24 March 2008

Fucking Arrogant Piece of Shit

My emphasis below

ABC News: Cheney Exclusive: On 4,000 Dead in Iraq, He Says They Volunteered
"I want to start with the milestone today of 4,000 dead in Iraq. Americans. And just what effect do you think it has on the country?" asked ABC News' White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz, who traveled with the vice president on a nine-day overseas trip to Iraq and other countries in the Middle East.

"It obviously brings home I think for a lot of people the cost that's involved in the global war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan," Cheney said in the interview, conducted in Turkey. "It places a special burden obviously on the families, and we recognize, I think — it's a reminder of the extent to which we are blessed with families who've sacrificed as they have."

"The president carries the biggest burden, obviously," Cheney said. "He's the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm's way for the rest of us."

One who dodged Vietnam would obviously have little perspective on the size of the burden borne by those who's loved ones are in harm's way.

This is why we're bogged down in a war of choice with piss-poor contingency planning, and bleeding soldiers every day.

"That isn't the way I think about it," Cheney said, referring to the possibility of a drawdown. "It's important to achieve victory in Iraq. It's important to win, to succeed in the objective that we've established."

And what objective is that...?

20 March 2008

Lynndie England blames media for photos - Yahoo! News

Canadian says U.S. interrogators threatened rape - Yahoo! News
A young Canadian prisoner held at Guantanamo said in legal documents that U.S. interrogators repeatedly threatened to rape him and Canadian government visitors told him they were powerless to do anything.

Y'know, based on everyone I know in the military (which includes some interrogators) I have a hard time believing any of this. But thanks to the idiots at Abu Ghraib, and all the idiots above them in the chain of command that let it happen, you just can't discount it.

And Lynndie - it's not the media's fault.

Lynndie England blames media for photos - Yahoo! News
And I feel sorry and wrong about what I did. But it would not have escalated to what it did all over the world if it wouldn't have been for someone leaking it to the media.'

18 March 2008

Who Says The Elite Aren't Fit To Serve?

Who Says The Elite Aren't Fit To Serve?

Who Says The Elite Aren't Fit To Serve?
By John Renehan
Sunday, March 16, 2008; B04

"John!" called my brother from the living room. "Are you coming out or not?"

He and my sister-in-law were eager to start the movie we had rented, but I, lurking in my parents' darkened study, waved them off. While they and the rest of the family were distracted, I had private business to attend to on the home computer.

It was December 2001, and I was a New Yorker.

Of the innumerable moments of surreality accompanying Sept. 11, 2001's fracturing of our daily lives -- fighter jets circling the city, a pillar of ash rising to the stratosphere, New Yorkers engaging in spontaneous conversation -- here was a doozy: finding myself at my parents' in California for Christmas, nosing furtively about the Internet for information on getting into the U.S. Army's Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Ga.

It seemed on the one hand an entirely reasonable thing to be doing, and on the other an outrageous one. Reasonable because the military would probably need the services of motivated citizens in the near future, and I was a motivated citizen. Outrageous because I, a lawyer with no military experience, knew virtually no one from my own background -- comfortable childhood, good education, white-collar career -- who had ever been in the service.

Nor had my prior life experience reduced my ignorance of things military. After high school, the students who joined up were the ones I would have expected to do so -- rough dudes with pickup trucks who shot guns on the weekends. In college, I was barely aware of ROTC, except that I would occasionally see groups of cadets jogging in formation across campus and think that they must feel so awkward. In law school, I did sign up for "informational interviews" -- they didn't dare hope for actual employment interviews at Berkeley -- with some of the services' JAG Corps representatives and was later informed by a fellow student that I was the only bona fide interviewee. The other students on the roster intended to read statements of protest regarding the Defense Department's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Such experiences over a young lifetime coalesce into prejudice: People like us -- the privileged, frankly -- don't join the military. We wonder about the military world occasionally, and a few of us may actually grow curious enough to investigate serving in a halting sort of way -- lurking in our parents' studies at Christmastime, perhaps -- but that's about as far as it generally goes, or ought to go, we think. The armed forces are for another sort of American. Right?

It took me most of a year to get serious and walk a block from my apartment to the recruiting center at 22nd Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, and another year to slog my way through the Army's truly dysfunctional officer recruiting process. During this period I harangued myself continually: How does one train physically for this? Will my 29-year-old body hold up? Am I mentally resilient enough to handle the "suck factor" of an intense program such as OCS? Am I personally forceful enough to be a leader in the military?

In short, can I hack it?

Which is exactly the question that ought to occur to a rational person in my circumstances. But I think that having no one close to me -- no one I considered like me -- against whose military experiences I could gauge my own potential, caused me greater doubt and anxiety than would have been the case otherwise.

Today I am a first lieutenant with a platoon of 50 men. As of October, I have been in the service for three years, and I have spent the past year in Iraq. I believe I've been as successful as any of the other junior officers in my unit.

Which ought to surprise me, given my prior prejudices about what sort of person is fit for the military. I was never the captain of the team. In Little League, as George F. Will once confessed, I prayed to walk. I "played guns" as a child but never owned one as an adult. I enjoyed camping and hiking but was hardly a mountaineer. I never took part in an Ironman competition. My pastimes and recreations, in short, little resembled what I imagined to be the off-time activities of the mud-smeared troopers I'd seen slogging through the woods on the Learning Channel.

Then one day in 2005, I found myself geared out like those Learning Channel guys, face painted, lugging a 60-pound rucksack and a rifle across Fort Benning and rappelling and picking my way through a dark forest with night-vision goggles on my face, and in my head the prospect of swift punishment at the hands of my trainer should I lose my way in the dark or lose track of any member of my squad.

After that, I was on to my first unit to flounder about and find my way as a new officer. Then last year, I found myself amid the maddening impenetrable politics of Anbar province -- sipping chai with sheiks, doling out reconstruction cash, living in an Iraqi police station and wondering just how much good will our hosts really bore toward me and my guys.

Along this road I discovered something about myself, and about the military.

About myself, I discovered that there were within me -- within everyone -- latent abilities, tendencies, temperaments that only an environment such as this will bring out. And yes, I'm speaking to you bookish types now. However well you may think you know your own pacific constitution, be assured that there is someone more physical and forceful within you -- someone you will meet, given the right circumstances.

About the Army, I learned that it can be a hard -- and hardening -- environment, but by and large the people in it are just people. They are not uniquely tough by nature, though they become so through training and preparation and habit. And their toughness is leavened with a deep sense of common humanity -- a basic unquestioning take-them-as-they-are compassion rarely found in the "softer" cosmopolitan world of ambition and sophistication from which I hail.

The privileged of prior generations were more likely to consider military service a natural expression of their own privileged relationship to the state -- the least, you might say, that they could do in return for the opportunities the nation had granted them. Consider a young John F. Kennedy working connections to obtain a commission that his health would have denied him otherwise. How many from Harvard pull such strings today? To chalk this up to the ethos of a "simpler," less questioning time would be easy, but it would also be facile.

All else being equal, staffing the armed services with citizens from the broadest range of backgrounds is still the best course. Further, we are in a time, and a conflict, in which the unique demands placed upon the military make the need for innovative leadership acute. (My artillery battalion, for example, conducts foot patrols in Ramadi, performs base security, trains Iraqi police recruits, mans outposts in the desert, forms neighborhood councils, oversees reconstruction projects and . . . oh yes, shoots artillery.) How better to achieve this than to cast a wide net?

Am I simply recruiting among the elite, then? No. But I would regret knowing that some who might have served did not do so because of the same lazy prejudice that I once held -- the barely conscious assumption that some Americans are at once too good, and not good enough, for the military.


John Renehan is assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and is currently stationed at Camp Ramadi, Iraq.

I Love It. But I Have To Leave It.

I Love It. But I Have To Leave It.

I Love It. But I Have To Leave It.
By John Rogers
Sunday, March 16, 2008; B01

I'm a captain in the U.S. Army, an institution I love and respect, and one that has made me a better man. The Army has taught me how to relate to people of various ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic classes. It has taught me how to stay calm under fire and in other stressful situations (an especially handy lesson as my fiancee and I plan our wedding). It has taught me how to exact discipline and how to approach people with different personalities in different ways.

All these lessons will, I'm convinced, make me a better friend, a better husband and, one day, a better father.

But after four years, I've decided to resign my commission and leave the Army.

This isn't what I envisioned when I joined up in 2004 as a 24-year-old college graduate. I hoped to spend at least eight years in the service, maybe more. I wanted to lead troops in combating terrorism and making our home front safe. I wanted to command a company, something you can achieve in about six to eight years. Instead, come April 1, I'll take off my uniform for good and become a civilian again.

And I'm not alone. Many other captains I know are making the same decision, or considering it. Let me be clear: I'm not a spokesman for some mythical "United Bureau of Captains Leaving the Army." But as I've talked with other captains, attended conferences with superiors on this issue and listened to my peers' reactions to what I've written here, I've heard a collective echo arising from the ranks of captains who are leaving. My reasons for this decision strike a chord with many of them.

Those reasons are threefold: First, I'm about to get married, and I want a family. Second, I can earn as much or more in the civilian world as I do in the Army. And finally, my experience with war has left me feeling angry, frustrated and mismanaged.

I've lost confidence that I can serve both a wife and the Army. It's not that my fiancee is putting demands on me; this is a conclusion I've reached on my own. Staying in would mean six months of Army schooling in the Captain Career Course. We'd have to move from Seattle to Georgia or Kentucky. My wife would have to quit her job to be with me. Then I'd move again to a deploying unit or become an adviser to the Iraqi army for another 12 to 15 months. My wife would be uprooted and replanted in a place where she'd be alone, knowing no one, and without the job she loves. She'd be unable to pursue her goals or use her talents. That's no recipe for marital bliss.

Also, soldiers need to train, so I'd spend a lot of time away in the field -- at weapons ranges or training centers, or fighting simulated battles. A marriage needs time to blossom. But a captain's career path, whether he's deployed or at home, can bulldoze it before it blooms. And deploying every other year raises certain obvious challenges to starting a family.

As it happens, I have (a very beautiful) someone. But not all soldiers do, and many of them would like that to change. Where staying in for me means not having the time to develop a relationship, for others it means not having the time to find one. Then there are situations like that of one captain I know who has a son who's nearly 4. He missed the baby's birth and has been present in his boy's life for a total of one year. I hope you can see why I, and others like me, feel that we have to choose: family or Army. Each person's situation may be different, but we're all in the same shoes . . . and they stink.

Second, I feel no financial pressure to "stay Army." I'm confident that I'll be able to land a job that pays enough to cover a mortgage and put food on the table. Placement firms such as Cameron-Brooks, Lucas Group and Orion have good records in helping former officers find positions in the corporate world. Most captains have college degrees and know that they can get a job outside the Army and begin a new profession. We find phrases such as "stock options," "incentives" or "no firearms permitted in the building" enticing. We like the idea of promotion based on merit, not a timeline. Some want to work for the FBI or the CIA, agencies they believe are more effective in the fight against terrorism.

An initial drop in salary won't hurt me, even if I have to pay for medical coverage. Besides, money isn't my motivation for serving -- which is why I find no incentive in the Army's $25,000 to $35,000 bonus for staying in.

Finally, I'm frustrated by the war and how I was managed and blocked in doing my job in Iraq. Take the following incident. It's not the only one I could hang my hat on, but it's the most pointed.

My mission as a platoon leader was to clean up police corruption and reintegrate the Iraqi police into the security structure of Ghazaliyah, a district in western Baghdad. Over time, my platoon built a relationship of trust with Iraqi policemen, who gave us leads on insurgents. On one patrol, we detained a Sunni whom our battalion's intelligence officer confirmed as a genuine criminal. This man had threatened local residents, preventing them from participating in a clinic we had restarted.

A search of his home yielded illegal weapons, sniper bullets, insurgent propaganda, gobs of money and lists of Iraqi political and military officials' addresses. When we learned that he was the leading Sunni insurgent in Ghazaliyah, our platoon felt like world-beaters. Morale surged. Finding this man validated counterinsurgency theory -- empowering indigenous forces, patiently letting them take the lead, and collecting intelligence through local and national networks that know the "human terrain" better than foreign armies. It taught my men to be patient with it, and gave them pride.

Moreover, a change came over our counterparts in the Iraqi police. You could see their hope awakening. They began to feel safe in giving us the names of corrupt policemen and police car numbers. We secretly built a case against their leader (which this very newspaper inadvertently exposed in late 2006 when it published the full name of my Iraqi confidante, creating even more stress for my troops.)

So, good grab, right? Wrong. We later had to release the detainee. Somehow the evidence to hold him was lacking -- even though he had discussed his role in sectarian violence under questioning by our intelligence officers. At the detention facility, I learned that most of the evidence we had collected against him had never been analyzed. I was told that a high-ranking official (I don't know whether it was a diplomat or someone from the CIA or the Army) had called the facility, incredulous that the man was being detained. Later, I found out that our detainee was politically well-connected, which supposedly played a role in his release. But we lost credibility with the Iraqi police. And we were ticked off at the waste of our time and our unnecessary exposure to danger.

It's possible that there was some great rationale for releasing this man. But my men and I will never know why he was really let go. We knew that he was contributing to sectarian violence. Could someone at least tell my men that everything they did counted for something? What did I risk their lives for?

In the Army, junior captains and lieutenants, mainly as platoon leaders, as well as senior captains who are company commanders, are the primary group of officers manning the trenches and facing battle alongside enlisted soldiers (sergeants and privates). When a soldier dies, we feel it more than generals and colonels do. Along with the sergeants, we're the ones who explain to young enlisted men why a 23 percent interest rate on a car loan is not the best idea. Or that while a soldier may qualify for a loan to buy a Lexus (to attract girls), he also needs gas and insurance. And that stripper poles don't equal marriage altars. In short, we help raise them.

During war, we're the ones who are there when the bomb goes off or an enemy's bullet meets its mark. On one occasion, one of my fellow captains had to deal with a firefight even as he tried to calm a soldier whose genitals had been blasted with shrapnel slivers.

I'm not indicting generals and colonels. The point is that the experience of lower-ranking officers on the front lines creates a gap between us and other officers, and it makes us want to catch our breath before deploying again.

Older captains and higher-ranking officers can get jobs in the Army and "hit pause" before redeploying. They might, for instance, become ROTC instructors or go to graduate school. I tried for an ROTC job at a university and got a good reaction. Awesome, I thought -- my fiancee would get to keep her job, and I would use my experience to prepare future officers for combat, returning to command matured and refocused. Another captain was accepted into a graduate program starting in 2011. But the Army requires both of us first to attend the Career Course and deploy again as commanders -- and see our fiancees/wives two years later. The other captain wants to stay in, but he's wavering.

After experiencing the front lines, we'd stay in if we had a chance to take a break. We'd get family life right, mature, dissipate the frustrations and refocus. But Army career management policy doesn't allow it.

I love a lot about the Army and I don't want anyone to think that it's an evil institution. It's not. But I can't stay in any longer. It will be too long before I've achieved enough rank to work to change it. That's for generals and colonels, which is 16 years away for me, assuming that I'd keep getting promoted. My desire to start a family, the possibility of other jobs and my frustrations have combined to usher me into a new season of life earlier than I had planned.


John Rogers served in Iraq from June 2006 to September 2007.

14 March 2008

Bad, bad ideas

(I've reordered the video and text to maximize comedic effect)


This isn't the dumbest idea in the history of military robotics. But it sure as sugar ain't the smartest, either.
A few years back, the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command and the Armaments Research, Development, and Engineering Center funded a team from iRobot -- makers of the PackBot line of military unmanned ground vehicles, or UGVs -- to see if they could make their square, squat machine fly. CNET reports what happened next:
They came up with the Griffon, an iRobot PackBot prototype strapped to a gasoline-powered, propeller-driven, radio-controlled, steerable parafoil system. The UGV hangs from a superstructure on which is mounted a 32cc Fuji engine behind an 18- by 8-inch propeller.
For the parafoil, the team considered a wide range of extreme sport kite surfing and traction wings but settled on the 11-meter Ozone Razor. This parafoil is attached by two hang points on the sides, with two arms to control the wing surface and a quick release to jettison the whole contraption on touchdown.The PackBot's on-board computer does the driving and controls the gas. Video, audio, and autonomous ground GPS navigation is also a standard PackBot feature.
The kit is designed to be man-packable and could be used by civilian teams for search-and-rescue in hazardous terrain in addition to military recon and strike missions in urban environments, according to the researchers.

CNET says "a prototype was tested a few years ag[o] and apparently worked well." In response, I was going to rant for a paragraph or two about how sending Johnny Five kite-sailing might not be the most slickest move in war time -- especially not when there are hand-launched drones that can fly without the use of a big, red parafoil. But I'm too busy rewatching that video of the Griffon getting stuck in a tree. So feel free to rant yourselves.

07 March 2008

One Man's War on Terror - Someone out there who cares.

One Man's War on Terror: The American GI from Berlin - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News
Berlin-born Jeffrey Jamaleldine wanted to do something about terrorism in the world and so he joined the US Army to fight in Iraq. Now he's back in Bavaria, his face nearly destroyed by a bullet -- but he's still convinced that it is his calling to fight for peace.

06 March 2008

My email to Lou Dobbs

What I sent to him tonight:

I'm watching your program, and you're talking about the new Air Force tanker deal. I just want to make sure that I'm clear about your position.

As I understand your point of view, US military procurement should focus primarily on where the equipment is manufactured, and not whether or not it performs to the highest possible standard. In your opinion, it's more important to put jobs in Kansas than fighters in the air over a trouble spot around the world. "Made in America" is, in your estimation, a higher priority than bringing home American servicemembers, if it means we send them to war with inferior, but home-made equipment.

Is it frustrating that a company partnering with a European company could win an Air Force contract? Sure it is. Maybe Boeing needs to spend more time designing aircraft and less time parading before Congress wrapped in an American flag.

In the meantime, under Congressional approval, the US defense industry has gone from 8 aircraft manufacturers to 1 (Boeing) and a half (Northrop). That's not the Air Force's fault. When only 2 companies even *exist* to bid for a project, you've got to choose someone.

03 March 2008

Boys will be boys

Harry flirted so much with girl Harrier pilot we told him: ‘Get a room.’ ‘Does that count as the Mile High Club?’ he said | the Daily Mail
Harry flirted so much with girl Harrier pilot we told him: ‘Get a room.’ ‘Does that count as the Mile High Club?’ he said

Thanks to Chris for pointing out this story.

01 March 2008

US lawmakers blast Boeing defense contract snub - but should they?

US lawmakers blast Boeing defense contract snub - Yahoo! News
Reacting to Friday's decision by the US Defense Department to award the contract for a fleet of in-flight refuelling aircraft, Republican Senator Sam Brownback said he was 'shocked at this decision and very disappointed.

'I'll be calling upon the Secretary of Defense for a full debriefing and expect there will be a protest of the award by Boeing,' Brownback added.

'It's stunning to me that we would outsource the production of these airplanes to Europe instead of building them in America.'

Republican Representative Todd Tiahrt said he was 'deeply troubled.'

He added: 'We should have an American tanker built by an American company with American workers,' he said."

So we're not going to worry about whether or not it's the right equipment to make the American military the best it can be... We're going to fixate more on jobs than on combat/battlefield performance... We're more worried about a sop to the local constituents, because the military doesn't vote in a mass block anywhere, and it's easier to bribe the constituents into keeping you in power than worrying about what's best for the guys in uniform.

Public statements like this just piss on the military and it's very surprising to hear from a Republican. But I guess the issue of money clouds all other considerations.