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February 2006

Coup in the Philippines- Same as it ever was

Since I certainly wasn't there during two coups in the '90s and didn't work extensively with Filipino Special Ops, I would have no insight into the dynamics of the current unrest, however:

The first thing to know about the Philippines is that it the military is as much a business entity as a combat arm. The officers who run large portions of it have extensive ties to above and below board import export operations. In addition there are many alliances between these officers that determine the disposition of large sums of money and the power that accompanies it.

Two of the personalities mentioned in conjunction with this coup fit right in with this. Former President Estrada, an actor who was run out of office for brazen corruption, and who now is imprisoned for a number of related charges, and "Col." Grigorio Honasan who has been involved in plenty of these power plays.

The actual impetus for a coup could be actual dissatisfaction with the Arroyo government, which is not succeeding, but is more likely an attempt to realign the money spigots so they flow to a different faction. Honasan is a wheeler-dealer whose name always comes up in these situations, because he always has his nose in the middle sniffing for an angle. The balance of power is far from stable, so the possibility does exist that the government could be toppled. There is nostalgia for the Cory Aquino People Power days, when all was bright yellow and hopeful, but an alliance between that faction and Estrada's supporters, who just miss their meal ticket seems unlikely.

We had extensive ties with the Filipino government prior to our bases their closing, and we still work closely with their military regarding the multiple terrorist groups based there. A coup is almost never the right idea, although Iran would be a pleasant exception, but this is more of a power play, with a few helicopters than a fight. Hopefully.

One quick story about the organization of the corruption. When Mt. Pinatubo erupted back in '91 and all the US bases and people were evacuated, I was helping with that and we were flying in a helicopter over Clark AFB as the last families were sent home, all the planes flew away, and all the sensitive gear was destroyed. Outside the walls of the base was a gigantic line of trucks, Filipino military and civilian, waiting for the Americans to finish up. They eventually tired of waiting and knocked a couple of holes in the walls and headed for the booty. The smart ones headed straight to the post exchange and it's consumer electronics, or the commissary with it's yummies, but the rest hit all of the family housing and played 1,000 men and a bunch of trucks, everything must go. They looted the whole base, and I had a video camera we were using for damage assessment from the volcano, so I started filming. We got footage of all manner of craziness and turned it in to the folks running things in country. A couple of days later we saw the footage on CNN and  had to laugh as they had edited out all the shots of looting and a voice over proclaimed that things were under control at Clark. We died laughing as the accompanying soundtrack had previously included me shouting. "Holy S**t, they sre stealing everything. Jesus Christ, the PX, the Commisary and all of the housing. FFS there are trucks lined up for days" Ha! Nothing to see here folks, please move along.

                              - Uncle J

Stand Up For the Danes

Christopher Hitchens wrote this excellent piece in Slate about standing up for Denmark throughout this cartoon jihad nonsense:

...And there remains the question of Denmark: a small democracy, which resisted Hitler bravely and protected its Jews as well as itself. Denmark is a fellow member of NATO and a country that sends its soldiers to help in the defense and reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. And what is its reward from Washington? Not a word of solidarity, but instead some creepy words of apology to those who have attacked its freedom, its trade, its citizens, and its embassies. For shame. Surely here is a case that can be taken up by those who worry that America is too casual and arrogant with its allies. I feel terrible that I have taken so long to get around to this, but I wonder if anyone might feel like joining me in gathering outside the Danish Embassy in Washington, in a quiet and composed manner, to affirm some elementary friendship. Those who like the idea might contact me at [email protected], and those who live in other cities with Danish consulates might wish to initiate a stand for decency on their own account.

And he just emailed this message for those who want to attend:

Thank you all. Please be outside the Embassy of Denmark, 3200 Whitehaven Street (off Massachusetts Avenue) between noon and 1.00 this Friday, 24 February. Quietness and calm are the necessities, plus cheerful conversation. Danish flags are good, or posters reading "Stand By Denmark" and any variation on this theme (such as "Buy Carlsberg/ Havarti/ Lego") The response has been astonishing and I know that the Danes are appreciative. But they are an embassy and thus do not of course endorse or comment on any demonstration. Let us hope, however, to set a precedent for other cities and countries. Please pass on this message to friends and colleagues.

For those unable to attend, Michelle Malkin has some ideas about how to show support for the Danes.

Update:  Michael posted the list of consulates (and the Embassy) in the Comments. Here's the link to the addresses, email addresses and phones of the consulates.  There's one here in Chicago and I am embarrassed to say that I lived next door and didn't know it was there.  Eric and I actually did a pub crawl right past it, last year, too.

Distraction Post

Just a quick Hubble telescope look at the Crab Nebula, to get that Shirley Manson picture off the top of this site. It's been cutting into my productivity.


Carry on with your business people, nothing to see here please move along.

                                     -Uncle J

Sasha Cohen & Shirley Manson

Since Matt has already noted Ms. Cohen's admirable support of Soldier's Angels, I can move on to the vital task of being gratuitous.

I think Sasha looks like the little sister of sometimes Madisonian Shirley Manson from Garbage.

Shirley_m_black_dress Sasha_black_1

I'm just sayin'.

You get back up and you do it again, you get back up and you do it again.


- Uncle J

Petty Officer 1st Class Nathan McDonell - Someone You Should Know

"My daughter was recently watching the 2006 Olympics and called the American athletes heroes. I told her that the real heroes are the many men and women who have so bravely fought in Iraq and that I had the honor to meet them and fight alongside them." - Petty Officer 1st Class Nathan McDonell

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif -- Major Gen. Richard F. Natonski congratulates Petty Officer 1st Class Nathan McDonell after awarding him the Bronze Star here Feb. 17.  Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick J. Floto

You can file this under "Where do we find such men?"

Here's the story of a Navy Corpsman who recieved the Bronze Star for his Valor one dark day in Iraq.  The Marines I know tell me that the Corpsmen never have to buy a drink when the Marines are around...this story will tell you why.

One last note, the Gunny Sergeant who forwarded it to me was stunned that the LA Times wrote it, but was still frustrated that it was on the 3rd Page of the Metro Section...I'll add some more information from the Marine Corps about McDonell's bravery that didn't make it into the LATimes (like the fact that he also joined in the fighting in Ramadi).

Marines' 'Doc' Is Awarded Bronze Star for Bravery
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer

         February 18, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON — The first three rocket-propelled grenades missed the Humvee, but the fourth slammed into its side.

The explosion and shrapnel nearly severed the right arm and right leg of a young Marine, and what had been a fight with the enemy suddenly became a fight to save the life of Cpl. Mark O'Brien.

On Friday, Navy corpsman Nathan "Doc" McDonell was awarded a Bronze Star with a V for valor for his bravery and resourcefulness in saving O'Brien from dying from shock or loss of blood.

McDonell, O'Brien and three other Marines — all members of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment, 1st Marine Division — were in a firefight with insurgents in Ramadi on Nov. 8, 2004, when their Humvee was struck.

McDonell, now 28, remembers the scene as "stench, noise, blood, screaming and carnage."

Through it all, according to the official citation, McDonell showed "bold leadership, wise judgment and complete dedication to duty."

The brief ceremony here was a testament to the link between Marines and Navy medical corpsmen. Infantry Marines tend to be a tight-knit group that accepts few outsiders as equals, but a bond exists between "grunts" and the corpsmen who accompany them into combat.

"Although it may say U.S. Navy on your identification card, you are a Marine," Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski told McDonell as he presented the award, authorized by President Bush.

As the evacuation vehicle raced through narrow streets, with insurgent gunfire hitting its sides, McDonell used a tourniquet on O'Brien's mangled leg, according the official record of the events. As blood gushed, he tried to reach inside and apply a stronger tourniquet to the femoral artery.

When that failed, McDonell reached inside the leg and clamped the artery by hand to stop the bleeding until they reached a hospital where Navy doctors and nurses were waiting.

He dared not give morphine to O'Brien for fear its depressant effect would make it more difficult to stem the blood.

"He was my buddy, but his pain was secondary to his life, to stopping that bleeding," McDonell said. "I've never seen someone endure so much pain with so much poise and dignity."

O'Brien lost his arm and leg. But he survived, was medically retired from the Marine Corps, and is now set to be married in July, with McDonell and other buddies from the Two-Five in attendance.

"If it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't be here today," O'Brien, 23, said in a telephone interview from his home in upstate New York. "He was calm, he knew everything to do. Nobody else could have done it like him."

O'Brien, who is now in college studying to be an occupational therapist, said McDonell "is a great guy. He's more than just a good doc; he's as good as any Marine."

McDonell said that, although he was singled out, the effort to evacuate O'Brien could not have been successful without the other Marines in the Humvee: Cpl. David Kammerer, Sgt. Sam Pennock and Gunnery Sgt. Michael Miller.

"It was an honor to fight alongside them," he said.

Continue reading "Petty Officer 1st Class Nathan McDonell - Someone You Should Know" »

Who did Dubai piss off?

Burj_al_arab_1 So instead of blasting immediately and questioning W and everyone else's sanity about the Port craziness, I chilled. I don't know why, because it had all the elements necessary for a good rip, maybe I was just lazy. Having had a little time to think and read, I'm glad I held my fire. Dubai has vital qualities for an ally, like the hotel all the gods stay in, the Burj al Arab, which means Absolutely no chance of bombing.

I believe the President is correct in not interfering with a private transaction between a British firm and one from Dubai selling freight handling operations at several US ports. He would have every right to, if somehow this transaction endangered our security, but the proper authorities have examined the circumstances and determined it does not. This deal does not involve port security only freight handling and support. Dubai, like every other country in the Middle East, has had terrorists transiting and moving money through it, but they have also been a moderate and helpful ally in an area we have few.

The question before us is who exactly do we trust, obviously the Brits, as they had this gig, but who else? I can think of a few who immediately get crossed off, like Iran, Syria, North Korea, maybe Hugo Chavez' Venezuela. But where is the line, and what are the criteria?

Is it any country with more than 50% Muslims? What about the narco-states in South America? We don't have a coherent policy, but we have been making a whole lot of noise about not punishing the many for the actions of a few. We have said we believe most Muslims are decent folks and now we have a chance to prove it or not. If we have found no sufficient reason to intervene in this, then why does it matter that the country in question is Dubai? Do we now fear all Middle Eastern countries too much to do business with them?

And on a completely pragmatic tip, wouldn't it be nice to have a country there that owed us one for playing straight with them? We have already been told that Dubai has been very helpful in the financial dismantling of Al-Qaeda, and now we will repay them by saying "Yeah, but you're still Arabs and Muslims, thanks for your support." W has taken plenty of heat for diplomatic failings, slapping Dubai in the face for the crime of Operating While Arab would be a major mistake. We need Arab and Muslim partners who have a financial stake in ensuring the bad guys can't use our ports, and we can either gain some good will or help bin Laden's recruiters.

                               - Uncle J

Bill Rogio Interviews Marine Regiment Commander

Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail interviews Marine Colonel Stephen Davis - the Commander of Regimental Combat Team Two (2nd Marine Division) with Area of Operations in Western Iraq.  This is the team that Bill embedded with last Fall.

Here's just one exchange between Bill and Col. Davis:

Are foreign fighters making an effort to make Rutbah the main point of entry into Iraq? Are they crossing at the Syrian or Jordanian border, or both?

Colonel Davis: One doesn't get the nod over the other. Any point of entry will get traffic and they will try to cross where they think they can. You have to be vigilant at the borders, at all times. The Jordanians run a great border operation, we don't see corruption or other problems. They run an impressive operation. [Note from Bill: notice the Syrian border operation is omitted.]

Go here to read the whole interview.

New First Aid Kit

Photo by Specialist Spencer Case of the 207th MPAD (February 9, 2006).  Click on the thumbnail for larger version.

Wow, they packed a lot of stuff in the new First Aid Kit.  Apparently, this is the first major redesign of the first aid kit since the Korean War.    I believe that it's been issued to troops since early 2005.

Some of the items have been sorely needed for decades and some are timely.  For instance, the Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) has a windlass to apply torque to stop the bleeding thereby removing the insane need to find a stick to tighten the dressing - i.e. try finding a stick in the desert.

The Nasal Airway device helps soldiers with facial wounds breathe.  When a soldier is unconscious, his tongue tends to block the airway.  This device will work on conscious or unconscious soldiers.

Also, the new Trauma Dressing has elastic edges in order to get a better seal over wounds and creates more pressure - a good seal is especially important for chest wounds.