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.