Archive for the ‘GWOT’ Category

I have been struggling this last year to write anything of worth.  I just do not seem to have it in me since I went out on retirement leave last October to put thoughts to words.  Writing my annual 9/11 piece seems to be just as difficult a process as anything else I have to to put down over the last few months.  Do not get me wrong, the thoughts are there in my head, the act of getting them down has been failing though.

In my first year of civilian life I had hoped to write this one with just a little bit different perspective to influence my words.  After all I started this whole thing three, almost four, years ago to help clear the anger out of my head and do something a little more constructive with my limited creative side than simply allowing dark thoughts to take up space and fester in my head.  At the end of the day, if it were not for 9/11 and all that has changed because of that day I do not think I would have entered this medium as a form of therapy.  Chances are good I would have never realized that I needed some sort of outlet and like many other Americans would have lived a much different life.

Something I have come to realize in the 14 years since the attacks is that we not only need to remember what happened that day and those we lost, we need to also remember the person we were prior to that day as well.  We all changed, for some it was a significant change, while for others it was hardly noticeable. Some of us in the ensuing years have come to realize the type of person we really were, while others, too many others, have become lost in themselves and barely resemble the who that they were before the attacks.

Many, too many, of my Brothers and Sisters have chosen to end their story long before the last chapter is written.  It is commonly accepted that 22 Veterans per day end their lives.  22 souls who could no longer wander, trying to get back to who they were or come to grips with their experiences but were unable to.  It may be that for some, they either could not remember the events that led to their experiences nor the thoughts and reasons why they took those steps in the days and years after.  It is possible for many it is the polar opposite, they remember all too well how they were changed that day and forever are tied to their actions in the ensuing years, unable to make a break away from their personal changes or simply unable to accept them.

9/11 changed many things for many people.  Some of us stayed at war until we left the service; for many they remain at war even though they are a long way away from their days in combat.  The country latched on to a short-term, intense patriotism, supporting revenge, justice, vengeance or any other adjective to describe what has continued as a conflict without end.  I do not blame anyone for this, we all lost someone or something of ourselves that day and America is known as a nation you do want to have to defend your backyard from.  We need to remember that day because it is the day we all moved as a nation, from who we were to who we are now.

The lives of our current and future generations was radically altered in the days since 9/11.  After the initial closeness and drawing together, we have exploded outward and become polarizing and extreme.  The thing that initially brought us together in our grief, morning and collective desire for vengeance has also shattered our old way of life, turning it into something almost unrecognizable at times.  We always disagreed, but eventually there was some form of compromise for the country.  Now there is a hostile polarity from which compromise is only reached from a position of dominance and for the good of the party.  The ignorant have a greater voice than the wise, who are often labeled in the antithesis of what is considered an American.  People who believe everyone should have a fair shake at accessing anything as anyone are called socialist while people who would have you believe the belief system is the only way and it is how we should be governed are totally ignorant of the fact that is the same philosophy as those who decided to attack us that day.

We do need to remember.  The many lives lost.  The friends and families of those lost.  Those who witnessed the acts live or on television.  The heroes who lost their lives moving to the destruction to help others to live.  The passengers who chose a farmers field rather than to be used as a fourth weapon of destruction.

Most of all we all need to remember who we were before that day, individually and collectively.  We may not have been any better people than we are today, but we are all radically altered in the years that have followed.  Just a couple of months after the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 next year we will be choosing the next leader of the country.  We need to decide whether we want to continue the cycles and dynasties that we have allowed or if we want to try something new and see where it goes.

Remember the events of 9/11 and the people we lost that day and in years since.  History will judge our actions since then as a nation and whether that pivotal event portended our downfall or our ascension.  Patriots Day is a day of reflection brought about by noble actions in response to a most ignoble event.  Take a moment in your busy day today and think about that day, the memory is yours, reflection is good.  Time may close some wounds but it does not mean they are healed.

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After watching the coverage of the events which unfolded this week in Boston I wanted to take a little while and write something critical yet poignant and relevant about what we, as Americans, seem willing to accept from the fourth estate these days.  Last evening as the manhunt was coming to a close I was flipping back and forth between the major news networks and was incensed at the inability of all the talking heads from sensationalizing, speculating, and just outright using their platform as a means to spread their filth.  To me, and many of the people I was sharing with it was outright disgusting.

In some sense just writing this blog and entertaining my 10s of followers, loyal as they are, I am part of today’s media.  I in no way, claim to be a reporter or to have any information of relative value beyond my own opinion and my personal experiences.  I am not afraid of a controversial subject, yet I do my best to make sure that what I say is understood to be my opinion and not a representation of the organization that I work for.  That is something that I take pretty seriously and it is one reason why I try not to be overly critical of anything military related, I temper my opinions on my Commander in Chief, and have spoken out about those who have gotten themselves in trouble because they did not take the same care in their own statements.  I want to make this clarification because I think along with my freedom of speech, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, there is a responsibility to do so with a sense of, responsibility.

This may be a novel idea, but I think it is something that the media today does not have as an institution.  This is regardless of the network they work for.  There are few if any reporters that present the goings on, on a day to day basis, with anything in mind but the entertainment value of the story in front of them.  I think some of the local networks do a better job of it, they are accountable to the people they are showing themselves to.  The nationals, television and print media, are in it for the sensationalism.

Somewhere along the way this week the events in Boston morphed from the destructive events at the Boston marathon and all those affected by it, to the sexiness of SWAT teams, intelligence, shelter in place requests, and two dumbass brothers who committed numerous heinous acts for what reason no one knows at this point.  One brother, most likely the leader was mortally wounded somewhere between lead poisoning and his prostrate body being run over by his younger brother as he made his escape.  The other is laid up in a hospital with the Feds eagerly awaiting to question him and salivating at the fact that he may be declared an enemy combatant.

In between the bombings and the capture of “suspect 2” the John Kings, Anderson Coopers, Geraldo Riveras, Shepard Smiths, Chris Hayes, and all the little minions that work for their respective networks just stirring up the pot of shit like they always do.  Latching on to any little detail that is put out and making something from absolutely nothing.  John King and his really not very accurate law enforcement “sources” got more wrong than they did right, often leading to dissension in the ranks of the CNN crew as they pointed fingers at each other.  Fox was absolutely no better in their coverage as they took it upon themselves to both tie the brothers to an Al Qaeda off shot group in Russia and repeatedly mistake the sounds of flashbangs going off for a gun battle.  Hell, one of the FOX reporters even had the balls to describe in vivid detail “My gunfight” from the night the older brother was killed; what a piece of shit.  The only time I saw anything of the victims being reported on was when it could be tied to continue the fervor against the brothers.

On top of all this shitty reporting we have the conspiracy theorists just adding their own special blend of crap to the equation.  Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, Infowars and all the other tin-foil hat wearing crowd are just full of conspiracy as a result of the events of this week.  Between the two ends of this equation the American public is just eating it up like Honey Boo Boo’s family at a Golden Corral buffet.

The best of all this is yet to come.  We now eagerly await the interrogation and the results of all the evidence that was gathered which is just now getting the attention it deserves.  A significant portion of Boston and it’s suburbs are now a crime scene.  There will be more rumor and speculation and for sure more conspiracy theory floating out there in the ether.  It is a sad state of affairs this 24 hour news cycle.  I hope somewhere along the line this gets back to the victims, both the sadness and the strength.  It is their amazing stories that will allow the country to move on, which will force the country to move on.  In the end whatever happens to this shithead is simply justice, the lessons are in those who will overcome their injuries, their fears and their losses.  The lessons are in those who will not be able to overcome what they have been through and the long term effects on their families and loved ones.

If law enforcement and government were smart they would stop holding press conferences.  They would type up a press release that says in no uncertain terms what they want it to say.  Then they would use social media as a means of distributing that information and take absolutely no questions from the press.  It may be a Constitutional right, this freedom of the press thing, but that does not mean that anyone actually has to speak to them.

We the people deserve better from those whose careers are made by us watching them.  We should demand better than what we receive.  Instead of receiving a product, and a piss-poor one at that, we should receive information.  We do not currently get that from the networks, we get a ready made template just waiting to be filled in and delivered with whatever is the flavor of the day.  What we need is a National Media Blackout Day.  Just one full day in which no one watches the news.  A day in which everyone uses social media as a means to tell the media outlets over and over again that no one is watching them.

I have a new respect for the city of Boston after all they have been through this week.  My condolences for those who lost loved ones in this senseless tragedy and best wishes and speedy recoveries to those who were injured.  I hope those who need it seek the help they may need from the wounds they cannot yet see.  The greatest of respect to all the law enforcement and emergency responders for all they did during the week.  Most of all a nod of respect to the volunteers and bystanders who overcame their fear and shock in the aftermath of the explosions to render aid and comfort to those who so desperately needed it.  You have done the city where the American Revolution began proud.

The Flag of Honor is comprised of the names of the fallen from September 11, 2001

Eleven years ago this Tuesday, the most heinous act of terrorism ever committed against the United States was perpetrated by 19 terrorists who hijacked four airplanes with the intent of flying them into significant American symbols.  The objective of the masterminds behind the plan was to crush the resolve of the American government and demonstrate to their extremist allies that America and the Western nations of the world were impotent to do anything about it.  They achieved their short-term tactical objectives and managed to crash three of the aircraft into symbols of America’s might.  The two flights that crashed into the World Trade Center complex destroyed thousands of lives beyond those killed directly in the attack.  The attack on the Pentagon did the same.  Buildings were destroyed, our resolve challenged and America was brought to a standstill as thousands of flights were grounded and forced to land immediately.  Our economy, which was attacked in the destruction of the World Trade Center complex, hiccuped as the private organizations and government agencies responsible for it moved into recovery mode.

In what should have been a foretelling of the years to come for Al Qaeda, the brave people on board Flight 93 were not satisfied with what appeared to be another notch in the terrorists gun.  They instead fought back, attempting to wrest control of the aircraft from the terrorists.  The brave sacrifice of the people on Flight 93 resulted in their crashing into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvannia, rather than hitting their unknown ultimate goal.  The flight path of the plane would have taken it to the Washington, D.C. area.  The brave sacrifice of the passengers, epitomized by the phrase “Lets Roll!” was a demonstration of resolve and sacrifice.  The bravery of the passengers, thousands of first responders and volunteers in the days, weeks, months and now years, during and in the aftermath of the attacks is the foundation for our Global War on Terror.

As we approach the 11 year anniversary of 9/11 and not long after our war in Afghanistan, public opinion has waxed and waned on our involvement in the country.  There have been numerous reasons as to why this may be the case, that however is something we will never be able to settle.  What we can do, however, is on 9/11 take a moment to remember those lost on that day and since.  We can remember the feeling we had as we watched the attacks happen, we should all remember what we were doing on that day and how we felt.  It is an indelible part of our lives, and it was the day that an organization, not a country or state actor, declared war on us and our way of life.

There are many who feel that after 11 years we should already have moved forward as a nation, sitting back on our hindquarters waiting for the next attack to happen.  Some feel that the death of Bin Laden last year should be symbolic of the end of the war on terror and is indicative of the fall of Al Qaeda as an effective terrorist organization.  We have moved away from teaching our children history as it actually happened, even the ugly warts sitting beneath the surface, and instead have embraced the media driven soft soaping and political party obfuscation.  It is a rare day when the horrific images of that day are shown publicly, as they were in the aftermath.  Instead, you generally only see them in the days before and after the anniversary.  We owe to our children and future generations to teach them what happened on that day, and if possible the events that led up to it.  They deserve the truth, pure and unadulterated, not the history that has been written by the victors of the political sentiment of the day.

Take a few moments this Tuesday and remember, as an American, what you were doing and how you felt.  Remember those who died that day and know that no matter how imperfect or unpleasant it may seem, that there is a line of people out there doing their best to keep the fight where the enemy really is and off our shores.  Eleven years of sacrifice should serve as a lesson of American resolve and the truly heavy price our “freedom” comes at.

In light of recent events in Afghanistan, starting with the burning of Quarans by American forces and most recently the unsanctioned massacre of 16 men, women and children by a lone American serviceman, Afghani President Hamid Karzai has decided he is “at the end of the rope” when it comes to civilian casualties.  This is an understandable sentiment in the broadest of context; we have been engaged in combat in the country for the last almost 11 years and there have been some seriously unfortunate events that have been capitalized on by the enemy and the media.  This often has the effect of making coalition forces, particularly  American forces look exactly opposite of what the intent is.

I will state before I commence with the little tirade I am about to embark on, Staff Sergeant Bales needs to go to trial for what he has done or face the most extreme of consequences should he plead guilty without a trial requirement.  He perpetrated a most heinous act and must face the consequences for it, even if that means the death penalty.  Even if by some strange reason he managed to kill from the three military age males of the 16 people killed, an enemy combatant, it was not done in a manner consistent with the rules of engagement nor within the bounds of anything considered acceptable by a professional soldier.  All the claims that are now beginning to surface of PTSD and not wanting to return to Afghanistan on his third or fourth deployment are too bad.  There are too many resources available to soldiers to take care of mental health issues.  We sit through a nauseating amount of briefings of what is available to us should we feel we need it or are identified as someone who could use a little extra assistance in the mental health and welfare arena.  All the little excuses of the “stigma” that gets attached to someone who seeks help be damned; if you know you are fucked up, get it fixed before you perpetrate an act that completely undermines the good works that have been done.

So, setting that aside for the moment, lets put a little to things as I see them, from a historical and current level.

President Hamid Karzai, the former exile and future despotic President of the contested little litter-box known as Afghanistan.  He would not be where he is at right now if it were not for America’s little act of retribution against the Taliban for harboring and protecting al Qaeda; you know those guys who successfully flew planes full of people (mostly American people) into a few building on September 11, 2001.  Mr Karzai, ungrateful ruler that he is, conveniently knows nothing of the corruption of his family members (all male by the way) spread around in key governmental positions.  he has a problem with us conducting night raids as it makes the people slightly uncomfortable to be woken up in the middle of the night.  He also forgets that if it were not for the actions of a particularly alert and well-trained Personal Security Detail (PSD) not long after he moved into a leadership role early in the war, he would have been buried by sundown, riddled with bullets and we would have a less contentious person chosen for his pliability in power right now.  Oh, yeah, forgot to mention the PSD, American soldiers.

I think you get my point when it comes to Karzai, so I think I will move on to the billions that have been sent over there in aid and projects.  I will be damned if there are more than a few paved roads throughout the country, but hell, they have a fairly robust cellular infrastructure and if your village is fortunate enough to have power, they also have a pretty robust internet presence.  Women still have virtually no rights, unless you consider the right to marry your rapist rather than going to jail for being unfortunate enough to have been born with a vagina and attractive enough to provide temptation for an otherwise normal scumbag.

The Taliban, Haqaani network, and dozens of other allied thug groups perform criminal acts that make the mafia seem tame.  They kidnap folks and have perfected the art of not only milking the media attention out of it, but manage to make profit as more and more people, agencies and organizations pay ransom.  The DEA cannot keep up with the poppy eradication efforts and farmers refuse to grow alternative crops because they are not profitable enough.  Criminality is intertwined with the organizations trying to re-institute their authoritative control over the government of the country, just as they do in the rural areas that coalition forces have little to no influence in, even after 11 years.  Provincial Reconstruction Teams are unable to conduct projects within their mandate, a mandate which negates them from offensive combat roles.  All of these organizations assert themselves into the lives of the uneducated, poor villagers and reap the benefits of profit off of their backs, all while espousing the rhetoric of Sharia and Islamic fundamentalism against the Infidel westerners and their puppet regimes who benefit on the other side of the coin.

Eleven years of war and what has the coalition wrought upon itself?  We repeatedly make gains and bring services to as many as we can, yet still are not able to introduce a nation-wide, coherent, stable infrastructure.  We repeatedly apologize for our mistakes, despite the fact in grand scope they are rivaled by those who we are fighting.  We seem to lay prostrate at the feet of a corrupt government whose sole authority rests in the hands of a future despot when we eventually handover full authority.  We repeatedly sacrifice our young men and women, not to the rigors of force on force combat, but to the bullets and grenades used from those we have fought along side of and trained to be more efficient in the martial skills of combat.  We are in the midst of a controlling shift of prisons housing criminals and terrorists alike.  Shaky allies who pull out their troops rather than stand tall and fulfill their humanitarian obligations (take that France) demonstrate the ineffectiveness of policy and will make it harder to showcase any success when we eventually turn full authority to Afghans so they can fall flat on their own faces in the near future.

The end of the rope is indeed near and America will do one of a few courses of action within the next couple of years.  The most likely is we will stick to our timeline for withdrawing troops and allowing Afghanistan.  We go on a final, ass-kicking campaign to destroy as much of the enemy infrastructure as possible, including those deeply entrenched in governing the nation as it exists right now.  Leaving Karzai and his ilk with the message if they do not play nice, October of 2001 will seem like a warm-up.  We outright replace the government with a more pliable and like-minded one to our own (least likely of all).  Sometime between 2013 and 2014 we pullout with our tails between our legs and unsure what we accomplished and wondering if all the loss and time invested by each and every war fighter was worth it.

I am not sure where or how SSG Bales needs to be tried, convicted and/or penalty meted out.  That is for the military to decide, the military, not the government.  We have processes in place to deal with situations such as this.  It is sad to say we do, but it is not the first, will probably not be the last, we can hope though that it is never rivaled in magnitude and scope if/when it does happen again.

One thing I am certain of is President Karzai, repeatedly not only looks the American gift horse in the mouth, but treats us as if we are a gelded and subservient one at that.  I would like to say he repeatedly kicks us in the nuts, but as a gelding we do not have any.  I personally do not care if we leave the country tomorrow, so long as we do not allow our sacrifices to be diminished by the rhetoric of an ungrateful government and a populace with a 90 second attention span.  Pull us out tomorrow if that is what is needed, keep us there for years if we are given the opportunity to do what we are supposed to do; crush our enemy and allow the people to govern themselves as they see fit and provide them with the tools, education and framework to be successful at it.

Combat is not a complex thing, it is fatally simple in both plan and action.  My fellow service members are aware of the hazards and, the loyal, accept them as part of the job.  It is not is not a place for the idealist, they soon become disillusioned, but requires the cold and pragmatic view of the professional to make the things we do understandable and to a point acceptable.  Nobility is achieved in acts on the battlefield, but there is nothing noble about the execution of war in and of itself.  When we invest our time in the betterment of the forces of a fledgling country and they turn their skills against us in the confines of our own havens it is a bitter pill to swallow.  We want to lash out, but seldom can figure to what end.  When a professional takes it upon himself the mete out violence, unsanctioned and on his own accord, he violates the tenets of of combat as we have defined them.  Countries have accepeted certain rules of war for a reason and acts such as SSG Bale’s disrupt the finely tuned machine we have created.

The end of the rope is near.  We are running out of length and soon it will snap taut.  Will America be swinging from the end of it in shame?  President Karzai  needs to prioritize the best interests of his country rather than straddle the fence between hope and despair.  No matter what state America pulls out of Afghanistan in, in just a couple years, one thing I am pretty willing to bet on is the current government of Afghanistan will probably be swinging on a rope right next to us not very long after.

 

 

The Actions of One

Posted: March 11, 2012 in GWOT
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Our war in Afghanistan has reached the most contentious of levels in the 10 year history of the conflict.  Until recently actions there had taken a backseat to our war in Iraq.  Over the last two years, as we have increased troop levels and reinvigorated the initiative to achieve success, we have also found ourselves on the receiving end of criticism we had hoped would not affect the efforts.  The initial success, followed by negative publicity and constant conflict between military operations and the sovereignty of Afghan political leadership, is regularly undermined. A combination of our inability to capitalize on our successes in today’s media savvy world and the ability of the enemy to do exactly what we cannot when it comes to positive spin of the successes has helped foment against our forces by the Afghan people and Americans and allies who wonder what the end-state is and when it will be achieved.

The good efforts of coalition soldiers seem to fall by the wayside along with gains made in human rights and relative equality.  The improvements made seem futile.  Gains made by soldiers who risk their lives to provide them are undermined over and over again by the actions of individuals, either intentional or through circumstance.  For weeks now we have been dealing with the deadly fallout from the burning of some Quarans which were confiscated from prisoners because they were believed to contain hidden messages to other prisoners.  A situation which was probably less intended as an affront to the religion as a it was a miscommunication between the confiscators and the people charged with the burning of not only the books, but other material as well.

The most recent issue that will need to be dealt with is the rampage perpetrated by one U.S. soldier, conducted in the dead of night.  It would appear this soldier snuck off of his base, fully armed and began a shooting spree through a village just south of Khandahar.

The reporting is still new, just breaking news this morning.  The soldier nor his unit have been named yet, only reporting that he is a special operations soldier who was tasked with training Afghan soldiers.  The number of dead is unconfirmed with reports between 12 and 18 as of this writing.  What has been confirmed is the dead did include men, women and children.

The reason behind writing this is not to sensationalize this unfortunate situation, nor is it to condemn the actions of the soldier.  It is simply to demonstrate how the actions of one can and do have consequences, affecting the works of the many.  No matter what the reasons behind the attack or that it was not sanctioned and definitely not condoned by NATO, it does nothing but lend credence to the rhetoric of an enemy.  Our enemy, the Taliban and the groups who work in concert with them, in all their simplicity and apparent backwardness, have done a much better job of exploiting our deficiencies than we have of exploiting our success.  As we grow closer to the 11 mark of occupation we begin to expose individual acts of negativity to further scrutiny than they would have ever warranted before.  The strides made in some areas are non-existent in others.  The headway we would have made in trying to placate both the ineffective Afghan government and the Taliban, will at best become status quo at the negotiation table.  More than likely what will happen is the U.S. will be negotiating from a position of weakness, if we can still get them to the table.

We have garnered much criticism for our most effective means of destroying our enemy; night raids.  No matter how much evidence is gathered about the enemy, to face them during daylight will increase the number of casualties.  Denying them their safe havens has resulted in both more captures and the destruction of those who would have tried to use daylight as a means to kill more of our fighting men and women.   By hitting them when they think they are safe, we expose them not as a professional fighting force, but as the gang of thugs they truly are.  That is all in danger now.  The enemy, lacking in military discipline and always willing to perpetrate their own atrocities, will garner more support, from both the populace and the sympathizers they already have in their government.

The sad state of affairs is all the work and sacrifices made over the last decade are at jeopardy.  This soldier who more than likely was a stellar soldier right up until his rampage.  I do not condemn him, there have probably been worse acts that have happened and we will probably never know what the circumstances honestly are that led up to this.  The actions already are having consequences and demonstrate even further the need of good leadership to know their subordinates and recognize when they are reaching the limits of their capabilities.