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Late last week I received emails from two rightfully proud Marine moms about this unit:
'Iron Horse' troops back from Afghanistan
The "Iron Horse Marines" that make up Camp Pendleton's 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion are almost all home from a seven-month assignment in Afghanistan.
The second wave of more than 1,000 Marines and sailors from the reserve battalion arrived at Camp Pendleton late Thursday morning after conducting combat operations in the southern region of Afghanistan's Helmand province.
An initial wave arrived home late Wednesday, and a third wave is due Friday...
And now they're all home.
This video interview with Captain Edward Burns was done early in the deployment.
By Christmas, Battalion Commander LtCol Mike Martin was reporting to those at home:
What have we been doing? 4th LAR is the southernmost unit in Afghanistan. We are in a very remote area consisting of predominantly farmlands along the Helmand river. Our daily tasks are patrolling the villages along the Helmand river in order to meet the people, get to know them, identify what they need and assist them in any way possible with improving their way of life. Essential services out here are basically non-existent. What coalition forces bring to the table, the Taliban do not. To date, we have done this very well. Your son/brother/husband/friend has done a superb job getting to know their area and the local people. At this point, local Afghans come to us when they have a problem and need assistance. This is what we want and speaks volumes to how well we're doing after only 5 weeks of operating in southern Afghanistan.
But inevitably, other messages were more grim.
Families and Friends of 4th LAR,
On January 23, 2010 a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Zherand Kalay bazaar, a town we had occupied only days earlier. Two men, LCpl Jeremy M. Kane and HM2 Xin Qi died of their wounds that day, and Sgt David J. Smith succumbed to his wounds on January 26th. Four other men were wounded - Cpl George O'Sullivan, LCpl Kevin Miller, LCpl Michael Hoey, and LCpl Wilton Nhek...
But the Marines pushed on, and completed their mission.
This was the day she was waiting for. Longing for. Praying for.
So Kim Olsen rose early Saturday morning to approach it the way she had always intended. She would be there as her son's company arrived home from Afghanistan. She would lift banners. She would wave flags. She would bathe in the joy of their safe return.
That, she knew, is what her boy would have wanted of her.
Nigel Olsen understood the stakes of war. As the plane in which he was riding took off from California, on the first leg of a days-long journey to Afghanistan last fall, the 20-year-old Marine opened a leather-bound journal and began to write.
"Well, it begins at last," he scribbled. "About a half an hour ago, the plane took off. As we left the ground, I wondered if I'll ever see the U.S. again."
Read Promises Kept - a tribute to the seven fallen members of the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, here.
Meanwhile, even as the Marines stepped off the plane in America last Thursday...
The 1000th U.S. Service member to die in Afghanistan (by AP's count) was a Marine with the 1st LAR. He was on foot patrol in the southern Helmand River Valley Thursday afternoon when he was killed by an IED.
This is the first casualty suffered by the 1st LAR since taking over this area of operations from the 4th LAR one week ago.
"Text of my Memorial Day speech," read the subject line of this email from my friend Major Chuck Ziegenfuss. "Share as you see fit."
Commander Burns, Ladies and Gentlemen, friends and family: thank you for attending this remembrance for our fallen warriors.
On the 23rd of July, 2003, Captain Joshua T. Byers, 29, of Sparks, Nev.; assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Troop, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, in Fort Carson, Co.; was killed when his convoy hit an explosive device. Josh was not only my friend, but was my mentor and peer.
While supporting (which is a Department of Defense word for fighting) in Operation Enduring Freedom, another very close friend of mine was killed. He died May 29, 2004, just two days short of a Memorial Day, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when his vehicle struck a land mine. Captain Daniel W. Eggers, 28, of Cape Coral, Florida. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
LTC Gary R. Derby, 44, of Missoula, Montana; assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division; died Feb. 9 2009 in Mosul, Iraq, of wounds sustained when a car bomb was driven into his vehicle. LTC, then Captain Derby commanded a company in my battalion when I was a young shave-tail lieutenant. Aside from his candid leadership and sense of humor, he was the kind of guy who you could always count on to tell you when you were being an idiot--and how to really improve on style points.
One thing that each of these heroes had in common--besides having the unfortunate luck to serve with me, was that they took their duty very seriously; and themselves much less so. The loved the military, they loved serving this country; every day, and no days off.
Each was a family man. Each left behind a great legacy. Each served to the fullest measure. I am sure if they had the chance to be alive today, each would ask that someone who died alongside them would instead take their place among the living.
Many of our fellow citizens have no understanding of the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, other than it means a long weekend. Many people, especially those with no connection to the military, often confuse the two, citing Memorial Day as a day to thank those serving the nation in uniform. Recently, a friend of mine commented that "Memorial Day is meant to pay homage to those who gave their lives for this country and our way of life. It is a day to honor the dead. There is NO such thing as "Happy Memorial Day."
Respectfully, I disagree, in part, anyway.
Memorial Day is a happy yet solemn, joyful yet tearful, partly sunny yet mostly cloudy kind of day.
We are living the days these men and women never will. Live them well, be happy, and enjoy the blessings of liberty their service and sacrifice have bought. Although we take pause today to remember their absence, we must also take this day to celebrate the very liberty they have secured.
Memorial Day should be a "happy" day, the same as Easter. We remember the sacrifice, and the cost, yet we rejoice in the promise of chocolate rabbits, only six more weeks till spring (if Christ came out of the tomb and saw his shadow) and painted eggs, god-awfully early church services, plastic grass, and kids on a blood-sugar bender. We remember the sacrifice, and the cost, of the loss of friends and family on this day. I remember Josh wearing a cape and boxer shorts and little else, standing in the Kuwaiti desert and saluting passing vehicles. I remember sharing stories and fixing the world's problems over barbeque and beer with Dan. I remember Gary creatively counseling another lieutenant who just refused to "get it." I remember these men fondly, and am thankful to wear the same uniform, to serve the same nation, and to carry forward where they cannot.
Dan, Josh, and Gary can't spend this day, or any other day with their families, or among us, and we are a poorer nation because of that. I miss them, but today I pay special attention to their absence, and jealously guard my time with my family. We will have a happy day, because my friends, my mentors, my brothers have already paid for it, in advance, with interest.
I do not mean to suggest that it is proper to tell a recent widow to have a "Happy" Memorial Day. I know the families of the fallen, and especially the recently fallen, spend this day in grief, but they spend this day remembering none the less. They will, in time, first recall the good things, the joys and happiness, the special days; and will lock away the days which hurt the most. These families, these survivors, have something their warriors no longer have... time. They have time to grieve, time to mourn, and time to heal. They will, soon enough, spend their memorial days at family barbeques, pool openings, amusement parks, and all manner of fun and happy occasions.
On Memorial Day, these families, mine and hopefully yours, will also pause to remember all of the joyful times we spent with those who have stood their final muster, and then we too, will go on living, and have a happy Memorial Day.
Thank you for your time and your attention.
Charles W. Ziegenfuss
This grew in part from an email discussion (among some of us for whom the concept is far from abstract) on the right or wrong of wishing someone a happy Memorial Day. I agree with Chuck, and I remember pondering the issue while in Iraq, on Memorial Day in 2007. While it wasn't my decision to make, had I died securing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness I would have preferred no one surrendered any of the three.
The lightning kept flashing. Still grounded. In about 90 minutes the moon would rise and illuminate the sky, making it far too easy for whoever shot the Chinook last time to hit it again.
The soldiers' geography debate shifted to another topic: whether Brockton, Mass., is more dangerous than the Korengal Valley, where more than 40 U.S. troops had died over the past five years. One of the New England soldiers insisted that five of his relatives had been killed in Brockton, so he was pretty sure it was more dangerous than the Korengal...
It's actually a lighthearted break from some of the heavier Memorial Day news, but the only way to truly appreciate Greg Jaffe's WaPo piece profiling troops in Afganistan is via this introduction by Exum.
Why did you join the ROTC at college and enter the U.S. Marines? Do you think your time in the Marines helped you as a journalist?
I didn't [think of] myself as joining ROTC. I saw myself as joining the Marines, and ROTC was a route to get there.
My thinking went something like this: I started college with no military affiliation and was a freshman when a truck bomb leveled the barracks in Beirut. I remember flipping through a copy of Newsweek, looking at the pictures of guys my age in flak jackets pulling at the rubble, and it was deeply affecting. It was 1983. It seemed like half the people around me were talking about getting a money job on Wall Street, or applying to law school or med school, and a lot of the rest were driving around in Saab Turbos their parents had bought for them and trying to score a few grams of cocaine. I found it disorienting, socially and academically. I was lucky to be there, but had no idea how to use that good fortune. I was 18, with a clear sense of what I didn't want, but less sense of what I did. So I was looking at those pictures of the Marines having just had their building flattened and their buddies killed, and I wouldn't say it was an attraction--who would be attracted?--but it stirred something.
It was the right way for me to pass my 20s. The drill instructors knocked me into focus, and once I left college and showed up at the Marine Corps proper, I was put in a good unit, sent to Ranger school, and in time traveled around the U.S. and to a long list of other countries, and served in the first Gulf War and the peacekeeping operations in the Los Angeles riots in 1992. Except for the months on those dismal, pent-up ships, I enjoyed and benefited from most of it--the patrols in the Philippines, the travel within the United States and abroad, the years inside a brotherhood where race and class drop away more than I've ever seen on the outside, the adrenaline of the helicopters pushing into a landing zone at night, the difficulties of the infantry life and the relentless expectation of excellence, the chance to see elements of American foreign policy (and in Los Angeles, domestic crisis management) right up close, with all of its bold intentions and screw-ups and warts. For right or for wrong, when the United States grinds up against another country, or even engages it slowly over time, the Marines are there at the friction points; to be one of them is to have an insightful seat. I was lucky to have mine.
To me those initials--USMC--are still resonant. The corps is not storied by accident. It is a special outfit with a special frame of mind and a history that almost every Marine wants to live up to and preserve. That's not bullshit. It's true, and a rare truth at that. This is not to say it doesn't have its problems, or its misplaced priorities, or its share of nitwits. It does. Plenty of them. And they should be fixed. But on balance its sins have less weight than its merits, and I'd sign back up now if I were 18 or 19 again.
I ultimately resigned when I was a captain, at 29, in part because I didn't like having rank and the bureaucracy that accompanies it. As I moved up, I was seeing I had less freedom than I had down below, and could see I would be spending less time in the field. I preferred the field to garrison. So I walked.
He walked into a career in journalism - but charged is probably a better term. Read the whole thing.
His path eventually led him to a gig with the New York Times. Check the byline on any of that paper's reports from Afghanistan - if they're front-line embeds you'll likely see his name. Most recently he was embedded with the Marines through the initial stages of the Marjah campaign, and after a brief break he's returned to the front.
Here are excerpts from just two of his reports from the past week...
Five-year-old Sadiq was not a casualty of war. He was simply unlucky. The boy had opened a sack of grain at his home early on Wednesday morning, and a pit viper coiled inside lashed up and bit him above the lip.
His father, Kashmir, knew his son was sure to die. With no hospital anywhere nearby, he rushed the boy to an American outpost to plead for help. By midafternoon, Sadiq's breathing was labored. Respiratory failure was not long off.
The events that followed unfolded like a tabletop counterinsurgency exercise at a military school. On one hand, the United States military's medical capacity, implanted across Afghanistan to care for those wounded in the war, could not be used as primary care for the nation's 29 million people. On the other hand, would the officer who upheld this policy be willing to watch a 5-year-old die?
Don't be sure you know the answer until you read it all.
As I made my way through the second story, it struck me that in a combat zone - and for those who've returned from one - every day is memorial day, and no one but C.J. Chivers could have gotten it so exactly right.
Lately, anyone visiting Combat Outpost Lily, a joint American-Afghan post in northern Marja, will chance upon a small token of a grieving platoon, a memorial that is an early marker on the long road to try to sort out what it all means, and what it really cost.
What is this place, Combat Outpost Lily? In the most obvious sense, viewed from the flat and dusty road that it sits beside, it is the home of a contingent of Afghan soldiers, a few dozen officers from the Afghan National Civil Order Police and the Marines of First Platoon of the battalion's India Company. It also rests on soil adjacent to a long abandoned Russian base. And yet as it happens, for all of this outpost's martial air and history, Lily, for whom this small cluster of tents and bunkers was named, was never a Marine. She was a date-to-be, the Marines say, a young woman who had stood up a Marine lieutenant who had asked her to the annual Marine Corps ball. These circumstances -- a no-show for an officer waiting in dress blues -- earned Lily a small measure of fame, if fame could wear a smirk. Once India Company arrived in Afghanistan, her name was recycled as a healthy celebration of an insult, and gave an inhospitable place its name.
Now forget Lily, "that very special lady," as one Marine said bitingly. These Marines almost certainly will. This outpost has already been dedicated to someone they hold much more dear. He greets all visitors in a way that is understated and yet impossible to miss...
A note from our friend Robert Stokely...
The Stokely family sat in a football stadium on a warm Friday night just before Memorial Day 2001 to watch Mike Stokely graduate high school. He already had boot camp / basic training and a year in the National Guard under his belt and would be heading off for Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Gordon in a few weeks. His little sister, Abbey, almost nine, couldn't let go of him, even to have a photo taken with Mike and their brother, Wes. She swung on his arm adoringly - her look of love says it all.
On the morning of August 16, 2005, as my wife Retta and I sat with Wes and Abbey just after breaking the news to them of Mikes death earler that morning, then 13 year old Abbey buried her head into my shoulder, sobbing these words: "he was supposed to chase away my first boyfriend, he was supposed to cheer at my graduation from high school, he was supposed to be an uncle to my children..." These words seared my heart, broken as it was. I shall never forget them. She lost her oldest brother that day, her "Bubs" which she called him short for his nickname, Bubba.
Tonight, May 27, 2010 at the football stadium for Northgate High School in Sharpsburg GA, Abbey Stokely graduated last with her class. She has had a rough five years that started with Mike's death in Iraq. Five months later, she and I were broad sided by a driver who ran a stop sign at 45 plus and rolled and flipped us several times, shearing her right rear passenger door away. She spent 18 months recovering from her serious neck, back, and head injury. Those two events might seem enough to cause a student to graduate last.
But more came her way for just a month or so after she was fully recovered from the wreck. She was bitten by a tick and came down with Lyme Disease. In GA and the south there is medical bias against diagnosing or even recognizing that Lyme Disease exists here and doctor after doctor refused to treat her for Lyme, saying she just needed psychological help due to her brother's death and the car wreck. She missed over half her class instruction time during her sophomore and junior years, essentially home schooling herself between extensive rest periods, migraines, sickness, dizziness, and other symptoms that doctors said was just "in her head" and not Lyme. She and her mother traveled out of state to see doctors who might treat her for Lyme and finally we found a doctor about two hours from our home in GA that started aggressive treatment for Lyme and she finally started getting better. That might be enough by itself, but especially with the continuing grief over her brother's loss and her own near death experience to cause her to be last, but more was to come.
As she ended her junior year her best friend for several years had become her first boyfriend - the one Mike was supposed to chase away. But I think he might have let this fine young man who had been so good to his sister in all of her grief, injuries and sickness stay around. A gentleman in every respect was Thomas Broadwater. A fine son and brother-in-law he might have one day made. They went to the prom together and a great night it was, but then the next day my mother / Abbey's grandmother fell seriously ill at age 81 and died a week later. Looking back, it is about the most normal thing that has happened to Abbey in these five years. Her "Nana" adored her as she adored Nana. Enough you might think. But not yet, for three weeks after burying her Nana, Abbey Stokely buried her best friend, her first boyfriend, Thomas Broadwater, who died from complications of surgery on one of his lungs.
So, you might think that was enough and it was almost too much for her to bear. Thomas was also her classmate and supposed to graduate with Abbey and 395 others tonight. This last year has not been easy to say the least. Surely, this explains why she was the last. She wanted her brother Mike to be there to cheer for her and she felt it so unfair that Thomas wasn't there to get his diploma. And that weighed heavily on her. We were tense to see if she would get through this graduation tonight, an emotional time for her to say the least.
But none of these things are why Abbey Stokely was last to graduate with her class tonight. Abbey Stokely graduated last tonight because she was the Valedictorian and by tradition the last to receive her diploma and graduate. Before rising to give her speech to send her classmates into the future, she watched with bittersweet pride as a member of Thomas Broadwater's family came forward to receive his diploma posthumously. Then, she nailed her speech in front of thousands of friends, family and strangers. Just as she finished, a downpour hit and drenched the graduates and the crowd. A mile away not a drop.
I first wondered why it rained there. But then, as I saw the rising full moon emerge from behind the clouds, The same Moon over Yusufiyah I watched night after night as Mike served in Iraq, even as I prayed for his safety and wished to feel close to him, knowing he had seen the same moon 8 hours before. It was then I wondered if it was Mike's tears of joy and pride for his sister that had just drenched us all.
The Moon over Yusufiyah was shining bright over Sharpsburg tonight.
And I was reminded again that the highest cost of Freedom is A Lifetime of Love.
proud dad of Abbey Stokely, Wes Stokely
and Mike Stokely KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah Iraq
Abbey produced this memorial slideshow for Mike in 2007, on the second anniversary of his death. I first saw it not far from Yusufiyah, where we were finishing the work he and so many others had begun. Those were grim days, but from the Stokely family I gained strength to carry on.
Original post: 2010-05-28 06:26:12
Matt Gallagher: Remembering Mark.
In November of 2007, the British author Christopher Hitchens wrote a nonfiction piece for Vanity Fair entitled "A Death in the Family." If you haven't read it, I suggest that you do so - NYU's esteemed journalism school recently nominated it as one of the decade's top eighty works in that field. It's about the death of a young lieutenant in Iraq, and the resulting effects on his family, his community, and the author. The lieutenant's name was Mark Daily, a 2005 graduate of UCLA, and he was my friend.
He was, says Matt, "the lieutenant we wanted our platoons to think we actually were." Read the whole thing is an inadequate endorsement, this is something you'll want to read more than once.
(Bumped from 2010-05-21 08:33:25)
Jules Crittenden, reviewing a NYT article by Dexter Filkins: "I don't want to think about how you get that good at that and what you walk away with. It's too early in the morning."
Certainly a good writer doesn't need photographs or video to put us on the scene in the aftermath of a successful suicide bomb attack:
Limbs and entrails flew hundreds of feet, littering yards and walls and streets. The survivors, many of them women and children, some of them missing limbs, lay in the road moaning and calling for help.
In a passenger bus, an Afghan woman lay dead in her seat, cut in half; with her baby still squirming in her arms. Fifty yards away, a man's head lay on the hood of a truck...
"People were calling, 'Help me, help me,' " said Yusuf Tahiri, an ambulance driver who carried off six dead and two wounded Afghans. "There were body parts everywhere."
As Mr. Tahiri spoke, an Afghan soldier appeared carrying a large red trash bag. It was, he said, filled with human brains. "What do you want me to do this with this," he asked. "Do you want me to bury it, or do you want to take it?"
That's an image to bear in mind the next time you read a report of NATO soldiers opening fire on a perceived threat - because this is what they're trying to prevent. As much as I'd prefer there be no "next time," it's an image that will be part of their decision-making process, too.
And no doubt questions will be raised about whether the troops involved this time had an opportunity to respond with anything other than flags and lasers, and whether the last time was a factor. Hopefully they'll be answered even before they're asked...
But Dexter Filkins isn't the only reporter bringing home the gut-wrenching truth from Afghanistan. Here's Tom Coghlan, in the (London) Times, describing the aftermath of a roadside bomb attack on a coalition convoy:
Zamin didn't make it, we are told. Meanwhile...
From the wreckage the troops pulled an unconscious, mangled figure. His name was Zamin, but as American medics began desperate efforts to save him some of his Afghan comrades wept at what they saw. The devastating blast had deformed his body and made his face all but unrecognisable. His form had lost the rigidity of bone and muscle and moved, instead, like a bag of flour. The medics could only speculate on the number of bones that were broken. Somehow he clung to life, sucking in air and choking on blood.
In the dust by the roadside Specialist George Linares, 26, performed an emergency tracheotomy, cutting through Zamin's throat to insert a tube directly to his lungs. While he did so another medic cradled Zamin's face, the features gone, the skull moving under his hands.
From the wreckage a voice screamed and the Afghans worked to free a second survivor, Niamatullah...
A Taleban radio call intercepted in the seconds after the explosion confirmed the presence of a "triggerman" close by, watching and detonating the device by remote control.
The Afghan troops had moved ahead into the village and rounded up a group of men they regarded as suspicious. Now the men, nine of them, squatted on the ground. Some carried spades and all looked unhappy; one of them, a young man in a black shalwar kameez, shook visibly.
If the anonymous roadside bomb has given the insurgents a tactical advantage in Afghanistan and Iraq, Western technology is beginning to redress the balance. The US soldiers produced a box containing an instant explosive-residue testing kit, known as Exspray.
As the hands of the bemused men were swabbed, the chemical test indicated that all might not be the innocent civilians they insisted they were. Two young men, including the man in black, tested positive for TATP, a substance exclusive to explosives, as well as for nitrates used in explosives.
Now there was anger and more than a hint of vengeance in the air. The Afghan soldiers hauled the two men away from the main group, delivering kicks and blows none too discreetly as they bound their arms with their scarves. The Americans soldiers were deeply angry, too, and several stood over the suspects, cursing them. Their unit had lost a popular officer, Lieutenant Sal Corma, to a similar device a few weeks earlier.
One leant forward to draw his finger across his throat a few inches from the men's faces before walking away in fury.
(Bumped from 2010-05-18 15:25:11)
An account of an Afghan National Army (ANA) Soldier, in a unit serving alongside a brigade from the US 101st Airborne.
"In Zormat, Paktya Province, Afghanistan, Said Ajan Abrahim's 203rd ANA Corps element came under heavy fire from insurgents at an ANA checkpoint."
In the ensuing combat, Abrahim's leg was nearly severed. Being an ANA medic and having the overwhelming urge to remain in the fight, Abrahim placed a tourniquet on his own leg and severed the remaining attachment with a medical knife.
After being wounded again, he was finally disabled from being able to fight. However, upon his medical evacuation, and sitting on a stretcher fully conscious, the only question Abrahim had was how his fellow Soldiers had fared in the encounter.
Abrahim was evacuated to the Forward Operating Base Sharana where he received treatment at the urgent care center. He is expected to make a full recovery.
The House on Friday passed its version of the defense policy bill for fiscal 2011, drawing a new veto threat from President Barack Obama, even though the legislation includes language that would allow the Pentagon to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military.
The bill, which passed by a vote of 229 to 186, also includes language authorizing funding for a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Earlier this week, Obama, through the Office of Management and Budget, said if funding for the second engine was included in the final version of the bill, his senior advisers would recommend a veto, endorsing a warning from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"On Memorial Day, America will come together and honor all who served our nation in uniform," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech, noting the symbolic timing of the debate. "I urge my colleagues to vote for the repeal of this discriminatory policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' and make America more American."
Not to mention a new engine for the Joint Strike Fighter - something crucial to protect us from the Yellow Peril.
Christine Parthemore does a bit of word counting in the new National Security Strategy. Among the results she reports at CNAS's Natural Security blog: "climate change" appears more than "intelligence."
"Climate change" appears 28 times, by her count. I'd prefer more intelligence, but maybe they're mutually exclusive.
"I have been back in Afghanistan for about ten months now," writes Old Blue, "and my perceptions have run the gamut during that time."
He's been busy - too busy to write much on his blog. So when he does, it's worth reading.
And here's news on the latest from our friend James Hooker.
A great offer from Tom Ricks: "Buy a book, help an Iraqi refugee."
Here is one way to observe Memorial Day: Help Iraqi refugees as they settle down in this country. To do that, I've collected a bunch of recent books, signed by the authors, and am selling them off for $50 apiece...
Here are the books:
David Bellavia: House to House
Andrew Exum: This Man's Army
Nathaniel Fick: One Bullet Away
David Finkel: The Good Soldiers
Barton Gellman: Angler - The Cheney Vice Presidency
H.R. McMaster: Dereliction of Duty
John Heilemann and Mark Halperin: Game Change
Plus, all four of my books:
A Soldier's Duty
Making the Corps
Details here - supplies are limited, if you're interested, act fast.
In case the American Idol folks are wondering why no one watches their show tonight, Uncle Jimbo has an embed, too: "This should be fun, I am appearing on Rachel Maddow's show on MSNBC tonight along w/ JD Johannes..."
Talk about a high-level embed - ABC's Martha Raddatz scores a first, a combat sortie ride-along in an F-15:
In the jet, we also placed three small HD cameras -- one on the pilot, one on me, one facing outside. I had a handheld HD camera as well, which is not really that easy to maneuver when you are flying as fast as we were, especially when upside down. But I did manage to hold the camera steady when the lead jet flew just 15 feet above us, giving a close-up view of the nearly 5,000 pounds of bombs attached to it. We carried the same amount of ordnance.
We also gave the weapons system officer in the lead jet a camera. When the jets needed gas and headed for the aerial refueling, the lead jet got close enough to see me wave and see me then point the camera up to tape the boom operator in the tanker holding the boom connected to our jet.
But once we were refueled, the mission took an urgent turn. The French air controller, called a JTAC for Joint Terminal Air Controller, who is on the ground with the French troops, says they have come under small arms fire and had a rocket propelled grenade launched at them.
"We have a bad guy with a weapon moving to the northeast!" he yells.
The JTAC does not hesitate. He asks the fighter jets to drop a 500 pound bomb, or GBU 38: "I request an attack at 340 degrees ... in the treeline. ...Confirm you guys are still taking effective fire."
"They are very close ... imminent attack," he continues. "We just see one more RPG on that location. I request one GBU 38."
...again. Or almost begins again. Not quite yet. But getting there is half the fun, I always say.
A word on transit within the Area of Operations...a primer, if you will, for those that have never had the pleasure. Let's say for purely hypothetical sake that you needed to fly from a notional desert airfield in the Gulf, serving as a major air transit hub, to another major transit hub located in a notional war-torn central Asian nation's capital region. Your initial feeling is a hopeful one...the reception cell has picked you up at the international airport, found you some temporary billeting, and signed you up at the 'terminal' for Space-R (reserved) travel on the next manifest. Imagine then that a couple of days creep by...each one filled with checking and re-checking your place on the list, and hoping to hear your name called at each roll call only to learn that either the flight has been canceled or that it is too full to take a single passenger. Despair sets in as you learn that others have been there for five days trying to reach your same destination (they may not call it a "surge" in HQ or in DC, but trust us, it's a surge...the meaning of the word doesn't change just because of some implication related to the other war).
Maybe a "surge" means more milbloggers, too. More here, including a picture of mountains, captioned "Mountains! That's good! That means we're practically there, right?"
"Sure...or, in another far more accurate sense, no. No, we're not."
Rules of engagement: Are the lives of American soldiers being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness in the age of Obama? Stories implying (or outright stating) as much are certainly appearing with increasing frequency these days. You're about to read two examples that I think will answer the question - if not settle the debate. I've redacted some identifying information, but can assure you these people are who they claim to be, and both can be considered expert witnesses on the topic. I expect a lot of people will be pissed at what they're about to read, or ignore the truth, or eagerly dismiss them as 'isolated incidents.' They are not - they are typical, and these aren't the only examples I can provide.
The first comes from a soldier who found himself confronted with a potential 'troops in contact' situation and had to make a quick decision - even though he was back in headquarters, and not on the scene. "I have recently been temporarily assigned to the post of battalion 'battle captain,'" he reports. "For nonmilitary readers, that means from 0100 to 1300 hours every day I am the battalion commander's representative in the TOC, and basically run all routine operations in the absence of the battalion commander or executive officer. If this were Star Trek, I'd 'have the conn.'"
I guess that makes the guys who were about to call him for help the "redshirts" - the ones when you see them beam down to the planet with Kirk and Spock, you know they ain't coming back. Except this wasn't TV - they were someone's kids - and here's what the real life 'recently assigned, temporary battle captain' did in response to a request from an outnumbered combat team operating outside the wire:
At about [redacted time/date], we received word from a [redacted - military unit] at the government center that a demonstration had formed, and a slogan-chanting mob of about 200 people had come from the east, and was throwing rocks at Americans and local police inside the compound. [The military unit] wanted permission to fire a warning shot.
I hate to be the guy sitting in a safe place on a radio and a room full of maps denying a request to someone in a tight spot in the field. But on the other hand, I had to weigh the immediate needs of the guy on the ground against the broader mission: long term stability.
He adds that the crowd threatening the soldiers was chanting "By our lives, by our souls, we will preserve Islam!"
If you were in that situation and had time to check the Tactical Directive issued by General McChrystal last summer you'd find this guidance: "This is different from conventional combat, and how we operate will determine the outcome more than traditional measures, like capture of terrain or attrition of enemy forces. We must avoid the trap of winning tactical victories - but suffering strategic defeats - by causing civilian casualties or excessive damage and thus alienating the people."
You might be shocked to hear that a unit in the field had to ask permission just to fire a warning shot - but to make a long story short, the young battle captain back at the TOC didn't authorize it anyway, citing concerns for the locals among his reasons. Instead he advised them to abandon their position! Fortunately they did so with just a couple of local policemen sustaining "minor injuries from the rocks" as the only acknowledged casualties. "Everyone on both sides made it home alive," he claims, "as far as I know." It could have turned out differently.
But here's more guidance from General McChrystal:
The Taliban cannot militarily defeat us - but we can defeat ourselves.
I recognize that the carefully controlled and disciplined employment of force entails risks to our troops - and we must work to mitigate that risk wherever possible. But excessive use of force resulting in an alienated population will produce far greater risks. We must understand this reality at every level in our force.
Here's what our narrator (a bit more blunt than the General, to be sure) reports as a 'lesson learned' from his experience: "You're not a dog," he explained. "Firing your weapon isn't like licking your balls. It's not one of those things you want to do just because you can."
Okay - if you're getting hot about it take a deep breath before proceeding, this next story won't help you cool down. Again, it takes place in a TOC, and once again we'll see troops denied support. But there are significant differences - this time they weren't requesting permission to fire a simple 'warning shot' to scare the bad guys away - they'd already come under fire! They needed air support - and time was of the essence, as you'll see.
This account comes to us from a reporter, not a soldier. "A Tactical Operations Center (TOC) is the headquarters for a unit," he explains, "packed with communications and monitoring equipment, radios, and video screens." Obviously it's a chaotic environment, with multiple actors adding to the potential confusion. "The radios are for communication between the different companies, as well as helicopters and jets. Battalion-level TOCs also communicate laterally with other battalions and vertically up to the brigade. Usually some ten soldiers will sit in front of the screens. One soldier will be the S-2, or intelligence. Another will monitor counter-battery radar. Another will communicate with those who operate the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)..."
And so on. Here's his report - again, identifying details are redacted, but in my mind, it's a perfect example of many others I've seen like it, usually explaining why we're going to lose in Afghanistan:
Once again, General McChrystal's Tactical Directive:
I entered the TOC about 3:20 A.M., and there was a video feed coming from an F-16. Crosshairs were steady on a house the pilot was circling.
"What's up with he house?" I asked.
"An element took SAFIRE (small-arms fire) and the enemy ran into that house."
"What're you going to do?"
"Trying to decide. Probably bomb it."
Sounds simple. Question is, bomb it with what? The commanders had myriad options. Some weapons were within their direct authority to use, while other weapons required higher permission. Rules of Engagement (ROE) changed constantly. For the early days of [the operation] the ROE were relaxed, giving robust options further down the chain, with the caveat to mitigate civilian deaths... [but now] commanders made avoiding civilian casualties a primary part of the battle plan.
...the battle captain asked the Air Force experts (the JTACS or Joint Tactical Air Controllers) what weapons the F-16 was carrying... Now was option time. Which weapon to use? There were many choices...
They discussed dropping a JDAM, (Joint Direct Attack Munition) from one of the jets. A JDAM is a smart bomb with a GPS-based guidance system. But a JDAM might cause too much collateral damage. The idea of a strafe run came up, but that would likely cause even more collateral damage, so that was also nixed. The F-16 was carrying at least one concrete bomb - literally just a bomb made from concrete, like throwing a boulder at people - but a JTAC said, "We are not dropping a concrete bomb." For some reason he didn't want to just throw a rock...
While the TOC crew and the Air Force guys were discussing how best to kill the enemy, the F-16 was running low on fuel. So in the end the jets just flew low in a show of force and then rumbled away.
I walked to breakfast while they were still plotting their next move. I have no idea if they killed the enemy and if they did what method they finally settled on.
I expect leaders at all levels to scrutinize and limit the use of force like close air support (CAS) against residential compounds and other locations likely to produce civilian casualties in accordance with this guidance. Commanders must weigh the gain of using CAS against the cost of civilian casualties, which in the long run make mission success more difficult and turn the Afghan people against us.
So - if you're like me, you aren't surprised by claims that radical changes implemented by our military leadership demonstrate the "politically correct" mindset forced on them by President Obama, that those changes are putting troops at needless risk, and might even cost us the war. Are they right? As noted at the outset, you've just read two examples that I think answer the question.
And the answer is "No."
Shocked? Take another deep breath - and read on.
You see, both examples are from Iraq. The first happened in 2003, a few months after the ground invasion. The second is from 2007, the summer of the surge. Sorry if showing how they fit in with General McChrystal's current Tactical Directive made you think I was citing recent events in Afghanistan, but the real point is that the guidance isn't quite as new or different or radical as many would like you to believe.
I used only selected quotes from Jason Van Steenwyk's December, 2003 blog post from Ramadi, and added my commentary designed only to piss you off - just as anyone wanting to influence your opinion would regarding any issue today. His full account explains his actions in detail, I simply cut it down to the point where it appeared thoughtless, knee-jerk, and inconsiderate of the lives of the team outside the wire - it was anything but. (For instance, he sent a QRF out to support them. And here's his full list of Leadership Lessons from Iraq prompted by that event - "you're not a dog..." is just the one I ripped from context for effect.) I chose his post because he was the first long-term, frequently updated milblog from Iraq, there is no better way to demonstrate how not new this issue is. Read the whole thing - what he describes is exactly the right response to the situation confronting him, and in it he also describes another event from a few months before:
I didn't consciously thought about it at the time, but one of my NCOs on duty reminded me that we'd seen this happen before, in July, at the very same location. We had most of a company stationed at the government center at that time. A bunch of kids started throwing rocks at the compound. A crowd gathered. The compound started taking small arms and RPG fire from across the street. To the west, a man was skipping around behind a bunch of kids handing hand grenades to children and encouraging them to throw them at our troops behind the compound.
Our soldiers couldn't get a shot at him without endangering the children. So they returned aimed fire at the RPG shooters and small-arms fire to the north, but they held their fire to the west, and just took the grenades.
Emphasis added to that bottom line. Wicked hard problems requiring wicked hard decisions - but many of the same folks who would have applauded the courage of Americans to do the right thing back then - who would have expressed admiration for their courageous restraint - are screaming the loudest about ROE today.
The second event was from Baqubah, in 2007, and can be found in Mike Yon's Moment of Truth in Iraq. Here's a non-edited version of one of the paragraphs I quoted:
Sounds simple. Question is, bomb it with what? The commanders had myriad options. Some weapons were within their direct authority to use, while other weapons required higher permission. Rules of Engagement (ROE) changed constantly. For the early days of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, the ROE were relaxed, giving robust options further down the chain, with the caveat to mitigate civilian deaths. In all, there were seven known fatalities. A number that low - and five of those deaths were from a single explosion that locals had said had come from a U.S. bomb - is almost unbelievable, considering the amount of firepower that had been used. Our commanders made avoiding civilian casualties a primary part of the battle plan.And here's the full conclusion:
I walked to breakfast while they were still plotting their next move. I have no idea if they killed the enemy and if they did what method they finally settled on. But I know there was careful deliberation in the TOC, combined with excellent combat soldiers on the streets. That was how civilian casualties, as well as our own losses, were kept so astonishingly low.
Shocker - "civilian casualties, as well as our own losses, were kept so astonishingly low." There's that pride in our boys again - which for many people is what really changed in January, 2009. Now, of course, Obama and his generals are turning them into pussies - and getting them killed.
One more quote from the Tactical Directive:
This directive does not prevent commanders from protecting the lives of their men and women as a matter of self-defense where it is determined no other options (specific options deleted due to operational security) are available to effectively counter the threat.
Rules of engagement: Are the lives of American soldiers being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness in the age of Obama? Stories implying (or outright stating) as much are certainly appearing with increasing frequency these days. You've just read two examples that answered the question - no. But while that won't settle the debate, at least the next time someone tries to convince you otherwise, you can wonder how stupid they think you are.
Win a free copy of Sebastian Junger's book WAR. I'm not eligible, I've already got one, but I'm happy to share the link anyway.
(And I'm looking forward to Andrew Lubin's interview with Junger, too.)
The Torch's Hippie-Hair Correspondent sent along this piece from CTV about a British milblog stepping over the line regarding a recent rocket attack at KAF.
The Helmand Blog, run by several branches of the U.K. military both in England and Afghanistan, said insurgents attacked the base from two locations Saturday night, launching five rocket-propelled grenades.
It said 13 people from the American and Canadian contingents suffered injuries.
The blog quoted Senior Aircraftsman Eric Telford, 24, from 2nd Squadron of the Royal Air Force, as saying he rushed to the site of the attack and applied a tourniquet to a wounded female Canadian soldier.
The blog entry was later removed after ISAF said it was posted without proper approval and contained some incorrect information.
More at The Torch. The real head scratcher is that Helmand Blog is "run by PJHQ and the team from UK Forces Media Ops" - in short, it's a public affairs blog, not your typical "lone GI writes from the war zone" site. (There are damn few of those left these days, that's twice today I've pointed that out...)
"Is This Blog Really That Boring/Stupid?" A soldier in Afghanistan asks his readers. Seems that after two months of blogging from the front, "none of the over 600 unique visitors have left a comment."
Which is fairly discouraging when you're spending the available free time you have to communicate with the folks back home. There are damn few military folks blogging from combat zones these days, and I think that discouragement is a big part of the reason. As few as there may be, there are three writing at Handful of Dust. If you've somehow concluded that clicking one of those links, visiting them and leaving a comment is a good idea then you've gotten my hint.
For the rest of you, don't worry, you'll always have CNN, MSNBC, and Fox to keep you informed.
"Suicidal" and "tactical failure" are both accurate descriptions of the enemy effort - much as they were regarding similar assaults in Iraq at the height of hostilities there. But I think the words commonly used in the press back then were "bold" and "daring."
Every time an insurgent farted near the Green Zone in Iraq the press was all over it and touting the failings of the Bush administration and how it was indicative of the futility of fighting that part of the War on Terror.
So, those who were infuriated by that sort of thing back then should certainly welcome the change, right?
Mr. Obama all but declared victory in Iraq, crediting the military but not Mr. Bush, who sent more troops in 2007. "A lesser Army might have seen its spirit broken," Mr. Obama said. "But the American military is more resilient than that. Our troops adapted, they persisted, they partnered with coalition and Iraqi counterparts, and through their competence and creativity and courage, we are poised to end our combat mission in Iraq this summer."
Speaking for myself only, you're welcome. Ignoring who - besides the troops - does or doesn't get the credit, it absolutely was a bitch to fight an enemy overseas while a lot of shitbags in our own Congress kept saying they had won.
Instead, see if you can find the Marine in this picture. (Click for larger version, and no fair reading the caption first.)
(But don't worry - more tales from the Book of Patton to follow.)
Gay rights groups are hoping for another huge step forward next week in their efforts to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law, with key moves aimed at dumping the ban possible in both chambers of Congress.
Such action would contrast with Pentagon officials' public requests for patience on the issue, as the Defense Department collects servicemembers' reactions and fears about a change in the 17-year-old ban on openly gay servicemembers. That review is expected to wrap up by the end of the year, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he opposes any legislative moves before then.
But on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told The Hill newspaper that "I don't have any doubt that 'don't ask, don't tell' will be a memory by the end of this year," dismissing Gates' objections.
...or will she listen to the milbloggers?
Jimbo did - about the weapon status (green-amber-red) ruckus initially raised on Mike Yon's Facebook page. Here's ISAF's response.
The "victim" in this one is the US Army:
A Texas man with no military experience tricked the Army into letting him enter a reserve unit as a noncommissioned officer earlier this year, a deception that placed an untrained soldier in a leadership position in a time of war, an Associated Press investigation has found."[S]ome say the case demonstrates how easily someone could pose as a member of the U.S. military," says the AP. Gee, you think? Fortunately, Jesse Bernard Johnston III was eventually busted - by his wife.
The records show that Johnston's only military experience was attending part of a 12-week Marine officer candidate course for college students in 2004.
Maj. Shawn Haney, spokeswoman for Marine Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said Johnston didn't complete the course's final six weeks. "He was never considered a Marine," she said.
The matter, currently under investigation by the Army, means a soldier received a security clearance and was in position to lead troops in combat even though he hadn't gone through basic training or spent any time in the service.
If you ever get taken by a phony veteran, at least you know you aren't alone.
Some soldiers are being ordered to conduct patrols without a round chambered in their weapons...
Damn. Once again, I wonder: what would Patton do? (A lot of people respond that way to stories like these.)
First, because it's important: if you're a bad guy who's heard this, don't test this idea that troops are vulnerable or easy. In many ways this really isn't that much different from the bad ideas you used to get from the moveon.org crowd - that if you'd just keep killing Americans we'd eventually go home. It might be best for you to think of both claims as arguments put forth for political reasons on the homefront, justified (by those who made them) with explanations that they're really just supporting the troops. The troops, on the other hand, can and will kill you if you fall for either line. Then, when America does go home (and that will happen), you will be dead.
Okay, my conscience is clear on that point. Now for a story.
Once long ago, a bright young cavalry officer was stationed at Ft Bliss, Texas - back when the wild wild west was still a place where sudden gunfights occurred... okay, they still do today - but this was the old west, cowboys, indians, cavalry on horses, six-shooters in holsters, etc. Our story (as later told by their daughter) begins with the young lieutenant and his wife having been invited to dinner with some of the town's leading citizens...
What a pansy, you might think. Back to our story.
Suddenly, during after-dinner coffee, a gun went off. Instantly, the lights went out. Ma was grabbed by a strong hand and dragged under the table, and there she found the rest of the party. After a decent interval, and no more shots, the party disentangled and surfaced. They decided the wisest move was to disperse and meet again some other day.
Ma was so stunned by the speed of it all that she had little to say, and got into the car with Pa to drive home. It was a bright moonlit night, and the desert shone like day - and, to her great surprise, Pa drove slam-bang into a cattle gate across the road in plain sight. She looked at him: there were tears rolling down his cheeks; he was actually sobbing: "God dammit, you don't give a damn about me! That was my pistol that went off; I might have been killed, and you didn't even say anything or ask me if I was all right!"
When he calmed down enough to explain, it appeared that he had tried wearing his pistol in his trouser-fly - the way all the local gunmen did when dressed up for an occasion - and that in sitting down or moving around he had somehow triggered it off and it had shot a hole right through his trouser leg and into the floor.
"Pa" was George Patton, of course. In her book his daughter actually refers to him as "Georgie" - the rest of her account above is unchanged.
Other biographers approach the topic with a bit more discretion. Here's one describing Patton's deployment to Mexico the following year - his first 'combat zone' experience...
After nearly doing himself significant anatomical damage with a "hair-trigger" Colt .45 automatic pistol at Sierra Blanca the previous year, Patton had exchanged it for an ivory-handled Colt 1873 single-action .45-caliber revolver. To ensure that there would be no embarrassing repetition, Patton kept only five shells in the gun and left the chamber opposite the hammer blank.
A big part of his image, those .45's.
CJ Chivers, with the Marines in Marja:
The patrol began at 5:30 a.m. with a mission to meet with elders in an area where Marine patrols have rarely gone. As the Marines left their outpost, the enlisted men knew what to expect. "You ready to get some?" asked one, as they loaded weapons.
"Let's go get shot," a second Marine answered.
A few dozen Marines were on the patrol. As they moved south they fanned out in small groups. Their formations obscured their numbers and gave them flexibility, making it possible for the platoon to move quickly from multiple angles against any gunmen who attacked any of the fire teams.
Staff Sgt. Matthew P. Dalrymple, 30, the platoon's senior enlisted Marine, walked with Third Squad. He predicted the course of the day. The walk south through the farmland would be quiet, he said, because the Taliban usually did not fight early in the morning. Fighting would begin as the sun climbed. "Like clockwork," he said. "Between 8:30 and 9:30."
"They're early..." he would later explain. Read the whole thing.
Fraudvet Dick Blumenthal to media: I don't have time to fact check every no good lazy reporter who never fact checked my bogus Vietnam vet claims. Or something like that.
Which is pathetic. Not as pathetic as the idea that Connecticut voters might still spread their cheeks and drop this turd on floor of the US Senate, but still pathetic.
...even though he claims he was a forced participant who never personally killed anyone, has been in this country for decades, and is married with three sons.
Wait, I'm sorry - did I say terrorist? I meant Nazi.
Geiser was born in what is now part of Croatia and came to the United States from Austria in 1956. He has lived in Sharon, about 60 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, since 1960, became a citizen in 1962 and is married with three sons.
"As a Nazi concentration camp guard during World War II, Anton Geiser must be held to account for his role in the persecution of countless men, women and children," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer said in a statement Tuesday. "The long passage of time will not diminish our resolve to deny refuge to such individuals."
A Department of Justice spokeswoman said Geiser is not in custody. He can appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington.
Geiser has acknowledged being an armed guard who watched over and escorted prisoners at three Nazi death camps. But he has argued that his service was not voluntary and that he was therefore eligible to emigrate under the Refugee Relief Act of 1953.
Federal prosecutors have, instead, cited the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act to exclude citizenship and deport "aliens who persecuted any person on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or political opinion, under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany."
Ghailani is charged in the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.
The first Guantanamo Bay detainee to face trial in a civilian court in the United States has said he would prefer to be tried before a military tribunal, a psychologist testified Tuesday.
The suspect's surprising admission came from psychologist Katherine Porterfield, who testified for several hours to support a defense request that strip search procedures be altered for Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani...
Porterfield testified that Ghailani suffered from post-traumatic syndrome as a result of enhanced interrogation procedures he underwent in a CIA-run camp overseas after his 2004 arrest. She said one traumatic event in particular left him severely harmed psychologically whenever he was forced to expose certain areas of his body.
She also testified that Ghailani believed he was better off in the "military context, where members of the jury were in the military, whereas a jury of citizens will see him from the start as a terrorist."
As a retired military guy, I could offer him some bad news on that front: he's wrong. And if the judge believes it, he's wrong too.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said he understood what Ghailani was saying, that soldiers would best understand the plight of someone who was fighting a war against the United States.
"That's a perfectly reasonable interpretation of it," Porterfield agreed.
But maybe the judge would like to shuffle him right back to the military for disposal... if so, I understand.
In other legal news, Maersk piracy suspect pleads guilty in NY court:
A Somali suspect who became the boyish face of 21st century piracy by staging a brazen high-seas attack on a U.S.-flagged ship off the coast of Africa pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges he hijacked the ship and kidnapped its captain.
Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse has been jailed in Manhattan since he was captured last year and faced what was called the first U.S. piracy prosecution in decades. "I am very, very sorry about what we did," he said through an interpreter. "All of this was about the problems in Somolia."
Those with good memory will recall the Easter, 2009 story of his capture. He now faces a minimum 27 years in prison - sentencing was set for Oct. 19.
Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal said he "misspoke" when he said he served in Vietnam, and regrets suggesting on a handful of occasions that he was actually in the warzone, instead of Parris Island, SC, where the now-state attorney general served in the US Marine Corps Reserves...
"On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service. I regret that, and I take full responsibility," Blumenthal told reporters and veterans at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall near the state capital. But "I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service," he added.
The story describes him as "Surrounded on a stage by cheering veterans who hooted down aggressive media questioning..." - he appeared at a local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post.
VFW leadership is not happy. Here's the official statement:
KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 18, 2010 - Mr. Blumenthal is not a member of the VFW and VFW National By-Laws do not allow any level of the organization to endorse political candidates.
VFW national did not sanction and was not, in fact, aware that the press conference was going to be held at a VFW Post. This decision was made at the Post level and the VFW Department of Connecticut issued the following:
The following statement is by Richard DiFederico, Department Commander Connecticut VFW:
"Those who served in Vietnam or offshore or in neighboring countries rightfully earned all the belated thanks and appreciation our nation can muster. Those who served in uniform during the Vietnam era also deserve our gratitude, which makes Mr. Blumenthal's claim to be something he is not so outrageous. It diminishes the service of all who served and sacrificed, most especially those whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Wall. Mr. Blumenthal was considered one of the best friends a veteran could have in Connecticut. It is a true shame that he let a false claim of Vietnam service change that."
VFW National Commander Thomas J. Tradewell Sr., endorses this statement. In sum, the fact that this event was held at a VFW location cannot, in any manner, be construed as a formal endorsement of the candidate.
And this from Jonn Lilyea: "1stCavRVN11B sent me a message from one of his friends who recognized one of the veterans on the stage with Richard Blumenthal from POW Net's Wall of Shame."
"GOP Senate candidate and former Rep. Rob Simmons, a decorated military veteran who spent 19 months in Vietnam, seized on Blumenthal's appearance," reports Politico:
"He's not a veteran of foreign wars," said Simmons, who is a VFW member. "He should not be a member of the VFW, and I find it offensive that he's still wrapping himself in the veteran flag of those of us who served in Vietnam."More from the Boston Globe:
Blumenthal's primary opponent, Merrick Alpert, attacked Blumenthal's character.
"He's not sorry he did it. He's sorry he got caught doing it,'' Alpert said after the event. But "I don't expect a career politician to apologize,'' he added.
Before Tuesday's disclosure, poll showed Blumenthal easily beating Alpert in the primary, and well ahead of either GOP Senate primary candidate in the general election.
According to the latest Rasmussen survey of likely voters in Connecticut, Blumenthal's lead over his potential Republican challengers has slipped. However, "just 26% of voters say Blumenthal should withdraw from the Senate race. Only nine percent (9%) of Democrats hold that view."
"We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam," Mr. Blumenthal said to the group gathered in Norwalk in March 2008. "And you exemplify it. Whatever we think about the war, whatever we call it -- Afghanistan or Iraq -- we owe our military men and women unconditional support."
One problem, reports the New York Times. "Mr. Blumenthal, a Democrat now running for the United States Senate, never served in Vietnam."
His explanation? He misspoke. And he might have misspoken other times, too, maybe. Is that so wrong?
In an interview on Monday, the attorney general said that he had misspoken about his service during the Norwalk event and might have misspoken on other occasions.
Here's a confession on my part: I can't read all the way through stories like this one without taking a break to cool down.
In spite of the subtle differences, it's hard not to compare this story to that of another recent fraudvet case - Andrew Diabo:
Documents from the Marine Corps Inspector General's Office show Diabo was hired in 2008 as a Philadelphia-based senior computer consultant for Complete Inspection Systems Inc. of Indiatlantic, Fla.
A company letter dated March 1, 2008, describes the firm as a government contractor with projects for the Treasury Department, the National Security Agency, and Fortune 500 companies.
The same letter describes Diabo as "a senior Marine Corps commissioned officer who had served our country . . . so unselfishly in recent years," adding that the company can "learn and benefit [from] . . . his leadership capabilities."
A job description lists annual base pay of $120,000, a 401(k) package, medical benefits, and bonus programs. Company president Gary Parish did not return phone messages seeking comment.
It is illegal to falsely claim military service for personal benefit.
Diabo was busted by a Marine Corps reservist who never needed to pad his résumé. To acknowledge the other differences, Diabo claimed service in Iraq and Afghanistan, not Vietnam, and he wasn't running for the US Senate. Back to Richard Blumenthal:
In at least eight newspaper articles published in Connecticut from 2003 to 2009, he is described as having served in Vietnam.
The New Haven Register on July 20, 2006, described him as "a veteran of the Vietnam War," and on April 6, 2007, said that the attorney general had "served in the Marines in Vietnam." On May 26, 2009, The Connecticut Post, a Bridgeport newspaper that is the state's third-largest daily, described Mr. Blumenthal as "a Vietnam veteran." The Shelton Weekly reported on May 23, 2008, that Mr. Blumenthal "was met with applause when he spoke about his experience as a Marine sergeant in Vietnam."
And the idea that he served in Vietnam has become such an accepted part of his public biography that when a national outlet, Slate magazine, produced a profile of Mr. Blumenthal in 2000, it said he had "enlisted in the Marines rather than duck the Vietnam draft."
It does not appear that Mr. Blumenthal ever sought to correct those mistakes.
In the interview, he said he was not certain whether he had seen the stories or whether any steps had been taken to point out the inaccuracies.
"I don't know if we tried to do so or not," he said. He added that he "can't possibly know what is reported in all" the articles that are written about him, given the large number of appearances he makes at military-style events.
So, there's just no time for all his friends, family, staff, or him to check and correct all the news coverage of the many, many "military-style events" where he "might have misspoken."
There's another difference worth noting between Diabo and Blumenthal - Diabo fled when he was exposed as a fraud, and is thought to be in Canada. Looks like Blumenthal is going to double down.
Previewing a campaign event tomorrow, Myers wrote that "Dick has a long record of standing up for veterans. Tomorrow, veterans will be standing up with Dick."
Blumenthal will hold a news conference tomorrow. He will be flanked by veterans.
"Flanked by veterans..." brings to mind the noble politician's spouse, at her hubby's side throughout his public confession of adultery - except any vet standing with Blumenthal on this is more like a twenty dollar whore.
In fairness, Michelle Malkin has a video of him saying he's not a Vietnam vet - so clearly he didn't lie about it every day.
Still, there could be hope for the Blumenthal campaign: "The facts are not unambiguous," says Marc Ambinder about one of the most unambiguous fraudvet cases I've ever heard. If enough people can convince themselves of that - or that it simply doesn't matter, then Blumenthal has a chance. And as Ed Driscoll reminds us, "he wouldn't be the only Democrat in the Senate caught lying about serving in Vietnam."
It gets worse for Blumenthal. Meet his likely Republican challenger, Rob Simmons:Rob's public service career began when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1965 as a Private, and spent 19 months in Vietnam where he earned two Bronze Star Medals. Rob continued his military service in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Military Intelligence Officer, retiring as a Colonel in 2003 with over 37 years of active and reserve service.
And elsewhere. Been a long time since I've seen anyone experience so much contempt from all sides in the blogosphere - which means I can close by saying something nice about the guy: he's a uniter, not a divider.
Video embed code: <embed src="http://blip.tv/play/g9dFgd%2BlfwA" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="320" height="270" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed>
Or on Youtube here.
The New York Times: "G.I.'s Find Bullets Still Flying at Outpost in Iraq."
Technically, American soldiers have stopped fighting in Iraq. But they can fire back when attacked, which happens frequently in this village of wheat and barley farmers, as well as an uncomfortable number of Baathist insurgents.
So much so that, while United States troops in nearly all other parts of the nation are quietly preparing to withdraw, soldiers stationed here are fighting what looks, for now, like the last American combat in the seven-year war in Iraq.
"They only attack Americans," said Capt. Russell B. Thomas, the commander of Alpha Company of the First Battalion of the Third Infantry Division's Second Brigade...
Will the 3ID - the division that launched the Thunder Run, deployed for the surge, and spent two (including the current) other tours in Iraq, really experience "the last American combat in the seven-year war in Iraq"?
(More Iraq news here, of course.)
Rob Neppell, an insignificant microbe, sets out to make his way in ye olde blogosphere.
Joking aside, besides being a blogosphere icon (creator of The Truth Laid Bear and the legendary ecosystem), Rob's a great and long-time friend of milblogs (follow the "I got to meet the President of the United States" link in Rob's post), who I will nonetheless taunt without mercy should he fail to update routinely.
Pay him a visit, welcome him back...
Andrew "Andy" Diabo the Fake/Phony/Imposter Marine and his wife Evelynn, lost their house outside of Philly PA when it went on the auction block yesterday. I joked that a real Vet should win the bid on the house for 50K, but no one bid on it. With no bids, GMAC bought the deed for $892.00 total!!
Hellavu good deal, that. But no one else bid? This was a half-million dollar "McMansion" home...
And there's more news: "Diabo also used his fake military past to win a six-figure position with a Florida-based government contractor, according to documents obtained by The Inquirer."
A company letter dated March 1, 2008, describes the firm as a government contractor with projects for the Treasury Department, the National Security Agency, and Fortune 500 companies.
The same letter describes Diabo as "a senior Marine Corps commissioned officer who had served our country . . . so unselfishly in recent years," adding that the company can "learn and benefit [from] . . . his leadership capabilities."
A job description lists annual base pay of $120,000, a 401(k) package, medical benefits, and bonus programs.
"Don't let the enemy defeat you at home."
As part of their commitment to serve their country, more than 30 of the 91 living Medal of Honor recipients have joined in a public service campaign designed to help stem the rising tide of suicides among military service members today.
These recipients, who have survived some of the most harrowing experiences in combat, including years as POWs, physical wounds and emotional trauma, felt compelled to speak out to America's military, share their experiences and encourage them to seek help for behavioral health issues that are often a result of deployment and combat. Their message is simple: Don't let the enemy defeat you at home!
In their own words, Medal of Honor recipients encourage America's military by reminding them that seeking care is indeed a courageous act. One that shows they recognize the need to stay strong in mind and body.
The Congressional Medal of Honor Society was chartered by Congress in 1958 to establish a brotherhood among the living Medal of Honor recipients, to protect and uphold the dignity and honor of the Medal, to promote patriotism and love of country, and to inspire and stimulate our youth to become worthy, dedicated citizens of our nation. Its membership consists exclusively of those individuals who have received the Medal of Honor.
Greg Jaffe, in the Washington Post, on what happened at Keating:
"Six days before the planned closure, hundreds of local fighters launched a break-of-day fusillade of rocket-propelled grenades, machine-gun fire and mortar shells at the tiny base. This account of the battle and the negotiations with Sadiq is based on interviews with Brown, Keating troops and U.S. and Afghan officials..."
About 200 yards north of Bundermann's position, five soldiers were hunkered down in an armored Humvee, fighting to keep the insurgents off the outpost.
Rocket-propelled grenades were bouncing off the truck's doors and roof. The troops concluded that it was only a matter of time before a round penetrated the Humvee's armor.
Three of the five soldiers sprinted for nearby cover, but were felled by an grenade blast and a burst of machine-gun fire. Only Mace, who was wounded in both legs, survived. He crawled to a hiding spot between a boulder and the base latrine.
The two soldiers who remained by the battered Humvee -- Spec. Ty Carter and Sgt. Bradley Larson -- fired at two insurgents running across the outpost and then clambered back into the truck. Carter wanted to look for Mace, but Larson ordered him to stay put. "You are no good to him dead," he said.
Carter had always been a bit of an outsider within his platoon. After a stint in the Marine Corps in the late 1990s, he'd cycled through a half-dozen jobs -- movie theater manager, nursing assistant and hardware store clerk. He married, had a daughter and divorced. In 2008, he enlisted in the Army. "I joined for my daughter," he said, "and because I suck as a civilian."
Twenty minutes passed before Carter spotted Mace, who had crawled out from his hiding spot on his elbows.
"Help me, please," the wounded soldier mouthed.
Update: Part two here.
See also: video interviews with soldiers involved in the fight here. One thing they mention that wasn't in the Washington Post piece, fixed wing aircraft were on scene within 20 minutes of initial contact.
Lorie Byrd, Wizbang: "NC-7 Ilario Pantano for Congress and the Primary Losers Who Won't Accept Defeat."
Pantano isn't the only Iraq vet now running for Congress who (figuratively) came under fire for actions while (literally) under fire in Iraq - Allen West is another. There are several other vets in races throughout the country - should make for an interesting political season.
Every situation is different. Had one of my guys felt threatened or identified a positive target, I guaran-damn-tee you he would've iced that bastard. But they didn't start spraying and praying, that's the point. And, just speaking for myself here, it was pretty difficult to avoid that temptation - it's human nature to defend yourself when you're in peril. Courageous restraint does exist - watching Staff Sergeant Boondock all too calmly direct the Stryker in front of us with AK rounds hissing around him remains one of the craziest -and bravest - things I've witnessed. Did he get a medal for such? Nope, he was just doing his job.
That's what they all say at the medal ceremonies, too. And they mean it.
Other people say "I can just see the ceremony. Obama at the White House presenting the Distinguished Yellow Cross."
Hnida never forgot the horror of his alcoholic father's WWII experience, revealed as he drove his son to college, their last time together. The need to understand that horror later drove Hnida, as a middle-aged doctor, to war himself. He signed up for two tours of duty in Iraq. On the first tour, he was equipped with an M16 and medical tools and worked with convoys along the highways of Baghdad. His second time in Iraq, during the surge, Hnida worked at a combat-support hospital, the equivalent of a MASH unit. Hnida recalls the experience of working with much younger soldiers and doctors and the struggle to adjust to army discipline and protocol on top of the rigors of war and a hostile desert environment. A family doctor in civilian life, he was assigned to the ER, fighting his own constant fear as he worked on wounds no civilian doctor ever saw. Through it all, he developed close and abiding friendships with the other doctors and admiration for the young soldiers who risked their lives on a daily basis.
The Associated press: "Senate panel takes up war funding measure." Not sure why the word "war" is needed there...
The measure, approved by a unanimous 30-0 vote, blends about $30 billion for President Barack Obama's 30,000-troop surge in Afghanistan with more than $5 billion to replenish disaster aid accounts, as well as funding for Haitian earthquake relief, and a downpayment on aid to flood-drenched Tennessee and Rhode Island.
The must-pass legislation is the only appropriations bill likely to advance to Obama's desk until the fall and is a tempting target for Democrats seeking to add money for a summer jobs program or to help to local school district to retain teachers...
The measure contains $13 billion in benefits for Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange, but does not provide more than $4 billion requested by the administration to finance settlements of long-standing lawsuits against the government, including $1.2 billion to remedy discrimination by the Agriculture Department against black farmers and $3.4 billion for mismanaging Indian trust funds.
The measure contains $1.1 billion for mine-resistant vehicles, $657 million for military bases in Afghanistan, and $6.2 billion in foreign aid for Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Haiti. The panel cut about $300 million from Obama's Afghanistan request and added about $130 million to the request for Haiti, according to a summary.
...from Small Wars Journal:
Both are actually "lesson's learned" - the first from an outsider's experiences...
Every culture and region is slightly different; Iraq is not Afghanistan and Lebanon is different than both. After a quarter of a century dealing off and on with Muslim societies built on largely tribal cultures, I've probably made every mistake in the book, but I've found some things that I think hold true across the board.
This report reviews the local perceptions of the operation from more than 400 Afghan men from Marjah, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar, interviewed by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) in March 2010.
If you're not up for that, try a good movie instead.
...still time (until May 13, 2010 at 12:20:35 PDT) to get a bid in on Rage Company, win the book and get the free iPad that comes with it.
(And don't forget, the money raised goes to Soldiers' Angels. Last I checked, the current high bid was below retail on the iPad alone...)
Of course, you can also just buy the book.
(Part one - raising the question "what would Patton do?" - is here.)
In that 1913 issue of Cavalry Journal quoted above, Patton was advocating adoption of a new saber, a better fit for what he believed to be a more effective style of combat, and to that end he warned his fellow cavalrymen that "...many of our possible opponents are using the long straight sword and the point in the charge. To come against this with our present sabers and position of charge would be suicidal."
"In executing the charge with the point, according to the French method, the trooper leans well down on the horse's neck with the saber and arm fully extended and the back of the hand turned slightly to the left so as to get the utmost reach. This also turns the guard up and thus protects the hand, arm, and head from thrusts and the hand from cuts. The blade is about the height of the horse's ears, the trooper leaning well down and in the ideal position slightly to the left of the horse's neck..."
A time of transformation in the military was at hand, and the bright young lieutenant was the right man to lead the charge. He had spent part of the previous year in Europe, honing his swordfighting skills under the tutelage of a French "master of arms," and after returning stateside Patton became "Master of the Sword" at the Army's Mounted Service School at Fort Riley, Kansas. Ultimately his efforts to transform his beloved horse cavalry into a modern, twentieth-century combat unit came to fruition in the design of the Model 1913 Cavalry Saber, commonly called the Patton Saber. In 1914, as the conflict eventually known as World War One broke out in Europe, his "Saber Exercise" manual codified training for its mounted and on-foot use. (Illustrations used throughout this post are taken from that very manual.)
But Patton's triumph was not yet complete. The Patton Sword had its detractors, and a mere three years later, even as the USA prepared for its own entry into the war in Europe, "he was again featured in Cavalry Journal in an article disputing those who wished to introduce a curved saber." However, it was up to another to deliver the coup-de-grace: "...the argument was finally settled when the commandant of the Mounted Service School recommended to the War Department the retention of the Patton Saber..." - by the time that 1917 issue of Cavalry Journal saw ink, Patton was already preparing to return to France - this time as part of the American Expeditionary Force.
Less than three decades later, the atomic bomb put an end to World War Two.
Apologies to those who were thrown off by that 30-year leap forward in time. We'll go back and fill in some of the gaps soon. But first, we're moving forward twice that amount of time, another six and a half decades from the end of the Second World War, to just a few days ago....
"One of the worst ideas ever!" Declared my friend Troy Steward, aka Bouhammer. He's talking about the idea described in this AP story from Stars and Stripes, headlined "New NATO idea to avoid killing innocent Afghans." According to the story, "NATO commanders are weighing a new way to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan: recognizing soldiers for "courageous restraint" if they avoid using force that could endanger innocent lives."
According to Troy, "The idea that the promise of an award will be in the decision making process of taking a human life is flippin' ludicrous." And he's right. And he's an Afghanistan veteran, too.
Anyone that has been in a TIC or firefight (as they are commonly known as) can tell you that when you are behind cover, returning fire and being fired on, the last FRIGGEN thing you are thinking of is "I wonder what medal I will get out of this". IT JUST DOES NOT HAPPEN. If someone is thinking that, then they are truly not engaged in the battle.
Troy's point started a good conversation - among the participants, Sergeant First Class Morgan Sheeran, another Afghan vet, currently serving at the COIN Training Center - Afghanistan. "The thing about awards for doing good COIN is a developing idea," he begins... and I thank him for allowing me to reproduce his comments (and they are his personal views, to be clear) here.
"The Army is looking at a whole realm of things having to do with measuring and recognizing excellence in THIS war," says Morgan, "which is different from any we've fought before in that we are trying to get our Soldiers and Marines to behave differently. The Brits call it 'courageous restraint.' We haven't figured out what to call it for ourselves. It is difficult to measure and difficult to recognize excellence in a war where to subdue your enemy by making him irrelevant is oftentimes more effective in the long run than rendering him inert. It doesn't necessarily have to do with NOT shooting. It has to do with the fact that as so many troops have pointed out themselves, 'Nobody ever got a medal for doing good COIN, but they do get medals and badges for getting into fights.' I've heard it a lot. It's about mindset. You find what you seek, and in Afghanistan, you can find a fight if you really want one."
That's not the last he had to say on the subject - more shortly. But others have weighed in, too. "We absolutely support the right of our forces to defend themselves," ISAF's Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis says. "Valuing restraint in a potentially dangerous situation is not the same thing as denying troops the right to employ lethal force when they determine that it is necessary."
He describes the idea of recognizing those who correctly respond to an apparently threatening situation - even when that response does not lead to escalation of force - as "consistent with our approach" to counterterrorism in Afghanistan.
"Our young men and women display remarkable courage every day, including situations where they refrain from using lethal force, even at risk to themselves, in order to prevent possible harm to civilians. In some situations our forces face in Afghanistan, that restraint is an act of discipline and courage not much different than those seen in combat actions."
Indeed. Counterinsurgency, like any form of warfare, is a messy and complex business (and difficult and deadly, too), but it's far more distant from Tank warfare than that form of combat is from horseback cavalry charge.
...in support of those who say that counterinsurgency is more difficult than conventional warfare is the testimony of an officer who fought in Gallipoli and France during World War I and then against Pashtuns in Waziristan: "I soon came to the conclusion that commanding a Company in Waziristan was far more difficult than commanding a Battalion in France."
...but while while such debates will continue in the pages of scholarly journals (and in increasingly numerous elsewheres among those more or less informed or inclined or involved or - rightly or wrongly - respected) the fact remains that regardless of degree of difficulty, (and recognizing that on a larger level war is war) counterinsurgency is a different kind of war. And while the last few months of 2001 - even most of 2002 - were an opportune time for considering whether or not it was in the nation's best interests to get involved in one (or two), that decision point is well in the past. Welcome to the war we have now.
Those who excel at this modern, 21st century warfare will be those who are capable of rapid, fluid, thought and action - the sort evidenced in this account of the first US troops in Afghanistan:
"Pack your shit."
"We're leaving?" asked Diller.
"We're going to the front lines..."
"How are we getting there?" asked Diller.
"Yeah, we're riding there..."
"Who's ridden before?" Nelson asked the team.
Only Vern Michaels and Bill Bennett raised their hands. "At summer camp, when we were kids."
The U.S. Army did not offer "Horsemanship 101" as a matter of course... No one in Washington, D.C., had imagined that modern American soldiers would be riding horses to war.
A review of a Patton-era cavalry manual would have been useful prior to departing home, but lacking that they learned by doing. But the lesson to be learned from that isn't about the value of equestrian skills - it's about the ability to identify and do whatever needs done.
A year after I returned to Iraq to command the surge, after completing a patrol with a company in western Baghdad, I noticed a sign that the company commander had posted on the wall of his command post. "In the absence of guidance or orders," the sign said, "figure out what they should have been and execute aggressively."
I realized then that we'd begun to achieve our desired effect. And I brought the sign back to the headquarters, shared it with our commanders, and incorporated it into my counterinsurgency guidance.
Some might argue it's hardly very military to ask people to operate without concise written directions. But as countless examples through history demonstrate, there's plenty of room in the failure bin for those who believe a by-the-book, one solution fits all approach is really the best way to go.
But what happens if - in spite of all the advocacy for bold, 'outside the box' thinking - all the recognition, rewards, and advancement go to those who do everything by the book? How do you recognize excellence that isn't defined? That's a question the US military is grappling with today, and the larger issue (among many larger issues) that discussing the concept of a "courageous restraint" award is but one attempt to address.
More from Morgan Sheeran: "It's difficult to measure, recognize and reward truly effective counterinsurgency and stabilization behaviors. The portrayal of this internal Army conversation in such a light as it has been is misleading, sensationalistic and simplistic. This ongoing conversation, about how to recognize excellence in an environment where shooting is one of several possible responses to a challenge (and often not the best) is deep. It is about how the Army and Marines and all of our coalition counterparts are to recognize a guy who manages to do a good job in an area, lessening his TIC's through excellent engagement as opposed to carving a path of destruction throughout his AO. But it's not the thinking while in the TIC that anyone is trying to reward. It's the thinking over the map, in the TOC, at the targeting meeting with the USAID and State folks... and their Afghan counterparts. You plan before you seek. You seek what you plan for. You find what you seek."
"You find what you seek" - and with that we return to France, 1917, where trench warfare fought across acres of barbwire-strewn no man's land was the order of the day, and (by then Captain) George Patton found no demand for horse cavalry, whether the riders were masters of the sword or not.
Instead he was employed as the commander of the AEF headquarters element, where his responsibilities ranged from arranging quarters and transportation for other officers to censoring mail - mundane tasks he described as "confining" in letters home. "I am not having very much to do, in fact, if a sergeant could not do all I have to do I would bust him," he wrote his wife Beatrice. "Perhaps some time I shall get a real job..."
In fact, there was something else on the horizon. The British and French were experimenting with new armored vehicles called tanks, a weapon they believed might help break the bloody stalemate of trench warfare.
"Some time about the end of September Col Eltinge asked me if I wanted to be a Tank officer," Patton wrote in his diary. "I said yes and also talked the matter over with Col McCoy who advised me to write a letter asking that in the event of Tanks being organized that my name be considered. I did so."
These mechanized, armored vehicles were new and unproven - the only thing certain was they were a career risk. Patton had to figure out everything there was to know about them first, but soon enough he found himself in charge of creating - from nothing - a school to train Americans in their operation. And much like the counterinsurgency school in Afghanistan today, Patton's academy was established in France, the very nation in which America was re-learning war.
"Tomorrow I start on my way again," he wrote Beatrice:
"All alone to go to a new place and organize the Light Tank Service. I feel unusually small in self-esteem. I have been so long a small but important cog in a machine... it is hard to go off and be the last word all by myself... Actually I am in quite a "Funk" for there is nothing but me to do it all. Starting the Fencing School was a similar experience but vastly smaller and then too I had a model to copy. Here it is all original and all to be conceived and accomplished. The most cheering thing is that Gen. Harbord, Col. Etinge and Col. Malone all seem confident I can do it. I wish I were as sanguine. I am sure I will do it but just at this moment I don't see how. I will have to grow and grow a lot. But I will. Here is my chance. If I fail it will only be my fault. I won't even have you to pick on."
It would make a nice and tidy conclusion to say "and the rest was history" - to point out that the true genius of Patton was revealed not merely in his ability to turn average American boys into unhesitating killers who fought their way across two continents in pursuit of an able and fearsome foe, but more so in the larger sense by his successful adaptation to the situation at hand - his drive to find his place in completing the larger mission and to execute his mission within it to the best of his ability, innovating where needed, writing the book if none was available, and reading the enemy's book if one was - all with the goal of winning the war he had.
All of which is true, and the real answer to the question what would Patton do?
But life is never so simple.
Patton returned from The Great War (years would pass before all involved would understand it was merely the First World War) to Camp Meade, Maryland. The best description of what followed can be found in his daughter's memoir:
We were not very long at Camp Meade - not long enough. The tank corps had folded its tents like the Arabs and silently stolen away, leaving its iron horses to cosmoline baths and dusty shrouds. The 'war to end all wars' had been fought and won and, while they were not quite sure of what to do with the Army, they knew they would never need tanks again in this best-of-all-possible worlds.
Clearly a lot happened between then and the beginning of what we fans of the movie Patton would recognize as its opening scenes...
But that's a tale for another day, though for now this quote from the opening pages of An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 will bring us a bit closer, and seems a fine point at which to conclude this chapter of the tale.
"The idea of huge armies rolling along roads at a fast pace is a dream," Cavalry Journal warned in 1940, even after the German blitzkrieg signaled the arrival of mechanized warfare. "Oil and tires cannot like forage be obtained locally." The Army's cavalry chief assured Congress in 1941 that four well-spaced horsemen could charge half a mile across an open field to destroy an enemy machine-gun nest without sustaining a scratch...
But ultimately "The last Regular Army cavalry regiment," we are told, "would slaughter its mounts to feed the starving garrison on Bataan in the Philippines, ending the cavalry era not with a bang but with a dinner bell."
Funny how that worked out.
Patton: A Genius for War (Bargain priced while supplies last...)
"I really don't like flavored coffees. My dad absolutely hates flavored coffees (girly coffee he calls it). I caught my dad hanging around the coffee pot this weekend drinking the Banana Foster Devil Dog Brew coffee like it was freaking kool-aid or something."
Might have to try that myself...
Created by Codey Wilson and his elite step team CREW DAWN. Don't give us a hard time for this, please? We're just a few good men trying to enjoy ourselves and get this deployment over with. No one is gay... that we know of. Not that there is anything wrong with that! (political correctness) As a young aspiring film maker I was forced to release this early due to our friend in Afghans high school lip sinked music video. You know you love it. Enjoy it. Spread it. Live it.
(Hat tip: Shelle.)
Some armchair chicken hawks (none with experience of actual warfare in any form, let alone against real guerrillas) have argued that, contrary to recent evidence, you can indeed kill your way out of an insurgency, and have even suggested that an intensely brutal and violent approach is the quickest and best way to suppress an insurgency. Two favorite examples are the Romans and the Nazis, who supposedly ignored the "politically correct" notions of modern counterinsurgency and applied mass brutality with great success.
I think I know what he means here, and if I'm right, I agree. I, too, am fairly tired of hearing the endless blathering on from experts who are anything but. There are plenty of valid criticisms to be raised regarding our Excellent Afghan Adventure, but the critics who get the most time and attention are usually so far off the mark - and simultaneously so loud - that they're counter-productive to any hope that real problems can be solved - or even identified as such and addressed. (That's as true now as it was in Iraq, though there's an odd new element in the "anti-war" crowd to contend with today...)
Speaking as a guy who firmly believes (from my experience and that of many, many folks I know) that counterinsurgency is indeed the best way to counter an insurgency, I still have to ask who exactly is arguing that the Nazis did it right? I'd confront that sort of fool head on, or at least call 'em out by name.
And I'm familiar with armchair generals, and the term chicken hawk, but what's an armchair chicken hawk?
Footnote: A curious (for a new release) warning from the Amazon page - "Only 5 left in stock--order soon (more on the way)." More interest in this title than anticipated? Poor planning or logistics on the part of the publisher?
Well, isn't that special:
Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, both senior advisers to the president, have been given the luxurious and prestigious perk of being picked up at their homes and driven to work or around town throughout the day in government vehicles chauffeured by military drivers, according to a list of those given the benefit provided to The Daily Caller by the White House.
(Via Ed Morrissey.)
Have to wonder if the drivers sit around waiting for their pax, or if they're used to run errands (pick up and drop off the dry cleaning, quick grocery stops, etc) instead. (When they're not busy maintaining and re-polishing the vehicles, of course.) And are they hybrid vehicles?
The military recently re-wrote the book on Congressional travel on aircraft (following the controversial extension of the privilege to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi), perhaps it's time for a closer look at potential surface transportation abuses, too.
In the mail: a preview copy of You'll Be Sor-ree!: A Guadalcanal Marine Remembers The Pacific War.
The old world ended as we were loaded into buses and taken a few miles to Parris Island. One of the uniformed Marines boarded our bus and stood at the front facing us and shouting information and warnings all the way. We were reminded over and over again that we were "BOOTS" and probably did not have what it takes to become Marines. He let us know that Boots were the lowest form of humanity, in fact, maybe not even human, and from the looks of us, none of us could become Marines.
On arriving at Parris Island, we unloaded and marched to a mess hall with our suitcases and were fed boiled potatoes and sliced white bread and coffee for breakfast with the uniformed Marine still screaming at us the whole five minutes of eating time. We noted anyone casually walking by and not in ranks or formation would always shout "YOU'LL BE SOR-REE"
You'll find more video interviews with Sid here.
"I was a 17-year old... I was 18 by then - private in the rear rank of the Marine Corps," says Sid in recalling one memorable occasion. "I was nobody, absolutely nobody. And I have to keep reminding all my friends that I was not a celebrity. I was just... all you can say is I have lived to an old, old age, and I have become a celebrity by living to an old, old age. But at that moment in time I was absolutely nobody."
I believe I'll have to respectfully disagree with that point. The book - expanded from the early preview copies - will be available June 4. Buy it and I suspect you won't be sorry.
So, a military recruiter goes to Harvard for career day. Unfortunately he gets lost (all the maps available at the Pentagon were old and outdated) and asks a passerby for help.
"Excuse me sir, can you tell me where I'm at?"
"Certainly," responds the professor, "you are AT a place where we don't end our sentences with a preposition."
"My bad," replies the recruiter. "Can you tell me where I'm at, asshole?"
Then, the former dean from the Harvard Law School said "As dean, Ms. Kagan basically followed a strategy toward military recruiting that was already in place."
And Ilya Somin said "As the critics point out, it was ultimately Congress and the President, not the military, which imposed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Kagan and other law school leaders were in the strange position of boycotting those who obeyed morally dubious orders while giving a pass to those who issued them."
Ironically, "Unfortunately for Kagan, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately concluded that the Solomon Amendment was constitutionally sound..."
The recruiter, of course, knew that actions speak louder than words, so he simply continued on with his search. And though he didn't find any potential new warriors that day, he did end up spending the night in a house full of desperately enthusiastic sorority girls.
So, you didn't place the winning bid on the Rage Company/iPad auction? Don't kick yourself - you're getting a second chance. In case you missed the story last week - you can't even give one of these things away:
The winner of the auction, after paying the winning bid, has made the decision to not accept the iPad they rightfully won and just accept Rage Company. What is to come of the iPad? I, Redshirt, will put it great use, don't worry. Just kidding! Another copy of Rage Company along with the iPad is back on the You Served auction block!
So, once again - be the top bidder on the book, and you get it plus a free iPad. The bidding is open - details here.
(And HUGE thanks to whoever did win last week's auction, and made this one possible.)
According to this Stars and Stripes story, Georgia is looking for a good way to warn traffic cops (and others) when they're dealing with a PTSD-suffering combat veteran:
Under a law recently pushed through the state legislature, post-traumatic stress disorder would be noted on the license in the same way that a person's license might indicate corrective lenses are required for vision, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adding the information would be voluntary and require a sworn statement from a doctor. If signed by the governor, the bill would become law on July 1.
Sen. Ron Ramsey, the bill's sponsor, told the paper that the bill came at the suggestion of a former servicemember with post-traumatic stress disorder, who told him he feared a violent encounter with police officers.
"He said, 'God forbid anybody put handcuffs on me. I'd go berserk'," the senator said.
The original AJC story is here. I'm not sure exactly what "different treatment" an identified PTSD case would be given. In fact, I really have no idea exactly what problem this idea solves. The AJC offers this quote from Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police executive director Frank Rotondo: "It probably benefits for law enforcement to know that a person believes that, under stress, they can melt down" - but that still doesn't answer the question. I am sure this legislation does nothing to dispel the many myths of the "crazy combat vet," and on the whole offers nothing beneficial to veterans, police, or anyone else. As far as that goes, I'm equally uncertain why the option would be limited only to current and former military people - PTSD isn't a military-unique condition.
But I do have a better idea: FREE license plates for all vets (with "veteran" stamped right on 'em) for life. Then the good ossifers and everyone else on the road can assume the driver has PTSD (if they want) or is just someone who proudly served their country, and everyone's happy...
...But don't get too excited - it's the Taliban announcing it:
With a US-led military operation aimed at routing the Taleban in their heartland of Kandahar to be launched within weeks, the insurgent group warned last night that a counter-offensive -- called "Operation Victory", in opposition to Nato's "Operation Hope" -- would begin today.Reuters:
In a statement from an email usually used by Taliban militants, it said the new offensive will begin from Monday and would target foreign troops, Afghan government officials, and foreign diplomats with suicide and roadside bombings.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, US General Stanley McChrystal, and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry travel to Washington this week, and it's likely reports from Afghanistan will move a bit closer to the front pages of American newspapers.
Like this Los Angeles Times interview with a Taliban leader:
"We are safe and comfortable in our many hidden places," Mohammadi said, adjusting his bulky gray-striped turban and yellow-tinted sunglasses. "We are not scared of NATO, or of the Americans. Whoever comes, we will kill them."
The enemy - in Iraq or Afghanistan - have always been adept at magnifying their effectiveness in the Western media, exploiting good timing to compensate for limited capability. Meanwhile, back in America, neither bias or lack of knowledge has ever prevented 'opinion makers' (also keenly aware of the importance of timing) from weighing in, and invariably the attention they gain is directly proportional to one or both.
Will it be that sort of week in America? Or will other threats - to health care, border security, or political careers - or the actions of celebrities, clumsy baggage handlers, or absent-minded shoppers keep Afghanistan as far from the collective American conscious as the Hindu Kush from the Rockies?
Hell of a battle: "In 1995, the Okinawa government erected a memorial named Cornerstone of Peace in Mabuni, the site of the last fighting in southeastern Okinawa. The memorial lists all the known names of those who died in the battle, civilian and military, Japanese and foreign. As of June 2008 it contains 240,734 names."
Here's the episode of Victory at Sea featuring Okinawa, and the last desperate days of the Empire of Japan...
Then read this Mother's Day request from Matt (Blackfive) Burden's mother-in-law.
Introduced by then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower and using footage filmed by military photographers, this documentary recounts the historic events from the D-Day invasion to the end of the war. The pre-invasion preparations focus on work in munitions and heavy equipment manufacturing. The D-Day invasion itself is explained in detail as is the unsuccessful Operation Market Garden, the failed northern thrust into Holland in the fall of 1944. This is followed by the Battle of the Ardennes in December/January and the eventual crossing of the Rhine and the march into Berlin.
The documentary is notable for using multiple first person perspectives as narrative voices, ...a Canadian, a French resister, a Parisan civilian family, an African-American tank gunner, and several female perspectives including a nurse, and clerical staff. The film is introduced by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, and many other prominent individuals appear in it including General George S. Patton.
The film won the Oscar for Best Documentary at the 1946 Academy Awards.
"On a recent trip to the Martial Arts Center of Excellence (MACE) at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Gabriel Gonzaga, Marcus Davis, and former Marine Brian Stann, along with UFC president Dana White, experienced some of the Marine Corps' rigorous martial arts training."
Milblogger Sgt Danger - - back from Afghanistan:
It's over. I'm back in the United States, and this time for good. The past year and a half has been one of anticipation, fear, excitement, frustration, despair, hope, anger, fun, comfort, and, well, just about every other emotion possible...
He's got a list of some of his earlier posts from his tour there, too. Hell of a time to be in the 'Stan.
Earlier this week: "Storypainter" at Ramblings from a Painter returned from Iraq.
The ranks of the deployed milbloggers grow thin (though there are still good ones out there...)
...but still a call for an assist from our friends at Small Wars Journal:
We are working on something that requires a narrative of Small Wars Journal's impact. We have our own ideas, but would like yours -- to confirm, expand, or adjust our own assessment.
"We really could use your help on this as it will aid us in keeping the lights on here," adds Dave Dilegge. Join the conversation here. (Some great testimonials already, but room for more.)
The Rage Company/iPad auction is over - with a final price of a bit over $1,000. (Yes, that's one thousand dollars for Soldiers Angels. Wow - thanks to the winning bidder!) Marcus informs us the payment has already been made, but he's got a rest of the story that's pretty damn cool. To hear it (and you should) tune in to YouServed Radio tonight, starting at 7PM eastern. (Among the guests, Rage Company author Thomas P. Daly.)
For many the film quoted above is THE all time greatest war movie, for most fans of the genre it's at least top ten. You can count me among its fans. It's hardly unique in this regard, but for those of my generation, children at the time of its release, it's hard to imagine World War Two as fought in Europe and Africa without conjuring up something that looks pretty much like that.
The film is memorable enough that it's likely that any non-veteran's concept of war - and not just of that anomaly we call World War Two - is heavily influenced by it. But while some of the televised scenes from Iraq in '03 may have looked something like that, the Battle of 73 Easting is the most recent military engagement that anyone thus persuaded might vaguely recognize as such. If we're truly lucky (at least more so than I think we are) it will be the last.
"CHANGE: NATO Commanders Want New "Courageous Restraint" Award to Honor Those Who Avoid Using Their Weapons. If only we'd had this during World War Two."
...and the reviews roll in: "...and the pussification of the military continues." Says JimBalto. "Sigh.... Stonewall, Black Jack, Patton, Clark, Eisenhower, et. al.....where have you gone?!?"
Maj. Gen. Nick Carter has spent his career as a remf," declares Viv. "His statement is no real surprise." (Since Maj Gen Carter has served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, Viv's own combat experience must be impressive indeed.)
"Put those clown weenies on the front edge and see what happens with 'courageous restraint'," orders Captain Fantastic. "They will cry like little plump babies."
And so on.
(Part two is here.)
How much would you pay for a magazine no one wants to buy? To clarify, not just one issue or a subscription - but the whole enchilada?
The New York Times: Newsweek on Block as Era of the Newsweekly Fades.
The Washington Post Company announced Wednesday that it would sell Newsweek, raising questions about the future of the newsweekly, first published 77 years ago.
Donald E. Graham, chairman and chief executive of the Washington Post Company, said in an interview that the decision was purely economic.
"I did not want to do this, but it is a business," he said. The magazine would lose money in 2010, he said, and "we don't see a sustained path to profitability for Newsweek."
"This will lose you a bundle" isn't the sales pitch I'd have used - but it's a buyer's market in a lot of industries these days.
The Post is expanding in other directions, though. One example - their new blog Impact of War:
This blog is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between The Washington Post and the people who live the wars everyday--soldiers, veterans, caregivers, spouses, advocates. Here, experts and everyday people can come together to talk about how the war has changed their lives.
Readers here will recognize that as a description of the milblog community - so welcome aboard. (Or welcome back - the Post was previously home to Phil Carter's Intel Dump.) Among their first offerings in their new effort, this entry from Matt Gallagher.
Meanwhile, over at Newsweek, Evan Thomas explains Why Men Love War.
Along with that, their introductory ("everything you need to know in three minutes") guide to war porn (something they claim was invented in 2004) explains to people they call "war porn virgins" why the infamous wikileaks snuff video doesn't count - so you can watch that without feeling dirty.
I'd advise them to go back and read the original series more closely.
After days of negative publicity for appearing to dump war correspondent Michael Ware, who says he is suffering from PTSD, CNN tells the New York Times, there may have been a misunderstanding...
Kudos to CNN for recognizing the issue, and doing the right thing.
McIntyre's earlier post on the topic includes this observation:
A friend of mine at CNN bristled when I suggested Ware was not an objective journalist. "He didn't toe the Pentagon line," he replied, "He called him like he saw them."
No argument there from me. That he did. But you don't have the "toe the Pentagon line" to be objective. (And I understand objectivity is a SUBJECTIVE thing). The truth is reporters who are free from the constraints of muddying up their stories with contradictory scenarios end up with much sharper, edgier, and memorable stories. Michael Ware was very watchable. He was smart, and he was THERE. He was fearless in pursuing the truth, and when he convinced himself of what that truth was, he pulled no punches...
On a related note, "I'm looking forward to getting some firsthand insights from my partners at military.com, who are heading to Afghanistan," McIntyre announces here.
My buddy Marcus the Redshirt
This week's auction to benefit Soldiers' Angels has begun! The auction started about four hours ago at $199.99 and has already jumped up to $355.00 which makes this Redshirt producer jump around with joy! Soldiers' Angels will benefit a great deal from this auction!
To make Rage Company a little more exciting to all of you, how about a little excerpt? This portion is from chapter 10 of the book is right where I am now. I promise this book will grab you by your eyeballs, drag you in, and not let you go until you've finished reading. It is an amazing read full of awesome stories. I can't tell you how excited I am to have the author, Tom Daly, on next week. Grab a drink, a small snack, and then sit back and enjoy this short excerpt of Rage Company, A Marine's Baptism By Fire.
That might sound a bit pricey for a book you can score for less than 20 bucks on Amazon - but the winner gets a free iPad, too.
(The auction ends on May 06, at 10:56:01 PDT.)
"One of the benefits of publishing a war memoir, and then speaking at various events across the country, has been the opportunity to meet a group of Americans who genuinely care about the troops and veterans," my friend and fellow Iraq vet Matt Gallagher writes at the Washington Post. "As a result, I'm often placed in the unique position of answering the simple question: 'How can we help?'"
I'm usually able to ignore the impulse to grab them by the shirt collar and yell, "Be engaged in what's happening! That's all we ask, that you are aware!" Since they've already asked me the question, it's clear that they do care, and are looking for more specific guidance. Usually, I point them in the direction of two incredible organizations, Soldiers' Angels (http://www.soldiersangels.org) and The Wounded Warrior Project (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org). But occasionally, if I'm feeling particularly pontifical, I bust out my soapbox (don't leave home without it!) and relay a far more metaphysical message.
I urge you one and all to read the whole thing. But I am going to quote Matt's bottom line here: "It's up to the populace as a whole to demand accountability from political leaders, and to ensure that they are using the military responsibly. Only an engaged, educated, and vocal society can ensure that those going to war in our country's name will do so for the right reasons."
Were I to grade the "general public" on such a thing, I think the report card would look something like this:
You can read "informed" for "educated" - I did. An individual's grades would vary, of course. But I suspect most of the folks who would actually score below my hypothetical general public D in that particular category are convinced they deserve a 4.0.
Which is damned unfortunate in time of war - a subject a nation shouldn't want to fail.
"The airmen's collective combat experience also bears witness to the lethal Special Ops counterinsurgency battles that have unfolded in remote parts of Afghanistan, often shrouded in secrecy..."
Three years ago, Sgt. Sean Harvell drove into a Taliban ambush in a southern Afghanistan village. He was knocked unconscious by shrapnel but eventually revived.
Bleeding from numerous wounds, he fired back at the enemy with his M-4 carbine while directing airstrikes that came perilously close to his own position.
"I just came to, and tried to gather my faculties as much as I could," Harvell said. "You can't call a time out."
...Thursday, standing on a stage in a huge air hangar, [Staff Sgt. Sean] Harvell received two Silver Stars for valor for his actions during a harrowing six-month tour of duty in 2007.
Clad in a blue uniform and scarlet beret, he shared the stage with 10 other Air Force combat controllers who received combat awards...
Harvell, a 27-year-old airman from Long Beach, Calif., faced a series of intense battles on a third tour of Afghanistan duty that took him deep into Helmand Province, where a resurgent Taliban was expanding control.
On May 7, 2007, Harvell was caught in what his first Silver Star citation termed a "savage eight-hour firefight." Surrounded by enemy fire, he directed air support at Taliban positions and evacuated the wounded.
He was awarded the medal for his actions on that day and subsequent actions three weeks later, when he was ambushed and wounded
He received his second Silver Star for his actions on July 25, 2007, when he sprinted through close-range fire to where he could toss a grenade to take out a Taliban fighter, then ran a second gantlet as gunfire peppered his feet in order to direct an air attack...
Full story at Soldiers Angels Germany.
...Murtha -- "our dear Jack," as Pelosi referred to him -- deserved the honor as a tireless advocate for troops generally and Marines in particular, she said, and she recalled admiring his rapport with them...
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who technically is the only person in the government with the power to name U.S. warships, also praised Murtha's history of service...
...Despite the encomia from Pelosi and Mabus, thousands of Web users remembered a different Murtha -- the one who opposed the Iraq war and accused Marines in 2005 of killing Iraqis "in cold blood" -- when reacting to the announcement about the ship named in his honor. A Facebook group called "People Against Naming A Navy Ship USS Murtha" had 1,336 members as of Monday morning, and it was becoming a clearinghouse for angry comments and homemade cartoons criticizing Murtha.
Posters on the Facebook page said Murtha, who served in the Marine Corps during the Korean and Vietnam eras, "betrayed the brotherhood," that naming a ship for him was a "slap in the face" and that if the Navy wanted to name a ship for him, it should have chosen "a nice, stinky garbage scow."
The Navy was getting angry responses even on its own official website, where visitors used the same page where the announcement appeared to criticize it. Visitors called the decision to name a ship for Murtha "an absolute disgrace," "inappropriate" and said it was just as bad as naming a warship for Benedict Arnold.
The Facebook Page is here, and now has almost 9,000 members.
In related news...
Democrat Mark Critz has captured a burst of momentum in the special election to succeed the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), according to internal polling commissioned by his campaign and obtained by POLITICO. Critz's poll runs counter to the results from several other recent public polls showing Republican Tim Burns with the advantage in Pennsylvania's 12th District.
Last week, a poll conducted between April 26 and April 28 for the liberal website Daily Kos reported that Burns held a 46 to 40 percent lead. One week earlier, the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found Burns with a 44 to 41 percent lead over Critz.
Local Republican Party leadership dumped Army veteran William Russel in favor of Burns earlier this year. The election is scheduled for May 18.
Fort Bragg soldiers whose goofy war-zone remake of a Lady Gaga video went viral over the weekend and soared to more than 3 million hits on YouTube have won a thumbs up from the brass.
"The brigade command team is happy to see that they also still have a good sense of humor and that morale is high," said Maj. Michelle Baldanza, a spokeswoman in Afghanistan for the division's 4th Brigade Combat Team via e-mail from Kandahar Air Field.
Well, you know what they say... if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
ALIENS HAVE LANDED NEAR GROVERS MILL, NEW JERSEY!
More details here.
Update: "Is this about Ray Bradbury?" Mrs G asked when she got home.
"No," I said. "H.G. Wells, and Orson Welles... but I was just trying to make a statement about panic on a day when a baggage handler dropping a suitcase made national news..."
"Oh," she said. "I heard something about Ray Bradbury on NPR on the way home..."
So I searched ye olde web for news of Bradury, and found the story here. Not about Bradbury, as it turns out, but about Norman Corwin (happy 100th birthday, sir!) and radio (and Orson Welles, Charles Laughton, Lionel Barrymore...) back in the day - including how they reported the (real) war:
So they've given up. They're finally done in, and the rat is dead in an alley back of the Vilhelm Strasse. Take a bow G.I. Take a bow little guy ... Is victory a sweet dish or isn't it. And how do you think those lights look in Europe after five years of blackout, going on to six? Brother, pretty good. Pretty good, sister. The kids of Poland soon will know what an orange tastes like, and the smell of honest to God bread, freshly made and sawdust-free, will create a stir in the streets of Athens.
But wait - there's more! In the mood for something even more modern? Googling for Ray Bradbury also turns up this news:
'One Book, One Twitter' launches worldwide book club with Neil Gaiman
...The brainchild of Jeff Howe, author of Crowdsourcing and a contributing editor at Wired magazine, the One Book, One Twitter scheme launches tomorrow. Readers have been voting for the book which they'll be tackling for the past month, with Neil Gaiman's fantasy novel American Gods eventually triumphing over titles including Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.
Yer humble host read American Gods while in Iraq - where absolute escapist stuff appealed from time to time.
Bush Intercontinental Airport was on high alert Tuesday afternoon after ground employees feared a piece of luggage exploded shortly after the plane landed.
Airline workers were unloading baggage and a bag hit the ground causing a loud popping noise, MyFoxHouston.com reported.
It was first thought to be an explosion, but was quickly deemed a "non-event" by an airport spokeswoman.
Two things I wish:
But wish in one hand... as they say.
Here's the original Fox story, now mostly disappeared from teh innerwebz:
Smoke was seen coming from the luggage shortly after it was unloaded from a jet around 2 p.m., according to the Houston Airport System. The jet had just landed at the airport from Amsterdam.
Ground crews said they noticed something strange about the blue container and were working to remove it when they heard a "pop" and more smoke came pouring from it.
While no injuries were reported, several agencies, including the Houston Fire Department, were called to the scene.
A spokeswoman for the Houston Airport System said smoke could be seen coming from the luggage.
Aerial views of the scene from SkyFox showed a couple dozen officers and emergency responders at the scene.
And an even better version from the Houston Chronicle includes this gem of a quote:
"We're hearing that something was thrown from a plane and there was some sort of explosion," said HFD Asst. Fire Chief Jack Williams.
So - how about everybody takes a deep fucking breath, okay?
Damn, there I go wishing again...
In our last episode:
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."Somehow I don't think The Promise is going to help dispel that notion:
More on that "coldly reprimands the military brass for insubordination" from Military Times:
In The Promise: President Obama, Year One, Jonathan Alter, one of the country's most respected journalists and historians, uses his unique access to the White House to produce the first inside look at Obama's difficult debut.
What happened in 2009 inside the Oval Office? What worked and what failed? What is the president really like on the job and off-hours, using what his best friend called "a Rubik's Cube in his brain?" These questions are answered here for the first time...
The Promise is a fast-paced and incisive narrative of a young risk-taking president carving his own path amid sky-high expectations and surging joblessness. Alter reveals that it was Obama alone--"feeling lucky"--who insisted on pushing major health care reform over the objections of his vice president and top advisors, including his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who admitted that "I begged him not to do this."
Alter takes the reader inside the room as Obama prevents a fistfight involving a congressman, coldly reprimands the military brass for insubordination, crashes the key meeting at the Copenhagen Climate Change conference, and bounces back after a disastrous Massachusetts election to redeem a promise that had eluded presidents since FDR.
In Alter's telling, the real Obama is an authentic, demanding, unsentimental, and sometimes overconfident leader...
Book claims Obama dressed down Pentagon brass
...The book says Obama laid into Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen in an Oval Office meeting in October.
Obama was irked by the leak of a confidential report by Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, calling for an expanded military presence there, and by McChrystal saying he could not support a strategy relying on special forces and unmanned drone attacks.
Of course, if things go well in Afghanistan, the next book will reveal it was actually all Obama's idea.
FWIW, this one hasn't cracked the top 100 at Amazon yet. President Bush's autobiography Decision Points, scheduled for release in November, has.