Thursday, May 31, 2007

Venezuela and the Reply from Never, Never Land

Well, I suppose there are things that should not surprise anyone. DailyKos is to the left of this blog and most I read. In fact, since the day of the "I feel nothing, screw them" post (eventually taken down), I never even felt the urge to engage in linking, much less discussing any comment or post by this blog or discussing anything with any member/commenter from the blog. Not that I think I'm big enough to garner any attention from them and that is alright by me. I'll stay small in my corner of the blog world.

Politics? Maybe, but my antipathy to such a place is bound more by its antithetical ideology and morality than politics. I've felt anger, sadness, extreme happiness and many other emotions over people and things they do, but I don't think I've actively and gladly advocated the death of anyone or cheered it on (with the exception of Osama bin Laden, Zarqawi and Zawahiri; one hopefully would be forgiven for that) in such a manner as I have seen in posts and comments at that site. It simply seems beyond a lack of civility, but a gleeful dance in blood too often justified by some skewed view that most of the world is screwed up so "screw them".

Except for this small part of the internet world where "reality based" folks hang out in never, never land, imagining themselves to be the arbiters of freedom and light.

In fact, I hesitate to link to them now regarding the continuing spiral downward of Venezuelan democracy and the rise of the latest dictator in the guise of democratic elected government. I hesitate because I have seen what happens when someone posts a disagreement with their posts. I even had the pleasure of a back handed link (ie, a rather infamous right wing blog linked to something I wrote on oil consumption, production, etc), once upon a time, where some of their illustrious thinkers came over and explained to me the error of my ways with language that my sailor friends would be embarrassed to repeat.

Now that I've spent so much time "hemming and hawing" over the link, DailyKos posts in support of Chavez's shut down of the last free TV station in Venezuela.

Essentially, they agree with the Guardian opinion piece indicating that the TV station had been advocating the overthrow of Chavez's legally elected government. They both state that, if a TV station or other media in the US openly acted like that in the US against a sitting president, the same thing would happen to them, if not worse.

That may be the truth, but there is something wrong with advocating for a rising tyrant in the name of law. Something this group believes it opposes everyday by keeping tabs on the "legal" acts of this president in regards to wire taps, money transfers, patriot acts and any number of other congressional and presidential acts. We are talking about the man (Chavez) who had his national assembly declare emergency laws and suspend elections making him the sole authority for the next eight years (if not longer). We are talking about the man that dissolved the assembly and has actively subjugated the Venezuelan Supreme Court.

Someone may declare Godwin's law on me, but I have to point out that tyrants are often and quite usually the best at using the law (and abusing it) in order to confirm their legal right to be dictating tyrants. The best examples being Hitler and Stalin. These two men were obsessed with establishing their legal right to do all of the things that they planned and did. They kept records to insure they followed every legal process under the then established law.

We argue here in the United States about legality and opposing acts that are substantively against principle, if not constitutionally questionable. Yet, we are supposed to support Chavez's actions because they are "legal".

If we applied the rest of the never, never land rationale for legal v. treasonable acts, we would have to support the immediate dissolution of the Democrat led congress, CBS, CNN and, of course, the demise of the Kos along with the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of protesters (with their "Bush is Hitler", burning Bush in effigy and many signs that actively advocate the overthrow of the government and death to the President) and their possible execution (the acceptable punishment under the law) for treason.

Somehow, I doubt that these folks would be so accepting or advocate such actions against themselves or their ideological followers. Neither do I, for the record. I only make this point because it's paradoxic, if not bizarre, nature.

I read in the comments people referring to Chavez and his ideas as "noble" and "honorable". I've seen open surgeries, dead bodies at their worst and any number of things that might make one go into hyper-emesis (that's "vomiting" to the lay person) without blinking an eye, but the thought that Chavez and his actions are "noble" and "honorable" is enough to make me hurl without end. Nausea barely describes the feeling.

As another commenter, clearly dissenting, points out:

'I just don't see how we can rightly pillory Bush for his corruption of the Justice Department and then applaud Comrade Hugo while he eviscerates the Venezuelan constitution. It's depressing to ask how many folks here only object to authoritarianism when it's a right-wing phenomenon.'

Indeed. Principles be damned. As long as the actor is an ideological fellow, it's alright. This is, of course, how Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and Hitler (of course) were able to kill millions (and many still do kill hundreds of thousands) in the name of some idea or other while the rest of the world stands by.

Saddam Hussein.

I wanted to say that name and place it in the pantheon of serial, mass murderers who continue to be lamented as the oppressed. They are the revolution.

Kos and his fellows see themselves as the "revolution".

I rejected the revolution a long time ago and hope that it stays largely in the never, never land of the dailyKos.

If not, for such as the Kossacks and the Chavez folks of the world, I leave my own message of "screw them":

Sic Semper Tyrranis!

(h/t) Gateway Pundit

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Awakening Continues

Two stories that continue to explain why the Awakening is spreading throughout Iraq:

Kharmah Awakens

The awakening started in Ramadi and has now spread to Hit, Haditha and points west to the West bank of the Euphrates just north of Fallujah and then to the south near Amariyah/Ferris.

The tribes along the west bank are all tied into each other and some of the sub-tribes who have not joined the awakening are finding themselves in armed intra-tribal conflict.

The awakening has now spontaneously leapt the Euphrates and taken hold in an unlikely area--al Kharmah.

The village of Shiabi, located south-west of Kharmah, below the Kharma river is home to more than a dozen IP officers who work in Fallujah.

In November and December of 2006, as the Iraqi Army let the situation deteriorate in Kharma, AQIZ went on blood spree, kidnapping, torturing and beheading police officers.

It was about this time that General Sadoon, a retired Iraqi Air Force general who lived in Fallujah but whose home village is Shiabi and who is also the grandson of the true Sheik of the Jumayli tribe, organized the men of the village.

The Fallujah IPs gave them rifles, walkie talkies and ammunition.

Diyala sheiks meet to address concerns

TIKRIT — About 45 local sheiks met with Diyala provincial leadership in Baqubah, Iraq, to discuss their tribe’s concerns, reconcile grievances and discover solutions to rid terrorism from the province, May 23.

After the key leaders spoke, the sheiks addressed three main concerns – the failure of the central government to focus on the problems of Diyala, the failure of the Provincial Council to effectively represent the people and the common goal of ridding the tribal lands of terrorists and foreign fighters.

Sheik Ahmed Azziz, Sistani’s representative in Diyala, continued to challenge the leaders to settle their differences and work with the legitimate government; while Ra’ad committed to continue meeting with different nahias throughout Diyala in an effort to create reconciliation at the lowest levels where it can be most easily enforced.

The Power of Tornadoes: British Pilots Saves Lives

BAGHDAD — A Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 crew saved the life of an Iraqi Police commander by "scaring the all living grace of God" out of rogue militias that had ambushed him.

The crew, Flight Lieutenant Ben Cable, on his first tour of Iraq, and Flight Lieutenant Mike Morgan are both serving with 12 (Bomber) Squadron, based at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland.

They were on a routine patrol mission over Baghdad when they were directed to provide air support to Iraqi Police Commander Brigadier General Ali Al-Maksusi.

The General and his men were surrounded and under intense fire from militias armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades. They had ambushed the general while he was visiting the Sadr City area of Baghdad.

Guess what happens next?

RAF jets save top Iraqi Police commander

From Russia With Love

There is a continuing paradox in Russia: the bizarre quasi-democracy, quasi-capitalist, quasi-power where everything is not so sweet and light under the thin veneer of all the queasy, quasiness.

BBC reports on the strange case of apparent growing affluence barely covering the potential crash and burn of the economy. Russia, though apparently full of local products, is still a major importer of goods and not an exporter. Except for oil and natural gas.

At the same time, the state, fearing the complete break up of Russia into many mini-states who can be manipulated and use their economic power (dare I say, energy power?) for their own benefit (cutting off the main land from exports/imports and any income from energy). Putin fears this most. He may indeed love Russia, but he loves it more than any principle or idea. He loves the land and being Russia. If it is a democracy, a kleptocracy, an autocracy or any other beauracracy, Putin doesn't care as long as Russia is Russian as close to the empire of old (evil or not).

It is this fear that continues to see Russia placing itself in opposition to the US even if it seems counter-intuitive; even onto manufacturing reasons to do so.

At the same time, continuing to do so has an advantage. It keeps oil prices high, which in turn helps keep Russia's economy afloat. That and sales of arms to opposing forces, sale of nuclear materials and building nuclear facilities, such as Bushehr in Iran.

To maintain this power, Putin believes the state central government must retain all power and, to do so, it must have a strong leader. One that is not subject to criticism. Whether these killings are simply a response to the age old cry, "who will rid me of this man?" or directly ordered, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that freedom of speech is going along with any democratic principles that may have briefly flourished in the last decade (along with economic and security instability).

Russians have done what Benjamin Franklin warned against: traded their freedom for security.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Press Makes Me Angry, But...

Woe onto the president or other official that thinks they can shut it down.

In Venezuela, Chavez took the last free television station off the air.

What you just heard was the slow, choking, last gasps of democracy in Venezuela.

Say what you want about the media (and I have), but I'd rather have a half-ideological, non-objective, free press than some government owned garbage crammed down my throat anyday.

My salute to journalists everywhere just trying to be free.

Swastikas: Something Guaranteed to Tick You Off

Some jacklegs took flags off of veterans' graves and replaced them with swastikas. Not once but twice.

In Orcas Island, Washington. Now, tell me someone in this little tin hole doesn't know who that probably was. That does not happen here because someone would get their butts handed to them in a tupperware bowl.

One of Three: World War I Vet Remembers

The life of Frank Buckles in some ways tracks a timeline for the rise of America as a superpower. He has been witness to it all, and he is one of very few living to tell about it.

At age 106, Buckles is one of only three known living American veterans of World War I, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"For many years, I would read the figures in The Torch [a veterans magazine] in two columns -- one was the number of 4.7 million-something veterans who served, and the other, which kept going down, was the number of us that were still alive," Buckles said. "I knew one day it would come to this. But I didn't think I would be one of the few still around to talk about it."

Lessons from the Great War

While World War I marked the decline of the British Empire and led to the remapping of the Mideast, "The Great War" has largely become the forgotten war of American history, said Eli Paul, director of the newly opened National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

In the shadow of their children

"These World War I veterans raised a generation that did them one better," said Paul, who added that museum visitors regularly comment that they hadn't realized the scope or importance of the war. "They got overshadowed in this country on Dec. 7, 1941, and never got out of the shadow."

Here he reports on the difficulty to recruit soldiers for the front:

Buckles, only 16, was eager to join up. On a trip to Kansas that summer, he stopped by a Marine recruiting office and tried to enlist. He told the recruiter he was 18, but the sergeant said he needed to be 21 to be eligible.

A few weeks later, Buckles returned to the same recruiting office and told the sergeant he was 21. The sergeant said he wasn't heavy enough.

After several other rejections, Buckles visited an Army recruiting office. When a recruiter asked for a birth certificate, he replied that his birth state of Missouri wasn't keeping such records at the time of his birth and his only record would be his family Bible. The recruiter took him at his word, and Buckles was on his way to war.

There is an abundant amount of history in our elderly if we only listen:

While he was in Manila on business in 1941, the Japanese invaded the Philippines and Buckles was taken prisoner.

When he actually served in a war, he did not get close to the front. But in a war in which he was a civilian, he was held prisoner for 3 1/2 years.

Talking, the best medicine

There was little food, and he lost more than 50 pounds, Buckles said. Toward the end of his internment, a Japanese guard caught an American as he tried to slip back into camp after heading out to forage for food.

"The Japanese guard told him to wait where he had stopped him," Buckles said. "He came back with his gun and shot him right there."

Buckles was among those rescued in a daring parachute mission by the 11th Airborne Division in February 1945.

Read the rest of this great story.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Remember Them - Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. Today we remember all those who have served our nation and made the final sacrifice on behalf of our nation, in defense of freedom.

Today, we will eat barbecue and watermelon, drink soda, and enjoy a fantastic day with our families and friends. This unique freedom was purchased for us with the blood, sweat and tears of millions of men and women in uniform for over 230 years. In another place, our men and women are still at war. In places around the country, families, friends and loved ones will be grieving for our fallen.

While we enjoy this day, please give a moment of thought to those who never made it home and those whose names you will never know, but purchased this day for you with the utmost love and devotion.

The following is an original song, written and performed by me. I don't claim to be a professional singer (or one at all) and Jimi Hendrix may be turning over in his grave from my guitar playing, but it comes straight from the heart in hopes that you will remember to "Thank a Vet".

We remember Sgt. Ian Anderson, Prairie Village, Kansas who died in Iraq

We remember Cpl. Lucas Frantz, Tongonoxie, Kansas who died in Iraq, whose parents were friends of my family

We remember Sgt. Donald Walters, Lee's Summit, Missouri who died during the invasion of Iraq and fought until he ran out of ammunition. First Kansas City area death.

We remember Spc. Benjamin Ashley of Independence, Missouri who died in Iraq

Family and Friends

I remember Pvt Babe Howard, US Army, WWI, great, great uncle

I remember S1C Leroy Henry, USN World War II, grandfather and the best history teacher I ever had

I remember AA Leon Henry, USN Korean War, great uncle, great friend

I remember S2C Lonnie Howard, USN, great uncle

I remember PFC Fred Bratcher, US Army, WWII, great uncle

I remember Pvt Floyd Bratcher, US Marines, WWII, great uncle

I remember Sgt Fred Waters, US Army, WWII friend of family

I remember TC1 Donald Kuehl, US Army and Air Force, Army of Occupation Germany and Korean War, uncle and beloved brother to my mom

I remember Sgt. Lewis Henry, US Army, Vietnam, favorite uncle who taught me to love history and ride motorcycles

I remember them.

Castle Arrggh Remembers

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Crime Against Kansas: History Informs Our Opinion on the Second Amendment

So, you think that the second amendment is only historically important because our forefathers thought they needed to protect themselves against the tyranny of the British?

The Volokh Conspiracy pointed out a recent (missed) anniversary of a historical speech on the Crime Against Kansas.

The Crime Against Kansas:

On this day in history, May 22, 1856, United States Representative Preston Brooks criminally attacked Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate, beating Sumner on the head with a heavy cane until the cane broke, and incapacitating Sumner for four years. South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks was the nephew of South Carolina Senator A.P. Butler, who had been sharply criticized by Massachusetts' Sumner in a May 19-20 speech, "The Crime Against Kansas."

Sumner had declared that while Butler "believes himself a chivalrous knight, with sentiments of honor and courage," he "has chosen a mistress" who is "the harlot slavery."

Among the elements of the crime against Kansas was that guns belonging to the free-soil settlers had been confiscated by the pro-slavery territorial government. Senator A.P. Butler had allegedly remarked that the people of Kansas should be disarmed of their Sharps rifles. (The Sharps rifles were the main type which were being sent to the free-soilers by anti-slavery groups in the North, such as the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society, led by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.)

Sumner thundered:

Really, sir, has it come to this? The rifle has ever been the companion of the pioneer and, under God, his tutelary protector against the red man and the beast of the forest. Never was this efficient weapon more needed in just self-defence, than now in Kansas, and at least one article in our National Constitution must be blotted out, before the complete right to it can in any way be impeached. And yet such is the madness of the hour, that, in defiance of the solemn guaranty, embodied in the Amendments to the Constitution, that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," the people of Kansas have been arraigned for keeping and bearing them, and the Senator from South Carolina has had the face to say openly, on this floor, that they should be disarmed--of course, that the fanatics of Slavery, his allies and constituents, may meet no impediment.

This is what happens when you give the government the power to disarm its citizens. It does not have to be the national, federal government that can harm you, but a local, petty politician under the guise of "security" who then uses it to further their local power or even, in the case of the free soil v. slavery, a national agenda from the micro level.

I suggest reading the rest of Volokh's Crime Against Kansas. If you have time, you can find Sumner's entire speech (filled with great historical information and arguments against the confiscation of arms or disarmament of the citizens) at Making of America: Sumner's Speech.

In his speech, Sumner points out the already existing, low grade, war that has seen regular citizens of Kansas attacked and at the mercy of the different militias who were trying to overrun the state with their supporters for the upcoming citizens' referendum that would make Kansas either a free state or a slave state, changing the balance in the US Congress and possibly the future of freedom as we know it today.

Lawrence was sacked
by 750 pro-slavery forces masquerading as a posse led by local sheriff Jones to enforce a non-existing order of the court. A few days later, John Brown, soon to be famous at Harper's Ferry, went on to commit the Potowotamie Massacres. In fact, Sumner was beaten by Brooks on the same day that Lawrence was sacked.

There were many egregious acts, not to mention the confrontations with the "red man" as Sumner indicated in his speech. The reason this was being taken so seriously by Sumner and the free staters who had a territorial governor foisted on them by President Pierce, considered sympathetic to southern, pro-slavery states, was that President Pierce had declared:

...organized resistance on the part of free-state Kansans would be regarded as treasonable insurrection.

All the while, southerners were pouring into the state in an attempt to insure its entry as a "slave" state, often reported to be traveling in huge bodies of armed militia attacking "free state" settlements. Sumner had declared in his speech that the ballot box and the rights of the citizens were being destroyed by the very institution that was supposed to protect them:

"American Citizens? I show you how their dearest rights have been cloven down, while a Tyrannical Usurpation has sought to install itself on their very necks."

You think that you must only fear those in Washington DC? Or that we need not fear them because we are long past the days when the federal government could or would want to inflict any sort of acts or laws upon their citizens that would be detrimental to a Republican Democracy or the freedom of its citizens? Should we only worry about federal governments? Not the state, county or city? What about the neighbors or even people's outside the nation who would do us harm?

Why would we disarm ourselves in the face of an increasingly violent world? That makes no sense. Less sense than disarming the citizens of Kansas in 1856.

By the way, I hate to mention a rather significant fact, but the party that was trying to take away Kansas Citizens' guns? The "Law and Order Party", ostensibly to stop the partisan violence in Kansas. They were largely organized and supported by a political party that was pro-slavery (or at least wanted to protect their votes in the south which was pro-slavery) and is currently trying to take away people's guns.

Guess who?

Information Warfare: Cellular Battlespace and Legend Killers

JD Johannes from Outside the Wire reports on "Cellular Battle Space"


"Enta shonek habebe?" the Army company commander says into his cell phone.

"Zhien, zhien."

Twenty to thirty times a day Army Captain Brian Ducote's cell phone rings in his shoulder pocket.

Ducote, the commander of the 1-28 Infantry's Bravo or 'Battle' company answers nearly every call, going through a set of greetings himself so that the Iraqi callers know it is him they are talking to before he hands the phone to an interpreter.

The calls range from tips to complaints to pleas.

I'll interpret a few words there from the top: Enta=You; habebe=friend, dear one, etc; Zhien=good.

JD writes under "Assymetric Battlespace":

In Iraq, thinking in terms of territory is often a useless exercise. The sectarian violence is not about territory--it is about people, money and the wasta, the power and power of legends and the near irrelevance of facts to the average Iraqi enhance the assymetric battlespace.

If the assymetric battlespace works against U.S. equipment, tactics and adherence to the Geneva Conventions--the cellular battlespace plays to the U.S. strengths.

The enemy does not have secure communications and you don't need to know much about the NSA to know that the enemy that talks on cell phones is an enemy that is easy to find.

That last reminds me of a scene from an early 1990's movie, "Patriot Games" with Harrison Ford. Agent Ryan (Ford), goes to Colombia where he meets other CIA/NSA folks, goes into a secure room where technicians isolate the voice of a drug lord's enforcer from cell phones, use voice recognition software to match it to other voices to confirm that is the same person they were looking for and verifies that this group is the responsible party for recent murders.

Recent reports indicate that the US was recording hundreds of phone calls and using software to isolate specific words and target particular phone numbers for tracking. Or, technicians who use noise reduction to single out sounds and other voices for ideintification. Or, simply identifying cell towers or phone numbers to track for determining the location of a suspect.

All of these things are possible in Iraq and even Afghanistan, though I imagine that the volume is so significant that the resources are held for high value efforts. What is going on here is a much more low key and right at the heart of the battle. It is direct information gathering using the simplest of tools.

The enemy has been using this tool all along. In fact, in a recent discussion regarding operational security at the Milblog conference, the point was made that the enemy has much more information and in a timely fashion than simply trolling electronic boards and blogs. An innocuous looking Iraqi can be sitting on his front stoop, cell phone in his pocket, blue tooth device in his ear, telling his insurgent friends that a patrol has just left a base, number of trucks, men and armaments. No one would even know he was doing it. The insurgents know within minutes what, when and where.

We are finally giving our men the tools to do the same and use the vast resources of the Iraqi people instead of limiting our communications to internal radio and secured phone lines. This vast network of people did not have access to this communication and were forced to often approach the military directly or try stealth means, putting them at great physical risk and opening them up for intimidation. This had previously limited the amount of information we could get.

In a recent article, a writer had complained that the US military should have set up a military government in Iraq until it could transition to Iraq nationals. He complained that this failure had reduced the amount of information that could be collected through regular interaction of civilians with the military government for common every day activities like passports, licensing, tickets, etc. While his over all assessment was correct, he had a "failure of imagination" missing the obvious intelligence gathering tools available on this battlefield: cellphones and email.

Another tool that the military has finally taken advantage of is "YouTube". They are posting videos of activities on it regularly, though not nearly as often or as well produced as the insurgents. However, the simplistic nature of the videos showing soldiers walking around in neighborhoods or in direct combat are much more "real" without all the fake production and chanting that the enemy likes to overlay. However, there is also an intelligence gathering ability using YouTube. On a recent stroll through the YouTube space, this blog site located hundreds of uploaded videos showing people giving lectures on militant Islam, showing insurgent activities and other important information that can and, hopefully, is being mined for information. This takes the place of public media that the enemy has limited control of and limited interaction with except through pre-produced, packaged materials. While the YouTube videos are often "packaged", there are many that are simply raw video.

The cellphone doesn't just allow the regular citizens to contact the US military. So does the enemy:

"The Wolf called me habebe," Ducote said, referring to how quickly Iraqis will use the term of strong friendship with Americans.

The Wolf is a Jaysha Mahdi assassin.

The legend is that he has killed more than 100 Sunni. Nearly every day Ducote or another member of the battalion receive a tip about The Wolf.

Ducote has talked with The Wolf on his cell phone. "We had his brother and started calling around, leaving messages. Then The Wolf himself calls."

Duocote has a conversation with the Wolf that paints a picture of how and why people have joined forces with these disparate groups. It also paints a picture of the battle space and the players.

Address books, video clips, voice mail messages, text messages, pictures, the last numbers called...the cell phone of a JAM or AQIZ is always a trove of information.

Immediately after Abdeel, the JAM Boss for Jihad and Mahala 885 was picked up, the intel staff interpreters started going through his cell phone.

It was a map of the cellular battlespace.

Later in the evening, Lt. Colonel Patrick Frank decides to make a call to Abdeel's boss.

Frank has spoken to dozens of bad guys on their cell phones and needs little introduction.

"One gentlemen I called, who is affiliated with JAM stopped me when I was introducing myself. He said, 'I know who you are. You are Asad Aswad. The Black Lion.'"

JD points out that the Iraqis live by rumor and legends. Reality is whatever the strongest person with the best connections (even with limited tools) can make of it. As the point he made earlier regarding the "Wolf" who is a legend and alleged to have killed over 100 Sunni (probably many who were simply unarmed civilians, but, in Iraq, that does not matter because everyone is an enemy if they do not belong to your group, even three year old children). The way to combat such people as the "Wolf" is to show people that he is not anyone but a 19 year old murderer who, like many such serial killers, likes to hear his own name and exploits. Talking with the commander gives him a certain cache, but, like all those who can't resist the lure of talking to the police, he will eventually give up enough information to have him captured.

The other way to defeat such legends is to create another that is bigger, badder and much more influential, even among the other "legends". That is where the "Black Lion" comes in: Asad Aswad. He is the "legend killer".

Until one day, standing in the market of West Farut, as a group of merchants complain about the mortars the Shia are firing, Captain Ducote asks them when was the last time a mortar landed in the Mahala?

The merchants all look at each other. Ducote knows the exact date the last time mortars fell in the area--because his Company captured the mortar tubes, rounds and team that was shelling West Farut.

Suddenly things begin to make sense to the merchants.

Maybe The Wolf is not immortal. That sniper has not been around...the other assassin has not been around...

Later that night Ducote is repeating the same refrain on the phone to men who heard it in person this morning--fighting a battle of gross rating points with his own voice.

I suggest reading JD's piece thoroughly. It is an excellent insight into our current battle and should spark some ideas on how we could use other tools and techniques, not normally associated with the military, to defeat an insurgency.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Small Wars: Religion in Warfare III

Well, we've started of at a rip-roaring pace and some folks are already feeling a twist in their tails. Not sure how a scholarly discussion of religion in warfare suddenly became a discussion of personal prerogatives, but I'll skip that right now and suggest that you read Mr. Smith's last commentary on the subject at the Captain's Journal: Smith Responds.

Sometimes the best counsel is the oldest. Smith’s argument concerning the duration of counterinsurgency and public sentiment is similar to that of the Marine Corps commandant (even if somewhat unrelated to the initial subject of Kilcullen’s commentary). Smith’s views on religion and counterinsurgency - far from being debunked - have not yet even been engaged.

That is for the readers to decide.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Special Forces: Lessons for Everyone

I thought this was a great video to watch about our military special forces. At one point, they are reviewing the SERE program and one of the instructors talks about how history has informed them on the appropriate methods to evade capture. He says that one of the biggest mistakes that the Vietnam era downed pilots would make was to pass over sources of water because they didn't think they needed it right that moment. A day or so later, they were low on water, dehydrated and would make the mistake of circling back to the source of water they passed over previously. This mistake often led to their capture.

At another point in the program, history was also reviewed with these participants to re-enforce the common sense that their worst day during evasion and escape was better than their best day as a POW or hostage.

Finally, a piece of the program focused on Special Forces Medal of Honor recipients. Most of the recipients said that they didn't deserve a medal for doing what they were trained to do or that there were many who deserved such a medal, but their were no witnesses. Thomas Norris said that they were just common everyday people that were put in a place and time where they could use their training successfully. The last recipient interviewed, Mike Thornton, said that he wears the medal in honor of the 1, 850,000 men and women who have given their lives for the freedoms we enjoy. He said that Medal of Honor recipients were not owners of the medal, but custodians for all those who have served, are serving and will serve in the future.

Watch this great video about Special Forces:

Friday, May 18, 2007

Small Wars: Religion in Warfare II

In response to discussions here and here.

I think we are fighting over semantics and, possibly, by trying to make the argument with short, simplistic points, we are missing the obvious connections between both arguments.

The first we can essay from an old cliche, "all politics are local." In layman's terms, people first care about what is important to them, close at home, that affects them personally. After that, their concern branches out to other sociological groups based on a number of factors from political, economic, ethnic and religious affiliations among the many.

Therefore, in order to know whether religion is a primary motivator in the community and needs to be addressed, we first need to know what "community" we are speaking about (ie, global, national, province, city, town, tribe, etc) and how that community views or practices religion and faith.

As I noted in my comment to Smith and here
(and emjayinc alludes to above) it is about who holds the power in the community, who are the mavens or opinion makers (Malcom Gladwell, Tipping Points) and where the mosque, temple, synagogue or church and its leaders sit in relation to secular powers in the community.

In short, is the mosque above, beside or below the local secular power broker or social organization? How deeply does it inform the opinion of the people?

Who, what and how you address these power structures depends on its prominence. Since counterinsurgency is about pealing away local support, addressing this power (political?) structure, secular or religious, must depend on first determining how it is organized and its power.

For instance, to drill down to a likely scenario we would find in the field in either Iraq or Afghanistan, if we approached a village where the local, secular power was either absent or weak (such as depleted tribal leaders, no mayor and no secular security structure) and the mosque was the center of power, then we would need to engage the leader(s) of the mosque. In the case of this mythical village, the mosque acts, not only as the guide in faith, but the political power, the economic and security power.

If we engage the mosque, we will engage it on the political, economic and security levels. We will avoid, as much as possible, engaging it on a religious basis for numerous reasons, but let us first explore why the political, economic and security aspects are just as important to the mosque as religion.

The mosque, if it is in anyway performing its primary responsibilities, has the imperative to maintain the faith of the people. In order to maintain this imperative, it must maintain it's secular wealth and power. If the mosque was no longer able to intervene in or provide jobs, it may lose some of its power over the faithful. If it could no longer provide for the poor because the local community could not afford tithing, it may lose some of its power. If it could no longer organize the village for security, it may lose some of its power.

Therefore, it has an imperative to maintain that power. If it can be engaged and we work through the mosque to provide security, empower it politically and economically, it may be induced to at least refrain from supporting the insurgency, if not join the counterinsurgency efforts.

Thus, emjay and Kilcullen would be correct in saying that politics, not religion, is the basis through which we should engage.

If the mosque and its leaders resisted, invoking religious duty from its followers, then we would still not engage it on a religious basis, but instead, seek to displace it either through strengthening an existing, weak, secular power structure or building one from the ground up.

We should, if at all possible, refrain from engaging in religious opposition, particularly, if we do not share the religion. Our authority on the matter is nearly non-existent. Secondly, acknowledging it gives it legitimacy as an opposing ideology and force, thus weakens the secular imperatives we wish to enforce and influence.

Third, if we openly declare our opposition to a religion or religious concept, however egregious we may find some concepts, we may (and will) cause those who might otherwise stay on the sidelines or be persuaded by secular desires and arguments, to join in "defense" of this ideology.

We should be educated by our own experiences within the our own society, when it comes to religion, it is a social minefield that can cause otherwise opponents to solidify in opposition based solely on their relationship as co-religionists. The very thing that AQ, AAS and the rest of the Islamist conglomerate wishes to achieve in order to consolidate their power and base of recruits to commit a larger war.

Not that they are not able to convince some of this very idea, but the extent of it is a delicate balance, on the international, national and local theater.

To finalize the earlier supposition, the way in which we engage or are forced to engage the mosque or religion on the local level depends on its status within the community (and, in counterinsurgency, we should always be thinking from the community up, not central government down). Thus, if the mosque exists at the leisure and expense of the local tribal or other power broker, it is this secular power broker we would engage.

If the mosque and secular power are equal in stature in the community, then we must either engage both on the same level or seek to empower the secular, local power or, if the secular power is the opposition, empower the mosque. All of this depends solely on the political situation on the ground.

To imagine that we should engage the religious nature of a community without the requisite moral authority , even as a proxy on its face, is the epitome of arrogance.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Small Wars: Religion in Warfare I

Before we begin, I recommend reading, if at all possible and previously not accomplished, the following to catch up on the subject:

Kilcullen on Luttwak's Critique of the Counterinsurgency Field Manual

  • Luttwak's basic points drill down to "kill them all and let God sort them out". Or, in a phrase we've used here - total war. He's recommending it right as an approach right now, while we are in theater, after we have proclaimed the liberation of Iraq. That presents several huge problems to me which I address here:

  • the Middle Ground: On Total War II
  • In my response to Luttwak, I argue that his historical references are incomplete and inaccurate. I believe that he deliberately misrepresented them in order to re-enforce his central thesis, not because they were literally correct. Thus, making his suggestions far from appropriate to consider in a counter-insurgency.

  • The Middle Ground: On Total War I
  • This is my response to another author who also wrote to suggest that we should use or should have used Total War methods in defeating this enemy. Basically, I believe what he was asking was not to fire bomb Dresden, but destroy occupied Paris; or, instead of fire bombing Tokyo or dropping the A-Bomb on Nagasaki, we should have obliterated the Philipines. That is what his suggestions amount to. Note the difference in the places that we laid total waste to compared to those we wage or are prepared to wage street to street battles in. In brief, you destroy the enemy that has declared war on you and you liberate the people who are your allies.

    I am making this point on Luttwak as well. Our entire premise for war is that Saddam was an evil tyrant, an occupier if you would, oppressing his people and we were liberating the people of Iraq from his tyranny. You do not fire bomb the people you are liberating. The time for deciding what and how we would fight this war was at the beginning. We set our posture, now we have to deal with it. We can't even change our minds because we have been declaring the Iraqi people our friends for four years. Now we should murder our friends? It would be Stalingrad or the Warsaw Ghetto except this time with 24/7 media.

    This is not happening.

  • Frank Hoffman, Small Wars Journal: Luttwak's Lament

  • Of course, I like it because it agrees with my original post and comments that I left at Small Wars on Luttwak's lack of historical grasp. Here, though, is where the first real question regarding religion in warfare emerges from beyond the question of "total war". Hoffman extracts it and indicates that it should be addressed as an important aspect of counter-insurgency, which opens up a new can of worms. A basic question is asked: why are we reluctant to address it when it appears to be so strongly entrenched in the enemy?

  • Kilcullen Responds: Religion and Insurgency

  • Kilcullen believes that religion is no more important than other aspects of the insurgency, particularly the political make up, the drive for power and wealth as well as common power structures within local or greater societies. He believes that religion is a cover for the political and geographical desires of the insurgents, whether it is the local variety or the global Islamist variety.

    Frankly, I agree with him in many ways and believe it is important not to get too caught up in the language and ideas of religion. You lose site of what is really at stake and you put yourself in a position where you are arguing with the insurgents' points, some of which are closely held or very close to the faith and opinion of millions. Thus you place yourself in a position to inadvertently call many more the enemy when they are not.

  • Bing West Responds: Quick Note on Religion and Insurgency (with comments from Kilcullen)

  • Bing argues that the religious nature of the enemy makes them, if not, undefeatable, implacable. Possibly, even to the point of requiring, if not "total war", much more robust and violent response. Kilcullen responds that not giving the enemy an "out" makes Bing's predictions self fulfilling: ie, fighting to the death, and ignores the importance of wealth, power, etc outside of religion no matter how devout, that often informs part of the opinion and power base of the insurgents.

    Since all politics are local and counterinsurgency is the practice of pealing off layers of support, not destroying entire communities, it seems much more practical to address the political nature of the enemy.

  • Captain's Journal: Response to Kilcullen

  • The Captain believes that Kilcullen is unnecessarily dismissive of the impact of religion in war in favor of the political language for various reasons -ie, power, wealth, etc- he believes that our current attempts inter-armed forces to be politically correct, not emphasize religion, it's practice or study, puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with religiously driven enemy.

    He contends, more robustly than Hoffman, that we are missing at least half of the war effort because we are inexplicably ignoring it. Which comes back to Hoffman's point regarding whether we are simply too nervous or too socially ingrained with the idea that religion and others' faith is an untouchable to fight a religiously motivated insurgency with any success.

  • I responded to the Captain that I agreed largely with Kilcullen's take that counterinsurgency is largely about politics, that counterinsurgency is the act of pealing away parts of society from supporting the insurgents, and that the importance of religion is based on where it sits in importance within the local power structure:

    And, as Kilcullen points out, it is about where religion sits in the over all power structure of individual societies. In that, I mean, not on a national or ethno-religious basis, but in local society like rural tribes, rural towns, suburbs and cities. In all of these, the importance, position and power of religion depends on the local power structure. For instance, does the Mosque sit above, beside (in tandem or cooperation with), or below the power of the tribal sheikh or town mayor or other power broker in the area (ie, does the mosque exist at the pleasure and with the economic support of this power broker, much as churches of the medieval period were sometimes supported by and financed by the local feudal lord)?

    Thus, our emphasis and approach to attacking the ideology or insurgency on a religious basis is dependent on its position in the social setting we are operating in.

    I have much more to say on this subject, but please start with reading these for the basis of the argument at hand.

    Do you recognize the enemy's religious nature or do you ignore it in favor of the political? What advantages or disadvantages do we suffer?

    One point made over at Small Wars is from a reader who wrote about attacking the pseudo-religious scam of al Qaeda in language.

    Barnett is in favor, I believe, of totally ignoring the religious aspects, but goes on to say that trying to turn the counter-insurgent battle is a dollar short and a day late.

    Additional thoughts on religion in warfare will be forthcoming.

    One Soldier's Story: Must Read and See

    Watch this video and read this story.

    Raw Video: One Soldier's Story

    It's 26 minutes long, so you will want time and space to do it. I believe this is one of the best interviews to come out of Iraq about the war, its realities and the multifaceted battle space and enemies that our men and women face.

    A shorter video with highlights is here (some images may not be work safe):

    One Soldier's Story

    His story, One Soldier's Story:

    Four days before his death, Army Staff Sgt. Darrell Ray Griffin Jr., an infantry squad leader in Baghdad, sent an E-mail to his wife, Diana. "Spartan women of Greece used to tell their husbands, before they went into battle, to come back with their shields or laying on them, dying honorably in battle. But if they did not return with their shield, this showed that they ran away from the battle. Cowardice was not a Spartan virtue ... Tell me that you love me the same by me coming back with my shield or on it."

    His wife wrote back and asked if he was okay. He never answered.

    He was on his second tour in Iraq with 9 years in the military. He was in Najaf in January 2007 when the Army of Heaven was destroyed. He talked about finding hundred of dead and wounded, not only a large number of fighters, but women and children. He said in his video interview that he could not understand why these men would bring their wives and children into this compound and then fight from it. The amount of death was so horrific that he could barely fathom it:

    I witnessed so much carnage on this particular day that words and descriptions of the horror would become trivial in attempting to paint a picture of what I saw ...

    I achieved my 8th confirmed kill in this village when I opened a door to what I thought was just another small room and upon entering, saw human bodies strewn on the floor, wall to wall, that had been placed there because the room had obviously been established as a casualty collection point. One man lying close to the door had been pleading for me to help him and kept pointing to his injured leg. I did not want to commit to entering the room because I had a blind spot to my front left and did not want to be engaged by any survivors; the room was strewn with massive amounts of AK-47's, magazines, grenades and other assortments of weaponry. I motioned for the man to crawl out and he would not or could not comply. He then looked dead into my eyes and suddenly began to smile at me while he reached for his AK-47. I lifted my rifle and fired 8 rounds into his forehead from about 3 feet killing him instantly ...

    His father noted the many people who tried to get him to use his son and his story to stop the war:

    "My emotions have [been] on a roller coaster going from extreme anger, to sadness, to helplessness, to acceptance to confusion and then all over again," he wrote me five days after his son's death. And the elder Griffin has been pressed by many of his friends and colleagues in Southern California to join the ranks of the antiwar movement and use the story of his son's death to help end the war. "They just don't seem to understand or accept that my son loved the Army—that the Army saved him in many ways—and that the thing he hated the most was politics getting in the way of finding real solutions for the Iraqis."

    Finally, I think that this is the most fitting tribute to such men as Sgt. Griffin:

    Diana Griffin is moving from Fort Lewis, Wash., to be closer to her family in Southern California. And she remembers the chaplain coming to the door. "The President of the United States ... " he began. That's where her memory of the event stops. By her bedside, she still keeps a book on the 19th-century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard that her husband hadn't finished reading. She didn't speak at the microphone to the assembled mourners at the funeral, but after the echoes of the graveside 21-gun salute faded into the din of the nearby freeway, she said this: "Today, Darrell has come home on his shield."

    Hat Tip: Milblogs

    Thunder Run Correspondent in the Sand Box

    David from Thunder Run has got an inside into the Sandbox. He just arrived in Kuwait.

    What am I doing in Kuwait? I have travelled here to provide support to an Expeditionary Medical Facility as they switch into sustainment mode. Most of my 20 years in the DoD have been in the support role. I think I have one of the best jobs in the world. My customers are also my heroes.[snip]

    Dave, you oughta see it. This place is covered with highly motivated Americans (military, civilian, and contractor). These people have this place running as smooth as glass. They support what is going on up north, and I have never seen more talented and "switched on" people. They are the NEXT GEN. The up and coming generation. These people have their game faces on and they exercise their free will and initiative... to America's advantage. I met with Chief N from Maryland. He was very protective of his people. During a "dog and pony" walk through, I saw him slow down three times and fix three problems on the spot. He was unashamed that he gave non-standard, out-of-the-box solutions right in front of us "representatives from BIG NAVY." I believe he would have bit someone's ass if they had let the system fail. There is no playing games here. I saw no Mickey Mouse crap.

    Read the rest and then stay tuned for updates.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    Military Cross Section of America

    I was reading Michael Yon's latest dispatch which is a letter from Gen. Petraeus on the values of the American fighting machine vs. those of our enemy.

    Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy. This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we—not our enemies—occupy the moral high ground. This strategy has shown results in recent months. Al Qaeda’s indiscriminate attacks, for example, have finally started to turn a substantial proportion ofthe Iraqi population against it.

    This in response to a poll that showed almost 50% of the troops would not turn in themselves or a friend if they killed a civilian, accidentally or on purpose, as well as a few other disturbing (or not) thoughts from the general military populace.

    In general, the original poll was supposed to be on the general mental health of the military since many had been deployed and ended up pointing to a small problem in Petraeus' counter-insurgency plan: not all of the troops have the right mindset. Many would simply like to kick everyone's butt and come home, but counterinsurgency doesn't work that way.

    What really struck my attention over at Yon's place, compared to the 50 other places I've seen making note of this poll and letter, is the answers from the commenters that I believe shows that the military is truly a cross section of the American populace and we should own up to it instead of trying to determine who supports or doesn't support the troops.

    Read on:

    Fine words from Petreous, but I would question the utility of not only letting pass the Iraqi civilian’s obvious lie about not knowing anything about a 1500 lb bomb buried in front of his doorstep, but even paying him or others for damages resulting when those bombs go off killing our troops.

    Where will the disincentive come from?

    And not allowing our troops a bit opf reading material because ‘it doesn’t belong to them?’

    They are risking their lives for these people!

    Why is this war being fought like a social work intervention?

    They will never respect you or like you. They may as well fear you enough not to participate in killing you.

    Just my opinion.

    Another wrote:

    I don’t understand why it would have been improper to kill the occupants of the two houses that were adjacent to the site of a roadside IED. Those people clearly knew that terrorists had planted a bomb on the road and did nothing to prevent it from being detonated killing 4 U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter. To my untrained mind, they should have been shot on sight. Please explain why I am wrong.

    This is not to point out the caliber of Michael's readers. Simply that it seemed these sorts of comments were more likely than those reasonable ones explaining why we have this message (as if it needed explaining, but...). The point here is that the regular populace doesn't understand counterinsurgency any better than the military average GI Joe.

    That is a problem in both fields.

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    We're Under Construction

    Please excuse the mess. We are currently under construction.

    Please feel free to comment on the layout and over all structure. Feedback will keep me from running out of my basement in nothing but my pajamas and a crazed, caffeine induced look in the eyes.

    Still ruminating on religion in counterinsurgency. There is a very good reason why people shy away from discussing religion or attacking it, even if it is forming a base for a political and violent ideology. It's the same reason my grandmother always said, "Never discuss politics or religion at the dinner table." Or, at parties, or, at any other social gathering where you hope to keep half of the guests from leaving before the appetizers are served.

    Colby Buzzel Wins Prize

    LONDON - A former U.S. machine gunner's irreverent memoir about his year fighting in
    Iraq has won the second annual prize for the best book based on a blog.

    "My War: Killing Time in Iraq," by Colby Buzzell was to receive the $10,000 Blooker prize on Monday, beating out 110 entries from 15 countries.

    U.S. blogging queen Arianna Huffington, a Blooker judge, called Buzzell's book "an unfiltered, often ferocious expression of his boots-on-the-ground view of the Iraq war."

    Buzzell, 31, said he would have never written the book had it not been for the encouragement from readers of the anonymous online journal he started in his free time in a war zone.

    Read the rest.

    I read Buzzell's blog when it was still active. It was some of the most breath taking writing I had read in a long time. Not because it had poetic prose and unbelievably advanced vocabulary, but because it was direct, strident and, despite spelling and grammatical errors, the kind of writing every person wishes they could do: put the reader right there.

    Kudos to Buzzell. He was the first victim of stringent blogging OPSEC that I knew of, probably not the last.

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Wednesday Heroes on Friday

    My bad, again. Things seem to fly by and I am not honoring my committment to honor our heroes every Wednesday. So, we'll make an extra effort today. Double posting about our heroes.

    We still have graphics problems. We'll get them fixed, but don't let it take away from the experience of reading about some great heroes.

    First up, our traditional post:

    Melodye -

    Spc. Josiah H. Vandertulip
    Spc. Josiah H. Vandertulip
    21 years old from Irving, Texas
    2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division
    October 14, 2004

    Louise Vandertulip fussed at her son about his spending. He bought wild, overpriced hats that had flames on them or horns coming out of the top, she said.

    While in Army basic training, he bought portraits of himself. His mother told him to save his money.

    She's glad he didn't listen.

    The hats and the pictures are all a part of her memories now.

    Spc. Josiah H. Vandertulip was killed in Baghdad when his patrol came under small arms fire.

    Josiah Vandertulip joined the Army right after his graduation from Irving High School in 2002. He spent a year in South Korea before being stationed at Texas' Fort Hood in February. Against his mother's advice, he volunteered to go to Iraq. She told him to wait, to go to college.

    "When he was determined to do something in his heart, he would do it and hell or high water couldn't keep him from it," she said

    By going, he knew someone else with a young family could be saved from serving, relatives said.

    He always had the important things right, Louise Vandertulip said.

    "There's a lot of rest in knowing that he died doing what he believed in and doing what he thought was right," she said.

    "We have a much more real sense of the cost for the freedom that we enjoy now," said his father, Robert Vandertulip.

    "Josiah was the first brand new soldiers I recieved as a dismounted team leader in Korea. He was one of the Best soldiers I have had the honor to train and work with. He loved being a soldier as much as any guy I have met. He was a great leader in the absence of his superiors. I could always count on him to make sure the mission was accomplished. I watched him change over the year I had him from a goofy kid, to a hard charging soldier."
    Sgt. Nickolas Faul

    These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
    We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

    This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. To find out more about Wednesay Hero, you can go here.

    From Blackfive Someone You Should Know - PFC Stephen Sanford

    In late November, 2005, during an assault on a house in Mosul, Iraq, filled with terrorists, PFC Stephen Sanford of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, was hit in the leg. The house erupted in rifle fire and grenades. Soldiers were hit and dying on the first floor of the house.

    Though wounded in the leg, Sanford charged back in with his team, laying down suppressive fire while his team mates evacuated the wounded.

    On the second evacuation of wounded, Sanford again (bleeding) kept the terrorists at bay while the wounded were evac'd. While assisting the last wounded soldier out of the house, a terrorist shot the soldier assisting the wounded troop. The soldier dropped to the floor - shot through the neck.

    Sanford ran back and began performing first aid, then CPR trying to keep the soldier alive.

    He received the Distinguished Service Cross. Read the rest and watch the video further down. It's about 28 minutes, but it highlights many heroes from the war on terror.

    Also, from Blackfive, a Silver Star recipient, Maj. Jim Gant

    Al-Qaeda had planned an elaborate running ambush in which they hoped to destroy the unit that had been their nemesis for more than a month. They had prepared three separate ambush sites along a four kilometer stretch of road. Gant and his commandos were forced to run a gauntlet of machinegun fire, mortar attacks and IEDs. The story of Gant’s, fight that day is an amazing tale of heroism, filled with scenes you would expect to see on the silver screen. Gant repeatedly risked his life to save others. The insurgents had planted IEDs hoping that an explosion would force the embattled convoy to stop.

    Gant ordered his driver to drive straight for the first IED. As they rolled within twenty feet, the device detonated. Miraculously, Gant’s HMMWV was unscathed. Gant kept the column moving through a vicious gun battle. Another IED lie only five hundred yards ahead. Again, they went after the planted explosive and, again, a thunderous explosion failed to disable Gant’s vehicle. Almost clear of the ambush, Gant noticed a third IED. He continued to push forward, bringing his convoy safely through the torrent of fire. Had Gant hesitated, good men would have died.

    Speaking about the Iraqi men that he knew and fought with, Maj. Gant said:

    If you knew them as I do, you would not be so quick to want to leave. If you could see with your own eyes the evil that is perpetrated on innocent men, women and children here on a daily basis, you would not be so quick to call it quits.

    Colonel Dhafer, you and brave men like you are the hope and future of your country. I wish I were the hope and future of my country. Because if I were, I would not leave you until this job was done. No matter the sacrifice. No matter the price.


    Centcom brings us a story of another unsung hero, the one that detonates the IEDs that don't wound or kill our men and women; the ones that you never hear about on TV because no one bleeds or dies. Except, sometimes they do and it is but a two sentence at the bottom of a report that lists the dead and wounded of the day.

    Staff Sgt Albietz, Air Force EOD

    Albietz was the leader of an explosives team at Kirkuk Regional Air Base in Iraq, and was tasked with locating and disarming or destroying homemade bombs throughout a 42,000-square-kilometer area. As a result, Albietz was often caught in dangerous situations, with insurgent attacks always looming. In total, he was involved in more than 110 combat missions.

    In one such mission, Albietz and his team were called in to disarm a bomb that was blocking a logistical convoy trying to pass through the area. As the enemy fired from multiple locations, Albietz’s team successfully disabled the bomb.

    That is 110 bombs that did not kill or wound a single soldier or civilian. And, they often did it under fire or direct threat; above and beyond the possibility of losing life and limb from the explosive.

    How about some more "unsung heroes"? You know, the folks that are doing some really hard work in the shadows, beyond the fame and adrenaline of combat, are the engineers and civil affairs folks.

    Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Southern Iraq – Progress Toward Independence

    Dr. Anna Prouse, team leader for the Dhi Qar PRT, said it was challenging at first when no one from the provincial government wanted to meet. She said as time went on, however, the local officials began to trust them and now they are having the Provincial Reconstruction Development Council at least once a week.

    " Iraq is small steps, it's relationships," she said. "If the governor does not believe in me, if the chief of police tries to blow me up every time I get out of that gate, then I will never be able to build anything. So the first months were just, work hard and show them that you really have enthusiasm, and that the whole team really believes in this."

    Prouse has been in Iraq since 2003, so she is very familiar with what success will take and what it will mean for the Iraqis. She spoke about what her current team was doing to help ensure the Iraqis have a better future.

    "'Reconstruction' is sort of [a] misleading word, because I'm not actually here to rebuild," she said. "I'm not here to do the 'brick and mortar' thing. Iraqis can do it, and they probably can do it much better than I. I'm here to build capacity, build this country from the roots, and the roots is the minds, the roots is the education, the health system. Not just put in a clinic, and don't care whether doctors, whether nurses exist, [but] whether they actually know how to maintain a hospital.”

    Since we're on the subject of unsung heroes, don't forget that Friday is Military Spouse Appreciation Day! In that honor, I would like to point you to a great blog run by, you guessed it, military spouses: Spouse Buzz

    They bill themselves thusly:

    SpouseBUZZ is your virtual Family Support Group, where we can celebrate and embrace the tie that binds us all -- military service. This blog exists because of you. We have authors and contributors to keep the conversation going here, but we need you to become an active participant. Submit your comments, questions and suggestions for topics you would like to see our authors address. SpouseBUZZ will make you think, make you laugh and make you cry. Most of all, we hope you feel instantly connected to the thousands of other spouses with whom you share a common experience

    At the milblog conference last week, Sarah from trying to GROK said this about being a military spouse:

    ...I pointed out to my husband something that every servicemember needs to remember when he thinks of his family back home. We’ve never been to Iraq or Afghanistan. We don’t know what it’s like. We imagine the worst, and our mental war zone would probably seem cartoonish to you. But we simply can’t fully grasp what war is like. And while you know when you’re safe or bored or having a slow day, we don’t. Many times you can see danger coming if you have to go on a mission and you can emotionally prepare yourself to let slip the dogs of war; we have to stay emotionally prepared for the entire deployment, never sure of when your mortality is on the line. Your deployment is filled with the ebb and flow of adrenaline; your life is monotonous days punctuated by moments of anxiety or excitement; our adrenaline is always half-on, since every moment that we’re not on the phone with you is a moment when you’re possibly in danger. Such is the life for those on the homefront, those who stand and wait. Such is the life my husband can’t begin to understand, any more than I can really understand his...

    A recent post at Spouse Buzz seems to call to mind exactly what is required of a military spouse: Keeping the Home Fires Burning

    Over the years, hubby and I have worked on stoking those fires extensively, trying many things with many different results. Snap, crackle, pop is not only about Rice Crispies.

    The amount of time hubby and other "Super-Suits" are gone, though present some very unique situations. On the one hand, I appreciate him more than I ever could if he were always home. I am well aware of what I am missing when he is gone, and I'll move Heaven and Earth to make sure coming home is always a good experience for him, and something to look forward to and long for. On the other hand, it's very easy to get caught up in the daily grind of homeschooling four children, keeping my house clean, mowing the back yard, and trying to plan nutritious yet tasty meals that appeal to the Chicken Nugget generation; the end result of this being that sometimes when hubby is gone for a few weeks I forget to shave my legs with any regularity.

    And then, of course, there is also the dreaded and yet somewhat unavoidable irritation at having to focus so much of my work on someone else and occasionally feeling like I wish someone would focus that much attention on me. I have been known, on occasion, to consider advertising for my own wife.

    Yeah, you'll want to read the rest.

    Someone from Soldiers' Angels KC Myspace network sent me this story of an RAF Officer who received the Military Cross. From Soldiers' Angels Europe story of a hero from our allies:

    In one firefight he left the protection of his vehicle and forced his way to the front line without regard for his personal safety. In another attack, the fire he directed from the air was on a Taliban target only 30 metres from his position. But the risk was essential given the ferocious weight of fire coming in, which would otherwise have resulted in significant casualties.

    In a further incident he was part of a force being dropped off by helicopter at night to capture a high-value Taliban leader, but the Chinook pilot had to take off after just 20 seconds with Flt Lt Carter still onboard due to sudden incoming fire.

    Without regard for himself Flt Lt Carter jumped out of the Chinook from 15 ft (4½ metres), landed in a ditch and instantly began directing fire onto Taliban positions. He gallantly and repeatedly risked his life during all contacts with the enemy.

    And he's very handsome, too.

    Since a soldier just returned from Afghanistan sent a message saying that he and his buddies were forgotten, I thought I'd make special mention of some of their deeds:

    Operation Achilles - Break in the Fight

    KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - After spending more than 45 days on-mission, most Paratroopers would be happy with a shower and a few days to rest before regrouping and heading back out to fight the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. The Paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, are no different.

    “It is just great to be able to get a bath, haircut and a shave,” said Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Hall, 1/508th PIR battalion communications chief.

    Catamounts receive awards of valor for endeavors during deployment

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan — Soldiers of 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, were awarded medals of valor by the 3rd Brigade Combat Team commander in ceremonies held at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E and FOB Tillman May 4.

    Army Col. John Nicholson, Task Force Spartan commander, travelled to the TF Catamount area of operations to personally present awards of valor to the Soldiers.

    The Catamounts have worked under 4th BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, since TF Spartan’s extension in Afghanistan. The infantrymen were the only part of the 3rd BCT to remain in the southern sector of Regional Command-East following the extension. The work of 2-87 in the south has been impeccable, a point of pride for Nicholson and subordinate brigade leaders.

    “This battalion has always risen to the occasion in all aspects of the battle,” said Nicholson.

    Awarded during each ceremony were the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, the Purple Heart and the Silver Star for valor.

    “Every one of these medals is significant,” said Nicholson. “They are tangible reminders of the fact that you cared for your country, your duty and your fellow comrades more than you cared for your own life.”

    Catamount Commander Army Lt. Col. Chris Toner accompanied Nicholson and awarded medals to his Soldiers. Toner has led the Catamounts through a very successful rotation in Afghanistan. Even in the face of the brigade’s sudden extension, Toner and his Soldiers remained vigilant and continued to hold the enemy at bay.

    “We have become very familiar with the territory,” said Army Sgt. Shane Ruiz, a team leader for Alpha Co., 2-87 who has received an ARCOM, AAM, Combat Infantry Badge and a Purple Heart. “We have continued to crush the enemy on all fronts. We continue to delay their major operations, surprising them with our knowledge and our force.”

    The battalion will continue to distribute medals to its Soldiers as they return to the states. The paths the Catamounts have blazed have paved the way and set a strong example in the southern sector. Their accomplishments will remain long after their departure.

    And don't miss this story from January about two women medics who have earned the respect of their fellow soldiers and the Afghan Kandak they work with. A little taste:

    In another incident, 3rd Kandak soldiers were ambushed by insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms during a patrol. An ANA general was in the convoy and bravely exposed himself to fire to direct his troops. Stapleton jumped from his Humvee to guard the general as he continued to give orders. Turner drove her Humvee into the firefight with another soldier manning the crew-served weapon in the turret. The ANA respected the medics even more when they saw that Turner was not afraid or hysterical. She didn't hesitate to take care of her brothers in a firefight.

    "The ANA guys treat us like family now," Turner said. "They call us mother and sister."

    Oh, yeah, you'll want to read the rest of this one, too.

    It's a difficult thing for many medics to postpone treating casualties until a firefight is over. But they have been taught that no one is safe, including their patients, until the enemy threat is neutralized. Even the best medical care won't help a casualty if they are subsequently injured in further fighting.

    "If we have to lay hot lead down range and then treat casualties, that's what we do," Ivanov said.

    These are just a few of our heroes. No one tells you about them. They are quiet behind the media lines that only know the names of the dead. But, we at Soldiers' Angels support heroes like this every day. Help us support these heroes and more. Join us at Soldiers' Angels. It doesn't take much but a few words in a letter and a stamp to be a soldiers' hero. Be one.

    PS...Military Spouse Appreciation Day is here. Forgot to something for Home Front Six? You can support the troops and show her or him that you appreciate them with a gift certificate from spa emergency. And don't forget, Mother's Day is Sunday. Give your hero a day at the spa.

    - May no soldier go unloved

    Thursday, May 10, 2007

    We Interrupt this Broadcast: Missing Graphics

    UPDATE 5/9/07:

    According to the server that hosts our graphics, they were updating the programs and re-wrote the entire graphics site. Their message indicates that anyone linked to these graphics will have to re-insert the links.

    If you ever did a website, you might know that this is a rather lengthy process going through all the language behind the scenes. We're going to do it, but it is probably not going to happen until this weekend since I don't have a techy geek living in my basement (and I don't spend much time there myself).

    Please bare with us until we're all pretty again. As noted in the message underneath this update, the content is what is important, right? So, keep scrolling down for great commentary and comment.


    LTC Turner: Iraq Update May 5, 2007

    Soldiers' Angels has "contacts" in Iraq and we have received an update from LTC Turner from the AAFES Military Operations.

    Pictures are included. I think if you read it through, LTC Turner provides an overview of the situation in the area known as the Sunni Triangle through general commentary on conditions at the bases and overflight of particular areas.

    Updates on Events and Meetings

    Soldiers' Angels in the Kansas City/Leavenworth area, the Patriot Guard are confirming a mission Monday, May 14th in Leavenworth for Col. Harrison, late of Ft. Leavenworth, killed Sunday in Afghanistan.

    Current information can be found here along with special messages.

    Those Missouri Angels near Ft. Leanard Wood, a special ceremonial roll call is being held in Waynesville, MO Friday, May 11th. Click here for info and updates.

    Saturday, May 12th, Kansas City Soldiers' Angels will be meeting at American Legion Post 370 for our monthly meeting and to discuss final details for our June 3rd Poker run for the troops: Operation Aces High. We need volunteers so please make sure you join us. When we participate, we show the metro area that this organization is legitimate, dedicated and values our men and women in uniform.

    Don't forget, Mother's Day is almost here. How can you support the troops and give your mother a gift worthy of her trials and tribulations with you? You can Drop and Give Her $20.

    If you're not a member of Soldiers' Angels, you are always welcome. The more Angels the better we are able to support the troops. And don't forget, if you're not a member of Soldiers' Angels, you are always welcome. The more Angels the better we are able to support the troops. Over 35,000 more troops are being called up for Iraq and 4500 in Afghanistan. We need to pull together. We need the help of all of our citizens who believe that serving your nation is an honor and serving those who serve deserves our support.

    Soldier Down - Kick Stands Up: PGR Missions Confirmed

    John at Castle Arrggh! linked to the story of two soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan on Sunday by a loan gunman in uniform. Reports indicate the Afghani was dressed as an Afghan Soldier, but a message in Angel forums from a soldier in the unit indicates that he might have been dressed as a Afghan police officer.

    Thanks Tammy,
    I love poems like those, they always bring a little Tear to my eyes.

    Its been a little tough here the past couple days, we lost A couple guys from here Sunday. We had a memorial service for Them on Tuesday, I knew one of them, not close but still, when You walk up to their picture and salute them, its heart breaking..
    It was a senseless shooting, two guys killed two wounded, some frigging clown dressed up as a police officer.

    Well we go on, and deal with it,

    The Patriot Guard Riders are confirming the mission for Monday, May 14th in Leavenworth for Col. Harrison. Additional information will be updated here when it is received. Stand-by for details.

    A special message was posted in the PGR Forums for the family and in rememberance of Col. Harrison:

    To the family of COL James W. Harrison Jr. We have mourned the loss of this great leader who has served his country with honor and was well respected amongst his fellow soldiers. COL Harrison - I have been honored to serve as your Executive officer of the 5th Military Police Battalion CID for a year and half from 1999-2000 in Kasierslautern, Germany. Your superb leadership was well respected by the entire Battalion as well as the 202d Military Police Group CID. Thanks for your continued frienship over the past eight years. As my mentor, I thank you for all that you and your family have done for my family and myself. You were loved and well respected by the Hunt family and we have been honored to again serve with you here at Fort Leavenworth. Our families were close friends and we enjoyed the dinners at your house. When we heard the news our family was shocked and we immedately went to your house to comfort your family. My kids (all 8) made cards for your wife and boys and we sent over some pictures of my promotion ceremony that you participated in last fall. It has been very difficult for all of us who knew you well and were close to you. Our country has lost a great leader who was well loved and repected by his troops. I understand how hard it was to pull your retirement paper work and take this job in Afghanistan. You have sacrificed your life for our great nation. You will not be forgotten and you will always be remembered. I have your picture with myself and my wife at my promotion ceremony in my office at work. I was honored to have you participate in my promotion ceremony (Pictures enclosed). It will hang in my office always, where ever the Army takes me. You will be missed - my mentor, my friend. Our thoughts and prayers will always be with the Harrison family who have supported thier husband and father throughout his military career. May God bless you with his eternal peace always!

    Hans F. Hunt
    Lieutenant Colonel, Military Police
    (Patriot Guard Member)

    All Angels, military, PGR and troop supporters stand by.

    MSgt Will Sabulu

    There will be a Memorial Service/Military Roll Call for Master Sgt. Wilberto Sabalu Friday May, 11th at 11am at Soldiers Chapel on Fort Leonard Wood.

    The PGR has been invited and we, will provide a flag line for this service. Also MSG Sabalu is scheduled to arrive at Ft Wood sometime on Saturday. So final arrangements have not been set. Keep reading this thread, I will update it as information is available..

    Joe Smith
    Sen Mo Ride Capt

    Update on the Ride Mission for his funeral has not been provided. Stand-by for details.

    Special messages in the forums:

    Wil was a friend of mine and was a member of our Family, Freedom Of Road Riders. He was loved by all that knew him, with his positive outlook on everything and his enduring smile. Wil volunteered to go over to Afghanistan, because he felt as a soldier, that he needed to serve in this conflict against terrorism. He was due to come home to us in three weeks.

    Wil, I thank you for your service, for your ultimate sacrifice to preserve my freedoms, and I weep at your loss, our Chilly Willy

    From Keith at Post 1

    To the members of the PGR,
    I would like to thank everybody for their heartfelt wishes and condolences for MSG Sabalu. I have known Wil for several years now as his supervisor, fellow NCO and friend and I can honestly say that he was one of the most honest, hardworking and trustworthy men I have known. He was not only well liked by his soldiers and peers but also his supervisors. He was the NCO that people knew that they could count on to not only get the job done but get it done properly. Amy, I know that the upcoming times are going to be extremely rough but if there is anything that I can do please let me know. I have spoken to several members from the DB and they have all expressed their sorrow at losing Wil. The 31E's will not be the same for having lost such a great person.

    SFC Collier, Keith (RET)