Making Blackwater Behave
Posted by Lurch on October 17, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Today‘s NY Times has a good piece about Defense Secretary Gates pushing the envelope in the infighting between the realists and the fantasists of the Bu$h malAdministration. This internecine battle is spread out over at least half a dozen different subjects, although most of them concern the Middle East.

For some time the uniformed “leaders” of the Pentagon have chafed under the realization that one group of contractors – the armed mercenaries - were beyond their control. There have been reports of Blackwater personnel refusing to escort logistics convoys out of Kuwait because of unrest in the South and it’s easy to see why the four-star flag officers would get pissed at the distraction of having to find uniformed armed guards for these vitals convoys. Then there is that incident involving BW and an Army vehicle in which the mercenaries drew down on the GIs and disarmed them. Let’s also not forget BW went poaching in the special operations community, luring away some skilled and specialized people from the Navy and Army.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is pressing for the nearly 10,000 armed security contractors now working for the United States government in Iraq to fall under a single authority, most likely the American military, in an effort to bring Blackwater USA under tighter control, senior administration officials and Pentagon advisers say. … In practical terms, placing the private security guards who now work for the military, the State Department and other government agencies under a single authority would mean that those armed civilians would no longer have different bosses and different rules. Pentagon advisers say it would also allow better coordination between the security contractors and American military commanders, who have long complained that the contractors often operate independently.

I have no problem admitting to complete contempt for mercenaries (exception: Meo and Hmung) and would hate to have my life depend on their steadfastness and dedication to duty. I’d be glad to see them come under direct military control, and wonder how they’d perform in a nut-crunch like a rearguard action. Hopefully they’d die in a manner appropriate to their inflated salaries and inspire a slew of chickenhawks to immediately rush to the colors in order to avenge them.

Or not.

The State Department, unsurprisingly, doesn’t want BW under military control. They like having their own private little army to escort them around Iraq, even if the escorts are killing innocent women and children who come too close to the august personage known as the “principal.”

That idea is facing resistance from the State Department, which relies heavily for protection in Iraq on some 2,500 private guards, including more than 800 Blackwater contractors, to provide security for American diplomats in Baghdad. The State Department has said it should retain control over those guards, despite Blackwater’s role in a September shooting in Baghdad that exposed problems in the current oversight arrangements.

Once upon a time Embassy personnel relied on US Marines for security. I couldn’t even speculate why they now prefer such expensive escorts, but it is an area that Secretaries Gates and Rice will have to iron out. Here’s hoping there isn’t a lot of friction, since their partnership is about the only thing keeping Mr Cheney from getting his way in blowing the crap out of Iran.

People who think Mr Cheney wants to attack Iran just to see world oil prices go through the roof are of course mistaken. I don’t think even he is that crazy.

Does anyone agree with me? Anyone?

There are a lot of complex decisions to be made about aligning the mercenaries under military control. It appears that currently they operate under all sorts of different work rules, and that’s just messy. There’s all sorts of different pay scales and jurisdictional lines because when the Bu$hies were handing out all those no-bid contracts a lot of oddities crept into them, it seems, and there are lots of rumors about qualifying payments and so forth, if you get my drift. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink) Just rumors, I hasten to emphasize, and anyone who keeps saying otherwise is probably just jealous because he didn’t get a chance to sign any of the contracts.

So having one over-arching line of authority will bring a degree of regularity and uniformity to the mess.

Mr. Gates has not publicly stated his final position on any reorganization, but his thinking on how to manage security contractors was described by administration officials, military officers and outside advisers to the Defense Department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The officials said it was not clear whether Mr. Gates would also recommend changes that would make Blackwater contractors in Iraq subject to military law.

Of course they will be made subject to military law. That’s the whole idea of this project.

American commanders have a more specific military complaint, as well: They say the security contractors complicate American combat operations, in part because local commanders sometimes do not even know of armed official convoys moving through their areas. Mr. Gates said this month that 30 percent of the calls for help from security contractors had come from convoys that the military did not know were on the road.

Nice point there. Since they’re civilians, and some of them not even US nationals, is the military obligated to help them out? Since it’s all about money (them being mercenaries, and all,) maybe the DoD should charge every time they have to go rescue them.

All of this pending regulation might well explain why Erik Prince has suddenly developed a great interest in getting out of the gunsel business in Iraq and starting up a "peace force" spin-off for places like Darfur.


Telling The Truth
Posted by Lurch on October 16, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

There was great excitement in the Internet community – and much hysteria on the right – when seven enlisted men on active duty published an op-ed column in the NY Times about the failure of Bu$h malAdministration policy of invading helpless innocent countries in order to steal their natural resources.

Now a group of ex-officers has stepped forward to tell the truth about America’s mistake in the Mess o’ Potamia.

This column was written by 12 former Army captains: Jason Blindauer served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Elizabeth Bostwick served in Salah Ad Din and An Najaf in 2004. Jeffrey Bouldin served in Al Anbar, Baghdad and Ninevah in 2006. Jason Bugajski served in Diyala in 2004. Anton Kemps served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Kristy (Luken) McCormick served in Ninevah in 2003. Luis Carlos Montalván served in Anbar, Baghdad and Nineveh in 2003 and 2005. William Murphy served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Josh Rizzo served in Baghdad in 2006. William "Jamie" Ruehl served in Nineveh in 2004. Gregg Tharp served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005. Gary Williams served in Baghdad in 2003.


First, let’s note that five of these officers served in both 2003 and on later deployments. They have seen Iraq at its best, during the first glorious push to conquest, and several years later at its worst, as the disastrous effects of Mr Bu$h’s rash desire to out-hero his father came home to roost, amid IEDs, ambushes, and a stepped-up production of aluminum “transfer tubes.”

Today marks five years since the authorization of military force in Iraq, setting Operation Iraqi Freedom in motion. Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and under-resourced as it was from the start. And, five years on, Iraq is in shambles.

I can’t do justice to this piece by summarizing it. It’s well worth a careful read. There are some highlights however:

The infrastructure is in shambles.

Disease, water purification, and electric generation are far less than adequate.

There are no effective postal service, banking system, or departmental supervisors to manage the country.

The Iraqi security forces, army and national police, are poorly trained, improperly motivated, and too few in numbers to control the chaos.

This is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reality we experienced. This is what we tried to communicate up the chain of command. This is either what did not get passed on to our civilian leadership or what our civilian leaders chose to ignore. While our generals pursue a strategy dependent on peace breaking out, the Iraqis prepare for their war -- and our servicemen and women, and their families, continue to suffer.

They make the point that US occupation forces have always been inadequate and that if the country itself decides to continue this insanity, it should revert to involuntary service, which we know as the draft. We also know that is the surest way to get Americans to demand we unass the country.

As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we've seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out.

The US-written Oil Law, which legitimizes our theft of Iraqi oil, still has not been passed by the Iraq Parliament, so it is highly unlikely we will be departing from that country.

Well done, gentlemen and ladies. Now stand by for the counter-attack.

Al Qaeda Withdraws to Hide in the Tall Grass – Or Not
Posted by Lurch on October 15, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

This morning’s WaPo has an intriguing article by the respected writers Thomas Ricks and Karen DeYoung speculating that al Qaeda has been so badly attritted that it might no longer constitute a viable threat to Iraq security.

The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group, which the Bush administration has long described as the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq.

But as the White House and its military commanders plan the next phase of the war, other officials have cautioned against taking what they see as a premature step that could create strategic and political difficulties for the United States. Such a declaration could fuel criticism that the Iraq conflict has become a civil war in which U.S. combat forces should not be involved. At the same time, the intelligence community, and some in the military itself, worry about underestimating an enemy that has shown great resilience in the past. [emph added]

Indeed, if a-Q is out of the running for the “greatest existential military threat to Western civilization” e-vah! then there’s just no need for 160,000 troops to remain over there, refereeing a civil war and occasionally getting trapped against the boards and high-sticked. That would also be a very inconvenient circumstance for Messers Bu$h and Cheney, who rely upon terrorizing Americans long enough to dismantle the rest of our brutally savaged constitution and turn our country into the largest prison ever seen by mankind.

"I think it would be premature at this point," a senior intelligence official said of a victory declaration over AQI, as the group is known. Despite recent U.S. gains, he said, AQI retains "the ability for surprise and for catastrophic attacks." Earlier periods of optimism, such as immediately following the June 2006 death of AQI founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. air raid, not only proved unfounded but were followed by expanded operations by the militant organization.

There is widespread agreement that AQI has suffered major blows over the past three months. Among the indicators cited is a sharp drop in suicide bombings, the group's signature attack, from more than 60 in January to around 30 a month since July. Captures and interrogations of AQI leaders over the summer had what a senior military intelligence official called a "cascade effect," leading to other killings and captures. The flow of foreign fighters through Syria into Iraq has also diminished, although officials are unsure of the reason and are concerned that the broader al-Qaeda network may be diverting new recruits to Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Stung by the public disclosure of their faithlessness and treason in disclosing vital intelligence information in both the SITE and Plame scandals, and reeling from catastrophic public backlash against Mr Bu$h’s pigheaded and selfish denial of health insurance to helpless poor children, as well as the revelation that the famous and laughable Bu$h gut instinct about Vladimir Putin’s “soul" was wrong, the malAdministration is desperate for some positive domestic news, and this little fable will be squeezed for two days of glory and victory laps until the 400 or so Saudis that comprise al Qaeda in Iraq pull off some spectacular and embarrassing coup.

An expected benefit of the triumphantly announced demise of al Qaeda will be the increased drumbeat of Iran, the “greatest existential military threat to Western civilization” e-vah! and how Tehran must be nuked until it glows in the dark. Only this step will satisfy the Likud Party, which makes the major US military and foreign policy decisions in the Middle East.

There has been much speculation that Generalissimo Field Marshal Fred Kagan’s surge escalation has actually performed very well, and has harried and pursued al Qaeda until it is a mere shadow of its former self.

We’ve heard this song before, so excuse me if I sit out this dance.

While a victory declaration might have the "psychological aspect" of discouraging recruitment to a perceived lost cause, the White House official said, advantages overall would be minimal. "I recognize that there are pros to saying, 'Hey, listen, the bad guys are on the run.'" But if AQI were later able to demonstrate residual capabilities with a series of bombings, "even though it was temporary," he said, "the question becomes: How does this play out in terms of public opinion?"

That one’s easy. The public will say, “Those incompetent, lying mutts got it wrong once again.”

Windiyah Bridge Destroyed
Posted by Lurch on October 15, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Via the redoubtable Dubhaltach, our first class stringer with Gorilla’s Guides

Diala, Oct 14, (VOI)- Unknown gunmen on Sunday blew up a bridge linking 25 villages to Baaquba, capital city of Diala province, while gunmen deployed in the area following the attack, a security source said.

"An armed group blew up, today at noon, al-Windiyah bridge in al-Salam area, Khalis district," the source, who requested anonymity, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The source added "the bridge links 25 villages to Baaquba city."

Armed groups blow up bridges to cut off roads leading to their strongholds in order to prevent surprise assaults against them by Iraqi and U.S. forces.

"Gunmen deployed in the area after the attack," the source added.
Baaquba is located 57 km northeast of Baghdad.


al-Khalis.JPG


I’d be inclined to not put a great deal of faith in the statement about blowing bridges in order to isolate “gunmen” from occupation authorities reprisals because MNF-I has some excellent air assets available, and as we have recently seen MNF-I is as likely to attack suspected resistance fighters by air as by ground forces. The "gunmen" have a need for unhindered mobility, and dropped bridges would impede their movement more than US or Iraqi Army forces.

This is the general area in which a number of civilians were killed and wounded by occupation aircraft on Friday, October 5th.


The War of the Bridges series

The Bridges of Iraq

The War of the Bridges

Another Bridge Attack

Baghdad Bridges Falling Down

The Daily Bridge Attack

Balad Bridge

Pitrokimiwiat Bridge

Thiraa Dilja Bridge

Two Bridges in Anbar

The Bridge War Goes On

Windiyah Bridge Destroyed


Torture
Posted by Lurch on October 14, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

It’s an evil word, and an evil topic. My country tortures its prisoners and I don’t like it. In fact, I’m ashamed about it. We tortured during Viet Nam, and (possibly) during Korea. There wasn’t too much torturing done during WWII because we had enlightened government then, and a nation united for a common cause. Millions of Americans were in the Armed Forces, and they had all been raised in a culture that saw our nation as the “good guys.”

Last week the WaPo had an article explaining how the Army specifically got a lot of tactical and strategic information out of German prisoners: treating them decently and forging a bond with them.

When about two dozen veterans got together yesterday for the first time since the 1940s, many of the proud men lamented the chasm between the way they conducted interrogations during the war and the harsh measures used today in questioning terrorism suspects.

Back then, they and their commanders wrestled with the morality of bugging prisoners' cells with listening devices. They felt bad about censoring letters. They took prisoners out for steak dinners to soften them up. They played games with them.

"We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess.

I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had asked President Roosevelt or GEN Marshall how prisoners should be treated. (We’re talking mainly about German and Italian prisoners, because we were already learning that our Japanese enemies would not be taken prisoner.) I’m confident they were horrified at the very idea of harsh treatment because that would lower us to the level of the evil political ideology we were fighting.

If you respect a man you’re more likely to get him to cooperate with you, unless you’re someone who has spent his life demanding others kowtow to you and consequently hold them in contempt.

Friday’s Boston Globe had an article written by Francis X Stone, a retired LTC of the US Air Force who was involved in prisoner interrogation during Viet Nam.

ALL OF the approaches to interrogation supported by President Bush as "nontorture" (head slapping, freezing temperatures, water boarding) qualify as torture under international law[.]

During my last year in Vietnam, 1968 to '69, I was in charge of US Air Force interrogation of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army prisoners. None of what Bush labels as legal was legal under the Geneva Conventions, to which the United States is still a signatory. US Army, Marine, and Army of Republic of Vietnam personnel were constantly amazed at the interrogation results produced by the Air Force, and we were never allowed to touch prisoners, let alone head-slap them. Every human being has needs, and we learned those needs and exploited them. Neither Bush's bullying approach in the Mideast nor his unlawful interrogation program has worked. Sophisticated psychological methods are not being used by the Bush people, so the alleged "nontorture" bullying will continue.

I don’t know what Mr Stone is doing with himself these days, but I commend his honor and his honesty. This pack of criminals are bullies. They got that way because they were privileged growing up. I’m not talking about the “formative years” of pre-teen childhood, although you can often find the man if you look at the child then. I’m thinking of the 30s and 40s when men start to achieve a small level of success and influence. People who skated during their teens and 20s and learned how to manipulate others for their own benefit don’t change as they gain more power and influence. They just become more corrupt. They learn to view those of us around them as sheep, victims, and treat us contemptuously.

It’s certainly not surprising that Mr Bu$h and Mr Cheney have encouraged – or ordered – our uniformed leaders to torture. Looking back at them years ago, we can see it would have been surprising if they had not done so.

Torture isn’t a policy but rather a lack of a policy. It’s a behavior that is significant because of those who demand such bestiality. The authoritarian mind is weak, and seeks hierarchical approval for its base instincts.

Toughness isn’t a physical quality, nor is having a hard heart. It’s a part of being raised with the qualities of morality and ethics foremost in your mind.

Assessing Failure
Posted by Lurch on October 14, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Today’s NY Times highlights an article about officers studying at Ft Leavenworth, Kansas and their debates about Iraq. Since the article was written by Elizabeth Bumiller, who has a pretty bad record for critical judgment of George Bu$h and his works, it’s not surprising that she gets many points wrong.

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Here at the intellectual center of the United States Army, two elite officers were deep in debate at lunch on a recent day over who bore more responsibility for mistakes in Iraq — the former defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, or the generals who acquiesced to him.

“The secretary of defense is an easy target,” argued one of the officers, Maj. Kareem P. Montague, 34, a Harvard graduate and a commander in the Third Infantry Division, which was the first to reach Baghdad in the 2003 invasion. “It’s easy to pick on the political appointee.”

“But he’s the one that’s responsible,” retorted Maj. Michael J. Zinno, 40, a military planner who worked at the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the former American civilian administration in Iraq.

No, Major Montague shot back, it was more complicated: the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the top commanders were part of the decision to send in a small invasion force and not enough troops for the occupation. Only Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff who was sidelined after he told Congress that it would take several hundred thousand troops in Iraq, spoke up in public.

“You didn’t hear any of them at the time, other than General Shinseki, screaming, saying that this was untenable,” Major Montague said.

The article examines the nuts and bolts of “how we got there” and “did we bring enough party favors?” without looking at the real question: should we have actually gone to the party at all?”

Ms Bumiller uncharacteristically assigns herself a place in the debate:

Discussions between a New York Times reporter and dozens of young majors in five Leavenworth classrooms over two days — all unusual for their frankness in an Army that has traditionally presented a facade of solidarity to the outside world — showed a divide in opinion. Officers were split over whether Mr. Rumsfeld, the military leaders or both deserved blame for what they said were the major errors in the war: sending in a small invasion force and failing to plan properly for the occupation.

Having opinions about Mr Rumsfeld and his admirable but poorly-timed theory of transformation are worthwhile for field grade officers. It trains them to think for the entire force should they ever attain the exalted rank of senior general. But these are not the central questions of our Iraq journey. There’s a good chance that history will judge a small force was sent in because a small force was all that was available for the adventure, and men with political agendas searched for justification for what they wanted to do and were beguiled and enabled by a man who invented the intelligence “proof” they wanted.

But the consensus was that not even after Vietnam was the Army’s internal criticism as harsh or the second-guessing so painful, and that airing the arguments on the record, as sanctioned by Leavenworth’s senior commanders, was part of a concerted effort to force change.

Not having been there I can’t judge whether Ms Bumiller has allowed her political prejudices to color her reporting, but the thrust of post-Viet Nam debate was not about force manpower utilized or the competence of generals. It was about the dissolution of an army through the misapplication of its strengths, and how to avoid such destruction in the future.

As Ms Bumiller presents the debate it is about how many trees are in the forest. It might be wise for our erstwhile generals to put down their calculators, use their surveyor’s transits to measure the forest and get on to the real question: how did we allow our army to be put in the forest?

“We have an obligation that if our civilian leaders give us an order, unless it is illegal, immoral or unethical, then we’re supposed to execute it, and to not do so would be considered insubordinate,” said Major Timothy Jacobsen, another student. “How do you define what is truly illegal, immoral or unethical? At what point do you cross that threshold where this is no longer right, I need to raise my hand or resign or go to the media?”

General Caldwell, who was the top military aide from 2002 to 2004 to the deputy defense secretary at the time, Paul D. Wolfowitz, an architect of the Iraq war, would not talk about the meetings he had with Mr. Wolfowitz about the battle plans at the time. “We did have those discussions, and he would engage me on different things, but I’d feel very uncomfortable talking,” General Caldwell said.

Offhand, I’d say LTG Caldwell missed some of the classes on moral leadership at West Point. If he had discomfort talking about some subjects it was his institutional responsibility to report this to his military superior.

Col. Gregory Fontenot, a Leavenworth instructor, said it was typical of young officers to feel that the senior commanders had not spoken up for their interests, and that he had felt the same way when he was their age. But Colonel Fontenot, who commanded a battalion in the Persian Gulf war and a brigade in Bosnia and has since retired, said he questioned whether Americans really wanted a four-star general to stand up publicly and say no to the president of a nation where civilians control the armed forces.

When the professional leadership of an army can see the amateur civilians are opening a barrel of worms it is their constitutional responsibility to stand up and say “no.” Anything less is a betrayal of their oaths of office. That’s what we paid you for, Colonel


Ma Deuce
Posted by Lurch on October 13, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Most GIs love the .50 Browning machine gun, as long as someone else has to carry it. It is the authoritative voice on the battlefield. You can open a door with one – hell, you can open the damned side of a house with it. Ma Deuce has a lot of kinetic energy!

One of the difficulties with Ma Deuce is head space problems. It can be a bear. You have to carefully check the headspace.




New Evidence About Blackwater Atrocity
Posted by Lurch on October 13, 2007 • Comments (0) • TrackBack (0)Permalink

The NY Times has an article this morning about the Blackwater massacre of helpless and innocent civilians in Baghdad’s Nissoor Square in September.

BAGHDAD, Oct. 12 — Fresh accounts of the Blackwater shooting last month, given by three rooftop witnesses and by American soldiers who arrived shortly after the gunfire ended, cast new doubt Friday on statements by Blackwater guards that they were responding to armed insurgents when Iraqi investigators say 17 Iraqis were killed at a Baghdad intersection.

The three witnesses, Kurds on a rooftop overlooking the scene, said they had observed no gunfire that could have provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards. American soldiers who arrived minutes later found shell casings from guns used normally by American contractors, as well as by the American military.

This is a key piece of witnessing because these Kurds were on a rooftop, were not in the direct line of fire, and had a perfect, unimpeded bird’s eye view of the action. By “observed” we can take for grated they also mean “heard” since they were close enough to the slaughter to have heard any gunfire directed at the Blackwater-escorted State Department convoy.

The Kurds, who work for a political party whose building looks directly down on the square, said they had looked for any evidence that the American security guards were responding to an attack, but found none.

“I call it a massacre,” said Omar H. Waso, one of the witnesses and a senior official at the party, which is called the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. “It is illegal. They used the law of the jungle.”

American soldiers detailed to investigate the massacre agree.

Many of the American soldiers were similarly appalled. While Blackwater has said its guards were attacked by automatic gunfire, the soldiers did not find any casings from the sort of guns typically used by insurgents or by Iraqi security forces, according to an American military official briefed on the findings of the unit that arrived at the scene about 20 minutes after the Blackwater convoy left. That analysis of forensic evidence at the scene was first reported Friday by The Washington Post.

The Times reports that GIs found many 7.62x51 and 5.56x45 shell casings scattered around the square, the type of ammunition used by US armed forces and mercenaries employed in Iraq. They found no examples of 7.62x39 casings, the type of ammunition used by the AK-47, the weapon commonly used by the Iraq resistance.

There have so far been no public pronouncements from either Blackwater or the State Department to indicate why their statements are disputed by eye witnesses to the massacre, nor why the forensic evidence does not support their claims of being attacked.

An FBI team has been sent to conduct a thorough investigation of the shootings at Nissoor Square by Blackwater, a mercenary company owned by a prominent Republican campaign donor. It is not known at this time whether the FBI team has been instructed to find Blackwater innocent of any wrongdoing, as has been suggested by some knowledeagable observers of the Bu$h malAdministration.

Yesterday the WaPo reported that US soldiers interviewed by reporters seem to contradict the Blackwater claim of self-defense.

BAGHDAD, Oct. 11 -- Blackwater USA guards shot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to drive away from a Baghdad square on Sept. 16, according to a report compiled by the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the scene, where they found no evidence that Iraqis had fired weapons.

"It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting," said Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.

His soldiers' report -- based upon their observations at the scene, eyewitness interviews and discussions with Iraqi police -- concluded that there was "no enemy activity involved" and described the shootings as a "criminal event." Their conclusions mirrored those reached by the Iraqi government, which has said the Blackwater guards killed 17 people.

The soldiers' accounts contradict Blackwater's assertion that its guards were defending themselves after being fired upon by Iraqi police and gunmen.

Tarsa said they found no evidence to indicate that the Blackwater guards were provoked or entered into a confrontation. "I did not see anything that indicated they were fired upon," said Tarsa, 42, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. He also said it appeared that several drivers had made U-turns and were moving away from Nisoor Square when their vehicles were hit by gunfire from Blackwater guards. [emph added]

A cynical man would assume Michelle Malkin is packing her bags right now to fly to Baghdad in order to see if LTC Tarsa’s hooch has any bumper stickers on the front door.


V-22 Osprey in Iraq
Posted by Lurch on October 11, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

The Marines have deployed the V-22 Osprey to Iraq – sort of.

BAGHDAD — The controversial V-22 Osprey has arrived in a combat zone for the first time.

It was an epic trip for the innovative tilt-rotor plane, one that took more than 25 years of development and cost 30 lives and $20 billion. Even the last short hop — from an aircraft carrier into Iraq — went awry, U.S. military officials said Monday.

A malfunction forced one of the 10 Ospreys that were deployed to land in Jordan on Thursday. The Marines flew parts to it from Iraq and repaired it. After it took off again Saturday, the problem recurred, and it had to turn back and land in Jordan a second time, said Maj. Jeff Pool, a U.S. military spokesman in western Iraq. It finally was repaired and arrived at al Asad Air Base in western Iraq late Sunday afternoon.

So, apparently one of these beasts just barely made it to shore, rather embarrassing for a new plane that has been 25 years in the making. I don’t know much about airplanes so there isn’t much point in asking whether these machines have that 20th century “pre-flight” thing I used to hear so much about. But still, 9 out of 10 is all right, supposedly.

It’s unfortunate that they didn’t check it out before flying it ashore, and when it had to be landed in Jordan for emergency reasons it took two trips to get the right parts for it.


What happened? Were those replacement parts made by the company building our Taj Mahal in the Green Zone? Here’s hoping that the Osprey’s fire extinguisher system works better than the one in our embassy’s kitchen. (“Even Sprinkler Systems Fail at US Embassy in Baghdad”)

Maj. Eric Dent, an Osprey spokesman at Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, declined to identify the problem. "The nature of the malfunction was a minor issue, but our aircrews are top-notch when it comes to safety," he wrote by e-mail. "Rather than continue, the aircrew opted to land at a pre-determined divert location and further investigate the issue."

Now the Osprey is on the world stage, and the burden of proving it's safe, reliable and effective in combat is on the North Carolina-based Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, nicknamed the Thunder Chickens. The unit's mission will be transporting troops and cargo in western Iraq.

A stupid man might not understand why a “minor issue” required two trips to the parts store to get it fixed. He might think that the Osprey requires left hand wrenches, since the birds cost $110 million a copy.

Huh. Hey, buddy, nice to see you at the Tailhook Reunion! What squadron are you from? “Why, I‘m from the fighting Thunder Chickens!” Oh, yah. They’ll be popular.

The machine itself is a big step forward for the Corps and I know we’re all rooting for it to deliver the snuffies somewhere near the crash and clangor of battle – but not too close, since they only carry one .30 machine gun for defensive fire, and the rear ramp has to be lowered to use it. Current plans are to fly near the battle site and unload the troops there and let them march to the sound of the guns, as Napoleon ordered his generals 200 years ago.

It’s also planned to lug cargo in the thing, making it the most expensive delivery truck in the history of mankind.

The Osprey should be a success, though - must be a success, as officers used to say years ago, as they reached for the Mk II pencil. One could say it can only go up, considering its past:

The problem with the flight into Iraq recalled one of the V-22's first big journeys, a transatlantic flight last year to an English air show. One Osprey suffered engine problems and had to made[sic] a precautionary landing in Iceland.

The aircraft has had worse moments, though, including three fatal crashes:

_ In 1992, seven crewmembers were killed when a tilt-rotor crashed into the Potomac River.

_ In April 2000, a V-22 with 19 crew and Marine passengers aboard crashed in Arizona, killing all.

_ In December of the same year, a mechanical problem compounded by a software glitch caused a crash in North Carolina that killed the crew of four.

Any new military hardware can expect teething problems during testing, and more problems appear during operational use. Iraq is a hard test bed; the sandy environment ages equipment faster than anticipated. In expectation of these problems the contractor, Boeing-Bell, has been stockpiling parts - $100 million worth – and has shipped much of them to Iraq, along with 14 technicians to ease the planes into service.

They’ve arrived just in time for the big move. Some Marine and Army leaders have suggested separating the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters, and staffing them separately, as discussed below.

Is One Marine For One Soldier an Equal Trade?
Posted by Lurch on October 11, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

This morning’s NY Times reports that some Marine leaders, with the concurrence of some Army generals, have suggested the Corps take over US responsibility in Afghanistan under NATO command, leaving the occupation of Iraq to the Army.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — The Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and to send marines instead to Afghanistan, to take over the leading role in combat there, according to senior military and Pentagon officials.

The idea by the Marine Corps commandant would effectively leave the Iraq war in the hands of the Army while giving the Marines a prominent new role in Afghanistan, under overall NATO command.

The suggestion was raised in a session last week convened by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and regional war-fighting commanders. While still under review, its supporters, including some in the Army, argue that a realignment could allow the Army and Marines each to operate more efficiently in sustaining troop levels for two wars that have put a strain on their forces.

Some have suggested the significantly shorter deployment time of the Marines has created coordination problems with the Army. In addition, the recurring “relearning” problem faced by the Marines with each unit’s seven-month deployment has been criticized, since Army units tend to cycle back to Iraq faster, due to the larger number of troops fighting there.

With 26,000 Marines currently stationed in Iraq, and about 25,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, such a plan could be seen as an even trade-off. It would have the advantage of making the scheduling deployments for Army brigades somewhat easier.

As the Times article points out, advantages would accrue to each service, although the Air Force is believed to be unhappy with the suggestion, since its role in Afghanistan would be curtailed due to the Marines having their own fighter and fighter-bomber squadrons.

Military officials say the Marine proposal is also an early indication of jockeying among the four armed services for a place in combat missions in years to come. “At the end of the day, this could be decided by parochialism, and making sure each service does not lose equity, as much as on how best to manage the risk of force levels for Iraq and Afghanistan,” said one Pentagon planner.

Tensions over how to divide future budgets have begun to resurface across the military because of apprehension that Congressional support for large increases in defense spending seen since the Sept. 11 attacks will diminish, leaving the services to compete for money.

Those traditional turf battles have subsided somewhat given the overwhelming demands of waging two simultaneous wars — and because Pentagon budgets reached new heights.

Sooner or later sanity will break out in the United States, and voters will start firing the assholes currently representing the defense industry, and hiring people interested in representing the taxpayers.


Pulling the Pin
Posted by Lurch on October 09, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

This morning’s NY Times has a good piece about the continuing British disentanglement from Mr Bu$h’s ego-war. They have turned over three of their four-province area of responsibility to indigenous (Shiite) Iraqi forces, and turned over much of Basra, as well. They maintain an operational toehold at the Basra airbase, with about 5,000 troops.

LONDON, Oct. 8 — Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the House of Commons on Monday that he would remove half of the 5,000 British troops in Iraq by next spring, and left open the strong possibility that all British soldiers would leave Iraq by the end of 2008.

Mr. Brown said the cuts were possible because of what he described as the progress made in training Iraqi security forces. He described the situation in Basra in southern Iraq, where the British troops are based, as “calmer.”

Since President Bush has made clear that American troops will remain heavily committed in Iraq at least through his administration’s end in January 2009, it appears that the tight alliance on Iraq forged between Mr. Brown’s predecessor, Tony Blair, and Washington is fraying. Indeed, a hallmark of Mr. Brown’s three months as prime minister has been the relative distance he has established with the American president.

There are differing opinions about the state of life in the south. The British say that conditions are stable, while MNF-I and CENTCOM insist that the situation is desperate, and many officers accuse our allies of cowardice, treason, or something like that. Indeed, when the British withdrew from Basra Palace some US military assumed public attitudes that some have described as “petulant.”

About a week ago, Gordon Brown announced that he would be cutting the British presence in Iraq to 5000. The White House responded predictably - that is to say - petulantly. A Bush aid announced that Britain was no longer Bush's greatest ally, and then slandered the British forces. “Operationally, British forces have performed poorly in Basra,” said the official. “Maybe it’s best that they leave. Now we will have a clear field in southern Iraq.”

A cynical man might think that some Bu$h malAdministration aides in particular are also in a snit because when a group of Royal Navy and Marines were seized by elements of the Iranian Navy earlier this year for trespassing in Iranian territorial waters they didn’t offer armed resistance and get shot down, thereby causing an incident which would have given Mr Cheney his woodie, and a chance to bomb Iran. It’s terribly disloyal of an ally to not die in furtherance of American imperialism.

The timetable of reductions appears to fit neatly into the calculus of a British general election that is now expected to be held in 2009. Britain’s role as America’s largest military partner has been highly unpopular among voters, and as Mr. Brown spoke, thousands of protesters gathered outside Parliament chanting slogans calling for immediate withdrawal.

Gosh, Prime Minister Brown playing politics just like the “senior partner” Mr Bu$h? It gets better:

Mr. Brown visited British troops stationed at their base outside Basra last week, and announced then that 1,000 troops would be going home.

But that declaration, apparently aimed at a possible general election next month, backfired after Mr. Brown was accused of playing politics. It also turned out that some of the troops he described as being withdrawn were already home, and others had already been announced as heading back.

Now that tactic is very familiar, but unlike the US, the British public will be quick to call “bullshit” on Mr Brown. They have a famously free press over there, unlike in the States, where the media will perhaps lightly criticize Republicans, but will savage Democratic Party politicians and presidents.

On the sharp, pointy end of this decision is the problem that the US will now have to start supplying its own convoy guards, including reaction forces, since the British Army will not be mission-capable. Fortunately, we have some of the toughest killers in the Middle East available to protect our convoys.

As Bernhard has pointed out, we also have a supply route to take some of the load off MSR Tampa. This will work super-duper, as long as the Anbar tribes stay bought-off. This route is the 21st century version of the route Lawrence of Arabia suggested be used to supply the Arab forces allied with HM Government during WWI.


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Killing Civilians With Airplanes
Posted by Lurch on October 07, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

There was a big battle in Diyala on Friday. Depending on how you look at it, it was a great victory or a shattering defeat.

BAGHDAD - Coalition forces supported by aircraft killed at least 25 people early Friday. U.S. military officials said the dead were members of a radical Shiite Muslim group backed by Iran, but an Iraqi government official said they were armed civilians.

It was one of the biggest firefights in Iraq this year.

The coalition troops were in Diyala province west of the provincial capital, Baqubah, seeking a leader of the so-called Special Groups when they came under attack, said Maj. Winfield Danielson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. He declined to identify the unit involved or its nationality.

The Special Groups started as part of the Mahdi Army militia, controlled by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. But when Sadr ordered a cease-fire, the Special Groups ignored it and continued attacking U.S. troops. American military officials have said Iran's elite Quds Force supports the group with weapons, money and training.

Falih al-Fayadh, the director of an office that represents the prime minister in the province, said that more than 20 people had been wounded Friday and that the dead and wounded were residents who'd often been attacked by terrorists.

The locals fired first, Fayadh said, but only because they mistook the soldiers -- who came about dawn -- for insurgents. Those killed included two women and a child, he said.

"There was clearly a problem with the coordination between the coalition commanders and local police," Fayadh said.

It’s questionable whether the locals really thought the troops – described as “coalition” rather than American, were insurgents, given the fact that American soldiers have been heavily involved in combat in this area for months. However, Mr Fayadh’s statement about a lack of coordination has two clues: some of the attackers were likely Iraqi Army or National Police (“coalition”), and the local police aren’t being told about these operations because they’re more effective if there is no advance notice.

There had to have been Americans involved though, for air assets to be brought in so quickly. And that is the problem: depend on it that those 25 dead people were not all resistance, despite MAJ Danielson’s assurances. We have seen that Viet Nam rules apply in Iraq.

Blue Girl hits a key point, saving me some heavy lifting:

The use of air strikes in a counterinsurgency is a deadly serious act. It is always seen as a desperate, last-ditch effort of an army that is losing. Air power, when you are the only side that has it, means asymmetric warfare, and asymmetric warfare is nowhere near a stand-up fight. I would even go so far as to argue that the recent reliance on air power is indicative of the failure of the so-called Surge™.

Right out of the gate, it indicates that we are facing an enemy that, all things being equal, would possibly give us a run for our money in a stand-up fight – indeed, they are managing to almost do so in a bug hunt. As the insurgents develop strategic and tactical approaches to engage the occupiers, all indicators point to increasing effectiveness among the insurgent fighters.

At least that is the impression taken away by the local populations left to clean up the mess and bury the dead.

When fighting insurgents or guerrillas, the moment you kill an innocent civilian you have lost moral superiority, and that is all you have unless you want to fight to the last. You may think (or pretend) that civilian was somehow involved in resistance, but the locals know best, and you’ve just created more resisters.

When the warmongers and chickenhaws get in front of the cameras on your teevee, and insist we are "winning" because “We haven’t lost a single battle!” they aren’t really shooting straight.

The pitched battles will always go to the Americans, because the Americans can call in the air strikes.

Coalition forces. Will. Never. Lose. A. Battle.

Period.

We never lost a battle in Viet Nam, either. Notice who garrisons the country though.


Interring Our History – and Our Present
Posted by Lurch on October 07, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

This morning’s WaPo has a frustratingly dry article about a topic that is on our daily horizon: burials at Arlington National Cemetery. The Cemetery, covering more than 600 acres, contains the remains of more than 300,000 service members, American and foreigner, who supported and defended our nation in uniform. The Cemetery abuts Fort Myer and the grounds of Arlington House, the home of General Robert E Lee, which is maintained by the National Park Service.

We’re running out of room. The last survivors of World War II are passing by in review, dying at a rate of about 1,000 a day, and some are being interred at Arlington. There are also veterans of Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan being buried here each day. It’s a terrible thing to see so many funerals each day. The grounds are actually quite small for the traffic that passes along its lanes.

At Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, there were four funerals scheduled at 9 a.m., three at 10 a.m., six at 11 a.m., and 15 between 1 and 3 p.m.

The nation's shrine to its military dead had 6,785 funerals in the just-concluded fiscal year, an all-time record. Now, as the dying of the World War II generation peaks, the cemetery is so busy that despite careful choreography, people attending one funeral can hear the bugle and rifle salutes echoing from another.

As a result, the cemetery is about to begin a $35 million expansion that would push the ordered ranks of tombstones beyond its borders for the first time since the 1960s.

People die; it’s the inevitable result of being born. And, people die violently: in falls from buildings, torn asunder in horrendous traffic accidents, burned in house fires. All this, and more, has claimed our service members, including those fighting today in the Middle East.

We’re seeing less business at Arlington from Iraq and Afghanistan than from our past wars because the nature of this war is different and the casualty lists are smaller, though no less poignant. Each death, whether in Mosul, or the back bedroom, or in a nursing home, is a tragedy to a family. And there are just too many tragedies.

The Millennium [Project] expansion has involved, among other things, the sensitive transfer of 12 acres within the cemetery from the National Park Service's historic Arlington House, the onetime home of Robert E. Lee. The Park Service has lamented the likely loss of woodland and the cemetery's encroachment on the majestic hilltop home, which dates to 1802.

The project, which focuses on the northwest edge of the cemetery, includes expansion into about 10 acres taken from the Army's adjacent Fort Myer and four acres of cemetery maintenance property inside the boundaries, officials said.

The extra space would provide room for 14,000 ground burials and 22,000 inurnments in a large columbarium complex, officials said. The project comes on the heels of extensive work underway to utilize 40 acres of unused space in the cemetery, creating room for 26,000 more graves and 5,000 inurnments. And there are plans for further outside expansion in the years ahead.


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Arlington also has an expanded Columbarium for those choosing cremation of their remains. This too will be expanded.

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Arlington exists to hold their last remains and to honor their memory. I wish it was empty parkland.


Awards
Posted by Lurch on October 04, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

The Army Times has an article about some soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group receiving awards.

A ceremony to recognize the actions of valor of 52 soldiers from 3rd Special Forces Group is scheduled for today at the unit’s headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The soldiers are being honored for their actions during operations in Afghanistan, according to an Army press release.

They will recognize the soldiers with six Silver Star medals, eight Purple Hearts, 15 Bronze Stars and 23 Army Commendation Medals for valor, the release said.

Congratulations and a “Good Job Well Done” to these soldiers.


Nukes On a Plane!
Posted by Lurch on October 04, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

A few weeks ago the Air Force either made a really stupid and careless series of errors, or cooperated with Mr Cheney’s desire to start a war with Iran. The official story is that somehow, about three or four different trained professionals all overlooked the fact that some nuclear-armed AGM-129 missiles were being shipped to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Six nuclear warheads on cruise missiles were mistakenly carried on a flight from North Dakota to Louisiana last week, prompting a major investigation, military officials have confirmed.

The plane took the cruise missiles from Minot Air Force Base to Barksdale Air Force Base for decommissioning Thursday, the Air Force said.

"This is a major gaffe, and it's going to cause some heads to roll down the line," said Don Shepperd, a retired Air Force major general and military analyst for CNN.

Shepperd said the United States had agreed in a Cold War-era treaty not to fly nuclear weapons. "It appears that what happened was this treaty agreement was violated," he said.

The warheads should have been removed from the missiles before they were attached to the B-52 bomber, according to military officials.

Now, if you know anything about how special weapons are handled by the Air Force (I don’t other than what I read) this occurred because the enlisted handlers removed specially marked missiles which are a different size than regular ones, plus they’re apparently quite a bit heavier than regular missiles. They’re marked with a special marking – probably a painted sign that says, “Hey! This is a fucking nuclear weapon!@” or words to that effect.

After the enlisted men drew the wrong weapons, the officer in charge of signing off on the movement had to miss the different sizes and markings. Maybe he was a christianist Evangelist – there’s a lot of them in the Air Force – and since he was probably home schooled he missed the thing about “which of these things is bigger than the others?”

The missiles had to be moved to the pad and loaded onto the wing pylons of the B-52. B-52 wings are pretty flexible. Would a wing with five nuclear missiles dangle lower than a wing with normal warheads?

The crew was unaware that the plane was carrying nuclear weapons, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the extraordinary sensitivity and security surrounding the case.

No, I guess not.

So the plane landed at Barksdale and the official story is that no one noticed the specially marked weapons there, either, for almost a day.

Air Force regulations are pretty specific about how nukes are to be handled and transported. There are no allowances for mistakes.

The official story is that these missiles were flown to Barksdale to be decommissioned. (Decommissioning of these missiles is apparently done at Davis-Monthan AFB at Tucson, AZ.) Maybe somebody needs a new navigator because they ended up at the AFB that stages to the Middle East. Wrong weapons, wrong airbase, wrong time.

Unless you want to turn a mistake into a PSYOPS to intimidate Iran.

By the way, the initial reports were that five weapons were erroneously sent out from Minot AFB. This report came about because Barksdale said five were received. Then somebody at Barksdale anonymously contacted Army Times that actually six missiles had been shipped, and maybe someone should be asking questions if six were actually shipped from Minot and Barksdale says five were received. After that news got out the Air Force agreed that six were actually shipped. If you’re confused, welcome to the club.

Just in case they’re still wrong on the count (you just don’t know when Dick “dick” Cheney is involved, even peripherally) those fine folks at Wired have published this as a public service.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb


Picture 1.png


Click here to see it mushroom – uh, to a larger size, I mean.

Putting Blackwater Back on “Safe”
Posted by Lurch on October 02, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

The NY Times covers a report this morning about shooting incidents that Blackwater has been involved in while helping to spread freedom and democracy in Mr Bu$h’s ego-war.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 — Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded, according to a new report from Congress.

In at least two cases, Blackwater paid victims’ family members who complained, and sought to cover up other episodes, the Congressional report said. It said State Department officials approved the payments in the hope of keeping the shootings quiet. In one case last year, the department helped Blackwater spirit an employee out of Iraq less than 36 hours after the employee, while drunk, killed a bodyguard for one of Iraq’s two vice presidents on Christmas Eve.

There has been a story going around that the “best” Blackwater operators – the ones getting the cream contracts like the State Department personal security jobs – are all ex-US servicemen from the Special Ops community, like SEALs and the Army’s Delta and green beanies.

A curious man would probably ask if this quick-on-the-trigger phenomenon is a component of the Spec Ops world or is it a requirement to be the highest-paid Blackwater gunmen. And he might also wonder what the lower-paid BW gunsels are like, given the Bu$h malAdministration’s immediate reaction of giving the company a contract to patrol New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. There were many stories in the aftermath of the hurricane of BW employees threatening residents with MP5s when they tried to return to their homes in attempts to salvage belongings or clean up.

[T[he report is also harshly critical of the State Department for exercising virtually no restraint or supervision of the private security company’s 861 employees in Iraq. “There is no evidence in the documents that the [House Oversight and Government Reform]committee has reviewed that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater’s actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting episodes involving Blackwater or the company’s high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation,” the report states.

Oh, it’s a Democratic document. OK, it’s just a political document then. I’m sure we’ll hear pious statements from some Republican Congressman – anyone who’s not currently under investigation or indictment – that actually BW would call their headquarters three times to ask for permission to take their pieces off safety before firing. Darn those Democrats, always trying to politicize rampant killings of helpless Iraqi citizens.

Blackwater supplies State Dept personal security details in and round Baghdad. Competitors Triple Canopy and DynCorp are contracted for the same services in the South and North, respectively, and have less than half as many killings as BW. It‘s noted that BW employs about twice as many gunmen as the other two companies combined. Is this considered justification? The more gunmen you employ, the more killings you’re going to have? There’s actually a State Department section responsible for the same task that functions in other countries and I don’t think they’ve gunned down any women or children in years.

Blackwater has dismissed 122 of its employees over the past three years for misuse of weapons, drug or alcohol abuse, lewd conduct or violent behavior, according to the report. It has also terminated workers for insubordination, failure to report incidents or lying about them, and publicly embarrassing the company. One employee was dismissed for showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

That’s a 13.6% failure rate. I know of MacDonald’s restaurants that have a better retention rate than that. The problem might just be in management.

Erik Prince (friends tree here) is a deep pockets Fundamentalist Republican donor. People claiming he got the contract because he’s a hard right-wing christian Dominionist and Republican political donor are just jealous.

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Is that some kind of secret Dominionist left-behind sign?

Cry Havoc! And Let Loose the Gunships of War
Posted by Lurch on October 01, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

David Axe has an excellent article this morning at his War is Boring blog that is worth a careful read. Topic: the Air Force has decided that killing insurgents from the sky is the best way to go. Yes, I know. Surprising.

The tech-heavy, increasingly irrelevant Air Force is finally making a half-hearted effort to actually contribute to low-tech counter-insurgency fights. But it could do a lot more, according to Major Robert Seifert in a recent piece [ed: .pdf] for Joint Forces Quarterly. First up, the service needs to reconceptualize the enemy, Seifert writes:
Strategists yearn for a center of gravity to attack in order to crush the insurgency, and many claim there is none. They fail to see that the center of gravity is the individual insurgent and the location of his attack. For it is at that location alone, and only for a brief time, that the insurgent we struggle to define is an irrefutable enemy and a definable target. Strategists and tacticians both must look at each insurgent attack in the same light as our grandfathers looked at Germany’s war industry.

MAJ Seifert is a trained and skilled professional. He works at a training wing, producing AC crewmen and I’m sure he’s damned good at his job. But his perception of insurgency (or rebellion, or resistance, or guerrilla warfare) is skewed by his professional attainments. His job and training have taught him to kill people with airplanes, based upon the concept that after you’ve killed enough of them, they give up. Thus he references “Germany’s war.”

When you train people to use a hammer, all jobs look like nails.

It’s hard to define a “center of gravity” in a non-military organization because they don’t function in mass the way armies do. The unique thing about conducting a counter-guerrilla operation during an occupation is that there is a very good likelihood that every time you remove a guerrilla, you create one or two more. And I’ll bet that‘s even more pronounced in a tribal society like Iraq.

David Axe again:

Next, the Air Force must give more freedom to one of its most effective weapons, the AC-130 gunship, to go out and destroy this “industry.” Why gunships? Because they combine a wide range of sensors and weapons in a platform with a long loiter time. It’s a perfect combo for a low-threat environment. The problem is that the Air Force assigns gunships to orbit over specified ground units for hours at a time, whether or not those units are likely to come across any bad guys:

Gunships have their uses. They are great at zipping up a battalion of VC or NVA when your perimeter is under attack and you’re floating flares to keep track of them. That’s organized warfare, and Americans are fairly good at technological force multipliers. But we’ve forgotten the lesson the British never learned until after the Battle of Yorktown: you can’t really defeat a resistance in the field. You have to beat them in their minds and to do this you must remove one of the points of conflict: either make their lives measurably better by your occupation, such as by better paying jobs, improved social nets including better medical care and repaired infrastructure, or go away.

The “center of gravity” is in the mind of each Iraqi – all 23 million of them.

MAJ Seifert’s premise is a variation of the “Douhet Theory of Frightfulness” as that scheme of strategic bombing was termed by magazine writers in the 1930s. You can kill people from the air but you cannot make them give up without a great deal of killing. Minds and spirits are far more resistant than walls, as the Allies (and the Luftwaffe) learned during “Germany’s war.” Strategic bombing of Germany and its conquered territories began shortly after the war began in 1939 and continued right up to the bitter end in 1945. The Germans surrendered because the Red Army was in Berlin, not because their cities had been reduced to rubble.

MAJ Seifert:

My concept is no different than how police forces are used. Do cop cars sit in the same spot and defend a neighborhood? Or do they roam around looking for bad guys all the while being on call to EVERY citizen in their jurisdiction. Cops are the best weapon against bad guys and gunships are the best weapon against insurgents. Another example is F-15 employment. Do F-15s sit in the same spot defending a particular army unit against air attack or do they roam the skies looking for MiGs and waiting for AWACS to push them to the first indication of MiGs? The Air Force has perfected the art of air-to-air and is the reason the Iraqi Air Force wouldn’t even take off. Put the same effort and expertise into gunship employment and you’d start seeing insurgents that didn’t want to leave their houses.

So MAJ Seifert, lacking MiGs to prosecute, has determined that an AC-130 is the best answer to resistance. Look! He has Infrared available to spot people in the dark.

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Insurgent or man walking to work? Man coming home from his cousin’s? Man going out to check his herd of goats? MAJ Seifert won’t know and must ask the ground commander to advise. The ground commander could as easily make the determination with a patrol.

David Axe’s articles never fail to teach me something about the business I thought I had left behind. Today’s article is well worth reading carefully. Part 2 will be published tomorrow and I will study it.

Looking at MAJ Seifert’s words make me realize once again how futile our technology was forty years ago in a country where the citizenry just wanted us to go home.


The Bridge War Goes On
Posted by Lurch on September 29, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Tanker Explosion in Mosul

Mosul, Sept 28, (VOI)- A total of 20 civilians were injured in a tanker bomb explosion near a bridge in western Mosul, while police patrols found another booby-trapped car in the same area, a police source said.

“Twenty civilians were injured, including children and women when a tanker rigged with explosives went off under al-Seha bridge in western Mosul,” the Director of the Ninewa police department Brigadier Abdul Karim al-Juburi told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).


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“The attack destroyed the bridge completely and caused some material damage to nearby vehicles and houses,” he also said.

“Police patrols found another car bomb parked on the main street near the same bridge and detonated it remotely,” he added.

“The car bomb was targeting security forces heading for the blast scene,” the Brigadier explained.

The bridge is located at the western outlet of Mosul and links the main street to the road that lead to Sinjar and Talafar, west of Mosul.

Mosul, capital city of Ninewa province, is 402 km north of Baghdad.


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This bridge also happens to be near a large airfield.


UPDATE: Bernhard notes this is a serious strategic challenge. Not quite so much, as you can see in this map cut. The bridge and airfield are at the lower right. If you look westwards you will see the beltway interchange road network. Locate National Route #1. The road immediately above that runs out to Sinjar and Tal Afar. It's now just slightly more complicated to move around.


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The War of the Bridges series

The Bridges of Iraq

The War of the Bridges

Another Bridge Attack

Baghdad Bridges Falling Down

The Daily Bridge Attack

Balad Bridge

Pitrokimiwiat Bridge

Thiraa Dilja Bridge

Two Bridges in Anbar

The Bridge War Goes On


Sniper Convicted, Nuremberg Null and Void
Posted by Lurch on September 28, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

I discussed the Asymmetric Warfare Group’s decision to kill Iraqis who pick up “bait” laid out to entice them to touch the objects here. It might be helpful to keep in mind the fact that in a war-torn, ravaged country lacking food, potable water, electricity and a viable economy, just about anything laying around might have value, In fact, frighteningly, it might be an object of curiosity to a child – what courts in the US call an ”attractive nuisance.”

An American soldier has been convicted in a military court of a charge stemming from his sniping and killing an Iraqi.


BAGHDAD - A military panel acquitted U.S. Army Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval of two counts of murder Friday, apparently swayed by testimony from fellow Army snipers that two Iraqi men were killed on orders from a higher ranking soldier.

Sandoval was convicted of a less serious charge of planting detonation wire on one of the bodies to make it look like the victim was an insurgent. As a result, he still could face five years in prison. The seven-member jury deliberated less than two hours in clearing him of all but one charge.

Sandoval, 22, of Laredo, Texas, had faced five charges in the deaths of the two unidentified Iraqi men. In dramatic testimony during the two-day court-martial, Sandoval's colleagues testified they were following orders when they shot the men during two separate incidents, on April 27 and May 11. The shootings took place near Iskandariyah, a volatile Sunni-dominated area 30 miles south of Baghdad.

Spc. Alexander Flores, of Hayward, Calif., who was in the same squad as Sandoval on the day of the April killing, testified their platoon leader said the suspect was "our guy" and ordered them to "move in," which they interpreted as "take the target out." [emph added

This is very troubling because 62 years ago the United States established a precedent at a place called Nuremberg that soldiers are individually responsible for acts they commit that violate the rules of war. It should be noted that sane, law-abiding men believe the rules of war carry a higher moral and legal imperative than any rules of engagement.

The suspect, who wore dark clothing and used a sickle to cut grass in a field, matched the general description Iraqi soldiers had given the Americans of one of two insurgents they had faced earlier in the day, according to testimony.

What was that description? Male, Iraqi, bearded?

So they capped the man, and under the German Nuremberg defense (I vass only followink orders) he was given a pass. Excellent.

Let the world note that the US Army has officially decided that a lot of people formerly designated (and executed) as war criminals after WWII were unfairly convicted.

After the killing, Flores said Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley told him (Flores) to place the detonation wire on the body and in the man's pocket, which he said he did.

The soldiers’ acts show they know they violated the rules of war. The act of planting incriminating evidence speaks for itself. In an American court a police officer who did this would be convicted of some form of murder or manslaughter. And he would go to prison, which in many states is a death sentence in itself for a cop.

But (as they say on late night television) there is more.

In the May shooting, Sgt. Evan Vela said Hensley told him to shoot a man who had stumbled upon their snipers' hideout, although he was not armed and had his hands in the air when he approached the soldiers.

"He (Hensley) asked me if I was ready. I had the pistol out. I heard the word shoot. I don't remember pulling the trigger. It took me a second to realize that the shot came from the pistol in my hand," Vela testified, crying.

Vela said as the Iraqi man was convulsing on the ground, "Hensley kind of laughed about it and hit the guy on the throat and said shoot again."

"After he (the Iraqi man) was shot, Hensley pulled an AK-47 out of his rucksack and said, 'this is what we are going to say happened,'" said Vela, who testified on Thursday under a deal that bars his account of events from being used against him when he goes to trial. Sandoval, who was charged with murder because prosecutors said he did nothing to stop the killing, also was acquitted Friday of charges he planted the weapon on the second man's body.

Once again:

Vela's lawyer Gary Myers claimed this week that Army snipers hunting insurgents in Iraq were under orders to "bait" their targets with suspicious materials, such as detonation cords, then kill those who picked up the items. He said his client was acting on orders.

Asked about the existence of the "baiting program," Drummond, Sandoval's military defense attorney, said it was unclear "what programs were going on out there and when," especially "if there were things that were done that made the rules of engagement not clear."

There is a defense in military law called “The Defense of Superior Orders” which in some cases absolves the actor of responsibility for war crimes if at the time of perpetrating them he did not consider the act(s) a war crime, but instead relied upon the orders of a military superior. I have the feeling SPC Sandoval would have known what SSG Hensley ordered him to do was wrong. After all, the Iraqi could have easily been detained. He raised his hands in surrender. He was cooperative and indicated his submission to the orders of SPC Sandoval.

Surely he knew SSG Hensley’s salting the body with a “throw down” AK was illegal .

An article in the Military Journal of March-April 2001 says,

“The MCM [Manual for Courts-Martial] provides that “a patently illegal order” enjoys no presumption of legality. To illustrate such an order, the MCM offers “one that directs the commission of a crime.”

It states immediately below this excerpt that,

“Rule for Courts-Martial (R.C.M.) 916(d) fleshes out this concept only slightly. The rule states that superior orders are a defense “unless the accused knew the orders to be unlawful or a person of ordinary sense and understanding would have known the orders to be unlawful.” US Army Field Manual (FM) 27-10, Law of Land Warfare, contains similar language. In other words, unless soldiers know an order is illegal or should know it is illegal, they may safely follow it.”

I don’t know how it is now, but I know that for more than 200 years the Army has taught its soldiers that it is illegal so kill a surrendered captive.


Busting the Money Men
Posted by Lurch on September 27, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Great story in Stars and Stripes showing how soldiers are being misused in Mr Bu$h’s ego-war.

MOSUL, Iraq — Earlier this year, while searching a propane factory for bomb-making materials, American soldiers based in Mosul discovered several hidden coffee cans stuffed with money.

Suspicions arose among the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

The owner of the business said he was hiding the thick wads of large-denomination bills from his wife, said the 2-7’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Eric Welsh, 42, of Hershey, Pa.

“But you just knew that something was not right,” Welsh said. “You could just tell that something stinks.”

Obviously he was lying. Men: have you ever successfully hidden money from your wives?

I rest my case.

The war in Iraq is often viewed as an ideologically fueled conflict with insurgents fighting for religious, sectarian and political causes. But soldiers with the 2-7 have discovered that, at least in Mosul, the driving force behind hostilities is often considerably baser.

“It’s driven by money,” said Capt. Jakub Andrews, 30, of Los Angeles. “So much of it is like a mob mentality.”

During their effort to target the financiers of the insurgency, soldiers have stumbled onto an underworld of nefarious schemes that calls to mind the ruthlessness — and ingenuity — of crime syndicates around the world.

“It’s like the ‘Sopranos’ here,” Welsh said, referring to the HBO series. “Anywhere there’s money to be made, there’s a racket.”

My first thought here was that what we need is a few forensic accountants from the FBI and IRS and we can bring all the troops home. Or maybe send a few Bu$h Pioneers and Rangers over there because those guys can sniff out large amounts of money at 30 kilometers. I know the troops would be happy to see some Bu$hCo apparatchiks lending a helping hand in crushing the insurgency or, as it is better known, the resistance.

A key point coming up. All those who believe Iran is the evilest country that ever existed can move on to something else.

Soldiers with the 2-7 began a concerted effort to target the financiers of the insurgency in April, unit leaders said.

Unit leaders felt it was not enough to target those who built and placed roadside explosives, but also those who funded the threat.

“It takes money to buy military-grade munitions. It takes money to bring in foreign fighters,” Welsh said. “The bottom line is to fight a war, it takes money.” [emph added]

But tackling Mosul’s criminal underworld was, at first, easier said than done, unit leaders recalled.

Has no one told this simpleton O-5 that Iran is supposed to be giving away these weapons because they are the evilest nation ever and they hate us for our freedoms? Doesn’t he know that Mahmoud Ahmadinejan is the 21st century Hitler? He now expresses the opinion of the US Army (and MNF-I, CENTCOM, and HQ, DA) that the Iranians are selling these weapons to the resistance?

How did he ever make Lieutenant Colonel if he can’t follow “Command Guidance” ? I’m just a simple ole bokedown sergeant and I know you don’t sell deadly weapons to your proxies.

One last point:

As Welsh often points out, his is the only battalion assigned to a city with 1.8 million to 2.5 million inhabitants.

Send in 20 or 30 Blackwater super-soldiers. They’ll keep the peace. Send in the FBI and bring the uniforms home. As long as there are no Saudis involved, the Bureau will catch the bad guys.


Thursday Video Bonus

Because, even in cholera-ridden Iraq, Life is a Cabaret, my friends



Opinions Vary on Violence
Posted by Lurch on September 26, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

ADM Mark Fox, Chief flack for MNF-I, said on Monday that violence is down in Iraq, and things are improving. [emph added throughout]

BAGHDAD — Attacks and violent incidents in Iraq are down, but Iraqi and Coalition forces still have a lot of work ahead, a top Coalition spokesman in Iraq said today.

“In a whole sense there is no question about the fact that, in our minds, the trend is going in the right direction,” said Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, communications division chief for Multi National Force-Iraq. “Our efforts to continue the reduction in violence will allow Iraqi society to begin to mend. There is a lot of hard work to do.”

Hard work means stopping extremists before they strike, Fox said in a news briefing. To that end, he said, Iraqis are reporting insurgent activity in their neighborhoods.

Well, that is certainly good news, although not really unexpected from the new guy in the job. Is it likely that he’s going to start broadcasting bad news right away? “Things are trending on the right direction” is very promising. A pessimist might wonder whether Iraqis reporting insurgent activity means they’re ratting out the bastards or just calling for help because there are so many.

A boost to local neighborhoods this week is the addition of some 744 new Iraqi Policemen who graduated Sept. 20 from the Baghdad Police Academy. Thousands more new Iraqi Security Force members are expected in the coming months.

“Another class of 800 will graduate Tuesday,” Fox added. “Over the next six months, some 12,000 new Iraqi Security Force members will be trained -- a clear indication of local Iraqis taking ownership of their own security.”

Excellent news! Let’s see… September 20th was last Thursday, and we’re graduating 800 on Tuesday (two days ago now) so that means we’re graduating two battalions per week? Or did these 1500 Iraqi police recruits just join up in their own little surge?

Maintaining security in Iraq means keeping al Qaeda off balance and eliminating safe havens terrorists once enjoyed, Fox said. “Al Qaeda is off balance; they’re on their back foot. They’re responding and we own the initiative,” Fox said.

I like this ADM Fox! Al Qaeda is on their back foot in the Tikriti Tango of Death.

The admiral said he is confident the trend toward reducing violence in Iraq will continue as Coalition forces continue to pressure extremists.

In other news…..

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraq was on Wednesday rocked by powerful car and suicide bombings that killed 28 people, bringing the toll in a three-day surge of bloodletting across the country to about 70, officials said.

"There was an increase in violence in the past few days," US military spokesman Major General Kevin Bergner told reporters in Baghdad. "We had been expecting it."


But….but… ADM Fox just said on Monday that things were getting better! And on Wednesday, MG Bergner is saying things have gotten worse? Do these two guys talk to each other? Are they from competing propaganda offices?

In one of Wednesday's attacks, a suicide bomber smashed his car into the house of a tribal sheikh who had been supporting police in the fight against Al-Qaeda and detonated his explosives, killing eight people and wounding 10, an official said. The sheikh was among those wounded.

The attack in the town of Sinjar, west of the main northern city of Mosul, targeted the home of Sheikh Kanan al-Juhaimur, a Sunni tribal leader, according to the mayor of the town, Dakheel Qasim Hassu.

The attack comes almost two weeks after the killing in a car bomb attack in Anbar province of top Sunni Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha, who had spearheaded a fight against Al-Qaeda through his Anbar Awakening Conference coalition of tribal leaders in the vast desert province.

It’s beginning to look like it’s open season on tribal sheiks in the north and west. I suppose those 1500 new trained police are going to be busy.

The Iraqi authorities and US military have been trying to duplicate the Anbar Awakening process in other parts of the country but on Monday another initiative, at Shifta near the restive city of Baquba north of Baghdad, was targeted by a suicide bomber who struck during a reconciliation meeting.

Police said 28 people were killed and 34 wounded in the attack, which took place in a mosque during a meeting of local leaders of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia and the rival Sunni insurgent group, the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution.

Synchronised car bombs, meanwhile, ripped through a crowded marketplace in the town of Shargat, 300 kilometres (185 miles) north of Baghdad, on Wednesday killing at least seven people, police said.

A cynical man might begin to wonder whether all these attempts at duplicating the “Anbar Awakening” are doomed to failure. Bad karma? Has anyone checked the soles of Mr Bu$h’s shoes? Has he been walking too close to Barney?

The truth of the matter is that Sheik Sittar, who started this “Anbar Awakening” thing just saw a golden opportunity to score. All of the western tribes were resentful of a-Q’s push into their area, because they brought their fundamentalist ideology with them. That meant no more cigarettes, no whiskey, and no sexy. No more girlfriends or tent dancers, which must have been annoying. It was a lucky break for them that COL Sean MacFarland bumped into Sheik Sittar by accident.

MacFarland understood immediately the sway Sheik Abdul Sittar holds in Ramadi when he met the tribal leader for the first time in August. "The walls were just lined with guys in the sheik robes," MacFarland says, describing the scene at Sittar's compound when he arrived for a formal meeting with the sheik shortly after assuming command in the area. Among Sittar's guests that day were local police officials who often fail to turn up for meetings called by the governor of Anbar Province, Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Awani. And there were other prominent local leaders sometimes difficult to corral. "I go down and see to the governor about once a week, and it's just me and the governor," says MacFarland, who views Sittar's ability to fill a room as a measure of the respect and authority he commands. "I go into sheik Sittar's house, and the place is packed."

As we have learned, Sheik Sittar was a brigand, a convoy robber, and suddenly a US Marine colonel arrives with dufflebags full of money. It was a lucky match. Attempts to copy that in other provinces have been less than successful.

Much like the coordination between ADM Fox’s and MG Bergner’s dueling propaganda offices.


Army to Urge More Time At Home For Soldiers
Posted by Lurch on September 26, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink
Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey Jr., who is scheduled to testify today before the House Armed Services Committee, intends to move as quickly as possible to grant soldiers more relief from the war zone, having argued that the troop rotations of 15 months in combat and 12 months at home -- required by the buildup of U.S. forces in Iraq and the conflict in Afghanistan -- are "not sustainable" for the Army.

It’s interesting that GEN Casey is actually endorsing the Webb Amendment, which was recently spurned by the Republicans in Congress, who consider themselves “Very Serious People” when it comes to caring for the troops. It’s also interesting that GEN Casey disagrees with Senator Mel Martinez, one my two shames in the Senate. GEN Casey doesn’t think some decent time at home between endless deployment to Mr Bu$h’s ego-war “demeans” them.


Casey and other members of the Joint Chiefs have made no secret of their concerns about the stress imposed by the troop buildup. "Now we're 15 out, 12 back. And that's not sustainable," Casey said at a forum earlier this month. "I do not want to go beyond 15 months on the ground for the soldiers, and I want to get to more than a year at home as rapidly as we can," he said. Asked whether he thought the troop increase was working, Casey, who until this spring served as the top U.S. commander in Iraq, replied: "It remains to be seen."

House Democrats are expected to press the two leaders on the Army's declining readiness.

Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz (D-Tex.), chairman of the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, said Army generals have told him privately that the Army cannot maintain its current pace of war-zone rotations. "They are saying it's almost to the breaking point, we can't continue on this path," he said in an interview.

It has been obvious for at least two years that the Iraq conquest has turned into a catastrophic blunder. Many people say that it is the worst military and foreign policy disaster that has ever befallen the United States.

Blackwater - The Growing Cancer
Posted by Lurch on September 26, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

The US Military discusses Blackwater. Today’s WaPo relates how the US military seems to feel about the Blackwater contract with the Department of State in Iraq. Sudarsan Raghavan and Thomas E. Ricks report the military in the field are very disapproving.


Most officials spoke on condition of anonymity because there are at least three ongoing investigations of Blackwater's role in the shootings. There are also sensitive discussions between various U.S. agencies and the Iraqi government over the future of Blackwater and other private security firms in Iraq.

Senior US military official:
"This is a nightmare[.] We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term."

Another US military official:
"This is a big mess that I don't think anyone has their hands around yet[.] It's not necessarily a bad thing these guys are being held accountable. Iraqis hate them, the troops don't particularly care for them, and they tend to have a know-it-all attitude, which means they rarely listen to anyone -- even the folks that patrol the ground on a daily basis."

COL Teddy Spain, US Army (Ret) MP brigade CO
"I personally was concerned about any of the civilians running around on the battlefield during my time there[.] My main concern was their lack of accountability when things went wrong."

US Army LTC serving in Iraq
"They are immature shooters and have very quick trigger fingers. Their tendency is shoot first and ask questions later[.] None of us believe they were engaged, but we are all carrying their black eyes."


Senior US commander in Iraq
"Many of my peers think Blackwater is oftentimes out of control[.] They often act like cowboys over here . . . Not seeming to play by the same rules everyone else tries to play by."

Marc Lindemann, NY National Guard officer and state Prosecuter
"Many of us feel that when Blackwater and other groups conduct military missions, they should be subject to the same controls under which the Army operates[.]"

A Pentagon source in Washington said, "We are really making State respond, conduct an investigation and come up with recommendations." The source described discussion in Washington as calm and professional but, referring to Iraq, said, "There is probably a bit more emotion going on in theater."

There have been private discussions in the past over whether the Defense Department should oversee the State Department's security contracts, according to the Pentagon source. Defense rules for licensing, oversight and incident reports when weapons are discharged are more stringent, the source said. The military is known to quickly and routinely investigate incidents involving its contractors.

But "it would be a turf battle," the source said. State would oppose it because "you are taking away a primary mission their regional security officer has -- you'd be breaking new ground." At the same time, "DOD is not volunteering to take them over."

"Given their record of recklessness," said the senior U.S. commander, "I'm not sure any senior military officer here would want responsibility for them."

An Army brigadier general said finding a way to prosecute security companies for violations was more crucial than regulating them. In Iraq, they were given immunity under a regulation, Order 17, crafted by Iraq's U.S. overseers after the 2003 invasion.

This is going to continue to be a problem. The Department of Defense contracts with a lot of mercenary companies and apparently keeps them on a tight leash. Blackwater is a unique problem because of its political association with the Republican Party.

You have to wonder just how much back channel resistance is being communicated from the field back to the Pentagon.

Since the armed mercenaries fall outside the traditional rules of war there really is no protection for them within the law. They’re not part of the official US armed forces contingent. We’ve seen that captured US soldiers are not treated well, and perhaps when you consider the facts of what goes on at Abu Ghraib we probably shouldn’t be surprised. As we saw in 2004 in Fallujah the mercenaries are treated just about as poorly.

COL Pat Lang has published a pretty good satirical piece about them.

Sooner or later someone’s going to come up with the idea that Blackwater would make the ideal “Standing residual force” in Iraq after the US finally is forced to leave.


Cholera Update
Posted by Lurch on September 25, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Gorilla’s Guides has yet another update of the Cholera situation in Iraq. There have been verified cases of the disease found in Baghdad and Diyala province, and now in Basra.

As of 22nd of September 2007, 24 districts of Northern Iraq and 4 districts in the south and center have reported laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera. The outbreak appears to be spreading to the neighbouring governorates:

* Only one district of Sulaymaniyah governorate does not have reported laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera.
* Dokan district which is the main water supply for Sulaymaniyah city has reported reported 40 confirmed
cholera cases.
* All five districts of Kirkuk governorate have reported laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera.
* Only one district of Arbil governorate does not have reported laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera.

4 districts in the southern and central governorates have reported laboratory-confirmed cases of cholera. One district in each of:

* Baghdad.
* Basra.
* Mosul.
* Tikrit.

A total of 2253 laboratory confirmed cholera cases have been officially reported of which:

* 2245 are of the inaba serotype. have been officially reported.
* 8 are of the ogawa serotype have been officially reported.
* This represents an increase of 601 laboratory confirmed cholera cases reported since sitrep_13.
* There has been one additional death bringing the death toll nationally from this outbreak to 11.

20070924_cholera_table_2.jpg

Cholera is caused by tainted, filthy water. The essential method of clearing water and making it safe is with treatment by chlorine.

The AP has reported:

BAGHDAD (AP) - Cholera was confirmed Friday in a baby in Basra, the farthest south the outbreak has been detected. Officials expressed concern over a shortage of chlorine needed to prevent the disease from spreading.

A shipment of 100,000 tons of the water purifier has been held up at the Jordanian border over fears the chemical could be used in explosives. Baghdad, which has doubled the amount of chlorine in the drinking water, now has only a week's supply.

World Health Organization spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said in Geneva that Iraq has registered 29,000 cases of acute watery diarrhea, with 1,500 of those confirmed as cholera. All but two confirmed cases are in the north. [emph added]

The news story fails to note that it is the US occupation authorities that are holding up the chlorine, acting under the misapprehension that the chlorine might be used in bombs. The Armchair Genralist, an actual professional in the matter, observes while quoting another blogger,

I understand why Iraq would put restrictions on dangerous chemicals. And I'm sure nobody intended for the restrictions to be so burdensome that they'd effectively cut off Iraq's clean water supply. But that's what looks to have happened. What makes it all the more tragic is that chlorine--for all the hype and worry--is actually a very ineffective booster for bombs. Of the roughly dozen chlorine-laced bombings in Iraq, it appears the chlorine has killed exactly nobody.

In other words, the biggest damage from chlorine bombs--as with so many terrorist attacks--has come from overreaction to it. Fear operates as a "force multipier" for terrorists and in this case has helped them cut off Iraq's clean water. Pretty impressive feat for some bombs that turned out to be close to duds.

While it might be sensible to try to block the introduction of chlorine into Iraq in an attempt to deny the chemical to the resistance, a realist would have noted that past “chlorine bomb attacks” have killed no one, while a lack of chlorine is killing and sickening people daily. By the way, count this as yet another victory for the resistance (or al Qaeda and the Bu$h malAdministration insists upon labeling anyone who refuses to submit to the occupation.)

The Law of Unintended Consequences, indeed, as the Generalist says,

This situation ticks me off for two reasons. First, the military leadership isn't too science-focused (being hard-core combat officers), and their lack of understanding on the hazards of chlorine (compared to the heath risks of cholera) have directly caused this overreaction. Second, and more damning, is that the so-called experts in the Medical Corps and Chemical Corps have failed to step forward and recommend logical courses of action. Of course, they may not have been asked in the first place, and given their lack of inclusion in force protection issues such as this, they probably passively shrugged their shoulders and said "Oh, well."

Being somewhat a disbeliever in whatever MNF-I says or does, I can’t help but remember how many times they have made bad decisions or announcements based solely upon consideration of the public relations impact of those actions. Having a star or two on your shoulders does not make you an instant expert on everything. A good leader learns to listen to the experts on your staff. Learning this lesson begins when you’re a butter bar trying to impress your first platoon, and if you’ve got the brains of a donkey (or a second lieutenant) you run everything past your platoon sergeant. He’s your expert.

As the Generalist notes MNF-I has on-staff experts (who may or may not stepped forward) but it seems any counsel they might have given has been ignored and now people are dying.


Blogging While in the Green Bag
Posted by Lurch on September 20, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Army Times has discovered that soldiers are blogging.

DENVER — With the world being bombarded by all factions on their side on the war in Iraq, U.S. soldiers Internet blogs provided the kind of public relations Madison Avenue would drool over.

Soldiers told of helping Iraqi families, the loss of friends and their dangerous daily missions.

It’s a normal human function to try to talk through episodes of happiness and pride, or even grief and anguish. We all do it in some way.

However, as the head of the article shows:

Troop blogs show increasing criticism of war

In the past year, as soldiers and Marines return for the second, third or even fourth deployments, and the death toll approaches 4,000, some soldiers began questioning the war.

Again, a normal human reaction. They don’t like going back again and again, to the daily stress and dangers of trying to pacify a resistant population – especially in that summer heat. Of course flag officers don’t quite understand this since they have what we might call a “limited exposure to risk.” But they do have a solution to trooper unrest over the turnstile rotations back to the sandbox.

At the very least they risk administrative punishments, called Article 15s, though if it has happened it has been kept quiet.

“The toothpaste is out of the tube. And, try as they might, the military’s information nannies are not going to be able to stuff it back in,” said Noah Schatman of Wired Magazine in an e-mail from Taji, Iraq. He said soldiers will pay $55 a month for a private connection.

The military is so petrified it will lose information control screensavers were installed on military computers warning blogs could jeopardize security, said Schatman, who runs Wired’s Danger Room blog and has tracked the unofficial use of the Internet by soldiers.

Note to the stars: you can force a soldier to risk his life, to fight, get wounded, even die. You can force him to kill, and if the stress drives him to kill just about anyone who even looks suspicious – well, we all know stuff happens in war, eh? We had No Gun Ri in Korea, and My Lai in Viet Nam, and then Haditha in Iraq, as well as these other problems but you can't force him to think the way you want him to.

One would think that if the Bu$h people have not published new laws or rules regarding mercenaries the military could just apply the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but the UCMJ is specifically for members of the armed services. They’ve been having a hard time bringing serious punishment to soldiers who have admitted killing Iraqis[.]

Second note to stars: “security” does not define limiting citizens rights to free expression of their feelings and anguish. Neither does it define their accessing information that you might think is politically “wrong.” You’re not paid to make political definitions. (Wipe that jizz off your face, General, get up off your knees, and stand up on your hind legs like a man! He’s a frickin deserter, even if he is temporarily occupying our Oval Office.)

Third note to the stars: If they’re willing to pay $55 ca$h money per month to say and read things you don’t like maybe you should stop and think that one day these guys will be out of the green bag. They’re going to remember how you stomped on their constitutional rights just to grovel to your Republican masters, and they’re going to make sure they vote for anyone who isn’t a Republican.


I'm Sorry, Brothers
Posted by Lurch on September 20, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Welcome to visitors from the Group News Blog. Thanks for stopping by. Please feel free to take a look at some of our other essays.


We know many of you have a sense of belief in what you’re doing over there in what I’ve called “Mr Bu$h’s ego-war.” Some of you probably feel that it is the United States’ world-wide responsibility to step in and overthrow murderous dictators. Part of me agrees with you. I’d like to see the murderous dictators in lots of other countries overthrown, too. (I’m sure it’s only coincidence there’s no oil in those countries.) You deserve my respect for backing your beliefs with your lives, even if I disagree with you.

Some of you seem to believe that Saddam Hussein personally and individually went out and rounded up a bunch of lunatics, financed them, trained them, and sent them off to attack innocent Americans on September 11th. You might be right. But we haven’t found any evidence for that. But did you know that 15 of the 19 people who killed Americans on 9/11 were Saudis? I can’t help wondering why he didn’t recruit Iraqis, or alternatively, who did recruit the Saudis? In any case, I still respect you, even if your beliefs are illogical.

Some of you just love your country and are willing to back that love. Or maybe you’re just trying to get enough money in the bank to go to college. You have my respect.

A lot of you are tired. You’re on your second, third and fourth tours – now extended to 15 months, with a really good chance of them being extended again to 18 months - and your wives are dispirited, jumping every time the doorbell rings, and your kids cry at night, wondering where their Daddy is.

I’m sorry.

I know some of you stick it out because of pride in yourselves and your brothers. I know how that is because I remember how it was for me, too.

I wish you were allowed to read this because I wanted you to know we’re trying everything we possibly can to get you guys some slack. Jim Webb, a veteran and Senator from Virginia, has been trying to get an amendment passed to get you guys more slack. His plan is simple: for every month over there you get a month here in the States. Guaranteed. Time to relax a bit. Time to remind your wives that you love them. Time for your kids to relearn how their Daddy loves them.

We thought we had it nailed, this time. It looked like the Webb Amendment would pass yesterday. Even John Warner, a Republican Senator from Virginia, promised to support the amendment.

When the final vote count was revealed we could only marshal 56 of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and get the bill onto the Senate floor for a public vote. I know this will surprise you, but it was the Republican Party that didn’t want you to get treated humanely.

John Warner, who’d promised Jim Webb he would support the amendment, lied like a cheap Persian rug in a third rate Algerian bordello. He voted against the Webb amendment, even though he voted for it the last time. That sack of crap said, “I’m 80 years old, I’m going to retire, and I’m more afraid of George Bu$h and Dick Cheney than I am of the troops and the voters.” Or words to that effect. Fuck him twice.

Mel Martinez, one of my own particular bits of shame, said

“I think we would demean their service if we were to say to them that there had to be a parity between the time in service out of the country and the time at home.”

So Senator Martinez, who’s never had to put on a uniform, stand guard, hear the bee-buzz of bullets over his head, watch a buddy’s head explode into catsup, or hold someone tight as he bleeds out, asking for his mother, figures you’d just be “demeaned” if you caught a break.

Fuck him three times.

I’ll tell you who voted against the amendment: 43 Republican Senators. You know, the assholes who keep crowing how much they support the troops.

Fuck them all, four times.

Oh, and Joe Lieberman, the Republican from Tel Aviv who pretends he’s an Independent from Connecticut, who wants all your asses over there until each and every one of Israel’s enemies is destroyed,

Fuck him until the cows come home.

Sorry, brothers, we tried. We’ll try again, and keep trying until we get you treated like human beings.

Nightfighting Optics
Posted by Lurch on September 19, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Welcome to Google Finance readers. We're glad to have you visit, and invite you to take a look at some of our other articles.


The Army has announced an improved optical system for nightfighting.

FL_envg_091807.jpg


The new "enhanced night vision goggle" will allow Soldiers to see an object, even if it's obscured by dust, foliage or other debris, by combining the image intensification technology of current PVS-14 NVGs with heat-sensing thermal data.

"Image intensification gives you great resolution. ... The thermal gives you improved target detection in all light conditions and through obscurants," said Lt. Col. James Smith, the Army's product manager for Soldier sensors and lasers.

"You put those two together and you get the combined effect to give the Soldier much greater situational awareness and target detection capability," Smith told Military.com.

Kewl. Maybe they’ll be able to mill about in the dark without falling into ditches.

Current NVGs magnify "ambient" illumination - such as light from stars and the moon - to help brighten the surroundings so troops can see objects in the dark. But if something's hidden behind trees or it's raining or dusty, standard night optics can't cut through.

Thermal imagery, on the other hand, illuminates an object's radiant heat, pulling away the mask of darkness even in the most light-deprived environments.[emph added]

So I’m going to be able to see some dude hidden behind a tree? Uh huh. The mind reels.

It is planned to start fielding these new optical in February.

The ENVG is also significantly heavier than the PVS-14, Smith admitted, weighing in at about two pounds. But to mitigate the added weight's impact, engineers have designed a system to mount the optic's battery pack on the back of a Soldier's helmet, helping distribute the weight more evenly and reduce neck strain.

This is a clever idea. Adding four pounds or so the weight of a Kevlar will be popular with the troops. Don’t you think so?

The ITT Corp.-built PSQ-20 costs about three times more than the PVS-14, running the Army about $10,000 per optic, so, it's not for everyone. Only select troops such as engineers, military police and unit leaders will be issued the new optic.

Three times as much? $10,000 a copy? Awright! Bartender! Champagne for everybody!


Training Iraqis
Posted by Lurch on September 17, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Chris Collins had a pretty good piece in yesterday’s McClatchy Newspapers about the process of training up Iraqi troops. It’s a tough job for many reasons.

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — One recent afternoon in this city 20 miles south of Baghdad, Iraqi Brig. Gen. Ali Jasmin Mohammed Alfrije and his American counterpart, Army Lt. Col. Robert Morschauser, were planning an air assault. On a large map in Alfrije’s expansive office, Morschauser used a green laser pointer to outline the next morning’s attack. Alfrije used a red laser pointer when he wanted to emphasize a point.

Hours later, helicopters and Humvees ferried nearly 100 American troops and twice as many Iraqi soldiers to a neighborhood on the outskirts of Mahmudiyah, a city of 150,000. Shoulder to shoulder, the American and Iraqi soldiers knocked down doors, searched homes and detained suspected insurgents.

This, said Morschauser, the commander of the 15th Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Battalion of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade, is the way to train Iraqi troops.

LTC Morschauer is right; once you’ve trained them on the basics, and taken the somewhat frightening step of arming them, and giving them live ammunition for marksmanship training, and they’ve achieved a good, consistent level of competence with the weapons, it’s time to teach them infantry fieldcraft.

Patrolling is the third item on the training list, behind unit cohesion in the advance and the ambush. LTC Morschauer has designed what he believes is a better way of building a mousetrap.

For years, U.S. training and combat teams have been separate, but Morschauser has taken a new approach. Every patrol and assault in this region that used to be known as the Triangle of Death is now a joint operation between U.S. and Iraqi forces _ and a training opportunity.

“We looked at the battlefield and we saw the decisive points as the civilian population and the Iraqi army, not the terrain itself,” said Morschauser, a native of Fairless Hills, Pa. “We recognized that our way out of here is the Iraqi army as a viable force.”

Along with encouraging Iraq's leaders to make political progress, training Iraqi troops to stand up is essential to allowing U.S. troops to stand down. In fact, many in the 2nd Battalion, as well as some members of Congress and some U.S. intelligence officers, think that transforming the Iraqi military into a competent force free of sectarian taint is more important than fighting militias and terrorists.

“So we go out and catch a bad guy? What does that do? Nothing,” said Capt. Michael Abercrombie, a fan of his boss’ strategy. “It's more important for us to train the Iraqi army than do kinetic operations,” as military people call combat.[emph added]

There was a time when the Army had taken to heart Mao’s dictum of the guerrilla as a fish in the ocean of the civilian population. Today’s leaders in the military have forgotten that lesson, if they ever believed it. The inability of flag officers to understand new tactical and strategic concepts that are self-evident at the platoon and company level offers the prospect of a grim future.

Likewise, getting the indigenous army trained up to full competence is an obvious requirement to going home. The “partnership” – the process the 2nd /10th uses – may be the best way for Iraq. Treating them as “partners” implies a degree of respect for them. After 4 and one-half years of a brutal occupation, the US must earn their trust in order to assume the role of teacher, rather than occupier.

[BG Ali Jasmin Mohammed ] Alfrije said that his troops are hampered by internal problems. The Mahdi Army, a Shiite Muslim militia, has infiltrated his brigade, which is about 80 percent Shiite. The general said that in the past six months he's fired, jailed or transferred more than 50 of his soldiers because they were participating in or sympathizing with the militia.

Without internal integrity and security the Iraqi army will quickly be subverted to sectarian death squads. Training an army means training soldiers, and then training them to be leaders. The Army has been assigning Military Training Teams (MiTT), 12 man teams to work with Iraqi units and train leaders. Under that scheme, the Iraqi brigade would have been given 44 trainers.

[2nd Brigade commander COL] Kershaw dedicated 140. Additionally, since much of the training would be conducted by carrying out joint operations, Morschauser's entire 400-strong 2nd Battalion would play a mentoring role.

[BG] Alfrije, a graying 38-year-old who's worked with five other U.S. units since the war began, said the partnership has yielded the best results.

“All the units have done a good job, but this one is different,” the Iraqi general said. “We used to just have meetings with other units.” Now, Alfrije said, “anything we need, they support us.”

About a dozen soldiers from U.S. Alpha Platoon worked side by side with a 20-person Iraqi platoon to clear 60 homes, most of them abandoned. Though the Americans were clearly in charge, they consulted with an Iraqi platoon leader on every move.

At each house in the impoverished neighborhood, the Iraqis grouped up, raided the home, escorted any men outside and ordered them to sit down with their backs against a wall. The U.S. soldiers provided guidance, at one point warning the Iraqis to slow down lest they brush over key evidence, such as hidden weapons caches.

Consulting with the Iraqi leader, if done right, is a key point. You check with him to see what his next planned step is, suggesting changes if his plan is unsound. It enhances his position in the eyes of his men to see you asking him how he wants to proceed, rather than issuing orders to him. It’s a small point, but it show you respect the man, as well as his rank.

It’s one way out of this mess Mr Bu$h’s ego, and Mr Cheney’s greed, has gotten our country into.

McClatchy has published a series of photos to accompany this article. They are available here.


Protecting the Convoys
Posted by Lurch on September 16, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Thom Shanker and Stephen Farrell take a look at MSR Tampa in this morning’s NY Times. An “MSR” is a Main Supply Route; a principal roadway utilized by an army to move logistical supplies from a rear supply base forward to or through a combat area. Supply routes have a unique importance and vulnerability.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 — As British troops pull out of their last base in Basra, some military commanders and civilian government officials in the area are concerned that the transition could leave them and a major supply route to Baghdad at greater risk of attack.

The route, a lifeline that carries fuel, food, ammunition and equipment for the war, crosses desert territory that is home to rival militias and criminal gangs. In interviews, Americans stationed in the southern provinces and Pentagon planners say they are closely watching the situation there as the British pass security responsibility to local Iraqi units.

After the British Army withdrew from Basra Palace and consolidated all their forces at the Basra Airbase commanders and planning officers at both CENTCOM and MNF-I were forced to once again evaluate the fact that they are at the downstream end of a rather perilous supply line stretching from Kuwait to Baghdad and beyond. This road – named “MSR Tampa” stretches from Kuwait through Southern Iraq at least as far as Baghdad and then continues north for – I’m not sure exactly, because the military is reluctant to tell US civilians too much about touchy subjects like logistic corridors. If we knew about that and wrote about it in a newspaper or blog, you see, then the resistance in Iraq would know. It is well-known that during the two hours per day that they receive electricity all the resistance, including the Shiite Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade, the Ba’athst dead enders, the cashiered officers of the old Iraqi Army (and probably quite a few of their sergeants and soldiers who are pissed off about what has happened to their country,) the 1,000 or so Saudi Arabians comprising the real al Qaeda in Iraq, and all the Sunnis who haven’t been hired back into the militias by the US occupation forces all turn on their laptops and eagerly scan papers and blogs, searching to find out where the supply roads are.

These roads supply allied troops with the essentials of modern warfare: not just the classic “bullets, beans and bandages” of WWII. Today’s armies require much more to remain effective. We still need bullets, of course: it’s been estimated we fire off about 250,000 rounds to kill one intended target. Beans have been replaced by MRE’s and their newest replacements, the FSR’s and UGR’s. But we’re also shipping supplies for all the mess halls, KFC’s, Baskin-Robbins, Burger Kings, and Wendy’s, as well as supplies for the BXs where you can still buy overpriced stereos, or order a new car to be waiting for you when you rotate home.

Fuel is a major concern for the American occupation force: we use about 3.3 million gallons per day – enough to fill the tanks of about 150,000 passenger cars. So we can see that’s a large line of tankers. Without the fuel the Occupation would become the Observation. Fuel tankers are easy to attack, and it’s a very impressive sight when one of them catches fire. We’re still shipping bandages of course. We have to. We’re still losing somewhere just under 100 dead Americans per month, and easily 150 wounded troops in that same month.

At the American military headquarters in Baghdad, Lt. Col. James Hutton, spokesman for the Multinational Corps-Iraq, said military statistics showed “a recent drop in both the number and effectiveness of attacks on these convoys.” The most significant threat in the south continues to be roadside explosives, he said.

Colonel Hutton said commanders attributed this decline in attacks to “aggressive patrolling,” and he added that the recent call for a cease-fire by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia is the biggest in Iraq, might “lead to further reductions of violence in the southern provinces.”

southern iraq.jpg

The British have handed over security responsibility in three southern provinces: Maysan, Dhi Qar, and Muthanna. They have stated they will actively and aggressively patrol the supply roads in Basra until they officially turn over security in Basra province to the Iraqis, at which time they will still maintain an “overwatch” on the Iraqi security forces.

Some knowledgeable observers are puzzled by the position taken by the American occupation authorities, since GEN Petraeus, in his testimony to Congress last week assured the legislators that things are improving in Iraq.

The Price of Shields
Posted by Lurch on September 15, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

I was thinking about Mr Bu$h’s latest schmaedrae strategy slogan for blaming someone else for his most recent ego-failure. “Return on Success” can be interpreted several different ways, including return as a financial profit on investment.

That leads to a very cynical interpretation: troops have been invested to secure Iraq’s oil, and those returning are the (net) profit, after operating expenditures. Alternatively, those troops could be considered returns sent back to the factory for repair and refurbishment so they can be sold again. Many manufacturers do this. Ever try to but a new alternator for your car? You have to go the manufacturer (Army training system) to get brand new equipment.

Yes, I know – gruesome.

I was watching the History Channel last night as they spent an hour discussing the last stand of King Leonidas and his band of 300 Spartans. (Thank G_d they didn’t have VD Hanson on there or we would have been subjected to an interpretation of Thermopylae as an allegory for Iraq!)

In discussing the Spartan system of raising males to be soldiers one historian noted boys are taken from their homes at seven and raised in dormitories to be soldiers. When a boy first goes to war at age 18 his mother greets him and hails her son as a soldier, with the phrase reported by the Roman writer Plutarch in a book about Spartan women.

First, where and when does the quote first appear? That part is easy. Typically translated as, "Another woman handed her son his shield, and exhorted him: 'Son, either with this or on this,'" the quote is found in the writings of the Roman writer Plutarch--specifically, in his collection of 78 morals, tales, and short stories (of which more than half survive) called the Moralia, in a section called Sayings of Spartan Women.

This saying has been understood for 2,000 years as “Victory or Death!” We in the West are inheritors of the Athenian tradition, which emphasizes thought, logic, and study of the “liberal arts” rather than the Spartan lifestyle, which is actually rather grim although our brethren of the never-right went berserk over the recent “300” film. Perhaps they were enthusiastic about the film because they have never had to actually soldier themselves. Or, perhaps there were deeper motives as many writers have speculated. Digby pointed out something yesterday when it was made public that the house Ms Rice, our Secretary of State, alleged Russian expert, and concert pianist, lives in is co-owned with another lady.

It's become clear in the last few years that right wingers are psychologically unfit to lead the nation. Vast numbers of them are "conservative" not due to philosophy but to cover up for serious personal issues with sexuality, masculinity, oedipal complexes and worse. In fact, it's so pervasive that one must now assume that conservative political leaders are driven by a complicated desire to compensate for psychological problems rather than the usual political mix of ambition, ego and drive to power. There are just too many examples of disturbed, neurotic, secretive GOP hypocrites out there. It's a feature not a bug.

Now, after six and one-half years of observing the mind-numbing evil of the Bu$h malAdministration I am incapable of ever attributing anything good, decent, moral or honorable to any of their works or initiatives. So, jut a little mindplay, of course, but can “Return on Success” be interpreted as “with your shield or on it”?

Can today’s Republicans truly believe that soldiers in Iraq are expected to win (steal the oil) or die in place? After all, the deaths of 100,000 American soldiers would be a “small price” to pay for all that oil, wouldn’t it?

Looking For Love in All the Wrong Places
Posted by Lurch on September 14, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Kudos to the Armchair Generalist for pointing us to the latest in online dating searches.

Be still my electro-mechanical servo-relays....

Cracking Down on al-Qaeda in Vienna
Posted by Lurch on September 13, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

In a fast-paced, high-key military strike yesterday, infantry elements from a Jäger battalion of the Austrian Army, supported by armed Blackhawk and Tiger helicopters, went after suspected al-Qaeda terrorists in Vienna. Three apartment buildings were destroyed in the initial assault and it is estimated that there are more than 150 casualties, although reports are incomplete at this time.

Administration spokespersons at various hospitals report their emergency rooms are overwhelmed at this time. The Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Spital has reported more than 14 corpses have been brought in, as well as “over” 32 severely wounded victims, some of whom it is thought will die within the next several hours.

The Gottfried von Preyer'sches Kinderspital, a children’s hospital, has acknowledged that a number of the casualties are children, many with grievous wounds.

A spokesman for the Federal Government has been reported to have expressed sorrow over the loss of life, adding that the Austrian Army has performed admirably and heroically, and that Islamic terrorism must be repressed “at all costs” in order to “protect the land.”

An officer with the public contact office of the Viennese Feueramt (fire department) has said that, after consultation with officers on the scene, it is believed the fires resulting from the attack can be limited to only the one city block. Of the 47 buildings on that block, three were destroyed in the initial Army assault and fires caused by the explosions of aerial rockets fired by the helicopters have spread to the block, causing the collapse of eight other buildings. Many of the other buildings on the block have been swept with flames, but are expected to be saved.

Actually, no. Austria, being a civilized country, treats terrorism as a police problem.

VIENNA (AFP) - - Austrian authorities detained three suspected Al-Qaeda activists Wednesday in connection with a videotape threat against Austria and Germany for their role in Afghanistan, officials said.

Interior Minister Guenther Platter told a press conference that the two men, aged 20 and 26, and a 21-year-old woman were "in contact with Al-Qaeda networks" but did not form an "operational group" planning violence.

"At no time did they represent a threat against Austria," he said, adding that they were still being questioned.

Public security chief, Erich Buxbaum, said the three, all resident in Vienna, were second-generation Austrian Muslims whose families came from the Arab world.

"It was a conspiratorial network but we have no concrete evidence of planned terrorist attacks in Austria or elsewhere," he said.

Nevertheless, wiretaps carried out before the arrests allegedly revealed discussion on how to handle explosives, he added.

Buxbaum said police forces from unspecified other countries gave help leading to the arrests.

Police said searches were also being carried out following the arrests in the Austrian capital.

Isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish with sensible political leaders?


Define "Safety"
Posted by Lurch on September 12, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

This was interesting:

Yesterday Sen Mark John Warner (R-VA) asked GEN Petraeus thought the US was safer with all those troops in Iraq. The General’s answer should strike any sensible American’s heart like an icicle:



Got that, America? He doesn’t know – he has not had the chance to figure that out because he’s been to busy worrying about MNF-I. Or maybe not.

ThinkProgress has compiled a report of Gen. Petraeus’ public activities in August which show that the top general in Iraq spent at least half the month flacking for Bush’s escalation.

Below is calendar of Petraeus’ busy PR operations last month. The red dates are those which we know from media reports that Petraeus was either hosting “dog and pony shows” for members of Congress or giving media interviews. You can scroll over each of the red dates for more details. Please let us know if there’s something we missed.

You simply must go to Think Progress and check out the handy-dandy interactive calendar. Check out GEN Petraeus's busy social schedule.

Note to GEN Petraeus: If you’re too busy to figure out whether destroying a country, and its civilization, is making America safer, then maybe you should cut out the bullshitting of visiting firemen and spend some fricking time worrying about the citizens who pay your salary.

UPDATE: Nitpicker WK drops by long enough to make me look like some fevered moron who doesn't keep track of the nation's Republican Senators. Thanks a whole bunch, WK. Just see if I buy you a bag of salt for Christmas.


Opinions Vary
Posted by Lurch on September 12, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

GEN Petraeus delivered Mr Bu$h’s report to Congress Monday and Tuesday, and flawlessly threw sand in almost everyone’s eyes. The bottom line: things are going great and we can’t send any troops home yet. Michael Hirsch notes several incongruities in Newsweek:

Sept. 10, 2007 - Let’s not mince words: David Petraeus may be the only thing standing between George W. Bush and total failure in Iraq. And it’s apparent that most of the Washington power elite—as well as the rest of the country—understands that. All of which helps to explain the extraordinary spectacle on Capitol Hill on Monday, when Gen. Petraeus, the commander of multinational forces in Iraq, delivered a mostly positive report on Bush’s “surge” in Iraq, as anguished antiwar protesters shouted and screamed imprecations from the back of the packed hearing room before being led out by security guards.

I can’t understand what’s wrong with these ridiculous people. How dare they expect to have a voice in Congress? Do they really think CongressCritters represent them? Not unless they can bundle together $20 million. That’s the only way to get representation in Washington.

In testimony he insisted was his own frank assessment and not cleared beforehand with the White House (however, it was briefed “up the chain of command,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe told NEWSWEEK), Petraeus delivered an early Christmas present to legislators who are desperate to show their constituents that they are working toward withdrawal. Petraeus said he wants to bring home a U.S. Army combat brigade in December, and that by July 2008 he hoped to remove five more combat brigades and two Marine battalions, reducing the U.S. presence from about 168,000 now to “pre-surge levels” of about 130,000 troops.

This would be the supposed troop cut that Mr Bu$h is going to take credit for tomorrow. A cynical man would wonder who will be detailed next year to explain why those 30,000 can’t be removed from the overall manning level.

NEWSWEEK has learned that a separate internal report being prepared by a Pentagon working group will “differ substantially” from Petraeus’s recommendations, according to an official who is privy to the ongoing discussions but would speak about them only on condition of anonymity. An early version of the report, which is currently being drafted and is expected to be completed by the beginning of next year, will “recommend a very rapid reduction in American forces: as much as two-thirds of the existing force very quickly, while keeping the remainder there.” The strategy will involve unwinding the still large U.S. presence in big forward operation bases and putting smaller teams in outposts. “There is interest at senior levels [of the Pentagon] in getting alternative views” to Petraeus, the official said. Among others, Centcom commander Admiral William Fallon is known to want to draw down faster than Petraeus.

So not only do the GAO, CIA, and DIA disagree with Mr Bu$h’s GEN Petraeus’ assessment of our occupation of Iraq, but so does much of the Pentagon?

Ah. I foresee some flag officer promotions in the offing after New Year’s. Any four-star or three-star who signs his name to a recommendation that runs contrary to Messers Bu$h’s and Cheney’s occupation to control Iraq’s resources will be a retired four-star and three-star officer. That will make room for some promotions.

No one recommends any action that make Mr Bu$h look like he’s indecisive, a flip-flopper, or someone who changes his mind. Mr Bu$h must not hear the word “No.”

Reducing the Troop Level
Posted by Lurch on September 12, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

In a cynical political ploy to quiet the restive peasantry, Mr Bu$h is planning to address the nation on Thursday to announce that, in the wake of GEN Petraeus’s faithful adherence to the script he was given by the WH propaganda shop, our Great Warrior Leader has decided to “cut” the troops in Iraq by somewhere round 30,000.

Relax, America. This is George Bu$h, so naturally , it’s all flummery, wrapped in smoke and mirrors. It’s 30,000 troops due to cycle out next Summer at the end of their deployments, and in order to keep the lid on domestic political unrest he’s going to pretend he isn’t going to replace them.

WASHINGTON - President Bush will tell the nation Thursday evening that he plans to reduce the American troop presence in Iraq by as many as 30,000 by next summer but will condition those and further cuts on continued progress, The Associated Press has learned.

In a 15-minute address from the White House at 9 p.m. EDT, Bush will endorse the recommendations of his top general and top diplomat in Iraq, following their appearance at two days of hearings in Congress, administration officials said. The White House plans to issue a written status report on the troop buildup on Friday, they said.

Say….. isn’t telling the “enemy” – you know, the ungrateful Iraqis and the evil Iranians (not to mention the Saudis who finance and make up so much of Al Qaeda) really a bad idea? Doesn’t it tell them when things will be easier for them?

Bush vetoes Iraq spending bill over timelines

President Bush used his veto pen for only the second time Tuesday after Congress sent him a war spending bill that would impose timelines to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, which he called a “prescription for chaos.”

The bill is unacceptable because it “substitutes the opinions of politicians for the judgments of our military commanders,” the president said in a nationally televised address to explain why he was vetoing a bill that would also provide more than $100 billion in emergency spending for the war.

“This is a prescription for chaos and confusion, and we must not impose it on our troops,” Bush said. “... It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing.”

But…. but….

Apparently it’s only dangerous to the troops when a Democrat wants to bring them home. As always, laws, logic and science don’t apply when our eight-year old in a man’s body wants something.


Two Bridges in Anbar
Posted by Lurch on September 08, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Yahoo carried this story yesterday:

About 100 miles west of Anbar's capital city of Ramadi, insurgents blew up two suspension bridges on roads leading to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, a police intelligence officer said on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

There has been no further news throughout the day. There has been speculation that the bridges concerned are vital, and CENTCOM and MNF-I have been reluctant to give details.


Iraq-red.GIF

Picture 2-big red.PNG


Aswat al Iraq followed up with this report later yesterday:

Gunmen blew up two bridges on the highway near 160km region west of Ramadi on Friday morning using explosive charges," the source, who preferred not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"The operation came one day after a forum convened on reconstructing Anbar, which aimed at reconstructing the province's cities which were partially or totally destroyed during the violent acts," he added.

The second forum on reconstructing the province kicked off yesterday morning [Thursday] with the participation of the two vice presidents, Tareq al-Hashemi and Adel Abdul Mahdi, in addition to Burham Saleh and the Minister of State for National Security Shirwan al-Waili.

The province's infrastructure was destroyed in armed attacks in 2005.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Burham Saleh said during the forum that a total of 50 million USD had been allocated to compensate those harmed in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, in addition to another 70 million USD for reconstructing the city.

The incident raises to five the number of bridges which have been destroyed on the highway in Anbar since the beginning of 2007.
The 160km region is located in Anbar's desert, 270 km west of Baghdad.

This is interesting news because it shows how desperate the enemy is becoming. In their panic over the report next week to Congress about how well the surge escalation is doing they have begun destroying the bridges they use when they smuggle foreign jihadis into the country.

Or something like that.

A different analysis might be that this is a closing of two major roads connecting Western Iraq with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Both roads could be considered useful for both logistic and troop and equipment movement, moving - erm – either in or out. Losing these two bridges would impede rapid movement - in either direction.

Some people believe it might be more important to rapidly move people and equipment out rather than in.

The War of the Bridges series

The Bridges of Iraq

The War of the Bridges

Another Bridge Attack

Baghdad Bridges Falling Down

The Daily Bridge Attack

Balad Bridge

Pitrokimiwiat Bridge

Thiraa Dilja Bridge

Two Bridges in Anbar


Army Exceeds Recruitment Goal
Posted by Lurch on September 05, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Congratulations to the Army Recruitment Command, which exceeded its August 2007 enlistment goal, reportedly by just over one-half of 1%. Don’t laugh – it’s a significant figure, although it was expensive.

Army data obtained by The Washington Post show that the Army recruited 10,128 new troops in August, 528 more than the monthly goal of 9,600. Last month's recruiting total -- aided by a new $20,000 "quick ship" bonus that spurs people to leave for basic training within 30 days -- was the largest monthly total this fiscal year. The Army will now need to recruit about 8,000 people this month to meet its goal for the year.

Army officials declined to discuss the August numbers, pending an official Defense Department announcement that normally comes on the 10th of the month. Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, head of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday that he could not reveal the August total, saying only: "We had a very good month of August."

Since the goal was surpassed, the glory of the public announcement belongs to a political appointee at DoD. Perhaps MG Bostick will get to make monthly total announcements some other month if recruiting falls off.

It was good for the Army in part, Bostick said, because of the success of the quick-ship bonus, which has been available to almost all new recruits since July 25 and may have encouraged people who were "on the fence" about joining the Army to enlist in recent weeks. He said it is possible that the Army will extend the bonus.

According to Army recruiting data for late July and early August, the quick-ship bonus was extremely popular, with more than 90 percent of new recruits accepting the money in exchange for leaving their homes almost immediately. Bostick said that about 400 recruits who had been scheduled to leave in September opted instead to leave last month to pocket the bonus.

The ”Quick Ship” bonus pays $5,000 to any first term enlistee who agrees to go within less than 30 days of signing the contract. The Army has been putting a lot of money into obtaining fresh soldiers because the need is constant, and they are looking ahead to the expected expansion which will be needed since it appears both political parties understand we will need to keep a lot of troops fighting on the ground in Iraq the Middle East for the next couple of decades.

It seems fewer people are fired up by the desire to control all the oil.

Particularly troubling to the Army is the declining perceptions of the "influencers" -- such as parents, coaches and teachers -- who are increasingly discouraging young people from joining the military as a career. Bostick said the willingness of mothers to send their children to the Army has dropped from 40 percent in March 2004 to 25 percent now, according to Army data, while the willingness of fathers has dropped from 50 percent to 33 percent over the same period. … Also worrisome for the Army is the dropping desire of young adults to serve in the military. Bostick said that 20 years ago, approximately 25 percent of people ages 17 to 24 showed a desire to serve in the military, a figure that has dropped to 15.7 percent today.

The command levels of the military, especially the Army, seem to have been more and more subsumed into the Republican Party, eagerly parroting the message day in and day out. Sooner or later they will come to realize that the better way is to compel service. And there is so much prime, quality material available who support the Middle East conquest(s).


New Tenants in the Palace
Posted by Lurch on September 04, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

The British Army has finally abandoned Basra Palace. (Earlier reports are no longer operative, as any Republican would say.) That would also mean that the CIA has established their new monitoring post to keep an ear on Iranian military and political electronic emanations.

With some decent photo coverage from varied sources, the Daily Mail gets it just right.

The shrill blast from a lone bugler rang out at Basra Palace shortly before 1am local time yesterday.

It was sounding 'the advance' for the last British convoy to leave the base.

But nothing could disguise the fact that this was, in reality, a retreat.

Operation Blenheim was the code name for the transfer of 550 troops from the last base in the city to the relative safety of the airport. Despite the heroism of our soldiers, it was a humiliating withdrawal.

As was noted here:

Two generals told The Independent on Sunday last week that the military advice given to the Prime Minister was, "We've done what we can in the south [of Iraq]". Commanders want to hand over Basra Palace – where 500 British troops are subjected to up to 60 rocket and mortar strikes a day, and resupply convoys have been described as "nightly suicide missions" – by the end of August. The withdrawal of 500 soldiers has already been announced by the Government. The Army is drawing up plans to "reposture" the 5,000 that will be left at Basra airport, and aims to bring the bulk of them home in the next few months.[emph added]

This withdrawal can be judged a de facto defeat for the British Army for one, and only one, reason: When the shooting is done and the dust settles whoever is still on the disputed land is the winner. Several General Officers, including a past Chief of the General Staff, have concluded that the British alliance with America in Mr Bu$h’s ego-war was a catastrophic mistake.

Those photos, by the way, are quite reminiscent of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989.

Many events contributed to the removal of (mostly ethnic Russian) Soviet troops from Afghanistan including a final war-weariness among the people and Mr Gorbachov’s order to slash 500,000 from the rolls of the armed forces. The lack of progress in the face of implacable mujahideen guerrillas, incredibly expensive losses, and a growing revolt against militarism all helped to end the USSR’s Viet Nam.

Likewise many events and decisions have combined to bring the UK to this moment, but the only one that will be remembered over there is the hubris of American politicians.

I remember reading a poignant newspaper report at the time of the withdrawal describing the event. The commander of the last Soviet regiment to cross the Amu Dar’ya river on the road to Dushanbe stood at the side of the road with his young son. He saluted the troops on each APC as it crossed the steel bridge, then picked up his son in his arms and slowly walked across the bridge. A few months after this the Soviet Union crumbled into the dust of history.

I am certain that Colonel was telling his son to remember that day, and to never allow his country's politicians to involve themselves in such insanity again.

Sgt Schultz Serves in the Pentagon
Posted by Lurch on August 30, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

In the aftermath of a very surprising court-martial of LTC Steven L. Jordan, 51, of Fredericksburg, VA, it has been determined that no US Army officers were involved in the national disgrace at Abu Ghraib.

That’s right. Those rotten dirty E3s, E4s and E5s (many of them in fact reservists) cooked up the entire conspiracy all by their lonesome selves. They, and they alone caused this disgusting spectacle of men with panties over their heads being softened up for interrogation by war-trained dogs snapping at their testicles, and women throwing used menstrual pads at their faces. This small coterie of EM have blackened and shamed the United States among the community of nations.

We have the only army in the world where lower-ranking EM can make and conduct policy without commissioned officer supervision.

The Armchair Generalist, unsurprisingly, has a great take on the travesty that Military Justice has become in the Age of Bu$h:

I'm really trying to wrestle with this in my mind. I've had so many military officers explain to me that I'm responsible for the actions and well-being of the men and women who might be serving under me. How exactly did a panel of colonels decide that, suddenly, none of that applies anymore? Where's the accountability? In today's follow-up article, Jordan says that he plans to stay in the active duty Army.

“Brig. Gen. Louis Weber, the president of the jury, said his impression from the trial was that Jordan is ‘a superb leader and officer." Referring to the abuse-related charges, he added: "From my perspective, the evidence that was presented didn't support the allegations.’ ”

A world sneers in disgust and turns its back on the United States in the Age of Bu$h.


The Struggle Between Armor and the Projectile
Posted by Lurch on August 30, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

As we watch our national treasure of blood and money sink into the sands of Mr Bu$h’s ego-war in Iraq, it’s useful to understand the mechanics of why our MRAPs will end up costing at least twice the amount (some $20 Billion) they were sold for. Part of that $20 Billion will be increased by the costs of flying these beasts to Iraq. This is a necessary cost because blood is far more expensive than money and the troops need these vehicles two years ago.

For some presently unexplained reason, when the Marines in Iraq started asking for them back in late 2004 the requests were ignored at the Pentagon. I speculated elsewhere that it was felt they would arrive after our Iraq conquest was completed – “cakewalk” and all – but then I am exceptionally cynical after watching the Bu$h malAdministration for six and one-half years. Don’t mind me – your mileage may vary.

The problem started with our thin-skinned HumVees, which were very susceptible to RPGs and simple IEDs. The resistance had a lot of them, because as we conquered Iraq ammunition bunkers weren’t deemed worth guarding. Only the Oil Ministry, with its precious oil field maps, was deemed worth protecting.

So the bunkers got looted and it was “game on.”

The quick answer to the RPGs was simple armor plating – first “hillbilly armor” scavenged at dumps by desperate GIs until the Pentagon finally got some bolt-on plates made and shipped into Iraq.

A large part of military history has been the technological struggle between weapons makers and their opponents, armor makers. Each new weapon produced a defensive counter, which was then eventually overcome by a new weapon. Wax on, wax off.

This hillbilly armor was defeated by the first IEDs, courtesy of the thousands of tons of explosives that Messers Cheney and Rumsfeld did not feel were worth guarding. IEDs buried in a road beat hillbilly armor and bolt-on plates, which only protected the sides of HumVees. The way to defeat these buried IEDs is to travel slowly and keep a good watch on all suspicious points, which of course made you vulnerable to the gun and RPG ambush. A second response to IED hunting is the secondary booby trap. The troops see a suspicious spot, halt to call up the OED people and they are vulnerable to a better-hidden command detonated bomb.

The troops started asking for better armor protection and the Stryker vehicle, which was already in the procurement and deployment pipeline, was sent to Iraq with newly deployed brigades. They were vulnerable to larger IEDs and EFPs, which began slowly making an appearance in the cities and roads of an unpacified Iraq. The very large IED and many EFPs can defeat any armor plating, including the Chobham armor on our M1A2 Abrams tanks, said to be the best battle tank in the world.

How did we get to this point?

The use of the Abrams tank for urban pacification is a radical step because tanks are not optimized for urban combat. They are too vulnerable. We saw more EFPs and still larger IEDs incorporating aircraft bombs – 2000 pound bombs capable of tipping an Abrams or Bradley fighting vehicle on its side.

A predictable step, of course since EFPs can defeat most armor systems. They have defeated the special Chobham armor on M1A1 Abrams tanks. You’d expect them to crack standard armor.

Before and during WWII vehicles were armored with successive series of steel plates. To beat that, cannon makers developed guns with longer barrels, and a slightly smaller muzzle in order to produce a higher muzzle velocity. Ammunition makers created hardened steel caps to enable the projectile to penetrate the plates.

Armor makers developed a new idea, sloping the armor, which gave the benefit of automatically making the armor thicker at no additional cost in steel or weight carried by the vehicle. If you studied geometry in school, you’ll remember that the hypotenuse of a right triangle is larger than the other dimensions.


800px-T54_Training_Parola_Tank_Museum_3.jpg

Image - Wikipedia.com

The answer to this was to make anti-tank guns larger, with longer barrels for still higher muzzle velocities, and the tank mafia just made armor thicker. One response to this was to add additional layers of steel, with an air space between them. The energy of the explosion penetrates the outer armor layer, but doesn’t have enough punch to defeat the vehicle’s armor.

The Germans developed a hollow charge explosive device to attack the huge reinforced concrete forts that guarded Belgium at the Meuse river. These were followed by shaped charges. This is the secret to how the EFPs work. The explosion melts an inner core, often copper, and focuses it as a jet of molten metal that burns right through the armor.

During the Cold War forces on both sides developed reactive armor – an outer layer of small explosive boxes that dissipated the effects of the molten jet upon contact.

The best current solution to defeat shaped charges and EFPs is still an outer layer to cause the round to explode on contact with that outer layer. The US Army and Marines have had some success in Iraq and Afghanistan against RPGs by putting “cage” armor on their vehicles. This causes the projectile to explode before it strikes the vehicle.

LAND_Stryker_With_Slats_lg.jpg


As we struggle to enforce our occupation, and uparmor our new MRAPs to defeat the EFPs used by the resistance they will most likely just produce more EFPs, and bigger ones.

It looks like the resistance in Iraq might continue for many years, until we either leave and give these people back their country, or until we have killed so many of them that the survivors will be too few, and too weak, to resist.

Main & Central Articles on MRAPs

Mine Resistant Vehicles

17,700 MRAPs

Marine MRAPs Mired in Minutiae

A Minor MRAP Problem

The Super-MRAP

The Cougar MRAP

Baby Huey Needs Feeding

What Does the JIEDDO Do?

MRAPs Go Mainstream

MRAPs AirShipped to Iraq

MRAPs Get Bad Press From Pentagon


The Struggle Between Armor and the Projectile


MRAPs Get Bad Press From Pentagon
Posted by Lurch on August 30, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

There’s a fascinating story this morning in USA Today, revealing that the Pentagon doesn’t feel MRAPs are the final answer to protecting US troops as they occupy Iraq for the next 40 years, or until the oil runs out. Those of you who understand how military procurement work will not be surprised.

Pentagon Wants to Bulk Up Armored Vehicles

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is rushing to develop added protection for its new Mine Resistant Armor Protected (MRAP) vehicles from the deadliest roadside bombs, military contract records show.

A Pentagon solicitation released Monday calls on contractors to detail their armor solutions "as soon as possible." The move to bulk up MRAPs comes as the Pentagon builds the vehicles as fast as possible, spending at least $700 million to fly them to Iraq.

Though MRAPs offer more protection than armored Humvees against improvised explosive devices, they are vulnerable to bombs called explosively formed penetrators or projectiles (EFPs). These weapons fire a high-speed slug of metal that can cripple even tanks. EFPs account for about 4% of roadside bomb attacks, but they are particularly lethal.

So after spending some $20-odd Billion to procure and ship MRAPs to the sandbox, we are now going to start developing armor protection and upgrades to make the MRAPs survivable.

The Marine Corps, which issued the solicitation Monday and manages the Pentagon's MRAP program, declined to comment Wednesday on the new request.

MRAPS are the best protection available but "are not fail-safe vehicles," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a briefing Wednesday.

Military officials have known for more than two years that MRAPs need greater EFP protection.

A cynical man would suppose that the long delay in moving to MRAPs was the political assumption that Iraq was going to be the “cakewalk” that the Likudniks who control our defense and foreign policy organs insisted, and if MRAPs were ordered they would arrive after the fighting was all over.

Be sure to work through the sidebar items on the left margin. Excellent graphic fillers.


Main & Central Articles on MRAPs

Mine Resistant Vehicles

17,700 MRAPs

Marine MRAPs Mired in Minutiae

A Minor MRAP Problem

The Super-MRAP

The Cougar MRAP

Baby Huey Needs Feeding

What Does the JIEDDO Do?

MRAPs Go Mainstream

MRAPs AirShipped to Iraq

MRAPs Get Bad Press From Pentagon

The Struggle Between Armor and the Projectile

Can Our Army Break?
Posted by Lurch on August 29, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

OZ mentioned this excellent rant by the Minstrel Boy in a comment. What a terrific comparison between Alexander’s conquering army and our army of occupation in Iraq! Alexander’s phalanxes have tired after years of battle and conquest, and want to go home.

Alexander addressed his troops. He reminded them that he had been there with them every step of the way. He stripped himself naked and showed them where he bore scars from every single weapon known to man. It was all to no avail. Unable to sway his troops he called for priests and sacrifices. The omens were taken and the interpretation was unfavorable. Alexander agreed to turn back at last.

I can’t subscribe to the comparison entirely because Alexander was honest with his soldiers about his plans, and they enthusiastically followed him in the pursuit of conquest, booty and glory. These conditions do not apply today with our Army, which contains soldiers enlisted for many reasons, primarily a chance to climb the social ladder upon release.

Asking them to sign on for a share in the booty of looted foreign countries would not work. Promising them help in paying for a college education, or learning a trade for civilian life, has worked. (As we saw in the preceding article, some are learning infantry urban tactics for their civilian trade, and we’ll probably hear a lot more about that in the next two decades.)

And then, again, as the Minstrel Boy points out, Mr Bu$h is no Alexander.

George W. Bush cannot call upon any of Alexander's gifts. He has no scars from battle to show. He has no stories to share with soldiers over who saved whose life more times in battle. He has no moral authority or marshal imperitives to claim. He is a shrinking, shirking blame deflection machine. Soon, very soon, an army acknowledged to be without equal anywhere in the world will reach the same level as Alexander's. They will simply stop. Not because they are cowards, but because they can go no farther.

I’m not sure our Army will break in the sense of losing all discipline (which really is a voluntary quality and comes from within – discipline exerted from the outside is tyranny.) But I could imagine certain specific circumstances under which it would “break” in the sense of becoming a mass seeking escape rather than engagement.

Those who through the luck of birth or accident have never fought do not understand what combat is. They cannot comprehend the damage repeated calls to combat do to a man‘s spirit.

There are many lessons to be learned by studying history. Men tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. Circumstances may change, but the human frailties of greed and stupidity remain.

America is not Sparta, nor is it Macedonia, and the Likudniks who control our foreign and defense policy networks do not understand this. Or perhaps, inspired by un-American ideals, they do not care.


The Gangs of The Army
Posted by Lurch on August 29, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Army Times published a murky piece on Wednesday about gang influence in the Army.

Recent reports by the FBI and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command show that gang-related activity in the U.S. military is increasing. The FBI report (.pdf) concludes the increase poses a threat to law enforcement officials and national security.

The FBI report comes across as rather alarmist, with some recitation of detail drawn from various sources.

Some experts point to looser recruiting standards, implemented in recent years as the Army struggles to meet recruiting goals, and the increase in waivers given to recruits with criminal records as a factor behind gang presence in the ranks.

Each year since 2003, an increasing number of applicants with records of everything from traffic violations to felony convictions have been allowed to enlist in the Army under “moral waivers.” In fiscal 2006, 7.9 percent of all recruits received moral waivers, compared with 4.6 percent in 2003, according to Recruiting Command.

War has often been cynically characterized as gang warfare writ large, so it might not be too surprising to learn bangers are signing on for advanced OJT. During the Viet Nam era there was great distress in certain parts of our society over the “Negroes” learning weapons and tactical lessons which they might bring home to the US to enforce whatever horrible plan of civic disruption these cloistered elites feared could erupt in the cities.

Likewise I wonder whether our nativist war boosters on the never-right have carefully considered the potential effects of all these Latino gang-bangers coming home with urban warfare experience.

Can you say “reconquista” Ms Malkin?

So far this year, more than 9,000 recruits have received moral waivers to join the service. That’s 11 percent of all new enlistees in fiscal 2007, which ends Sept. 30.

Army officials could not say whether any gang members or former gang members were allowed into the ranks under waivers. But at least one expert said it stands to reason that if you open the door to more people with criminal backgrounds, some of them will have gang affiliations.

One could expect those Army officials would not say whether any gang members were signed up. Be certain they know. They’ll have heard about it through internal sources, and I’d be surprised if some of them aren’t sweating bullets.

I told you mutts it was smarter to draft College Republicans.

According to the FBI report, members of nearly every street gang have been identified on domestic and international military installations, and gang members have been known to enlist in the military by failing to report past criminal convictions or by using fraudulent documents.

The FBI report said that since 2004, authorities have identified more than 40 military-affiliated Folk Nation gang members at Fort Bliss, Texas, who have been involved in drug distribution, robberies, assaults, weapons offenses and a homicide. Since 2003, nearly 40 gang members have been identified at Fort Hood, Texas, and members of the Gangster Disciples based on post have been responsible for robberies, assaults, thefts and burglaries, according to the report. In addition, nearly 130 gang and extremist group members have been identified at Fort Lewis, Wash., since 2005, and in 2006, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service reported that gang members are increasing their presence on or near U.S. military installations.

I have a lot of respect for the FBI when it comes to catching bank robbers, and assorted violent crime against property. They also do great press briefings. But when it crimes to the softer crime areas, involving sociological manifestations, their public persona seems to tend more towards repression of the middle and lower classes. That’s just my impression; I could be wrong. I have been before.

Now, the Army’s CID report (.pdf) stands in stark contrast to the FBI report.

The commanders of CID, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Naval Criminal Investigation Service sent a memo to the director of the FBI to dispute some of the statistics and facts in its Jan. 12 report.

The CID official attributed the increase in gang-related reports and investigations to a recently adopted uniform method in identifying such activity.

A CID official said that just 16 of 10,000 felony investigations last year were gang-related. But that’s up from 10 in 2005, five in 2004 and four in 2003. In all, CID special agents reported 61 gang-related incidents on 18 Army installations in 2006. That number includes the 16 that warranted the investigations reported that same year. There were 23 incidents in 2005, nine in 2004 and 12 in 2003.

A cynical man would remember the scene in the National Lampoon comedy Animal House where Kevin Bacon is admonishing the citizens to “remain calm. All is well” just before he gets trampled flat by a hundred screaming people trying to escape.

“We do not see it as a rampant problem, but we’re not denying it,” said a senior official with Army Criminal Investigation Command, who asked not to be identified. “It’s a low threat, but it’s a serious problem. We’ve never denied that it exists.”

Two of the 16 CID felony investigations in 2006 were homicides. The other investigations included crimes related to drugs, assault, robbery, sexual assault and weapons smuggling.

Of the 31 gang-related investigations conducted by CID between 2004 and 2006, about half involved junior enlisted soldiers, E-1 through E-4; a third were civilians; and 14 percent were sergeants or staff sergeants.

Parse those words, baby, parse those words. We will remain calm because you have assured us all is well.


UPDATE: WK - who is not - I repeat not - a very trivial guy, but does know a lot of trivia - reminds me it was Kevin Bacon assuring us all was well in Animal House.

Patrolling With the Manchus
Posted by Lurch on August 27, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Wesley Morgan, who is currently embedded in Iraq. Wes writes for The Daily Princetonian and was invited by GEN David Petraeus to embed in Iraq. He’s enrolled in the ROTC at Princeton and expects to be an officer in a few years. He’s got his own blog here, but one of his entries has been put up a fairly positive piece at Bill Roggio’s corner of the internets.

His first embed was with the 1st/14th Infantry, but apparently he spent a lot of time at the Bn/Company level, so I expect he didn’t really learn a lot. Sigh. You don’t learn all that much at Battalion, although the CSM will have some great war stories.

Now he’s going out into the Big Muddy with the 3rd Platoon, A Company, 4th/9th Infantry (Manchu’s) a regiment with a fine, long tradition. The 4th Bn is a Stryker unit with the 2nd Infantry Division.

Meet the 3rd Platoon:

[1Lt Daniel Lowe] who had received his commission through ROTC in 2005, was a small, reserved officer whom the platoon's soldiers seemed to respect greatly. During the two-plus hours of preparation before the patrol, I got acquainted with some of the soldiers I'd be riding with in Lowe's Stryker. There was a loud, blustering team leader named Sgt. Howard, a veteran infantryman who loved guns of all kinds -- "I always carry, 100 percent of the time," he assured me. "You need to stay protected." Manning one of the rear machine guns hatches was the gigantic Hawaiian Sgt. Wojo who never seemed to speak but occasionally tackled other soldiers –- "Don't worry if he does that to you," one specialist explained, "it's a sign of affection." Two soldiers were from Boston: a big, angry specialist and a redheaded corporal with a tendency to brag and a bit of an antagonism with Sgt. Howard. Another specialist, named Baker, was Jewish and proud of it; the dynamic between him and the rest of the team, with constant Borat-style money-and-horns jokes, reminded me constantly of that one Jewish soldier on the patrol in "Saving Private Ryan." Another, Spec. Lall, had been born in Bombay, raised in Latin America, and had enlisted soon after he arrived in the States; even while he was out serving in Iraq, he pointed out to me in a thick Indian accent, "The government still took two years to let my wife into the country."

They sound just like the 21st century equivalent of the classic WWII war movie characters, straight out of central casting. And, really, that’s the way it should be. We are a nation of immigrants, after all, despite what nativist nuts like Tom Tancredo and Newt Gingrich claim.

Today’s mission is a route clearance and “presence” patrol: ride out to a nearby village, walk in, checking for IEDs. The local sheikh was to meet with the Company CO, and had promised no IEDs in the area if the occupying force could promise his security.

[O]ne of the team leaders called over the radio: He'd found wire. Lowe and I quickly cut across the field, or paddy, or whatever it was, and linked up with the lead element of the team that had called. A minute later the other team appeared as well, taking up an overwatch position above us on the road while we investigated the wire. The sergeant was right: a thin strand of copper wire was visible in the dirt. Gently pulling it, Lowe followed the wire back into the tall grass until it snagged, on a second wire. That wire led back through the grass toward the squad, into a part of the field we'd just come through, until it crossed a third wire. A specialist realized that his leg was tangled in a fourth wire. "Tell those Strykers to back up," Lowe told his radioman – there was no telling how far the wires led, and until the area was clear, the vehicles couldn't come any closer.

The wire was everywhere, crossed and buried and leading from some place at the far side of the field toward the piled dirt under the road causeway –- a perfect and incredibly easy place to bury an IED, and with absolutely no way of telling which wires, if any, led to actual bombs and which were decoys meant to slow us down and keep us stationary. While the interpreter and I stood still on the crumbling dirt slope, not sure what to do, the soldiers began to methodically uproot and cut the wires. Every one was a dead end –- either decoys or the command wires to past IEDs that had already detonated. If they were decoys, they'd achieved their purpose: A few stretches of copper wire had stalled the platoon's advance for half an hour while it carefully checked every trail.

The second best thing mines and booby traps do is slow you down.

There are shots fired, Morgan finds the feeling of walking towards the shots exhilarating (he may learn) and they don't find an escaped bomber, with a detonation device. They must search for the bomb.

[A]s the squad stood waiting for the Strykers to arrive, the soldier next to me suddenly looked alert and told me to step away from where I was standing. He began to prod the thick, dry vegetation between us on the side of the road with the muzzle of his carbine, and summoned the lieutenant over – and just as Lowe asked, "What have you got?" the soldier flipped a layer of brush off and uncovered a gigantic propane tank, rigged with wires. "HME," Lowe said loudly, to the squad – homemade explosives. I was standing less than three feet from a gigantic homemade IED.

A good read, either at his own blog or at Bill Roggio’s. Well worth the effort. Not a lot of photos, though, so ex-staff weenies may not find it interesting.


Better Living Through Chemistry
Posted by Lurch on August 27, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

We’ve written about MREs before. It's a constant struggle to find better, more-appealing field rations for men with guns. Yesterday’s NY Post has a little note about the Army’s unceasing search for decent field rations.


While the ubiquitous MRE (meal, ready-to-eat) remains the combat trooper's primary food source, a new, lightweight alternative will be introduced into Iraq and Afghanistan this fall.

Unlike the MRE, which has a chemical heating element, the new First Strike Ration - FSR - features entrees, like French toast and honey barbecue beef pocket sandwiches, that are easily chowed down out of hand and on the move with virtually no preparation.

The FSR serves up three meals to a packet but is half the size and weight of three MREs, a major benefit to troops heavily laden with ammunition and gear. Its three menu options include chunk chicken, protein bars, teriyaki beef snacks and high-energy items: maltodextrin-laced "Zapplesauce" and turbo-caffeinated chewing gum.

Special Forces teams and other units operating in remote areas already have been issued what the Pentagon calls the Unitized Group Ration-Express, which feeds 18 soldiers from a box roughly the size of a computer printer.

The UGR stacks four trays of entree, vegetable, starch and dessert between heating units. A quick pull on a single tab launches saline solution to the heaters. Thirty-five minutes later, warriors have an authentic hot meal.

Field-tested in Iraq and Afghanistan, the UGRs proved so popular that troops clamored for them immediately.

"We have 2.2 million war fighters and they all carry weapons, so we don't like to antagonize them," joked Kathy-Lynn Evangelos of the Pentagon's combat feeding program.

UGR menus include Burgundy beef stew, pasta and sausage and Szechuan chicken, plus surprisingly moist and tasty desserts like dulce de leche and devil's fudge cakes.

French toast and honey barbecue beef pocket sandwiches, chunk chicken, teriyaki beef. Zapplesauce sounds like something that you might want the enemy to find, though. Turbo-caffeinated chewing gum?

My hat’s off to the Chemists at Nattick.

Troops Pay Price For Special Relationship
Posted by Lurch on August 26, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Reader Dubhaltach from Gorilla’s Guides points out a Telegraph article in response to the British withdrawal to the Basra Airbase. Its special feature is a rather nasty interview with Field Marshal Generalissimo Fred Kagan, who has probably been stamping his little hooves all day long.

The move, which will put an additional burden on US forces involved in the "troop surge" further north, risks plunging the special relationship between the British and American military to a new low, according to an advisor to President Bush.

Frederick Kagan, one of the architects of the surge strategy, warned that the British departure risked creating "bad feeling" among US troops, some of whom may face extended terms of duty as a result.

He spoke out after the deaths of three British soldiers in Afghanistan, killed by bombs dropped from a US aircraft, placed new strains on the alliance in the other main military theatre.

The article’s lead implies the British troops are paying a price. I bet that to Mr Kagan that is part of the duty the British owe to the US for our great courage and moral leadership in reducing Iraq to an 8th century country that more and more resembles a land devastated by the plague.

In an outspoken interview, Mr Kagan condemned British politicians for failing to understand how best to tackle Islamic extremists, and for refusing to increase the size of the Armed Forces so they could pull their full weight in Iraq.

The arrogance of this appalls me. What he’s saying is that Britain must kill more Iraqis. Being a Likudnik, his idea of warfare is to kill civilians until they are either too frightened to resist or until they are so desperate they cooperate. This strategy has not worked in Gaza or the West Bank, and I couldn’t explain why he thought it would work in Iraq.

To fill the vacuum, US Army chiefs may have to break a promise not to extend operational tours in Iraq beyond the current 15 month maximum, or risk diverting a significant number of the extra soldiers currently in Baghdad for the troop surge.

Mr Kagan, who has just returned from Iraq, said: "The likeliest effect of British withdrawal from Basra is to keep an American unit in country for longer than they would like. I do worry about the short term effects on the relationship between the two countries. It will create bad feeling with American soldiers if they can't go home because the British have left."[emph added]

Well, no surprises here. Mr Kagan will prevail upon Mr Bu$h to withhold intelligence information from the British about the next bombing attack in the UK as punishment for this “betrayal.” (Not that Mr Bu$h would need to be told to do this. It’s probably been a very unpleasant day around the WH for poor Barney.)


British Pulling Back
Posted by Lurch on August 26, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Gorilla’s Guides is reporting an hour ago (0615 AM, Eastern Time) that Britain has withdrawn its forces from the joint coordination center located in the compound of the security police command in central Basra (the JCC in al-Hakimiyah).

Both WNA and Aswat Al Iraq are reporting that the British have confirmed that in an operation yesterday evening they evacuated their troops from the joint coordination center located in the compound of the security police command in central Basra (the JCC in al-Hakimiyah). In an operation last night the British moved their troops out of the JCC and transferred them to the main British base in Basrah International Airport 25KM northwest of the city.

The British denied that the evacuation is part of an operation to remove their forces from Basrah saying that it was part of the planned handover of security functions to local forces.

So far this year the British have evacuated three of their bases around Basrah.

British occupation forces in Irak number about 5500 they withdrew 1600 soldier others in the past months.
Britain is the biggest partner of the United States in the occupation of Iraq and its troops were the second largest contingent participating in the American led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The CIA had maintained a listening post in Basra Palace, conducting radio, telephone, and cell phone espionage on Iran, and it was reported a week ago that they hade begun removing equipment in anticipation of the British consolidation to Basra airfield.

A report in this morning’s Independent indicates the US will not try to influence the British consolidation.

Defence ministry insiders confirmed last night that Britain plans to stick to its timetable to pull out of its stronghold at Basra Palace "within days or weeks", despite misgivings from US military and government figures that local Iraqi forces are not ready to take control.

US commanders in Baghdad want Britain to delay the pull-out of 500 British troops, fearing the Iraqi security services are not sufficiently well trained or equipped to control lawlessness.

But in frank discussions between British and American military commanders on the ground, Britain has made it clear it believes the Iraqis are perfectly capable of taking over as early as next week.

The pull-out to Basra airport will have a significant impact on the safety of British troops who are the target of increasingly frequent attacks.

This is going to over-over-stretch our over-stretched forces, as they will now have to increase the security of the daily convoys coming out of Kuwait.

I’m sure the never-right are going to have a very bad day….


Themed Topic Thread
Posted by Lurch on August 25, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

This is a themed topic opinion thread. I’d like readers’ opinions on a specific topic.

IraqSlogger has a neat little article up about a press demonstration conducted recently at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Several different types of MRAR were driven around the course, over washboard sets, and through water/mud puddles. There are some good pics, but if you’ve been trying to keep the various types (as many as 8) straight in your mind, good luck. These vehicles are described by category type.

BG Michael Brogan, USMC, joint program executive officer and commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, answered questions from the assembled press. According to David Axe, who’s worth reading every day, BG Brogan has a case of the hips because the press are trying to do their jobs.

The Marine Corps general in charge of buying “Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected” trucks for the U.S. military had some harsh words for the media who gathered to observe MRAP testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland this morning. “All troops in theater are happy to see these vehicles,” said Brigadier General Mike Brogan in response to several questions about the armored trucks’ effectiveness. When reporters pressed for specific examples of incidents where MRAPs proved resistant to roadside bombs, Brogan grew impatient. He said that he would not discuss operational details, and pointed out that all the press attention on this potentially $20-billion program was providing intel to insurgents and even encouraging propaganda-motivated attacks on MRAPs. “Because of what you’re doing, these are becoming symbolic targets.” [emph added]

Here we go. Not only are liberals, Democrats and the MSM going to be blamed for the Dolchstosslegende it has apparently been decided that every single casualty endured in these babies will have happened because the MSM took photos of them, wrote about them, and ran video tape on TV.

This will fit in perfectly with the plans of Mr Dorrance Smith, assistant defense secretary for public affairs, to set up yet another a 24/7 news propaganda shop in Baghdad.

So, your opinions, please:

1. Is BG Brogan right? Is telling the American people how their dollars are being spent to protect American soldiers somehow wrong? Does writing about it somehow tell the “enemy” what we’re doing? Do you believe (as apparently BG Brogan does) that the “enemy” don’t have access to the internet and satellite TV and would never know about these 25 ton monsters snorting around the streets of Baghdad if the press didn’t warn them?

2. I noticed in the photo on IraqSlogger that BG Brogan seems to be wearing a class ring. Do you suppose he got it in a cereal box, or as a family heirloom? He apparently never went to college and doesn’t quite understand how this electricity thing works in the one or two hours a day Iraqis have it.

3. The press I’ve seen has invariably been positive. The DoD made a great deal of talk about flying these babies in just to try to lessen casualties. The above questions were – you know – poking the bear with a stick through the bars of the cage. But really, here’s the thread question. The Government is putting on a huge press crush to get out the information about these trucks. Is BG Brogan’s reaction understandable from the viewpoint of an infantryman or is he just reluctant to discuss details with press people, who, I will admit, are clueless assholes?

Main & Central Articles on MRAPs

Mine Resistant Vehicles

17,700 MRAPs

Marine MRAPs Mired in Minutiae

A Minor MRAP Problem

The Super-MRAP

The Cougar MRAP

Baby Huey Needs Feeding

What Does the JIEDDO Do?

MRAPs Go Mainstream

MRAPs AirShipped to Iraq


Army Secretary Almost Promises
Posted by Lurch on August 24, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Secretary of the Army Pete Geren probably really believes what he’s saying.

WASHINGTON: Army Secretary Pete Geren on Thursday ruled out extending U.S. troop deployments beyond the current 15 months, saying that longer tours in Iraq put stress on soldiers and their families, and have contributed to an increase in suicides.

But Geren, who was confirmed in the Army's top civilian post in July, also criticized any congressional efforts to mandate deployment lengths or rest time at home.

In his first extensive interview since taking the job, Geren offered his most definitive rejection of keeping soldiers at the warfront longer than 15 months, saying he sees "no possibility of that happening."

"Our goal is to move it the other direction — move it back to 12 months," he told The Associated Press, observing that 15 months is "asking more than we want to ask" of the soldiers.


Secretary Geren might really believe that, but I’ll bet that interview wasn’t cleared with Field Marshal Generalissimo Fred Kagan and Minister of Ethnic Cleansing Bill Kristol. Looking at it positively, if true it means they’ve decided not to attack Iran until next year.

Secretary Geren also believes it’s none of Congress’s damned business how the armed forces are utilized.

Geren, who served four terms as a member of Congress, also had rather strong words of caution for his former colleagues' efforts to put limits on deployments and require a one-year break at home.

"That type of micromanagement is just not something that would help us. The Army is doing everything it can. The Army shares the congressional commitment to reduce these deployment times and expand dwell times," he said.

After ruling out deployments longer than 15 months, Geren would not say what options are under consideration to maintain current troop levels beyond spring of 2008 if that is what the Army is asked to do.

Whatever that last means. We do find out, however, that not only does Congress have no say in what happens to the Army, but neither does our newest Quiet American, Gomer Alden Pyle.

"We'd have to look at the whole range of options," he said. "I don't want to speculate on how we would meet the demand that combatant commanders might make next year but we're looking at all the options to meet what that demand might be."

His comments reflect a growing expectation that the military will be able to begin reducing its numbers in Iraq next spring. There are currently about 162,000 U.S. troops there.[emph added]

I am confused; I haven’t read Pravda in many years so I’m unable to understand how the “commanders” would demand more troops while we are simultaneously “expecting that the military will be able to begin reducing its numbers in Iraq next spring.”

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I guess we are now officially not only any longer a democracy, but we are now ruled by some sort of anonymous military junta, who make their own decisions independently of that Constitution-thing that’s soooo pre-9/11.

I did learn one useful piece of information: GEN Petraeus is out of the information loop:

Gen. David Petraeus told a congressional delegation visiting the Middle East that success in Iraq will require a U.S. military presence there for about a decade, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said Friday.

The commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, who will deliver a highly anticipated progress report next month, said the U.S. “will be in Iraq in some way for 9 or 10 years,” according to Schakowsky. The general also highlighted progress in Anbar province, where former Sunni insurgents have turned against Al Qaeda extremists in recent months.

That statement, from August 10th, is now as they say, “no longer operative” because even though the “commanders” are making all the decisions now, an Army Secretary still outranks a flag officer, apparently.

Geren said the persistent conflict of the war on terror, which he said could go on for as much as two decades, has forced the Army to transform to meet war-fighting needs without breaking the force.

Because the War for Oil™ must go on, regardless.

“The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Been Through”
Posted by Lurch on August 23, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Stars and Stripes has posted several stories about a company-strength sweep of a small village named Abuwaitha for a man – one man. The village is located in the fertile land along the Tigris southeast of Baghdad. Here’s today’s:

At 2 a.m., three platoons from Company A, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, along with a detachment of military police, were to proceed in vehicles about a mile up the road, dismount, then move stealthily on foot to Abuwaitha, a predominately Sunni village on the Tigris River some 10 miles southeast of Baghdad.

By moving in darkness, the soldiers hoped to maintain the element of surprise. The target of the operation was one Dr. Ismail, a shadowy personality reputed to be the top al-Qaida figure in the region allegedly responsible for numerous attacks and enforcing strict Islamic rule on the local populace.

The soldiers already had pinpointed several houses where Dr. Ismail and his relatives reportedly lived. The plan was to isolate those objectives, search each one thoroughly, and question the inhabitants. Perhaps they would get lucky and uncover information that would eventually lead to Dr. Ismail’s capture. Maybe they would get really lucky and actually nab the guy.

Pre-raid intelligence has produced several target houses to be searched. Three platoons should give enough manpower to surround the area, provide security, and conduct searches and properly guard any apprehended suspects. Sounds like a good plan. Approach stealthily in the dark, ease into the target area and commence.

Capt. Eric Melloh, Company A commander, figured that it would take a little more than an hour for his troops to cover the 1.5 kilometers to Abuwaitha on foot.

“I thought we’d be in place by 0345,” said Melloh, 30, of Huntsville, Texas.

Instead, it took almost five hours.

While most of Iraq is sprawling cities or vast desert, the lush, irrigated farmlands along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are thick with date palm groves, fruit tree orchards and fields teeming with corn, wheat, squash, sunflowers and other crops. The land is a patchwork of irrigation ditches, hedgerows, and tall, thick reeds.

It was in this environment that Company A found itself in the moonless hours before dawn Tuesday.

No one could have anticipated luxuriant growth alongside irrigation canals. And no one could have anticipated that wandering around in heavy undergrowth in the dark, on a moonless night would impeded the company’s progress. OK – we weren’t there, so it’s probably unfair to be critical at a distance of 9,000 miles, and forty-five years’ away from the highlands out past Dak To.

The terrain drew inevitable comparisons to the jungles of Vietnam 40 years ago. Stopping and kneeling for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, while the lead elements of the column encountered one obstacle after another, it was hard for many of them to believe that they were still in Iraq.

“Never in my life did I think I’d be breaking brush like this in Iraq,” said Capt. William Lyles, 26, of Hampton, Va. “I’d rather be back in Sadr City than going through this.”

The night seemed to stretch on forever. At one point, 1st Lt. Ismail Khan, 27, of Houston, Texas, pitched forward down a slope, twisting his ankle along the way. He walked the rest of the way with a slight limp, toughing it out.

It was already close to 7 a.m. by the time the troops reached the first house. The family inside was up, readying breakfast.

Kudos to the Army for having a Muslim officer. Here’s hoping he’s a linguist because his translations would probably be more reliable than any indigenous personnel.

While searching the village the troops come upon a .22 rifle and a rusty AK. There was lots of excitement when they discovered some mags taped together.

abuwaitha.png
Photo by Drew Brown/S&S

One of the men offered up the location of a probable bomb buried in the road about 500 meters from the house. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Paul, 32, of Baton Rouge, La., asked if the man would be willing to show them the bomb’s location, but the man begged off, afraid neighbors would see him cooperating with U.S. troops.

At 7:30 a.m., a loud explosion rocked the village. A Buffalo mine-clearing vehicle had been struck by a hidden bomb. The vehicle was damaged, but a report soon came over the radio that the crew was OK.

The Buffalo found the probable bomb.

There is no mention in the article of the village early warning alarm system, but I’ll bet the dogs were acting up for quite a while before the very late arrival at the village.

The notorious Dr Ismail, the target of the raid, left the area six months ago.

The article has some good photos, and a companion article here is worth reading for more background information.

The Mystery and Tragedy of “Sunk Costs”
Posted by Lurch on August 22, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Back in July I wrote about an unusual occasion when a United States senator asked for some information required by law so that a Senatorial Committee might perform its mandated oversight, and was told by an Assistant Secretary of Defense that she was a traitorous bitch, or words to that effect.

In a stinging rebuke to a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman responded to questions Clinton raised in May in which she urged the Pentagon to start planning now for the withdrawal of American forces.

A copy of Edelman's response, dated July 16, was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

"Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia," Edelman wrote.

He added that "such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks."

It seems that Eric Edelman is not the only body part in the Pentagon. The Armchair Generalist tells us about J. David Patterson, principal deputy, under secretary of Defense/Comptroller – Washington, who doesn’t like the way accountants account for investment.

Bruce Wydick, who is a professor of economics at the University of San Francisco, wrote an op-ed last week in the USAToday hotel special newspaper. Professor Wydick urged examination of what we’re doing in Iraq from an accounting viewpoint, using the “sunk cost” system. Now some people, including old men who type with two fingers, don’t quite understand that system, and Professor Wydick tries to simplify it with analogy, which is a valid teaching tool. A “sunk cost” is irretrievable.

When I was a boy, my brother and I were captivated by a pseudo-gambling machine called Silver Falls at an arcade where we spent our summers in rural Missouri. The game works by directing a quarter along a chute so that it lands on a sliding shelf filled with other quarters. Aim correctly, and the falling quarter pushes a bunch of other quarters off the shelf and into the jackpot hole.

The game is exceptionally addictive, a fact that was obviously not lost on the arcade owners who installed the machine there. It seems that just plunking one more quarter in the machine will supply the necessary thrust to knock a huge pile of quarters off the shelf (some of which by now are your own quarters). Quitting means a loss of all the quarters that have been carefully invested in the game.

The inability to quit Silver Falls is related to a well-known idea in economics about sunk costs. As every student of economics knows, one should never take sunk costs into account when making a decision. They are sunk, and there is nothing you can do about them.

Oh-kay. You see where this is going, right?

Well, as the Armchair Generalist points out, J. David Patterson, principal deputy, under secretary of Defense/Comptroller – Washington did, and he didn’t like it.

Bruce Wydick's commentary " 'Sunk costs' and the war" offers a distorted and callous point of view on the war in Iraq (The Forum, Wednesday).

While attempting to sound intellectual and objective, Wydick instead demonstrates how totally out of touch with reality he is.

Wydick writes: "Let's refer to all of the casualties and material costs of the war that our country has already realized in the conflict as X. In other words, if we were to withdraw today, we would lose X."

The fallen heroes of this nation who have made the ultimate sacrifice are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, friends and the United States' most treasured champions.

They are not "Xs" in Wydick's moronic economic metaphor.

My son, two nephews and son-in-law serve, and I don't for one minute view them in terms of "sunk cost."

No rational American who understood the threat our nation faces would think of them in this way.

How safe Wydick must feel with his antiseptic worldview. He has probably never once considered that those flesh and blood "Xs" gave their lives to ensure his safety.

The Generalist has a much better response than mine, perhaps because I got all emotional, having actually been one of those “sunk costs” in the last bit of tom-foolery, back in the 60s.

How ironic that Patterson talks of rationalism while referring to emotional overtones of family, service, and duty. Of anyone in the Department of Defense, you might think that the Comptroller's office might understand the issue of cost-benefit analyses. But then again, given this administration and its oversight of the rapidly spiralling costs of all major defense acquisition programs, maybe that does speak to the lack of his ability to support correct decision-making. You know, easy questions like the ones Wydick asked in the first place.

As Professor Wydick wrote:

Although it may seem callous, we need to forget about X in our decision-making about the war. The correct way to think about whether or not to proceed is to weigh the costs and benefits from pressing on from this point forward. What value do we place on victory? What are the chances that we will prevail if we do press on? And what will be the costs of pressing on in terms of lives and resources? Our country may be divided on this issue, but we owe it to those who may yet be called to make the ultimate sacrifice to properly count our costs.

The Generalist closes with:

Wydick's not the moron here. He's not living in the fantasy world where it's the right thing to do to just keep spending $10 billion and hundreds of casualties a month until you are exhausted or destroy your military trying.

Being an ignorant ex-EM, I can’t resist:

Dear J. David Patterson, principal deputy, under secretary of Defense/Comptroller – Washington:


You missed the entire point, you body part. Sending good money after bad in an arcade game is a perfect example of perfect analogy for investing more husbands, wives, children, and grandchildren in a failed effort to steal another nation’s wealth. We’re not wanted there, and our butcher’s bill of more than 30,000 casualties would clarify that for you if you weren’t so wrapped up in empire-building. Is sending more bodies over there to be killed, blown up, wounded, shattered, suffer traumatic amputations, endure untreated traumatic brain injuries and a lifetime of PTSD ignored and untreated by our government worth the cost?

When your “son, two nephews and son-in-law” have CIBs and as many purple hearts as I have, you are entitled to an opinion. Until then, please forget about your cabalistic dreams of empire.


New Chinook Unveiled at Fort Campbell
Posted by Lurch on August 22, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

The US Army has taken possession of the first in a new series of CH-47 Chinook helicopters. This tandem-rotor heavy lift cargo slick has a long history, dating back to the mid-60s. Nam vets will remember seeing “Shithooks” hauling netted cargo, jeeps and even 155mm howitzers through the highlands.

At the time, it was the fastest helicopter in the Army’s stable, and even today is faster than many.

Over the years there have been many variants and modifications of the ‘Hook” including some experimental gun mounts.

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Army News Service, Aug. 17, 2007) - Aviation history was made at Fort Campbell Wednesday as a newly designed CH-47 Chinook helicopter was officially ushered into operation.

Allowing greater capability and Soldier safety, the new $30 million bird was turned over to Company B, 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade.

"How appropriate that we come together here with this aircraft at this installation with this unit," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, 101st Airborne Division commander.

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Photo – Gregory Frye

Most known for its tandem rotors and heavy-lift capabilities, the helicopter can fly in extremely high altitudes and handle cargo unlike any other aircraft.

Now with digital screens instead of analog gauges, the new Advanced Flight Control System improves situational awareness by allowing pilots to easily upload such mission details as routes and altitudes. A revamped airframe designed for 10,000 flight hours also eliminates extraneous vibrations and maintenance time.

"It provides more capability at an easier maintenance cost than ever before," Maj. Gen. Schloesser said.

size1-army.mil-2007-08-20-133022.jpg
Chief Warrant Officer 4 David Watson, standardization instructor pilot, and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tom Miskowiec, standardization instructor pilot and instrument flight examiner, 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, fly a new CH-47F using the Advanced Flight Control System. Photo – Gregory Frye

Safety is the best thing about the new model, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tom Miskowiec, standardization instructor pilot and instrument flight examiner, 7th Bn., 101st Avn. Regt. "In safety there's capability. When we can do it safer and easier, it provides us with more abilities to support the warfighter."

Boeing worked with the Army for three years to design and prepare the new model, the first conventional Chinook upgrade in more than 20 years.

"The CH-47F is a fully modernized aircraft that will fully meet the operational challenges that our Army and our country face now and in the future," said Chuck Allen, vice president and general manager of rotorcraft systems, Boeing.

"It's really exciting to get a new aircraft," added Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Dechent, Chinook pilot with the 7th Bn., 101st Avn. Regt. "I think it's going to extend our capabilities and open new avenues that we haven't been able to go down before."

More than 100 CH-47F Chinooks will be built from the ground up, while other Chinooks will be rebuilt to state-of-the-art standards.

MRAPs AirShipped to Iraq
Posted by Lurch on August 22, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

As I mentioned here, most of the MRAPs being shipped to the Middle East are being flown in to expedite their delivery to the troops. The DoD has released a news advisory (puff piece report) on the shipments.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2007 – U.S. troops serving in Iraq will have a little more protection soon, as two of the military’s newest armored vehicles are on their way to the theater.

Two Buffalo Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, known as “MRAPs,” were loaded onto C-5 Galaxy aircraft last night at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., to be shipped to Iraq. This latest shipment is part of the Defense Department’s push to get as many of the new vehicles to troops in combat as quickly as possible.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been pushing the production and delivery of MRAPs, which boast a V-shaped hull that deflects bomb blasts and protects troops inside better than the military’s current vehicles. The Defense Department awarded two more contracts for the vehicles the week of Aug. 10, which brings the number of vehicles on contract to 6,415. An estimated 3,500 MRAPs are expected to be shipped to Iraq by Dec. 31.

The MRAPs are shipped to Iraq by the 437th Airlift Wing, out of Charleston. The vehicles are part of the 300 tons of cargo the unit moves on a daily basis. It typically takes two days to airlift the MRAPs to Iraq, said Cynthia Bauer, a public affairs officer with U.S. Transportation Command, which oversees the movement of the vehicles. A small number of MRAPs are taken by sea, which takes between 22 and 30 days, she said.

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Buffalo being loaded onto C-5 Galaxy
Photo by SSG Jackson Robertson, US Army

As of Aug. 9, Transportation Command has shipped 701 MRAPs and MRAP-like vehicles to the Central Command area, Bauer said. The command will continue to ship the vehicles as the military commanders in theater request them, she said.

MRAPs come in three categories: Category I vehicles are designed for urban combat operations and can transport six people; Category II vehicles have multi-mission capabilities, including convoy lead, troop transport, ambulance, explosive ordnance disposal and combat engineering, and can transport up to 10 people; Category III vehicles perform mine and improvised-explosive-device clearance operations and explosive ordnance disposal and can transport six people, or five with additional equipment. The Buffalos that were shipped last night fall under Category III.

The troops who participated in loading the vehicles yesterday told local media that they feel their job is important, because the MRAPs have been proven to save lives in combat. "It's absolutely critical. It saves lives every day when they have them," Air Force Master Sgt. Jared Breyer, with the 437th Airlift Wing, told ABC News.


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Buffalo loading onto C-5 Galaxy
Photo by SSG April Quintanilla, USAF


Related Defense Link Articles

‘Herculean Work’ Drives MRAP Production

Defense Department Seeks MRAP Improvements While Accelerating Program

Special Report: Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles

437th Airlift Wing


Main & Central Articles on MRAPs

Mine Resistant Vehicles

17,700 MRAPs

Marine MRAPs Mired in Minutiae

A Minor MRAP Problem

The Super-MRAP

The Cougar MRAP

Baby Huey Needs Feeding

What Does the JIEDDO Do?

MRAPs Go Mainstream

MRAPs AirShipped to Iraq

How to Defeat IEDs
Posted by Lurch on August 21, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Forbes Magazine has a piece up online about IEDs:

US Military Struggles to `defeat' IEDs

The Humvee driver, in his final moments, didn't know what hit him. Neither did the U.S. Army.

When a makeshift roadway bomb killed Spc. Joel Bertoldie in Fallujah four years ago, it was the opening salvo in what has grown - from Baghdad's deadly streets to North Carolina's "IED Expo" - into a multibillion-dollar challenge for a U.S. military no more prepared for it than was the young soldier from Missouri.

New statistics show that improvised explosive devices, more than ever, are becoming the Iraqi resistance's weapon of choice, claiming a growing share of American lives. The people dealing with the mayhem attest to it.

"The bad guys are getting smarter, using larger explosions and better explosions," said Capt. Bruce Wheeler, an Army medical officer at the U.S. military hospital at Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad. "Business is up for us. We're seeing a lot of big stuff" - severe injuries - "come through."

I don’t want to sound like I am trivializing a very serious issue. The mayhem, loss of life, maimed and shattered bodies, the destroyed marriages, children who carefully walk past Daddy, terrified that he’ll have of those episodes, are testimony to the power of these weapons.

By the way, note the use of the word “resistance” in the second paragraph. I’ve only seen this word used once before in a mainstream publication. It is a key recognition of the facts of Iraq, an acknowledgement of what we are there. We are occupying another country – a conquest – and the natives are resisting.

In the May-July period this year, the number of U.S. military deaths from IEDs soared to 203, accounting for 66 percent of all U.S. fatalities, according to the authoritative Web site icasualties.org, which tracks military casualties in Iraq.

Those numbers have climbed steadily from the same three-month period in 2004, when 54 Americans were killed by IEDs, 31 percent of total fatalities.

Since Bertoldie's death in July 2003, the first recorded by icasualties.org as IED-caused, at least 1,509 Americans have been killed in Iraq by the makeshift roadside bombs, out of a total 3,707 fatalities.

The daily number of IED attacks has increased six-fold since 2003, the Pentagon says. On one day in May, 101 of the 139 anti-U.S. attacks involved IEDs.

The fact that we are reading these statistics three years later is testimony to the loyalty and pride of our uniformed soldiers and the utter lack of spine of their military leaders. As noted by the troopers of the 82nd Airborne in Sunday’s remarkable op-ed in the NY Times

“We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.”

Men fight for many reasons, pride being a chief motivator. Love of your fellow soldiers and a desire to protect them is a powerful reason to climb back into the meatgrinder again and again.

I cannot explain while flag officers will violate their sworn oaths of office again and again, and send soldiers into a battle they are not equipped or trained to win.

"The ground force in Iraq had not foreseen this threat in the initial planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom," a recent study at the U.S. Joint Forces Staff College found. In fact, the U.S. invasion force's failure to secure Iraq's ammunition dumps in 2003 left tons of bomb ingredients available to insurgents. … "In regards to defeating the device, we have done a fantastic job," said Army Col. Michael Mahoney, JIEDDO's operations chief. "The enemy is required to put out a lot more IEDs today to achieve a casualty than he had to do previously."

The experts estimate half the IEDs planted in Iraq are now detected and disarmed. To achieve that, JIEDDO has helped deploy an arsenal of tools: add-on kits to "up-armor" Army and Marine Humvee vehicles; small camera-equipped blimps and unmanned aerial vehicles to spot bomb-planting activity; "Warlock" frequency jammers aboard vehicles; bomb-disposal robots; bomb-sniffing dogs.

Out on Iraq's roads, one sees countless "Rhinos" - spindly arms extending far in front of Humvees' bumpers, bearing "hot boxes" whose heat prematurely trips IEDs' infrared detonation sensors. By October, JIEDDO will test another innovation: advanced ground-penetrating radar to detect deeply-buried explosives.

A sensible man would wonder whether it has dawned on COL Mahoney that the “enemy” is achieving his goal? Despite the best efforts of the services, and what has been described as more money (in constant dollars) than it cost to create the two atomic bombs that ended WWII, the “enemy” is today more successful than when he first started resisting our occupation.

Our technology is finding and defeating many bombs? He’ll just make more of them. The law of big numbers is on his side as my Army dies the death of 10,000 cuts.

There is one certain, indisputable way to defeat the IEDs. It does not entail discovery or premature explosion technology. It does not entail picking fights with countries on Iraq’s borders. It entails acting like a responsible leader in the community of nations. The beacon and example we used to be.

It entails abandoning this disgraceful un-American war of empire and bringing our troops home.

Syria Delenda Est!
Posted by Lurch on August 20, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Last year Senator Joe Lieberman (R-Tel Aviv) started beating the war drum against Iran.

While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. … This bloodshed, moreover, is not the inevitable product of ancient hatreds. It is the predictable consequence of a failure to ensure basic security and, equally important, of a conscious strategy by al-Qaeda and Iran, which have systematically aimed to undermine Iraq's fragile political center. … Radical Islamist terrorist groups, both Sunni and Shiite, would reap victories simultaneously symbolic and tangible, as Iraq became a safe haven in which to train and strengthen their foot soldiers and Iran's terrorist agents.

Well, one would naturally wonder why Whining Joe is agitating for a third war when we can’t handle what we have on our plate right now. We get all the news from Iraq, and it’s all bad, if you ignore the MNF-I propaganda abut finding 217 weapons with Iranian markings in Iraq.

Also last year, Glenn Greenwald pointed out that this certainly wasn’t the reason for Senator Lieberman’s call to war:

Initially, it must be emphasized that whatever his reason is, it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the sentiments expressed by Israel's newest cabinet minister, Avigdor Lieberman (whose duties include strategic affairs and Iran) when he visited the U.S. earlier this month and gave an interview to The New York Times:

“Our first task is to convince Western countries to adopt a tough approach to the Iranian problem,” which he called “the biggest threat facing the Jewish people since the Second World War.” [Minister] Lieberman insisted that negotiations with Iran were worthless: “The dialogue with Iran will be a 100-percent failure, just like it was with North Korea.””

And it certainly wasn’t this:

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Friday compared Iran's nuclear ambitions and threats against Israel with the policies of Nazi Germany and criticized world leaders who maintain relations with Iran's president. . . .

Israel has identified Iran as the greatest threat to the Jewish state. Israel's concerns have heightened since the election of Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who frequently calls for the destruction of Israel and has questioned whether the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews took place.

"We hear echoes of those very voices that started to spread across the world in the 1930s," Olmert said in his speech at the Yad Vashem memorial.

Senator Joe Lieberman succeeded in getting us onto a war footing against Iran. Shamefully, the vote was almost unanimous.

Now the Secretary of Vengeance (h/t Bill in Portland) has received new instructions from Bibi Netanyahu: The enemy is Syria.

The United States is at last making significant progress against al Qaeda in Iraq--but the road to victory now requires cutting off al Qaeda's road to Iraq through Damascus.

Thanks to Gen. David Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, and the strength and skill of the American soldiers fighting there, al Qaeda in Iraq is now being routed from its former strongholds in Anbar and Diyala provinces.

Recently declassified American intelligence reveals just how much al Qaeda in Iraq is dependent for its survival on the support it receives from the broader, global al Qaeda network, and how most of that support flows into Iraq through one country--Syria. Al Qaeda in Iraq is sustained by a transnational network of facilitators and human smugglers, who replenish its supply of suicide bombers--approximately 60 to 80 Islamist extremists, recruited every month from across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and sent to meet their al Qaeda handlers in Syria, from where they are taken to Iraq to blow themselves up to kill countless others.

That’s right. The attack against Iran now being in the bag, it’s time to start agitating against Syria. Those evil Syrians are threatening our glorious victory in Iraq! Approximately 60 to 80 foreign fighters a month are all that’s stopping us from finding the ponies WMDs!

Before al Qaeda's foreign fighters can make their way across the Syrian border into Iraq, however, they must first reach Syria--and the overwhelming majority does so, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, by flying into Damascus International Airport, making the airport the central hub of al Qaeda travel in the Middle East, and the most vulnerable chokepoint in al Qaeda's war against Iraq and the U.S. in Iraq.

We can look forward confidently to GEN Petraeus, LTG Ray Odierno, MG Rick Lynch, and BG Kevin Bergner now rotating daily accusations against Syria, warning that something must be done to stop the suicide bombers.

The very first thing in Syria we must bomb is Damascus Airport. Only after we have destroyed that airport (and perhaps the surrounding 20 or 30 square miles, in case they have some camouflaged runways we don’t know about,) can we win in Iraq!

Prediction: after the Likud Party has engineered the destruction of Iran and Syria they will start moaning about those foreign fighters again, and specifically mentioning that more than half of them are Saudis.


Changes in the South
Posted by Lurch on August 20, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

There is a story developing in the south of Iraq which will have serious consequences for our occupation of that conquered country.

The British Army has been defeated in Iraq and left with no option but to retreat from the country, claims radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Violent resistance and a rising death toll among UK troops has forced a withdrawal, he said in an interview with The Independent.

"The British have given-up and they know they will be leaving Iraq soon," Mr Sadr said. "They are retreating because of the resistance they have faced. Without that, they would have stayed for much longer, there is no doubt."

The young nationalist cleric heads Iraq's largest Arab grassroots political movement, and its powerful military wing, the Mehdi army. It has clashed frequently with British forces in southern Iraq, most recently in the battle for power over the oil-rich port city of Basra. Scores of British soldiers have been killed and wounded by Sadrist militants.

The signs have been plain for all to see. As Britain has handed over some of the governates and provinces in the area it was assigned to pacify and occupy, attacks against British troops have increased. They British forces are now principally confined to the Basra area.

At the beginning of the year, Britain had just over 7,000 troops in two provinces of southeastern Iraq. Current force strength is down to 5,500, confined to two main bases, Basra airport and the Basra Palace, which is under siege. Another reduction to 5,000 is expected this summer. Any additional cuts would be part of a complete withdrawal. Defence secretary Des Browne said last week that further reductions had not been decided upon and would only take place in agreement with the Americans.

Take this with a grain of salt. Gordon Brown is not Tony Blair. He comes from a different social and political background and it’s fair to say he won’t see the “special relationship” with the US quite the same way. It’s certain he and his ministers view George Bu$h with far less than the adolescent worship Mr Blair espoused. When domestic political pressure becomes too costly, Mr Brown will order a withdrawal.

Moqtada al-Sadr:

"The British have realised this is not a war they should be fighting or one they can win," Mr Sadr said. "The Mehdi army has played an important role in that." He also warned that Britain's involvement in the invasion of Iraq had made the UK a less safe place to live. "The British put their soldiers in a dangerous position by sending them here but they also put the people in their own country in danger," he said. "They have made enemies among all Muslims and they now face attacks at home because of their war. That was their mistake."

Britain’s society is different, and there is less economic opportunity. Muslim immigrants to the US seem to dedicate themselves to getting ahead and building a future, no matter what the xenophobic masturbations of the international Caliphate our never-right might ordain. I don’t want to say we don’t have sleeper cells of martyrs in this country. We haven’t seen any evidence of that, and given the easy access to guns we might well have seen that, rather than winger psychos blowing up abortion clinics and shooting people on school campuses.

The British are leaving Basra. Depend on it. It vastly complicates the continued American occupation of Iraq. There is another, connected Independent article today about that.

Last month Gordon Brown said after meeting George Bush at Camp David that the decision to hand over security in Basra province – the last of the four held by the British – "will be made on the military advice of our commanders on the ground". He added: "Whatever happens, we will make a full statement to Parliament when it returns [in October]."

Two generals told The Independent on Sunday last week that the military advice given to the Prime Minister was, "We've done what we can in the south [of Iraq]". Commanders want to hand over Basra Palace – where 500 British troops are subjected to up to 60 rocket and mortar strikes a day, and resupply convoys have been described as "nightly suicide missions" – by the end of August. The withdrawal of 500 soldiers has already been announced by the Government. The Army is drawing up plans to "reposture" the 5,000 that will be left at Basra airport, and aims to bring the bulk of them home in the next few months.

It looks as if Mr Brown also listens to his commanders, the difference being they tell him what is and not what he wants to hear. But the loss of a heavy brigade of troops positioned to guard our logistic lines is a serious threat. Sixty rocket and mortar attacks daily is actually more like a state of siege.

The Americans are very unhappy, of course, and MNF-I and CENTCOM especially have been saying the British were “defeated.” That may or may not be accurate, since our generals are in denial about progress (or lack of progress) in the north.

American criticism of Britain's desire to pull back in southern Iraq has recently become public, with a US intelligence official telling The Washington Post this month that "the British have basically been defeated in the south". A senior British commander countered, "That's to miss the point. It was never that kind of battle, in which we set out to defeat an enemy." Other officers said the British force was never configured to "clear and hold" Basra in the way the Americans are seeking to do in Baghdad.

Somehow the British got the idea that their job was to train Iraqis to govern their own provinces and learn to defend themselves. No one from the Likud Party explained it all to them.

Immediate American discontent is said to centre on the CIA's reluctance to leave Basra Palace, an important base for watching Iran, which may explain why Britain has held on to the complex until now. But last week it was reported that US intelligence operatives were in the process of pulling out. Further ahead, the US is concerned over the security of its vital supply line from Kuwait, with some American commanders saying that if the British withdraw, American troops will have to be sent south to replace them. As the hub of Iraq's oil industry, Basra is also a tempting prize for the Shia militias battling each other for control.

If the CIA is abandoning a prime listening post, we’re about to see some momentous changes. Having to spread our already over-stretched forces even farther will be a terrific problem. For one thing it could spell death to the 15 month tours as I speculated here.

Here are the facts: George Bu$h will not allow one soldier to be withdrawn while he occupies our Oval Office. Not one. In fact, he is going to insist on a larger presence in Iraq, and the Joint Chiefs will be ordered to make it happen. That means that the current 15 month deployments will become 18 months for the Army, and the just-increased 12 month deployments for the Marines will jump to 15 months. Twelve month down times at home will be shortened to nine months. Several thousand more sailors and airmen will be retrained as infantrymen, military policemen and convoy guards.

Without the British to cover our flanks we’ll need increased convoy guards to maintain our supply lines. Good thing they’re planning to add more retrained sailors and airmen into the sandbox. And the chance to put armed troops on still more of the Iraq/Iran border is just too good to be missed. That will mean greater opportunities to get their war on with Iran.


MRAPs Go Mainstream
Posted by Lurch on August 18, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

This morning’s IraqSlogger has a catch-up story about the MRAP program(s) that the troops are dying to get in Iraq.

Last month, Pentagon placed a $5.4 billion rush order for 3,900 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, pushing to get at least 3,500 into Iraq by the end of 2007.

The MRAPs have a V-shaped reinforced hull designed to withstand the blast of IEDs and EFPs, the leading killer of US troops in Iraq. The Pentagon's MRAP program is "the fastest moving major program in the Defense Department," according to John Young, chairman of the Pentagon's MRAP task force.

The original MRAP, the Cougar, and its larger stablemate, the Buffalo, were designed by Ladson, SC-based Force Protection, Inc. A very small shop, it was initially turning out only a couple of vehicles each month. After its first DoD order, it has added more manufacturing space, and a much larger staff, and is capable of churning out about 100 vehicles per month right now. It plans to open two new factory spaces before the end of the year, which will double its capacity. The new factories will primary produce the Cheetah model, a lighter vehicle than its standard, the Cougar, and will be aimed at replacing the HumVee, to be used as recon, command & control and “urban operations.

Cheetah 1.jpg


Video presentations of all three Force Protection mdoels available here.

The heavy-armored vehicle demand is so high that Force Protection’s larger competitors have also drawn orders. BAE/Armor Holding’s RG-33 will definitely be added to the Pentagon’s list, solely because of its proven track record in South Africa.

RG-33.jpg

BAE has also just introduced a new vehicle, the Caiman, a 14 ton personnel carrier.

Caiman.jpg

General Dynamics has been tapped to produce 500 copies of its RG-31. A USMC unit is shown in this “after” photo of an IED exploding beneath the vehicle. The five Marines inside suffered two concussions and two light burns, according to HQ, USMC, and are well pleased with the vehicle.

RG-31-ied.jpg

Navistar/International Trucks has received several orders for its MaxxPro design, reportedly around 2,000 units in total.

MaxxPro MRAP.jpg

The manufacturer claims the vehicle is manufactured with as many standard industry-wide parts as possible, to make repair and replacement easier. Additionally, the armored body is bolted together, rather than being welded. It is felt that using this method of assembly will again make repair and replacement at a lower level maintenance shop possible.

The unit cost of these babies, which was estimated at about $1 million per, will approach $3.4 million each, and in some cases exceed that figure. This is not all manufacturing cost, however. The Armchair Generalist explains why the ticket cost is so high:

Yes, the bucket seats, air conditioning, and radios weren't included in the original sticker price. Now, the surprise isn't just that the Army and Air Force are getting MRAPs at $2 million a pop (and why is the AF getting so many vehicles? Do they go off-base?) and the Marines are getting a larger one at nearly twice the cost (Marines have bigger... needs?). It's not that the SOCOM and Navy are getting what appears to be pork on top of an MRAP procurement to keep them happy. It's that we're going to fly these multi-ton vehicles into theater at a cost of nearly $750 million.

The emergency funding request would allow the military to fly many of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to troops rather than send them by ship, which takes weeks. The flight takes 13 hours, allowing for same-day delivery, said Lt. Col. Ed Thomas, an Air Force spokesman.
----------
The military's Transportation Command estimates that it costs $135,000 to send an MRAP by plane compared with $18,000 by ship. An Air Force C-17 can carry as many as three MRAP vehicles.

These vehicles are high priority items now, for both military and political reasons. Air freight is a mandatory expense, and not just because the Pentagon might have appeared to dither in the decision to buy them. They’re needed - now.

It should also be noted that downstream maintenance costs are going to be higher than expected due to the huge parts availability needed for so many different types of vehicles. While there will inevitably be some standardization from one model to the next, you can be certain that a maintenance company won’t be able to put a Cougar fender on an RG-33 or MaxxPro. Additionally, a lot of the maintenance work to be done on these vehicles will be done by contractors rather than uniformed service personnel, and you know how that works, right?

However, for the HumVees that are still out there in Iraq, and still doing much of the everyday work, there is another temporary solution. Most HumVees in Iraq are the newer, armored version, the M-1151. AM General, the manufacturer, has devised a “Frag 6” armor kit that can be added in the field.

"It's a significant weight increase on the truck - about 1,000 pounds - and it adds about 12 inches each side of the truck of the entire width," said Larry Day, program executive with AM General Defense.

The doors are so heavy, troops may need a mechanical assist device to open and close them and drivers will likely require built-in visual references so they'll know if they can fit the vehicle in narrow spaces.

The Army has not yet given AM General the order to produce the kit.

"We have not been given the go-ahead to put them into production or even finalize the design," Day said. "But it's our responsibility integrate them onto our doors, so it would be better for us to do it."

AM General is planning to outfit about 3,000 M1151 Humvees with the Frag Kit 6 doors if the Army decides that's the way to go.


Articles on MRAPs:

Mine Resistant Vehicles

17,700 MRAPs

Marine MRAPs Mired in Minutiae

A Minor MRAP Problem

The Super-MRAP

The Cougar MRAP

Baby Huey Needs Feeding

What Does the JIEDDO Do?

MRAPs Go Mainstream



Broom, Trashcan
Posted by Lurch on August 17, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Via Crooks and Liars come two moment in time snapshots of our military as seen from the outside:

Revphat reports:


I received word today that my nephew's helicopter "went down" in Al Anbar in the past day or two. He apparently emailed his father that he is "okay" but, as you all can imagine, I had a mini meltdown.

He also told his father - and let me emphasize that I'm getting this secondhand - that a friend of his (and others in his unit) rotated out for a two week leave with their families. When they arrived at the base on U.S. soil where they are attached, before they could even get off the bus, their CO came on the bus and told them they that would NOT be going home. Why? Because the soldiers who have been stationed at the base have been working HARDER THAN THEY and needed time off. So they would be filling in for them.

Just consider the implications….


From BHFRIK’s blog comes a promoted comment:


Stephen said...
I pray there is never another terrorist shock in the United States. I remember my son calling me on his cell from a city bus, where he had heard of the twin towers disaster. He had served four years in the air force. A year later he enlisted in a Wisconsin National Guard field artillery battalion. The Army deployed them last year to guard supply convoys on the roads of Iraq from HUMVEEs. An explosive formed device, placed by the Shia, bored in to my son's up-armored Humvee on his first mission and wounded him. The convoy forged ahead, abandoning the destroyed HUMVEE. He was bleeding and received no first aid for 90 minutes until a medevac helicopter arrived. Though he was bleeding (nobody had applied a tourniquet to his leg) his heart and respiration were normal and he was yelling in pain. His condition continued to be stable with good vitals during the medevac flight, but 30 seconds before touchdown at the hospital, he went into cardiac arrest. The doctors attempted heroic measures to save him, but were unsuccessful. His death certificate says he bled to death.

I hate unsupported reports like these two. It’s very easy to say, “agitprop – undoubtedly made up,” like the never-right did when Scott Thomas Beauchamp’s reports were published in the New Republic. The wingers went into an automatic denial tailspin, because anything that disturbs their carefully invented made-up universe must obviously be a lie. But then I remember that Beauchamp's reports really haven't been disproved.

But, you know life in this country has deteriorated so much under this pack of criminals that when you hear things like this, you shake your head, look down at the ground, nod, and mutter a quiet curse.

Sometimes I feel the problem isn’t just in the White House, Congress and Judiciary. At times like this I think maybe we should just clean house – cashier the whole lying, skeeving, conniving lot of them - have some Major as Chief of Staff, have some 1st Lieutenants commanding divisions, and rebuild the entire military from the ground up.

What Does the JIEDDO Do?
Posted by Lurch on August 17, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

IraqSlogger devotes some space to the JIEDDO this morning, working off a Newsweek article about that Office.

I wrote about the JIEDDO a while back, with the helpful assistance the Armchair Generalist, who has done some pioneering research on the topic. Both the Generalist and I took the view that the Bu$h malAdministration’s response to the IED problem of establishing a large office presence in Northern Virginia was rather typical: loot the Treasury and throw lots if cash at some contractors. (OK – he was a bit more polite than I am.)

Describing IEDs as “Weapons of strategic influence” has some validity to it, because the problem, while deadly, has consumed a tremendous amount of attention, effort, and ca$h in our still-unsuccessful battle to pacify conquered Iraq. Those uppity natives still don’t understand that we believe we’re wearing the white hats.

As the Generalist noted:

According to its website, the JIEDDO's mission is "to eliminate IEDs as weapons of strategic influence."

So the problem with IEDs isn't that they kill or injure our troops. It's that they influence public opinion. They are weapons of propaganda.

"It can be mitigated, minimized, made into a nuisance," said Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs (ret.), the JIEDDO director, taking a page from John Kerry's anti-terrorism playbook.

How do we defeat "weapons of strategic influence"? Not by outfitting our troops with armor. Not by improving our intelligence and infiltration of insurgency groups. No.

We defeat them by funding sources of counter-propaganda: pro-war think tanks, pundits, and bloggers.

Our budget for next year allocated $6.4 Billion-with-a-B to funding the JIEDDO, whose job appears to be “outreach” – “communication,” – “information operations,” – you know, the classic Bu$hCo response to anything – propaganda.

Bu$hCo is a confusing message center; GEN Meigs says the best way to deal with the problem is to minimize it, while MNF-I insists the problem must be blown out of all proportion, and blamed on the evil Iranians.

According to Newsweek GEN Meigs says that the MRAPs are a good idea, but they’re basically a defensive measure. Defense doesn’t win wars –ask the man who designed the Maginot Line. Offense is needed, although some people think word spew is not the correct approach to solving the problem of these deadly weapons.

The article does mention "a retired general who declined to be quoted by name criticizing his former military colleagues," who is also described as a veteran of the Balkans, noting in passing that “While there are a number of retired generals who served in the Balkans, this also could refer to Gen. Meigs, who commanded NATO's Multi-National Division (North) in Bosnia in 1996, and assumed leadership of the NATO Stabilization Force in 1998-99.

The anonymous general doesn't discuss JIEDDO's work, but tells Newsweek that in order to reduce the threat of IEDs:”

One step is to get soldiers out of the vehicles that have too often become their fiery coffins. "What does barreling down a highway at 45mph, peering through a dust-covered windshield, actually accomplish?" asked a retired general who declined to be quoted by name criticizing his former military colleagues. A veteran of the Balkans, this general recalled that his troops had a term for routine, pointless patrols. "Dabbing," they called it, from the caustic acronym for "driving around Bosnia." "'Dabbing' now means 'driving around Baghdad'," says the general. Before he became head of Coalition forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus wrote the Army's new manual on counterinsurgency. For his forces in Iraq, he boiled it down to a series of instructions. Instruction No. 4: "Get out and walk."

Everyone—from the Americans to the British to the Israelis, with their long experience in Lebanon—seems to agree that better intelligence is essential to reducing the IED problem to a mere "nuisance" (Meigs's goal). But good intelligence is hard to come by. Instead, the Americans have resorted to operations like sending out convoys as bait—while drone aircraft loiter overhead to track the bombers, and signals-intelligence teams listen for their communications—followed by a larger force to spring a trap on the attackers. If that tactic sounds a little desperate, a senior military official, speaking anonymously about a sensitive subject, assured NEWSWEEK that such convoys use volunteer crews and very-well-armored vehicles.

“Dabbing around”, looking for trouble? Sending crews out as bait? Newsweek is going to get a nasty letter from BG Kevin Bergner, the head press flack at MNF-I about those statements. BG Bergner interned in the White House before being sent to Iraq, so he knows how to apply the political pressure and play the parsing game to get his own way. I guess the Mighty Wurlitzer will be all up in arms about the traitorous Newsweek soon.

Of course the troops have to patrol; the conquest isn’t complete yet. The natives, with no clean water, no sewage services, electricity one or two hours a day, no schools, not enough jobs (60%+ unemployment) not enough hospitals, not enough medicines, not enough doctors, not enough food, and a ruthless civil war raging all around them, are restless.

While police work isn’t a perfect analogy to subjugating a conquered country, policing experts all agree that foot patrolling a bad neighborhood pays better dividends that motor patrol when it comes to stopping crime. The good guy residents get to see the beat cop, and the bad guys leave the area. The fact that Iraq’s bad guys are a bit better armed than, say, an American inner city is just a point of scale. GEN Petraeus is right in his instruction #4: “Get out and walk.”

He has had quite a few photo ops on the streets of Baghdad, creating a visible presence: walking around markets, pressing the flesh with shop keepers, smiling and nodding in order to show our nation’s good side. His large, heavily armed escorts can be seen as evidence of his determination to turn the mean streets of Baghdad into Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood.

With the incredible upsurge in use of these devices we will have to develop better ways of making friends with our future conquests.

Newsweek notes:

[T]he IED—cheap, easy to make and adapt, and deadly—has in its own way proved equally powerful. The bombs have bled the U.S. military in Iraq. And thanks to the ubiquitous videos of IED attacks shot by insurgents and put up on YouTube, they will be credited with driving us out of the country whenever we do leave. Guerrillas, even armies, elsewhere are watching: most of the world's conventional militaries would be vulnerable to similar tactics. Already, locally made devices have begun appearing on battlefields from Somalia to Thailand to Pakistan.

GEN Meigs has his work cut out for him in minimizing the strategic effect of these weapons on the general public, if they’re becoming more popular and effective around the world. One possible good example of his organization’s work has developed however:

The U.S. military hasn't told the public exactly how many soldiers and Marines are killed and injured by IEDs every month in Iraq. Such disclosures would aid the enemy, or so goes the official explanation, though it might also embarrass Pentagon officials who say they have spent at least $6 billion so far trying to defeat IEDs, with limited success. The best estimate is that about one in three soldiers lost in 2004 was killed by an IED. Now it's more like four out of five. About 50 soldiers a month are killed or injured by IEDs, up from about 30 a year ago. Success, such as it is, is measured this way: the insurgents are setting off more and more IEDs every month—perhaps twice as many as last year. The American death toll is not rising as fast. Officials claim that about eight out of nine IED casualties are injured, not killed, which is a consolation of sorts, though not much of one to the maimed and brain-damaged.

Getting out the word that IEDs are killing fewer GIs on their 3rd and 4th tours has to have a beneficial effect.

Articles on MRAPs:

Mine Resistant Vehicles

17,700 MRAPs

Marine MRAPs Mired in Minutiae

A Minor MRAP Problem

The Super-MRAP

The Cougar MRAP

Baby Huey Needs Feeding

What Does the JIEDDO Do?

Thiraa Dijla Bridge
Posted by Lurch on August 14, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Thanks to a tip from Bernhard:

Insurgents hit a bridge north of Baghdad on Tuesday, using a suicide bomber at the wheel of an oil tanker truck to destroy the span, plunging cars and people into the canal waters below. Ten people are reported dead and six more missing.

The Thiraa Dijla bridge in Taji links Baghdad to Mosul, and was reportedly a strategic asset to the US, which relied on it for supply transport.

The bridge was damaged by a previous attack in May and was only operating with one of its lanes when Tuesday's suicide bomber attacked.

The attacker detonated his payload after going through an Iraqi army checkpoint about 40 yards away from the span, according to the AP.

"The blast, that took place in the middle of the bridge, caused a part of the bridge to collapse," a police source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"The explosion set a number of nearby vehicles ablaze," he also said.

The area was cordoned off by Iraqi and US security forces as rescue operations began. The New York Times reports US troops and divers were recovering bodies from the water soon after the explosion.

From the general description in this news article the bridge will be in this area:

Thiraa Dilja.png


Mosul is all the way north, towards the Iraq/Turkey border, as can be seen from this 2003 CIA map:


Picture 3.png


But still, though the article says it’s a strategic supply link, there are other routes available, and of course we still have quite a lot of air assets over there to supply outflung posts if necessary.

A while back MNF-I had a sort of test-run, I suppose you’d call it:

Iraqi Air Force delivers water, displays proficiency 13th SC(E), LSA ANACONDA PAO


CAMP ADDER, Iraq – Iraqi soldiers got a big boost in national pride and confidence Monday as they watched an Iraqi Air Force C-130 deliver fresh water to Camp Delta.

The fledgling Iraqi Air Force conducted this, its first logistical operation, to provide fresh bottled drinking water while keeping convoys off the uncertain roads.

The aircraft delivered the equivalent of roughly five truck loads of palletized water. This means keeping those trucks and the necessary security trucks that would accompany them off the roadway, said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Drushal, support operations officer in charge for the 82nd Sustainment Brigade.

This was a coalition effort. When the Iraqi cargo plane landed at Camp Delta, it was directed to a safe landing by Polish air control operators.

Even if they can't get the hamburgers and chicken breasts through for the Burger Kings and KFC's they'll still get water up there. But the majority of our logistics is still road-bound in massive convoys that can stretch out for a mile, according to some sources. I discussed some of the supply difficulties here, noting that we’re supporting one heck of a non-military overhead.

if the road supply routes were interrupted for some reason (violence being the most obvious) more than water would become scarce. Fresh food would quickly disappear. Most of the larger US bases look like a suburban mall, with Wendy’s or Burger Kings, Kentucky Fried Chicken stores, and even ice cream outlets. Much the same fare is available in the official mess halls, operated by KBR, a division of Mr Cheney’s Halliburton. I certainly don’t begrudge the troops anything, but this sort of home-style sustainment has a portion of the $12 Billion we’re spending each month. These little bits of home are operated and supplied by contractors and our grandchildren will be footing the bill when the Japanese and Chinese ask for payment. The troops could get along on MREs but it wouldn’t quite be the same. Say what you will about MREs, they do provide a balanced, if unexciting diet. The right calories to sustain a soldier in the field, low fat and high protein.

Wikipedia has a nice selection of historical information about Camp Taji for military buffs. Key points:

Camp Taji is now known as one of many United States camps that also house members of the new Iraqi Army and the Iraqi National Guard. Camp Taji is broken up between two Camps that are joined by a joint Iraqi/US gate. The Iraqi side called Camp Tadji is where the Iraqi troops, as well as the Transition Teams live. There is great controversy over the fact that the camp is divided, between "US and them". Much has been written on the subject, but with a simple look at the two camps one can see that there is a great difference in the quality of life on the two sides of the camp. [1]

In September 2004, Camp Taji reportedly boasted the largest PX facilities in Iraq, with Subway, Burger King and Pizza Hut franchises.[2] Although the PX facility is large, it remains poorly stocked in comparison to Baghdad and Balad due to supply issues. Of some 106 bases used by the United States in Iraq, Camp Taji is considered one of 14 "enduring" bases.[3]

The area immediately to the north along the main supply route to Camp Anaconda, an airbase outside of the city of Balad, is now referred to "ambush alley" or "Sudden Death". IED attacks, small arms fire and complex attacks on convoys and patrols remain an almost nightly occurrence.

We’re still in great shape over there. No need to worry as more and more bridges come down. We’ve got al Qaeda on the run.

The War of the Bridges series

The Bridges of Iraq

The War of the Bridges

Another Bridge Attack

Baghdad Bridges Falling Down

The Daily Bridge Attack

Balad Bridge

Pitrokimiwiat Bridge

Thiraa Dilja Bridge


The Failed Occupation
Posted by Lurch on August 12, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Stirling Newberry clarifies the War of the Bridges with a different focus:

A guerilla army must first neutralize the major military force's advantages of logistics, mobility and firepower, immobilize the major military force, it then procedes [sic] to bleed the major military force and finally shatter the brittle points in the major military force's ability to hold territory and critical points. First don't get killed, then fix in place, then put vulnerable points in exposed positions, and then deliver attacks with disproportionate effect. The occupation will end when the potential profits from the occupation are higher than the costs. Even if the major military force is "winning" on the ground, the key is to deny them the profits of occupation against the costs.

Fade-fix-bleed-shatter is the cycle of guerilla strategy. The major military has the inverse doctrine: ICA (Isolate, Concentrate, Annihilate).

The in the case of the guerilla force, one of the most important processes then, is to grind down the […] combat readiness of individual soldiers in the military. Since defeating a guerilla force requires vigilance and attention, fatigue is a powerful weapon. As importantly, the guerilla war cycle constantly tests the judgment of the people involved. Judgment is the mental capacity which is most clearly degraded by fatigue: the ability to rapidly make choices based on the weighing of large numbers of initially uncorrelated perceptions and pieces of information. As judgment of the major military force degrades, its collateral damage increases, its ability to separate the guerilla force from civilian population decre[a]ses, its ability to take advantage of temporary concentrations of guerillas decreases.

In short, judgment is the crucial quality which allows the major military to occupy, isolate, concentrate. The major military must then maintain judgment in the same way it maintains any other crucial form of readiness.

A surge is a term for a temporary increase in power, in military cases, manpower. This means that the present surge is created and maintained by holding forces in country longer, and by speeding up deployment of forces already scheduled to be sent. As with the 2004 surge with the Fallujah campaign, it has been a dismal failure at the military objectives. According the available information, the US has not secured any of Baghdad. The military situation is, still, a complete stalemate. This is because the very objective of the "surge" was counter to basic doctrine: land is not the key objective. Since Baghdad cannot be physically isolated from the rest of Iraq, removing guerillas from one part of the city merely means they can move to some other part.

It his however burning out the capacity of the occupation forces, and as importantly, it is being paid for by the commensurate reduction in Afghanistan. We are fighting two wars in the Middle East, and losing both of them. It is important to remember that Afghanistan has approximately the same population as Iraq. The basic security requirements will take the same amount of manpower, and since the government that was overthrown by the initial invasion was a cohesive political force, in the long term, the need for political change is going to drive security arrangements.

Mr Newberry’s points, especially the economic implications, are well-taken, although I would argue that control of land is essential to a successful occupation. Implicit with that phrase is the concept of controlling the movement of people. This control can be overt: a system of concentric controls: roadblocks, registration tables, document exam points, and the like. These are signs of an oppressive occupation, and the change to this system from a form of open passage can be understood to be an admission of a failing occupation. The recently announced plan to require all Baghdadis (and eventually all Iraqis) to be biometrically registered and issued with an ID card is the most egregious indicator yet of both the Bu$h malAdministration’s failure in Iraq and its original malign intent. The most recent excuse for conquest – the imposition of “democracy” (at the point of the gun barrel) falls into the trash heap of all the other excuses because of this requirement. Free people living under a democracy do not need roadblocks, identity checkpoints, and infallible ID cards. These are the tools of the oppressive occupier and the dictator.

Soldiers engaged in the oppression of occupation are doing the work of policemen and are unable to do the work they should properly be engaged in: the eradication of armed resistance. The (US) policemen that should be occupying are engaged in protecting logistic convoys to supply the troops. These forces are unequal to the task, and are being reinforced by sailors and airmen. The soldiers’ footsteps as they march run away from Army careers will be echoed by sailors and airmen who have been drafted into assignments they did not enlist for. Thus the failed imperial ambitions of a failed administration will create outward spreading ripples engulfing the other services.

The “surge” to gain control of Baghdad has failed. Because of poor planning its avowed purpose, controlling the Sunni resistance, has failed as the resistance leaders and an estimated 80% of the fighters melted away to surface in another province and continue their struggle there. The “surge” has degenerated into as many attacks against the Sadr Army as can be made, along with an unremitting propaganda campaign against Iran, in a foolish attempt to goad that country into precipitate action. After all, a White House befuddled and humiliated by the inability of a military to occupy, a mission it isn’t trained, equipped or qualified for, might as well start another war of conquest in order to quiet domestic criticism.


The Failed Occupation
Posted by Lurch on August 12, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Stirling Newberry clarifies the War of the Bridges with a different focus:

A guerilla army must first neutralize the major military force's advantages of logistics, mobility and firepower, immobilize the major military force, it then procedes [sic] to bleed the major military force and finally shatter the brittle points in the major military force's ability to hold territory and critical points. First don't get killed, then fix in place, then put vulnerable points in exposed positions, and then deliver attacks with disproportionate effect. The occupation will end when the potential profits from the occupation are higher than the costs. Even if the major military force is "winning" on the ground, the key is to deny them the profits of occupation against the costs.

Fade-fix-bleed-shatter is the cycle of guerilla strategy. The major military has the inverse doctrine: ICA (Isolate, Concentrate, Annihilate).

The in the case of the guerilla force, one of the most important processes then, is to grind down the […] combat readiness of individual soldiers in the military. Since defeating a guerilla force requires vigilance and attention, fatigue is a powerful weapon. As importantly, the guerilla war cycle constantly tests the judgment of the people involved. Judgment is the mental capacity which is most clearly degraded by fatigue: the ability to rapidly make choices based on the weighing of large numbers of initially uncorrelated perceptions and pieces of information. As judgment of the major military force degrades, its collateral damage increases, its ability to separate the guerilla force from civilian population decre[a]ses, its ability to take advantage of temporary concentrations of guerillas decreases.

In short, judgment is the crucial quality which allows the major military to occupy, isolate, concentrate. The major military must then maintain judgment in the same way it maintains any other crucial form of readiness.

A surge is a term for a temporary increase in power, in military cases, manpower. This means that the present surge is created and maintained by holding forces in country longer, and by speeding up deployment of forces already scheduled to be sent. As with the 2004 surge with the Fallujah campaign, it has been a dismal failure at the military objectives. According the available information, the US has not secured any of Baghdad. The military situation is, still, a complete stalemate. This is because the very objective of the "surge" was counter to basic doctrine: land is not the key objective. Since Baghdad cannot be physically isolated from the rest of Iraq, removing guerillas from one part of the city merely means they can move to some other part.

It his however burning out the capacity of the occupation forces, and as importantly, it is being paid for by the commensurate reduction in Afghanistan. We are fighting two wars in the Middle East, and losing both of them. It is important to remember that Afghanistan has approximately the same population as Iraq. The basic security requirements will take the same amount of manpower, and since the government that was overthrown by the initial invasion was a cohesive political force, in the long term, the need for political change is going to drive security arrangements.

Mr Newberry’s points, especially the economic implications, are well-taken, although I would argue that control of land is essential to a successful occupation. Implicit with that phrase is the concept of controlling the movement of people. This control can be overt: a system of concentric controls: roadblocks, registration tables, document exam points, and the like. These are signs of an oppressive occupation, and the change to this system from a form of open passage can be understood to be an admission of a failing occupation. The recently announced plan to require all Baghdadis (and eventually all Iraqis) to be biometrically registered and issued with an ID card is the most egregious indicator yet of both the Bu$h malAdministration’s failure in Iraq and its original malign intent. The most recent excuse for conquest – the imposition of “democracy” (at the point of the gun barrel) falls into the trash heap of all the other excuses because of this requirement. Free people living under a democracy do not need roadblocks, identity checkpoints, and infallible ID cards. These are the tools of the oppressive occupier and the dictator.

Soldiers engaged in the oppression of occupation are doing the work of policemen and are unable to do the work they should properly be engaged in: the eradication of armed resistance. The (US) policemen that should be occupying are engaged in protecting logistic convoys to supply the troops. These forces are unequal to the task, and are being reinforced by sailors and airmen. The soldiers’ footsteps as they march run away from Army careers will be echoed by sailors and airmen who have been drafted into assignments they did not enlist for. Thus the failed imperial ambitions of a failed administration will create outward spreading ripples engulfing the other services.

The “surge” to gain control of Baghdad has failed. Because of poor planning its avowed purpose, controlling the Sunni resistance, has failed as the resistance leaders and an estimated 80% of the fighters melted away to surface in another province and continue their struggle there. The “surge” has degenerated into as many attacks against the Sadr Army as can be made, along with an unremitting propaganda campaign against Iran, in a foolish attempt to goad that country into precipitate action. After all, a White House befuddled and humiliated by the inability of a military to occupy, a mission it isn’t trained, equipped or qualified for, might as well start another war of conquest in order to quiet domestic criticism.


Metricizing Military Success
Posted by Lurch on August 10, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

When I was a man-child (thank you, Mr Waters) my mother found a copy of Playboy and was scandalized, although I protested that I preferred the articles to the pictures. I still live in the same alternate universe and make a daily visit to Swedish Meatballs to learn something new, reading the articles rather than the pictures.

Effwit picks up the proverbial thematic and discusses the serial military disasters of the Bu$h malAdministration as exemplified by the Tillman killing, and ties a neat bow around the empty package of The Greatest Military in the World™ by showing how propaganda public perception has surpassed military skill in achieving results by citing an ongoing series by Stan Goff.

Many readers here are probably familiar with the fact that perception management activities suddenly become necessary after an unanticipated politically sensitive event such as the death of CPL Pat Tillman.

Stan Goff -- in the first part of a three-part series -- argues that it was the Pentagon's institutional emphasis upon domestic influence that led to decisions on the ground that resulted in Tillman's death itself.

The context for everything that happened after Pat's death requires this Pentagon propaganda-emphasis be center stage. Some people already understand this. What is not well understood is that this propaganda-emphasis likely played a central role in creating the conditions for Pat's death in the first place. Let me give that special emphasis, too:[emph added]

Awake observers have long understood that everything the Bu$h people do, every decision, initiative, proposal, program and public statement is done with no other thought than that of domestic political consumption. When your primary goal is the consolidation of domestic political power and the complete marginalization of political opponents so as to create a 21st century thousand-year-reich, it matters little what the peasantry in other countries think. The only concern is the fealty of the media to enable your lies. Why would anyone be surprised that the military would be susceptible to such a corrosive environment? They’re already pre-disposed to insularity by virtue of maintaining a culture within a culture. Civilians – the taxpayers, let me remind you, their employers – are to be avoided, to be suspicious of. The Enemy Within. And with the widening cultural chasm developing because of the Republican Party’s deliberate politics of destruction, that enemy is Democrats, Liberals, Progressives, and more and more, non-evangelical Christians and others. We dress differently, cut our hair differently, think differently and hence are dangerous.

One of the ostensible reasons Pat Tillman died is because his platoon leader, faced with an unexpected event, violated one of the prime dicta of military thought. His platoon was tasked to reach an objective by a specific time point. When one of the HumVees in the convoy broke down, he split his force, planning to defend the disabled vehicle with one part, and sending the other part on ahead to complete the mission. There is a record that he contacted “higher higher” to advise them of the problem and that the mission parameters would have to be changed.

Goff:

The decision to split the Blacksheep Platoon on April 22 was forced on a platoon leader who stated to his superiors that splitting the platoon in this terrain would require a half-assed preparation cycle and potentially create a dangerous break in inter-platoon communications. This directive was designed with one purpose in mind: to be able to state that the platoon had reached their "target" on time. A timeline (a bureaucratic checklist) drove this decision -- not the intelligence. The push to provide evidence of "progress" in Afghanistan -- using the Rumsfeldian "metrics" of quantification -- as a counterweight to the bad news from the Fallujah-Najaf rebellions and the breaking Abu Ghraib scandal, created the sense of urgency throughout military commands there to send reports confirming that X number of missions were completed in X amount of time. [emph added]

It was more important to “prove” that we were winning by presenting some statistics than to consider soldiers’ lives.

There’s a great deal of “inside baseball” in the Goff article which highlights just how our military has morphed into Billy Crystal’s “Fernano Lamas” character from Saturday Night Live.

“It is better to look good than to feel good.”

Briefly: Only “outstanding” officers and EM are worthy of promotion, and while on the Planet Earth one might find one in 30 or 40 to be outstanding, within our military the ratio is apparently somewhat lower, notwithstanding the “up or out” policy which has probably been put to death since the Iraq qWagmire. In this promotion program a soldier’s previous six months or one year are quantified by his supervisor (“rater”) and compared to all the other officers under that rater’s supervision. Missing any command-designated target can be a career-killer.

Thus, the stage was set for poor Lieutenant Blacksheep Platoon Leader to be pressured to split his force in Injun Country, and to cause CPL Tillman’s section to be ambushed. There’s much more to learn, and it would be time well-spent.

I look forward to Goff’s followup articles, and might well have something more to say about the disgraceful state of the World’s Greatest Military Power.™

Missing Rifles
Posted by Lurch on August 09, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

There have been wide-spread reports that the Army somehow lost about 190,000 rifles and pistols in Iraq. This was apparently either the bulk of, or a significant portion of, a purchase made somewhere in the Balkans and intended for issue to the Iraqi Army and national Police.

The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a new government report, raising fears that some of those weapons have fallen into the hands of insurgents fighting U.S. forces in Iraq.

The author of the report from the Government Accountability Office says U.S. military officials do not know what happened to 30 percent of the weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces from 2004 through early this year as part of an effort to train and equip the troops. The highest previous estimate of unaccounted-for weapons was 14,000, in a report issued last year by the inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

This sounds like a lot of money, but actually, it really isn’t that much if you take the long view. The purchase we’re talking about was really only a small portion of what “The United States has spent $19.2 billion trying to develop Iraqi security forces since 2003, the GAO said, including at least $2.8 billion to buy and deliver equipment.”

We’ve spent somewhere on the south side of three quarters of a trillion dollars ($750,000,000,000) so far on Mr Bu$h’s ego-war, when you consider moneys we’ve paid out or committed to paying out. This money was borrowed, and not paid for by taxes, so it doesn’t include the interest our children and grandchildren will be paying to bring this debt down to zero. Many knowledgeable observers conservatively estimate the final cost, at the end of the 30 year paydown period, will easily top $4 Trillion – you know how those interest payments add up.

The WaPo also reports

[T]he GAO said weapons distribution was haphazard and rushed and failed to follow established procedures, particularly from 2004 to 2005[.] [emph added]

I know you will be astounded to learn that the officer in charge of this “haphazard and rushed” distribution from 2004 to 2005 was GEN David H Petraeus, who now commands all forces in Iraq and has been designated by Mr Bu$h as the semi-beatified national savior who will correct all the problems in Iraq and buff up Mr Bu$h turd until it gleams like a pair of Corcorans that have been worked up with three cans of Kiwi polish.

The Pentagon did not dispute the GAO findings, saying it has launched its own investigation and indicating it is working to improve tracking. Although controls have been tightened since 2005, the inability of the United States to track weapons with tools such as serial numbers makes it nearly impossible for the U.S. military to know whether it is battling an enemy equipped by American taxpayers.

Good Grief! Serial numbers! These pieces have numbers on them? You mean these beasts built in the Balkans? They’re so advanced there that they know about numbers?

All together now. The Bu$h malAdministration mantra:

NO ONE COULD HAVE ANTICIPATED THE WEAPONS WOULD HAVE NUMBERS ON THEM


Apparently, though, the rifles and pistols aren’t really lost.

Bookkeeping problems are to blame for the inability to account for nearly 200,000 weapons issued to Iraqi security forces, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said late Tuesday.

In an interview on Fox News Radio, Gen. David H. Petraeus said he believes the weapons did reach the security forces, but that paperwork deficiencies don’t show their status.

“We believe those weapons all certainly were given to Iraqi units,” Petraeus said, according to a podcast recording on “The Alan Colmes Show.”

Meanwhile, 125,000 sets of body armor and 115,000 helmets intended for Iraqi forces could not be accounted for either, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued July 31.

The report faulted the Pentagon and the U.S. military command in Iraq for not applying the same standards in tracking supplies and weapons that it does elsewhere. The system has since been improved, the report found.

Petraeus was the commander of the “train and equip” program in Iraq during part of the time covered in the report.

A cynical man could just imagine the gallows humor laughter echoing around the newsroom of Stars and Stripes as they wrote up this story fairy tale.

“We occasionally likened it to building the world’s largest aircraft while in flight and while being shot at,” Petraeus said. “But we gradually started putting those procedures into place.”

Well, yes, that’s fine, General. Please do try and do things the Amy way, by the numbers, in triplicate, from the right, and in size order, at some point or other, OK? I mean, whenever you get the urge. I know it’s hard to remember these silly little procedures after only 34 years in the Army.

NO ONE EXPECTED THINGS TO BE DONE THE ARMY WAY

The tail of the Stars and Stripes report notes:

In the interview, Petraeus also said he will tell Congress in his September report that the “surge” is working.

“We are making progress. We have achieved tactical momentum in many areas, especially against al-Qaida in Iraq and to a lesser degree against the militia extremists,” Petraeus said. “We are also heartened by the number of Iraqi tribes and local citizens who have rejected al-Qaida.”

Which of course, I’ve been predicting for the last two months.

Balad Bridge
Posted by Lurch on August 08, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Bumped and promoted from comments by markfromireland:


Via Aswat al-Iraq

Salah al-Din, Aug 8, (VOI) – Unidentified gunmen blew up a major bridge in Salah al-Din's Yathrib neighborhood, which linked it to Balad district, a local police source said on Wednesday.


Picture 1.png


"The gunmen detonated a truck bomb on the bridge by remote control, leading the 30-meter long bridge to collapse and causing severe damage to nearby houses," the source said in statements to the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI)

No further details were given by the source.

The Shiite district of Balad is located 110 km north of Baghdad.


Picture 2.png


The war of the bridges continues, as the insurgents seek to isolate as many communities as possible. As a bonus, these lost bridges also isolate US occupation forces, making reinforcement and supply more difficult.

The above map cuts are dated 2003. It’s unlikely there have been any significant road improvements since then.


The War of the Bridges series

The Bridges of Iraq

The War of the Bridges

Another Bridge Attack

Baghdad Bridges Falling Down

The Daily Bridge Attack

Balad Bridge


The Company Town Considers Withdrawal
Posted by Lurch on August 06, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

This morning’s Christian Science Monitor offers very puzzling coverage of topic that presses on Americans – but not on their government. Gordon Lubold looks at withdrawing troops from Iraq.

WASHINGTON - Some in Congress and an increasing number of Americans want the Bush administration to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, but even if the decision came tomorrow to remove all 160,000 troops now there, it could take as long as 18 months to do it, say former military officials who've managed troop exits before.

Sooner or later, American forces will leave Iraq. But that political decision cannot be made in isolation, but must take into account the logistics of departure, which will be neither simple nor speedy, say former military officers.

There’s a great deal of denial in Washington, as actually befits a small company town that is completely walled off from the actual country that is governed from there. To say that the exquisites of our governing elites have no concept of life in “the provinces” is not overstating the issue. Working in a company town becomes a self-reinforcing paradox. Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Americans want to abandon an enterprise that more and more resembles nothing more than a money pit draining lives and finances away from what many perceive as more vital needs: protection of the nation and its citizenry.

Thus we find that while it was possible – quite easy in fact - to feed 160,000 troops into the quicksand pit in less than six months, it will take three times as long to extricate ourselves. And no one in the company town wants to see this fine example of foreign policy that enriches everyone within the company town fail. They feel compelled to magnify the dangers and difficulties of leaving.

Unlike other withdrawals from, say, Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War, insurgents, terrorists, and other bad actors are expected to contest US forces as they leave.

"There is no way they're going to pull out of that theater as fast as everyone thinks," says retired Army Lt. Gen. William "Gus" Pagonis, who oversaw the withdrawal of nearly half a million US troops and hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment from Saudi Arabia in 1991 over a seven-month period.

That’s right – all those bad guys, who hate us for our freedoms, and want to kill us all, will bitterly resist our leaving. The last time I saw such a self-serving bit of nonsense dressed up as justification for savagery was when Richard Nixon decided to attack Cambodia because the North Vietnamese refused to fight the kind of war we wanted to fight.

Withdrawal means different things to different people. Depending on how the war goes over the next few months, the Bush administration could push for more time and then begin a gradual withdrawal next year. Democrats in Congress, so far unable to halt implementation of the administration's "surge" strategy in Iraq, may yet be able to force a faster removal of troops.

Most agree that a "residual force" of untold size is likely to remain in Iraq for some time.

Here are the facts: George Bu$h will not allow one soldier to be withdrawn while he occupies our Oval Office. Not one. In fact, he is going to insist on a larger presence in Iraq, and the Joint Chiefs will be ordered to make it happen. That means that the current 15 month deployments will become 18 months for the Army, and the just-increased 12 month deployments for the Marines will jump to 15 months. Twelve month down times at home will be shortened to nine months. Several thousand more sailors and airmen will be retrained as infantrymen, military policemen and convoy guards. By the time we finally get this man and his evil cohorts out of our government, whether in January 2009 or some undetermined time after that, we will have over 180,000 troops in Iraq.

In discussing something as momentous as undoing a tragically bad decision, it’s important to understand motivations. George Bu$h doesn’t want us to leave Iraq because that would imply he made (another) bad decision. Big Oil doesn’t want us to leave because – well, just look at the name. The military doesn’t want us to leave because the flag officers have got this idea about doubling down again and again until you prove your testicles are bigger than the other guy. The Republicans don’t want us to leave because they’re all making money at this. The Democrats just want the Republicans to stop beating them, and will agree to anything, if only people will treat them nicely.

It seems the only people who want us to leave are the poor and the middle class who actually pay the taxes that support this thing, and who supply the bodies that are bleeding and dying over there. The Iraqis also want us to leave. Overwhelmingly.

"It's possible, even likely, that Iran among others would try to humiliate us on the way out, so you'd have to plan for a fighting withdrawal," says Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star general and adviser to the Defense Department. If the Bush administration were to opt to leave most of the military's equipment and facilities in Iraq, forces could be removed in a little more than three months, he says. But it's more advisable for US forces to exit gradually over more than a year when the time comes, says Mr. McCaffrey, who does not support an American withdrawal now.

I can understand why GEN McCaffrey might be worried about being humiliated. I don’t understand why he doesn’t feel humiliated right now, though. The Army that everyone in the company town boasts is the “most powerful army in the world” is unable to enforce a four-year-old occupation, and no one feels humiliated by that fact?

The Bu$h malAdministration keeps claiming that the evil Iranians seek to dispossess us from our conquest, and take it over for themselves. The claim that they would harry and attack us as we withdraw makes no sense really, because if they were really interested in supplanting us the realistic scenario is that they would do everything in their power to facilitate our speedy and trouble-free exit.

We keep sending the same troops back to Iraq, again and again. We’re now at the point where we’re sending sailors and airmen and disabled soldiers back because we haven’t got the healthy troops we need. Each time we send these mentally and physically damaged soldiers back we make our Army weaker.

We could get enough troops by instituting a draft, but that would scare the upper and upper middle class. They would suddenly understand their children will be killed and maimed and suddenly the 72% that now want us out would grown to 92%.

We’re not going to fin a miraculous military victory because we’re fighting a nation that doesn’t want to be occupied. We can pretend we’re seeking a political solution to the violence for years but we won’t find it because we’re the outsiders – the occupiers.

Prime Minister Maliki’s carefully chosen government is failing. Its internal opponents are withdrawing from the government. Cabinet ministers are walking away from their portfolios, and his response is to say he won’t accept their withdrawal. Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous? Have you ever quit a job? Did your boss say he refused to accept your leaving? Did you laugh in his face and leave anyway?

Soon, sometime after the September report from GEN Petraeus that Americans have been manipulated to believe will magically sole all the paradoxes, the US will engineer a coup against PM Maliki and out another figurehead in there. It will be a desperate attempt to find someone – anyone – will enough political clout to convince the rest of the country to quiet down, stop resisting the occupation, and allow the US-written Oil Law to be enacted so as to legalize the theft of Iraq’s future. Then suddenly, Big Oil will have its wealth, the US will suddenly not be humiliated on the international stage, and everything will be wonderful again.

Such are the dreams in the company town known as Washington, where the cocktails are always doubles, the cocktail weenies are always warm and never greasy, and there must be something unusual in the water.

Winning On Land; Almost Losing At Sea
Posted by Lurch on August 05, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

If, like me, you’re fascinated by grey boats, and enjoy a good discussion about naval warfare, including its necessary adjunct naval air warfare, David Axe has an interesting piece about a review of the Royal Navy’s strategic and tactical errors in recapturing the Falkland Islands.

The Falklands campaign, like all amphibious battles, was a land battle made possible only because of control of the sea space surrounding the islands. The RN’s function was logistical and defensive while the Army won a hard-fought victory against a numerically superior, entrenched, force.

Armies win battles they train for and the British Army had trained well for this mission. The training was not just tactical; they also toughened the soldier. Troops trekked overland in adverse weather, traveling 50 to 80 kilometers while carrying loads of 100 pounds or more, and on arrival swept immediately into the attack. Performance like this requires tough bodies and tough, resilient minds.

Winning a battle you haven’t prepared for is very difficult, as we’re learning in Iraq. The US Army trained to fight the Soviets in the Fulda Gap, and beat the Iraqi Army in Gulf War I. That training was adequate for the first two weeks of OIL Operation Iraqi Freedom, but we were woefully unprepared for what followed. The British Army could pick up and go home after achieving their mission. Sadly, the US Army hasn’t
been allowed to do the same.

David Axe’s piece has some great links to related topics. If you’ve got some time you might just enjoy looking them over.


CPL Pat Tillman
Posted by Lurch on July 31, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

There’s been a lot written about this American soldier. His death was a momentous event in the decades long fight against terrorism and occupation of Iraq, which is included in the fight against terrorism mainly because there was no terrorism there until we invaded and conquered that country.

The Army has had several versions of his death, each crafted and released to the public to serve specific needs, with perhaps the low point reached when the Army crafted a special eulogy for his family to recite at his graveside, knowing the relatives were transmitting a lie for propaganda purposes.

That was a low point, or so we thought, until last week when we learned that doctors examining the body released a report that raised many suspicions that CPL Tillman’s death was not only by friendly fire, but also deliberate. I am far from convinced his death was deliberate, that is to say murder. It’s far more likely that he was killed accidentally, by wild fire, and probably by a SAW LMG. He was sheltering behind a large rock, and there were apparently bullet marks on the rock.

The Army has determined that the ultimate reason the family and the nation were fooled in the cover up of Pat Tillman’s death was improper actions on the part of a now-retired general.

WASHINGTON - The Army censured a retired three-star general Tuesday for a "perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a failure of leadership" after the 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan of Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

Army Secretary Pete Geren asked a military review panel to decide whether Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger, who led Army special forces operations in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, should also have his rank reduced.

In a stinging rebuke, Geren said Kensinger "failed to provide proper leadership to the soldiers under his administrative control" when the Army Ranger and former pro football star was killed in 2004.

Geren said that while Kensinger was "guilty of deception" in misleading investigators, there was no intentional Pentagon cover-up of circumstances surrounding Tillman's death — at first categorized by the military as being from enemy fire.

"He let his soldiers down," Geren said at Pentagon news conference. "General Kensinger was the captain of that ship, and his ship ran aground."

Not having been at the firefight, and not having been the proverbial fly on the way during the discussions (and undoubtedly recriminations) I’m going to have to be satisfied with this response and official action.

The AP notes in the same article:

Geren's actions fail to end a three-year controversy that has damaged the ground service's image. Even as the Army's top civilian was telling reporters he did not know exactly when he'd receive a recommendation from the review board on Kensinger's rank, members of Congress were already judging whether the Army had gone far enough.

Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Mike Honda, both Democrats from Tillman's home state of California, said there still too many unanswered questions.

"We still don't know the full story about the way the Pentagon and this administration managed this tragedy," Boxer said in a statement. "In my view, the Army should reconsider today's announcement and instead move forward with harsher penalties."

In a separate statement, Honda called Geren's actions "necessary and long overdue" but added "they do nothing to lift the appearance of cover-up that continues to envelop the Pat Tillman story."

That’s enough. Let’s let it lie. The family has suffered enough. They and Pat Tillman’s spirit need to rest and as honorable men and women we should leave them alone, and move on.

If the Tillman family asks further questions, or further evidence comes to light, then further inquiry should be made.

I am quite prepared to move on to the next question(s).

However, a curious man might ask why CPL Tillman’s journal was burned.

And that same curious man might wonder if, as the Army claims, the malfeasance and misaction rose no higher than LTG Kensinger, why has the White House refused to provide Congress with its files on this death, claiming executive privilege?

It's especially confusing since, in this latest iteration of the Tillman legend no one higher than LTG Kensinger had any part or action in it.

New Conductor But Same Old Orchestra
Posted by Lurch on July 26, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Two data points to consider about America’s future in the second half of 2007:

One

After Under Secretary of State Eric Edelman told Senator Clinton that she was a traitor and emboldening the enemy for asking whether the Army has contingency plans for leaving Iraq, the Senator wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Gates asking about the entire affair.

Secretary Gates has replied to Senator Clinton.

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that a top Pentagon official did not intend to impugn her patriotism by suggesting that questions about U.S. planning in Iraq boosts enemy propaganda.

At the same time, Gates defended his aide and the author of the letter, Undersecretary for Policy Eric Edelman, calling him "a valued member" who provides "wise counsel and years of experience (that) are critically important to the many pressing policy issues facing the military."

In a three-page letter, obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, Gates sought to calm a politically stoked exchange between the Pentagon and the Democratic presidential front-runner over planning for the withdrawal of U.S forces from Iraq.

No, of course Mr Edelman didn’t mean to impugn Senator Clinton’s patriotism. He said that, but he didn’t really mean it.

Gates' letter, dated Wednesday, insisted that was not the point of Edelman's missive.

"I emphatically assure you that we do not claim, suggest, or otherwise believe that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies, nor do we question anyone's motives in this regard," Gates wrote.

The Defense Secretary both agreed with Clinton that congressional oversight of military planning is needed and at the same time defended Edelman.

"I truly regret that this important discussion went astray and I also regret any misunderstanding of intention," Gates wrote.

"I agree with you that planning concerning the future of U.S. forces in Iraq — including the drawdown of those forces at the right time — is not only appropriate but essential," Gates wrote, adding that Edelman also agrees with that point.

"You may rest assured that such planning is indeed taking place with my active involvement," he wrote in the letter.

So even though Secretary Gates feels that Mr Edelman was wrong, and says Mr Edelman agrees, that’s the end of the issue.

Data Point Two

The Heritage Foundation released a report Wednesday on a recent wargame project examining the economic impact war with Iran, or an attack on Iran, would have on the world economy.

From December 2006 to March 2007, Heritage Foundation scholars conducted a computer simulation and gaming exercise that examined the likely economic and policy consequences of a major oil disruption in the Persian Gulf. The exercise utilized a realistic scenario, state-of-the-art macroeconomic modeling, and a knowledgeable team of subject-matter experts from government, business, academia, and research institutes from around Washington, D.C.

This project was a proof-of-principle investigation that combined computer modeling and gaming to capture how U.S. decisions during a crisis might affect how global energy markets and the U.S. economy adjust to sudden and significant disruptions of oil supplies. In this scenario, the United States responded to a crisis precipitated by an attempted Iranian blockade of the Strait of Hormuz.

(While wargaming has a long history in the military and is fairly continuous within the military, participation of civilian think tanks is somewhat newer. Herman Kahn, of the RAND Corporation, and later a founder of the Hudson Institute, was really one of the very first civilians to intrude into this arena. During the 1960s his advice and participation in wargaming “the unthinkable” was eagerly sought by several administrations. Mr Kahn felt that nuclear war was “winnable” and that some form of civilized life would go on afterwards. He was the creator of the Mutually Assured Destruction concept.)

The game began with a series of economic results based on a scenario in which Iran began blockading the Strait of Hormuz in January 2007. The assumption was that Iran may succeed in fully blockading the strait for up to one week, but after that, some oil shipping would slowly resume.

The Heritage Foundation economics team, supported by analysts at Global Insight, then modeled the blockade's likely economic effects on world oil prices and the U.S. economy. They found that under worst-case circumstances:

*
The price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude[1] would peak in the third quarter of 2007 at $150 per barrel, an increase of $85 per barrel;
*
Real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) would fall by over $161 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007;
*
Private non-farm employment would decline by over 1 million jobs by the middle of 2008; and
*
Real disposable personal income would be more than $260 billion lower by the fourth quarter of 2007.

The above are best guess estimates of the results of conflict in or near the Straits of Hormuz. Obviously there could be only one country designated as the “problem” in this exercise, and the effects of that country’s response is being considered solely in economic terms.

The purpose of the exercise was to attempt to develop a set of policy initiatives and responses to conflict in the Hormuz area to mitigate the worst-case estimates.

[T]he group broke up into three teams: policy–makers (National Security Council); government agencies that implement the policy (federal agencies); and industry that meets the technical needs of implementing policy (industry). Teams consisted of experts in foreign policy, including regional experts; experts from the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Energy, and Defense; and congressional staff members. The policymakers directed policy; the federal agencies and industry members determined the best way to implement and meet the technical needs of the policy.

You will be surprised to learn that the results of this project indicate that it is possible to develop policies and responses or initiatives to minimize the economic dislocation of a conflict in the area of the Straits of Hormuz.

Just in case you thought the Likudniks weren’t still in charge of our foreign and military policy machinery.

Is Time Prophetic?
Posted by Lurch on July 23, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

The latest issue of Time Magazine (July 30th issue date) examines the quickening pace of background talk about leaving Iraq. Everyone is taking about abandoning the Great Enterprise, except the Decider-in-Chief and the sock puppeteer Mr Cheney. (That probably explains why Mr Bu$h had to have a colonoscopy on Saturday, and have five polyps removed. Wool is irritating.)

The cover story argues that there are two schools of thought about Iraq.

The first, represented by many congressional Democrats, argues that it is past the time for America to leave. The best thing that could happen now is for the U.S. to pull out as quickly as possible, force the Iraqis to take control of their destinies and compel the oil-rich gulf states in the neighborhood to get off the sidelines. In this view, leaving Iraq would deny al-Qaeda its best recruiting tool, a large U.S. military presence in the Middle East. Along the way, the U.S. could save the $10 billion a month that it is spending on the war and rescue the U.S. Army and Marine Corps before they both collapse.

A sardonic man would note in passing that Time missed mentioning the 74% of polled Americans who agree with the “many congressional Democrats.” who believe that the latest National Intelligence Estimate is right:

Al-Qaeda has reestablished its central organization, training infrastructure and lines of global communication over the past two years, putting the United States in a "heightened threat environment" despite expanded worldwide counterterrorism efforts, according to a new intelligence estimate.

Intelligence officials attributed the al-Qaeda gains primarily to its establishment of a safe haven in ungoverned areas of northwestern Pakistan. Its affiliation with the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, the report said, has helped it to "energize" extremists elsewhere and has aided Osama bin Laden's recruitment and funding.

Great. They’re back, as strong if not stronger than they were in September 2001. They’re getting tons of ca$h from the Saudis, and lots of eager fighters and suiciders from there, too. The Pakistani madrassas instituted in Pakistan by the Saud family are churning out hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated Islamic fundamentalists each year, so many in fact, that Iraq and Afghanistan don’t have room for all of them, so they’re starting up trouble in Pakistan.

In fact, we’ve lost ground in the last year, if you can believe an NIE. If you get my drift and I think you do.

An NIE on global terrorism written in April 2006 described a downward trend in al-Qaeda's capabilities since bin Laden and the rest of the group's surviving leadership were driven from their sanctuaries in Afghanistan by U.S. military forces in December 2001. That report, like the one issued yesterday, said that the Iraq war was a primary recruitment vehicle for al-Qaeda. But the earlier report concluded that al-Qaeda's operations had been disrupted and its leadership was "seriously damaged."

This loss of ground, by the way, is the best argument possible for impeachment and voting out the corrupt Republican Party in November 2008.

The Bu$h malAdministration is facing a problem. On the one hand, news is so bad that they must present some good news, somehow, somewhere. Thus we find them trumpeting the success of the Sunni insurgency, our newest BFF, in knocking back the alleged “al Qaeda in Iraq.” These are the people who were killing US troops eight months ago, and killing them in such quantities and methods that the Bu$hies started murmuring darkly about the Shiite Iranians, committed deadly enemies of all Sunni everywhere, of supplying them with weapons, including the dreaded Iranian EFPs which are puzzlingly marked in English.

On the other hand we are now unfortunately in an election season, and it is necessary to ramp up the fear, fear FEAR all the time, because only the Republican Party can keep those jihadis from killing you!

To be fair, there is some sort of vague organization in Western Iraq using the name “al Qaeda in Iraq” and they are being fought off by the western tribes, although it’s possibly not so much an ideological battle as it is a turf war. The tribesmen have become accustomed to some of the Western vices like tobacco and alcohol, and al Qaeda is reportedly quite the pack of prohibitionists, so the tribes are temporarily pushing back against the AQ opportunists.

Time notes that with all the bickering and sloganeering, everyone seems to be missing a key point:

What's needed is not the sloganeering of certain politicians but a clear-eyed, multifaceted policy. That would involve making plain to the Iraqi government our intention to pull back, followed by an orderly withdrawal of about half the 160,000 troops currently in Iraq by the middle of 2008. A force of 50,000 to 100,000 troops would dig in for a longer stay to protect America's most vital interests: denying al- Qaeda a safe haven and preventing an almost inevitable civil war from spilling into neighboring countries. At the same time, the reduction in the U.S.'s military footprint in the region should be accompanied by a sustained surge in American diplomacy.

They are of course missing the primary point: Withdrawing 80,000 troops will do nothing more than reduce the number of targets available to the Iraqi resistance. And hunkering down in reinforced bases will just pin them in place to be mortared and rocketed on a daily basis. It won’t remove the one unifying cause that is driving the resistance and al Qaeda’s paymasters, the Saudis.

Plus, there is all that oil. Messers Bu$h and Cheney are not going to abandon the oil, and without a robust military force to protect the Western oil companies interests under the Iraq Oil Law, those resources will end up being nationalized in an instant. We didn’t just invade and occupy Iraq to steal the oil. The intention was also to deny it to economic competitors.

If the US were to completely withdraw its military forces from Iraq (and of necessity the Middle East) there will be a clear winner, and it won’t be al Qaeda.

Iraq- Time.jpg

That helicopter lifting the Stars-and-Stripes-bedecked “A” on the cover is a Russian Hind-D.


The War of the Bridges Continues
Posted by Lurch on July 19, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

I’ve written a few times about the resistance tactic of destroying bridges. It’s a good tactic in an occupied country where much of the occupier’s forces are stretched thin, and must remain mobile in order to reinforce dispersed units, and to chase the evil al Qaeda and their evil Iranian handlers around the country in an ongoing game of whack-a-mole.

A list of all the bridge attacks is at the end of this article.

Our friend, Dubhaltach of Gorilla’s Guides left a comment on another thread earlier this morning reporting that two more bridges have been dropped.

2 bridges have been blown up in Haqlaniya (there's a fairly big base there)

The Wadi Hajlan bridge is a chokepoint for forces moving between Haditha and Hit.
The Haqlaniya bridge links Haditha to al-Boghdadi

Things in Anbar look like they're about to get (more) difficult again.

I held off on working on this, waiting for a bit more information. There’s precious little to work with, since MNF-I and CENTCOM seem to be a bit bashful about discussing this topic of destroyed bridges. Looking at it from the viewpoint of media management that’s understandable. They’re only interested in broadcasting victories. They have zero interest in discussing actions taken by the resistance that have negative tactical or strategic implications for the US.

Here is the best information available now:

Anbar, Jul 19, (VOI) – Unidentified gunmen simultaneously detonated two bridges in the city of al-Haqlaniya on Thursday, local residents from the Sunni al-Anbar province said.

"Unknown gunmen planted explosive charges under the bridges of al-Haqlaniya and Wadi Hajlan in western Iraq and totally destroyed them at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Al-Haqlaniya bridge, 200 meters long, was one of the most important bridges as it links the city of Haditha, 170 km west of Ramadi, capital of Anbar, to the city of al-Boghdadi, while Hajlan links Haditha to Hit, the witness said.

The bombings did not leave casualties, he said, adding Iraqi security forces and U.S. troops imposed tight security measures in the city afterwards.

If, like me, you’re vague about Iraq geography, here is a map to help you sort out the names. I’ve put it up as a reference rather than including it in this article because you get better resolution clicking the link.

I have no idea where any US Bases are and would be disposed to not advertise their presence on this webage. Dubhaltach may have good information or he may not. I will say it doesn’t seem to make any sense for the resistance to drop bridges that don’t inconvenience US troops.


Other articles about bridge attacks:

The Bridges of Iraq

The War of the Bridges

Another Bridge Attack

Baghdad Bridges Falling Down

The Daily Bridge Attack

Hearts and Minds
Posted by Lurch on July 16, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

It’s a tough day today – hot, humid - nasty humid – one of those “Welcome to Tan Son Nhut airbase. Now get down off that plane, find your duffle bag, and line up at attention on the yellow line” humid. We’ll get to news shortly; it’s all bad, and Mr Bu$h is not quite ready to launch an uncalled-for, premeditated war against Iran, so there’s time.

I wanted to call everyone’s attention to a fine, fine rant from a lady I greatly admire: the Kitchen Window Woman, who spends her time at The Dishpan Chronicles paying attention to the neighborhood.

She wants you to know about one of our officers and gentlemen, by act of Congress, a certain LTC MF, US Army. [emph added]

If there was any doubt about the stinking superior attitude Bush Americans have toward the Iraqi people, it vanished during Hugh Rimintons CNN news report from a village outside of the northern city of Tal Afar, near the Syrian border. … During coffee and CNN the following morning we caught Rimintons infuriating report. The bomb explosion that preceded the events in the sordid piece of video was not limited to the targeted Humvee in which one soldier was killed and another seriously wounded. The blast had blown the lid off of the tentative quiet that the occupying American military had successfully enforced in the northern province for ten months. It was also damaging to the pro-surge propaganda that is daily pumped out of the Pentagon much like sewage.

The explosive resistance by Iraqi insurgents prompted immediate American retaliation. Five villages were sealed off by the U.S. Calvary and some Iraqi soldiers for weapon searches and intimidation. It was not at all surprising that evidence of the Iraqi resistance was uncovered - cash, some guns, and false I.D.s. After prayers, the sheiks were rounded up and made to stand publicly, like naughty schoolboys, for a good old-fashioned American dressing down.

Enter Lt. Col. M.F., U.S. Army, whose behavior toward the assembled village elders provided at least one answer to that bothersome, oft asked question, "Why Do They Hate Us?" The following words were screamed in the faces of the captive men by the very pissed off Lt. Col. whose control in the region had been undermined by Iraqi citizens who do not want to live in an American colony.

"Every single village tells me it is the next village, it is the next village, it is the next village. Well, that is (EXPLETIVE)!

It is this village, it is now. It is all of you here today.

You WILL make a choice. You WILL make a choice today. If you do not choose MY side, the side of Iraq, the side of the government and the security forces, then you are MY Enemy. Understand that.”

There we go. The flower of our over-educated, man-managing Officer Corps. You can’t become an upper-level field grade officer without at least a Master’s degree, and this report shows that the Lieutenant Colonel with the eponymous initials is ready for his Ph.D.

”If you or you or you or you, if you are not supporting us, the security forces, (inaudible), and you are not providing information, then you are on the side of the enemy, and you are my enemy. And the next time I come, I will come hard and I will come strong, and I will come in the middle of the night.”

It’s inspiring to see one of our combat man-managers distill 3,000 years of shared combat experience to the basics: agree with me or I will kill you and your family, destroy your village, shoot your dog, and salt the earth.

Real hearts and minds stuff, MF. Excuse me. I meant Colonel MF.

Go read the rest of Kitchen Window Woman’s essay. It makes me proud to be in her company.

Special note to GEN Petraeus: Not only has LTC MF learned the essence of COIN warfare (although not quite the way FM 3-24 envisions it) it seems he has also learned the basics of campaigning as a Republican. I’m sure you’re very proud of him

USS Enterprise
Posted by Lurch on July 13, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

There’s been a lot of curiosity about the USS Enterprise since I wrote about her deployment on June 27th. When I look through the website statistics, checking the search inquiries that bring people to Main & Central, I usually see about six to eight a day, so I know this is a subject on people’s minds. And they can’t all be Rear Admirals in the Taliban Coast Guard or the al Quaeda Navy, right?

I mentioned last night that the Navy now has decided one carrier will do just fine to keep an eye on the dastardly, evil Iranians, who are the enemies of freedom everywhere and spend their days plotting to wipe Israel off the face of the earth when they’re not disguising their weaponry with English language labels.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy, Lieutenant Bashon Mann, said the arrival of the USS Enterprise should not be understood as an escalation in the Gulf. "That is not going to happen," he said. "The Enterprise is doing a one-for-one swap with the Nimitz. They are big ships, they are traveling with their strike groups, they cannot turn on a dime so to speak, but there won't be an overlap. People will say there will be these overlaps. That means there will be three carriers, but that is incorrect." The Drudge Report yesterday featured a story from Reuters announcing the arrival of the third carrier group.

Another Defense Department spokesman who asked for anonymity confirmed yesterday that by the end the summer, the Navy will have only one carrier in the Gulf.

In introducing the source I mentioned that the newspaper The Sun has been a reliable Republican Party propaganda outlet. By that I mean more reliable than the NY Times, WaPo, Wall Street Journal editorial page, or Rupert “greencard” Murdoch’s Fake News, or CNN.

Now a second source has popped up. Reuters has a century old tradition of actually checking shit they’re told, which is what we call journalism.

MANAMA (Reuters) - A U.S. aircraft carrier is heading to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet area of operations, which includes the Gulf, but the Pentagon said on Tuesday there had been no decision to increase naval power in the region.

U.S. defence officials said the deployment of the USS Enterprise was a routine measure to replace one of two U.S. Navy carriers now in the Fifth Fleet area.

Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet said the Enterprise was expected to arrive within weeks in its area of operations, where the U.S. has been flexing its muscles in a standoff with Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme that has stoked regional tensions.

"There is a scheduled swap of carriers that is part of the routine deployment of the Enterprise," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters in Washington.

"Has the department made a decision for three carriers in the Gulf? No," he added.

The U.S. Navy declined to comment on the future movements of the USS Stennis and the USS Nimitz, the two carriers currently deployed in the Fifth Fleet area.

The area includes the Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.

A Pentagon official said there was a possibility the Navy could go down to one carrier in the region.

The United States sent a second carrier to the Gulf at the start of this year. U.S. officials said that move was designed to reassure U.S. allies concerned about Iran's increasing influence in the region.

In May, a flotilla of U.S. warships sailed through the Gulf to hold exercises off Iran's coast in a major show of force that unnerved oil markets.

The U.S. Navy said in a statement that the Enterprise would provide "navy power to counter the assertive, disruptive and coercive behaviour of some countries," and take part in anti-submarine, anti-surface, anti-mine, air and missile defence and air strike operations.

"These operations are not specifically aimed at Iran... We consider this time unprecedented in terms of the amount of insecurity and instability in the region," Navy spokeswoman Denise Garcia said, citing tensions in Somalia, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The West suspects Iran of secretly seeking to build a nuclear bomb and wants Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment activities. Tehran insists its atomic ambitions are peaceful.

Earlier this month, commercial satellite imagery showed Iran was building a tunnel facility inside a mountain near a key nuclear complex -- a move nuclear analysts said could be an attempt to protect nuclear activity from aerial attack.

Tension over Tehran's nuclear ambitions has raised regional fears of a military confrontation. Iran has dismissed previous U.S. drills off its coast as morale-boosting exercises, and has said it had missiles that could sink big war ships in the Gulf.

So, since the Navy says Enterprise is replacing one (or two) of the carriers out there, let’s see where the carriers are.

The USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) Carrier Strike Group entered the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility on 31 January 2007. The USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG) entered the Guam Operating Area (GOA) 04 February 2007 to conduct several days of exercises while in the region. The distance between Bremerton and Guam is almost exactly 9,000 kilometers, or about 4,850 nautical miles, suggesting the Stennis was making about 13.5 knots [4,850 nm / 360 hours]. As of 08 February 2007 the JCSSG had "recently" completed flight and ISG operations off the coast of Guam, and is now headed west to provide support for U.S. and coalition forces operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet. While there, the strike group will support Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, conduct maritime security operations, and be prepared to support other taskings as assigned. Assuming a continued transit at 13.5 knots and no further delays, Stennis might arrive in the Persian Gulf around 01 March 2007 after a voyage of about 40 days. NB: officially in 5th Fleet AOR July 2.]

The USS Nimitz arrived in the 5th Fleet AOR on May 8th.

The USS Harry Truman, by the way, is reported “deployment ready” as of June 2 at her home port, Hampton Roads.

So, one could take the point that the Navy is telling the truth about cutting back on carriers in the Middle East.

Couldn’t one?


Times Change
Posted by Lurch on July 11, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

If you’re a grizzled old traditionalist, or a retired Drill Sergeant, a story in today’s Christian Science Monitor may cause a sniffle and perhaps a tear to well up in your eye – the good one, not the eye with the snarl that you used to terrify recruits. It seems that today’s Army wants its Drill Sergeants to train “soldiers” and “warriors” and not the kind of names many of us remember with different degrees of emotion.

"Whatever you do, do not embarrass me!" bellows the US Army drill sergeant at a cohort of freshly shorn recruits on the first day of basic training. Sergeant Carabello's trademark raspy voice booms through the Carolina pitch pine. His Smokey-the-bear "campaign" hat is tilted low over a scowling brow. "Don't ever leave your battle buddy behind, comrade!" he shouts at a soldier who has returned from the latrine alone.

Carabello, believe it or not, represents a softer, more sensitive drill sergeant. Back in the old days, he probably wanted to tattoo your behind. Now he just wants you not to embarrass him. Carabello is part of a significant but subtle change in one of the most feared and caricatured roles in the US military – the burr-headed officers who train young Army recruits for combat.

“Do-not-embarrass-me” ? Is this the 21st century mark of shame? Are the days of the unachievable 50th pushup gone? Are there no more six feet trenches? (I said six feet, Delbert! If I wanted a six foot one inch trench I’d have asked for it. Now fill it in and start over!”) And do trainees really have to have a hand-holder when they go to the latrine?

One reason for the shift in tone at places like Fort Jackson is the changing nature of war. Most of today's recruits will end up on the front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan or fighting the war on terror in some other part of the world. Decisionmaking in these chaotic theaters is often pushed from the platoon leader down to the soldier. According to Command Sgt. [Major?] Brian Carlson of the US Army Training Center here, rapidly moving situations and changes in Army structure increasingly require soldiers "to think for themselves and make decisions for themselves."

The tactical skills they need to learn are expanding, too. In addition to the usual physical training and weapons tests, recruits who may end up in street-to-street fighting in Baghdad are being taught everything from convoy protection to sniper detection – all in the usual nine weeks of basic training. The Army brass doesn't want the histrionics of drill sergeants distracting from instruction about modern warfare.

There are probably some grizzled old soldiers who are deaf in one ear who would say that a Drill Sergeant screaming about you taught you to react at once to anything that even seemed half as dangerous as he was.

The military is being prodded in some cases by the law as well. In 2005, four drill sergeants at Fort Knox, Ky., were charged with physically abusing recruits. As a result, the Army began prohibiting abusive language and anything that could be construed as hazing.

It probably doesn't hurt that the gentler training regimen may be helping Army retention, if not recruitment. Two years ago, 18 percent of new recruits failed to last six months in the Army. Only 6 percent now drop out.

Abuse obviously should ever be tolerated. Soldiers should not be punching bags. But I never knew you could drop out. Honest. PSG Eaddy, my Field First Sergeant in basic training, never told me about that.

But leaving aside the nostalgia and ruptured eardrums, today’s soldiers face a different sort of warfare than past generations experienced. War in Iraq is urban, and a war of squads and platoons. Yet it is above all else a war of ambush and each soldier owes his own and his squad’s survival to complete alertness. The complexities on combat and the stress of an inhospitable climate demand the utmost from each GI. They must learn to work with the group and yet maintain a sense of individuality and purpose.

Today, the age requirement, physical standards, and some personal codes have been loosened slightly: Recruits can now have tattoos on the hands and back of the neck, for example.

But no one here thinks the training isn't rigorous. Col. Kevin Shwedo, the top US Army training command officer, believes it's even tougher – but better. "We've gotten smarter in building a soldier and building self-esteem and confidence and making them more effective in an ambiguous kind of environment," says Colonel Shwedo.

Part of the change, he says, is making the drill sergeant more teacher than tormentor. "People love the old movie thing where the drill sergeant comes in and rips your butt off for no purpose at all," he says. "But if they're destroying you from top to bottom for five minutes, what are you going to do at the 30-second mark? You're going to mentally turn me off...."

I’ll just bet that if SGT Sweetvoice sees me tuning him out he’ll be very forgiving.

Yeah.


Sign of the Times
Posted by Lurch on June 20, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Here’s the first public commentary I’m aware of in a military-themed publication regarding the changes wrought by Defense Secretary Gates.

Army Brass Losing Influence

TAMPA, Florida - At a time when the U.S. Army's soldiers are doing most of the fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, the service's influence in key decision-making positions is waning.

Of the U.S. military's nine combat commands, only two are run by Army generals, and that number will be cut in half when Bryan Brown retires next month as the senior officer at U.S. Special Operations Command.

Inside the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is relying on officers from the maritime services to be his top advisers. He picked the current chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Mullen, to replace Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Marine Gen. James Cartwright will be Mullen's deputy.

The lack of Army four-stars in top jobs is seen partly as an extension of an attitude brought to the Pentagon six years ago by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. It's also a sign, however, of the successful culmination of a two decade effort to promote the concept of "jointness" within the military. The premise is that properly schooled officers should be able to lead troops regardless of service affiliation.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, former head of the Army War College who holds a Ph.D. in history from Duke University, said he could find no prior period when the Army was so engaged overseas and so underrepresented at top levels.

"It's absolutely extraordinary," he said. "I just can't believe the numbers. It's cultural, it's political, and it's deeply ingrained. I've never seen it to the degree it exists today."


Pish and tosh. This is war for foreign oil and not sandlot baseball. You don’t get to take your glove and baseball and go home in a snit if you can’t be captain of the team.

Let’s face it: The Navy uses more oil than the Army, and so they get the juicy jobs. Surely any graduate of Army Vo-Tech understands that?

You know, all you Army Generals, maybe if you had remembered the solemn sworn oaths you took at commissioning you wouldn’t be whining now. If you had spent more time on your hind legs telling Messers Bu$h, Cheney and Rumsfeld, “Not only no, but fuck no! What part of fucking no way don’t you civilians understand?” you wouldn’t be at the back of the mess line right now collecting the SOS instead of the nice juicy steaks and string beans almondine.

One of your brothers had the testes to speak the truth to Mr Rumsfeld and instead of supporting him you ran off into corners, whistling loudly as you carefully inspected the wallpaper while the Defense Secretary folded him up into a little package and mailed him home. You remember GEN Eric Shinseki? Short fellow, kind of serious, won four Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts in Nam?

Too bad about losing the key jobs, Generals. You should have met my mother. She used to say, “If you keep hitting flat notes on the piano, they’ll stop asking you to play at parties.” Then she would slap the flat side of my head.

Do That To Me One More Time
Posted by Lurch on June 20, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink


In honor of Ranger Jim Lisa at Ranger Against War, I decided to copy emulate her method of starting off posts with applicable quotes from songs.


Do that to me one more time
Once is never enough with a man like you
Do that to me one more time
I can never get enough of a man like you


In recognition of the fact that the Army is too small for the overwhelming demands of Mr Bu$h’s ego-war, it looks like the Army is again planning to extend their tours in Iraq and quite possibly shortening their home stays from the 12 months mandated by Army policy.

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Acting Secretary of the Army Pete Geren is reviewing alternatives to the problem of troops scheduled to leave during the late Summer and early Autumn, when the escalation demanded by renowned military strategist and Napoleonic War expert Fred Kagan will be at its height. Additionally, some of the first forces fed into the escalation will be due to rotate home during mid Summer 2008, and the anticipated rise in blood-letting would adversely affect the chances of any Republican Presidential candidates.

Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren testified Tuesday that the service is reviewing other options, including relying more heavily on Army reservists or Navy and Air Force personnel, so as not to put more pressure on a stretched active-duty force.

Most soldiers spend 15 months in combat with a guaranteed 12 months home, a rotation plan that has infuriated Democrats because it exceeds the service's goal of giving troops equal time home as in combat. In coming weeks, the Senate will vote on a proposal by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., that would restrict deployments.

"It's too early to look into the next year, but for the Army we have to begin to plan," Geren told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "We have to look into our options."

Gen. David Petraeus, Iraq war commander, suggested Sunday that conditions on the ground might not be stable enough by September to justify a drop in force levels, and he predicted stabilizing Iraq could take a decade. Earlier this year, Bush ordered the deployment of some 30,000 additional troops as part of a massive U.S.-led security push around Baghdad and the western Anbar province.

There are about 156,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

It is tedious to once again note, but knowledgeable, competent military professionals advised Messers Bu$h, Cheney and Rumsfeld to not attempt to steal Iraq’s oil with less than 350,000 men.

Here’s the money quote, in context:

When asked by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., whether maintaining the force buildup would affect soldiers' 15-month combat schedules, Geren said he was unsure and cited "numerous options" available, including a "different utilization of the Guard and Reserve" and relying on the other services for help.

"We're committed to filling the requirements that the combatant commander asks," Geren said. "We have been able to do so up until now, and we will continue to do so."

Maintaining 156,000 troops in Iraq from now until Mr Bu$h saddles up ole Marines #1 and rides off into the sunset, and dust of historical obscurity is going to require sending just about every swinging dick in a military uniform. (Apologies to the uniformed women of the US Armed Forces, who truly clank when they walk.) That would include a very large number of Majors, Colonels and even Brigadier Generals currently employed as messengers, walking folders around the corridors of the Pentagon. We could probably field at least one more brigade with those linoleum-trotters and never feel the difference. They could take turns playing brigade commander, and build up their Form 20s.

But Acting Secretary Geren of course wouldn’t suggest sending a CONEX full of colonels to solve the manpower crisis that is building in Iraq. Instead he cited "numerous options" available, including a "different utilization of the Guard and Reserve" and relying on the other services for help.

Geren said the decision made earlier this year to extend tours from 12 to 15 months was intended to ensure soldiers were guaranteed one year at home. Previously, soldiers deployed for 12-month cycles but were unsure when they would be sent back.

"I felt it was the best of the two tough choices to make. ... That decision I believe was the right one," Geren said.

That was an easy statement, since the Bu$h maladministration is well-known for never making a bad decision.

Recruitment
Posted by Lurch on June 18, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Every service seeks the best possible applicants, and large sums are spent advertising the various services benefits.

The US Army will make you Army Strong.

The Australian Army will give you a challenge.

The British Army has several, but the Armored Infantry looks the most exhausting.

The Czech Republic looks serious, too.

The Japanese Navy will teach you your place in the chorus line, or as a Power Ranger.

Ah, but in The Ukraine, you’ll get babes.

A grateful tip of the too-small Kevlar helmet to the Danger Room


What is Sucessful Counter-Insurgency?
Posted by Lurch on June 18, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

There's a clip at Crooks and Liars of GEN Petraeus being interviewed yesterday on The GOP Network Fox News in which Chris Wallace asks the general whether he sees the situation in Iraq being a long term commitment like Korea. Not being much of an expert in history, or military affairs, apparently young Mr Wallace seems to not understand that Korea was sort of a war, and not a guerrilla insurgency situation. Well, on the day after Father’s Day perhaps it’s easy to realize that sons often aren’t like their fathers, eh? In fact, frequently a father’s best qualities aren’t passed on with the genetic material. Looking at Chris Wallace it’s tempting to murmur, “So much for trees, and acorns.”

But GEN Petraeus’s response is quite interesting, because being in uniform and all, one might think he actually has studied this history thing that’s such a mystery down at the shallow end of the gene pool where the never-right seem to congregate.

” I think just about everybody out there recognizes that a situation like this with the many, many challenges that Iraq is contending with is not one that’s going to be resolved in a year or even two years. In fact, typically - I think historically, counter-insurgency operations have gone at least nine or ten years.”

GEN Petraeus may have slept through some of his classes at Army Vo-Tech, or to be charitable, perhaps he forgot.

This counterinsurgency operation lasted a bit longer than 9 or 10 years.

As did this one.

And this one came in at around eight years, but it wasn’t successful either.

This one only lasted eight years, and was still unsuccessful.

This war lasted less than a year and was spectacularly unsuccessful. In fact, the insurgents fought the occupiers to a draw and gained their independence.

Round Two of it ran for just three years, with an 18 year hiatus, but filled with such division and animosity that many historians combine the two. It was sort of successful but only because the British created some monstrous methods of dealing with the insurgents and their families. The two are often thought of as one war, because Boer resentment at the influx of uitlanders upon the discovery of gold created conditions that inevitably led to the Second Boer War.

This series of counterinsurgent wars lasted for close to 300 years before they were successful, but required annihilation of the insurgents to create that success.

The colonial wars of the 17th and 18th centuries could be considered counter insurgency wars, depending on your point of view. Over a period of about 12 years the Dutch conquered the East Indies, and over about 160 years the British conquered India.

This one is just about the only counterinsurgent war that was successful, and settled in something resembling a humane fashion.


Combat Vests
Posted by Lurch on June 16, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink


I've written about the various armor vests available for GIs about five times.

I admit to cowardice about the way I discussed the Point Blank system because the manufacturer, David H Brooks, was a deep pockets donor for the Republican Party, and I didn't want to face the hassle with lawyers and all. I wanted to point out the defects and not suggest any improprieties about the acquisition program, because that might create an entirely different set of problems.

Fortunately, the good folks at Defense Tech have discovered there might be a problem and have opened up the wormbarrel. Several
commenters have carried the ball even further.

It's just the way business is done in the age of Bu$h, ya know?


Senate Bill For Wounded GIs
Posted by Lurch on June 15, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

The Senate has finally come up with a solution to the disgraceful manner in which wounded troops are cared for in their transition from wounded on active duty to wounded veteran.

WASHINGTON - Legislation to ensure quality care for wounded troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan was unveiled in the Senate Thursday, winning instant praise from veterans organizations.

"The days of not paying attention to our service members are over," declared Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a leading force behind the legislation for the Senate Democratic leadership.

The bipartisan legislation, called the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act, follows reports of deplorable housing for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

But similar conditions and bureaucratic red tape interfering with the treatment of troops injured on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan were found at facilities around the country.

The legislation requires a comprehensive policy on the care of veterans as they move from active military duty into Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, including adoption of the VA standards for assigning disability levels.

The first thing to note is that the shocking conditions revealed in a WaPo story were not unique to Walter Reed. The same situations were found in many other Army hospitals across the country. Walter Reed was considered a showpiece of the Army Medical Corps because of its proximity to Washington. There was a time when ill officials, Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Congressmen and Cabinet officials, were automatically treated at Walter Reed.

At some point in the past, they all started going to Bethesda Naval Hospital. Some people say that was because Bethesda was kept fully staffed, while the maintenance and support staff at WRAMC was cut to the bone. We’re accustomed these days to hear about job cuts. It’s part of daily life and millions of good-paying jobs in this country have disappeared, either sent overseas to lower costs, or just ruthlessly cut in order to produce expense costs for the next quarter so as to increase executive compensation for CEOs.

That wasn’t the case at WRAMC, though. The jobs were cut in anticipation of handing out expensive contracts to political donors. And the wounded troops suffered so that political friends could be enriched.

This new bill, S.1606, is advertised as “bipartisan,” because it was voted out of committee by a 25-0 count, but you can be certain it was a Democratic Party initiative. It cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, and now has to go into conference to eliminate discrepancies with a similar piece of legislation, H.R,1538, which was voted on in March.

I know this will come as a surprise to you, but the Bu$h malAdministration opposed the House bill, saying that while it supported the goals, it didn’t think it was wise to make “sweeping changes” without careful thought. After all, it’s well known that the White House has “other priorities.”

Details on the major provisions of the Senate bill are available at this Army Times page.

Even though the two versions of the bill have not yet been worked out in a compromise committee, there is already one good result.

WASHINGTON - Overwhelmed by the number of soldiers returning from war with mental problems, the Army is planning to hire at least 25 percent more psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.

A contract finalized this week but not yet announced calls for spending $33 million to add about 200 mental health professionals to help soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health needs, officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.

"As the war has gone on, PTSD and other psychological effects of war have increased," said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general.

"The number of (mental health workers) that was adequate for a peacetime military is not adequate for a nation that's been at war," she said in an interview.

The new hiring, which she said could begin immediately, is part of a wider plan of action the Army has laid out to improve health care to wounded or ill veterans and their families. It also comes as the Defense Department completes a wider mental health study — the latest in a series over recent months that has found services for troops have been inadequate.

We are in the fourth year of Mr Bu$h’s ego-war. We have seen more than 3,500 Americans killed, and certainly far more than 21,000 wounded and maimed, and countless thousands more have had their minds brutalized by the horrors of war in Iraq to the point where they cannot function properly as members of society, and now - only just now - is the Army admitting that they have been operating at peace time levels.

I can’t say for sure that this welcome and desperately needed decision is the result of the unlamented Donald Rumsfeld being shitcanned for incompetence, but the timing is remarkable, isn’t it?

The Daily Bridge Attack
Posted by Lurch on June 12, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

All the posts on this site are collected under categories. The largest category is Iraq followed by, I guess, Corrupt Politicians, Bush Administration (yes, I realize they’re the same thing.) It’s beginning to look like it’s time for a new category: Attacked Bridges.

IraqSlogger punches a story this afternoon about another bridge attack, this time in Babil province.

Insurgents bombed a bridge over a major highway in Iraq for the third consecutive day on Tuesday. Bridge bombings have been on the rise in recent months, but this week's attacks indicate a new campaign against key transport routes may have begun.

Tuesday morning's attack partially destroyed a bridge linking the villages of al-Qariya al-Asriyah and al-Rashayed in northern Babil province on the main north-south highway about 35 miles south of Baghdad, and just six miles south of the bridge destroyed on Sunday.

The AP reports local police said about 60% of the bridge was damaged, though cars could still pass over it via one lane. But debris from the blast fell on the main north-south expressway below, further complicating efforts to reopen that main artery, closed after Sunday's blast dropped masses of concrete onto the roadway.


Baghdad Bridges Falling Down
Posted by Lurch on June 12, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

I missed the McClatchy story about yesterday’s bomb attack against the bridge in Diyala. The military was caught flat-footed, but that’s not surprising. In counter-guerrilla warfare the established force is usually reacting to guerrilla movements.

BAGHDAD - In at least the seventh attack on Iraqi bridges in the past two months, a bomb damaged a bridge over a tributary to the Tigris River on Monday, cutting off the most popular route from the northeastern part of Diyala province to Baghdad.

With the al-Sabtiya Bridge no longer usable, people heading to Baghdad from Diyala will have to travel through the violent city of Baqouba, residents said. Baqouba is the scene of daily clashes between al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents, Shiite Muslim militias and Iraqi security forces.

Eyewitnesses said a truck loaded with explosives moved onto the span and its driver detonated his cargo, sending pieces of the bridge into the water below.

The U.S. military had no immediate information on the bombing, spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Garver said. Garver said bridge bombings didn't greatly "impede the mobility of the military." But bridges are high-profile targets whose destruction affects the lives of civilians, he said.

I’m not an expert on Iraq, nor a specialist in logistics, but I can accept LTC Garver’s statement that these bridge attacks don’t impede the military’s mobility. And I‘m sure that they can ship all the water, food, munitions, POL for vehicles, changes of clothing, new improved tactical vests, etc by air to troops needing resupply, because there are a lot of airfields scattered around Iraq.

Unless we go through another bout of falling helicopters.

If you compare the map I pointed out yesterday in comments [left column: “Map of Iraq”] with this map you’ll see that all US installations are very close to airfields.

iraq032403a1.jpg


Rather than an attempt to isolate US forces or impede their rapid reinforcement, LTC Garver sees the bridge campaign as an attempt to isolate the national government.

If there is a definite campaign against bridges this is an insurgency trying to destabilize the government," he said.

In the past two months, car bombs have targeted at least seven bridges. The attacks began in April with the destruction of the Sarafiya bridge in Baghdad, which connected the east and west banks of the capital.

On May 11, three vehicle bombs detonated on two bridges in south Baghdad and a busy thoroughfare that leads to Taji, north of the capital.

On June 2, bombs severely damaged a bridge that links a highway from Baghdad with the northern city of Kirkuk, forcing traffic headed to Baghdad to pass through Diyala province.

That would be very stable government that has daily bombings and thuggish executions daily on the streets of its capital and can’t secure major sections of the neighborhoods.

It is apparently a part of the official syllabus at the Army Command and Staff College that any military or guerrilla campaign can have only one goal.

Maybe second goals are merely pick-ups.

ADM Michael Mullen
Posted by Lurch on June 12, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

ADM Michael Mullen, nominated to replace GEN Peter Pace as Chairman, Joint Chiefs, is the subject of a brief biography in the WaPo The bio is short on glitz, perhaps because ADM Mullen drove ships rather than flying airplanes, which is apparently considered the sexy part of serving in the Navy.

Mullen, who heads the Navy as chief of naval operations, is a 1968 Naval Academy graduate identified early on as a rising star within the service. A Vietnam veteran, he is regarded as highly competitive but is also known for his rapport with ordinary sailors, the associates said.

"He doesn't mind stopping and talking with the lowliest seaman; on the other hand he's equally comfortable at the highest levels of management," said retired Navy Reserve Rear Adm. Henry F. White Jr., executive director of the American Bar Association in Chicago.

Talking with EM can be a good thing, and is often described as a prime trait of a leader, as long as he listens while conversing.

It should be noted that after graduation, ADM Mullen became one of the very few Lieutenants in the Navy selected to command a ship. Later, as commander of a guided missile destroyer, he won an annual award given to the Navy's best captain.

The piece is sprinkled with personal commentary from those who have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with ADM Mullen over the years. He is described as studious and sensible, a thinker and planner, capable of making tough decisions after ensuring he understands all the data involved in making the decision.

One note-worthy item is that ADM Mullen, while CNO at the Joint Chiefs, expressed great concern about how the constant pressure of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the steady rotation of units, had brought the Army and Marines near to the breaking point. The article indicates he was the driving force behind reassigning sailors and airmen to some of the less-technically complicated ground assignments in Iraq, such as convoy guards.

Because of his background, it is felt he will make decisions on Iraq and Afghanistan from a “different perspective,” focusing less on ground tactics and more on the political dimensions of the Iraq problem.

Keeping Them Safe at Home
Posted by Lurch on June 11, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink


It’s bad enough when troops die senselessly overseas, but a real tragedy when the Reaper harvests them at home, after surviving a year in the sandbox. The Army has started to do something about it.

Any time Army Spc. Bruce Bentley leaves Fort Meade to see his wife and children in Lancaster, Pa., he sits at his computer and types in dozens of facts about his trip, including where he's going, what he's driving, how many times he's stopping, and when he's leaving and returning.

The computer program, called TRIPS, then assigns Bentley's journey a risk level, displays stories of soldiers who died on similar ones and recommends ways to reduce the danger.

Soldiers such as Bentley have logged on to the internal Army Web site more than 2 million times as part of a far-reaching campaign to curb the number of service members dying in road crashes. The risks are greatest for soldiers returning from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, where lawless driving tactics are necessary. Similar techniques can be lethal on American roads.

"Part of the problem is that they come back and buy fast cars and fast motorcycles," said Kevin Larson, a spokesman for Fort Stewart [GA], which spent $300,000 opening a nightclub on the Georgia post in November after seven soldiers there died in alcohol- related crashes in one year.

Everybody buys fast cars and bikes when they get home. This may be caused as much by youth, testosterone and accumulated tax-free salaries as by a desire to continue risk-taking on US roads.

In a quote that actually seems sensible, a psychiatrist interviewed for the article, Dr Jonathan Shay, says that survival driving skills learned in Iraq (drive fast, drive in the center of the road) are acquired habits and the automatic behavior is hard to change when the soldiers come home. “It’s a setup for death.”

Last month, Fort Stewart began ordering soldiers returning from combat not to drive for one week as part of a new Army program that helps them readjust to society.

"For six to seven days, they're being bused everywhere they need to go on post," Larson said. "During that time, we're going to make sure that they know how to drive safely and give them time to get their insurance in order."

Early indications show that driver safety courses and TRIPS, which became mandatory for all Army personnel in July 2005 and for all U.S. armed forces in April, have slightly subdued some soldiers' post-combat feelings of invincibility.

Besides trying to decompress the troops for a week (which may not be enough time) emphasizing safe driving tips, and keeping them drinking on post some post commanders have come up with yet another incentive.

Soldiers at Fort Stewart and Fort Campbell, Ky., get a day off every time the base goes 100 days without someone dying in a car crash. A sign at Fort Campbell flashes different colors based on how long it's been since a death.

"I can tell you exactly that we've gone 201 days without a soldier or civilian employee dying in a crash, and the whole base could tell you that because the day count is posted on new electronic message boards at every gate to the fort," Larson said in a recent interview.

That sounds like a good incentive too, but the effect of all these programs is spoiled by the news in the next paragraph:

Since the interview, however, two Fort Stewart soldiers have died after speeding back from a weekend at Tybee Island, Ga., and crashing into a utility pole.


Another Bridge Attack
Posted by Lurch on June 10, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Yet another bridge in Iraq has come under attack.

MAHMOUDIYA, Iraq - With a thunderous rumble and cloud of dust and smoke, an apparent suicide vehicle bomb brought down a section of highway bridge south of Baghdad on Sunday, wounding several U.S. soldiers guarding the crossing and blocking traffic on Iraq's main north-south artery.

There was no immediate U.S. Army confirmation on the number and severity of the casualties. An Iraqi civilian also was injured, said Donald Campbell, of the private security Armor Group International, who helped in the rescue.

Campbell and others in a passing Armor Group convoy worked with a U.S. Army quick reaction force for some 45 minutes to pull trapped men from the rubble, scrambling over the fallen concrete.

U.S. armored vehicles provided cover fire from their cannons after the bombing, which occurred in the area dubbed the "triangle of death" for its frequent Sunni insurgent attacks.

The blast dropped one of two sections of the "Checkpoint 20" bridge crossing over the north-south expressway, six miles east of Mahmoudiya.

I believe the north-south highway is part of the main logistical routes supplying forces in Baghdad and north of there. It’s going to get harder and harder moving troops, food, water and other essential supplies.


Baghdad-Mahmoudiya.gif


Click here for a larger version.

"When that size blast went off, everyone was in shock," said one of the first atop the rubble, Jackie Smith, 53, of Olathe, Kan., a former lieutenant colonel now working as a civilian Army munitions expert.

He said he saw what he believed was the engine block of a truck — apparently what remained of the suicide vehicle.

Soon the outpost sergeant in charge was organizing a search for his missing men, Smith said. The Armor Group team climbed up with first-aid kits, stretchers and other aid.

With the Army's quick reaction force, they struggled to lift concrete shards off the men, pinned along the slope of what was once a roadway. At one point, a Bradley armored vehicle with a tow chain pulled a slab off a pinned victim to free him.

Then a shout went up, "Morphine! Morphine!" and one of the black T-shirt-clad Britons administered painkiller to the freed man.

"Another poor fellow looked crushed beneath a concrete slab," said Armor Groups Donald Campbell, 40, of Inverness, Scotland.

During the rescue, U.S. armored vehicles opened up with suppressing fire, possibly having spotted movement in the surrounding countryside, flat and baking in 100-degree-plus temperatures.

Traffic was delayed for over an hour until a medevac helicopter landed to take aboard the wounded, and traffic slowly resumed under the remaining section of the span.

Is it just a case of bad nerves when covering vehicles open fire with no apparent sign of attack? And why would it take an hour to get a medevac flight there? It looks to be less than 100 miles.

As COL Pat Lang noted last month, it’s beginning to look like an isolation strategy.

The campaign against the bridges continues in Baghdad. Two more bridges were attacked yesterday. These were across the Diyala River in southeast Baghdad. That makes five bridge attacks so far. Motive remains a question. My "working theory" is that the predominately Sunni insurgents are seeking to impede the "creeping" movement of Shia occupation of the city from east to west. A friend in Baghdad tells me that the "line" dividing the mainly Shia part of the city from the mainly Sunni is moving steadily westward to the disadvantage of the Sunnis. The goal would be a Shia dominated capital city. An alternative theory is that the insurgents are seeking to build impediments to the movement of coalition tactical reserves (QRF). Time will tell.

This attack was against a military target. The route was closed to civilian traffic.


SPC Hayes No Longer AWOL
Posted by Lurch on June 09, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

On Thursday we wrote about SPC Lisa Hayes, a New Hampshire National Guard member on her second deployment to Iraq who was listed as AWOL while trying to obtain custody of her daughter.

Late yesterday the Army announced that it has dropped the AWOL charges against SPC Hayes, and she is expected to receive a speedy hardship discharge upon her application.

Hayes's case received considerable publicity this week. US Representative Paul Hodes, Democrat of New Hampshire, met with Army officials to push for a quick resolution.

It’s nice to see the Army doing something that everyone can agree upon for a change.

GEN Peter Pace
Posted by Lurch on June 09, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

America was a bit startled yesterday when an announcement was made that GEN Peter Pace, USMC, would be leaving his post as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Many inferred this to mean he was being fired, when the actual story was that he was stepping down at the end of his term of office in September, 2007. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended that GEN Pace not be nominated to a second term, as is often done.

WASHINGTON, June 8 — The Bush administration said Friday that it would not reappoint Gen. Peter Pace to a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making him the highest-ranking officer to be a political casualty of the fight over Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the decision was reached in order to avoid bitter hearings in a Democratic-controlled Senate that is already confronting the White House over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I have decided that at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform, and General Pace himself would not be well-served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Mr. Gates said.

GEN Pace has received some degree of public notoriety because of his incessant positive portrayals of US options and successes in Iraq. A majority of Americans view GEN Pace’s public statements as wrong-headed and politically-influenced propaganda.

Secretary Gates stated that he had intended that GEN Pace be re-nominated for a second term, as has traditionally been the case, but changed his mind after recent discussions with Senators of both political parties indicated there would be a bruising and divisive approval process.

Many seasoned observers feel that GEN Pace’s recent submission of a letter to Judge Reggie Walton asking that Scooter Libby be given no jail time after being convicted of perjury was the final link in a chain of actions and statements that made GEN Pace unacceptable as a Chairman. He is only the second Chairman to serve just one term. GEN Maxwell Taylor, US Army, was summoned from retirement in 1962 by President John Kennedy to serve in that post. After two years service, GEN Taylor retired again and then was appointed as Ambassador to South Viet Nam.

ADM Michael Mullen, who is presently Chief of Naval Operations, will be nominated to succeed GEN Pace. He has commanded three surface ships during his time in the navy, and has earned the Surface Warfare Badge, as well as many awards for service.

A Modest Proposal
Posted by Lurch on June 07, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Soldier’s Mom has a modest proposal to reduce the GI death toll:

Over time, the constantly rising death toll makes it harder to maintain confidence that my son will come home safely. The other day, I was discussing with him how President Bush envisions American troops being in Iraq long-term--fifty years or more--like Korea.

I told my son I couldn't see the American people even considering a long-term presence in Iraq as long as the death toll remained so high. In Korea we don't have a hundred soldiers dying a month. My son said, "Getting the death toll down is easy. You don't want soldiers to die, you just put in a policy--a soldier dies, a general gets fired." He said with a policy like that--one dead soldier equals one fired general--not many soldiers would die.

I told him I did not see how a policy like that could work, at the rate we are losing soldiers, we would run out of generals. But my son disagreed, "No, mom, we got lots of generals. We could afford to fire a few. Besides, it would be good for the guys who want promotions. But you wouldn't see soldiers dying if generals were getting fired. They would only send us on missions where they knew we had everything we needed to be safe."

This is a terribly dangerous idea. If it caught on, there might be so few wars that arms manufacturers could go out of business. Then again, as Soldier Mom’s son points out, it would be great for promotions.

In previous articles we have discussed the drain of company-grade officers, especially graduates of Army Vo-Tech, from the service. A policy like this would encourage them to stay in the green bag.


Staking Their Claim
Posted by Lurch on June 07, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

The Army Times used to have a soldiers’ column during the Viet Nam era called “Stake Your Claim” in which soldiers would submit unusual or bizarre events that had happened to them. I have no idea whether they column still exists, since I don’t have a subscription, but there’s a platoon of the Minnesota National Guard that’s got a lock on their claim:

Longest Time in Deployment

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq — As Pfc. Andrew Waldron would say — or, rather, as he would sing — it’s “The Final Countdown.”

Waldron, 26, of Richfield, Minn., has sung the song by the Swedish band Europe to amuse and annoy his friends on every patrol they’ve done in the farmlands on the western edge of Baghdad. As of the end of April, that was 425 patrols and counting.

Waldron and the soldiers with Outlaw Platoon, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 136th Minnesota National Guard are nearing the end of a 22-month deployment. From six months of training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi to an extended 15-month tour in Iraq, they’ve been away from home since October 2005. They are supposed to head home late this summer.

That’s a long time away. Of course, they did have unit pre-deployment leave and mid-tour leave as individuals, but still, that much time in the green bag makes your forget what the little fork is for.

Oh yes, the platoon also did a tour in Kosovo.

Some have to think of 2003, when the platoon was called up for a year to serve in Kosovo. That stretch should have given them a reprieve from this Iraq deployment. But many in the Guard, a group whose hometowns and memories weave together outside of war, refused to stay behind.

“It’s hard to sit at home and watch everybody else come over here,” said Sgt. Aaron Rousselange, 22, of Long Prairie, Minn., who served in Kosovo and has been gone from home the past three out of four years.

“You’d feel like a [expletive]-bag if you were sitting at home playing PlayStation and somebody over here got killed," he said.

In Iraq, the platoon has been lucky. They haven’t lost a member in their time in Baghdad.

The 2nd/136th is part of the 1st Brigade/34th Infantry Division.

The motto of the 2nd/136th is “Always Ready, Always There.”

Keep Your Guard Up
Posted by Lurch on June 04, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink


It is an article of faith of mine that my Army is being broken on the rack of political expediency and personal vanity. Many of my 25 readers might agree with me; I suspect those with military service probably see it more clearly than others. Organizationally, the “Army” includes the triad of active duty forces, the Reserve components, both unitary and Individual Reserve, and the National Guard. We’ve seen all three legs committed to the folly of Iraq, each stretched and corrupted to the breaking point.

Armies consist of men organized in units to perform specific tasks. Not all units are combatants, and those not familiar with this fact miss the obvious: the point of the spear is distressingly small. A rifle company contains a number of soldiers whose “job” involves something other than trigger-pulling. As you climb the hierarchical chart the number of support troops quickly outweighs the riflemen.

All armies consider each member a combatant in the ultimate sense that each can become a rifleman at a moment of tactical stress, even if that is not how soldiers think of themselves. Thus, each soldier receives a modicum of infantry training at the beginning of service before being trained in their selected specialty. What makes soldiers effective in combat is their equipment and in the highly mechanized arena of 21st century warfare it is the machinery that makes everything work in concert to apply maximum force at a specific point to perform the mission. The machinery is everything.

One of the legs of the US Army, the National Guard, was established to support the active duty forces in time of all-out war, although its primary mission in day-to-day operations, is support of the local populace in time of emergency. Most active duty divisions contain two brigades, with an NG brigade constituting the “augmentation,” and the NG brigades have also been committed to Iraq. Their equipment went along with them and as the units returned to reconstitute they left their equipment over there.

How bad is it? Take the recent example of the disastrous tornado in Kansas.

WASHINGTON – The National Guard's deployment to the Gulf Coast, which began amid worries about overburdening citizen soldiers already spread from Mississippi to the Middle East, has instead underscored a different - and perhaps greater - challenge: a chronic shortage of the equipment that Guard members need.

Though the head of the National Guard says he had more than enough troops, Lt. Gen. Steven Blum acknowledges that trucks, bulldozers, and communications equipment "all were in short supply for Katrina." He met the needs of the recovery by shifting resources among states, but the strain hints at a broader concern about the military's mechanical workhorses - both here and abroad.

“I don't have all the equipment I need for 300,000 soldiers," says General Blum. "Equipment is my challenge now."

It has been estimated that the cost of refurbishing and supplying new equipment to bring the NG units back to a pre-2003 level of readiness will exceed $21 Billion. That won’t make them 100% mission-capable. It will just bring them to the under-equipped state they were in then.

The active Army is in an even worse state, but that’s a topic for another day.

The National Guard rescues Americans in time of emergency. They have the heavy trucks to bring in blankets, water, and food. They have the large tents to provide emergency shelter. Their bulldozers, front loader and backhoes clear debris from roads. All of these things are in Iraq.

Here’s a nifty graphic representation of the problem.

A tip of the too-small Kevlar helmet to War is Boring for the Google map.

Gooney Birds
Posted by Lurch on May 31, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

I saw a little article over at David Axe’s excellent spot which I almost passed by with barely a blink. I’m sure if I’d actually bought that Grecian Formula and used the stuff I’d have grabbed onto David’s post immediately.

During World War II, U.S. C-47 twin-engine transport planes delivered commandoes and civilian spies behind enemy lines in France, Yugoslavia and Burma to fight and spy on the Germans and Japanese. More than 60 years later the old “Goonie Birds” are still at it. U.S. Special Operations Command uses a handful of the seemingly eternal airplanes for hush-hush missions in Africa, South America and Central Asia, where C-47s and their DC-3 civilian equivalents are still common and prized for their ruggedness and inoffensive looks. The 6th Special Operations Squadron based at Hulbert Field in Florida flies modified DC-3s (pictured below) alongside equally ubiquitous Russian-made helicopters and transports and Huey choppers.

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The C-47 was the militarized version of the Douglas Aircraft DC-3, the plan that made “modern” air transport in the US possible. The arrival of this plane made west-to-east trips across the States seem like a civilized affair, doing the trip in 15 hours, with three refueling stops. East to west took a bit longer. Before the DC-3, you made the day trip in smaller commuter planes, and traveled (and slept) at night on trains.

The DC-3/C-47 flew under about more than 50 national flags and a slew of commercial airline liveries. During the war years, and for about 10 years afterwards, it seemed like just about every airport in the world had at least one of these planes on it.

It was the ubiquitous air transporter for the US Army, hauling people and goods in every war theater around the world. It was so familiar that it became better known as a symbol than the American flag. They carried paratroopers and supplies throughout the Pacific and China-Burma-India theaters, and were the lifeline for the units known as “Merrill’s Marauders” and General Bill Slim’s Chindits. They, along with their yoke-mates, the Curtis C-46, carried fuel and supplies over the “hump” of the Himalayas, from India to China, supplying Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces.

During GEN Douglas MacArthur’s Hopscotch advance along the New Guinea coast C-47’s ferried men and supplies from Australia across the Owen Moresby mountain range to the north coast of New Guinea. Every now and then one of these planes would crash, for one reason or another, and groups of natives living in the interior built a religion around the magical birds in the sky that occasionally brought them great wealth and marvelous mysteries. The 1960s hit film Mondo Cane had a bit about New Guinea cargo cults, portraying them quite sympathetically.

The C-47 and C-46 broke the back of the Russian embargo of Berlin, transporting millions of pounds of food and coal to an isolated city. At its height in 1948 the Berlin Airlift was landing a plane every 30 seconds in Berlin.

Throughout the 50s and 60s the C-47 was seen all over Southeast Asia and Central Africa moving goods, sometimes “political” cargo, if the price was high enough. There was always a good market for guns, and the world was awash in them back then, just as it is today. Flying Tiger Airlines used a lot of surplus C-47s after the war, and flew into a lot of small airfields all over Eastern and Southeastern Asia, carrying a lot of different cargoes. If the whispers are right, some of them were "political."

During our last little unsuccessful adventure in overseas power projection, many of us knew the C-47 as “Puff” the night-time savior, with 7.62 mini-guns that put out rounds at 6,000 per minute, and broke the back of many an NVA attack. They fired 1-in-6 tracer and at night you’d see them operating, throwing a line of fire that looked like a straight line of laser red cover. If I remember the statistics right, a two second burst was enough to put a round every six inches across a football field.

In the age of jets that fly at twice the speed of sound, it’s interesting that a museum relic that first flew in 1935 at 150 mph is still in the air, and still working for the Air Force.

A Responsible Citizen
Posted by Lurch on May 27, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Andrew Bacevich is a Viet Nam veteran and teaches at Boston University. As most of my readers know, his son was killed during an IED attack on May 13th while he was serving with the US Army in Iraq.

Mr Bacevich discusses some facts surrounding his opposition to this evil war, and his son’s death, and expresses himself about the Iraq occupation.

Parents who lose children, whether through accident or illness, inevitably wonder what they could have done to prevent their loss. When my son was killed in Iraq earlier this month at age 27, I found myself pondering my responsibility for his death.

Among the hundreds of messages that my wife and I have received, two bore directly on this question. Both held me personally culpable, insisting that my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that my son's death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.

There is no point in discussing these sick, diseased minds that drool with pleasure when a responsible citizen becomes a victim this way.

What exactly is a father's duty when his son is sent into harm's way?

Among the many ways to answer that question, mine was this one: As my son was doing his utmost to be a good soldier, I strove to be a good citizen.

I encourage you all to read the essay and leave your thoughts here, if you wish.


Marine MRAPs Mired in Minutiae
Posted by Lurch on May 23, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

There’s a story coming out of Wired.com about apparent procedural delays in officially requesting funding for MRAPs to be used by the Marine Corps. It’s actually filed in Wired’s “Danger Room, because it is serious.

The Marine Corps waited over a year before acting on an "priority 1 urgent" request to send blast-resistant vehicles to Iraq, DANGER ROOM has learned.

According to a Marine Corps** document** provided to DANGER ROOM, the request for over 1,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles came in February, 2005. A formal call to fulfill that order did not emerge until November, 2006. "There is an immediate need for an MRAP vehicle capability to increase survivability and mobility of Marines operating in a hazardous fire area against known threats," the 2005 "universal need statement" notes.

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Back then -- as now -- improvised explosive devices, or IEDs -- represented the deadliest threat to American troops in the region. "The expanded use" of these bombs "requires a more robust family of vehicle capable of surviving the IED... threat," the document adds. "MRAP-designed vehicles represent a significant increase in their survivability baseline over existing motor vehicle equipment and will mitigate... casualties resulting from IED[s]."

"The [Marines] cannot continue to lose... serious and grave casualties to IED[s]... when a commercial off the shelf capability exists to mititgate [against] these threats," the request continues.

Despite the stark language, however, that request was not acted upon. Instead, the Marine Corps waited until November, 2006 to issue a formal request for proposals to buy approximately 1,200 MRAPs.

During the invasion and occupation of Iraq the Marine Corps has reported 933 deaths: 806 active duty and 127 Reservists


The **document** is available in .pdf form and was hand-dated “2/17/05” in the signature block signed by D.J. Heljik, immediately under the approval comment:

“Due to anticipated funding constraints. 1MEF recommends procurement of the troop transport and multi-mission MRAP before funding the other variants. This will provide the most protection for the greatest amount of forces based on injury statistics.”

Bill Johnson-Miles, a Marine Corps spokesman, is quoted as saying that the delay was perfectly justified. "We can't just take the request from them, and put it out on the street."

In February 2005, the manufacturer of the Cougar 4x4 armored vehicle was producing one unit per month with a staff of 12. Due to greater demand the Force Protection Inc had increased its staff to 400 and was cranking out one per day. Signed agreements with larger companies have greatly increased the production since then.

The Army and Marines have requested the bulk of the 17,700 MRAPs ordered, and Defense Secretary Gates has described the acquisition program the Pentagon’s “highest priority” for new equipment.

In response to this story, Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that the stunted response is another example of how "the suits and the bureaucrats in Washington don't seem to have the same sense of urgency as the guys in the field."

"This is what happens when industry isn't put on a war footing," he adds. "It's like the military families are at war, and everyone else is out shopping."

A sensible man would probably ask why the Pentagon and Bu$hCo didn't react sooner to the many deaths by IEDs and seek a solution to the problem sooner.

Articles on MRAPs:

Mine Resistant Vehicles

17,700 MRAPs

Marine MRAPs Mired in Minutiae

A Minor MRAP Problem

The Super-MRAP

The Cougar MRAP

Baby Huey Needs Feeding

A Strategically Influenced Nation

Sugar, a Sweetener, is a Chemical Agent
Posted by Lurch on May 19, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

After reading my piece yesterday about the Army’s urgent need to retain Captains, and offering them serious money (in uniformed services terms) to take a burst of twenty, regular reader DK expressed a lot of surprise and alarm at the retention program.

As further proof that either great minds think alike or that the unity theory of discovery is viable, David Axe has put together some observations about the Army’s Chemical Corps and its lost muscles as discussed in a recent GAO report (.pdf format).

There are actually two different Chemical Corps at this time. The active duty component is apparently tasked to do battlefield decontamination. Because of the manpower requirements of Iraq and Afghanistan, these units have been stripped to the bone and may not be primary-mission-capable. Speculation that they would be useful in the latest asymmetrical warfare hysteria – chlorine bombs – is apparently baseless because available chlorine (mostly water treatment supplies) dissipates too quickly in the open air. The Armchair Generalist is a specialist in this area, and his writings are easy reading for folks like me who don’t know much about the matter. He recently discussed chlorine bomb attacks here, as well as elsewhere in his archives.

The National Guard units are tasked to do CONUS cleanup after a WMD attack, which many insiders consider a very unlikely event, no matter how much the Bu$h malAdmnistration bays at the moon about terrorists following us here if we abandon their efforts over there. Those units are said to be manned and equipped right up to their TO&Es.

As for the National Guard ”Civil Support Teams” and the beefier “Chemical Enhanced Response Force Packages“ – meant to help manage the cleanup in the wake of terrorists attack using nuclear, biological or chemical weapons — those units have plenty of relatively modern equipment and no manpower problems, since they’re not being mined for replacement infantry. And they aren’t even allowed to go overseas, so their “deployment readiness” isn’t an issue. The insider says that these teams ”whined” their way into the GAO report because they want more gear they’ll probably never use.

The bottom line appears to be that as long as we keep them over there, at a cost of $10 Billion and over 100 US dead per month, we're safe over here.

Maybe.

Now, about that airport, seaport, and border security...

17,700 MRAPs
Posted by Lurch on May 18, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Welcome to our visitors from Yahoo Finance and Force Protection. It's nice to have you visit again. Please feel free to look around at our other articles. We've had quite a few posts on MRAPs. The complete list is at the end of this article.


The military has requested a total of $25 Billon from the Defense Department to purchase Mine Resistant Armored Personnel carriers. A memo submitted on May 15th to Defense Secretary Gates asks for authority to order 3,500 for the Navy and Marine Corps, and another 1,000 for Air Force and Special Operations use. The remaining 13,000 are planned for use by the Army, to replace the stop-gap up-armored HumVees currently in use. It is just about the same figure as the HumVees currently in use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The projected cost of $25 Billion will cover acquisition through July, 2009.

However, there may not be enough material and production capacity to field the MRAPs quickly, according to the memo and Pentagon officials.

No single company can provide more than 1,200 of the vehicles per month, which is the Marines' production goal, said Chris Isleib, a Pentagon spokesman.

Adequate supplies of steel for armor and rubber for tires are also concerns, Isleib said.

Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, criticized the Pentagon for moving too slowly on the MRAP program.

"By the time we field all the vehicles we could be on our way out of Iraq," Thompson said.

Thompson said MRAPs may be needed elsewhere.

"Sadly, this vehicle will probably find plenty of uses in other places," Thompson said. "We've shown the world how to fight our army to a standstill."

The Army's rush to buy more MRAPs could affect how many other armored vehicles it buys now and in the future, according to the memo. The Army has sent officials to Iraq to determine how MRAPs will fit in with its existing fleet of armored vehicles, including tanks and armored personnel carriers.

The Army is also budgeting $5.5 Billion for the M1A1 Abrams tank, M2/M3 Bradley IFV and M1126 Stryker vehicle family. The M1A1 is no longer in production, although upgrades to M1A2 standards are still being done. There is still some limited production of M2s and upgrades are being performed. The Stryker contract is continuing, although recent adverse reports from Iraq cast doubt on the vehicle’s future.


Articles on MRAPs:

Mine Resistant Vehicles

17,700 MRAPs

Marine MRAPs Mired in Minutiae

A Minor MRAP Problem

The Super-MRAP

The Cougar MRAP

Baby Huey Needs Feeding

A Strategically Influenced Nation

Sweetening the Deal for Captains
Posted by Lurch on May 18, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

By way of following up on previous commentary about the Army’s grave retention problems, it’s been noticed that the loss of Captains is creating a major threat to the future of leadership, and the Army has developed a plan to resolve the problem.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, May 17, 2007) - A new Critical Skills Retention Bonus of $20 thousand is available to more than 7,000 regular-Army captains who agree to remain on active duty beyond their initial active-duty service obligation.

The bonus is part of a "menu of incentives" targeting officers nearing completion of their initial active-duty service obligation who are willing to remain on active duty an additional three years. Other incentives include graduate school, military school, transfer of branch or functional area, or post of choice.

The incentives will help the Army retain company-grade officers with valuable experience, said Col. Paul Aswell, chief, Officer Division, Directorate of Military Personnel Management, Army G1. The Army is currently growing to increase capabilities and reduce stress over the long term. This has led to an increased need of nearly six thousand captains and majors since 2004, according to Col. Aswell.

In its planned expansion of another 70,000 soldiers the Army faces some significant obstacles. It has had to waive or reduce many qualifying standards in the last 30 months in order to maintain the present troops levels as well as introducing bureaucratic gimmicks such as the stop-loss program, and repeated deployments for Reserve and National Guard components.

Additionally, trained and experienced officers are attractive candidates for civilian corporate managers because of their leadership skills, and pay opportunities are usually more attractive than in the military service.

The branches considered critical for the purposes of the CSRB include: air defense, adjutant general, armor, chemical, engineer, field artillery, finance, infantry, military intelligence, military police, ordnance, quartermaster, signal corps and transportation corps. Officers originally commissioned in these branches are eligible for all incentives on the menu. Officers commissioned into the Army nurse corps or medical science corps are also eligible for the CSRB.

Aviation officers are not eligible at this time due to their longer initial ADSOs, but the Army is working to draft an incentive program to offer them by year's end.

Eligible captains must have a date of rank between March 1, 2005, and January 1, 2007. Similar incentives will be offered to captains in other year groups, Col. Aswell said.

All of the career branches listed are either Combat Arms or vital support branches clearly needed in the “long war” against global terrorism which is now described as “generational” with the exception the AG branch, which many would laugh at. However, that branch is charged with serious duties such as recruiting and retention, as well as less attractive areas like Public Affairs and Personnel. Finance is obviously an important area – you do want your pay to be calculated correctly, don’t you?

Company grade officers seem to have grasped the impact of a prospect of a generational war and it looks like a lot of them aren't interested in a lifetime career of deployment in combat.

The rank zone described is what the Army terms “junior Captains” – those not in the immediate zone of consideration for promotion to Major. “Senior Captains” are eligible for promotion at the present, although it’s important to remember that this step is not automatic. This is a major step, because the officer indicates his intention to remain in the service as a career if he remains past his mid-range selection period.

These are the General Officers and Colonels of the 2020s. Losing them can seriously affect the service’s future.

Is the Stryker Striking Out?
Posted by Lurch on May 14, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Losses among the Army’s Stryker armored vehicles have been rising steadily as the Sunni insurgents/Ba’athists/dead enders/occupation resisters have learned how to defeat them.

BAGHDAD (AP) -- A string of heavy losses from powerful roadside bombs has raised new questions about the vulnerability of the Stryker, the Army's troop-carrying vehicle hailed by supporters as the key to a leaner, more mobile force.

Since the Strykers went into action in violent Diyala province north of Baghdad two months ago, losses of the vehicles have been rising steadily, U.S. officials said.

A single infantry company in Diyala lost five Strykers this month in less than a week, according to soldiers familiar with the losses, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to release the information. The overall number of Strykers lost recently is classified.

The M1126 Stryker was always considered an “interim” vehicle, bridging the gap between the heavy-armor divisions containing M1A1 Abrams tanks and M2/M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles designed to fight WWIII against the Soviet Union, and the envisioned units planned for the Army’s Future Combat System.

The Stryker was designed with a ceramic armor capable of defeating infantry munitions, such as 7.62 mm and 14.5 mm armor-piercing rounds. It was not designed to withstand anti-armor projectiles, such as RPGs. As it was being designed, there were serious weight considerations and changes had to be made.

"We were able to identify a risk and solve it prior to the first vehicle being built," [Project Manager operations officer MAJ Steven] Wall said. "We saved dollars in retrofitting, cost production and we're going to be able to keep the fielding schedule."

When modifications are made to the armor, the vehicle will be able to stop 7.62mm and 14.5mm armor piercing ammunitions, Wall said. He said the armor modifications could not be explained in detail due to security.

Reducing its weight is another modification the Stryker will undergo before the vehicles arrive in May at 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, both located at Fort Lewis, Wash.

The Stryker was reported to be 4,000 pounds more than the 38,000-pound requirement. However, Wall said that he expects that the vehicles will meet weight limits, which will allow them to be loaded and transported on a C-130 cargo plane. This is a requirement necessary to meet Shinseki's goal of having brigade combat teams that can deploy anywhere in the world within four days.

The weight-trimming, and armor that was understood to be inadequate to the urban combat in Iraq was met with stop-gap measures such as a cage-like barrier protecting the hull. These have proven to be inadequate in many circumstances.


Its [ceramic] armor is ineffective against Rocket Propelled Grenade attacks, a very common type of attack in Iraq. A 5,000 lb improvised "slat" armor add-on, looking like a fence around the vehicle, was fielded for Iraq operations to give added protection. But a December 2004 report showed that even with the added slat-armor, the Stryker has been only 50 percent effective overall against Rocket Propelled Grenades during combat in Iraq. [1] The slat armor add-on does not protect all of the large wheels and only defeats RPGs with High Explosive (HE) warheads. Binary warhead-tipped RPGs have been known to punch through the slat-armor.

stryker_050101a_0ntyoa2005-01-31.jpg

Because the Army has been intentionally vague abut Stryker losses it’s difficult to assess their real effectiveness. The vehicle carries a crew of and 11 infantry men, which is more advantageous than the M2 Bradley, which carries six troops.

The Times article quoted SPC Christopher Hagen, “With Strykers, you're mobile, you're fast. You can get anywhere anytime. They bring a lot of troops to the fight.''

The Army sent a battalion of troops, equipped with about 100 Strykers, into Diyala province in March. On the first day of operations, the troops were met with a strong defense, using AK47s, RPGs and roadside IEDs. By the end of the day the battalion had lost 1 KIA, 12 WIA and 2 Strykers. Losses have mounted since then, prompting MG Benjamin Mixon to call for reinforcements in the troubled province.


Mixon did not specify whether more U.S. or Iraqi forces were needed. He made his comments during a news briefing from Iraq via teleconference at the Pentagon.

"We have plans to put additional forces in that area. ... We have put additional forces in there over that last couple months, an additional Stryker battalion, but I'm going to need additional forces in Diyala province to get that situation to a more acceptable level." [video report available]

You Speakee Pidgin?
Posted by Lurch on May 12, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

DK at A Silent Cacophony presents some thoughts about what’s missing from DoD / DA policy towards operating in foreign countries as solders and advisers or as diplomats: a solid corps of specialists who speak the language. Additionally, DK excerpts a Max Boot article that, for once, I agree with.

I do give the Army some credit, and I have before, for having understood the need for understanding the potential enemy on a deep cultural level to ready the force, long before the other services did. It has long supported enlisted military operational specialities that trained linquists in many, many languages. It also offered incentive pay to anyone in uniform, beginning at least two decades ago, for demonstrated proficiency in foreign languages, and even based the amount on languages that were most desired. Fluent Spanish speakers were more plentiful, and hence the incentive pay for those (myself included) was less than, for say, Dari speakers.

We’ve been Mideast-tasked for more than 20 years. We should have hundreds, if not thousands, of uniformed personnel who are fluent in the Arabic dialects, as well as Farsi, Pushtu, Dari and Urdu. Of course, there was much noise several years ago about the DoD tossing out some Arabic translators for ideological reasons. I wonder which is more important – the mission or who a translator dates?

And Mr Boot:

One of the biggest deficiencies exposed by the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is the lack of language and cultural knowledge within the ranks of federal employees—especially among men and women in uniform. It’s hard to win a war for hearts and minds if the only way you can communicate with locals is through translators, who may not always be around and whose work varies in quality.

It’s a mystery to me why, since 9/11, we haven’t launched a crash program to teach thousands of young people Near Eastern languages. Dari, Pashto, Urdu, Arabic, Farsi—all these languages are tremendously important in the global war on terrorism. We should look for inspiration to the early days of the cold war, when we ramped up programs to teach Russian and Chinese.

If we’re going to spend the next 10 or 15 or 20 or 30 years mucking around in the Mideast and Central Asia is pursuit of terrorists and energy supplies we really ought to be able to speak to Abu ibn Muhammed with greater skill than we have now. If nothing else, using local translators entails a serious security risk.

As DK points out one reason we don’t have a better spread of military linguists than we have is because these specialists spend so much time away from troop command that they rarely advance beyond LTC. What this means, of course, is that our flag officers tend to be from the combat arms community - the folks that all too often consider a box of hammers an adequate tool box.

Recruiting to Become Army Strong
Posted by Lurch on May 09, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Here at M&C, we’ve discussed the recruiting problem that the military is facing several times. The Army, and the Marines, have lowered their recruiting standards several times, expanding the maximum age from 26 to eventually 38, and finally, 42. They’ve lowered the minimum AFQT entrance score, allowed moral waivers for minor felonies, drug crimes, and even accepted recruits with gang-banger tats. (There is no truth to the rumor that if you’ve a tear tattooed under one eye you automatically get a priority slot at DI School.)

They’ve stop-lossed soldiers, mandating full tours in the sandbox even if the trooper’s enlistment won’t cover the full tour. They’ve harvested needed MOS’s from the Navy and Air Force.

Some people have even suggested enlisting foreigners in order to fill the ranks.

The Marine Corps has recently cut back on permissible tattoos. Now they can’t extend above the collar, or below the shirt cuff, I believe. Large tats, and large collections are now unacceptable. OK.

But the demand for warm bodies has been extreme. (Rumors of Recruiting Command sergeants wandering through graveyards with shovels are just an urban legend, although those recruits would most definitely get fast-tracked to DI school.)

There have been stories of recruiters who have been practicing for The Literary Society’s Annual Fiction Award contest, or acting like lawyers prepping a mobster for a grand jury testimony. That unfortunately is not an urban rumor.

A top Army official says "enough is enough."

That's his reaction to a NewsChannel 5 investigation that caught Army recruiters and their Dishonorable Deceptions.

The deputy director of Army recruiting sent an e-mail Tuesday morning to Army recruiting stations across the country. (Read the e-mail.)

He says he has "no better way to communicate this" other than to let them see our hidden camera video.

He adds that "this is not the first undercover story, but it should be the last" to show recruiters engaged in such misconduct.

Recruiting has always been a case of engaging in Theater of the Mind. I well remember being assured that my dress blues would be waiting for me at the reception station, with two pairs of pants. (“Because you’ll probably lose a couple of pounds in Basic Traning.”) The Recruiter even measured me very carefully!

Unlike war, or writing for a never-right blog, there are unacceptable levels of deception, and a Nashville TV station did an undercover report. Oops.

In a time of war, with American soldiers dying every day, it's tough to be an Army recruiter.

"People are afraid to even talk to us," a recruiter in Madison, Tenn., confides to our undercover producer.

But the video we captured on hidden cameras had recruiters not wanting to talk to us.

"I'll show you if you want to see it," Williams tells the station commander in Antioch, Tenn.

"No, I don't need to see it, sir," he replies, pushing down the top of a DVD player.

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Phil confronted a recruiting sergeant that we caught on tape.

"Would you ever recommend that a recruit lie to get into the Army?" Williams asks.

I would also recommend that a recruiter never lie just to fill an intake quota. Leave the lying to the Bu$h malAdministration, please. They’re the professionals.

Separating the Military From the Civilians?
Posted by Lurch on May 08, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Over the last two years some observers have noted an apparently conscious attempt to isolate the active duty military from the general populace of the United States. The Pentagon, CENTCOM, and MNF-I have been especially aggressive in suggesting that the media has been disloyal, agenda-focused, or anti-troops, or by claiming outright that these conditions exist. These tropes have not only been evident in public announcements, but have also been seen in command guidance messages directed at the troops themselves.

It has been reported, for instance, that throughout Iraq official televisions are tuned to Fox News, and attempts to change the channel are discouraged. The military does maintain its own radio and TV operation in Iraq, as is common everywhere else in the world where permanent US facilities have been set up, and takes quite a bit of feed from Mr Murdoch’s cheerleaders.

Yes, it might well be paranoia, but it appears that, more and more, they military has been fostering an “us vs them” attitude through apparently defensive public policy as the occupation in Iraq had turned more violent and deadly for US soldiers.

News briefings by MG William Caldwell, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Effects of the MNF-I (I’m not kidding) have featured some remarkable statements protesting the media’s unwillingness or inability to report on painted schools and instead focusing on the daily collecting of dead bodies on the streets of Baghdad and other cities.

I first noticed this as an official policy last year, when the Pentagon expended a great deal of resources explaining to the media and American public that what our eyes were seeing is not what was actually happening. The DoD established an office dedicated to directly contacting media outlets by email, snail mail and telephone contact to urge retraction or correction of news reports that were felt to improperly (or unpatriotically) reporting news that was adverse.

The office was apparently set up as a “war room” project, since requests for changing news reports went out on a 24 hour basis, The DoD also set up a special webpage to highlight this alleged unfair and incorrect reporting. (It should be noted that media outlets contacted by this office generally refused to issue the requested corrections.) It is well known that facts have a liberal bias.

It appears that this war room project was abandoned after Mr Rumsfeld was thrown under the bus by Mr Bu$h following the November, 2006 elections. There hasn’t been an update since November 21st.

In what could be considered as a logical next step in this policy of isolationism, the DoD is now expanding its network of vacation resorts in the states so troops won’t have to mingle with those defeatists which now comprise 70% of the citizenry.

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) - The United States military is adding Virginia's oceanfront to such destinations as Hawaii and Germany where servicemembers and their families can get some affordable rest and relaxation.

The Armed Forces Recreation Center in Virginia Beach joins other locations in Orlando, Florida, Germany, Hawaii and South Korea that have been serving military families and civilians who work for the U.S. Department of Defense since 1946.

Adding the new resort is part of the adaptation to an "increasingly continental United States based" military that is bringing back significant numbers of soldiers from Germany and Korea, said Rich Gorman, chief operating officer of the command based near Washington.

The Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command assumed responsibility of a 93-room set of cabins and bungalows in April, but plans to expand the property over the next two years with additional rooms and conference facilities. Feet from the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, the Virginia Beach resort called Cape Henry Inn has been open for about 12 years under local management.

A key point is the word “affordable” because it’s true these resorts are operated at a net loss, and are generally less expensive than comparable civilian centers. It’s also worth noting that troops are being brought back from Germany and Korea so as to facilitate feeding them into Iraq, and not as a concerted policy of withdrawal. The US military maintains a presence in over 65 countries.

"The reason for operating these places was for rest and recuperation for war-weary soldiers and that really continues to be the focus today," Gorman said.

War-weary soldiers deserve all this, and more. I can’t help but feel that establishing a military environment that is separate from the national community is a very bad idea.

A New Weapon, Please
Posted by Lurch on May 07, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

The Army’s been unhappy with the M4 carbine for some time. This shorter version of the M16 rifle was introduced as an alternative for use by special ops personnel, and has been used quite a bit in the urban environments of Iraq.

Some ground communities, including special operations forces, have begun to sideline the M4 in favor of newer, gas-piston operated variants such as the Heckler & Koch-manufactured 416 and the FNH-built Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR

In a routine acquisition notice March 23, a U.S. Special Forces battalion based in Okinawa announced that it is buying 84 upper receiver assemblies for the HK416 to modify their M4 carbines. The M4 fires using a system that redirects gas from the expended round to eject it and reload another. The 416 and SCAR use a gas-operated piston that physically pushes the bolt back to eject the round and load another.

Carbon buildup from the M4's gas system has plagued the rifle for years, resulting in some close calls with Soldiers in combat whose rifles jammed at critical moments.

It is beyond ironic that the M4 is now plagued with a problem similar to that experienced when the M16 was first fielded. A combination of inside-the-system antipathy to Eugene Stoner’s revolutionary operating system and a refusal by DuPont to modify their powder manufacturing led to misapplication of the M16, aggravated by a failure to supply cleaning kits and the proper lubricant to troops at first. There were a lot of instances of fouling and cartridge cases torn on extraction, resulting in dead troops.

The Army rushed to supply cleaning kits and a better lubricant (LSA) which solved one problem, but DuPont remained intransigent. Then some bright spark (probably a sergeant) asked the obvious question: Why aren’t our chambers and barrels chromed, like the AK47?

And now, 40 years later, we’re facing the exact same issue. Again.

And some outside commentary on the subject:

If somebody wanted to really help the US Army, they would do something about those God awful M4 carbines that American troops are forced to endure.

This is a recurring theme in this blog, and I'm returning to it again because of yet more new information that sheds light on the problem with the Army's standard-issue weapon for close-in fighting -- which is exactly the kind of combat that is raging in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

In a routine acquisition notice (see this link), a US Special Forces battalion based in Okinawa announced that it is buying 84 barrels for the Heckler & Koch HK416 assault rifle.

The HK barrels will be used to replace the barrels on their own M4s.

Why? Here's what the notice says:

The 416 barrel "allows soldiers to replace the existing M4 upper receiver with an HK proprietary gas system that does not introduce propellant gases and the associated carbon fouling back into the weapon's interior. This reduces operator cleaning time, and increases the reliability of the M4 Carbine, particularly in an environment in which sand and dust are prevalent. The elimination of the gas tube ... means that the M4 will function normally even if the weapon is fired full of water without first being drained. There isn't another company that offers these features in their products. It is a practical, versatile system."

Translation: the M4 barrel is so unreliable that special operations forces units need to swap it out with a barrel from a different gun -- and one that actually works in real combat conditions.

It’s reasonable to expect special operators to look for the best they can possibly find; small units that are generally not supported in the same way as line units have always been allowed a bit more latitude in their equipment acquisition. But if special operators like Delta and SF are having problems with the M4 and don’t want it, it’s for sure the line troops are also unhappy.

Here’s a very radical suggestion for Department of the Army: Why not staff your infantry weapon acquisition teams with infantrymen, rather than Engineer and Artillery officers? And if you’d like to get really radical, put some E6’s and E7’s in there, too. I would respectfully suggest that Ordnance colonels may not be the best choice, either.

I think it was Packard that sold a lot of vehicles with the motto “Ask the man who owns one.”


Tank Trophies Revisited
Posted by Lurch on May 04, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

There are a lot of hazards in the sandbox, besides IEDs; RPGs kill a lot of vehicles. Last year I wrote about them, and about US plans to do something pro-actively defensive about them.

RPGs are one of the banes of modern mechanized warfare. They’re cheap, easy to train on and use, and effective. The older versions, like the RPG-7 and RPG-16 were capable of defeating soft-skinned vehicles, like Jeeps, HMMWVs trucks, and many armored infantry carriers. Used effectively, in pairs or triplets, they could destroy a tank equipped with reactive armor. The first warhead would be fired at the driver’s view slit, which could blind the driver, or disorient him, while another was fired at the side of the tank, or its turret. This warhead would set off the reactive armor “boxes” mounted on the tank, exposing the bare armor underneath, which would be attacked by successive missiles until the armor was defeated and the tank blew up.

The newest versions, such as the RPG-29, have a two part warhead, with a nose cone that sets off the reactive armor even as the main explosive strikes the exposed tank armor.

It was such a good weapon that the Israeli Army developed a system to counteract it, called ”Trophy.” The Russian Army took such a beating from it in Chechnya that they developed a system they called ” Arena.”

Both systems apparently work pretty well, sensing a fired RPG and firing a counter-weapon that intercepts the incoming warhead before it can hit the tank. It supposedly works pretty well – “well above 90% of the time”, according to Rafael, the Israeli Company that manufactures it.

The video link on Rafael’s page doesn’t work unless you download a special program, (and I know how you all hate to do that,) but you can see a similar video here

At the time I concluded neither of these systems would be fielded by the Department of Defense.

The older versions, like the RPG-7 and RPG-16 were capable of defeating soft-skinned vehicles, like Jeeps, HMMWVs trucks, and many armored infantry carriers. Used effectively, in pairs or triplets, they could destroy a tank equipped with reactive armor. The first warhead would be fired at the driver’s view slit, which could blind the driver, or disorient him, while another was fired at the side of the tank, or its turret. This warhead would set off the reactive armor “boxes” mounted on the tank, exposing the bare armor underneath, which would be attacked by successive missiles until the armor was defeated and the tank blew up.

The newest versions, such as the RPG-29, have a two part warhead, with a nose cone that sets off the reactive armor even as the main explosive strikes the exposed tank armor.

It was such a good weapon that the Israeli Army developed a system to counteract it, called ”Trophy.” The Russian Army took such a beating from it in Chechnya that they developed a system they called ” Arena.”

Both systems apparently work pretty well, sensing a fired RPG and firing a counter-weapon that intercepts the incoming warhead before it can hit the tank. It supposedly works pretty well – “well above 90% of the time”, according to Rafael, the Israeli Company that manufactures it.

The video link on Rafael’s page doesn’t work unless you download a special program, (and I know how you all hate to do that,) but you can see a similar video here

It sounds like a really neat piece of equipment and it could probably save a lot of American lives, considering that we’re going to be conquering and occupying all the oil producing countries in the Middle East, and then Venezuela, according to Mr Cheney’s plans.

We won’t use it, even though it works, and even though the IDF is going to buy it.

That Israeli system suffers from two defects: NIH and too cheap.

The US Army has so far paid Raytheon, a favored defense contractor, about $70 million to develop a system like Trophy. Current expectations are that Raytheon will have something online around 2011 (although I’m sure by then the project cost will have ballooned to $40 or 50 Billion, and the per-unit cost will be about $11 Million, installed.)

Defense News is reporting that, unlike Judith (“I’m the fucking Queen of Iraq”) Miller, I have been proved right.

The U.S. Army should not have closed off options for buying active protection systems for its armored vehicles by selecting Raytheon’s Quick Kill, says an early version of a report by the Institute for Defense Analyses, an Alexandria, Va., think tank. An active protection system (APS) is installed on vehicles to identify, track and shoot down incoming missiles and rocket-propelled grenades. Commissioned by the Senate Armed Services Committee and the U.S. Department of Defense, the interim report suggests that the defense acquisition undersecretary should test and host shootoffs betweenforeign and U.S. APSs to get “consistent, independent test data they are currently lacking.” The interim report also says, “no APS exists that can be deployed on U.S combat vehicles today,” and asks DoD to consider five different options.

In April 2006, officials with the Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) program picked the Quick Kill, which is now slated to protect armored vehicles by 2012 and FCS armored vehicles in 2015.

To understand why I was right last year you probably should read the entire article. I know you won’t be too surprised.

FCS officials have called Quick Kill the best option, and said they stand by their decision. The institute’s report calls Trophy, sold by Israel’s Rafael Armament Development Authority and General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), “the most mature APS under development,” and suggests it “could be used as a prototype system to support the development of doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) and to develop operational and live fire test standards and procedures for APS.”

After all, if you’re going to a wedding next month doesn’t it make perfect sense to order a custom-made tuxedo that will be ready in six years, rather than buying something off the shelf today?


The Army’s Latest Emily Latella Moment.
Posted by Lurch on May 04, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Thanks to David Axe for pointing out that the Army is now backpedaling like a mo-fo after being busted with its overly-aggressive DA Reg 530-1.


Soldiers do not have to seek permission from a supervisor to send personal E-mails. Personal E-mails are considered private communication. However, AR 530-1 does mention if someone later posts an E-mail in a public forum containing information sensitive to OPSEC considerations, an issue may then arise.

Soldiers may also have a blog without needing to consult with their immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer if the following conditions are met:
1. The blog’s topic is not military-related (i.e., Sgt. Doe publishes a blog about his favorite basketball team).
2. The Soldier doesn’t represent or act on behalf of the Army in any way.
3. The Soldier doesn’t use government equipment when on his or her personal blog.

1. I’m more than certain that all the troops in the sandbox are dying to write about the Knicks, aren’t you?

2. I’m sure no one would think that “SSG John-Boy Walton” doesn’t really represent the Army, right?

3. I’m not at all certain that uniformed troops are permitted to bring their personal laptops in country. Does anyone know for sure?

Who are these people trying to kid? One of the hallmarks of an authoritarian regime is the inevitable presence of a Mrs Grundy eager to peek inside someone else's socks drawer. Some functionary (MAJ Ray Ceralde,) writes a hard-ass regulation while dreaming of his next OER, and when even our bought-and-paid-for press complains, suddenly everyone’s in reverse.

I suppose we’ll see an official change to 530-1 since the document as first published specifically states emails are subject to review.


Mil-Speak
Posted by Lurch on May 04, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink


We all know that the armed forces have their own private language. Ten years after you’re out of the green (or blue) bag, all the acronyms have changed, and you are officially what is termed an “olde farte,” entitled to be addressed in a venerating tone of voice as “sir” by all the peach fuzz-faced young punk privates standing around on Armed Forces Day to show you where the closet porta-potty is.

The differences in language don’t end with acronyms, either. Via our good friends at military.com we learn that:


One reason the Military Services have trouble operating jointly is that they don't speak the same language. For example, if you told Navy personnel to "secure a building," they would turn off the lights and lock the doors. The Army would occupy the building so no one could enter. Marines would assault the building, capture it, and defend it with suppressive fire and close combat. The Air Force, on the other hand, would take out a three-year lease with an option to buy.


On Blogs and Blogging
Posted by Lurch on May 02, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Writing a blog is a very strange experience. Sometimes it’s a perfect analogy of Hegel’s theory of dialectical analysis of history and philosophy.

Yes, tedious, many of us spent long hours of despair in student unions or coffeehouses, trying to understand the dynamic. Relax. This is not about Hegel, but rather about the Hegelian process: the conflict between thesis, antithesis and the resulting synthesis.

I went looking for some information about Mine Resistant Armored Vehicles as a followup to something I wrote in February. Tracking down various citations, I happened upon a milblog.

If you don’t know what a milblog is, the answer is deceptively simple: a blog written by someone in the military. Yes, they do write over there, and most of them express a high degree of motivation, conviction, and dedication to the mission. More power to them for those qualities. But as it turns out, a large number of those who continue their blogging activities after they get out of the green bag seem to have a change of heart and become quite anti-war. Or anti-Iraq. Or anti-Bu$h. Or all three, since Mr Bu$h and his egowar will be the defining yardstick of this generation, and just like with Viet Nam, we will see a powerful backlash against the moneyed interests that lied to a nation in order to attack a country that was not a threat.

But while looking for that followup I happened upon a milblog that discusses driving a Cougar.

The reason we need these specialized, highly armored vehicles is because while the Army did a fine job attacking and conquering a relatively helpless country, it failed to plan properly for the occupation. So we need these up-armored vehicles to protect troops from IEDs as they patrol, and they are expensive.

Teflon Don describes his first time behind the wheel of a Cougar and gives some details about the difficulties of patrolling that you might find as interesting as I did.

The mission started easily enough- we were headed down to Amiriya to clear a route back north along the river in support of Marine infantry and Army cavalry searching for caches and bad guys. We mounted up and headed out the gate very early in the morning. Dawn was still hours over the horizon, and we spent most of the intervening time making our way to the mission start point. A pale pink glow was spreading across the sky as we passed through Amiriya and started up the river road. Just meters past the turn was the first IED, which we quickly cleared under skies already starting to turn grey with an approaching storm. As we continued driving, the EOD tech turned to me and said "This doesn't look like Iraq at all... It's more like something back in Ohio." Indeed, the scene along the river made me forget for a moment that I was in the desert. Tall trees grew along the road, and dense green undergrowth lined the elevated roadbed. The rain had started and was growing heavier- the wind was beginning to whip the drops sideways. The monsoon hit just as the lead truck found the second IED. They called up a tripwire stretched across the road, and I turned to ask the EOD tech which war, exactly, we were fighting?

Don plans to publish Part II of this war patrol tomorrow (or as soon as operationally possible.)

That is, if he’s allowed to write it.

The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops' online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say.

Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.

Army Regulation 530--1: Operations Security (OPSEC) (.pdf) restricts more than just blogs, however. Previous editions of the rules asked Army personnel to "consult with their immediate supervisor" before posting a document "that might contain sensitive and/or critical information in a public forum." The new version, in contrast, requires "an OPSEC review prior to publishing" anything -- from "web log (blog) postings" to comments on internet message boards, from resumes to letters home. [emph added

Failure to do so, the document adds, could result in a court-martial, or "administrative, disciplinary, contractual, or criminal action."

As retired paratrooper Matthew Burden, editor of The Blog of War anthology, said, “"No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has -- it's most honest voice out of the war zone. And it's being silenced."

Maybe the real problem is not OPSEC, but the honesty.

Distributed Operations
Posted by Lurch on April 29, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

In writing the two articles below detailing differences in operational and developmental approach taken by the US and UK militaries, I only briefly examined some of the many varied and permuting influences in the creation of a new operation doctrine. Please bear in mind that I took two discrete and diametrically opposed tactical situations and briefly examined the diametrically opposing solutions created.

One version is attempting to write history with a new, expensive and unproven technology. We are assured by the vendors of this technology, which has killed numbers of pilots during testing and break-in, that it will work better than my sainted granny’s oatmeal raisin cookies. The other is attacking its operational challenges with proven tactics and technology. I will note in passing that this approach seems to be working right now.


There is an important update at the end of the article about the Queen’s Royal Hussars detailing why this approach will not work for the US military.

The V-22 Osprey
Posted by Lurch on April 28, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

A while back I commented negatively on the V-22 Osprey and took a bit of flack from some loyal and sensible readers. I should mention that I don’t have a great deal of faith in the plane, based solely upon its history to date and my observations about vertical landings in “areas of stress,” as you could say. Opposed vertical landings can get very ugly quite fast.

Some quick notes: the apparent prescribed landing path is a “slow glide” at about nine knots. I take that to mean it’s a gliding down path, like landing a plane, and the nine knots would mean after transition from forward flight to hover in preparation for landing. I guess under those conditions, and at an estimated unit cost of more than $130 million each, you are damned well going to park these babies some distance from a hot LZ, and cargoes, both troops and materiel, will be ported in on foot. Well…….

David Axe has written a column about the plane and he seems to want the thing to work out, despite its development record and a bit of throat-clearing from some ground-pounding Marines.

Despite the Corps’ apparent confidence in their new bird, skeptics in the media and at think-tanks continue to predict disaster – foremost among them, Lee Gaillard from the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C., who last week weighed in with an email distributed to the media: “With lives at stake, the question bears repeating: how combat-ready and maintainable is the MV-22B Osprey?”

The heart of Gaillard’s criticism is, of course, that the V-22 is a fundamentally flawed design and will crash at a high rate due to the “vortex ring state” phenomenon that was a factor in the crashes during testing. VRS is, essentially, a chopper’s tendency to stall during certain descent profiles. But the Marines have proved in thousands of flight hours since 2000 that VRS can be avoided with proper training and tactics, as we reported at Ares in January.

A key component in Mr Gaillard’s criticisms seems to be the fact that the plane has no armament for assault fire, which will require Cobras to escort and prep the LZ, as well as conduct overwatch while you’re deplaning. And then you need a computer to get the thing down in rotor mode and…

MV-22Bs are restricted from taking radical evasive maneuvers. Planned three-barrel nose turrets for clearing hostile landing zones have been replaced by ramp-mounted guns that fire to the rear and impede troop egress. Despite the technical review warning of component and flight control computer obsolescence issues conducted by US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) in 2003, all V-22s were grounded last month because of faulty Texas Instruments chips in their computerized flight control systems.

Unsurprisingly Colonel Glenn Walters, one of the Corps’ most experienced V-22 pilots is confident, discussing the “distributed operations capability of the unit.

“Aviation is the key enabler for distributed operations,” Walter says. He asks us to imagine ground ops at a distance of around 150 miles from their supply base. The Osprey can make multiple runs between the troops and their base on a single load of fuel at around 20 minutes per leg. An H-46 would require more than an hour. “Is that valuable?” he asks about the V-22’s superior speed. “Yes.”

OK. They built the thing because they needed to replace some old air units. And now they’re going to use it.

The British faced a somewhat similar challenge with “distributed operations” and came up with a slightly different solution, which we’ll look at separately.


A Passing-Out Tradition
Posted by Lurch on April 24, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

This is a delightful story, a tradition from before the Bu$h era, when military service was honorable and worthy of pride.

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE -- Lisa Field watched the F-22A Raptor taxi to its parking place on the flight line, a slight grin moving across her face.

She stood where the pilot - her husband, Air Force Brig. Gen. Burton Field - would climb down from the cockpit. She held a fire hose.

He knew what was coming.

As the outgoing commander of Langley's 1st Fighter Wing, Monday's flight was his last with the unit. It was also his last in a Raptor, he said.

After a change of command ceremony next week, Field will head to Iraq's Balad Air Base to command the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.

Monday's ceremony is an Air Force tradition reserved for aviators leaving their posts. It originated during the Vietnam War for pilots taking their last combat flight, one Langley pilot said.

Catch the rest at the link.

Congratulations to BG Field, and good luck to him and his subordinates at his new command.

Russian Hardware
Posted by Lurch on April 20, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Military,com has a flag-waver video clip from Russia that lasts almost 10 minutes. If you are a military equipment fan, or like clips of rockets and missiles being fired, this is your big chance. Complete with pulse-stirring chorus accompaniment, it’s sure to stir the blood of any Russian patriot. There are a few quick shots of what I think is the new 9M330 “Tor” AA system at work. This is the system recently sold to Iran.

Some nice shots of Sukhoi SU-30’s at work in air defense and ground attack as well as the new MiG 1.42 (canard equipped fighter) doing its party trick.

However, there are other interesting scenes in the clip. There are a few nifty scenes of their T-80 going through its paces on a training course: the image of an (estimated) 100,000 lb vehicle floating over suspension test bumps was fun. Also interesting was the sight of one of them, completely submerged, rising out of a river. Plus a quick clip of the T-80UM2 “Black Eagle” which is believed to be a technology upgrade incorporating new armor.

There were a couple of scenes of MI-24 Hind gunships attacking troops. The Soviet military was famous for carefully choreographing every step of its military maneuvers, and I imagine setting up this bit at about 6:00 was trouble to create.

Rising tensions between the US and Russia over our current ambitious Middle East policy has undoubtedly spurred this film to be released for public consumption.

Force Transformation - RIP
Posted by Lurch on April 18, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

The Armchair Generalist has picked up an article from The Federal Computer Week (is that an arcane publication?) about the apparent death of Mr Rumsfeld’s pet goat, Force Transformation.

The decision to move OFT inside OSD’s policy structure was a double-edged sword, [Terry] Pudas [former acting OFT director] said. On the one hand, former OFT employees are more directly connected to policy development and implementation, which encourages better coordination. But now they now spend much of their time in meetings rather than focusing on new initiatives.

Pudas’ new office houses 20 people, about the same number as at OFT. But staff members aren’t leading any projects yet, he said. Instead, they are focused on collaborating with other offices and overseeing policy concerns of the Joint Forces and Transportation commands.

Force transformation – making the Army think in 21st century terms of smaller, more mobile units – was a good idea, since we probably have 10 to15 years before we face a serious military confrontation with China or Russia, but in the meantime we will be busy with wars for natural resources.

It faced the same fate as all other good ideas in the Pentagon.

A Love Song
Posted by Lurch on April 15, 2007 • Comments (0)Permalink

Because we not only support the troops, but also their womenfolk, ladies, and wives.


Enjoy the love

NATO’s War in Afghanistan
Posted by Lurch on April 13, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

Our forces are primarily engaged in Iraq and so our attention is focused there. People have already forgotten that our real enemy, the Taliban, is active. It has reconstituted in the tribal areas of Western Pakistan, specifically in Waziristan, and is now once again doing their own “surge.” Because Mr Cheney’s friends in Big Oil wanted control of the fossil fuel resources in Iraq, Afghanistan was handed off to our NATO allies, and they’re having problems, as this Globe and Mail story shows us. Canada suffered its worst day ever on Easter Sunday.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Hotel Company was finishing up its mission in the arid plains of western Kandahar when one of its patrols hit a dangerous obstacle on Sunday afternoon. Few things can stop a Canadian LAV III armoured vehicle in the empty wastes of Maywand district, but the LAV crews were worried about driving across an ancient canal system, called a kareez, which resembles a series of deep holes hacked into the earth.

Their company had spent more than a month in that sun-baked expanse, and their clothes probably stank of sweat, garbage fires and anti-fungal foot powder, but their time in the desert would have made them familiar with threats such as the kareez holes, which could trap an unwary driver.

A gap between the holes, about four metres wide, seemed to offer a way past. Canadians had passed that way recently, so the soldiers had no reason to suspect that the narrow passage concealed the deadliest bomb to hit a Canadian military vehicle in half a century.

The explosive device was probably hidden in the dust within the past few days, and rigged with a pressure sensor, a battery and a detonator. Its punch was so powerful that six soldiers inside the troop compartment in the first of three LAVs died instantly. A seventh, a soldier who was seriously injured, was blown out of a hatch.

Graphics at the Globe and Mail site give a clearer picture of the incident.

Later this week, military experts will investigate whether the roadside IED triggered a second blast by setting off munitions on board the armoured vehicle after the damaged LAV has been recovered and returned to the Kandahar base.

The fallen soldiers' commander, Lt. Colonel Rob Walker, told Canadian Press that there was no additional ammunition in the vehicle at the time, but acknowledged that it was "impossible to determine" whether the standard load had intensified the blast. And although Walker called the LAV ia "great vehicle," he added that you can always build a bigger bomb ... and everything is penetrable."

Walker wasn't sure whether Sunday's bombing was a "lucky shot" or the result of careful planning. "I think it was both, to tell you the truth," he said.


The ACU – Ain’t Cwite Up-to-par
Posted by Lurch on April 13, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

The Army spent a lot of my money developing an alternative to the BDU, that older combat uniform that we all saw in Gulf War I and Bu$h’s Revenge War. That tan desert uniform with the brown and black camouflage patterns seemed pretty good, until it was actually used in combat and then the Army realized it wasn’t so great because it didn‘t really hide the soldier very well. Well, sometimes you make mistakes. My uncle once owned an Edsel.

A lot of time and thought was invested in developing a superior form of camouflage. Unsurprisingly the USMC came up with a better idea before the Army. (Gordo chuckles sardonically.) The digitalized pattern blends color variants more subtly than over-printed stark colors. And in a bit of proprietary ego-stroking they incorporated the eagle, ball and anchor in the digital design.

The Army followed up with their own version, and all was well.

Not exactly. There seem to be some problems

One of the most visible and high-impact changes adopted by the Army since Operation Iraqi Freedom began has been the fielding of the Army Combat Uniform, or ACU. The new uniform replaces the woodland camo Battle Dress Uniform and the "three color" Desert Combat Uniform.

One of the main goals of the change was to have a uniform that worked in all environments - woodland, desert, and urban - and held up to the rigors of combat duty, as well as the strictures of day-to-day work in garrison.

Considering all the testing the uniform went through, it is surprising such a mediocre product finally emerged.

Velcro was a good idea, but the execution was simply lacking. This material is just not ready for combat. Putting anything of size or weight in the pant's cargo pocket will often cause the closure to fail if your Velcro has any wear and tear - which in Iraq, it does. Soldiers risk losing belongings and being chewed out by the nearest NCO for an unsightly appearance.

The addition of Velcro on the sleeves to attach patches was intended to keep a Soldier from spending money modifying uniforms with new patches and skill badges. But this savings has been lost in a couple of ways.

First, patches are much more likely to be lost now that they can be easily removed. And, more obviously, Velcro repair kits are beginning to appear in the exchange shops - a tacit admission the Velcro does not last. Instead of shelling out cash to put new patches on the blouse, Soldiers now have to buy new Velcro to replace the material that failed.

The uniform is also poorly constructed. In more than 10 years of active and reserve service, I never once had a uniform "malfunction." Twice in my tour in Iraq I have had the crotch on my pants rip out. Embarrassment was the least of my worries. Had I not been near the end of a patrol it would have been a serious problem if my vehicle had gone down.

The pixilation assists in breaking up the shape of the Soldier - particularly through night vision - but in general, it stands out against anything except a concrete wall.

We all understand that when a vehicle gets hit by an IED or RPG there is an explosion and a fire.

The material itself is a problem as well. The 50/50 blend of cotton and nylon does not appear to have the staying power or the protection of the old 100% cotton or the Nomex of today's flight suits. In fact, Soldiers and Marines that spend a great deal of time in vehicles in Iraq are being issued tan Nomex flight suits to protect them from the possibility of flash fires in their vehicles. The cotton/nylon blend burns very quickly and can add to the injuries sustained in a burning vehicle by melting to the Soldiers skin.

This is a tragic lesson the Royal Navy learned in the War over the Falklands. A large number of sailors were grievously burned because their uniforms were poly/cotton, designed for easier maintenance and cleaning by eliminating the need for pressing. The RN changed their uniform material ricky ticky but I don’t think the “Lessons Learned” memo reached the US Navy or US Army.

There are other comments about the ACUs. I just extracted a few.

Will the FCS Remain in the Future?
Posted by Lurch on April 13, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

In a comment to Two Visions of the Future a regular commenter, Mike (who knows an awful lot for a retired navigator,) questions whether the desperately needed equipment reconstitution will take place, or whether the Army will just spend it all on computers.

”…look for the Army to come out of Iraq with a blank check for "reset". And look for the Army to write that check to pay for the $160 Billion Future Combat System. Humvees? Hah. Equipment for the Guard? Maybe next year. Gotta go for the net-centric transformational (I thought Rumsfeld was gone...) high end stuff.”

Cynical, Mike. Cynical. I’m not convinced you’re right. There is a tremendous anti-Rumsfeld backlash in the Army. It may just be a lot of scurrying over to the other side of the auditorium, or it may be that there was some real opposition that was ruthlessly squashed in the classic Rumsfeld fashion.

Several days ago the Army posted this to commanders. [My emphasis added] Yes, it’s long, and unnecessarily packed with tedious grammar and acronyms. This is the Army. Butch up, son. LOL

Driven by operational requirements, Army equippers use the Army Force Generation Model (ARFORGEN) and Theater Provided Equipment (TPE) program to ensure allocation of the correct mix of equipment to provide a sustained capability of operationally ready units, to include Army National Guard units performing Homeland Security and Homeland Defense missions as the first military responder.

The Army uses the semi-annual Army Equipping and ReUse Conferences (AERC) to synchronize requirements, modernization plans, and delivery of equipment with requisite training. At AERC, senior leaders and force developers review, validate, and refine existing sourcing plans based on updated requirements that factor in modular force conversion plans, operational requirements and prioritization, funding, production deliveries, reset rates, TPE, and other essential factors to develop mitigation strategies to address equipment demands. In addition to new procurement and depot-repaired items, the Army uses all available equipment to fill holes. ReUse is a process the Army has instituted to use all available equipment in the inventory, whether new or used, to fill formations of the Total Force.

In concert with AERCs, the Army conducts Equipping Synchronization Conferences (ESC), the objective of which is to synchronize unit’s modernization, equipment fielding, and training plans with the progressively increasing readiness requirements of ARFORGEN. The desired end state is a unit equipped, trained and ready to execute assigned missions when they come into their ARFORGEN ready phase.

Rapid Equipping Force (REF) and Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI) are two Army-wide programs that bring technologically advanced force protection equipment to deployed and deploying units in a fraction of time as legacy fielding systems. REF works in partnership with industry, academic, and military leaders to provide field commanders with readily employable solutions to enhance lethality and survivability—often using off-the-shelf and developmental technologies. RFI enhances capabilities of our fighting force in a systematic and integrated manner commensurate with the Soldier-as-a-System (SaaS) philosophy. By the end of FY07, the Army will complete initial fielding to a total of 984,000 sets of equipment.

The Army uses “Reset” to help maintain readiness and
equipment reliability. Reset actions include repair or replacement of equipment lost to combat operations or worn to the point of being uneconomically repairable. Reset also includes recapitalization of equipment. A combination of Rest, new production, and equipment ReUse helps build capability in our future.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future? The Army’s Modernization Strategy—Future Combat System (FCS)—will provide leap-ahead capabilities in active protection systems, mobile command and control, and common chassis linked to a modular formation to provide an exponentially more capable force than current combat formations by increasing situational awareness, reducing sustainment burden, and placing boots back on the ground by doubling squad strength and reducing BCT manpower by reducing crew sizes.

I know they say they’re going to continue on with FCS, but doesn’t this contradict that?

Given today’s wartime imperative, the Army cannot afford transformational change and modernization over multiple decades. The Army’s balanced approach to equipping ensures our Soldiers and their commanders receive the best possible support and capabilities as soon as we can provide them, now, and in the future.

They’ve decided to not replace the M-16 rifle and M-4 Carbine. (I’ll post about that separately.) The fabled Land Warrior system, with the backpack laptop and Buck Rogers videocam/eye screen is deader that McNulty’s whatchamacallits. (I’ll have to find that bit of information.) It seems they’ve “temporarily” changed the development and issue of the XM-29, the bullpup rifle designed to shoot 20mm airburst ammunition.

Just replacing the HumVee is enough of a struggle for them at the moment. The costs of force protection in battle-resistant vehicles is going to be tremendous.


Sadly, the hits just keep on coming. Next up: the problems with the brand new ACU.

Two Visions of the Future
Posted by Lurch on April 12, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

In Another Recovering Addict, MG Robert Scales argues that the US faces a dangerous and expensive period post-Iraq while the military (primarily the Army) rebuilds its equipment status to pore-Iraq levels. (Just in case we ever have to fight WWII redux, such as defeating the Russian juggernaut in the Fulda Gap.)

In opposition to that possibility, David Axe explores the significance of a book recently written by General Rupert Smith of the British Army:

In his recent tome The Utility of Force, British Army general Rupert Smith proposes that traditional notions of war – uniformed armies squaring off in bloody but brief contests over land – are mostly extinct. Centuries of industrialization during which weapons became increasingly lethal, culminating in world-destroying nuclear arsenals, have made old-fashioned warfare effectively suicidal, he claims. War’s zenith occurred in 1945 just before the United States dropped atom bombs on Japan; ever since, conventional wars have gotten smaller and shorter while “operations other than war” – sanctions, interventions, occupations, peacekeeping, etc – have become more common, especially with the growing disparity between the developed world and the developing. Increasingly, conflict is about bridging the gap between the First World and the Last, for the ostensible benefit of both.

Even the Iraq War, which began in such traditional terms, rapidly became the kind of conflict that Smith sees becoming the rule. So what does this mean for First World militaries? It means they must be prepared to manage simultaneous, long-term, low-intensity operations that bring to bear all aspects of state power: armed force, law enforcement, development, humanitarian assistance, education, etc. That means significant reorganization for militaries designed to fight wars. It means fewer submarines, destroyers, tanks, artillery pieces and fighter jets. It means more patrol boats, transport ships, trucks, helicopters and airlifters. It means being more expeditionary and, perhaps as a result, less lethal.

The U.S. military’s transition to such a force has proved slow, expensive and frustrating. But make no mistake: it’s happening, with the slow erosion of conventional air and sea power and the gradual building up of deployable, sustainable land forces. America’s closest allies are undergoing the same difficult transformations. Japan’s army is evolving from a purely defensive force to a deployable one. European militaries are retiring fighter squadrons in favor of more airlifters and amphibious ships. And Australia, one of America’s best friends, has launched a comprehensive program to rebuild its tiny but highly professional armed forces with a view to ever more deployments to ever more developing countries.

It’s worth reading Axe’s entire article and a few of the preceding ones. He’s been in Timor for the last two weeks or so, and has produced some very illuminating reports about the Australian army’s operations and challenges, trying to instill a bit of civic stability while tamping down a home-grown insurrection using primitive weaponry and methods. It’s a lot like a scaled-down version of Iraq.

While General Smith and Mr Axe make a valid point about restructuring our military to a force structure more sensibly aligned to meet long, low-intensity challenges in the future, it will be loudly disputed (by the defense industry which depends on constant income from the USG). The future that MG Scales fears, a short but nasty big deal land war against a large, well-equipped first order army like the Russians or Chinese is always possible, given the inevitable future conflicts for energy resources.

Maintaining that we might have secured those energy resources by diplomacy much more cheaply and easily is quite possibly true. But we are where we are today because of what happened, and not what could have happened.

We’re going to spend a hellacious amount of money to re-equip a land army when we’re finally finished with the results of Mr Bu$h’s psychological fixations. That’s money that could have been spent on feeding and educating American children, bettering our hospitals, and providing a better economic future for the poor by investing in jobs.

So, which should we choose?


Another Recovering Addict
Posted by Lurch on April 12, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

MG Robert Scales, US Army (Ret) is a recent recovering Kool Aid addict. This article was recently published in the Washington (Moonie) Times, which is quite remarkable considering that the “True Father” Sun Myung Moon, has been a rabid Republican supporter in the past. The WaTimes has been quite critical of the Bu$h malAdministration lately.

During the Cold War the Army stockpiled thousands of weapons and vehicles in warehouses or aboard huge cargo ships in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. These trucks, humvees, tanks, artillery and armored personnel carriers constituted our national reserve of weaponry. Soldiers depend on this equipment should we go to war against an enemy outside Iraq and Afghanistan. Except for one brigade set in Korea, it's all gone. We emptied the last set in March. In total, nearly half of the Army's fighting equipment is wearing away in Iraq and Afghanistan or waiting forlornly for repair or disposal. Unclassified sources put the total number of broken or destroyed wheels, tracks and rotors at about 6,000. Most Army brigades are "not combat ready" in part because of equipment shortages. Brigades consist of people and equipment, so the significance of "not combat ready" loses a great deal in translation. If an unready brigade were a ship it would be in dry dock. If it were an aircraft it would be undergoing a complete stripdown and overhaul. Virtually all of our reserve brigades and most of the Army's regular brigades outside of Iraq and Afghanistan fit into this category. The bottom line is that virtually any brigade not in Iraq cannot be equipped for war for a very, very long time.

The rest of the article is available at the link.

It’s always heartwarming to see the apostate true believers come back to the side of reason and sanity, even if it is too g_ddamned late to save the lives of slightly on the south side of one million human beings.

A tip of the too-small Kevlar helmet to COL Pat Lang (Ret) whose commentary on this article should frighten anyone who can think.


They're Still Leaving
Posted by Lurch on April 11, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

An article in today’s Boston Globe once again points up what was painfully obvious.

WASHINGTON -- Recent graduates of the US Military Academy at West Point are choosing to leave active duty at the highest rate in more than three decades, a sign to many military specialists that repeated tours in Iraq are prematurely driving out some of the Army's top young officers.

According to statistics compiled by West Point, of the 903 Army officers commissioned upon graduation in 2001, nearly 46 percent left the service last year -- 35 percent at the conclusion of their five years of required service, and another 11 percent over the next six months. And more than 54 percent of the 935 graduates in the class of 2000 had left active duty by this January, the statistics show

Thirty five percent is a huge and frightening figure. It means fewer majors, colonels, and generals 15 to 20 years down the road. West Point doesn’t just train officers; it trains tomorrow’s leaders. That means fewer skilled leaders to defend the country then.

It’s not enough to just talk about young officers leaving, because there’s only four or five officers in a company. We’ve discussed this before, pointing out that among enlisted men not just first-term soldiers were declining to reenlist, but also seasoned experienced NCOs with 10 to 15 years service were abandoning their chosen profession because of the stresses caused by back-to-back combat deployments.

James Dunnigan wrote about this problem in May, 2005:

The U.S. Army is losing its lieutenants and captains at the rate of 8.7 percent a year. Indications are that this rate will increase. The main reason is the prospect of constant overseas assignments, without their families, for the duration of the war on terror. This causes problems with the officers families. Then there is the pull of better job prospects in an improving economy. The prospect of losing over ten percent of your junior officers a year is compounded by the fact that a disproportionate number of these will be those with the most combat experience.

A third factor in the exodus is the dislike of the army’s “force protection” fixation. The army puts a lot of emphasis on keeping casualties down. But a lot of the combat commanders interpret this as doing as little as possible. This, despite the fact that those commanders who get outside their camps a lot, reduce enemy activity and American casualties. But these aggressive tactics come with some risk, and many battalion and brigade commanders (lieutenant colonels and colonels) are more risk averse than the captains and lieutenants (company and platoon commanders). Once you hit lieutenant colonel, you are making the army a career, and are less inclined to take chances. But captains and lieutenants can afford to take chances, and are put off when their bosses are not.

In the quicksand war of the Iraq occupation there are no tangible ground gains to be reported to the troops and the American public as a yardstick of success. Gains cannot even be quantified by body count, as was tried unsuccessfully in Viet Nam, because the public only thinks of the American body count. Dead Iraqis, whether resisters, insurgents, “foreign fighters” dead end Ba’athists or innocent women and children are meaningless in a sense because they are “over there” and Americans at home have no sense of identification with them. But they instinctively understand the image of dead GIs, even if Mr Bu$h has ruled they are not permitted to see photos and videos of them being unloaded every other day at Andrews Air Force Base.

In the small towns they note that Jimmy, the high school quarterback three years ago, came home in a coffin, and remember that two months ago Mary Beth, the young girl who used to work at the pharmacy and belonged to the National Guard, was buried. Mary Beth had two little girls, who now have no mother. These are the things that are understood and remembered in towns and cities all over the country.

As Mr Dunnigan points out, many junior officers leave the service for better opportunities in civilian life, but it’s unlikely EM make their decision for that reason.

The Boston Globe again:

In most years during the last three decades, the period for which West Point released statistics, the numbers of graduates opting out at the five-year mark were between 10 percent and 30 percent, according to the data.

The rising exodus is blamed on a number of factors, including the economic lure of the private sector. But interviews with former West Point superintendents, graduates, and retired officers pointed to another reason: the wear and tear on officers and their families from multiple deployments.

The stress on families is a key point because the operational tempo has caused massive discord among the wives and children of younger officers and EM. A wife with two or three children under 10 doesn’t want to run the household by herself with her husband away every other year, worrying daily about him and trying to do the jobs of both mommy and daddy. Who can blame them?

Our Army – 10,000 cuts.


The "Plus-up"
Posted by Lurch on April 10, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

This message was received today from HQ, US Army (G8) which I’d frankly never heard of before, but is apparently the Comptroller of the Army, which I suppose makes that office the one that can’t count jeeps, tanks, towels and HalliCheneyBurton Contracts.

Equipping the Plus-Up

What is it? As the combat environment in which our Soldiers fight
Continues to change, the requirements for the type of equipment necessary to fight successfully and win also change. As we continue to support combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army remains focused on force protection to ensure troops involved in the plus-up have everything they need to ensure their safety while achieving the mission.

What is the Army doing? One of our primary force protection
enhancements is the up-armored Medium [*] and Heavy [**] Tactical Wheeled Vehicles (TWV). As of 21 February 2007, there are over 11,900 Heavy and Medium TWVs in Theater with Add-on-Armor (AoA). We kitted another 146 vehicles at home station, prior to
unit deployments, with AoA kits. There are an additional 55 AoA kits available in theater to armor vehicles previously used only on Forward Operating Bases (FOB), bringing fill to 94 percent of requirement. The Theater will re-task organize to ensure units have the Heavy and Medium TWVs to meet mission requirements. All trucks intended to operate off the FOB will be armored prior to shipment. No Soldier goes off a FOB unless they are in an armored vehicle. We are providing the right number of up-armored HMMWVs (UAH), weapons, and command and control systems. All brigades will have a full complement of UAHs to meet mission requirements. All plus-up UAHs will have Blue Force Tracking, Jamming devices and machine guns.

In the next six months we will produce 4,000+ UAH with the latest armor protection.

* - Humvees, vans and small trucks

** - Big Trucks

4,000+ Trucks and Humvees in six months? They haven‘t been able to do that in two years. If they were able to do it, they wouldn’t have had to cannibalize the National Guard armories and vehicle lots, which are still empty.

Plus-up? The mind reels at the thought that “armored” or “reinforced” was too simple a concept. I suppose they're going to start referring to officer promotions as "improvements" or "upgrades."

When an industry starts jargonizing its vocabulary that often means they’re out of ideas and are attempting to paradigmize their mission compliance in an external position, with reference to the traditional rectangular framework.

The Activist Soldier, Part I
Posted by Lurch on April 10, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

This is Part One of Andrew Bacevich’s March 28 article in The Atlantic Monthly. There are some very stunning opinions expressed in this article, and those who might think he is officially enlisted in the “soldiers’ appeal” process should read carefully.

As always, commentary and opinion are welcomed.

Successive parts to follow.


THE ACTIVIST SOLDIER

Amid all the finger-pointing and contested policies surrounding the war in Iraq, there is one sentiment that seemingly everyone can endorse: "Support our troops." The men and women who choose to serve in America's armed forces risk their lives to protect our national security. Even those who return home safely often do so only after having experienced stresses that the rest of us would have a difficult time imagining. One might think that the extraordinary commitments and burdens these men and women shoulder entitle them to a greater voice than most in shaping our country's direction. But do they?
In his May article, "Warrior Politics," Boston University history professor Andrew J. Bacevich takes a considered look at a new antiwar movement now being fomented by a group of junior members of the military who have joined together to call for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The movement's founders cite a tradition of activism that dates back to the Vietnam era: Jonathan Hutto, a Navy seaman who has been a leading figure, was reportedly stirred to action by the 1975 book Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War. Hutto connected with the book's author, David Cortright, and an Iraq War veteran named Liam Madden, and on January 16 of this year, they presented their statement—"An Appeal for Redress from the War in Iraq"—to Congress, along with the signatures of more than 1,600 fellow servicemen and women. The number of signatures has now grown to over 1,700, and members of the military continue to add their names at a Web site dedicated to the cause. Although soldiers walk a fine line when speaking out while wearing a uniform, those who have signed the appeal assert that they are acting within the bounds of appropriate behavior; the appeal's Web site explains that according to military law, soldiers have the right to "complain and request redress of grievances against actions of their commanders" and "to make a protected communication to [a member of Congress]." So far, the higher-ups seem to agree. As Marc Cooper recently noted in the Nation, when questioned about the appeal, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed that active-duty personnel are free to express their views to Congress as long as they are not violating military law.

Bacevich is not so sanguine. Although he shares the soldiers' view that the war in Iraq has been bungled, he cautions that it is a mistake to believe that soldiers' risks and sacrifices entitle them to a special platform for dissent:

On matters of policy, those who wear the uniform ought to get a vote, but it's the same one that every other citizen gets—the one exercised on Election Day. To give them more is to sow confusion about the soldier's proper role, which centers on service and must preclude partisanship.

His recent book, The New American Militarism (2005), similarly warns against assuming that soldiers are entitled to moral superiority and speaks to the broader danger of basing our national identity and sense of self-worth on military prowess and accomplishments. Bacevich would prefer a more realistic, non-idealized attitude toward the armed forces. As he sees it, open dialogue between military and civilian society is of utmost importance. Through clear-eyed understanding, our country can effectively honor the respective roles and responsibilities of both soldiers and civilians.

We spoke by telephone in mid-March.

******************************

In 1969, more than a thousand active-duty soldiers signed a New York Times ad calling for an end to the Vietnam War. Jonathan Hutto has described the Appeal for Redress as a movement that follows in the footsteps of the soldiers' lobby during the Vietnam War. You don't claim that the appeal is unprecedented, but why do you see it as new and noteworthy?

I see the appeal as new and noteworthy for two reasons. The first is that it represents a collective effort on the part of serving soldiers to influence national security. Secondly, the traditional or standard politicking by the American military typically occurs at the senior ranks of the military, but the organizers and the majority of the participants in the appeal for redress are junior enlisted soldiers. This is military politicking from the bottom up rather than from the top down.

Do you think that soldiers who have signed the appeal are acting within their rights?

No, I don’t. I think that although it’s being styled as an appeal—that is to say it’s being advertised as if it were equivalent to the individual appeal connected to individual grievances, this is in fact a petition. It is a collective political act and it’s not intended to redress a particular problem of either an individual soldier or even of the 1,700 soldiers who have signed it. It’s intended to bring about a change in U.S. national security policy. I myself think that the policy that the appeal addresses—namely the Iraq war—is an utterly misguided policy. I think the war is unnecessary. It has been utterly bungled. But I don’t believe that it ought to be the place of soldiers acting collectively to try to put pressure on members of Congress, or on Congress collectively, in order to bring about a change in policy. That really begins to undermine the principle of civilian control, which we all should be careful to guard.

Is there someone who needs to step in and put a stop to the appeal?

The people who should speak to this as unacceptable are the members of Congress who are the recipients of the appeal. Members of Congress ought to say, “We welcome appeals from individual soldiers with regard to individual problems, but we view as inappropriate and improper any action intended to bring about changes in national security policy.”

You write that soldiers are "sworn to obey." What options do members of the armed forces have for voicing their grievances?

This gets to the heart of why this movement is termed an “appeal for redress.” Most of us would think of it as a petition, a collective petition. However, the military prohibits soldiers from petitioning collectively. Instead, there is a channel for soldiers to bring individual grievances to the attention of their elected congressional representatives. This longstanding practice—one could almost call it a tradition—allows individual soldiers who have some sort of complaint about the way they are being treated a voice if they feel that they are being treated unfairly or that their individual problems are not being properly addressed. Soldiers have long enjoyed the prerogative of writing individual letters to their members of Congress asking their congressmen to intervene on the behalf of that individual soldier. This practice is certainly recognized by the military itself, which goes out of its way not to prevent individual soldiers from appealing to members of Congress for assistance.

FAIR USE NOTICE

This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.


The Activist Soldier, Part II
Posted by Lurch on April 10, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

This is Part II of Andrew Bacevich’s March 28 article in The Atlantic Monthly.

Commentary and opinion are always welcome.

*********************

Does a soldier have any options if he has a change of heart mid-way through his tour of duty and would like to be relieved of his commission?

I don’t believe so. An enlistment is a contract in a very formal sense. An individual commits himself or herself to serve for three years, four years, six years—whatever the commitment may be—and both parties of that contract are obliged to live up to it. It is possible that circumstances may change. For example, a soldier may become ill or injured or experience a personal tragedy. If a married soldier’s spouse passes away and the soldier is left responsible for the care of young children this could provide the basis for asking to have the enlistment contract terminated. But “I don’t like serving in the Army anymore” or “I don’t feel like going back to Iraq again” would not be viewed as grounds for terminating the contract.

Could a soldier also decide mid-way through a tour of duty that he or she is a conscientious objector?

Yes. If a soldier honestly came to the conclusion that war is immoral, that all war is wrong, then this could be the basis for asking to have the contract for the enlistment terminated. In this case, a soldier would not necessarily have to go to his or her congressman. In fact, the first step for an individual soldier who had concluded that he or she was a conscientious objector would be to go to his or her immediate leader, the company commander. The soldier would say “I’ve had a change of heart about war, I think it’s immoral.” This could lead to the soldier being allowed to leave active duty.

You write that senior military officials have also been politicking over the last 50 years. Can you give me any examples of the sorts of behaviors or actions you're thinking of?

In 1993, the Joint Chiefs of Staff vehemently opposed President Clinton’s announcement that he wanted by executive order to permit gays to serve openly in the military. The Army, Marine Corps, and Navy particularly opposed Truman’s 1948 executive order to desegregate the armed forces. In 1950, at the outset of the Korean War, the great majority of troops were still segregated, and when generals finally did desegregate their troops, they did so in order to facilitate ongoing operations—not because of any principled rejection of racial segregation. And [Air Force General] Curtis LeMay was very famous for cutting budget deals with Congress around Eisenhower’s back, thereby building up the strategic air command on a scale that far exceeded the president’s intentions.

Do you see any steps as necessary or useful to curb this sort of military politicking?

First of all, both citizens and politicians should recognize that civil-military relations in the country are in many respects dysfunctional. This is a problem that deserves attention. And in my judgment, it’s a problem that has largely been ignored for decades. More specifically, I think that members of Congress ought to be more sensitive to the limits of permissible action on the part of senior military officers. Members of Congress ought to try to ensure that senior military officers respect the law. People who stray beyond the bounds of the prerogatives of the military profession should be slapped down and penalized. But I also think that the military profession itself has a real obligation here. We should ensure that part of the process of educating, developing, and selecting officers for positions of high responsibility includes inculcating an awareness of the limits of proper professional behavior. The sort of politicking I just described—working around the administration, manipulating directives, disregarding orders—all of that really works in the long run to the detriment of the military itself.

Should the military come under firmer civilian control?

My view is that the principle of control should be sacrosanct. General Shinseki was invited to testify before a congressional committee and was asked his views by members of Congress as to the prospects for the Iraq war. He stated quite candidly that he believed that the most difficult phase of the operation was likely to be the occupation of Iraq and that in his judgment the occupation of Iraq could take up to several hundred thousand soldiers. That action was completely appropriate; he was speaking candidly, he was offering his professional judgment when asked for it by members of Congress. What was dismaying was the retaliation directed against him by senior civilians in the office of the Secretary of Defense who publicly chastised him and very quickly terminated his influence and career.
To place the retaliation in a larger context, one could see it as an expression of a Republican determination to rein in generals who had exceeded their writ during the Clinton years. According to their own lights, officials like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz were trying to restore the principle of civilian control that they believed had been weakened during the 1990s. I wouldn’t want to cite General Shinseki specifically, but in a broader sense the Joint Chiefs of Staff brought this on themselves in part because in the 1990s they had indeed been playing fast and loose with their responsibilities. For example, they had defied President Clinton over gays in the military. When the Republicans came to power in 2001 they were adamantly committed to the proposition that they were going to restore unambiguous control.

So the solution is not necessarily to make the military completely subservient to the Secretary of Defense?

No. This is where Eliot Cohen’s book Supreme Command is exactly on target. Open, honest, and candid dialogue is crucially important. My sense is that the dialogue between senior civilians and senior military officers is so distorted by posturing, game-playing, and bringing peripheral political considerations into the matter that the environment in which discourse happens is one in which there is great mistrust rather than openness and honesty. The issues don’t get addressed in a straightforward way. And that is part of the problem here.

Do you think there’s any need for an overall bureaucratic reorganization of the armed forces—for example, an updated Goldwater-Nichols Act?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldwater-Nichols_Act
I don’t know exactly what an updated Goldwater-Nichols act would propose, and I would probably want to see specific proposals before commenting. Having said that, I don’t believe that we can legislate healthy civil-military relations. We need to have people who are genuinely professional, genuinely committed to the national interest, rather than to some narrow and parochial interest—people who undertake their responsibilities honestly and fearlessly. And that needs to be the case both on the civilian side and on the military side. It’s not. I don’t think you can legislate a fix to the problem.

Your book The New American Militarism suggests that we have become more militarized as a society in recent years. But some would argue that the American public has in fact become increasingly disengaged from the politics of war. For example, we haven't seen the same sorts of organized protests on college campuses or marches on Washington that we saw during the Vietnam War. Can you speak to how we can reconcile what seems to be increased apathy toward war with the idea that we are becoming increasingly militarized?

I teach at Boston University and have observed that although our students are patriotic, that doesn’t translate into any particular enthusiasm for enlisting in the military. ROTC, which had become a contentious presence on many campuses during the Vietnam War is now readily accepted. The presence of ROTC at BU today is completely non-controversial. But despite the fact that there are now public professions of respect and warm regard for soldiers, as a practical matter, a large gap has opened up between the American Army and American society. For all kinds of reasons I think we need to close that gap, which means ensuring that the burdens of military service are shared more broadly across the spectrum of American society. We need to find ways to induce greater numbers of young people to serve.

FAIR USE NOTICE

This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.


The Activist Soldier, Part III
Posted by Lurch on April 10, 2007 • Comments (0)TrackBack (0)Permalink

This is the concluding section of Andrew Bacevich’s March 28 article in The Atlantic Monthly.

As always, commentary and opinions are welcome.

****************************


Should we reinstate the draft?
It’s infeasible to have a draft. If, for whatever reason—and I cannot imagine what the reason would be—but if for some reason Congress passed a draft and the President signed it into law, I believe there would be massive civil disobedience that would gut the program before it even got off the ground. If indeed we want to close the gap between the army and society, it has to happen by finding incentives that will induce people from the middle- and upper-middle classes to serve voluntarily. The federal government could offer all-expenses-paid college educations to any soldier completing a term of service. Given the ever-increasing cost of a college education, that might provide a very attractive incentive to serve. To make that incentive effective, the government would probably have to reduce the availability of education grants and loans to non-veterans. Closing the gap is not going to be the result of some kind of compulsory service.

You also suggest in your piece that the American public is partly to blame for endowing soldiers with a sort of moral authority. In your book you flesh out this idea, explaining that our current attitude towards soldiers is due in part to a backlash following the Vietnam era, where the stature of the armed forces fell in the eyes of the public following incidents like My Lai. We then went from being antimilitaristic to revering the military. Do you think that Guantanamo, Abu Grahib, or Haditha will create a similar backlash or change our perceptions of soldiers today?

No, I don’t think so. I believe that Vietnam-era soldiers were collectively tarred with the brush from episodes like My Lai. One could overstate the case, but to some degree soldiers generally came to be viewed as baby killers. That’s not the case today, although we have had our episodes of abuse—whether we’re talking about Abu Ghraib or Haditha. It seems to me that there is not a tendency today to view the perpetrators of those kinds of episodes as representative of all soldiers. Lynde England will remain the face of Abu Ghraib.

Is there any reason for us to heed the soldiers who have signed the appeal? Couldn't one argue that the soldiers' lobby deserves our attention because the men and women serving in Iraq are better informed than the average American about what’s happening on the ground there? Not that we should listen to soldiers because they are potentially sacrificing their lives, but because they are eyewitnesses and have seen the futility of persevering in this war.
Yes, of course, individual soldiers speaking as individuals have every right to say, “This is what I saw, this is what I experienced, this is what I learned, this is what I think it means”—especially once they’ve completed their military service. Those voices deserve to have a place in the public arena. However, as citizens, we should be concerned and troubled by the fact that a soldiers’ lobby has begun to appear. We should hope that it fails. And we should hope that it’s not followed by further lobbying efforts by soldiers.

How could soldiers appropriately make their voices heard?
Soldiers can speak out through congressional testimony, or through the writing of books, or movie scripts, or poetry. There are numerous ways we can try to make sense of our experiences of life and of the evolution of history.


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