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February 2011

Protesters deface War Memorial in Wisconsin

The losers and looters befouling the Wisconsin Capitol have gone and done it now. They decided they would use a War Memorial in the rotunda as a bulletin board for their ignorance. They taped a bunch of their mindless dreck all over it. Ann Althouse is a UW Law Prof and a very cool and interesting blogger. Kev and I have had drinks with her. She and her husband saw this and he confronted the clowns beautifully. He explained what their offfense was and then told them they could take the stuff down or he would. Well done Meade (and Ann), I will be buying you a beer or several at the first opportunity. I have alerted Kev to go and check to see that the memorial has been cleaned of the refuse and remains so.

I Should Buy A Lottery Ticket....

I am pretty certain that I was one of the, like, 3 Gazillion people that predicted this.

American combat troops will get sensitivity training directly on the battlefield about the military’s new policy on gays instead of waiting until they return to home base in the United States, the senior enlisted man in Afghanistan said Thursday.

Yep, Sergeant Major Hill says OPTEMPO, patrol schedules and insurgency be damned.  Cancel that KD machinegun range and tell the mortars to shift their H & I fire plan; we have to talk about how not to get all vaclempt and uptight about the gays and do interpretive dances to demonstrate our proficiency in understanding the new policy....

And SECDEF backs that up by saying:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has ordered a detailed training regime to make sure both sides, homosexuals and heterosexuals, treat each other with respect. He has said gays will be able to declare their sexual preference openly before end of the year.

Man, if only we could get this kind of "laser like focus" on a "detailed training regime" that would get us ready to actually win the war against the Taliban and ensure that the training for the Afghan Army was moving forward in a productive way.  I mean, I have never seen this kind of focus on a problem since President Reagan decided we needed a 600 ship navy.  I would like it if the SECDEF could declare his "victory" preference openly before end of the year.

No one leaving the wire does a checklist that includes "proper attitude and outlook on the gay community" as part of their pre-combat inspection.  I know that it wasn't on my checklist of things that would ensure my survival somewhere between "check IR Strobe batteries" and "get comms check on fire support frequency."

And we get the repeat of Admiral Mullen's line on how servicemembers can GTFO if they don't like it.

“If there are people who cannot deal with the change, then they’re going to have to do what’s best for their troops and best for the organization and best for the military service and exit the military service, so that we can move forward - if that’s the way that we have to go..."

Well Sergeant Major, at least the people in your command know exactly where you stand, but the CINC can't seem to get himself onboard with your policy...  And just based upon my observations Sergeant Major, I can already tell from the limited interview time that you have had with the media that you know little about what might actually be best for "the troops" because if you did, as the primary tactical advisor and head enlisted liaison to the guy running the whole shootin' match in Afghanistan; you would send these REMF's packing and tell them they can get this inserted into the training cycle sometime after block leave and All Saints Day when the troops are home.

I am gonna guess that many units will be on patrol the day that the Sergeant Major and his merry band of Power Point Rangers show up to tell the hardest men on the planet (WOW!, was that a bad metaphor) how to get along with girls who dress and act like boys, but "like" girls, and men with awesome fashion sense and a passion for the color fuchsia.

I know I would be outside the wire, just long enough to put my out-processing to-do list in order....

Prediction I hope is wrong

The entire Middle East is catching fire, and it was unlikely that some Iraqis wouldn't find a reason to join. They have some pretty serious protests underway about government services, but there is one thing that makes me nervous.

Police used stun grenades to ward off about 1,000 demonstrators in Saddam Hussein's former hometown of Tikrit and in the northern city of Kirkuk hundreds of people rallied against corruption in front of the provincial headquarters.

Seems fairly innocuous, and the part about Tikrit is unsurprising. But Kirkuk is a major problem that has not been addressed in any meaningful way. The Kurds consider it part of Kurdistan and expect it and the nearby oil fields to be theirs. Saddam tried to de-Kurdify and Arabize it during his role, so the traditional mix of people has been upset. This will have to be resolved sometime and I am afraid that time may come soon.

Everyone else in the region has been grabbing for their freedom and the Kurds have actually been at this longer than just about anyone. I think they may take advantage of the unrest in the region to make their claim for Kurdistan as a free state. The chaos makes it less likely (or not) that they will be successful. But if they are ever gonna do it, now seems like time to join the party. Let's hope not, as that kind of trouble will not be easy to solve.

Mookie Sadr is also back from his work writing doctoral level dissertations on the Koran while studying in Iran. That is hardly helpful. Talk about a guy who was the perfect candidate for a 7.62 FMJ lobotomy. The first time he rose up and we let him slide, that was an opportunity lost forever.

The Men Who Stare At Goats Senators

By now, you all have probably heard about or read this story from muckraker Michael Hastings about Lieutenant General Caldwell utilizing Psy-ops resources (personnel) in order to influence American politiicans - specifically some very key Senators.

...The list of targeted visitors was long, according to interviews with members of the IO team and internal documents obtained by Rolling Stone. Those singled out in the campaign included senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin; Rep. Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee; Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan; the German interior minister, and a host of influential think-tank analysts...

Like Jack Reid and Joe Lieberman and Carl Levin are weak minded fools and LTC Holmes was going to use some kind of mind-kung-fu on them?  Come on...

This whole article smells of a disgruntled Lieutenant Colonel who got caught breaking the rules (drinking alcohol, inappropriate relationship, etc.) and is now in full-on reprisal mode.  Both LTC Holmes and MAJ Levine receiveds GOMORs.  It looks to me like they were tasked to perform public affairs functions (perhaps due to a knwon PA manpower shortage).  There is a fine line between PA and Information Operations (IO) - they essentially perform the same duties but with different targets.  PA focuses on information channeled to the US sources and IO does the same at other non-US sources.

First of all, read the article so you're up to speed.  Then, ask yourself a few questions:

Those of you in the military will understand this and those of you who know LTG Bill Caldwell will understand the point of this question even more:

LTC Holmes and MAJ Levine claim that they addressed their concerns with their chain of command, but did they ever exercise the open door policy with LTG Caldwell since they claim they had access to him on a regular basis?

Did LTC Holmes or MAJ Levine ever report this to the IG either in theater or even after redeploying?

Was there an IG investigation conducted and what were the results of that investigation?

If this was sooo egregious that this story had to be told in order to stop this horrific use of our resources, then whey did it take until late February for this story to come out if LTC Holmes and MAJ Levine redeployed to Fort Living Room in SEPTEMBER?!

This whole article is a piece of garbage and Michael Hastings is this century's muck raker extraordinaire.  If anyone has access to the 15-6 investigation, I would love to read it.  I wonder why Michael Hastings hasn't posted it along with his article?  I'm probably going to drop a FOIA on it soon.

A proper investigation is in order, certainly.  I would bet a lot of money that it will reveal that the man with intergrity and honor through all of this is LTG Caldwell and not LTC Holmes...

Unfortunately, this creates a significant distraction for a man who's job is relentless in pace with no acceptable outcome other than victory.  We wish C3 the best!

The true meaning of life and death (or why the Columbia protesters haven’t a clue)

Take a moment and go over to the Burn Pit and read MOTHAX’s piece about the recent dust up at Columbia about ROTC.  He does a great job of closing the loop and pointing out what is and isn’t really important.  It’s a great tribute to a great aviator as well.  Excellent piece.

This is why NCO's Are Very Important....

This was why we locked our doors at night in our section of our firebase....

PUL-E-KHUMRI, Afghanistan (AP) — German soldiers, just back from patrol, had already started shedding their heavy body armor when shots rang out Friday at their coalition base in northern Afghanistan. An Afghan soldier, a man they thought was on their side, was spraying them with bullets at close range.

"Working together carries risks," said Guttenberg, who earlier this week spent the night with German troops at the base in northeast Afghanistan. "Still, this attack may not lead to questioning the partnering (with the Afghan army) that has so far been successful because this would only serve our enemies."

Working with soldiers from Afghanistan is hard, and it was probably the hardest deployment I ever had.  They have tribal loyalties, hidden agendas, a culture that sees bribery and graft as the way to get things done, and when you mix it all together, you can get a volatile mix of aggression and ingenuity that we tried to help the NCO's harness and direct at the Taliban in our area.  They don't tell you this in your training to be an Embedded Trainer, in fact you spend a bunch of time listening to the same IED Class at every training event (another story for another time).

And it was made even more difficult by the fact that "he that bleeds with me today, shall be my brother" is not something that translates well into Dari or Pashto.  Their loyalties are complicated and difficult for westerners to understand.  They are not as educated as we are, they do not see things in a "western" way and they conceptualize everything from truth to time management in a very foreign way to us.

But in combat, my number one requirement is your loyalty.  We tried to ensure that we did our best to bond with our Afghan brothers and counterparts, but , in our case, with a corrupt company commander in our weapons company (which we did succeed in getting rid of) and later on, the Taliban killing another corrupt company commander in an ambush, we were able to install, train, and ensure the promotion of some very good men (NCO's and Officers alike) that helped our weapons company (the first part of our tour, before moving on to our remote firebase in the 2nd half) be able to operate independently with Coalition Forces, plan their own operations, and begin to understand the complicated world of logistics.

But we still locked our doors at night to our compound, because we knew that in a remote place with 11 American Soldiers and 45 Afghan Soldiers that the odds were not in our favor if things went wrong. 

Continue reading "This is why NCO's Are Very Important...." »

Rummy back pummeling the press

Do you miss Rumsfeld's press briefings like I do? They were some of the best television ever produced as he took the jackals and beat them like wet dogs in a dry house. Today's misbehaving hound is Andrea Mitchell. She seems to have thought she had the goods on Rummy and was gonna show him up. This is quite possibly the best bitch-slapping done the most politely you will ever see.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Flashback - Rummy in Action: Blackfive busting in to share with you one of my favorite posts and photo essays about Secretary Rumsfeld. Check it out.

Columbia families and Alums are speaking out - Updated

Update:  The Columbia Anti-ROTC coalition is concerned that any discussion against ROTC will be labeled as un-patriotic or rude and want safe spaces to discuss their anti-ROTC views.

At a panel discussion hosted by the newly formed coalition, professors and students laid out their arguments against ROTC’s return, in light of recent media coverage that they felt inaccurately portrayed them as rude and unpatriotic.

The exclusively anti-ROTC environment was necessary, coalition member Feride Eralp said, because the town halls “do not provide a safe space” to discuss ROTC’s return.

“We feel that the administration is biased in favour of ROTC, and that we cannot discuss our opinions without being portrayed as being unpatriotic or harassing veterans,” Eralp, CC ’14, said.

Really? Does that include yelling "Racist!" at a vet who has done no actions nor spoken any words that could be labeled "racist"?  How about having a real discussion for once?

Update:  Vet and Columbia student, Anthony Maschek responds to the media and those of us appalled at the Columbia students treatment of him. He supports (rightly so) his university.

Why hasn't the University condemned the behavior?  Is that too difficult a task for President Bollinger to do?  General Eisenhower must be rolling over right about now...

Update:  Another excellent letter from a Marine Officer who recently graduated from Columbia.  It should be noted that this letter represents the opinion of Austin Byrd, not the USMC, nor the DoD or Federal Government...

Good Morning President Bollinger,

While I expect your inbox has been flooded with responses to the most recent iteration of the controversy surrounding Columbia's relationship with the military, I could not help but add my own to the pile.  I graduated from Columbia in December of 2009 with a degree in Art History and commissioned as a 2ndLt in the Marine Corps on 23 January 2010 at Alfred Lerner Hall on our campus.  I have been critical of the University in the past and continue to be so in regards to its relationship with the military, but I have a great respect and fondness for it as well.

Many of the current attacks on the Columbia community quite fairly hit the mark on the hypocrisy regarding Columbia's current refusal to allow the presence of an ROTC program on campus.  It is indefensible to argue that Columbia need not help to shoulder the burden of our nation's defense by offering its support to filling out the ranks of the military's officer corps.  In refusing to allow ROTC on our campus we are tarnishing Columbia's long and distinguished record of service and undermining the University's deserved reputation as an institution worthy of great respect.  While there are legitimate concerns surrounding the return of ROTC to Columbia, whether they be philosophical or logistical, none outweigh the importance of continuing Columbia's tradition of public service and excellence.

To be fair, where many of these attacks entirely miss the mark is where they paint Columbia as a homogeneous place in which the military is summarily mocked and dismissed.  I did not find that to be the case.  Indeed, while I often encountered a level of ignorance in regards to the idea of military service that was utterly baffling and disappointing given the school's role as a preeminent center of learning, I also found there to be great support throughout the student body and the administration.  Chaplain Davis was a regular and strong supporter of military efforts on behalf of future officers and veterans alike while I was a student, and the same was true of many of my professors, such as Douglas Chalmers and Kenneth Jackson.  Chaplain Davis and some of my professors were kind enough to attend my commissioning ceremony on campus a little over a year ago, an act which I greatly appreciated.  In addition, I found Dean Moody-Adams to be amenable and supportive in the short period that I dealt with her during my final semester.

With that, let us remake Columbia's image with the realities of people like Chaplain Davis and the numerous professors whom I counted as supporters of my decision to serve in the Marines.  The realities of the Columbia community are more rich, complex, and robust than the current public debate would indicate, and the return of ROTC would serve to highlight our best rather than herald the embarrassment of our very worst.

Respectfully and, more importantly, Semper Fidelis,

Austin Q. Byrd
United States Marine Corps

RE:  Columbia University Brings Shame and Dishonor to the Ivy League

I've been copied on some correspondence to the President of Columbia University.  This one is from A FOURTH GENERATION COLUMBIA FAMILY:

President Bollinger,
I have written to you on other occasions regarding this same topic: the disdainful treatment of our Military on the Columbia Campus.  The latest outrage of your students heckling SSG Anthony Maschek, an American hero, especially without consequence or denunciation from your administration, is absolutely disgraceful and beyond the pale.
I might also point out the utter hypocrisy of your administration's continued refusal to allow ROTC back on campus even after Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been repealed.  Clearly your denial of freedom of speech and association to the Military, and to those who bravely seek to serve our nation while also attending your university, is simply a matter of anti-Military discrimination rather than any sort of principled stand regarding gay rights, as you have disingenuously asserted for so long..
My grandfather received his BA and MD from Columbia.  My father received his MD there.  My mother received two masters degrees from Columbia.  I received my BA and JD; my husband his JD and my daughter her MSW.  Even with a rich Columbia history such as this, I am now mortified to be associated with this university.
I can assure you that your school will never hear from me or anyone in this family again---certainly as far as donations are concerned.
Carolyn Aufses Blashek
Barnard '76; CLS '79

And another:

President Bollinger,
Sir,  I am writing regarding Colombia's treatment of our military's wounded on your campus. Specifically, Anthony Maschek, an American hero. This is absolutely disgraceful. You need to denounce such behavior for it is because of wounded veterans your students have free speech but this is certainly lost on the Columbia student body and administration.
My uncle a WWII veteran (now deceased) received his masters from Columbia. Your students and administration dishonor him.


Keep them coming. 

General Dwight D. Eisenhower served as Columbia University's President from 1948 to 1953. I wonder what he would think of President Bollinger today...

Update:  The Stars & Stripes has the reaction from Veteran organizations.

The US and the Revolutions

A few thoughts on the revolutions, and how to respond.  Responses are meant to be effective without opening a new ground war, which is a condition that has to be avoided for obvious reasons.

Bahrain:  This one of the three is the most significant in terms of US power projection because of the 5th Fleet; it is also the one that will require the lightest touch, because we have long been aligned with the monarchy.  The military's willingness to use immediate and brutal force against unarmed civilians -- without even a warning shot -- is a quality we should not want in an ally.  The Constitutional Monarchy being demanded is a reasonable step; we should publically condemn the shootings of protestors, and begin to push for negotiations between the monarchy and a committee designed to draft such a constitution.  The membership of that committee we can help approve as a means of asserting some control on the outcome.

Egypt:  This is the most significant of in terms of geopolitical effect.  The reason it has gone as well as it has is because the US military has worked substantially with the Egyptian military over decades.  Many Egyptian officers have trained in the United States, or by American servicemembers; we hold the bienniel Bright Star combined exercises.  The military's refusal to use force against the protestors, and its alignment with an ideal of democracy, are in part because of friendships and partnerships built with our own fighting force.

The US government should reach out to every US military officer and NCO who has worked with Egypt in a substantial way, and find out if they are still in contact with any friends.  Those who are should be built into an ad hoc public diplomacy / IO task force (which, since most of it would be done by telecom, need not require most of them to leave their current positions).  This would give us signficant insight and influence into the process between now and the formation of the new Egyptian government.  I have heard the State Department has made use of military officers with ties to Egypt on a more limited scale, but this is a place where a distributed public diplomacy effort directed at the whole of the Egyptian military would pay large and long-term dividends at a low cost.

Libya:  We need to back the protestors against the attacks being carried on by the government.  I noticed that Mrs. Palin suggested a no-fly zone yesterday, which is not a bad idea if we can set one up unilaterally and quickly instead of going to the UN for authority (or doing so after the fact).  However, I might suggest we consider a more aggressive response such as the one suggested by Michael Totten's man inside Iran's Revolutionary guards.  Pin down the loyalist forces from the air.  Provide them with humanitarian relief by air drop.

We can imagine the heartening effect among the protestors of seeing US warplanes guarding them above.  We can also imagine the effect the memory of that sight will have on post-revolutionary Libya.

A Book You Should Buy...

As noted below by Blackfive hisownself, you should save your money by not buying a certain book that gets a righteous beatdown by Jonn at This Ain't Hell.

What you should do, instead, is look at buying this book.  You help a good guy -- and vet -- out, get some good laughs, and may help reclaim a theatre of battle long ceded (yep, the comics).