Current Affairs

Ebola made a 3am phone call...and no one answered

Why Barack Obama is having problems now..

This Ebola thing is potentially spiraling out of control.  What with the UN declaring that we only have 60 days to control this thing, to promises of it not getting out in the US, to Africa having up to 10,000 cases a week, we are potentially watching history before our eyes.  Hopefully, not the end of it.

One essay I find interesting is the comparison of Ebola to the Influenza of 1918-1919.  I understand the history of this pandemic well, as it affected my home area of Wayne County WVA quite harshly.  Out behind the homestead, we have 2 cemeteries.  In each of these there are many graves of those in the family and area that succumbed to the disease- in one plot, a mother, son, and 2 infants all died within a week in late 1918.  My grandfather, who fought in WWI, told the family of all of the sick people he knew.  Ebola may be our generation's plague, if we don't get this under control.

What I do know about this potential outbreak (and it's still not a full-fledged one in any way) is that, should we need to really break glass on this, the duty for overall coordination will fall to USNORTHCOM in Colorado Springs.

Likely under ESF's #6 and #8 (Mass Care and Public Health) NORTHCOM could, nay SHOULD, come to the fore to address coordinating the prevention of the spread.  Why NORTHCOM?  Since a full outbreak would require more than one federal agency to coordinate, and FEMA isn't a lead, HHS/CDC can't, then it would fall to NORTHCOM to coordinate all responses, should the President declare it.  And he should.  HHS, DoS (travel ban? and coordinating with Canada/Mexio) as well as many other local and federal groups would require some entity with the resources to assist.  THIS WOULD NOT INDICATE TROOP INVOLVEMENT on the ground- just an agency that would help alleviate 'who's in charge here' problems.  

This is an outgrowth of Hurricane Katrina; yes, Homeland Security would be involved, but they are NOT the ones that should be running the show.  NORTHCOM has the personnel and expertise.

So far, we've heard nothing from NORTHCOM on any response preparedness.  I wish we would.  I'd feel better about it than the CDC trying to go it alone...

NYT 'Discovers' Iraq had chemical weapons

Last night, the NYT (PBUT) released a long, detailed article regarding chemical weapons that were found in Iraq.  It is interesting to note that they waited until now to release this information.

If you've been paying attention, you'd recall that within the last week, reports out of northern Iraq have said that ISIS may have used some chemical weapons against the Kurds.  Based on photos that were obtained of the Kurds who were killed, the injuries on the bodies seem to indcate some sort of chemical weapon affected them.  Speculation by experts points to ISIS having obtained and used some of Iraq's old chemical weapons.

Back in the day (was it really only 10 years ago?) during my tenure there, I handled reports by the Iraq Survey Group, who was tasked with finding Saddam's 'special weapons' that he had squirreled away since the UN ordered them dismantled in 1991.  Saddam had manufactured tons and tons of nasty stuff; the ISG was primarily concerned with locating and disposing of WMD's, which don't always include chemical munitions.  

I had a few discussions with Charles Duelfer, who was the lead of the ISG (after David Kay resigned) on things they were finding; chemical artillery rounds were NOT something they keyed on; the MANUFACTURING facilites were however.  Saddam had dispersed these munitions so far and wide that finding all of them was a sisyphean task.  Most were likely to have been taken to Syria to try to keep them out of reach of the US and the UN inspectors.


These munitions were certainly a huge problem, a risk, and a serious one.  BUT THESE WERE NOT WMD.  So why is the NYT coming out with a huge article now?

To take pressure off of the administration.  To throw this football back in the Bush camp.  That since he didn't find and destroy all of these munitions that any use by ISIS is his fault.

This is patently false.  ISIS has had opportunity to recover munitions on the Syrian side of the border; these could have been Assad's munitions, or, just as likely they were ones ferreted away from Iraq post-1991.  The article also tells the stories of soldiers who handled these munitions, and that their command chain didn't take it seriously.  That is the fault of their commanders and health care providers- for not realizing just how dangerous the regime munitions could be.

In one incident where I had to contact ISG, I received a call from a sergeant who had been on a patrol that had set off an IED; but instead of blowing half his squad up, it sort of 'poofed' and fizzled (his words).  When EOD showed up to recover it, they found out that these were wired 155-size artillery rounds that were chemical in nature- not high-explosive.  The insurgents could not tell the difference back then- that these were not meant to blow but to disperse.  So the sergeant called it in as a 'chem find'.  The insurgents had set this up like a typical IED- and the chemicals never fully released (go to Castle AAARGH if you want an artillery primer).  

Another implication of the article is that the US didn't do anything about what we found, and that we tried to 'sweep it under the rug'.  While we didn't go buying full-page ads in NYT or USAT, we never discussed operations in such detail that the NYT was ever satisfied.  I find this entire article disingenuous, especially on the part of Eric Schmitt.  He visited us several times, received briefs on items such as this, and we sat and discussed them at length.  All in 2003 and 2004.  So I really find this 'shock face' they are putting on pretty insulting.  But it's par for the course for a media outlet that cannot let the legacy of this administration bear any burden of shame and fault.

If you want a more historical look at these, take a look at this CIA article; we were releasing reports as far back as 2003 and 2004 on the fact we were finding chemical rounds, and admitting we were going to find many more.

Women in the Combat Arms

So, the Marine Corps has been running some tests.  I know you've read about the top-line ones, such as women testing at the Infantry Officers' Course.  But it's a much broader effort, and some of the results have begun to be analyzed by independent agencies.  

Now, remember that these are women who have already succeeded in becoming Marines, and have further self-selected by volunteering to be tested as examples of female strength and endurance.  They're the very best, in other words, and deserve a great deal of respect both for achieving the title of Marine and for putting themselves forward in this way.

So look at the results, and let's talk about whether this policy is the right one for the US military.

ISIS Within Striking Distance of Baghdad

Apparently, the Canadian Defense Secretary announced the arrival of 26 Canadian SF troops in Iraq which might bring their total to around 100 SF soldiers.

ISIS in America - threats against soldiers and their families are being taken seriously...according to Fox, at least by Military Intel.  HuffPo posted this yesterday.

And tertiary media is claiming that ISIS is an hour away from Baghdad.  That could mean anything...but it certainly is not good news.

Last, the FT has a decent write up of the US's "race against time" to get the Iraqis back on their feet and fighting.


Douche of the Week: ESPN's Colin Cowherd

What is it about media people, especially the Sports Media, who have suddenly decided that the social issues of the day matter among those that listen to sports talk radio?

I know that when I tune in to Sports Talk Radio, I am there to hear about sports, and things that have to do with sports (which may cross over into the social) but I don't want to hear the host's opinions on the state of poverty, what you think about the latest Supreme Court case involving voting rights, or if you think ISIS is dangerous or not.

I have regular talk radio for that.  Sports is my diversion from all that.  Which brings me to another douchebag of note; Colin Cowherd of ESPN.  You can go here for all of his douchetastic-ness if you want.

“We know most people that go into the military in this country — they need the military often to pay bills. That is is almost a federal safety net financially, and by the way you’ll take shots. You’ll be sent two or three times to a raging inferno in the Middle East. That stuff scares me. That stuff I’m worried about. There’s loss of life there.”

I would like to posit a theory in order to test that Colin may be right, I want to know the answer to one question about which you may have an answer.

Continue reading "Douche of the Week: ESPN's Colin Cowherd " »

The Paradox of The "Advisor"

So now, we don't have "boots on the ground" fighting in Iraq.  Instead, we have "advisors" being deployed to Iraq in order to be "embedded" with Iraqi units.

So, when Steve Kroft from CBS actually finds a hardball in the bucket of questions he is lobbing at Barack the Teleprompter Reader, it is interesting to see how he qualifies and hedges his statement regarding exactly what their mission is.

Steve Kroft: You know, you’ve said no American boots on the ground. No combat troops on the ground. We’ve got 1,600 troops there.

President Obama: We do.

Steve Kroft: Some of them are going to be out, embedded with Iraqi units.

President Obama: Well, they’re in harm’s way in the sense that any time they’re in war, it’s dangerous. So I don’t want to downplay the fact that they’re in a war environment and there are hostile forces on the other side. But…

Steve Kroft: And they participated in combat operations.

President Obama: Well, there’s a difference between them advising and assisting Iraqis who are fighting versus a situation in which we got our Marines and our soldiers out there taking shots and shooting back.

As someone who has done this job, let me clear up any misconceptions that the President, or any of his camp followers have regarding what my role as an embedded trainer was; there is just as much or more combat as there is advising. 

Continue reading "The Paradox of The "Advisor"" »

Trailer Talk, Featuring Barack Obama

Maybe you're getting the hang of this, Mr. President.


President Barack Obama wants everyone to know "how we roll": The US always takes the lead in international crises.

...Obama was asked why the US is contributing such a significant portion of the military coalition against the jihadist group known as the Islamic State or ISIS. Obama responded by arguing that other countries were not stepping up.

"When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don't call Beijing, they don't call Moscow. They call us. That's the deal," he quipped....

"That's always the case. That's always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation," he said. "We have capacity no one else has. Our military is the best in the history of the world."

Your people should reach out to us.  We can help you with this one.  After all, a lot of us are the ones who did it last time.  We're the ones who know the right people by name, and have sat on their couches and eaten oranges or drunk boiled coffee.  

So it begins...

My buddies down in CENTCOM have their hands full this week.  As the missions kicked off late Monday against the swine ISIL and ISIS housed in Syria, teams all over the command have amped things up a bit.

In a posting from last week, I mentioned what it will take to mount an airstrike campaign against targets in Syria.  Given that we're going to do this using every available air asset possible, we are looking at a combined force of about 15,000 strong.  Navy, Marine, USAF, Army will all be posted to supporting this effort, at least initially.  

Wait, Marines?  Yep- look at some of their assets based on Navy ships; we'll use a few of them during the campaign.  I'm not sure we've established the Erbil base yet, so most of these will be flying from Qatar, Kuwait, and ships throughout CENTCOM and EUCOM areas (the Med being a EUCOM responsibility).  

With assets coming in from other countries, the total amount of people involved could easily exceed 20k.  But wait, we couldn't afford to put 15k worth of people into AFG or Iraq, could we?  That wasn't feasible, we were told.  We couldn't afford it.

Well, now we have little choice.  10k then turns into 15k now, and 50k or more if the refugee problem overwhelms Jordan.  Should that happen, brother this gets real...

The Passing of a Giant

Love him, hate him, but most had considerable respect for Mike Harari.  A legend in the intel community, and probably the best known member of Mossad, has passed away at age 87.  He was instrumental in Operation Wrath of God and the Raid on Entebbe.  It was the former that saw him indicted by Norway, after bad intel led to the killing of a waiter in that country mistaken for one of the architects of the Munich Massacre.  Mike submitted his resignation over the incident, but Golda declined to accept it.  Godspeed.