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July 2009

Wanat story in Seattle Times

The Seattle Times has a piece about the ongoing controversy regarding the Battle of Wanat and if the command deserves blame for causing it.

In the days before one of the fiercest battles in America's eight-year war in Afghanistan, Army Capt. Benjamin Pry argued for more surveillance flights to help his beleaguered unit of fewer than 50 soldiers.

Since moving into a new outpost on July 8, 2008, they had struggled with shortages of water, fuel, food and heavy machinery to help defend against an enemy attack that they believed would eventually come. Lacking excavating equipment, the troops dug fortifications by scraping the rocky soil with spades and bare hands.

Then on July 12, headquarters commanders diverted drones — remotely operated planes outfitted with cameras to spot enemy movements — to another area. Pry argued so hard to undo that decision that he said he breached professional etiquette. Still, he was unsuccessful.

"We had no support from brigade, division or theater level assets at the time," Pry told Army historians in a study obtained by The Seattle Times.

I have read the 239 page draft of the report on this battle by Douglas Cubbison and will have a longer piece refuting some of his claims soon.

COL Reese not embracing the suck

The NY Times has printed a memo from a military adviser in Baghdad named Col Timothy Reese. To say that he is disillusioned with the Iraqi government and security forces is an understatement. His memo contains a laundry list of actual problems, complaints and bitches that create, in his mind, a compelling need for us to un-ass the country. The majority of shortcomings he mentions are almost certainly accurate, but they could be stated about almost any country we work with absent a few (Brits, Canadians & Aussies).

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

That would describe the military of just about every country I have been to and trained, and yet we still work with them because we have strategic reasons to do so. COL Reese details a number of purely political concerns that really fall well outside his lane.

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.

So now he is Joe Biden's press flack? While I am sure the State Department and executive agencies actually tasked with dealing with these issues appreciate his cogent analysis, perhaps COL Reese ought to stick to military concerns. Amidst all of his caterwauling, and again I'm not saying that hs complaints don't have merit, but he fails to consider that one gargantuan reason for us to stay a bit is to avoid leaving a power vaccuum that would undoubtedly be filled by Iran. That means we have a huge incentive to put up with the endemic craptasticness of the nascent Iraqi institutions and work to form a long term strategic relationship. We need to be their number one ally or Iran will be and that would negate many of the security gains a free deomcratic Iraq represents. So suck it up sir, and drive on with your mission.

Greyhawk titles the memo "This place sucks, let's leave" and points to a report that COL Reese seems prone to tirades.

The Shadow of Karma

The Teflon Don has a story that you need to read, and a link to a story that you also need to read even with the vile and disgusting comments that accompany it. 

Sgt. Nickle is why I hope we still have a justice system rather than a legal system.  Stalin, Hitler, and every other petty tyrant -- or large one a la King George III -- had or has a legal system.  There is a reason the founding fathers opted for a justice system. 

I also hope the quote attributed to the Chief of Police is inaccurate, incomplete, or otherwise subject to poor reporting, because as reported it is nothing short of idiotic and portrays the chief as being unfit to lead any group. 

We need to do right by Sgt. Nickle, and to see that he is done right by the new system he now faces.  Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers now and in the days ahead.


Ask PayPal How They Feel About The Wounded

In an update to his post, which resulted in an update to my post, Chuck notes that shafting Soldiers' Angels and our wounded troops has turned out to be a bit of a PR problem for PayPal/E-Bay:

Paypal is owned by eBay. Their PR department is at (408) 376-7458. Please be polite.

This is turning into a big PR mess for them, and a couple thousand voice messages suggesting that, while we don’t think they hate wounded soldiers, we’d love it if they could, you know, confirm that.//

Heck with a couple, how about a few thousand polite voicemails along this line?  408-376-7458 is the number to call.  My own thought to E-Bay/PayPal is that a rather sizable donation to SA would be a good start for f*****g over not just Valour-IT but also an unrelated fund drive to send Christmas to the troops.  I can think of a few other things they could do as well, but the donations would indeed be a place to start

Meantime, as noted below, I've taken the PayPal donation button off my personal site and have begun the process of ceasing to do business with either entity.  My choice, my way of expressing how I feel about a company that cares so little for our wounded and those who care for our troops -- much less about our rights as citizens. 


Unlike PayPal, You Can Show The Love

Today is the last day of a contest that could help Soldiers' Angels win a $25,000.00 social media makeover.  I've written about it before, and it is now down to the wire. 

It is one vote per e-mail addy, so if you have more than one, you can legally and ethically vote more than once.  So, vote early and vote often, please. 


Mine Detector

Cave mine hires_090724-A-3355S-018

U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan Araiza uses a mine detector during a mission with Afghan police officers to search for enemy weapons caches near Shah Wali Zarat in Khost province, Afghanistan, July 24, 2009. Araiza is deployed with the 25th Infantry Division's Company A, 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team.
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith

On the virtues of killing extremists (and sadly, their families)

We had a piece posted here by Grim called "On the virtues of killing children" that took a powerful, intellectual look at the moral, ethical and legal concepts around collateral damage and related issues. Events call for another look at these topics. Islamists in Nigeria began a violent campaign to impose their will, belief system and sharia law; the security forces there responded. Let's take a look at this to see if they acted properly or perpetrated a massacre.

Seeking to impose Islamic Shariah law throughout this multi-religious country, the militants attacked police stations, churches, prisons and government buildings in a wave of violence that began Sunday in Borno and quickly spread to three other northern states.

This is something no sovereign state can tolerate and the Nigerian forces had to respond, the question is were their reactions proper. 

The government warned people to evacuate the area before the attack on the compound Wednesday, then shelled the compound and stormed the group's mosque inside, setting off a raging firefight with retreating militants armed with homemade hunting rifles and firebombs, bows and arrows, machetes and scimitars.

An AP reporter saw soldiers shoot their way into the mosque under fire and then raked those inside with gunshots.

"The government warned", that is an important start. Then they attacked the group responsible for major violence throughout their country "setting off a raging firefight with retreating militants", which means that the mosque they were using is no longer protected as a religious building, and becomes a legitmate military target.

An AP reporter saw soldiers shoot their way into the mosque under fire and then raked those inside with gunshots.

OK, as per previous and the Laws of Land Warfare. Once a building has become essentially a fighting position it can be considered a "hostile house". This semi-official term means that due to the deadly fire coming from a building the need to differentiate between combatants and non-combatants inside is no longer required. This is cold-blooded, but consider every time artillery or an air strike is called on a building, we obviously cannot ask those to ignore any innocents who may be in the building. The blame for any collateral casualties lies with those who used the innocents as shields or simply callously disregarded their safety. A Nigerian spokesman said:

"The issue of identifying who is the Taliban or not, the human rights groups are not fair to security agencies because they don't have any marks on their faces. There is no way to know if this is Taliban or this is not."

Absolutely right, once deadly fire emanates and an assault is ordered there is no requirement to make shoot/no-shoot decisions. That would put the assaulting forces in an untenable position of trying to identify the intentions of each individual in a mass that was attempting to kill them. Again the responsibilty for any criminality falls directly on those who put civilians in danger.

League for Human Rights director Shamaki Gad Peter said that after the siege rights workers saw the bodies of up to 20 people who were unarmed and appeared to have been shot from behind, possibly trying to escape the mayhem, he said.

Military spokesman Col. Mohammed Yerima initially denied allegations that the military intentionally killed civilians but said that the militants were indistinguishable from civilians.

"All the civilians that were living in that place were evacuated, to our knowledge," he said. "And those that remained in that enclave are loyalists and members of the group. So the issue of whether we have killed innocent civilians is not true."

I want to state categorically that the deaths of any innocents even in a justified military action are horrific at best. But that should not be the determining factor as to whether to act or not. If the lack of action would empower the bad actors to continue purposely killing, then action is called for. The government forces are bound to obey the laws of war, even as the militants do not. But, as long as they are reacting to to provocations that create a demonstrably hostlie environment, their actions are justified and necessary.

Judge orders release of Gitmo grenadier

The young detainee held at Guantanamo for throwing a hand grenade that wounded two US troops has been ordered released by a judge.

Mohammed Jawad, whose case has generated intense support from human rights groups, might have been as young as 12 when he was arrested by Afghan authorities and turned over to the U.S. military.

He has challenged his confinement in a federal lawsuit being heard by U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle under habeas corpus, a legal doctrine that allows prisoners to contest their confinements before independent arbiters.

Last week, under pressure from Huvelle and Jawad's lawyers, the Justice Department dropped its defense of the detainee's challenge, but said it might still charge him with a crime in a U.S. courtroom.

Our descent back into a law enforcement mindset in fighting terrorism is in full effect and we can expect to see many more rulings similar to this. The problem w/ applying habeas rights to terrorists is that they are often apprehended in situations that make gathering of the type of evidence that will stand up in US courts impossible. It is argued that the lack of American judicial quality calls for the release of many detainees. That logic flies in the face of our entire history of wartime detention of legitimate POWs and the need to have a way to hold, try and or simply detain those who manifestly wish to do us harm. The status quo is untenable as I have long argued. Let's hope that expediency forces the Obama team to generate military tribunals to put some stamp of US justice on these folks prior to putting them in the deep freeze or returning them to room temp.

Chinook Approaches

Chinook hires_090722-A-8560C-094

U.S. Army soldiers maintain security at a landing zone while a CH-47 Chinook approaches for pick up near Binshai, Afghanistan, July 22, 2009. The soldiers, assigned to the 10th Mountain Infantry Division and 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, were in the area to attend a meeting with Afghan border police officers.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jennifer Cohen