Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy - Keith Olbermann is an Idiot

And so is John Stoltz from VoteVets. Keith floats the worst conspiracies to date:

Hat Tip: Hot Air and Ace of Spades

Links to original CID report released by the United States Army under the FOIA and a brief outline of the incident can be found here: Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy

An in depth review of the trajectory of rounds, location photos and diagrams along with an outline of further interviews can be found here: Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy - Trajectory

During the above Olbermann crap shoot, he emphatically states that an M16 made the rounds. This is a total fabrication based on somebody at the APs limited knowledge of military firearms and interviews with the two MEs who performed the autopsy. At no time does anyone state what type of weapon was used. In fact, the MEs go out of their way to explain in the investigation that they can't know that. They can only know that the wounds are consistent with a 5.56mm or 7.62mm round. There are no fragments or complete bullets to perform ballistic tests on since the rounds exited Tillman's head and removed part of his skull in the process.

The Rangers were carrying a multitude of weapons. The base weapon for this Ranger platoon was an M4 firing a 5.56mm round (in fact, during the reading of investigation, I did not see one notation of an M16; unless Olbermann can claim to know that the M4 is a modified version of the M16, made shorter and lighter by stock and barrel configurations; but I doubt that since he called it an M16). The squad leader in the first HMMVW to exit the wadi or canyon said he fired six (6) rounds (two 3 round bursts) definitely striking and killing the AMF (Afghan Military Forces) that was just in front of and to the right of Tillman's position. He knows this because he was looking through his scope when he did it and positively identified the uniform the AMF was wearing when he was killed. (see trajectory)

A gunner on that same HMMVW was firing an M240b (SAW) using a 7.62mm round. He said he oriented off of his squad leader and the muzzle flashes from Tillman's position, thinking it was the enemy, and fired two (2) bursts of ten(10) rounds into that position. A second gunner on that same vehicle was firing a M249 using a 5.56mm round. He said he also oriented to where the others were firing and placed at least three (3) bursts of five (5) rounds into that position. The diagram on "Trajectory" indicates that at least twenty two (22) rounds impacted the rock directly to the right of Tillman; the rock that O'Neal was behind praying (see diagram Trajectory). This rock shows twenty two (22) impact points in extremely close groupings. Up to ten rounds struck Tillman, including three to the forehead, at least one struck a flash bang in a pouch at the front of his vest (causing a fragmentation wound in his right arm), multiple strikes to the magazines he was carrying, his armor plate was "shattered" and one strike to his flashlight.

The problem with the conspiracy of murder based on only three wounds in Tillman's head is that Tillman was shot multiple times, not just three. All of this is available if anyone simply read the reports instead of going off of sensationalist half reporting by the AP.

Olbermann and Stoltz float the idea that it was murder or negligent murder by someone shooting Tillman from 30 feet or less or even an "accidental discharge" at close range (an idea floated by Uncle J at Blackfive and quickly retracted). Both MEs refute the "accidental discharge at close range" through their testimony (see "Trajectory" and original CID investigation page 119):

Q: During the conduct of this investigation, there are some questions as to the distance in which Cpl Tillman was struck. Can you determine the approximate distance the shooter had to be from Cpl Tillman for him to sustain such injuries?
A: No. But it was not within a few feet. It was not a contact wound or associated with close range discharge of a weapon. When I say "close range" I am referring to withing four to five feet.
Q: Based on your observations, can you eliminate the injuries sustained by Cpl Tillman as close range?
A: Yes.
Q: What about an intermediate wound...5 - 10ft?
A: We don't use such terms in this office. If there was stippling or soot, it may have been within 5ft, but I cannot be sure of distance in this case. These are indeterminate distance gun shot wounds, however, they are not close or contact wounds.

Another problem is the assumption that all three rounds struck Tillman at or very near the same time. The ME makes an elementary mistake, in my opinion. He notes that one of the wounds has a contusion around it. He believes this is from Tillman falling and striking his head at the time of death. The other two wounds do not have a hematoma. The hematoma surrounding the first wound may have been from the natural reaction of the body to direct blood to the affected area. This is a medical fact that wounds received prior to or peri-mortem (at the time of death) form such markings. Wounds received after death do not because the brain is no longer functioning to make such a direction. Based on Tillman's position after he was shot, it is possible that he received the other two wounds post mortem. O'Neal, who was with Tillman at the time of the shooting as well as those at the scene directly after, indicate that Tillman's body was originally lying flat on his back on an incline of about 45 degrees based on the diagrams. This would have kept his body in a position to continue receiving rounds.

There are many other issues with this conspiracy theory, particularly any idea that the President or anyone else conspired to kill Tillman for his political beliefs or any other bogus claims. The biggest issue here is that the nineteen remaining men of Tillman's platoon, including Tillman's brother Kevin who was in section 2 in the canyon being attacked by the enemy, would have to consistently lie over three years about the circumstances that led to his death. All while simultaneously admitting to the shooting. It would have been much easier to claim that he was killed by enemy action and left it at that.

Not to mention the twenty men from 3rd Platoon, the twenty men from 1st Platoon, unknown numbers involved in the search, capture and interrogation of captured ambushers from that day, command, numerous people from the Combat Hospital that received Tillman's body and on and on and on. It defies logic.

In short, Keith Olbermann is an Idiot with a capital "I". This is not journalism. This is Tabloid TV. There is definitely no integrity or credibility left at MSNBC after this fiasco. John Stoltz may be a veteran of the Iraq war, but he is no forensic scientist, pathologist or criminologist. I admit, neither am I, but I can at least claim to have read the reports.

Don't look for either of these two to do that. It would mean they would have to confront reality and I simply don't believe that is in the works.

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part III - Cycle of Disinformation

Monday, July 30, 2007

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy - The Press At It's Best

Reviewing the PDF file of the CID investigation March 2006, I came across a statement that I am sure no one in the media is going to tell people regarding how they operate. Page 424:

About 1330, 24, May 2006, SA [redacted] interviewed [redacted] HQ 2/75th Ranger Regiment, Ft Lewis, WA 98433, [redacted] indicated he would not provide another statement, as he had already provided a total of four, to include two sworn statements detailing his knowledge of the events that lead to the death of Cpl Tillman and conduct of his initial 15-6 investigation pertaining to the matter. [Redacted] further stated that he and his wife are constantly being harassed by reporters affiliated with the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post and ESPN media agencies. [Redacted] related that he and his wife have been threatened by the aforementioned agencies, in which they stated that they would print his name and attempt to tie him to some type of DOD cover up as it pertains to this investigation.

This is the part where the media begins to interfere with an investigation. By threatening those involved in the case, they effectively ended any cooperation of this individual. Further, they were manufacturing parties to a conspiracy that may or may not have existed.

I haven't googled yet to see if they did as they threatened. Of course, had they done so, it would have been libel. Obviously, somebody has some idea of the exact limits though they obviously don't mind threatening people with exposure to get their story.

Imagine if a government agency or police had made such a threat. The media would be grilling them over some hot coals.

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part I - How it Begins

Part II: Conspiracy and Death-Trajectory [Update on this post: additional information on position of O'Neal and Tillman; better explanation of trajectory and wounds]

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part II - Trajectory

Welcome Protein Wisdom and Blackfive visitors

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part I - How it Begins

Looking around the internet, one of the main questions continues to circle around the three wounds that Pat Tillman received to his "forehead" as indicated by the ME. His report and interview also indicates that the three wounds were within a 2" to 3" grouping.

Most of the internet questions seem to be generated from the idea that there was one shooter. Also, from the perceived wisdom that a fully automatic weapon could not place three rounds in a limited area. Finally, that the movement of a body, either from already being in motion (ie, walking, running, standing up or sitting down) or put in motion from a GSW is looked at as effectively canceling the ability of a shooter from placing rounds into the same location. One commenter said that, if he could know the number of shots fired in a general location, the probability of more than one round striking the same target could increase.

The first question cannot be full answered as the rounds that actually killed Tillman are not available for ballistic testing nor can be evaluated to see if they are even different calibers. Keeping in mind that this was a battle scene in hostile territory, that forensic scientists for such battle field analysis are not immediately available to secure a location and search (as one would expect in a civilian setting) and that the wounds were such that the bullets nor fragments were contained within the cranial cavity, it should not be surprising that the question remains unanswered except for the inconclusive testimony of those involved. Although, the CID did review the death site and was able to evaluate the trajectory of the incoming rounds based on the impact to the surrounding area.

The remaining questions are also best answered by the examination of the "kill zone" that was conducted by several groups including the final CID in March 2006. The following images are low grade black and white images from the PDF files provided by the FOIA. These are found here, pages 193 and 194. I have enhanced one of the photographs by simply adding color indicators where the black and white indicators were on the originals (which can be viewed at the above link; click images to enlarge).

In this photo, the "D" marks where "Thanos", the AMF attached to Tillman's fire team, was located at his death, head pointing down hill. The red pin points indicate small arms impact points on the rock just to the right and in front of Tillman's final position indicated by the "A". Note the tight grouping of rounds that impacted the rock. This would indicate that the shooter or shooters had the position "dialed in" and had excellent weapons control. There are twenty two (22) impact points on the rock, not including the wounds on both "Thanos" and Tillman. Tillman received between four and 10 rounds directly. The final number is unknown due to the unavailability of his body armor and MOLLE for examination. This number is based on the fragment wounds he received in his upper extremities from the damaged flash bang and the eyewitness that had examined Tillman's MOLLE and body armor at the base before it was destroyed as well as the three known wounds to his head. Besides at least one round in the flash bang and three in the forehead, the eyewitness believes he saw up to seven (7) rounds in Tillman's body armor. The front plate was "shattered" (pages 147-152).

Of particular interest should be the ground around this rock and the rock to left (right in the photo) with the black cross. This ground is raised behind the rock indicating that it gave minimal cover. O'Neal was lying prone behind the rock. Tillman was found in a "sitting" position, his legs straight out in front of him, torso leaning against the rock with the "X" and head slumped forward.

Based on the limited cover and Tillman's position, it is unlikely he was kneeling or standing at the time he was killed. He was most likely lying prone between the two rocks and then sat up to throw the smoke grenade when he was shot. Again, review of injuries and known equipment indicates that he received multiple rounds, possibly "walked" into his final position. Other rounds impacted a flash bang he was carrying on his MOLLE, the MOLLE itself (worn on the upper body over the "vest" or body armor) and his "forehead". The rock behind him most likely maintained his upright position as he was struck. [update: according to O'Neal's interview(page 428), they received fire for under a minute in sparse cover; Tillman decided to "puff smoke"; firing ceased for a few moments; both determined the danger was over and stood up; they waved their hands trying to indicate they were "friendlies"; firing resumed; both dropped prone on the ground, O'Neal behind the rock and Tillman beside him (possibly laying on his back on the incline beside the rock making more sense of the diagram)[update to the update: O'Neal later says that the last time he saw Tillman alive, he was on one knee]; O'Neal and Tillman exchanged a few words, O'Neal said he was praying, O'Neal believes Tillman was injured at that time; then Tillman allegedly yelled, "What are firing at?! I am Pat *expletive* Tillman!" and then O'Neal heard nothing; he thought he heard running water and asked Tillman if he had "urinated" on himself; he received no response; the firing had ceased; he looked over and saw blood running from under Tillman's head; he grabbed Tillman by his armor and pulled him up (probably why the sergeant found him in a half sitting position with his head slumped over)] Eyewitness indicate that there was circular blood splatter on that rock behind Tillman's head which would support the proposition that he was sitting in an upright position in front of the rock when he was killed. [update: this is probably still true; very likely Tillman raised his torso up off the ground in a slight reclining position while he was yelling [update to the update: O'Neal later says that the last time he saw Tillman alive, he was on one knee]; possibility that he was only struck with one round in the head in that position and additional rounds as he lay dead accounting for close grouping of wounds; the proposition that he was a "stationary" target still holds; looking at the diagram and trajectory lines, this makes even more sense].

These images are not to scale. In other words, you cannot tell how far away the shooter was, nor how high or low in comparison to the position. This image shows Tillman, "Thanos" and O'Neals position looking out to the shooters' position(s). "A" indicates Tillman's final position. "D" indicates "Thanos" position. "C" indicates O'Neal's position. "B" indicates the approximate location of the "small arms fire". The blue lines are the approximate trajectory and the orange outlines are the approximate outlines of the two rocks bracketing Tillman's team's position.

According to the SAW operator, he was scanning the 9 O'clock position when one of his team members yelled, "contact" at 3' O'clock. One or more of his team members performing dismounted security, began firing towards a position on the hill where he believes he saw an Afghani male "Paralleling" the GMV. The SAW operator said that he spun his weapon around and shot two "ten round" bursts into the area to provide "suppressive fire". He believes he was between 200 and 300 meters from his target. CID and previous investigations indicate the position was approximately 200 meters from Tillman's position.

Specifications of the M240B (Squad Automatic Weapon)

According to Field Mannual 3-22-68, the M240B can provide "suppressive" fire up to 1,800 meters; has an effective range of 1,100 meters while mounted on a tripod, 800 meters on a bipod; and "point" (aim/directly on target) 800 meters Tripod, 600 meters bipod. It can fire "sustained" 100 rounds per minute with 6-9 round bursts, 4 to 5 seconds between bursts.

Update: The squad leader in the first HMMVW to exit the wadi or canyon said he fired six (6) rounds (two 3 round bursts) definitely striking and killing the AMF (Afghan Military Forces) that was just in front of and to the right of Tillman's position. He knows this because he was looking through his scope when he did it and positively identified the uniform the AMF was wearing when he was killed. (see trajectory)

A gunner on that same HMMVW was firing an M240b (SAW) using a 7.62mm round. He said he oriented off of his squad leader and the muzzle flashes from Tillman's position, thinking it was the enemy, and fired two (2) bursts of ten(10) rounds into that position. A second gunner on that same vehicle was firing a M249 using a 5.56mm round. He said he also oriented to where the others were firing and placed at least three (3) bursts of five (5) rounds into that position.

In other words, there were so many shooters and rounds going into that position, it would be impossible to know which of the three shooters or weapons actually made the wounds. However, the number of rounds certainly indicates

Conspiracy From Supposition

According to the ME who examined Tillman's remains, he could not verify the distance from which Tillman was shot based on the wounds. He did state that there was no stippling or gun powder residue that would indicate that Tillman was shot from less than 5ft.

It was this statement that was inaccurately reported by most news organizations, including FOX news, working from an AP report.

In the same testimony, medical examiners said the bullet holes in Tillman's head were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

Not only did they extrapolate the number of yards, but the type of weapon possibly used. Two medical examiners interviewed indicated that they could not tell the weapon used, only approximate the round because there were no fragments or other materials to examine to determine the actual size of the round or the weapon.

Page 118, Questions to Medical Examiner 2:

Q: Do you believe all entrance wounds were from the front of Cpl Tillman's head?
A: Yes
Q: In your opinion, could small caliber rounds such as the .223/5.56 or 7.62 have caused the defect in Cpl Tillman's head?
A: Yes. The size, characteristics, beveling of the skull, the impact points are more rounded instead of slit like as is on the rear of his head, all of the characteristics were consistent with what I saw during the autopsy of Cpl Tillman.

At no time does the ME indicate what type of weapon used. He only indicates that a small range of calibers could have made the wounds. The M240B fires a 7.62mm round.

The questioning continues regarding distance (Page 119):

Q: During the conduct of this investigation, there are some questions as to the distance in which Cpl Tillman was struck. Can you determine the approximate distance the shooter had to be from Cpl Tillman for him to sustain such injuries?
A: No. But it was not within a few feet. It was not a contact wound or associated with close range discharge of a weapon. When I say "close range" I am referring to withing four to five feet.
Q: Based on your observations, can you eliminate the injuries sustained by Cpl Tillman as close range?
A: Yes.
Q: What about an intermediate wound...5 - 10ft?
A: We don't use such terms in this office. If there was stippling or soot, it may have been within 5ft, but I cannot be sure of distance in this case. These are indeterminate distance gun shot wounds, however, they are not close or contact wounds.

Similarly, on page 27, the investigator asks the same questions, the physician replies that there is no way to tell the exact distance. He believes it was from more than 5ft away because there is no stippling or residue. He does make this statement:

"I cannot give you an exact distance, but I have heard several theories such as .50 weapon was used, or Cpl Tillman was shot from a moving vehicle, or he was shot from 85 meters or further. In my opinion, none of these theories were the case. In my opinion, Cpl Tillman was have been shot from much closer range than 85 meters"

It is the investigator that suggests the range to be 5-10ft away, not the medical examiner. Both Examiners said that they could only say that it was not less than 5ft. There was no evidence or any known way to extrapolate the distance based on the available information and Tillman's condition. At no time do either ME posit a theory on the type of weapon, only the caliber. The AP extrapolates the "M16" based on the purported caliber and their limited knowledge of army weapons.

That report is completely inaccurate and has added to the conspiracy theories already abounding.

The ME does question the grouping and distance provided by eye witnesses because he has never seen three such wounds in such a tight grouping from such as the distance indicated by the shooters and physical report of their location (200 meters). However, he does not present any factual information on which to base this opinion beyond the close grouping. This also seems to work on the theory that there was only one shooter putting rounds into Tillman's position.

The images indicating the number of rounds placed in Tillman's position (between 25 and 40), Tillman's body being held upright and stationary as he was struck, the expertise and ability of the shooter coupled with the M240B's "point range" indicates that it is possible. Update: Not to mention the the squad leader's M4 or the other gunners M249.

The Multitude of Conspiracies

There are a multitude of conspiracies, supposition and misleading stories out there. all of which contribute to the general feeling of the public that somebody is not telling the truth. In today's culture, no proof need to be attached to that "feeling" to make it a lasting damage to people and our society.

I will continue to address known conspiracy theories and inaccurate reports as I find them. The next issue: How facts and bizarre coincidence collides to make a conspiracy.

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part I - How it Begins

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy - The Press at it's Best

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part III - Cycle of Disinformation

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part IV - Withholding Information

Barrage of Fire (one of the few media reports that gets it right - printed in 2004 after initial investigation)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy

Welcome Protein Wisdom and Blackfive visitors

A commenter at Blackfive left a link to the last investigation into Pat Tillman's death by the United States Army. Once can only speculate as to why the media has yet to read this entire document and put a more definitive story out, at least regarding the testimony, instead of dropping little pieces of the interviews and investigation like stinking cow patties in the barnyard. Apparently, no one can be bothered to read the entire investigation documents and watch the videos which can be found here: US Army Criminal Investigation Command Report of Investigation Regarding
Cpl Patrick Tillman huge PDF File, 2nd huge PDF File and Video. All names are redacted, though some of the information is probably available by simple googling.

You will not learn the shooters name. The video is not explosive. It is simply long views of the same location from different directions with similar lighting as experienced on the evening of April 22, 2004 when Cpl Pat Tillman was killed in a friendly fire accident. I say that very confidently even though I have only read approximately 100 pages (six interviews of those involved in the shooting, various maps and diagrams). The reader, of course, should always be willing to draw their own conclusions. So far, the complete story appears like this:

On the morning of April 22, 2004 2/75th Ranger (2nd Platoon of the 75th Rangers) was tasked to go to Tit[update: not Manah; manah is where they stop for the broken GMV], Afghanistan near the Pakistan Border to clear the village. So far in the interviews, including an officer at the TOC (Tactical Command), no one knows exactly what they were looking for at the village besides clearing it. No one knows of any specific intelligence that indicates a High Value Target or targets. It may have, in fact, been a simple clearing mission [update: intelligence indicated possible 100 fighters crossing the Pakistan border to attack BCPs - border crossing points- manned by AMF; the town of Tit, AF either had a leader, coordinating persons or possible rest stop for fighters].

The platoon was being led by a ranger who had been previously deployed in Iraq for the invasion. He believes that he was well trained, but admits that his actual combat experience was limited. He says that it amounts to having a few rounds fired in his direction and a grenade land nearby.

On or about 10 AM, one of the HMMVWW broke down. The PLT (Platoon) proceeded together for a few more hours towing the broken vehicle. However, the vehicle was in such bad shape that the steering mechanism no longer worked. Unable to steer the very heavy vehicle made the vehicle towing it dangerous to maneuver as well. The Platoon stopped in another village and called the TOC advising them that they could not continue towing the vehicle. The PLT leader asks to have a "sling load" (helicopter with a lifting device) or tow truck come in to remove the vehicle. TOC informs him that it would take 2 days to get the sling load up to them and that a tow vehicle could not leave the "flat top" (nearby hardened road) to retrieve the vehicle. TOC tells the PLT leader that he will have to bring the vehicle to the flat top and the tow will take it from there.

The PLT leader gives the TOC three options on how he can accomplish that mission:

1) He can split the platoon in two, sending half with the vehicle and half to the objective
2) The entire platoon can accompany the vehicle to the flat top and then continue to the objective
3) The entire platoon and towed vehicle will continue to the objective.

At sometime during this discussion, a local Afghan man approaches and says that he has a "jingha" truck (highly decorated cargo Afghan cargo trucks) that he will use to tow the vehicle for a price. [if any of this is starting to sound like a bad movie, you aren't alone; Custer comes to mind sans overwhelming force of Indians] It is unclear why the PLT leader suggests option one since he and many in his platoon indicate that option 1, splitting the platoon, is a rare action. Yet, the officer from the TOC reminds everyone that much smaller elements, down to squad size, have performed many missions. The officer at the TOC confers with the Bn Cdr (Battalion Commander) who gives the go ahead to split the platoon with half of the platoon accompanying the broken down vehicle (from here forward refered to as "serial 2"). The PLT leader verifies twice this is the action that they are to take both verbally and electronic mail.

Multiple failures as well as simple bad luck begins to effect the platoon as soon as this decision is made. No one checks the "comms" or communications. Serial 1 (the section that Cpl Pat Tillman is with), the half of the PLT that is moving to the objective, has the PLT Leader and a Sattelite Radio. Serial 2, accompanying the towed vehicle, may or may not have such a radio. Upon discussion with the TOC regarding this condition, the TOC tells the PLT leader that, yes, in fact, Serial 2 does have such a radio because they have the commander's HMMVW. Based on the interviews, no one actually checked to see if that was so and if the radios communicated. In other words, no "comm check" before the elements split up.

The leaders of the two groups confer over a map discussing the route to the "hard top" where they will meet with the unit that will tow the broken vehicle back to base. The decide what route that serial 1 will take to the objective. The discuss what route the serial 2 will use to join up with the serial 1 after dropping the vehicle. They depart with the jingha truck driver towing the vehicle.

During this adventure, both serial 1 and serial 2 change routes in progress. The jingha truck driver tells the leader of serial 2 that the path they chose was too steep and his truck would not be able to make it towing the HMMVW. Serial 2 contacts the TOC and tells them they are changing route. No one contacts Serial 1. During the movement to the objective, the PLT leader with serial 1 makes a navigational mistake and turns his group heading back towards the route that Serial 2 is now on.

Serial 2's route has set them up for a classic ambush. The wadi or canyon is approximately 10 meters or 30 feet wide (approximately the width of the average ranch style family home). The walls are steep and the direction of the setting sun prevents easy identification of enemy positions above them on the ridgeline. Several RPGs [update: further review indicates mortars] are fired at their position. None make contact with the vehicles in the convoy. Men tumble out of the vehicles and seek cover, looking for the enemy, but the steep walls and lighting prevent positive identification.

IN the meantime, the element Pat Tillman was with, serial 1, hears the explosions from the RPGs and turns to find out what is happening. They dismount and move to positions. The PLT leader can hear serial 2 but can't communicate. The communications he does hear are confusing. He directs his section towards the estimated position of Serial 2.

Leader of Serial 2 realizes they are in a bad position and orders his men to "drive out" of the ambush. This includes some men driving vehicles and others dismounted going through the canyon. No one in Serial 2 can see the ambushers. They only see the explosions and hear the gun fire.

[This graphic has been updated to show the correct orientation of the death scene with serial 2 traveling east and Tillman's position to the north pg 1210]

Serial 1 sees enemy forces silhouettes up on the ridge line above the wadi and sets up firing positions along a second escarpment opposite of the wadi and near the mouth where the road serial 2 is on turns in front of serial 1's position. Three members of Serial 1 take positions part way up the hill behind a berm. Pat Tillman, O'neal and an Afghani military force (AMF) take a position on a small spur on the rise behind some large rocks. The PLT leader and another unnamed member take position at the corner of a house on the rise. Other members are equally spread out. They begin firing at the enemy on the ridge.

Serial 2 begins driving out of the wadi. The first HMMVW sees what they believe is enemy forces now on the other side of them and begin firing into those positions. The PLT leader and the man with him take fire and attempt to move to the other side of the house. The second man has a radio and is trying to contact TOC to alert them to their position. The PLT leader is hit in the face by a piece of shrapnel from a round that strikes the house and the radio man is also struck. Neither of them can see what is happening after that.

The M240B (which fires a 5.52 round; important fact to the investigation [uptade: per Capt. JM Heinrichs, the M240B fires 7.62mm round. The ME reports either 5.52mm or 7.62 at high velocity made the wounds]) operator on the back of the first HMMVW in serial 2 exiting the wadi sees an Afghan man with an AK-47, camouflage pants, a purple jacket and a beard on the opposite rise and begins firing. This is the AMF that is in Pat Tillman's position. The AMF is firing into enemy positions on the opposite ridge above serial 2's exit. The M240B gunner affirms later that he is the one that fired at the AMF [update: squad leader in GMV says he uses optics and fires at least six shots at the same man]. O'neal, who was with Tillman, states that they were receiving fire from serial 2. At the same time, the men behind the berm and down from Tillman's position are receiving "walking" fire and one of them gets out a pen gun flare to signal serial 2 that they are "friendlies". Tillman and O'neal have a brief discussion which may or may not have included profanities. Tillman decides to puff smoke to alert serial 2 that they are friendlies.

[This section updated with O'neal's testimony from Page 428] Tillman rises out of his position to throw the smoke grenade, firing pauses for a moment (this is because GMV1 has reoriented fire on the house). Tillman and O'Neal stand up and exchange a few words thinking the danger has passed. They begin receiving fire again. The AMF is killed. O'Neal drops prone on the ground after receiving ricochet fragments and rounds into his RBA (Ranger Body Armor) and striking a magazine on his vest. Tillman also drops to the ground in a prone position on his back. (O'Neal says he believes Tillman was wounded at this time; Tillman had a wound in his left forearm; fragments retrieved were later found consistent with a damaged flashbang in his vest). Tillman is laying on an incline of approximately 45 degrees (see Trajectory). Tillman raises his http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.bold.gif
insert bold tagsTorso from the ground and yells, "What are you shooting at?! I'm Pat F***ing Tillman. Several rounds strike the rock to his front right sending pieces of rock into his clothes, face and arms. One round pierces his flashlight on his M4 exiting and smashing the top, right corner of his SAPI. Three rounds penetrate his head in a close grouping. O'Neal thought he heard running water and asked Tillman if he had "p*****d" himself. He received no response. The firing had ceased. He looked over and saw blood running from under Tillman's head. He grabbed Tillman by his armor and pulled him up (probably why the sergeant found him in a half sitting position with his head slumped over).

A member of serial 2 states that he saw the smoke and believed that one of his unit was trying to lay down cover for maneuvering so he also threw smoke. At that time, someone from serial 1 (Tillman's section) was yelling, "Cease fire!" The squad leader from serial 2 also began to yell, "Cease fire!"

All fire ceases. The entire fire fight has lasted less than 5 minutes [update: this is an estimation based on the details. no one offers up a time line yet]. A member of serial 2 begins checking the situation. He hears someone yelling that they have casualties. When he reaches Tillman's position, he finds the AMF laying with his head pointed down hill. Tillman is in a sitting position with his legs in front of him. He is slumped forward with his torso leaning against a rock that was partially to the rear and left of his position. According to this member statements, he found O'neal holding on to Tillman's arm and possibly trying to talk to him. He states he could see that Tillman's "head was missing". [based on later statements and the ME report, a large portion of the back of Tillman's skull was missing when his body arrived at Dover]. He states that O'neal said, "Your guys shot him. One of your guys shot him!" He told O'neal to get his weapon and secure the position.

A member of serial 2 arrived on the scene, discovering that Tillman was dead and conferred with the remaining member of Serial 1, both indicating that they felt this was probably fratricide.

PLT leader with Serial 1 retrieved the radio and called in the situation to TOC. He called in a nine line requesting medevac for himself and his radio man. He was told that there were two friendlies KIA by the squad leader. He called back to TOC and requested a second medevac for the KIA.

TOC informs 1st Platoon and 3rd Platoon of the situation and they move out to make contact with 2nd Platoon.

Two body bags were brought up and Tillman and the AMF were placed inside along with whatever gear and personal effects could be found in the immediate vicinity. The wounded and the KIA were medevac'd separately to the FOB.

3rd Platoon arrived and took control of the security. Several members of 2PLT indicate they believe this was a friendly fire incident. Because it is dark, 3PLT leader decides to secure the area and wait for morning. Everyone beds down for the night. The next morning, 3PLT leader called together the remaining members of 2 PLT to discuss what had happened. They concurred that it was a friendly fire incident. 3PLT leader walked to the different locations indicated by 2PLT and took pictures of the area and looking out towards the positions involved. He sends a squad to the ridge line above the wadi where Serial 2 believes they were being fired on from the enemy and where serial 1 says they saw silhouettes and muzzle flashes. No one can find any trace of the enemy.

After arriving at Tillman's position and taking pictures, he finds part of Tillman's missing skull and places it in an Ammo can to be sent back to the FOB and eventually catch up with Tillman's remains. [this is not just a gruesome detail; but central to the investigation and concerns of conspiracy to cover up]. 3PLT leader calls TOC and notifies them that he believes this was a case of fratricide and requests an investigation be opened.

It is the morning of April 23, 2004.

Part II: Is there a conspiracy?

There are several problems that arise during the fire fight and after that seem contradictory or abnormal. Most of which have explanations that simply do not fit expectations of a criminal investigation, though, that alone does not implicate them in a conspiracy.

The story of Pat Tillman's death resulting from enemy fire was not due to an original conspiracy to cover it up, but appears to be the result of time, space and communications. As far as the TOC knew the night of April 22, 2004, 2nd Platoon had come into contact with the enemy and it had resulted in two wounded and two KIA. 2PLT leader was injured and medevaced but had no idea that his platoon members or 3PLT believed that there was fratricide.

It was this first report that began to filter up and out. It's continuation for several days appears to be simply the result of time and distance.

In the next piece, I'll discuss the other issues that have been contrived into a conspiracy to cover up Pat Tillman's cause of death. It should be remembered, as we go forward, that Tillman's family was told by his best friend that Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident while the command indicated that they were still investigating the incident.

However, based on the first part of the investigation and subsequent testimony regarding that evening, it seems safe to declare that there was no known conspiracy to kill Cpl Pat Tillman. His death was a matter of existential circumstances and possible inexperienced leaders and members of his platoon.

One thing is certain, the media and many others could have taken a little time to read the investigation and providing better information than throwing out pieces and statements to sensationalize what is already a fairly sensational story.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story...

Part II: Conspiracy and Death-Trajectory

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy - The Press at it's Best

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part III - Cycle of Disinformation

Pat Tillman: Death and Conspiracy Part IV - Withholding Information

Cross posted at the Castle

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Going Off the Reservation: Beauchamp and Tillman

One thing that I've learned about blogging, even in a community of like minded bloggers, you are likely to find something that you disagree about. Sometimes rather vehemently.

Recently, both the Mudville Gazette and Blackfive indicated that they were backing off the Beauchamp story, virtually suggesting that their readers do so as well. Though, the end of Blackfive indicated that the TNR part of this story might still be of interest. While I understand their concerns, I disagree that it should just disappear. Not because we need to investigate and find out every truth or fiction involved in his stories, but because The New Republic represents what is wrong with the media today. Not simply the question of ideology or political narrative guiding editorial decisions, but the extremely poor editorial decisions that are leading to the loss of readers and revenue. In short: the media in decline.

Where I really leave the reservation is Blackfive's Uncle Jimbo and Kev speculating about how and who possibly killed Pat Tillman. I think that this was completely wrong and really below the caliber of Blackfive's milblog.

When you understand the hierarchy of blogging you understand the true damage that can result from such speculations. Particularly based on the very limited information available. Blackfive is one of the top Milblogs because it has a past reputation of being straight forward, providing definitive information on things military and continually bringing the story that is the US military at war to the public. They get linked by hundreds, if not thousands of blogs, including other high traffic sites like Instapundit and Michelle Malkin, amongst others.

It is by this linkage, by word of mouth or, more likely, email, that Blackfive's authority and legitimacy is established. Thus, when Blackfive speaks about things military, people listen. And that is why this unfortunate attempt to discover who the shooter was in this tragic event is a terrible mistake by Uncle Jimbo and for Blackfive. When he indicates that he believes he knows who the shooter is and why, people are bound to believe him and spread this information to others. Worse than the speculation is naming the alleged person. Even if this is retracted, the damage is already done. It may put undue attention on this man who was part of the tragedy, but may actually have no culpability beyond being there. It may influence ideas, the investigation and even worse add to the conspiracy that is already attached to this terrible event.

Finally, Uncle Jimbo and Blackfive have just done what they routinely accuse the media of: printing speculation as fact. Even if they retract it, it is already too late. The damage has already been done.

I think that is a lesson they've forgotten.

PS...I took down my piece on Beauchamp and the Blaze of Glory speculation. I have decided that I should live by what I preach. That piece was pure speculation. I did leave up the discussion regarding TNR and how they determined to use his writing. That part of the story is not over yet.

Mythology, Ideology and the TNR Debacle

Ace reports that Foer has allegedly confirmed there was "a woman". There are questions about this confirmation and whether it is still true.

Actually, I do think that it is telling that Foer said he confirmed the woman. While many see this as Beauchamp's worst show of depravity in some people's eyes (dogs rating lower and who cares about mass graves we know exist or that some Iraqi's private property was intentionally damaged), the potentially punishable offenses, like desecrating bodies, recklessly driving government equipment and purposefully destroying private property (that the military then has to pay for via civilian claims), are not going to have people running to the fore to verify since it would mean they either participated, were complicit or conspired to cover it up.

That would require some false or incomplete reports by squad or platoon leaders as well. That would mean many people's careers are damaged or over

Foer could grant them "anonymity", but that would hardly matter since that would mean it was someone in their unit and the boot would simply come down on them.

Mocking a burned woman? Cruel and possibly punishable under some part of the UCMJ, but a good defense attorney would get that thrown out or knocked down to nothing and, as noted, it mostly implicates Beauchamp and the rest of his friends would get little more than a lecture on behavior, particularly if they were otherwise "good soldiers".

I'll be surprised if the others incidents are corroborated outside of the military's investigation.

I will bet that this is not playing out at FOB Falcon exactly as some would believe. There is probably animosity towards Beauchamp. But, there is probably a lot of wondering about how this became such a big deal, why they are being hammered and finally, confirming their opinion that people back home just don't understand anything about being a soldier in a war zone. In other words, I doubt we're being applauded for our efforts by those we believe we may be defending.

On the other hand, the question of why someone would put this incredibly bad writer on their payroll and print his "musings" is still an important question. There are literally thousands of "diarists" in the war zone who, arguably, write better than this fellow. Not all of their stuff is exciting. Most of it is in true diarist form: the mundane broken by the occasional excitement. Which also defines life in a war zone. Why was Beauchamp's contrived writing chosen?

Did it fit some pre-conceived ideological or political narrative? Or, was it simply that it was "edgy" and TNR's revenue was so bad they needed SOMETHING to get them readership (thus, revenue). Edgy=subscriptions=revenue. That it fit some narrative about what people think being a soldier and living in a war zone is like? Simply a plus towards readership.

At the end of the day, TNR is a business. While we are looking for some political or philosophical ideology that decided the choice, it may be the simplest motive was the money and Beauchamp's "musings" were the new content they thought would bring it in. Add to that he was "easy" to find since he was married to a staffer and you have most of the story already. The final issue, that they are ideologically compatible may, by Occam's Razor, simply be that they are married because they ran in the same circles and held the same ideals. The same reason Reeves was chosen for her job at TNR. Again, it may simply be about association rather than trying consciously or even subconsciously forward an agenda. People of the same ideology do tend to associate more than with those that don't.

That it re-enforces the mythological history of the military since Vietnam? Very few will even notice it because that is the accepted wisdom, even among those who may today believe that our Viet Nam vets were maligned or treated badly. They experienced John Kerry and Lt. Calley after all, not to mention the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of the young Vietnamese girl, badly burned, running down the road. They have seen "Platoon", "Full Metal Jacket" and "Rambo". While many understand that these are fictional pieces, they can't help but believe that there is at least a "kernel of truth" in these tellings. Worse, when there are very few movies or books that actually contradict those images, or, at least, very few that are popular or well known, the mythology, not the facts, becomes the story.

Beauchamp's current writings begin that accepted story. The dehumanized man who will one day come back changed, always ready to question his own actions and those around him having experienced the worst that man has to offer. As noted, not only is his writing contrived, but he rushed, what may be, the only narrative anyone was trying to consciously adhere to. He'd barely seen any action, if any at all. He was a nobody and his experiences hardly seemed to fit the accepted wisdom that war changes people. He had not really experienced war. He simply seemed to show socio-pathic tendencies and painted those around him as such.

That is not a good story, nor the accepted narrative in the general populace. That contrivance may be why many jumped on Beauchamp's story beyond any questionable or possibly implausible scenarios that some would like "fact checked". The story that The New Republic was trying to sell, the story that they believed best matched their subscribers' pre-conceived notions of man and war. They couldn't even get that right. That may be the most damning aspect of this entire fiasco. This single event explains why the New Republic is still lingering at the bottom of the ranks of its peers.

It is the failure of The New Republic to effectively utilize the new media of citizen journalist coupled with the inability to properly identify the accepted wisdom or myth that defines modern man's beliefs on war.

Modern man no longer sees "glorious war", but that "war is hell". Man no longer survives horrifying events to emerge triumphant. Instead, he constantly questions his reasoning, his character and his actions, trying to make the best of the worst while maintaining his own personal integrity (something Beauchamp's stories were decidedly lacking), to emerge alive, but deeply scarred. He no longer experiences greatness through adversity, but remains a damaged mediocrity. That is the accepted wisdom. That is what people want to read, see and believe.

While that may match the common man's experience, it has destroyed the concept that man can rise above himself and the events around him to greatness. It has destroyed hope.

In the end, that may be what we're fighting for.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Information War: Internet Jihad

Now the question is, how do you combat it?

In some ways, the internet can create an insular, closed of society of its own that may or may not reflect the real world. In the case of propaganda that is spread via the "new media", it is very true that those that imbibe may in fact believe that the real world does not reflect the reality. Until, of course, it does.

This is the same concept that sometimes has left and right bloggers working in a box. They can become closed off, particularly if they think traditional media has nothing to offer.

How does the insular internet world become effected by the real world? By real world happenings.

An example, though not using the internet, would be the propaganda of Saddam's regime during the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent drive to Baghdad. "Baghdad Bob" continued his propaganda and was nearly effective in creating at least a fog over reality until an American tank was seen driving behind him into al Fardos square.

In the case of Jihadist internet propaganda, the first blow can only come when reality is so obviously different than the propaganda that these internet sites lose the trust of their usual adherents.

It is unlikely that we will get something so obvious as the tank in the square incident in the near future to damage these propaganda outlets. However, each day they can be whittled down. One of the most important "reality" v. "propaganda" actions was the capture of al Mashahdani and his confession that Omar al Baghdadi does not exist. Of course, we do not know what all of the jihad websites are saying. They could be claiming that Mashahdani was coerced or drugged or otherwise dubbed to make that statement. However, this is coupled with the fact that the Ba'athist insurgent network TV coming out of Syria said several months ago that they did not know this "al Baghdadi" and they would not swear allegiance to him. The entire issue is confirmed with Mashahdani's confession and is probably helping to destroy the veracity of many jihad websites not to mention accelerating cooperation by Iraqis.

Still, what do you do about the internet jihad globally?

The reporter says that we cannot do "nothing". That is correct. The military has recently stepped up and began putting their own internet videos up of failed attacks by the jihadists and ferocious attacks on the enemy. That is one aspect of this internet war.

Beyond that, the real world will eventually reach the internet world. Events on the ground will show the propaganda is false and the credibility of sites, organizations and leaders will be damaged. If Iraq becomes relatively peaceful, there are limited attacks and it prospers while Al Qaeda is beaten back there, it will be a bad time for AQ and the internet jihad wannabes.

Still, a comprehensive program for combating terrorism in the "new media" would go a long way towards speeding up the demise of such programs and, thus, damage their ability to recruit.

On Language in the Information War

There was a discussion not long ago about the terms used to describe the attacks and war being perpetrated by Al Qaeda. Its base proposal was that the term "Jihad" meaning "holy war" was being hi-jacked and by using the term "jihadist" we were providing some sort of legitimate cover, acceptable in the Muslim world, to such terrorist acts.

The paper suggested that we adopt the terms used by Arab speakers and Muslims for such people including "takfiri" (one who does not practice Islam correctly; an apostate), "mufsidoon" (spoilers; or illegitimate fighters who go against the legitimate leaders of Islam) and many others.

Whalid Phares declares that this is a ruse on the American Intelligentsia and the Military that is meant to deflect criticism and research into jihad and its effective creation of the terrorists that we see today.

The article was posted under the title "Cultural Ignorance Leads to Misuse of Islamic Terms" by the US-based Islamist organization CAIR. [5] Since then the "concept" of deflecting attention away from the study of Jihadism has penetrated large segments of the defense newsletters and is omnipresent in Academia. More troubling though, is the fact that scholars who have seen the strategic threat of al Qaeda and Hezbollah have unfortunately fallen for the fallacy of the Hiraba. Professor Michael Waller of the Institute of World Politics in Washington wrote recently that "Jihad has been hijacked" as he bases his argument on Jim Guirard's lobbying pieces.[6] Satisfied with this trend taking root in the Defense intelligentsia of America, Islamist intellectuals and activists are hurrying to support this new tactic.[snip]

When researched, it turns out that this theory was produced by clerics of the Wahabi regime in Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood, as a plan to prevent jihad and Jihadism from being considered by the West and the international community as an illegal and therefore forbidden activity. It was then forwarded to American- and Western-based interest groups to be spread within the Untied States, particularly within the defense and security apparatus. Such a deception further confuses U.S. national security perception of the enemy and plunges democracies back into the "black hole" of the 1990's. This last attempt to blur the vision of democracies can be exposed with knowledge of the jihadi terror strategies and tactics, one of which is known as Taqiya, the doctrine on deception and deflection. [8]

I am not sure I agree with Phares 100%. Largely because the language that the original report suggested is the language that we typically hear from Iraqis regarding those who have attacked them. Soldiers serving there and in Afghanistan have reported similar language use by those they associate with, civilians, interpreters, government officials, etc. This would indicate to me that the suggested language resonates with the Muslim population of these nations and many others.

The importance of "speaking the language" (ie, using similar terms, grafting ideals, etc) is to better work the counter-insurgency program. This use assists us in appearing sympathetic to the population and their ideas which is a major part of separating terrorists/insurgents from the general population. Reading several reports and bloggers regarding psyops and counter-insurgency (COIN), since jihad is considered an honorable act in defense of a people or community, our purpose is to make jihad only "legitimate" when it is undertaken by forces who oppose the terrorists.

In which case, Phares' complaint lacks an understanding of how this is applied at the very base level of the information war. There is no way that the idea of jihad, a long rooted tradition in Islam, is going to be destroyed or removed from the ideology. There is no way it will ever be completely delegitimized in the religion or region. Our best bet is to change the definition of who is a legitimate mujihadeen (holy warrior) and who is a "mufsidoon". Since this is the terminology used by your average Iraqi, that is the terminology we must adapt and transform in our favor. Mujihadeen are the police and community security forces that fight al Qaeda. They are the legitimate warriors. Al Qaeda are the enemy.

On the other hand, Phares has an important point and that is not to loose sight of the indoctrination and religious practices that provides the base for recruiting members to Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist organizations. We cannot pretend that this religious base is not a fundamental ingredient in our current conflict.

In the end, it is not only the adherents of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Zawahiri or other leaders that must be destroyed to end this war, but the entire ideology that is spawned by Muslim Sunni Wahabi Salafists.

Allowing Terrorist Propaganda in the Media

There are many who have questioned the media, its veracity, its ideological leanings and, in its continuing attempts to be "objective", actually being subjective. In this piece, the Counter Terrorism blog explores the access to media (and thus, the American public) given to designated terrorist organizations and their leaders:

U.S. News Media and Terror Group Figure Editorials

n the battle against global Jihadist organizations, the challenge of how to effectively deal with Jihadist terror group propaganda remains a national issue that needs to be addressed.

Individuals who are either members of or supporters of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) (as designated by the U.S. State Department), are increasingly being represented in the U.S. news media's editorials, op-ed pieces, and other columns. FTO's Hizbullah and Hamas terrorist group figures are gaining unfettered access as columnists in major American newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Hizbullah "Supporter" Column in Washington Post
The Washington Post and Newsweek today has provided an online column for Hizbullah terrorist group supporter and religious leader Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah to discuss the nature of Jihad as a "defensive" struggle. The Washington Post column clearly describes Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah as a Hezbollah "supporter", stating that he is "a controversial figure known primarily for his support of the armed Shi’ite resistance movement, Hezbollah".

Hizbullah is a Foreign Terrorist Organization, and "Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah" is on the US Department of Treasury's Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN). As reported by Newsweek itself, "In 1983, U.S. officials accused him of issuing a religious edict, or fatwa, that condoned the devastating truck bombing of the Marine headquarters in Beirut ."

Imagine in 1943, during the height of World War II, having suffered set backs and high casualties, on the verge of turning the war, the US Media had given editorial access, full page ads or radio interviews for Hitler, Goebbels, Tojo or any other known, declared and sworn enemies of the United States? Allowing them to talk about their grievances against the US and other European nations and presenting themselves as some sort of moderate martyred victims of European and US aggression?

The world may have changed. The media may be global in its reach and feel it needs to cater to a wider audience, but there is something extraordinarily, stealthily malignant in allowing people who have sworn to kill you to propagandize your own population.

Courtesy of the "old" media.

Maybe this is the Democrats' idea of the "fairness doctrine"?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Necklaces of Children's Ears

Just to add a little more "Iraq is Vietnam" meme, A. for a**hole Whitney wants to know where his necklace of Iraqi children's cut off ears is for all his tax money spent on the war. He wants a trophy.

Maybe our soldiers are too busy tickling them to death to get to the ear cutting?

Or the dogs are just so much more fun to kill?

Just Like Scott

If all it takes is some gritty, asinine, I wannabe Hunter Thompson writing to get published, I thought I'd try my hand at it:

Every time we went down this road, the squirrels would run out and play chicken with the car. So I made up this game. Every time I saw one in the road, I would slow down until I was up close, looking into its beady little eyes, then I would hit the accelerator, jamming the car into first gear and smoking the front tires as I aimed my beat up, faded, front wheel drive Pontiac right for them. This one squirrel dodged away so I jerked the wheel to the right at fifty miles an hour on the little two lane, switchback road with ditches on either side trying to catch it in my all weather treads.

It ran into the ditch on the driver's side, just as the neighbor's SUV came over the hill. I didn't let that stop me. I knew, if I timed it just right, I could catch that mangy rat and escape from the oncoming path of the Escalade before it had time to turn my car into an accordian. I rammed the gear shift into third, twisted the wheel to the left as I jammed on the emergency break causing the crappy little Pontiac's left front tire to slide into the ditch and catch the flea infested rodent's tail in my treads. Then I yanked the car back to the right, slammed the emergency break to off and stomped on the accelerator, causing the front tires of my front wheel drive car to burn rubber, throwing smoke and smelling like a barbecue in the ghetto.

My neighbor in his SUV barely had time to stomp on the breaks and swerve away, honking as he passed me. I gave him the finger as I masterfully swung the car back into my lane, dragging the squirrel into my rotor by its tail, listening to it squeal before I heard the satisfying crunch of bones. "Yeah!" My yell echoed through the car, "That's three. Man, isn't war beautiful?!"

I rolled to a stop and dug through my purse, looking for the little black agenda book that I kept all my "kills" in. The ball point pen ran out of ink so I jumped out of the car and dipped the tip of the pen in the bloody remains of the squirrel to mark the book. Looking at the remains of the squirrel, I felt nothing. I kicked it's carcass as I lit a smoke, watching the tendrils curl up into the hot, muggy air of a Missouri summer day. I saw my neighbor get out of his SUV, pulling bags of nuts from the rear hatch. I flipped him the bird and he ran screaming into his house. I got back into the car. All the kids were giggling so I squealed like a squirrel and they laughed even harder. Just another day on the way to church.

What? It could happen. If you didn't know that front wheel drive Pontiacs don't "burn rubber", the ditches on either side of the road are two feet deep and the car would probably roll over, the car is an automatic, the front air spoiler would be ripped off, the neighbor owns a Ford F-150, I prefer gel pins to ball points, I have no children and I haven't been to church in so long my mom has me on the permanent prayer list.

I mean, we do have squirrels who play chicken. I do own a Pontiac. And I do have an agenda book in my purse to mark down my "kills". Doesn't everybody?

Disclaimer: No squirrels were actually killed or injured in the making of this story.

John Barnes on Writing Style

Commenter at blackfive trying to convince that this is "normal" and "could happen" because there are idiots everywhere

The Armorer sticks to the details that are implausible and leaves the morality of soldiers to other bloggers.

Way down in the comments, Trias makes an excellent observation:

I don't understand why he is interesting. It sounds like a cheap money spinner to me.

Hence, my original comment about all it takes to get published. He is now just an amusing parody.

Reporter Confused About Why A Known Terrorist Was Released from Guantanamo

I read this: Pakistani militant leader is killed

My first thought was, "Great, another terrorist dead." Then I read this little paragraph:

Mehsud was incarcerated in the jail for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after he was captured by U.S.-allied Afghan forces in northern Afghanistan in December 2001. It remains unclear why he was released from Guantanamo in March 2004.

And my next thought was, "You gotta be freaking kidding me!"

Not that he was released, but that there is some confusion about why this guy was released. I mean, we are talking about the news organization, journalists and fellow travelers who did piece after piece about the terrible conditions of Guantanamo (all BS), the Quran abuse (all BS), the lack of rights and "due process" in military tribunals, etc, etc, etc We're talking about journalists who think that every battle field detainee should be treated like a suspect from CSI; complete with DNA, fingerprints, blood splatters, smoking gun and a written confession to their various crimes and actions against civilians and coalition forces. Let's not forget to wonder why these fellows were not given their Miranda Rights and advised of the fifth Amendment.

And, geeess, we can't keep these guys in jail forever without a trial. What about habeas corpus? Are we saying that only applies to American Citizens and not every Mohammed, Ahmed or Omar that swears to kill Americans wherever they can find them? Surely our forefathers could not have meant to exclude such fine, upstanding enemies from the rights and freedoms we enjoy here? I mean, are we liberators bringing the rule of law and justice or are we oppressors?

Okay. Enough of that. You get what I'm saying. They campaigned to have these people treated like criminals with rights and access to the law and now they wonder how one could be "freed" from Guantanamo, go back to kill Coalition forces and Afghan civilians, only to be tracked down and killed in Pakistan.

Geesh, ya think?

Taking Part in Castro's Propaganda Program

This makes me want to check every degree of every young doctor before they poke, prod or even get my name and insurance information:

U.S. medical students graduate debt-free in Cuba

We are talking about the socialist medical education and system that nearly killed Castro before the brought in a real doctor educated and practicing in Spain. We are talking about a system whose actual doctors go to other countries and live off of nothing. Eventually, 20% or escape from their host countries and seek asylum any place that isn't socialist. There is a much higher number of these doctors who want to, but cannot escape the watchful eye of their over-seers.

I didn't even read the whole article. The AP trumpets the title of the piece that speaks for their ideas on medicine. Give me a good doctor who is interested in making money and I'll show you someone at the top of their game who is less likely to kill you than an average brain surgeon from Cuba.

Did I mention that the AP just acted as a propaganda arm for Castro? I barely read the piece and could find very little questioning the actual credentialing process, the education as a whole or the plight of all those "non-Americans" who are currently residing in political prisons for speaking out against Castro.

These students are coming back into the United States as willing tools of Castro's propaganda and all they had to pay for the experience was a crappy education and a promise to treat the poor (while, of course, spreading the good word about socialist medicine and economics; throw off that horrid, oppressing, going like gang-busters, free market and enjoy the beautiful, meaningful poverty of a regulated, socialist, oppressive regime that will imprison you if you try to convert your bread shares into medicine).

Why I never even gave Michael Moron's "Sicko" a glance. I have some clues as to the problem with medicine and the price, but there isn't anything this article or Michael's movie shows that I don't know is a load of crap and, if we are ever unlucky to institute some part of it, will leave our children and grandchildren (the few that survive) regretting it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Conversations = Support the Troops, Not the Mission

What people don't know about war, the military, the workings counter-insurgency and the real workings or cost weighing of politics could fill the Brittania Encyclopedia A through Z.

That goes for people of all ideological stripes. I can recount equally stories from both "war" supporters and "anti-war" or, more likely in the general population, "I don't understand" people who simply say and believe the oddest things. Or, more appropriately, who don't know many things. It is this lack of "knowing" that informs that last group, who, in my humble, unscientific opinion, make up the largest group of people that I meet.

From these many, varied discussion, I feel safe in saying that this group is the group that is less likely to take opinion polls on CBS or CNN. They do not feel driven to make their opinions known. The only reason anything comes up is because of the settings that we are in and something else leads to the discussion. Troop Support activities does not mean that everyone there supports the administration, the particular action in Iraq or the over all conduct of the war, including Afghanistan. People who attend are there for various personal reasons that culminate with a single mission: "support the troops".

These are Viet Nam Vets who remember their own homecoming. These are people who grew up during Viet Nam and remembers the terrible treatment of our military. These are young people who heard the stories about that generation and feel compelled to resist that on behalf of our young men and women. These are people who know someone in the military, have family who were, friends, cousins, neighbors, the whole plethora of potential relationships. Then there are those who know no one, have no relationship, past or present, who simply believe it is the right thing to do when someone sacrifices on their behalf.

And they come in all political persuasions. Believe me when I tell you that. Someone I know who does a lot to get the word out to the public in her small area about how to support the troops said to me flat out that she did not like Bush and thinks the administration is the worst yet. However, being with her on these various missions, I can tell you that her political leanings don't change a thing about how she represents the support of our military or her efforts. Before that conversation, she spent a solid week putting together materials for our presentation, talking to the organization asking for us to speak, looking for pictures, glued together an example care package and basically did yeoman's work to get this off the ground. I also know she does not convey that to any of the troops she writes to. Her sole purpose is to provide them material and moral support because she knows it is hard work and tough conditions.

Those are the type of people that I know who "support the troops and not the mission". That is a very difficult thing for our troops to understand. The question from the front is asked routinely by our troops. How can you support the troops and not the mission?

There are other reasons than political ideology. The lack of knowledge plays a big factor. Again, it is general conversations that lead to these discussions, not polls with limited questions that don't really represent how people think.

It is the questions that people have that forms their opinions. "I don't understand the 'sectarian violence' in Iraq. Aren't they all Muslims?" That was a recent question. This from a retired school teacher. How do you explain that the religious nature of these "sects" is only the congregating factor and not necessarily what drives the fight? It is a power struggle, pure and simple. It is about political power, money, resources, personal graft and all the things that such wars are often about; driven and organized by the last bastions of organization in Iraq after a failed state and collapsed government power structure: mosques, religion and imams.

I tried to use historical context referring the teacher back to our own history of the religious wars of the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Catholics and Protestants burning each other, driving each other out of the country. The inquisition. All these things were "religious in nature", but when you review the powers and people behind it, it becomes a real power struggle by organizations and rulers who conveniently used these tools to consolidate their power. Our own founders of this nation came on three little ships because of religious prosecution as much as hoping to strike it rich in the colonies. Those at the lower level of these "religious wars" may have been ideologically driven, but only because that was the lowest, most common denominator and organizing principle. It is the thing that could stir the masses more than any appeal to place and keep any one person or organization in power.

I added in a little history about Mohammed conquering the tribes, dying and leaving no designated heir; tribal inheritance which had the strongest becoming the leader and not necessarily due to primogeniture (right of the first born), creating the Shia and Sunni split and... Okay, I was losing her at that point and realized I had to stop.

But, it was telling as well as the rest of the conversation that circled around Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia; Somalia, Iran, Djibouti and various other places we are, have been or maintain in the course of conflicts in the last decade. It was telling in that she was not enthusiastic about our peace keeping, brief war in the former Yugoslavia, but had some context to comprehend. It was presented in such a way that people's immediate thoughts were driven back to World War II and the persecution of the Jews. Ethnic cleansing and concentration camps. Those flash backs made it somewhat palatable and understandable along with the potential for conflict in Europe. Something the retired teacher understood historically much better than any historical foundation for our current adventures beyond "remember when Saddam invaded Kuwait".

Black Rwandans killing black Rwandans for power? That is not ethnic war. Hutu's and Tutsi's do not equate to ethnicity in our minds. There were no super powers or super evil ideology that threatened our freedom. They were simply people of the same country killing each other. That is why no one supported intervening. That is why the question arises about why we are in Iraq. Aren't these people killing each other Iraqi, Muslim Arabs? Why should we care if they are Sunni or Shia? Aren't they they same? And, if the Sunni are allied with Al Qaeda, doesn't it make sense that we should ally ourselves with the Shia.

How do you explain in five minutes the implications of allowing either extremist ideology to take control of any part or whole of Iraq and it's dangers to the United States, regional stability and world economy? I simply replied to that question that the Sunni weren't all fighting because they wanted to bring the Caliphate back, but would ally with whoever helped them and provided some protection and that some of the Shia were backed by Iran who had their own agenda that is detrimental to our security. Like nuclear weapons and...

The retired school teacher suddenly remembered that Iranians had taken our people prisoner in the 70's, the terrible loss of the rescuers and the unmitigated rhetoric of "death to America". Exactly.

We cannot leave any of these groups as the main or sole arbiters of power in any part or whole of Iraq. It is extremely dangerous.

The real import of this conversation was about the value of the fight versus the value of the lives of our young men and women and the cost of the war in general. The Ace of Spades recently concurred with a statement by Barak Obama that completely illustrates this point. We do not go to war simply to save people of another nation, religion or ethnicity. Ace illustrated this point by looking at the historical context of World War II. We did not go to save the Jews. It was a by-product of that war. We went because Hitler and Tojo's plans to divvy up the world and take control presented a direct physical and economic threat to our existence. He points out that FDR and many others had known that the Jews were being slaughtered amongst many other ethnicities and "undesirables" long before we went to war, but it was not a good enough reason to go. Neither was the continuing war between European nations that had been going on for centuries. It had to be about us and our security to make us move.

The problem with arguments regarding the slaughter of Iraqis between themselves is that this does not appear to represent a threat to our nation by many people. By this standard, since it does not appear a direct threat to our nation, the value of the war versus the value of our people, money and resources does not equate. As Ace notes, the lives of 100 Iraqis does not equate to the life of one American Soldier. The life of 10,000 Iraqis to one American? Maybe.

This is how the cost of the war is weighed out in the average American citizen's mind. Al Qaeda, Osama and Zawahiri would be surprised to find out that they barely register in the equation. Our troops should not be surprised that the people here value them more than anything else and would not squander them for something so apparently unrelated to our actual security as "sectarian fighting" or "civil war" amongst people who are not here and who are not American.

The fact that Al Qaeda, Iran and Islamist extremists of either ilk are missing from this equation is about the general publics' lack of information and comprehension. Let's face the facts: Osama is not in Iraq. Neither is Zawahiri. They can release all the statements they want about that front in the war, but it doesn't resonate with the American public. They are sure that these men and their main followers, responsible for 9/11, are in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Whoever is claiming to be Al Qaida in Iraq does not present the main threat. And, as the school teacher implied, why don't we let them kill each other in Iraq and deal with the remnants?

When is the last time anyone actually saw anything that looked like Al Qaida in Iraq on their TV or other media? When Zarqawi died. Even then, people saw him as an upstart wannabe, not the threat that he really was. They barely comprehend his organization and infiltration of terrorist cells into Europe, much less the possibility of attacking US soil. Still, people see these groups as some nefarious "wannabes" who are being created by the ongoing war and, hopefully, would not have existed if we were not in Iraq. The eternal hope of many who, in the end, do not want to be at war without a very good reason and firm grasp of the enemy. That attempt at a "firm grasp" leads them to the inevitable, "Isn't the real war in Afghanistan?"

The last time I saw anything that actually appeared to be al Qaeda related in Iraq? A picture of the infamous "Islamic State of Iraq" (aka, al Qaeda in Iraq) flag discovered by some of our troops in Diyala province. That was about two months ago and it never appeared on the news. I saw it on Bill Roggio's site copied from the DoD.

The capture of al Mashahdani, the most recent "leader" of "Al Qaeda in Iraq", was barely a blip on the conscience of the American public. The fact that he admitted that Omar al-Baghdadi was a figment of his imagination only confirmed the general public's opinion that al Qaeda in Iraq is nothing and presents little threat. The IEDs, the VBIEDs, EFPs and suicide bombings are products of the "sectarian fighting" in Iraq. That is an internal problem and not worth the lives of our men and women in uniform.

The American public questions why we are fighting such a "big" war for so few? What is the danger there?

Because we have forgotten that a "few" in virtually untouched, remote bases in a far away country sent a "few" here to attack us and kill 3,000 citizens, nearly devastated our economy and attempted to destroy our government in a "few" planes. Because we do not see Al Qaeda in Iraq as part of the "real" al Qaeda or part of the "real" threat. Because the "tomorrow" where al Qaeda has bases in Iraq to train and attack us from is a nebulous "tomorrow" that does not exist yet and, therefore, cannot effect us. Because we do not understand nor care to understand the implications of the outcome to the region and its outward blast effect on our security. Because we do not believe 25 million Iraqis are worth one American life. Because we cannot see how disregarding these 25 million lives can result in creating or leaving an enemy at the back door. Because we don't see them as part of our fight against the al Qaeda ideology. Because we don't see the ideology as a danger; we see "al Qaeda" the organization as a danger and that organization is somewhere else. Democracy in Iraq means little for the American public in terms of destroying Al Qaeda.

Because...we are still stuck on the idea that it is the people who make up al Qaeda that we must destroy and not their wretched beliefs. Their beliefs would be gone if "al Qaeda" or, more appropriately, "Osama" was gone. Wouldn't they?

The school teacher asked me one last question: "Why do our troops get upset and say that you can't support the troops unless you support the mission?" She added that she believed that you can and many do as evidenced by the people that we both know and have met through actively providing support at various events or through programs such as our organization.

My answer was to refer to history again. The American GI of World War II had a slogan, "The way home is through Berlin." They knew that the war would not be over until they destroyed the German army, took Berlin and killed or ousted Hitler from power. The terrible devastation, oppression and evil that they saw could not be allowed to continue to exist. They knew they had to go all the way to Berlin to finish it once and for all. They knew that they would have to go back again or fight it closer to home if we allowed it to exist.

We are sometimes historically blind to the fact that people were even then urging negotiations with either the Japanese or the Germans to lessen the fight and close one battle front so that we could concentrate on the other. We don't recall, having imbibed the mythological wine of the "greatest generation", that there were some who thought we should leave Hitler in control of Germany and other parts of Europe if only to end the long and deadly war while leaving a counter to Stalin's Communist Russia. Who cared about the Europeans or the Germans or Nazis or Jews if we could only end the war? Couldn't Hitler or Hirohito be reasoned with and negotiated with?

It's easy to forget that part of history since we did not negotiate and we did not stop. We want to forget that because, in the end, we did see how terrible and evil fascism and ethnic hate really was and we could congratulate ourselves on putting an end to it.

The American public is busy weighing the cost of our troops' lives and our resources against the value of a democratic Iraq and Iraqis. They find the latter wanting in comparison. At the same time, our troops see the terrible devastation of the Islamic extremist ideology on the Iraqis. They see the suicide bombings and the roadside IEDs. They see the beheaded and tortured. What they see is the thing that they fear most will come back to America if it is left to fester there. They value our lives, their family's lives and the security of Americans more than their own.

They do not want to go back and fight there in the future. They do not want their sons and daughters to have to fight this war. They want to finish this war for good and the only way they see it happening is just like their fathers and grandfathers believed: the way home for good is by winning. It is through Baghdad and Kandahar and where ever else they are sent to do battle.

In the end, the struggle over this idea of "supporting the troops, but not the mission" is not about politics. For most the citizen at home, it is about the value of our people in uniform and whether any battle or people are worth it. That is largely based on what people do not know about Iraq, do not know about Al Qaeda, do not know about Islamist terrorists and do not know about the war in gneral. And, they certainly do not understand the minds of our troops.

For the troops on the front line, it is about the value of the American Citizen, their families at home and the future of generational war versus the hardship and terribleness of war now with the prospect of being the ones to end it.

How do you make the people at home understand? There are no cameras showing live footage of al Qaeda being arrested. There are no hovering helicopter cameras following our troops into battle. There are no mini-documentaries about the history and relationship of al Sadr to Iran. There are no finger prints, no carpet fibers and there are no one hour "cop" shows showing our troops fighting the "bad guys" and winning.

Because they can't see it, they don't understand it. It is what they don't know that forms their opinions. It is this that makes people "support the troops and not the mission".