Friday, November 20, 2015

Aux Armes, Citoyennes!


I can't believe we're just gonna casually
watch someone get murdered.
What is this, Detroit? 
--The Final Girls (2015)

Money talks very loudly
You'd be surprised the friends you can buy
with small change 
--Money Talks,
J. J. Cale

 He was a man who had read everything,
and understood nothing 
--John Cleese  

The media are calling the recent Paris attacks an act of war. French President Hollande says the nation's response will be "pitiless". 

Unfortunately, these killings were simply another primitive terror incident carried out by non-state players, with simple explosives and individual weapons. It was a terror attack because the perpetrators did not have more sophisticated assets. If they did they would have used them.

Terror is the tool of the weak in a world of militarily powerful nation states. 

Terrorism is not warfare. It is criminal activity. If it were warfare, then the players would be covered as legitimate combatants under the Geneva Conventions; they are not. They are consistently misrepresented as "militia" along with all the other related emotion-laden appellations.

Yet the fact remains: they are simple criminals unworthy of the title "combatant". Terrorism is not warfare, nor is warfare, terrorism. Just because we call terrorism "an act of war" does not make it so. We are not Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

[Cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar.]

Friday, November 13, 2015

Slippery Slope: Ranger Class, 2015

--G. I. Jane (1997) 

I'm strictly a female female
And my future I hope will be
 In the home of a brave and free male
Who'll enjoy being a guy 
having a me  
--I Enjoy Being a Girl
Flower Drum Song
I feel dizzy
I feel sunny
I feel fizzy and funny and fine
And so pretty
Miss America can just resign 
--I Feel Pretty
West Side Story 

 Hey, little girl, comb your hair,
fix your make-up, soon he will open the door,
Don't think because there's a ring on your finger,
you needn't try any more 
--Wives and Lovers,
Burt Bacharach

When we were kids, "Your mother wears Army boots" was about the worst insult we could muster.  Now, it's just another day in the office for female military members.

In the march to equality (androgyny?), this year saw the first three female graduates from Ranger school. Ranger agrees with those who feel that the admission of females will lower the standards of Infantry combat training as well as the effectiveness of combat units But he also believes Ranger training was being degraded long before women entered the school.

Ranger's Ranger experience (referred to henceforth as "RR") was a far cry from today's climate-controlled living experience. Barracks were uninsulated and unheated in the depth of winter; windows were nailed open.

Ranger School had no niceties. RR's candidates were allowed five minutes in the mess hall, so a meal consisted mainly of  what you could stuff in your field jacket pockets, like Hoffman's grubby "Ratso Rizzo" in Midnight Cowboy. That is probably not the case today, as the candidates all looked clean and rested when Ranger had an opportunity to view the camp several years ago. The men from RR's looked like extreme reality show escapees.

They traveled to Mountain Ranger Camp (MRC) in 2 1/2 ton truck with canvas top, freezing in the wind chill of a North Georgia winter. They lived in primitive huts. The showers were cold, and there was a central latrine. They seldom slept more than four hours, and usually that was in the field with only a sleeping bag cover allowed. Rations were C-type.

Compare Ranger school's 2015 three-hour, 12-mile forced march component (the same standard that a non-elite group like female MP basic trainees had to meet 30 years ago) to RR's 19-mile forced march off 1968 with rucksacks and all normally carried TO&E equipment.

The forced march requirement now is only 60% of the 1968 standard. (Note: RR's 1968 training was a degradation still from that of basic line unit training in WWII, when the 2/506/101 performed a 56-mile forced march from Toccoa, GA to Atlanta.) RR's required five-mile run and all p.t. was done in 2-lb boots, not sneakers. His medics gave the men Darvon 600's so they could numb themselves during the day. 

Why the degradation in training? Is it because today's All Volunteer Army does not need to be as tough?

The female Ranger graduates were recycled more than once (having not passed previous classes.) Though recycling was not uncommon in Ranger's experience, only one attempt at recycling was allowed, and it was never at Camp Darby, the patrolling component (as it was with these females) 

Why did they all the women fail at Darby? When RR's arrived they were branch-qualified and knew patrolling and how to use all TO&E equipment and weaponry. Darby was simply a polishing endeavor. There were no recycles at Darby because it was too early to identify the need for remediation.

Ranger school training has been degraded, and now women (with a little help from their friends) will be passing through. And though they will be assigned to units, it is doubtful that will ever be used as combat multipliers in actual Infantry combat scenarios.

These female Ranger's were raised with tough and buff movie characters like Lara Croft and G.I. Jane. Our all-inclusive society is allowing them to realize their dreams, but at what cost will this EOE effort come?

[Cross-posted @ MilPub.]

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Burning Down the House

 All I want is to be left alone
in my average home;
But why do I always feel
like I'm in the Twilight Zone? 
--Somebody's Watching Me,

Confidential information
It's in a diary
This is my investigation 
It's not a public inquiry 
--Private Investigations,
Dire Straits

The United States Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, was destroyed on 11 September 2012. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other were killed in the attack. The alleged leader of the attack, Ahmed Abu Khatalluh, was captured by a squad of U.S. commmandos, law enforcement and intelligence agents on 17 June 2014.

Khatalluh was taken to an undisclosed location, and then-Attorney General Eric Holder assured us that the prisoner would be tried in federal court. November 5 -- 16 months hence -- and no trial has come of this capture.

So what is happening at the highest levels of U.S. Justice to bring Khatalluh to the open courts of the U.S. federal justice system, as we have been promised? On 3 August 2015, the Associated Press reported that Khatallah's defense team petitioned the court to have the case dismissed; no further motions on the case have been reported.

The U.S. spends billions of dollars on intel and covert operations, going halfway 'round the world to capture those deemed to be terrorists, and then what happens? One thing we do no do is to bring them to justice.

If Khatalluh is responsible for these U.S. deaths, then bring him to trial, as required by law. Why do we not have the satisfaction of seeing high level threats like Katalluh neutralized in transparent federal court trials? Why is everything a secret?

Murder is a capital offense. Do we no longer believe in the efficacy of the federal court system to mete out justice after a crime has been committed?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Pocketful of Mumbles

 I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles,
Such are promises
All lies and jest
Still, a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest 
--The Boxer, 
Simon and Garfunkel

 See, in my line of work you
got to keep repeating things over and over
and over again for the truth to sink in,
to kind of catapult the propaganda
--President George W. Bush

Why do we never get an answer
When we're knocking at the door
With a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war 
The Moody Blues   

The OCT 2015 -  JAN 2016 Army Echoes, the quarterly newsletter sent to over a million retired soldiers and families, has set for itself the modest proposal of keeping its readers in thrall to Them Terrorists, 24/7 ("Sustaining Antiterrorism awareness -- always ready, always alert," p.5.) Just in case you fail to subject yourself to the ample media sources which should have already brought you to this paralyzed state.

Ranger will deconstruct the money graph, to wit:

"Terrorists can attack anywhere, anytime – the threat is real. Over the recent months the continued threats on social media from the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (ISIL; also commonly referred to as ISIS) and their influence on domestic extremists demonstrates the lengths that terrorist groups take to threaten our nation and our military communities. ISIL has also expanded their tactics to include cyber-attacks and attempts to exploit private and sensitive information of our military personnel and their families. These risks pertain directly to Retired Soldiers, just as they do the entire Army community."

A sophomore creative writing undergrad would recognize the weakness presented here as fact, courtesy the United States Army. The breakdown begins with opening statement: "Terrorists can attack anywhere, anytime."

Is that true? Can you think of somewhere they could not? How about a nuclear (surety) weapons storage area, the protection of which is the job of the Army, after all. So, no -- not anywhere; check one.

Next: "(T)he continued threats on social media from the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (ISIL; also commonly referred to as ISIS) . . . demonstrates the lengths that terrorist groups take to threaten our nation and our military communities." OK -- "social media threats" -- certainly is not a nice thing to do. We call such people "trolls", and what they do is BULLYING. When they act on their threats, they become criminals. 

Bullying certainly has its own corrosive quality, but do WE need to be "always ready, always alert"? Maybe we could just farm out that set of feelings over to the people paid to monitor such transmissions on a daily basis. That IS what they are paid for, after all, and it would cut down on our psychotherapy bills and Unisom consumption, something that would be good for an overworked, over-stressed population, no? 

Aren't Terrorists a Level One threat? If they are out "to exploit private and sensitive information of our military personnel and their families," and "(T)hese risks pertain directly to Retired Soldiers, just as they do the entire Army community," tell us what these tactics entail so that we might be proactive about it. Instead we are fed a vague miasma of fear, riding on the tails of the aura created around terror groups.

Further: the piece is predicated on a falsehood: ISIL is not a terror organization. IS has a military chain of command, their members wear uniforms, carry weapons and attack military targets. They do not conform to the international laws of war.

The last fact does not render them terrorists, but rather War Criminals. Possibly they could be convicted under "crimes against humanity", but the evidence favors war criminal prosecution.

A paragraph full of lies and half-truths, courtesy your U.S. Army. You can sleep well, tonight, despite the fact that rough men stand ready to scare you witless.

[cross-posted @ RangerAgainstWar]

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Irresponsible Speculation Who is Responsible for the Hospital Bombing

There are a number of sources speculating wildly about the basic facts of the hospital bombing.
There are a number of sources that have noted the holes in the story that NATO and the Afghan government have spun a number of times.

I have not heard/read anything about who, ultimately, is going to own this potato (if anyone).

Here's my two cents.
There's a Fire Direction Chief (sorry FDChief) that's got an AFATDS computer which should have had all hospitals/other sensitive areas restricted, so that you are warned if you are shooting there.  Someone has to manually enter that data, was that data input into the system?  Was the hospital in this AFATDS computer?

I don't see a reason that it wouldn't/shouldn't have been.  I get that an AC-130 gunship may have to cover a lot of territory, but it's the 14th year of the war.  Someone has managed this data.  Someone spent a boring deployment porting this data to all the systems.  This should have been done by now, that hospital didn't spring up when the Taliban attacked.

So if that wasn't there, the FDC is in trouble.
If it was there and the FDC overruled it without higher approval, the FDC is in trouble.
It's ultimately on them for each shot fired, unless...

If the warning was in the system and the FDC saw it, who gave approval for the shot? Ground Commander could have overruled it, but then the buck is on him.
If it was an Afghan Ground Commander who conveyed his desires to a SF Forward Observer, and the FO relayed, is the Afghan responsible or the FO because the US is ultimately responsible here?

My guess is there are some nervous SF NCOs, but a strong possibility that this gets pinned on an Afghan COL.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Sign of the Times

It's been a pretty shitty weak to have served in Afghanistan, both from the perspective of seeing something crumble that you put effort into building and from the perspective of seeing your countrymen babble about something that are almost inherently clueless about, and lastly, from the perspective of seeing your government and institutions flail about wildly without consequence.

Still, I don't think what I've written above will be surprising to anyone who reads this and is pretty par for the course around here, so I figured I'd pose an alternative "sign of the times" and catch some opinions on the matter.

I recently read this article.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter will personally hang the Purple Heart around the neck of Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, the Carmichael, Calif., native hailed as a hero for having helped thwart a gunman’s rampage on a French train last month.
 This is interesting, I thought, why would this person be getting a Purple Heart?  Sure he's in the military, and yes he stopped a gunman and was injured, but I don't think that France is a warzone?
The 2015 Defense Authorization Act expanded Purple Heart eligibility to include service members killed or wounded in attacks by foreign terrorist organizations.
 Ah... so now being injured in an attack by foreign terrorists is grounds for Purple Hearts.  Traumatic Brain Injury is still a murky area but at least we can get this airman free license plates for his life.

Also from the article is this:
 Hasan’s August 2013 court martial, which sentences him to death, revealed his jihadist ties. The Pentagon initially classified his crime as an act of workplace violence, but under pressure from members of Congress and families of the victims, the military members who were wounded or killed by Hasan later received Purple Hearts.
So not actually foreign terrorists but foreign terrorist inspired or something.
Honestly, I don't know how I should feel about this.  All awards are political and I can imagine that getting a Purple Heart is a great way for our nation to show gratitude for sacrifice and for a politician to show he cares about those who serve.  I know mom was happy about this.  I'm sure everyone involved felt pretty good about getting this airman a medal in addition to whatever France gave him.

So I think I understand the positive.  I think the downside to giving out the first purple heart earned in France since the Nazis were around is that we're now transporting the war zone closer and closer to home for sentimental feel-good reasons.  But when is transporting a war zone closer to home ever a good idea?

Thoughts?  Am I just raining on this guys parade or am I justified in being creeped out by these political decisions?  Or both?

PF Khans

Saturday, October 3, 2015

German Unity Day

It has been 25 years now. 

I hope to visit Dresden and then the spas of rural Saxony for my lumbago if I can ever raise the cash.  Would be great if the ROK's Sunshine Policy was able to entice the hermits of the north into a unified Korea.  The world needs more unification and less political disintegration and breakup.