?
Cleaver told me: "I said to this one person, 'You spat on me.' I thought he was going to say, 'Hey, I was yelling. Sorry.' But he continuing yelling and, for a few seconds, I pointed at him and said, 'You spat on me.' "Time to update the video:
I've kept it to myself, but this year I've managed to get myself in a bit of trouble over my unvarnished, venomous opinions of malfeasance and idiocy in the gummint and media.
It had to happen sooner or later.
No, I'm not quitting. You may have noticed the more toned-down posts, and that's why. My very opinionated writing eventually resulted in a Letter of Reprimand from a General Officer. However, through grovelling, apologizing, and sanitizing my blog (notice how you can't comb through the archives?) and with the help of many milbloggers, readers, and professional letters of reference, not to mention an astounding amount of help and confidence from my chain of command, I (narrowly) avoided having that letter of reprimand filed in my permanent record.
If I screw up again, the reprimand goes in my record--and kills my career.
Regardless of service, there really aren't very many (non-PAO) active duty folks blogging any more - that's too bad. (More so for the military than the potential readers.) Here's how you can help one. (No money or outrage required - read the whole thing.)
Click image for larger version, and more.
"Putting it on YouTube now..."
"Despite not remembering every line and mumbles from the crowd, the pop star managed to finish the iconic song, later blaming the blunder on a bad sound system."
I still like this one better:
"Watch out for that stealth plane, sir!"
Haha, just kidding. But wait a minute - what's this?
It may look like an ordinary F/A-18 Super Hornet - but it's not!
An F/A-18 Super Hornet from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 with green markings and the U.S. Department of the Navy Energy Security logo is in the hangar at Andrews Air Force Base. VX-23 will be testing the full envelope of the Super Hornet with a drop in replacement biofuel made from the camelina plant in an effort to certify alternative fuels for naval aviation use. (Unless noted, all photos by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clifford L.H. Davis)
"Biofuel made from the camelina plant," - seeds of which "contain high levels of omega-3 to help reduce high blood pressure, heart disease, and even cholesterol. In addition, after the seeds are crushed and the oil is extracted, the leftovers can be fed to chicken, cattle, or fish." U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) were able to get subsidies and tax credits for it added to 2007/08's massive farm bill.
We could have posted this yesterday, but held off due to concerns it might be seen as an April Fool's joke. But the new Green Navy logos aren't Photoshop, and this is actually TOTUS and POTUS unveiling the "Green Hornet."
It was lost in the bigger news of the simultaneous offshore drilling announcement, but the Navy is now officially a mean, GREEN, fightin' machine! Here's a Navy news report with more details.
The USAF flew a plane on biofuel first, but failed to come up with cool green logos. Tim Edwards, a senior chemical engineer with the Air Force Research Laboratory's propulsion directorate, explains:
He added that the Air Force Research Laboratory has invested a lot of money in environmental research covering lifecycle greenhouse gas footprints and other factors in developing materials for bio-fuels.
"We're just trying to figure out which kinds of processes for making jet fuel for aviation seem to be the winners, and look into those for further development," Mr. Edwards said.
According to the report, "one major benefit HRJ fuels offer the Air Force is that they can be produced within existing refineries; new facilities don't necessarily need to be built."
However, they are:
But some new plants are being built solely to produce biomass fuels such as HRJ or "green" diesel, Mr. Edwards said.
One such refinery is being built by Tyson Foods and will use animal fats from its food production factories to create biomass fuels. Another company, called AltAir Fuels, is building an HRJ plant near an existing refinery in Washington state, Mr. Edwards said.
"It turns out the primary cost comes from feed stock; the processing isn't all that expensive," Mr. Edwards said. "In places where you can get affordable feed stock, at least the industry seems to think it's cost-effective, because they're getting capital to start building plants."
Capital is certainly a good thing to get. "The way we look at it is to figure out what fuels make the most sense from an aviation industry perspective -- which ones have the potential to make the most fuel the most affordably with the least environmental impact," Mr. Edwards said. Fortunately, as it turns out, the answer was the one Congress invested the most taxpayer capital in.
But in spite of those government investments, subsidies, grants, and loans to the various agricultural giants involved, the biofuel industry was reportedly in deep trouble earlier this year:
According to the National Biodiesel Board, biodiesel production has ground to a halt and more than 29,000 jobs have already been lost across the industry since the tax credit lapsed on January 1, 2010.
The problem, as explained by the National Biodiesel Board was that "the loss of [a Bush-era tax incentive] could impact the more than 23,000 people employed in the biodiesel industry." Fortunately (fortune plays a large part in this story) Congress has additional legislation pending to save the troubled industry.
Meanwhile, the Air Force test flew a camelina fuel-powered A10 on March 25th.
Still, even as many embrace the biofuels effort, others question its usefulness, claiming that the entire US government has actually been running on pure bullshit for years now.
Hey, what's that green thing over there?
Update: Ouch - President Obama just told a questioner in Charlotte, North Carolina that the (8mpg) presidential limo can't be a hybrid because that couldn't get the kind of performance needed. ("The cars I'm in are like tanks.")
Now, I want the President of the United States to travel in a powerful, fast, high performance automobile. But can his run on biofuels, like a top-of-the-line fighter jet? Or would that impact performance?
And double ouch:
At last December's UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ran up a $13,000 bill for conventional combustion engine cars, a private driver, and old-fashioned baggage vans, according to government records.
The EPA paid more in two weeks for cars than most Americans make in a month. Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, chose to ignore Copenhagen's readily available crunchy alternatives, like hybrids or algae-fueled vehicles that were available -- for free -- to VIPs and governments through the Danish Foreign Ministry, or demonstration cars that ran on new green fuels produced by California companies.
If this is pessimism, it's not your typical, "Iraq unraveling" hand wringing.
Some of the Green Zone dwellers think the post-election jockeying between the various political factions will be American style "horse trading" as we saw in the health care debate; they have sold this line to the Washington Post and New York Times. This is bunk. Iraqi politics is a full contact sport, and blood will be shed. Nor will the battle be primarily sectarian. It will be a Shiia-on- Shiia affair. If it doesn't end up in a civil war, it will look like a Chicago gang war before it is over.
And please don't overlook the "if" I opened with. This very well could be realism.
While not "rapid," the rate of progress towards political stability in Iraq over the past two years has surprised me. It's exceeded my expectations, which were ever a bit better than those of analysts who've been quick on the draw to declare failure at every juncture, be it progress or impasse. Every bombing or murder (and they still happen - but at a much reduced rate from the 2006-2007 levels) has led to predictions of waves of violence sweeping the country. Such predictions are defensible, and not unreasonable regardless of recent track record. Somewhat paradoxically every arrest of an alleged bomber or murderer has been declared cause for the same. Somehow that ensuing violence doesn't materialize, a point that seems chiefly used to justify "pent up anger" reports when the next violent event does occur - lather, rinse, repeat.
Meanwhile, each political compromise solution reached, as with every solution not reached, is used to predict waves of violence sweeping the country as citizens (often quoted expressing their dissatisfaction with said political compromise and/or failure along with their complete lack of trust in their political leaders and suspicions of who's interests are really being served) reportedly become increasingly distrusting of Democracy in general and disenchanted with the notion of peaceful means to a political end.
That's been the news cycle from Iraq for some time now - though it's a news cycle that's garnered no real attention in the United States - and barring any actual increase in violence (guaranteed to bring a chorus of "ah-hah! just as I've been saying all along!" from folks who've been wrong for a long time now) that's likely to remain the case. So, it's easy to dismiss the opening quote above as more of the same.
But as usual, easy is wrong.
Colonel Gary Anderson, USMC Ret., recently left the State Department after a one year tour as a Senior Governance Advisor with an embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Abu Ghraib District (Qada'a) of Iraq's Baghdad Province.
He, you might correctly guess, is the source of the quote. If events play out as he describes (and I'm not convinced they will - but the people of Iraq tend to defy expectations) US forces in Iraq will find themselves in a very different situation than what confronted us in 2006, when an existing government was threatened by those who didn't want to play nice. There were no major boycotts of elections this year, even those candidates who were ruled ineligible (generally Sunnis declared tainted by former connections to Saddam's regime) urged their supporters to get out and vote. The results have led to a damned intriguing situation (to say the least) with three major coalitions each claiming the backing of a considerable portion of the electorate, and the Kurds a sizable fourth. Secular-fundamentalist/Shiia-Sunni/Kurd-Arab/Maliki-Allawi-Chalabi (yes, really)-Sadr/Iran-Iraq-"the region"-the Americans... All in all it's a drama worthy of much attention and getting none. Should it become more "action-oriented" (what the ADD kids think of as attention worthy) that ignorance will be a tragic shame.
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