Friday, July 31, 2009
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Chris W. Cox
The sky starts getting light here shortly after 4:30 a.m., so they made their way to the chow hall in the dark for their pre-convoy brief.
Roll call, convoy brief, a prayer by the chaplain, grab some quick chow and they were on their way back in the pre-dawn light to the 19 vehicles staged a half mile away. One late addition to the cargo was a 73,000-pound, John Deere combat excavator that needed to be loaded onto a flatbed trailer and hauled to Combat Outpost Geronimo – the day's destination. This particular route was new for this platoon, and dangerous, as rumor had it – rumors spread by Marines in other sections who had made this trip. The rumors were true.
"I didn't know if it was a tire or an IED. These tires make a big boom when they go," said Cpl. Baldemar Flores, who was driving the logistics vehicle system, towing the excavator. "Then I looked back and saw the trailer got hit and a little bit farther was the hole."
After only 90 minutes on the road – and a distance of less than five miles – Combat Logistics Battalion 8's Transportation Support Platoon had triggered an IED and delayed the convoy for a short time. Fortunately, no one was injured.
TSP hauls almost all of the cargo carried from Camp Dwyer to all of Regimental Combat Team 3's combat outposts and forward operating bases throughout Helmand province. Unlike civilian truckers on highways in the States, part of the work involved in ferrying passengers, equipment and supplies around this country is simply maintaining situational awareness. From the turret gunners who man .50 caliber, 7.62mm and 40mm machine guns to the drivers themselves who follow in the tracks of the vehicle in front of them, being able to tell when something is not right is a very important ability.
"You never know what to expect," said 1st Lt. Charles Lamb, the convoy commander on this route. "I knew on this one there was a good chance we'd get blown up. This is a dangerous route."
Since Lamb's Marines were on this route for the first time, he and they had spoken with others who had made this trip before. The information that they received painted a clear enough picture of what might happen.
In a unit that faces potential danger regularly – even the danger of the unknown – they develop a bond that goes beyond professional requirements. The younger Marines become little brothers and sisters, and the lieutenant becomes dad.
"When they hit the IED, I was a nervous wreck," Lamb recalled. "I've been with these guys for a year. Our platoon is very much like a family."
Meanwhile, Flores's feelings after experiencing the blast from inside the cab were much different. For a few critical moments, his radio wouldn't work. Oblivious to the fact that the rest of the convoy was waiting for any news about him, he was focused on the inconvenience of being slowed down by an irritating explosion.
"The whole day – the whole truck issue – I was mad," he said. "We'd been working on that truck all day long. I was just hoping it didn't get blown up."
Waiting to hear from his potentially injured Marine, Lamb wrestled with his own feelings in his vehicle farther ahead in the convoy. After a few tense moments listening to the radio, good news put the Colorado City, Texan back into action.
"When I heard Cpl. Flores's voice over the radio, that shifted my gears from 'they're ok' to 'how do I get us out of this mess? I gotta get these guys out of here,'" said Lamb. "I was worried about secondary IEDs. Usually where there's one, there's two."
While the convoy was moving to a safe stand-off distance, one of Flores's best friends was moving to assist him from his vehicle immediately behind.
"All I remember was a huge cloud of smoke and dirt, like four or five stories high," explained Lance Cpl. Eric Valdez from Houston. "My job is security/sweeper. As I was sweeping up to the vic [vehicle], that's when our Doc, Doc Brawner [Petty Officer 3rd Class Donnell Brawner, hospital corpsman], came up. I was sweeping up and he was close behind. We were about 10 feet behind the trailer when I heard my first solid ping."
Marine mine sweepers use modified metal detectors to identify unexploded IEDs. Usually when the detector lets out a certain tone, it's time to be careful. Valdez calmly continued to thoroughly sweep the area and proceeded to the vehicle's cab.
"At the time I was very nervous. I knew I might get hurt myself, but I just had to get it done to get to my corporal," he said. "Finally after me and the doc swept up there safely, we got to the vehicle doors and found them safe."
All of this took place before 10 a.m. Later, the quick reaction force arrived to provide additional security and investigate a white van that had been acting suspiciously until it got stuck in the sand within sight of the convoy. The QRF arrived with a retrieval vehicle, a new trailer and a heavy equipment operator to transfer the combat excavator and help the convoy roll on to its destination – still three hours away.
In addition to transferring the heavy equipment to the new trailer, it also took several hours to make repairs to the LVS' hydraulics system so the new trailer could be coupled to it.
Even with the delay in the middle of nowhere, the convoy still made it to a safe place just as night was falling. The Marines stopped at a weigh point – Fire Base Fiddler's Green – in order to get some rest and push the rest of the way with the next day's early light.
The next morning, Flores received plenty of friendly comments and remarks about his adventure – another sign of a family taking care of its own.
"These guys are giving Cpl. Flores a hard time, and he's joking back with them, which is good," Lamb said shortly before the convoy rolled out of COP Geronimo on its way back to Camp Dwyer. "They're making sure he's ok, and they're coming together to protect him."
"One good thing about this is no one got hurt," he said. "This just re-affirms IEDs are out there and they're dangerous, but chances are in these vehicles, you're going to walk away from it."
Confidence is another thing that is required in this job. When service members are driving nearly every day in an environment where the enemy's primary tactic is to mine the roads and supply routes, being good at one's job is only half of it. Marines have to have faith in themselves and those around them, but, like the lieutenant says, they also have to be a family.
Cpl. Jason L. Dunham, the first Marine awarded the Medal of Honor for Operation Iraqi Freedom will have a Arleigh Burke class of guided missile destroyers named after him. Dunham was born in Scio, N.Y., Nov. 10, 1981, sharing the same birthday as the U.S. Marine Corps.
On April 14, 2004, Dunham’s squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in Karabilah, Iraq, when his battalion commander’s convoy was ambushed. When Dunham’s squad approached to provide fire support, an Iraqi insurgent leapt out of a vehicle and attacked Dunham. As Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground, he noticed that the enemy fighter had a grenade in his hand and immediately alerted his fellow Marines. When the enemy dropped the live grenade, Dunham took off his Kevlar helmet, covered the grenade, and threw himself on top to smother the blast. In an ultimate selfless act of courage, in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of two fellow Marines.
Retired Gen. Michael W. Hagee, former commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps, will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Debra Dunham will serve as sponsor of the ship named for her late son. In accordance with Navy tradition, she will break a bottle of champagne across the ship’s bow and christen the ship.
Jason Dunham, the 59th Arleigh Burke class destroyer, will be able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection. Jason Dunham will be capable of fighting air, surface and subsurface battles simultaneously and contains a myriad of offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime warfare in keeping with “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” the new maritime strategy that postures the sea services to apply maritime power to protect U.S. vital interests in an increasingly interconnected and uncertain world.
Cmdr. M. Scott Sciretta, born in South Amboy, N.J., is the prospective commanding officer of the ship and will lead the crew of 276 officers and enlisted personnel. The 9,200-ton Jason Dunham is being built by Bath Iron Works, a General Dynamics company. The ship is 509 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 59 feet, and a navigational draft of 31 feet. Four gas turbine engines will power the ship to speeds in excess of 30 knots.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
"Unless we return to a meritocracy, emphasize science, math, liberal arts, and engineering—rather than the plague of ‘studies’ courses (as in environmental-, leisure-, gender-, Latino-, black-, Asia-, Chicano-, community-, feminist-studies, etc.)—we simply will not match the Chinese and Indians in this century.
The American people are waiting for a leader bold enough to balance budgets, restore meritocracy, end the therapeutic mushy sentimentality in our educational system, and insist on the rule of law, free markets, and limit government.
Otherwise we know the ultimate end of the present road: a vast bureaucracy of non-taxpaying incompetents, damning the estranged few for not producing ever more to be taxed, convinced that they are geniuses—and only due to some sort of unfairness have been surpassed by others.
The Chinese are rough, competent people and have no such delusions. In about 10 years their enormous financial power will begin to translate into military sophistication, and I don’t think their foreign policy will either have much to do with human rights or care much about what we have to say about them."
July 31, 2009
Colonel Timothy R. Reese,
Chief, Baghdad Operations Command Advisory Team
MND-B, Baghdad, Iraq
It’s Time for the US to Declare Victory and Go Home
As the old saying goes, “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” Since the signing of the 2009 Security Agreement, we are guests in Iraq, and after six years in Iraq, we now smell bad to the Iraqi nose. Today the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are good enough to keep the Government of Iraq (GOI) from being overthrown by the actions of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the Baathists, and the Shia violent extremists that might have toppled it a year or two ago. Iraq may well collapse into chaos of other causes, but we have made the ISF strong enough for the internal security mission. Perhaps it is one of those infamous paradoxes of counterinsurgency that while the ISF is not good in any objective sense, it is good enough for Iraq in 2009. Despite this foreboding disclaimer about an unstable future for Iraq, the United States has achieved our objectives in Iraq. Prime Minister (PM) Maliki hailed June 30th as a “great victory,” implying the victory was over the US. Leaving aside his childish chest pounding, he was more right than he knew. We too ought to declare victory and bring our combat forces home. Due to our tendency to look after the tactical details and miss the proverbial forest for the trees, this critically important strategic realization is in danger of being missed.
Equally important to realize is that we aren’t making the GOI and the ISF better in any significant ways with our current approach. Remaining in Iraq through the end of December 2011 will yield little in the way of improving the abilities of the ISF or the functioning of the GOI. Furthermore, in light of the GOI’s current interpretation of the limitations imposed by the 30 June milestones of the 2008 Security Agreement, the security of US forces are at risk. Iraq is not a country with a history of treating even its welcomed guests well. This is not to say we can be defeated, only that the danger of a violent incident that will rupture the current partnership has greatly increased since 30 June. Such a rupture would force an unplanned early departure that would harm our long term interests in Iraq and potentially unraveling the great good that has been done since 2003. The use of the military instrument of national power in its current form has accomplished all that can be expected. In the next section I will present and admittedly one sided view of the evidence in support of this view. This information is drawn solely from the MND-B area of operations in Baghdad Province. My reading of reports from the other provinces suggests the same situation exists there.
The general lack of progress in essential services and good governance is now so broad that it ought to be clear that we no longer are moving the Iraqis “forward.” Below is an outline of the information on which I base this assessment:
1. The ineffectiveness and corruption of GOI Ministries is the stuff of legend.
2. The anti-corruption drive is little more than a campaign tool for Maliki
3. The GOI is failing to take rational steps to improve its electrical infrastructure and to improve their oil exploration, production and exports.
4. There is no progress towards resolving the Kirkuk situation.
5. Sunni Reconciliation is at best at a standstill and probably going backwards.
6. Sons of Iraq (SOI) or Sahwa transition to ISF and GOI civil service is not happening, and SOI monthly paydays continue to fall further behind.
7. The Kurdish situation continues to fester.
8. Political violence and intimidation is rampant in the civilian community as well as military and legal institutions.
9. The Vice President received a rather cool reception this past weekend and was publicly told that the internal affairs of Iraq are none of the US’s business.
The rate of improvement of the ISF is far slower than it should be given the amount of effort and resources being provided by the US. The US has made tremendous progress in building the ISF. Our initial efforts in 2003 to mid-2004 were only marginally successful. From 2004 to 2006 the US built the ISF into a fighting force. Since the start of the surge in 2007 we have again expanded and improved the ISF. They are now at the point where they have defeated the organized insurgency against the GOI and are marginally self-sustaining. This is a remarkable tale for which many can be justifiably proud. We have reached the point of diminishing returns, however, and need to find a new set of tools. The massive partnering efforts of US combat forces with ISF isn’t yielding benefits commensurate with the effort and is now generating its own opposition. Again, some touch points for this assessment are:
1. If there ever was a window where the seeds of a professional military culture could have been implanted, it is now long past. US combat forces will not be here long enough or with sufficient influence to change it.
2. The military culture of the Baathist-Soviet model under Saddam Hussein remains entrenched and will not change. The senior leadership of the ISF is incapable of change in the current environment.
a) Corruption among officers is widespread
b) Neglect and mistreatment of enlisted men is the norm
c) The unwillingness to accept a role for the NCO corps continues
d) Cronyism and nepotism are rampant in the assignment and promotion system
e) Laziness is endemic
f) Extreme centralization of C2 is the norm
g) Lack of initiative is legion
h) Unwillingness to change, do anything new blocks progress
i) Near total ineffectiveness of the Iraq Army and National Police institutional organizations and systems prevents the ISF from becoming self-sustaining
j) For every positive story about a good ISF junior officer with initiative, or an ISF commander who conducts a rehearsal or an after action review or some individual MOS training event, there are ten examples of the most basic lack of military understanding despite the massive partnership efforts by our combat forces and advisory efforts by MiTT and NPTT teams.
3. For all the fawning praise we bestow on the Baghdad Operations Command (BOC) and Ministry of Defense (MoD) leadership for their effectiveness since the start of the surge, they are flawed in serious ways. Below are some salient examples:
a) They are unable to plan ahead, unable to secure the PM’s approval for their actions
b) They are unable to stand up to Shiite political parties
c) They were and are unable to conduct an public relations effort in support of the SA and now they are afraid of the ignorant masses as a result
d) They unable to instill discipline among their officers and units for the most basic military standards
e) They are unable to stop the nepotism and cronyism
f) They are unable to take basic steps to manage the force development process
g) They are unable to stick to their deals with US leaders
It is clear that the 30 Jun milestone does not represent one small step in a long series of gradual steps on the path the US withdrawal, but as Maliki has termed it, a “great victory” over the Americans and fundamental change in our relationship. The recent impact of this mentality on military operations is evident:
1. Iraqi Ground Forces Command (IGFC) unilateral restrictions on US forces that violate the most basic aspects of the SA
2. BOC unilateral restrictions that violate the most basic aspects of the SA
3. International Zone incidents in the last week where ISF forces have resorted to shows of force to get their way at Entry Control Points (ECP) including the forcible takeover of ECP 1 on 4 July
4. Sudden coolness to advisors and CDRs, lack of invitations to meetings,
5. Widespread partnership problems reported in other areas such as ISF confronting US forces at TCPs in the city of Baghdad and other major cities in Iraq.
6. ISF units are far less likely to want to conduct combined combat operations with US forces, to go after targets the US considers high value, etc.
7. The Iraqi legal system in the Rusafa side of Baghdad has demonstrated a recent willingness to release individuals originally detained by the US for attacks on the US.
Yet despite all their grievous shortcomings noted above, ISF military capability is sufficient to handle the current level of threats from Sunni and Shiite violent groups. Our combat forces’ presence here on the streets and in the rural areas adds only marginally to their capability while exposing us to attacks to which we cannot effectively respond.
The GOI and the ISF will not be toppled by the violence as they might have been between 2006 and 2008. Though two weeks does not make a trend, the near cessation of attacks since 30 June speaks volumes about how easily Shiite violence can be controlled and speaks to the utter weakness of AQI. The extent of AQ influence in Iraq is so limited as to be insignificant, only when they get lucky with a mass casualty attack are they relevant. Shiite groups are working with the PM and his political allies, or plotting to work against him in the upcoming elections. We are merely convenient targets for delivering a message against Maliki by certain groups, and perhaps by Maliki when he wants us to be targeted. Extremist violence from all groups is directed towards affecting their political standing within the existing power structures of Iraq. There is no longer any coherent insurgency or serious threat to the stability of the GOI posed by violent groups.
Our combat operations are currently the victim of circular logic. We conduct operations to kill or capture violent extremists of all types to protect the Iraqi people and support the GOI. The violent extremists attack us because we are still here conducting military operations. Furthermore, their attacks on us are no longer an organized campaign to defeat our will to stay; the attacks which kill and maim US combat troops are signals or messages sent by various groups as part of the political struggle for power in Iraq. The exception to this is AQI which continues is globalist terror campaign. Our operations are in support of an Iraqi government that no longer relishes our help while at the same time our operations generate the extremist opposition to us as various groups jockey for power in post-occupation Iraq.
The GOI and ISF will continue to squeeze the US for all the “goodies” that we can provide between now and December 2011, while eliminating our role in providing security and resisting our efforts to change the institutional problems prevent the ISF from getting better. They will tolerate us as long as they can suckle at Uncle Sam’s bounteous mammary glands. Meanwhile the level of resistance to US freedom of movement and operations will grow. The potential for Iraqi on US violence is high now and will grow by the day. Resentment on both sides will build and reinforce itself until a violent incident break outs into the open. If that were to happen the violence will remain tactically isolated, but it will wreck our strategic relationships and force our withdrawal under very unfavorable circumstances.
For a long time the preferred US approach has been to “work it at the lowest level of partnership” as a means to stay out of the political fray and with the hope that good work at the tactical level will compensate for and slowly improve the strategic picture. From platoon to brigade, US Soldiers and Marines continue to work incredibly hard and in almost all cases they achieve positive results. This approach has achieved impressive results in the past, but today it is failing. The strategic dysfunctions of the GOI and ISF have now reached down to the tactical level degrading good work there and sundering hitherto strong partnerships. As one astute political observer has stated “We have lost all strategic influence with the GoI and trying to influence events and people from the tactical/operational level is courting disaster, wasting lives, and merely postponing the inevitable.”
The reality of Iraq in July 2009 has rendered the assumptions underlying the 2008 Security Agreement (SA) overcome by events — mostly good events actually. The SA outlines a series of gradual steps towards military withdrawal, analogous to a father teaching his kid to ride a bike without training wheels. If the GOI at the time the SA was signed thought it needed a long, gradual period of weaning. But the GOI now has left the nest (while continuing to breast feed as noted above). The strategic and tactical realities have changed far quicker than the provisions and timeline of the SA can accommodate. We now have an Iraqi government that has gained its balance and thinks it knows how to ride the bike in the race. And in fact they probably do know how to ride, at least well enough for the road they are on against their current competitors. Our hand on the back of the seat is holding them back and causing resentment. We need to let go before we both tumble to the ground.
Therefore, we should declare our intentions to withdraw all US military forces from Iraq by August 2010. This would not be a strategic paradigm shift, but an acceleration of existing US plans by some 15 months. We should end our combat operations now, save those for our own force protection, narrowly defined, as we withdraw. We should revise the force flow into Iraq accordingly. The emphasis should shift towards advising only and advising the ISF to prepare for our withdrawal. Advisors should probably be limited to Iraqi division level a higher. Our train and equip functions should begin the transition to Foreign Military Sales and related training programs. During the withdrawal period the USG and GOI should develop a new strategic framework agreement that would include some lasting military presence at 1-3 large training bases, airbases, or key headquarters locations. But it should not include the presence of any combat forces save those for force protection needs or the occasional exercise. These changes would not only align our actions with the reality of Iraq in 2009, it will remove the causes of increasing friction and reduce the cost of OIF in blood and treasure. Finally, it will set the conditions for a new relationship between the US and Iraq without the complications of the residual effects of the US invasion and occupation.
Right. Here's two more. One is A.L.L. Afghan Lessons Learned. Everything you wanted to know about IED's. Check it out.
The other is Michael Yon's report on Enemy TTP and after Action Review. Vital Intell. The enemy you about to face has the experience of a WWII gunny just back from island hopping in the Pacific and much more as this area has been practicing war tactics since Alexander the Great passed through.
You are not going up against the Iraqi it's too hot to fight team. This is not empty your clip against the infidels and run away bunch. Nope. This is the A-team. Drove the Russkis out and intend to do the same to you. A recent news story had a Marine expressing his surprise opinion that not only will these guys stand and do the toe to toe with you they will pin you down and maneuver around to kick you in the ass. Shocking. The fact that we are the cutting edge of innovation and still the word can not filter down to the tip of the spear is an endless source of wonderment does not surprise me. In October 1965, I recall my DI words of intell: "you'll be going up against bows and arrows and punji sticks smeared with shit."
This bunch will maneuver on you. Michael Yon report on Enemy TTP will show you how. Pass it on. Read it and read it-- until it becomes part of your DNA. Make it your quest.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
A soldier does an admirable job of taking his oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" seriously. More than you can say for congress and activist supreme court justice nominees.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
A new code of conduct has been issued to all fighters of the infidel entitled "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Rules for Mujahideen". Apparently, Mullah Omar mindful of the upcoming Afghanistan elections, wants to make sure rogue Taliban don't create additional problems for his command by inconsiderate suicide bombings or unwarranted executions. Loose cannons can be such a problem for any army and now Mullah Omar wants to rein in those elements who are incapable of teamwork.
Teamwork, as Al Capone will tell you, is everything. Mullah Omar is putting it all in writing, making everything legit, so you too can understand that being part of a team is no longer an option. Like in the old days. Now Mullah Omar is saying in his little pocket book Team work. 'I get no where unless the team wins'. You understand. Nowhere. So before Mullah Omar pulls out his baseball bat and starts whacking some orc heads here are the new rules.
Read them and weep.
No freelancing. This means just because you think you are the new muj Robin Hood with a few merry men don't give you the right to go into business for yourself and start a new battalion. You got to fight for your right to Party. "If unofficial groups or irregular battalions refuse to join the formal structure, they should be disbanded," Mullah Omar says. This type of action is a clear cut call to break out the baseball bats. Ok:
"We have in the past had a lot of different groups in Afghanistan operating under the umbrella of the Taliban," Bays said.
"But it says in these regulations that if you find an irregular battalion that is not obeying orders then what you have to do is find that battalion and then disarm them." Whack heads.
Suicide bombings. No more indiscriminate bombings. From now on, according to the little pocket book, "Suicide attacks should only be used on high and important targets. A brave son of Islam should not be used for lower and useless targets. The utmost effort should be made to avoid civilian casualties."
Civilian population. No messing with the civilians. No bombings. No cutting heads. No shakedowns. From now on the Taliban will appeal to the hearts and minds of the civilian population. Mullah Omar does not want to hear any more BS tactics called: just grab them by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow. OK. No more. Ok. You copy.
These are the new rules:
"The Mujahideen have to behave well and show proper treatment to the nation, in order to bring the hearts of civilian muslims closer to them. The mujahideen must avoid discrimination based on tribal roots, language or their geographic background."
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
At a farewell picnic, Sarah Palin shared a story about a reporter who had asked her about how she handles difficult days.
“I said, ‘Oh no,’ it is not a down day – my son called this week from Iraq,” Palin recalled, referring to her son, Track, an Army enlistee. “He is safe, he is sound. It is always a good day when my son calls.”
STORY_photo Cpl. Daniel A. Blatter
More than 130 Marines from 4th LAR Bn. traveled from their base home in Frederick, Md., to Camp Pendleton CA. where they completed a two-week session of annual training, July 17.
“This is our pre, pre-deployment training,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua F. Work, a primary plotter with Company B, 4th LAR. “We will be coming back again on Aug. 2 for more workups for deployment.”
Approximately 20 of these Marines received the opportunity to attend a mortars class taught by 1st Mar Div’s Division Schools. The course was used to train these Marines as they prepare to replace 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Afghanistan this fall.
“This class starts at the basic level and is a good starting point for many Marines who aren’t mortarmen by trade,” said Sgt. James A. Martinez, a platoon sergeant with Weapons Platoon, Company B, 4th LAR. “We are mainly learning gunnery skills to help the gun line get better at their fire support.”
Many of the Marines attending this course have already learned the basic skills of a mortar specialist while at the School of Infantry. This course refreshed the Marines’ skills taught at SOI and also gave them many supplementary skills to use while in combat.
“These (students) had a higher skill level than I was expecting,” said Sgt. Miguel D. Hernandez, the head gun line instructor for the intermediate mortar course at Division Schools. “Normally this course is a three-week course, but for them we had to condense everything down into eight days of training.”
Although the course was shortened, the Marines of 4th LAR still received the skill sets and knowledge needed to complete the mission.
“Basically what we are trying to get out of this course is proficiency and speed,” said Martinez, 26, from Andreas, Pa. “The faster we are, the faster we get indirect fire support to our element down range. We will save lives or bring hurt to the enemy.
“We don’t always have time to practice and we rarely get to go the range to fire, so this is wholly beneficial to us, especially being a reserve unit,” said Martinez. “This not only helps us be cognizant of what we are doing, it helps us be able to do it very quickly.”
Friday, July 24, 2009
"The press has met their Waterloo and it's Obama. They have sacrificed whatever integrity, character, professionalism, ethics that they've had. It's all gone. Their total reason, most of them, for existence is propping this guy up. They're not reporting the details of his plans. They're not reporting his policies. They're looking at it as a horse race. Obama win... Obama lose... They're running countdown clocks on some of the networks for the press conference last night. Countdown clock: 8 hours 25 minutes 13 seconds to Obama press conference. These people sitting around with their tingles up their legs all day. They marvel at how Obama is so smooth and elegant. They are not informing anybody about the details of his policies. And yet, 53%, over 50% in most polls now oppose this health care plan. So who's telling the people? Who's telling the people what's in it? Alternative media. Your network, talk radio, the conservative blogger network. The mainstream media has cashed in its chips. They have become nothing more than stenographers for Rahm Emanuel. And it is breathtaking to see; willingly sacrifice every characteristic that makes quality journalism."
Thursday, July 23, 2009
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Andrew Schoenmaker, with Bravo Company, one five meets and greets the tribal elders. Captain would have done well to run for officer stateside for that is, for the most part, what he is and will be doing. The job of a ward boss. An elected official. Seeking a second term. Need a new well? School. We are better than the vampire orcs. We represent your government. Trouble is. See. Them elders could be like us. You see. The yankee govt. is a pain in the ass and being from the yankee govt. is not REPEAT NOT a recommendation. For all your trouble they might just want to be let alone. Like us.
Army Times "Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti, who was killed in Afghanistan June 21, 2006, will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in combat, his father, Paul Monti, told Army Times in a telephone interview Thursday.
President Obama called Paul Monti, a retired school teacher, Tuesday evening at his home in Raynham, Mass., Monti said.
“The talk was very short and to the point. He said ‘hello, how are you?’ and I said ‘fine, Mr. President’ and then he told me the secretary of the Army and the secretary of defense have approved Jared for the Medal of Honor,” Monti said. “He said he was proud of Jared.”
Sgt. 1st Class Monti, 30, was assigned to 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, when he was killed in Afghanistan.
He will become the sixth service member to receive the Medal of Honor during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the first soldier to receive the nation’s highest award for valor in Afghanistan.
His father said he will receive the award on behalf of his son at a ceremony will scheduled for a date in September."
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Marquez w/2/8 keeping a keen eye out for possible Orcs sneaking up for a quick lethal bite near Lakari Bazaar in the Garmsir district of the Helmand province of Afghanistan on July 19, 2009. photo by Gunnery Sgt. James A. Burks, a gunny on patrol, humm not your old man's green machine. Forty four years ago, I don't recall ever going out in the bush with a gunny in the Queson Valley. Ever.
Monday, July 20, 2009
"The U.S. Marines are a spectacle for the U.S. Army and also the British Army. The Marines will come in and live like pure animals, and build a base around themselves, whereas the British and American Armies will tend to build at least part of the base before coming in. One Marine commander told me that during the early part of this war, his men didn’t even shower for three months. We talked for a couple of hours and he was proud that his Marines didn’t need a shower for three months, and that his Marines killed a lot of Taliban and managed to lose only one good man. That’s the Marines. They’ll show up in force with no warning, and their reputation with U.S. Army and Brits who have fought alongside them is stellar. A NPR photographer who just spent more than three weeks with the Marines could not praise them enough, saying he’d been with them in Iraq, too, and that when Marines take casualties, their reaction is to continue to attack. They try to stay in contact until they finish the enemy, no matter how long it takes. Truly they are animals when it comes to the fight. Other than that, great guys. Tonight at dinner, a young Marine Lance Corporal sat in front of me at the crowded dining facility. “Good evening, Sir,” he said. I asked, “Are you living like animals out there?” “Livin’ the dream, Sir!” They are fantastic."
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
“Peace be upon you, Allah's mercy and blessings.”
“Allah is the resuscitator of the Taliban and he is our witness that we have missed you and have addressed Allah on your behalf in this instable time, meaning the time of protection, which I shall ask Allah to grant us with.”
“Praise Allah, I would like to inform you of some news from the west of the Emirate – Herat, Farah and Namruz provinces to the borders of Helmand province.”
“Praise Allah, the morale is rising! Every day the Taliban brothers are defeating the blasphemous and profane enemies, the conquerors, and inflicting great pain on them, that is to say that every day you can see a Hummer vehicle or any vehicle belonging to the heretics with its wings in the sky…I mean it flies because of the land mine and afterwards it gets magnified with ‘Bika’ and RPG. What's intimidating the Americans is the ‘Al-Ashtadud’, a Pashtu name, which is a shoulder-borne weapon with a 82 mm caliber. May the Americans die in fear of this frightening weapon, with the help of Allah. It is lethal to their armored vehicles; it weighs 32 kilograms and is shoulder-borne. By the helpful Allah, in order to fire it one must be around it for an extended period of time, until he knows how to aim well, because this weapon is older than me, more accurately - it is older than us. It is approximately 30 years old, like the ‘Bika’ weapons. It is like when my brother, Abu Amir An-Najadi, had the Kalashnikov weapon which was older than he was. He used to call it ‘the cross-eyed’ because it was crooked in the front. But the most important thing is that it fired….”
“I have much uplifting news and at the same time saddening [news] for anyone who's passionate with our de-facto status. One time we received some information about a great convoy of large trucks carrying supplies for the heretics, guarded by the apostates. Praise Allah, we grabbed our weapons, got prepared and rode the cars. When we went out to the general road the cars stopped. You want to know why? The cars stopped because they needed gas. It was an hour's walk in the sands until we would reach the mountains and ambush the convoy there. We didn't have any money to buy the gas for the cars. If the people from the villages would not have fed us we wouldn't have the money to feed ourselves. If we would not have plundered the apostates' cars after killing them or running away from them in order to sell [them] and use the money to buy weapons like RPG rockets and ‘Al-Ashtadud’ to attack the Americans in the future.”
“Our leader, Mullah Mansur, may Allah protect him, is one of the Asian immigrants, and he is our leader. He doesn't have a weapon, I mean, he carries a Kalashnikov, but it belongs to some Mujahid who's sick or to one of the village people, and he'll return it later. He's also indebted of 4,000 dollars he's borrowed from his neighbors in the city, to use it to buy a car for the brothers, who grew…with him, as I see it. Some of the Taliban brothers went out with us with no weapon, since they have no money, I mean, 400 dollars to buy a Kalashnikov… “
“There are some in the Taliban brotherhood who hold Kalashnikovs in one armory. They don't have money for bullets. In Allah's will, I will finish with the following:”
“Let the brothers know that I published this news only after being asked by the leaders of the Taliban to do so, to publish this information so that the Muslims will know that we are in urgent need for money until we'll drive out the heretics. “
“Brothers! Allah is my witness that I only speak of what I see with my own two eyes. If sufficient money will be found, not a single heretic will sit in Afghanistan.”
“Peace be upon you, Allah's mercy and blessings.”
“…Do not forget us in your prayers.”
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Marine One helicopter crew ,today, will be an all woman U.S. Marine crew. Today, will also mark the final day in the rotation for Major Jennifer Grieves, the first woman pilot of Marine One.
Grieves, of Glendale, Ariz., became helicopter aircraft commander of Marine One in May, 2008.
The co-pilot is Major Jennifer Marino of Palisade, Colorado.
The crew chief is Sgt. Rachael Sherman of Traverse City, Michigan.
And if the green machine had a spare photographer on hand to take their pictures wouldn't I be a happy blogger. Sweet jumping judy!@#!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
This email has gone viral about Shifty:
"We’re hearing a lot today about big splashy memorial services.
I want a nationwide memorial service for Darrell “Shifty” Powers.
Shifty volunteered for the airborne in WWII and served with Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Infantry. If you’ve seenBand of Brothers on HBO or the History Channel, you know Shifty. His character appears in all 10 episodes, and Shifty himself is interviewed in several of them.
I met Shifty in thePhiladelphia airport several years ago. I didn’t know who he was at the time. I just saw an elderly gentleman having trouble reading his ticket. I offered to help, assured him that he was at the right gate, and noticed the “Screaming Eagle”, the symbol of the 101st Airborne, on his hat.
Making conversation, I asked him if he’d been in the 101st Airborne or if his son was serving. He said quietly that he had been in the 101st. I thanked him for his service, then asked him when he served, and how many jumps he made.
Quietly and humbly, he said “Well, I guess I signed up in 1941 or so, and was in until sometime in 1945 . . . ” at which point my heart skipped.
At that point, again, very humbly, he said “I made the 5 training jumps at Toccoa, and then jumped into Normandy . . . . do you know where Normandy is?” At this point my heart stopped.
I told him yes, I know exactly where Normandy was, and I know what D-Day was. At that point he said “I also made a second jump into Holland , into Arnhem .” I was standing with a genuine war hero . . . . and then I realized that it was June, just after the anniversary of D-Day.
I asked Shifty if he was on his way back from France , and he said “Yes. And it’s real sad because these days so few of the guys are left, and those that are, lots of them can’t make the trip.” My heart was in my throat and I didn’t know what to say.
I helped Shifty get onto the plane and then realized he was back in Coach, while I was in First Class. I sent the flight attendant back to get him and said that I wanted to switch seats. When Shifty came forward, I got up out of the seat and told him I wanted him to have it, that I’d take his in coach.
He said “No, son, you enjoy that seat. Just knowing that there are still some who remember what we did and still care is enough to make an old man very happy.” His eyes were filling up as he said it. And mine are brimming up now as I write this.
Shifty died on June 17 after fighting cancer.
There was no parade.
No big event in Staples Center .
No wall to wall back to back 24×7 news coverage.
No weeping fans on television.
And that’s not right.
Let’s give Shifty his own Memorial Service, online, in our own quiet way. Please forward this email to everyone you know. Especially to the veterans.
Rest in peace, Shifty."H/T Blackfive
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
That changed July 4 when Alex, wearing a crisp green uniform and waiving a Marine Corps flag, marched in the town’s Independence Day parade.
Marines at the Mountain Warfare Training Center first heard of Alex from Janelle Mills, a Bridgeport resident and family friend. She introduced Alex to the command in an e-mail.
“We have a local boy who is 14. He is autistic and recently learned he has brain cancer,” she wrote. “All he has ever wanted to be is a Marine. His dream right now is to walk in the 4th of July parade, in full Marine uniform and to carry the flag.”
Mills further explained how popular Alex is in the community and how much it meant to her to help fulfill his dream.
“I would do anything to help Alex achieve this dream,” her e-mail concluded.
When the command heard of Alex’s wish to join them in the parade they decided to take action.
“It was important to us because we were able to give a young man in a remote mountain town his wish to be a Marine,” said Sgt Maj. Douglas Power, the MWTC sergeant major and a Rifle, Colo., native. “In a small town like this we realized it was up to us to make this dream a reality.”
Alex’s grandmother, Joan LaRue, a Bridgeport native, also reached out to the command with her grandson’s request. She said his interest in the Marine Corps began a long time ago though no one in the family or town knows why.
“Recently Alex had to be taken to University of California Davis to have a large tumor removed from his brain,” LaRue wrote in her e-mail. “He is recovering well, but his words, even before he was released from the hospital, were all about how he was brave like the Marine men and he wants to ‘show the Marines his scar.’”
His crisp, starched cover hid the scar as he walked along with Captain Matthew Green, the MWTC communications officer who escorted him in the parade.
“It was obvious everyone in the community knows Alex,” said Green, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. “We walked along and people called his name as he smiled and waved.
Instead of his scar, a result of having a Pilocytic Astrocytoma tumor removed in June, it was his smile and his tenacity the Marines noticed.
“Having the opportunity to meet and speak with Alex and his family was inspirational to me,” said Col. Norman J. Cooling, the commanding officer of MWTC “He's been through a great deal. Everyone's life challenges pale in comparison to his. If he can consistently maintain a positive spirit and attitude, then we should be able to.”
“Being made a Marine has been his lifetime dream come true,’ said his mother, Jenny Saldivar. “What the Marines did for him means more to him, and us, than you can ever imagine.”
For Cooling and his Marines, Alex’s dream day included presenting him with a certificate declaring him a member of the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center team.
“Alex's own service has been in providing all of us with an example of strength, perseverance and selflessness,” said Cooling, a Baytown, Texas native. “He is an example of our institutional Corps values and for that, it was important for us to grant his wish.”
Cooling said granting the request was more than making Alex’s dream a reality—it was an opportunity to bond with the whole community.
“I wanted the people of the local communities to recognize service means more to Marines than simply the warfighting portion of our business,” he said. “We are part of the community.”
For Alex, who wore his new combat boots until his feet blistered and enjoys reading books about military history, this Independence Day was one for the record.
Watching him march in the parade with the Marines is something his family will not soon forget.
“The service and sacrifice the Marines give is such an amazing act of courage and love for our country,” said Jenny. “We pray for their safety every day and hope someday there will be no need to put such wonderful people's lives in danger. After everything the Marines do they took the time to think of one little boy from a small town in California. To us they will forever be known as Alex's Angels.”
Monday, July 13, 2009
Dude you just got pwned!
I thought he was a god? Academic Wimp? Ouch! Hurt me....
Perhaps, Rubin Reports can explain:
"Putin, Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro, Assad, Hamas, Hizballah, North Korea, the Taliban, and a bunch of others are still playing by the rules of a world where the toughest prevail.
Obama believes that proving America is sorry for having been tough in the past and promises never to act like a leader again will win favor.
But sometimes those “old,” “outdated” ideas about international relations still work.
Weakness and naiveté provoke not admiration but contempt."
“Everyone who lives in the jihad battlegrounds… knows well that the occupation forces could not do one-tenth of what they do now if they did not recruit spies and informants…. Most of the mujahidin and their soldiers were killed or captured because of the intelligence information that the infidel forces have obtained from the secret soldiers whom they recruit, like swarms of locusts, from the native citizens who talk our language and pretend they are Muslims.”
"Second: Multiplicity of these spies and their spread in all theaters of jihad. They are there in cities, villages, markets, etc. As soon
as the mujahidin get secretly into an area on a dark night, they are confronted by the cross forces and their helpers. Therefore,
many are killed or captured. It is confirmed that spending on the hidden armies exceeds what is spent on the military forces because of its importance first and multiplicity second."
Where is the Mandate of Heaven to be found when Muslims multiply like swarms of locust to betray the mujahidin?
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Colonel Richard Kemp,CBE, retired, presented this speech to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on the topic of "Hamas, the Gaza War and Accountability Under International War" Colonel Kemp served in the British Army from 1977-2006. He was the Commander of British forces in Afghanistan.
I will examine the practicalities, challenges and difficulties faced by military forces in trying to fight within the provisions of international law against an enemy that deliberately and consistently flouts international law.
I shall focus on counter-insurgency operations from the British and to some extent the American perspective drawing on recent British experience generally and my own personal experience of operating in this environment.
Soldiers from all Western armies, including
Commanders are educated to a higher level so that they can enforce the laws among their men, and take them into account during their planning.
Because the battlefield – in any kind of war – is a place of confusion and chaos, of fast-moving action the complexities of the laws of war as they apply to kinetic military operations, are distilled down into rules of engagement.
In the British forces, rules of engagement normally regulate military action to ensure that it remains well within the laws of war giving an additional safety cushion to soldiers against the possibility of war crimes prosecution.
In the most basic form these rules tell you when you can and when you cannot open fire.
In conventional military operations between states the combat is normally simpler and doesn’t require complex and restrictive rules of engagement.
Your side wears one type of uniform, the enemy wears another; when you see the enemy’s uniform you open fire. Of course there are complexities. The fog of war, sometimes literally fog, but always fog in the sense of chaos and confusion means that mistakes are made. You confuse your own men for the enemy.
The tragedies that have ensued from such chaos and misunderstanding are legion throughout the history of war. We call it blue on blue, friendly fire or fratricide.
And there are other complexities in conventional combat that make apparent simplicity less than simple. Civilians perhaps taking shelter or attempting to flee the battlefield can be mistaken for combatants and have sometimes been shot or blown up.
Enemy forces sometimes adopt the other side’s uniforms as a deception or ruse. But in the type of conflict that the Israeli Defence Forces recently fought in
The insurgents that we have faced, and still face, in these conflicts are all different. Hizballah and Hamas over here, Al Qaida, Jaish al Mahdi and a range of other militant groups in
They are linked by the pernicious influence, support and sometimes direction of
These groups, as well as others, have learnt and continue to learn from each others’ successes and failures. Tactics tried and tested on IDF soldiers in
These groups are trained and equipped for warfare fought from within the civilian population.
Do these Islamist fighting groups ignore the international laws of armed conflict? They do not. It would be a grave mistake to conclude that they do. Instead, they study it carefully and they understand it well.
They know that a British or Israeli commander and his men are bound by international law and the rules of engagement that flow from it. They then do their utmost to exploit what they view as one of their enemy’s main weaknesses.
Their very modus operandi is built on the, correct, assumption that Western armies will normally abide by the rules.
It is not simply that these insurgents do not adhere to the laws of war. It is that they employ a deliberate policy of operating consistently outside international law. Their entire operational doctrine is founded on this basis.
Stripped of any moral considerations, this policy operates simply and effectively at both levels.
On the tactical level, protected buildings, mosques, schools and hospitals, are used as strongholds allowing the enemy the protection not only of stone walls but also of international law.
On the strategic level, any mistake, or in some cases legal and proportional response, by a Western army will be deliberately exploited and manipulated in order to produce international outcry and condemnation.
And in sophisticated groupings such as Hamas and Hizballah, the media will be exploited also as a critical implement of their military strategy.
Thus in April 2004 as Coalition forces fought to wrest the Iraqi town of
The reality of that day was that five US Marines were wounded by fire from that mosque and that the Marine commander on the ground exercised great care and restraint, only allowing fire to be directed upon the outer wall of the building.
Despite this, the damage was done and the impression that we had levelled a mosque indiscriminately was firmly established.
We have of course seen all this before, in
Today, British soldiers patrolling in
The British will return fire, with as much caution as possible.
Rather than drop a 500 pound bomb onto the enemy from the air, to avoid civilian casualties, they will assault through the village, placing their own lives at greater risk. They might face booby traps or mines as they clear through.
When they get into the village there is no sign of the enemy. Instead, the same people that were shooting at them twenty minutes ago, now unrecognised by them, will be tilling the land, waving, smiling and talking cheerfully to the soldiers.
These same insurgents will mine roads used by British vehicles and tracks used by foot patrols. Many soldiers have lost their legs or their lives in such attacks.
There is of course no question of minefields being marked, as is required under international law. The idea would be preposterous, but although one of the clearest tenets of the laws of war, is rarely if ever commented on by the media.
Like Hamas in
Hamas of course deployed suicide attackers in
Women and children are trained and equipped to fight, collect intelligence and ferry arms and ammunition between battles.
I have seen it first hand in both
Schools and houses are routinely booby-trapped. Snipers shelter in houses deliberately filled with women and children. Every man captured or killed is claimed as a taxi driver or a farmer.
I make light of it but the difficulties in fighting an enemy who legitimately own and use the uniforms, vehicles and weapons of a police force, established, funded and trained by us, are self evident.
The British and US armies have grappled with these problem and I hope that we are now finding some solutions. Solutions that allow us to treat those that oppose us according to the laws of war while also defeating them on the battlefield. When an enemy flouts the rules of war then we cannot shy away from hard decisions.
Let me quote from the
“The principle of proportionality requires that the anticipated loss of life and damage to property incidental to attacks”, that is, to non-combatants, “must not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage expected to be gained. Soldiers and marines may not take any actions that might knowingly harm non-combatants.
“This does not mean they cannot take risks that might put the populace in danger.
“In conventional operations, this restriction means that combatants cannot intend to harm non-combatants, though proportionality permits them to act, knowing some non-combatants may be harmed.”
Under our equivalent of General Petraeus’ doctrine, when necessary British forces now attack protected locations after weighing up the risk that non combatants might suffer. We respect international norms and the sanctity of holy places. However, when our troops take fire from these locations or roadside bombs stored there are used to murder the innocent, we have no choice other than to act.
British and American troops now routinely search mosques in
General Petraeus’ manual goes further than the strict requirements of the laws of war. Let me quote again:
“The use of discriminating, proportionate force as a mindset goes beyond the adherence to the rules of engagement.”
“Proportionality and discrimination applied in counter insurgency require leaders to ensure that their units employ the right tools correctly with mature discernment, good judgement and moral resolve.”
This describes the use of restraint and focused violence as a positive tool in counter-insurgency, not just as humanitarian and legal moderation. It recognises the importance of winning and maintaining the support of the local population, and sometimes even the insurgent himself, perhaps over and above the priority of winning a particular engagement.
Ultimately, in counter insurgency operations the military commander must balance a series of often conflicting and very difficult judgements in addition to the other pressures he faces on any battlefield. The balance is between firstly achieving the mission by engaging and killing the enemy, secondly, avoiding civilian casualties and thirdly, the effect on hearts and minds – the support or otherwise of the civilian population.
There is a fourth judgement as well.
It is often overlooked in media and human rights groups’ frenzies to expose fault among military forces fighting in the toughest conditions. The fourth is preventing or minimising casualties among your own soldiers. There will frequently be times when a military commander must make a snap judgement between the safety of his own troops and that of other people.
Human nature dictates that he will often choose his own men. It is hard to see how it could be otherwise. And there is more to it even than the commander’s human nature and loyalty to his men. For soldiers to follow their commander into combat – at any level, but especially at the point of battle – they must trust him.
How many soldiers want to die, be blinded, burnt, or have their arms, legs or faces blown off? No soldier will trust, or follow, a commander who is profligate with his men’s lives.
Let us not forget that these calculations, judgements and decisions are not taken in an air conditioned office or from the safety of a rearward military headquarters. The commander must weigh these things up in altogether different circumstances.
As a commander you are surrounded by your men yet totally alone. You have the military arsenal of your country or perhaps an alliance like NATO at your disposal. But the most useful weapons in the kind of close combat I am talking about are the rifle and the bayonet.
You have to kill the enemy knowing that you will then need to shake hands and win the consent of the family in the compound that he is occupying. You haven’t slept for two days, you are shattered, you are wet with sweat and the chaos of battle reigns all about you.
There are no computers, on your map with your pen you must compute the locations and intentions of the enemy, your flanking forces, and your own troop positions.
You must do this immediately because the CO needs a situation report, your company need a briefing to orient them, and your Fire Support Team commander is about to bring in fast air, helicopters and mortars, and needs to know that the danger-close fire missions are not going to kill your own men. You must assess the situation and give the go in seconds to secure the initiative.
The only advantage for the commander of all this is that it makes you forget the eighty pounds on your back, the water in the ditch that is up to your waist, and the sweat and dirt that streams constantly into your eyes.
The battle manifests itself as a wall of noise that surrounds you, interspersed with the infantryman’s most detested sound, incoming bullets cracking above, to the side and below your head.
Every soldier who has been in combat – whether it is
It is difficult enough to manoeuvre large numbers of troops and vehicles across treacherous and inhospitable terrain, sometimes by night, in dust storms, rain or searing heat, in armoured vehicles with limited external vision
against near-impossible time-lines and coordinating with neighbouring forces, ground attack aircraft, helicopters, artillery, engineers and logistic support.
The complexities and potential for confusion are hugely increased when the enemy is trying to prevent you from doing it by killing you and blowing up your vehicles and equipment.
Piled on top of this are the limits of reconnaissance and the frequent inaccuracy or incompleteness of the intelligence picture, sometimes brought about by the enemy’s own operational security, deception and disinformation, sometimes by lack of resources or inadequacy of collection systems.
For every intelligence success, even in modern armies, there are a hundred failures. In close combat even the most technologically sophisticated weapons, surveillance systems and communications devices can, and frequently do, fail, especially when you need them most.
Messages are sometimes not transmitted, not received, or garbled. Precision-guided munitions don’t always hit the target they’re supposed to and sometimes explode when they shouldn’t or don’t explode when they should.
Especially in close infantry combat, the concept of the precise, surgical strike is more often pipe dream than practical reality. The close combat, urban or rural environment that often exists in Helmand, Gaza or Iraq can also serve to diminish the advantages of technology, frequently putting hi-tech British forces for example on an equal footing with the Taliban.
Then there is perceptual distortion, common in combat situations, which can lead a commander or soldier to comprehend events in a way that is different to reality.
The stresses and fears of battle tiredness and the body’s natural chemical reactions including production of adrenalin can lead to excluding or intensifying sounds, tunnel vision, temporary paralysis, events appearing to move faster or more slowly than they actually are, loss, reduction or distortion of memory and distracting thoughts. These affect different people in different ways and can add to the confusion and chaos of battle.
Amid the disorientation, the smoke, the fire, the explosions, the ear-piercing rattle of bullets, the screams of the wounded, the incomplete intelligence picture and the failure of technology commanders and soldiers must work on to achieve their mission, no matter how hard it gets.
These realities apply to any combat situation and the challenges they add are self-evident. But they become that much harder when fighting a tough, wily, skilful enemy one minute shooting at you or setting a landmine to blow up your vehicle the next leaning on the threshold of his compound, smiling at you, dressed indistinguishably from the population.
General Stanley McChrystal, the new
I have personally witnessed the efforts that American forces have been making for years in
In some cases because of the factors I have mentioned imperfect intelligence, technological failure, poor communications, the fog of war.
There is also another factor that we shouldn’t forget. There will always be bad soldiers who deliberately or through incompetence go against orders. We have seen this in the British Army and among the Americans, in well-publicised cases in
I have spoken of the considerable British and American efforts to operate within the laws of war and to reduce unnecessary civilian casualties. But what of the Israeli Defence Forces? The IDF face all the challenges that I have spoken about, and more. Not only was Hamas’s military capability deliberately positioned behind the human shield of the civilian population and not only did Hamas employ the range of insurgent tactics I talked through earlier. They also ordered, forced when necessary, men, women and children , from their own population to stay put in places they knew were about to be attacked by the IDF. Fighting an enemy that is deliberately trying to sacrifice their own people. Deliberately trying to lure you in to killing their own innocent civilians.
And Hamas, like Hizballah, are also highly expert at driving the media agenda. They will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.
Their people often have no option than to go along with the charades in front of the world’s media that Hamas so frequently demand, often on pain of death.
What is the other challenge faced by the IDF that we British do not have to face to the same extent?
It is the automatic, pavlovian presumption by many in the international media, and international human rights groups, that the IDF are in the wrong, that they are abusing human rights.
So what did the IDF do in
Attack helicopter pilots, tasked with destroying Hamas mobile weapons platforms, had total discretion to abort a strike if there was too great a risk of civilian casualties in the area. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were cancelled because of this.
During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into
But the IDF took on those risks.
In the latter stages of Cast Lead the IDF unilaterally announced a daily three-hour cease fire. The IDF dropped over 900,000 leaflets warning the population of impending attacks to allow them to leave designated areas. A complete air squadron was dedicated to this task alone.
Leaflets also urged the people to phone in information to pinpoint Hamas fighters vital intelligence that could save innocent lives.
The IDF phoned over 30,000 Palestinian households in
By taking these actions and many other significant measures during Operation Cast Lead the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other Army in the history of warfare.
But the IDF still did not win the war of opinions – especially in
We are in the era of information warfare. The kind of tactics used by Hamas and Hizballah and by the Taliban and Jaish al Mahdi work well for them. As they see it, they have no other choice. And they will continue to use it.
How do we counter it? We must not adopt the approach that because they flout the laws of war, we will do so too. Quite the reverse. We must be and remain – whiter than white.
Within the absolute requirements of operational security, and sometimes we may need to really push the boundaries of this out as far as we can, we must be as open and transparent as we can possibly be.
There are three lines of attack.
First, we must allow, encourage and facilitate the media to have every opportunity to report fairly and positively on us and on our activities. This requires positive and proactive, not defensive and reactive, engagement with the media. We should bring the media into our training, let them get to know our units before battle, bring them in whenever possible during combat.
Perhaps embed them into combat units as the British forces often do, sometimes for protracted periods, in
There are risks in all this, big risks which are self evident and do not need to be spelt out. But we must be brave enough to take those risks.
The benefits are great. The insurgents – Hamas in particular – put a human face on war with spectacular success. We must do the same. We must let the field soldiers speak with sand on their boots and with a sweat and dirt-covered human face.
Second, we must show the media in a way they cannot misunderstand the abuses perpetrated by the enemy. Our own units must identify such enemy abuses, and make statements about them, backed up by the hardest available evidence.
Every front line unit must be trained and equipped to collect this information in the same way as they are trained and equipped to collect intelligence on enemy operations.
This is information war.
Third, we must be proactive in preventing adverse media stories about our own units. I am not talking here about distorting the facts. We must look ahead and identify potential problem areas – preferably before they arise. We must have what the British Labour Party used to call rapid rebuttal units.
They should have the ability to establish the facts on the front line very, very quickly. Be absolutely sure of the facts, and ensure they are pushed rapidly to the media. If they are not one hundred percent sure of the facts they must say as much.
Where real problems do occur, where our troops are in the wrong, if possible we should say so as quickly as we can, driving the agenda, pre-empting the shrieks of the enemy or of the UN.
This demands a culture of openness and honesty among commanders and soldiers at all levels, so they are willing to admit their mistakes readily to their chain of command.
For any of this to work, I repeat, our people must be whiter than white. This requires the best of training and the toughest of discipline and it is sometimes even harder among conscript troops and mobilised reservists.
Here I am not just talking about serious abuses and breaches of the laws of war. I include smaller things like graffiti-ing and trashing people’s homes that have been taken over, or are searched or cleared. Like being as courteous as possible to civilians. Maintaining control over soldiers who have just seen their best mates blown apart is far from easy, but it is vital.
Where there is genuine concern over our own troops’ conduct or action, we must not hesitate to conduct enquiries and investigations, and if necessary bring people to justice. As far as possible, these processes should also be open and transparent.
But this involves of course yet another major complication –because we must not confuse mistakes made as a genuine consequence of the chaos and fog of war with deliberate defiance of rules of engagement and the laws of war.
Mistakes are not war crimes. We must also know how to explain this.
Most armies do some of these things already. But what we need really is a radical re-evaluation of the effort required to achieve the impact we need. This requires a mind-set that is hard to find in most armies around the world. It requires extra resources and a shift in priorities. And it significantly complicates already highly complex military operations.
It does not answer all of our problems by any means. But all the steps I have mentioned are – in my view – essential to countering the strategies and tactics of the insurgents we are faced with today –in
They are also I believe essential in defending our military policies and objectives –and in defending our brave servicemen and women who are prepared to put their lives on the line to defend their country.