Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Then I read this:
MOGADISHU, Somalia — A man tried to board a commercial airliner in Mogadishu last month carrying powdered chemicals, liquid and a syringe that could have caused an explosion in a case bearing chilling similarities to the terrorist plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The Somali man — whose name has not yet been released — was arrested by African Union peacekeeping troops before the Nov. 13 Daallo Airlines flight took off...
Okay, whoa. Time the fuck out. We ("we") miss this Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab guy. That's embarrassing. Then we find out that a month ago a UFA clone ran a rehearsal in Somalia and got caught by African Union peacekeeping troops. Now, I don't want to sound like an American chauvinist (I am, just don't want that perception to interfere with making my point), but we just got skunked by the African Union peacekeeping force. That's like the LA Lakers getting blown out by Brownie Troop 394.
Forget calling for "heads to roll." That doesn't happen anymore. Instead, we need to get cross-cultural and historical, and bring back a golden oldie as the official means by which someone that fucks up this bad expresses remorse for poor duty performance. Seppuku.
The linked article isn't on sniping, it covers PTSD and the chemical changes the syndrome induces (I'm not smart enough on the science to do a chicken-or-egg disquisition). As a comparative analysis of combat experience logged since WWII, though, the article reasonably argues that our troops are the most experienced our country has had, ever.
Earlier patterns of combat were different. For example, during World War II, the bulk of the Allied troops in Europe went in after June 6, 1944. The fighting in Europe ended eleven months later. In the Pacific, the fighting tended to be episodic. A few months of combat, followed by many months of preparing for the next island invasion or battle. In Vietnam, not a lot of people went back for multiple tours, and those who did spend a year with a combat unit, spent less time in combat than they would in Iraq. Even during Vietnam, it was noted that many of those who were in combat for 200 or more days, did get a little punchy.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, army combat troops often get 200 days of combat in one 12 month tour, which is more than their grandfathers got during all of World War II.
And speaking of all things sniper, Stephen Hunter, the Fyodor Dostoyevsky of the sniper novel, has a new book on the streets. So, looks like everything stops on the Mongo reading list until I download and devour I, Sniper.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The 2006 terror plot of the "hair gel and anal salve" Al Qaida set ensured that now we cannot carry on more than an itty-bitty smidgen of any sort of liquid onto a plane.
We're hearing about new TSA rules that will force passengers to sit for the last hour of any flight with nothing in their laps and without recourse to the restrooms (because, of course, AQ terrorists are not savvy enough to use the lavatory 65 minutes before touchdown). But (butt) does that really ensure our safety? I think not.
Nope. Since ol' Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab chose to squirrel away his PETN in his jockey shorts, and said shorts didn't raise a single alarum, there is only one fail safe TSA countermeasure available...
I don't watch much television--not that I'm one of those anti-television snobs. Aside from reality shows, content on TV is better than it's ever been. I just have too much to do otherwise with working out, MA training, work, family stuff, and professional reading (and drinking. And fishing). So I'm coming late to the game with watching the Human Weapon series on the History Channel. Still, found it, and enjoyed their installment on Judo. The show provides a good overview of Judo history (with its Jiu-Jitsu roots) and principles. Anyone looking for a quick Judo 101 could do worse than to watch the show. Part one is embedded below, but I recommend all four installments.
Look at the high fashion, Italiana-guarded, Barbie-curl coiffed titular head of Libya. According to Wikipedia:
So, Gaddafi is a guy who wants everyone in the room to know who he is and that he is there. Were it up to him (and, unfortunately, oft times it is) trumpets would blare and pigeons would fly every time he made an entrance, and we can still document 30~40 different open source methods of spelling his name.
Because of the lack of standardization of transliterating written and regionally pronounced Arabic, Gaddafi's name has been transliterated in many different ways into English and other Latin alphabet languages. An article published in the London Evening Standard in 2004 lists a total of 37 spellings of his name, while a 1986 column by The Straight Dope quotes a list of 32 spellings known at the Library of Congress. This extensive confusion of naming was used as the subject for a segment of Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update in the early 1980s.
In 1986, Gaddafi reportedly responded to a Minnesota school's letter in English using the spelling "Moammar El-Gadhafi". The title of the homepage of algathafi.org reads "Welcome to the official site of Muammar Al Gathafi".
"Muammar Gaddafi" is the spelling used by Time magazine, BBC News, the majority of the British press and by the English service of Al-Jazeera. The Associated Press, CNN, and Fox News use "Moammar Gadhafi". The Edinburgh Middle East Report uses "Mu'ammar Qaddafi" and the U.S. Department of State uses "Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi". The Xinhua News Agency uses "Muammar Khaddafi" in its English reports.
Now suppose that you're just some schmuck that wants to infil the US--or US airspace, anyway--in order to blow up innocent civilians, cause significant property damage, and generally terrorize as much of the US population as you can. With a name like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, how many different spelling variations can you come up with in an effort to thwart the various and sundry bureaucracies charged with keeping your sorry ass out? Even if there were, for example, a couple of small irregularities between your hand-printed immigration card, and your passport, and your driver's license, and your visa card, and your actual visa, would an English-speaking official either notice or think it was significant? Suppose Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had had the mission to infiltrate the US and put boots on the ground for a period of time before executing his plan (like, say, spend some months in a Florida flight school before being ready or able to execute the mission)? If he could get into the US, he could drive from coast to coast, stopping at motels to rest or see the sights, without ever using the same spelling twice. Any bureaucracy, or any ad hoc conglomeration of bureaucracies ostensibly collaborating to catch the guy, suffers a workload that expands geometrically over space and time trying to track the guy down, and that's without him employing any other countermeasures than playing scrabble with his name.
All applications for non-immigrant visas (you can see one here) are written exclusively in English. In fact, the Visa application is topped with big red letters that say, in part,"Your answers must be in English and must use English characters." I can understand the philosophy that in order to come to the States, you should at least have enough facility with the language to fill out the paperwork. Of course, this is not the philosophy upon which DOS bases its requirement to actually fill out the form. Any non-English speaking individuals seeking to fill out a visa can go to the local Embassy or Consul and get assistance filling out the form. So, if your name originates from the Arabic alphabet (or the Cyrillic, or Kanji, or Hangul, or...), then your name in the English alphabet is pretty much whatever approximation you choose that more or less is phonetically close enough. Does this seem like an administrative weakness that can be exploited?
Arabic is tough to learn; to even be a competent "basic" speaker, you have to learn a whole new alphabet. The Army has a whole curriculum based off a transliterated English alphabet; the transliterated alphabet only aids in phonetic rote memorization. Even this many years after 9/11, it is probably too much to expect that our alphabet soup of bureaucracies would have enough competent Arabic linguists to manage even the "by exception" guys on various watch lists, let alone all the Arabic native speakers who come into contact, for whatever reason, with our US Government.
So, what if we had all applicants fill out a bubble sheet, like unto that which Americans fill out for any standardized academic test (e.g., the SAT), possibly linked in with some sort of biometrics, and that gets translated into a standardized bar code that code be scanned, databased, and disseminated electronically.Above is Gaddafi's name in such a standardized format.* It couldn't take too long to 'gin up some code that would enable us to digitally track his comings and goings in the US--I mean, if he's not allowed to pitch his big tent in Central Park. If every applicant/immigrant with a name not derived from the English alphabet used this, it would probably make everyone's life easier. A guy named Abdulmutallab on the watch list couldn't spoof the system by writing Abdel Mu'talib. When he did apply for a visa, every one in government with a responsibility to safeguard the homeland (which should be everyone in Government) would be able to bounce his standardized name off of his own lists. Failure to properly render one's name in one's native language when one chooses to apply for any permissions or dispensations from the USG would mean no further access to our government (or our country) without a lengthy appeal process to determine why you bungled your name in your own native tongue.
An added benefit is that this isn't even "profiling." We just want to do you, Mr. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the courtesy of getting your name right. So that we can better and more efficiently act on your request for a visa (driver's license, whatever). The fact that we can better and more effectively shithammer you if you're a terrorist, well, that's just a happy coincidence.
*And Gaddafi's name proves the point. My own facility with Arabic ranges from poor to not-quite-as-poor, depending on how much I'm using it. As it's been years since I've read any Arabic press with Gaddafi's proper name in it, this was a surprise: If pronounced exactly as spelled in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), Gaddafi's name is more like QaTHafi. I'm reasonably sure the proliferation of D's rather than Th's in the middle of the spelling of his last name is due to a variation between MSA and Libyan dialect. So, even if a guy is making an honest effort to accurately transliterate his own name, the difference between the Arabic spoken and written word can throw a spanner into the works.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
First, the weather every where else blows so much (no pun intended), it prompted me to put the "local weather" tab onto the blog. Okay, so we get the snot knocked out of us every hurricane season; there is an upside. Not only did I go for a lovely run yesterday, I actually had to wear a long sleeve T-shirt when I did. Brrr, bitches.
Speaking of running, regular readers know that I'm firmly in the "running is da debbil" camp. However, I just finished McDougall's Born to Run, and I'm now willing to posit that maybe it's just that "running in running shoes is da debbil." The book answers the question "what's the difference between a long distance runner and a pronghorn"--pretty effectively, I might add. So, I'm trying to re-train my feet and investigate our roots as persistence hunters,. Interesting, and I can report no orthopedic injuries thus far. We'll see. A single injury and I'm going right back to "running" just twice a year, in two mile iterations. And yes, I'm running only in my monkey shoes.
Picked up from Starbuck on the trials and tribulations of Master Sergeant Grisham. I'm not going to comment on Grisham's plight, Starbuck and Blackfive have got it covered, with all appropriate links. But, two thoughts about the overall atmospherics of milblogging and the milbloggers' response of a blackout.
1. Blackfive astutely observes that
milblogs are facing an increasingly hostile environment from within the military. While senior leadership has embraced blogging and social media, many field grade officers and senior NCOs do not embrace the concept. From general apathy in not wanting to deal with the issue to outright hostility to it, many commands are not only failing to support such activities, but are aggressively acting against active duty milbloggers, milspouses, and others. The number of such incidents appears to be growing, with milbloggers receiving reprimands, verbal and written, not only for their activities but those of spouses and supporters.
Uh, so is anyone surprised that the ranks of Army middle management has a significant demographic comprised of anal-retentive, control-freak, self-righteous pricks? That's the environment that we all work in, and whether we're blogging, or leading our troops, or following our leaders. One can see this demographic at work whether one is blogging, designing a CONOP for the liberation of Iraq, or briefing the dental readiness of one's unit. Deal with it. One can either participate, trying hard to be one of the "good guys," or one can withdraw. Either way, it's the Army's bat, ball, and rules, and to paraphrase Heinlein "of course the game is rigged, but if you don't play, you can't win."
2. If the objectionable goal of the anal-retentive, control-freak, self-righteous pricks is to get milbloggers to STFU and color, why are milblogs protesting by S'ing TFU? Seems to me this is an opportunity to point out ostensible disconnects between senior leadership and middle management (and yeah, as a field grade officer, I detest the term "middle management" WRT field grade officers, I do it just to kick myself in the balls and stay humble). Are any milbloggers out there digging deeper than the facts presented in the Military Times (I'd trust the poop I got from a military professional blogging on his own time than a journalist, nine times out of ten)? Has anyone queried Grisham's chain of command to find out why they're hanging him out to dry? In fact, has anyone queried them requesting a for-attribution quote in a...milblog? Heh, that would torque them up a bit.
All military professionals know that their freedom of speech is constrained, usually for all kinds of good reasons, like good order and discipline and OPSEC. That doesn't mean we have no means by which to throw a bullshit flag. It's just that in my (admittedly limited) experience, going silent is seldom the way to address a problem or injustice.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
So while we're officially "in" the new place, we're not quite done yet. Lots of boxes & containers to unpack. I figure that, per Mongo clan SOP, we'll be done right about the time we get orders to PCS again.
The new place is huge, but needs a little work. The back yard looks like a set out of Jumanji, so some significant effort will be spent back there before we can actually use the boat ramp or the jetty.
Still, the view is great.
Especially at sunset.
Friday, November 13, 2009
And I've commented before on the disgusting diversity genuflection of the service academies.
But this post from Powerline shows how entrenched and invidious the diversity game is at Navy and, I can only assume after GEN Casey's comments, West Point.
Followed by some decent backlash snark.
On the hormone stuff, though, I'd say that it's a pretty bold statement to make that SF guys have a "biological profile" that makes them cool under fire. Most of the smart guys I've spoken to about genetic predisposition for combat performance were adamant that the jury is still out on the whole nurture or nature question (warning, don't click on that link unless you really, really want to get your geek on. Just take my word on it).
Oh, and in researching for this post, I heard that that Elmer Adams guy that's quoted is a Son Tay Raider. Yuh, I guess that gives him creds on talking about stress inoculation.
And, while we're talking about all things SERE, here's a pretty cool tale of Monopoly games with a real "get out of jail free" card. Good stuff.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
One of the activities that Mrs. Mongo put on my dance card was going to the 5th grade class for a question and answer session after the school Veterans Day ceremony yesterday. When I was first assigned to a posting in S. Florida, my wife talked to another wife we knew from previous postings who was on the ground, and who said that the best public schools, by far, were down in the Keys. So I bit the bullet (okay, I wasn't given a vote) and accepted the (ass-ripping) commute in order to put the kids in good schools. The schools down here have been phenomenal. I'm pretty hard on the public school system, but have been forced to admit that I could not ask for a better school in which to place my kids.
So, I was given some rough ROE (Rules of Engagement) about what I could, and couldn't, talk to the kids about, and set loose. We had a blast. The kids asked some pretty perceptive questions. I was sorta kinda on the hot seat. When the Q&A was done, I hadn't answered everyone's questions. So, I volunteered to answer written follow-on questions sent home. For shits and grins, here are the follow-on questions and my answers:
Q: How many people have you ever shot/killed?
A: Unfortunately, Army guys have to sometimes employ violence in order to do our jobs. However, it’s not the kind of thing one keeps score on.
Q: Do you have to lift a lot of weights?
A: I have to exercise a lot, but I do not lift weights. I do a lot of calisthenics, sprinting and yoga. Sometimes I will use real-world weights to exercise (like tires, logs, and bricks), but I do not do what one would call “weightlifting.”
Q: How many inches are your biceps?
A: A lot.
Q: What’s the worst weather you’ve ever been in?
A: I have been in a lot of bad weather. I would say that the worst weather one has to endure is when it is just above freezing (say 35-39 degrees F) but raining. That is really miserable, which is why I’m glad we live in the Keys.
Q: Has your Dad’s team ever won once?
A: My team wins every time we go out.
Q: Have you ever laughed during an ambush?
A: I usually laugh after the ambush, once I realize that all my guys and me are okay, and nobody was hurt.
Q: Where is the hottest place you’ve ever been to?
A: The hottest place I’ve ever been is in Hol Hol, Djibouti. It’s the hottest place on earth, and I once spent about three beautiful weeks there.
Q: Are Iraqis nice or mean?
A: The Iraqis I know, and have worked with and lived with, are capable of the most amazing acts of kindness, charity, and selflessness, and the same guys are capable of disturbing acts of cruelty and barbarism. They are very, very different from us, and even after all these years I am still working on understanding them.
First, I need to apologize for the childishly trite heading for that post, but it was the only way I felt that I could adequately express my shock and dismay at GEN Casey's statement without letting loose a string of invective at the sentiment contained therein.
Here's the deal: the Army is not strong because of its diversity. The Army is strong because we take a wildly diverse population and bind them to a common goal, and a common ethic, with one set of values (that many wear posted on their dogtags, because, I guess, one can accomplish values training by osmosis). In some ways the Army (or the military writ large) is the ultimate melting pot. We don't care who you are, where you are from, what your race, color, creed, cultural background, or (as long as you don't ask or tell) what your sexual proclivities are. All we care about is that you are constitutionally capable of making the commitment to defend our nation and our constitution.
We are not Army Strong because we've got white, black, red, brown and yellow in our ranks. We are Army Strong because we've got white, black, red, brown and yellow hewing to a common cause: the defense of our nation and our way of life.
Achieving "diversity," in and of itself, is nothing to crow about, unless your objective is so vapid and vacuous that the mere composition of your team is reason enough to declare victory.
These days, I think the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. have been turned on their head. When we pat ourselves on the back for achieving "diversity," we laud our composition merely for the physical attributes with which they were born, and not for the great things that they have achieved. We are navel gazing and preoccupied with the color of our members' skins, and not the content of their respective characters. This is a shame.
And because of the apparent fugue state our fixation with diversity has engendered, I am hearing a lot of smart people say," well, there were red flags with MAJ Hasan, but we shouldn't jump to conclusions."
Got it. But when a Muslim stands up, declares "Allahu Akbar," and starts shooting every Soldier in sight, I know where my investigation begins; I know what a duck looks like, walks like, and quacks like.
Again, I reiterate, I think our Army is far too professional to succumb to "backlash" against Muslims because of Hasan's actions. See, mature professionals are able to point their fingers at singular Jihadi bastards without painting every Muslim with their crimes. When you're not preoccupied with diversity and population composition, you're able to hold individuals culpable for their actions.
Monday, November 9, 2009
"What happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even-greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here," he said. "We have a very diverse army. We have a very diverse society. And that gives us all strength."
Diversity. I do not think this word means what you think it means.
I'm ending this post now, as I'm at the limits of professionalism, here. Thank you, GEN Casey, for helping me to expand the horizons of my professional comportment.
Um, you know, I think I'd rather have our government worrying about the anti-christian/jewish/western/enlightened/informed/humanist forelash--forelash? You know what I'm saying.
When you think about it, it's an automatic "win" for the politico-knucklehead that runs out and warns the American public against anti-muslim "backlash." The politician can later have a surrogate portray them as the "voice of calm and reason in difficult, possibly violent times" that helped preclude a backlash. Even though every one of these guys and gals know that the US public is not going to target an entire demographic because of the actions of one sociopath.
Just another example of our political masters acting as political vultures.
Not only was she simply gorgeous, she was also a member of the artistic/scientific duo--the other being George Antheil, concert pianist and self-described "bad boy of music"-- that won Patent #2,292.387.
Basically, in an effort to provide the Allies radio-controlled torpedoes, the pianist and the actress developed the first form of "frequency hopping," as a torpedo controlled on a single frequency was too easily jammed.
The concept on which this patent was based continued to grow, and scientists continued to slice and splice the concepts, and Hedy's contribution to science, one can plausibly claim, came to be known as that weird critter "WiFi."
Anyone in the military today can tell you the impact of frequency-hop radios (and anyone who has ever tried to re-set timing or send an IRF in the dark in the rain can tell you that we may well have peaked with Ms. Lamarr).
And, I guess, Ms. Lamarr was pretty "edgy" for her times; in the 1933 film Ecstasy, she apparently spent most of her screen time being, um, what's the word? Nekkid. Apparently (even by today's standards) the film was a wee bit racy.
So, for all of you that either post or prowl pictures of today's beauties--say, Megan Fox, all I can say is: look for a beautiful mind.
Friday, November 6, 2009
In the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, it is more important than ever that we not make the same scapegoating and broad stroke mistakes that were evident in the aftermath of previous tragedies. The Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military urges the media, government officials and all of our fellow Americans to recognize that the actions of Hasan are those of a deranged gunman, and are in no way representative of the wider Arab American or American Muslim community.
My response to every contact listed on their website is:
We are all reeling with shock and horror after the massacre of innocent Soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood, Texas. MAJ Malik Hasan was a sick and twisted individual, whose savagery and wanton disregard for the sanctity of life mark him as an abomination.
In our diverse and inclusive society, I feel more than confident that MAJ Hasan's actions will be seen accurately for what they were: The actions of a sociopath. However, the APAAM statement about the Fort Hood massacre, while correct in its condemnation of MAJ Hasan, left me confused and more than a little distressed.
Your statement said, in part:
In the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, it is more important than ever that we not make the same scapegoating and broad stroke mistakes that were evident in the aftermath of previous tragedies. The Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military urges the media, government officials and all of our fellow Americans to recognize that the actions of Hasan are those of a deranged gunman, and are in no way representative of the wider Arab American or American Muslim community.
Could you please tell me what scapegoating and broad stroke mistakes were made in the aftermath of previous tragedies? Do you mean within the military? Or within American society at large? I feel more than sure that in our current media environment with its instantaneous communications technology and voracious need for content, I would have heard of any hate crimes directed against Arab American servicemen or Arab American citizens at large. Yet I have heard of none, thus far. I did not hear of any after the bombings of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya by Islamic Arab terrorists. I did not hear of any after the suicide-boat bombing of the USS Cole by Islamic Arab terrorists. I did not hear of any after the bombing of Khobar Towers by Islamic Arab terrorists. I did not hear of any after 3,000 Americans of every race, color, and creed were slaughtered on September 11, 2001 by Islamic Arab terrorists.
Gentlemen, could you please elucidate for me exactly what scapegoating and broad stroke mistakes you are talking about? By implying retributive hate crimes against Arab American servicemen after any of these events, you commit calumny against the vast majority of our uniformed service members (or, if speaking of Arab American civilians, the United States at large) who treat all of their brothers in arms with the respect and trust that is the due of any member of our Armed Forces (and the citizens of our great nation who treat all Arab Americans as, well, Americans).
I hope to hear from you.
I look forward to their response. I think this is the same pablum we've been hearing since before 9/11, and that there is no there, there. Or, I've been missing the boat on Arab Americans being persecuted for who they are rather than what they've done, and I have erred. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with any American, regardless of race, color, creed, or gender, and defend him against assaults on his God given rights. That was the impetus of the oath I took more than twenty years ago: I will defend our Constitution, and all of our citizens, unto death.
I'll let you know what the response is, if any.
First of all, I'm getting tired of hearing about "fears of a backlash" against Muslims:
Barack Obama today joined calls from across America for calm amid fears of a backlash in the wake of the shooting spree by a Muslim soldier at the Fort Hood that left 13 dead and 28 wounded.
Apparently, even the Army is getting into the act
Army Chief of Staff George Casey said ..."I do worry slightly about a backlash" against Muslim soldiers in the Army...Does anyone even know of any real, substantiated cases of "backlash against Muslims" in this country since 9/11? I am so tired of hearing this trope, and am especially dismayed that the Army is knitting its brow in concern for our Islamic soldiers. Not going to happen: our force is too professional to allow any instances of backlash to foment, and I think our society is too inclusive and diverse for it to become a problem in this country. Sure, Hollywood will always weave a thread of American intolerance into its tales, even on shows I like, like 24, in order to demonstrate a societal moral equivalence between our cultures: "oh, see, we all must suffer violent extremists in our midst." Not happening.
Also, it looks to me a lot like news shows are bending over backwards to avoid intimating that Hasan was an Islamist/Jihadi son of a bitch. All kinds of reportage that "he was distraught over his impending deployment."
Bullshit. Not only are we an all volunteer force in general, but any soldier can get out of any deployment by going to an Army headshrinker--like Hasan--and saying "I feel stressed, this is making me homocidal/suicidal." Bam, instant relief from deployment requirements. [I know a guy that got sent back from Iraq like that; he wasn't "battle fatigued," nor was he suicidal/homicidal. He was a coward who verbalized those sentiments to a headshrinker specifically to get out of combat.] But our Soldiers didn't just volunteer for the Army, and then suffer the vagaries of being arbitrarily or wantonly flung into the combat zone. Instead, they volunteer every day, slugging it out to protect our country, when any one of them could get a ticket home with minimum effort. You can get out of combat by saying you're feeling homicidal, with no need to actually commit homicide. And there's no way that Hasan didn't know that.
Most rational people wouldn't need to pull out Occam's razor to start an investigation into Hasan's motivations with a look at the possibility that it was Jihadi movitivated. It is a plausible start point, it's rational, it's just not politically correct.
The Syrians say they don't know nothin' about it, so it must all be a big misunderstanding, right?
Question is, is Schultzie a metaphor for the Syrians, or the American negotiators?
Monday, November 2, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Actually, I'm in the midst of a lodging move right now, so all my shit's blown up like a TA-50 lay out in Dahlonega, and I've been doing zero angling, zero fighting, and zero blogging.
At some point, things'll settle down and I'll be able to begin to try to figure out why I gave this blogging thing a shot, and why I should keep at it, and where this blog should go now that I've repaired from Iraq.
In the meantime, there's sharks to catch. And--lucky for me--there're beers to be drunk whilst waiting for the guys who actually catch the sharks to come back in to the dock.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
...the husky and Arabian horse wouldn't run long distances if not pushed to do so. Animals run because they have to—to eat or avoid being eaten. Man is the only animal that runs simply to do it. Our large brains can convince our frail bodies to keep moving regardless of cost. We may not be the fastest animals, but we can run ourselves into the ground for sport, exhausting our food supply, and making ourselves susceptible to disease, injury and death. That's a feat no pronghorn can touch.
So, Iran through its Hezbollah and AQ surrogates (AQ? How can that be? AQ is Sunni...) has turned suicide bombing into an art form. Then they bitch when the technique is used against them. Queue the itty-bitty violins. Reap what you sow, bitches.
Story has a "happy" ending, though. They got the guy back in the pokey before he managed to kill anyone. So, no harm, no foul? Right?
I love how the guy states that his escape was "unplanned." Who is more insane? The mad dog killer that got out, or the state authorities that provide an insane killer a "target of opportunity" for escape.
Of most concern to me, though, is the fact that Mr. Breitbart and his crew got the story when other news outlets couldn't (even if they had wanted to) because
The approach Mr. O'Keefe and Ms. Giles used—lying to prospective sources or subjects—is grossly unethical by the standards of institutional journalism. Almost all major news organizations, including the Journal, strictly prohibit it. To be sure, there is a world of difference between employing such tactics and reporting on the results when others have used them. And there is no question that the pair's findings were newsworthy. But journalistic discomfort with their methods is a sign of integrity, not corruption.
I think that it is, in general, a good thing that newspapers will not lie to their sources--would that they had the same concerns about lying to the public (predominately, lying by omission). However, ACORN had accepted millions in federal funds, and my understanding is that they were programmed for billions more through the stimulus plan. That an advocacy organization is so replete with the most vile sort of corruption (facilitating the exploitation of underage sex slaves) is repugnant enough. That they were able to procure and manage millions/billions in federal largess is even worse. They were using our money to commit these criminal acts.
"We" have decided that organizations receiving federal funds are susceptible to having its compensation and payroll capped, and that the investment of federal dollars warrants federal organs monitoring and meddling in the private sector to "micromanagement" levels. I think that anyone accepting federal dollars should expect a corresponding level of scrutiny from the press.
Were every recipient of federal funds aware--"afraid," " leery," and "suspicious" are good, too--that every conversation about the possible illicit use of those funds could be a media "sting" operation, we might find fewer cases of this kind of corruption and abuse.
All federal employees are aware that, as pubic servants, they are subject to scrutiny far more invasive than that of the private citizen. Receipts and reconciliation documents for the expenditure of public funds have to be maintained--and are subject to inspection and inquiry--for years after the transaction occurs. Government computers, phones, and other IT are used with the understanding that there is little to no expectation of privacy. Why should a private sector organization or business accepting public funds get a pass?
The current tsunami of federal spending will spawn a corresponding storm surge of waste, fraud, and abuse. A free, independent press willing to ferret out the bad actors by any means necessary would only strengthen our republic.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Funniest though, is if you watch the video report at the end of the linked article, was the information that "the two men attacked the cage fighters in drag after attacking a man dressed as Spider Man.
What the hell goes on in Swansea?
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Why aren't we doing more long range patrols?
Even the guys that are (or, more aptly, were) in small COPs and JSS' seem to punch a time clock. You go out, you do your patrol or day's mission, and you roll back in. Granted, these smaller posts don't have the amenities that the super FOBs do, but still, every troop knows that after a hard day's work (which is usually substantially longer than the eight-hour work day, granted), he's going back to his rack, to his iPod, to his latest edition of black belt magazine.
How many troops now in Iraq (and Afghanistan) actually spend the night in what one would classically call a "patrol base?" Not surrounded with concrete T-walls and Hesco barriers, not in a known location from which the insurgents (et al) know that one will exit and return to daily?
With our technology (and, now that most Coalition have been given the boot out of urban areas) small patrols could move all day through non-urban terrain, stop after dark in a pre-mission reconned area that is defensible, and move out after a couple of hours to continue patrolling.
I'm wondering if this is being done in Afghanistan, and whether it is twined with the ISR and Fires capability that our air gives us. Long range patrols, that employ significant, dedicated air power to bolster lethality, may well be a way to decrease troop levels without increasing troop vulnerability and casualties. Plus, it would allow us to cover more area, have more exposure with the local populace, and reduce the predictability of Coalition comings and goings. MTF on this recommendation--this isn't a fully formed tactical theory so much as me jumping on my first chance to post in a couple days...
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
via Fox News
Thursday, August 20, 2009
It's been f'n hot the last couple of days. Blast furnace heat that makes seeking shade just a switch from "broil" to "bake." We had a break for a couple of days, and I thought maybe summer was thinking about tapping out. Apparently not. It's pant-like-a-dog hot; could be worse, though. We could be in Kuwait.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Michael J. Totten has dug up some pertinent facts about the report's author:
the gist is that the author of a recent Human Rights Watch report about Israeli soldiers in Gaza supported the infamous massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics by terrorists in the Palestinian Liberation Organization. And that's just for starters.
Yeah, this guy can be relied on to author a "just the facts, ma'am" report. Read the whole thing.
Islamic schools favor rote memorization, especially of scripture. Most Islamic scholars are hostile to the concept of interpreting the Koran (considered the word of God as given to His prophet Mohammed). This has resulted in looking down on Western troops that will look something up that they don't know. Arabs prefer to fake it, and pretend it's all in their head. Improvisation and innovation is generally discouraged. Arab armies go by the book, Western armies rewrite the book and thus usually win. Despite years of American advice on this matter, many Iraqi police and military personnel stick with the old, less effective, traditions.Me: This seems pretty accurate. We've found a decent success rate with pre-loading our counterparts with books/manuals, although we'll usually simplify products to the subject at hand down to just a checklist or handout, and distribute and carry ourselves checklists in both English and Arabic. We then, over time, condition our counterparts that on any given topic, they will see the same checklist over and over again. Initially, exposing them to any form to which they will have to commit an answer or fact (in ink, for the love of God!) on paper generates a great deal of stress. After a while though, they get into their comfort zone and can be reasonably relied upon to generate the information required or follow the established checklist sequence--especially if the form/checklist has enabled them to be perceived as "successful" before.
There is no real NCO corps. Officers and enlisted troops are treated like two different social castes and there is no effort to bridge the gap using career NCOs. Enlisted personnel are treated harshly. Training accidents that would end the careers of US officers are commonplace in Arab armies, and nobody cares. This is slowly changing, with the steady growth of a proper NCO corps and better officer attitudes towards their troops. But the old ways often return, with disastrous effects on troop morale and effectiveness.
Me: There is an NCO corps in the IFP, and some of our NCO shurta are actually pretty good. However, the NCOs get paid the same as the privates, so one of our biggest obstacles is getting shurta NCOs to stand up and take charge (and inherit all the headaches inherent in leadership) when there is no remuneration for doing so. When the chips are down, though, the enlisted leadership--both formal and informal--will usually step up and take charge, often on the basis of "because I'm bigger and stronger and I say so." Also, while the unit gets deplorable support from higher, unit leadership evinces strong, genuine concern for the shurtas' health and welfare. This has resulted, at least in the Knights' Raid Brigade, in relatively high unit identification and morale.
Officers are despised by their troops, and this does not bother the officers much at all. Many Arab officers simply cannot understand how treating the troops decently will make them better soldiers. This is another old tradition that dies hard.Me: While the officers definitely have a different relationship to the troops than anything we're used to, I've got to say that my guys understand and value the role of the officer as leader. The Brigade Commander hails from a tribe with strong Beduin roots, so his idea of "leadership" definitely reflects the desert raider mentality (in line with the brigade's name, which literally translated is "the Raid of the Knights"). His leadership style (and expectations of his subordinates) is akin to that of a medieval warlord, who treats his men well but expects absolute loyalty in return. Rather than being "despised by his troops", he has established within the unit a cult of personality--which of course presents its own problems.
Americans are taught leadership and technology; Arab officers are taught only technology. Leadership is given little attention as officers are assumed to know this by virtue of their social status as officers. The new generation of Iraqi officers and NCOs have been taught leadership, but for too many of them, this is an alien concept that they do not understand or really know what to do with.
While American officers thrive on competition among themselves, Arab officers avoid this as the loser would be humiliated. Better for everyone to fail together than for competition to be allowed, even if it eventually benefits everyone. Still a factor.
Me: My guys are not real big on failure. Instead of "all failing together," they will marginalize weak or incompetent leaders, and while continuing to pay full deference to their rank, keep them out of the decision making/mission execution cycle. There is definitely a preference for "all winning together" over "all failing together." For example, in the operations shop, I have one O6 (full colonel) whose sole job is to take written orders from the "current operations" stack and, upon completion of the mission, bind them into notebooks for historical record keeping. Meanwhile, a young and extremely competent lieutenant colonel runs operations. Because of his proven history of success, he has the latitude to make and implement decisions far above what any O6 in the unit has. Within well-defined limits, of course.
Initiative is considered a dangerous trait. So subordinates prefer to fail rather than make an independent decision. Battles are micromanaged by senior generals, who prefer to suffer defeat rather than lose control of their subordinates. Even worse, an Arab officer will not tell a US ally why he cannot make the decision (or even that he cannot make it), leaving US officers angry and frustrated because the Arabs won't make a decision. The Arab officers simply will not admit that they do not have that authority. The new generation of army commanders and staff officers have been sent to Western staff and command schools, but there's still not a lot of enthusiasm for initiative (which is seen as a decadent and dangerous Western import.)Me: Absolutely. I have seen division- and corps-level commanders huddled over a map, deciding where each individual vehicle will go in the cordon of a search operation. One of the values of the US Combat Advisory chain of command is that we can often reach up, through US advisors, and influence a more senior Iraqi commander to make a necessary decision and push it down before demanding an answer from a subordinate makes the top of his head explode followed by spontaneous combustion. We've discovered that, for example, if 1st Platoon is searching streets A through F, but has only received orders to search A&B, he will not move until ordered to do so. Even if the platoon leader knows he is going to eventually have to move to C,D,E, and F, he is rooted at the Street B limit of advance until he is ordered forward. This can be ameliorated through comprehensive discussions during rehearsals, but too many branches and sequels (still comprising a pretty basic set of instructions) will lead to confusion, doubt, and ultimately the same inaction we were trying to preclude. The key is knowing the partner unit well enough to know who is capable of making what level of decisions, and ensuring that you know how to reach that guy. It is better to leave a junior leader in place and spend 20 minutes to an hour hunting down the "right guy" for a decision than to try to berate, cajole, or threaten a junior leader into doing his job. If the guy is lower than battalion commander, the less you make him think, the better.
Lack of initiative makes it difficult for Arab armies to maintain modern weapons. Complex modern weapons require on the spot maintenance, and that means delegating authority, information, and tools. Arab armies avoid doing this and prefer to use easier to control central repair shops. This makes the timely maintenance of weapons difficult. Still a problem in Iraq, and throughout the Middle East.Me: Uh, Federal Police don't have complicated weapons systems. Kalashnikov series weapons are about as high speed as they get (barring ad hoc weapons). Where we bump into maintenance issues is primarily with vehicles. Especially the Humvees. Especially the Humvees that we told them not to buy. Especially the Humvees that we told them not to buy because they don't have the parts on hand or logistics to maintain them. However, the Humvees considerably increase the survivability of the average shurta, so I can understand their ardour for the vehicles. Still, since they don't have the system to maintain their vehicles, but we do, then obviously we could square them away if we wanted to (when in fact, we would go to jail). When we don't square them away--i.e., increase their chances of living through the operation--even though we could "if we wanted to," this generates some real resentment. I think they would maintain their fleet better if they had the systems in place to do so, but the question is academic since their logistics apparatus is totally--what's the word? oh yeah--fucked.
There are some good points I didn't touch on in the article. While my experiences here and now are a little different, the article does a great job of describing the difficulties involved in trying to midwife a modern security capability in the Middle East. And just think, the Iraqis are waaaay more modern and sophisticated than the Afghans...
Take a Soviet-made ZSU 23-4 anti-aircraft gun. Split off one of the four 23mm guns, mount it on the back of a Dodge pick-up, and you've got a "technical" that is a Somali warlord's wet dream. Contrary to what I initially thought, when the boys test-fired this thing 1) all the windows didn't blow out, 2) the pintle and mounting pylon stayed secure, and 3) the truck didn't flip over. While the whole set-up is ingenious, I have nightmares about what'll happen if my guys ever let rip inside the city with this thing...
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
They were forced to strip off their clothes and told to perform sexual acts when the male victim, described as a physically fit member of the military in his mid-30s, wrestled the gun away.
"He beat him until the stock broke over his head and then continued to beat him until he thought he had him incapacitated,"
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The 5.56 mm round comes off rather well. I'm not so sure, for all the reasons listed in the article. I'm not a huge fan of the 5.56.
One comment that piqued my interest was
Much experimentation has taken place to develop the "perfect bullet" and at present it appears to be something between 6mm and 7mm.
Word on the street from Huggy Bear is that USSOCOM is fielding new upper receivers for the M4 that chamber a 6.68 mm round. Would love to hear the feedback on those.
One important point on round development is that, in this blogger's humble opinion, you cannot discuss the "goodness" of various calibers in combat without acknowledging the revolution in optics that the military provides its servicemen. Most sights now are "aiming dot" type optics, in which the aiming point is the focus of a parabolic lens. Used to be, soldiers had to line up the iron sights of the weapon, and had to have the correct "sight picture" in order to actually hit the target. In fact, "sight picture" was one of the three fundamentals of shooting (the other two being breath control and trigger squeeze). So, the soldier's eye, the rear sight aperture, and the front sight post all had to be in line for the soldier to hit the target. And the soldier had to do it the exact same way every time, with his head in the exact same position in relation to the sights of the weapon. Now, when the troop puts the aiming dot on the target, that is where the round will strike (given that he doesn't hork up breathing or trigger squeeze) no matter what the relief of his eye to the sight is. This makes potentially problematic rounds, like the 5.56 mm, extremely more effective, since round placement on the target (nice word for "bad guy") is going to be consistently better.
-groundfighting on a hard surface is significantly different than doing so on a mat.
-groundfighting against multiple opponents (especially if some of them haven't hit the ground yet) is a lost cause.
-groundfighting strategies reduce mobility to unacceptable levels.
-in a real fight, reducing one's opponent and while remaining on one's feet is a winning fight strategy.
All of these are good points. And Lord knows, I've groused about the shortfalls of strictly BJJ or even MMA skills in a real fight. But--
-I don't plan on getting in a real fight. I've got pretty good people skills (okay, I've been well-trained in de-escalating a potentially violent situation, how's that?), a well-managed temper, and nothing to prove to anybody. So why would I ever get in a fight?
-If I do get into a fight, I definitely do not plan on being unarmed, whether I'm carrying a firearm, a knife, or any of a wide range of less-than-lethal tools that I own and with which I have extensive training.
-If the planets align for that once in a lifetime kismet induced situation where I do get into a fight and I am unarmed, I certainly do not plan to "go to the ground." I do plan on 50% of the participants in the fight going to the ground (ballistically), but not me.
So, if all of that has gone wrong, and I'm in a fight mano a mano (heaven forfend), why would I assume that I'm not going end up on the ground?
A lot went wrong if I'm in a fight.
A lot went wrong if I'm unarmed.
A lot went wrong if I'm on the ground.
At that point, how important is it that I can acquit myself well?
"Ah," says the gimlet-eyed skeptic,"but you have created a slippery slope coursing down which one can rack up all kinds of training requirements, and at the end of the day you don't have enough time to train every skill you'll need to defend yourself through the gamut of worst-case scenarios."
This is true. But I don't need as much time on the rifle and pistol ranges to build proficiency as I do on the mats. Bullets are wonderful things, and there's no training to "counter" a bullet. The first rule I learned for knife-fighting was KISS; again less training time required. Striking and throwing skills are more training/technique intensive, so yes, I dedicate the appropriate percentage of training time to them.
The survivability training paradigm I'm trying to articulate is: firearms, a couple of hours per month (I know, it should be more, and has to be for real pistolero status, but I'm talking survival, here). Blades (and kinetic/ballistic non-lethals), a couple of hours per week. Unarmed, a couple of hours per day (of which groundfighting is a significant percentage).
Thing is, while I spend more time on the unarmed (least likely/desireable) scenario, it is my considered opinion that a significant portion of the efficacy of those hours translates up, and helps with the other skill sets.
For example, shooting: proper breathing is of paramount importance--make that "proper breathing under extreme duress" is of paramount importance. I can guarantee that regular, quality groundfight training will improve the breath-control dimension of one's shooting game. Knife fighting: kinesthetic awareness is extremely important; you have to know--without necessarily being able to see--what your opponent is doing at his extremities, and what he is capable of doing given the relationship of his body to yours. Striking and throwing: same deal, plus one has to remember that economy of force and economy of effort is key if the fight is going to last more than 17 seconds (remember, you started your day believing there was no way you'd get in a fight, period). Pepper spray: okay, I'd have to think for a while to come up with a crosswalk from jiujits to pepper spray, but you get the picture.
Seems like there might be a little more going on than just Iraq and Afghanistan, is all I'm sayin'.
Hate to say it, but on US domestic reporting they are as (or more) impartial and well-reasoned as any of the US mainstream media. So, I give them as much credence as the rest of the mainstream media on most of its reporting.
Granted, that isn't much.
Seems to me, the guy is either innocent--in which case you absolve him and set him free with damages paid--or his conviction stands, and his ass rots in prison (pun intended).
If he is indeed a mass murderer (or conspirator to mass murder) releasing him on compassionate grounds due to his terminal prostate cancer is ridiculous.
Hmm, Human Rights Watch. Hey, wasn't that the outfit that accused the Israelis of war crimes in the "massacre" of Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp in 2002? Why yes, I believe it was, and that accusation was thoroughly discredited. In fact, the Israelis did more to protect Palestinian innocents than the Palestinians did themselves:
Dr. David Zangen, chief medical officer of the Israeli paratroop unit that fought in Jenin, has reported (and his report was confirmed) that not only did the Israelis not perpetrate a massacre, they worked to keep the hospital in Jenin open. They even offered blood to the wounded Palestinians.(9)
The Palestinians refused the blood because it was Jewish.In response, the Israelis flew in 2,000 units of blood from Jordan by helicopter. They also made sure that additional units of blood reached hospitals in Ramallah and Tulkarem, and they facilitated the delivery of 1,800 units of anti-coagulants brought in from Morocco.(9)
Yuh. Okay, these sound like the guys looking for a chance to gun down women and kids waving white flags.
-Beef Jerky business cards, it's a beautiful thing...
H/t AoS newsbar
Monday, August 10, 2009
Hugo doesn't have the stones to do it, though, because he knows what would happen.
I remember after the Colombians smoked FARC-ster Raul Reyes on the Ecuadoran side of the border reading that Hugo had ordered "21 tank battalions to move to the border." Unless a tank battalion in Venezuela consists of two up-armored golf carts, he was blowing smoke.
The Colombian Army has been gaining expertise through the expenditure of blood, sweat, and tears fighting the FARC, the ELN, and to some extent the AUC. While none of these are conventional opponents, the resultant capability would mean that Hugo would get to reap what he's sown. Oh, and throw in the fact that Prez Uribe doesn't back up at all, ever.
The shark that jumped into the boat is a bull shark; they are the most aggressive and are responsible for more attacks on humans than any other shark.
"U.S. efforts to rebuild the [Iraqi security forces] have focused on much needed training and equipment, but have neglected the greatest challenge facing the forces' ability to maintain security upon U.S. withdrawal: an ISF politicized by ethno-sectarian parties," he wrote.
"These ties pose the largest obstacle to the ISF in its quest to become genuinely professional and truly national in character. A professional military force holds the best prospect of gaining and keeping the trust of the people, but a force riven with destructive sectarian and ethnic loyalties is a recipe for civil war."
Obviously, I've got a limited view from my perch hear in Mosul, but this sounds about right. My counterparts in the Iraqi Federal Police (until very recently known as the Iraqi National Police) have a vehement, visceral distrust of the Iraqi Army. The IA, far more robust in its training and logistics systems to date, have a multitude of capabilities that the IFP don't. American commanders constantly defer lending a hand with US capabilities to help my guys out, stating that we need to "coordinate" with the IA and have them come on over and help out. Here's the deal: my counterpart would rather tear an eye from his face than ask for or recieve help from the IA. To the point that a couple of weeks ago, after the IFP had a fruitful day of harvesting IEDs, which they--gulp--happily brought back into their own headquarters, US forces refused to send EOD out to take control of and reduce the IEDs. Instead, I was told, tell them to get the IA to do it, natch. My counterpart's response to my entreaties to use the IA EOD was that he'd rather keep them for "later." So the explosives got to sit there for an extra day while we figured out an alternative means by which to dispose of the ordnance. There have been more than a couple of times that I thought the IA and IFP might go all "Hatfield-McCoy" on us. Thankfully, we've managed to calm those situations and have yet to have an incident that is both serious and sustained. Still, internecine security force hostility is always simmering just below the surface. Even within the IA there are fault lines:
The majority of these divisions are under the patronage of a political party," he writes. "For example, the 8th [Iraqi army] division in Kut and Diwaniyah is heavily influenced by the Dawa Party [of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki]; the 4th IA division in Salahuddin is influenced by President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan; the 7th IA division in Anbar is influenced by the [Sunni] Iraqi Awakening Party, and the 5th IA division in Diyala is heavily influenced by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shi'ite political party with some ties to Iran.
As I've posted previously, most of the ISF and civilians I speak to think that when the US pulls out, there will be a bloodletting, but then things will settle down and people will live the "Iraqi way." As bad as that sounds, almost unanimously the Iraqis I speak to say that they will never again suffer a despot. Most will point to their satellite dishes and cell phones and say, "because of these, we have learned to say no."