Posted tagged ‘U.S. combat troops’

Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

May 30, 2016

Enemies, Foreign and Domestic, Front Page MagazineMark Tapson, May 30, 2016

Enemies

Enemies, Foreign and Domestic: A SEAL’s Story is a new book by former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie. Higbie was on the Navy SEAL assault team that in the summer of 2007 captured the most wanted man in the Middle East (apart from Osama bin Laden) – Ahmed Hashim Abd Al-Isawi, known as the Butcher of Fallujah. But afterward, Higbie and others in his unit were charged with prisoner abuse when Al-Isawi alleged that they had bloodied his lip.

Suddenly, the “mission accomplished” became a much more challenging ordeal as Higbie et al were threatened with courts-martial over supposedly roughing up a ruthless terrorist. When he went public with his account of what happened, the Navy pushed back hard to save face and protect careers. But Higbie pushed back harder.

Higbie, also the author of Battle on the Home Front: A Navy SEAL’s Mission to Save the American Dream, became a SEAL in 2003 and deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is now a political commentator in national media including the Fox News Channel, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Daily Caller, and Breibart. He graciously agreed to answer a few questions for FrontPage Mag about his lates book, Enemies, Foreign and Domestic.

Mark Tapson:         About the mission to capture and extract this high-value target, the Butcher of Fallujah. You and your unit accomplished the mission, handed him over, and all seemed good – but then what happened afterward?

Carl Higbie: After turning over custody to the Master at Arms (MP), the MP admittedly left his post. During this time the prisoner bit his lip (as testified by an oral surgeon) and spit blood on his clothing. Out of fear for his own career, the MP concocted a story that he saw many of us abuse the prisoner. This story was fabricated, as was apparent from his numerous changes in his official statement.

MT:     The accusation should have been cleared up quickly, but instead, the Navy did its best to break you and the other suspects down and get confessions out of you. Tell us what happened.

CH:     Initially we were investigated by NCIS and their investigation made the recommendation to not charge us. It was our Commanding officer along with General Cleveland that decided to proceed despite the facts. Because of the lack of evidence, they wanted to proceed “general’s mast” where there is no need for evidence and a punishment can be issued arbitrarily. They were doing to his to save face and “make an example” out of us.

We all requested a courts-martial so we would have a fair trial and be able to present evidence in our favor. The command tried to talk us out of this because they knew they would lose. They separated us and threatened us with all kinds of punishments, but we held strong and forced the courts-martial.

MT:     Why do you think this guy made such a serious accusation about some of his fellow soldiers, and why do you think the higher-ups weren’t more supportive of the accused, especially considering that the so-called victim was a terrorist?

CH:     The higher-ups were afraid of simple allegations, how that would affect their careers. They lost sight of the mission and their duty to their men. They put politically correct public image in front of their oath. They had us pegged for guilty from day one despite ALL the evidence. So much for “innocent until proven guilty.”

MT:     What’s your opinion of the Rules of Engagement our warriors were bound by which were so strict that merely bloodying a terrorist’s nose could get you court-martialed? Do you think those ROE are proper or are they hindering our men in the field and perhaps even endangering them?

CH:     Rules of engagement are different from guidelines for treating prisoners. I think the Rules of Engagement are atrocious. You cannot have one side playing by a set of rules that does not apply to the other side. War is not a moral endeavor, it is people killing each other; therefore you must be willing to be as ruthless as your enemy.

As for prisoner handling, we should never have stood any discipline after NCIS cleared us and recommended not going forward. This is what investigations are for and they should not be overstepped by a commander who has no knowledge of the situation. Moreover, who cares if a terrorist that we had legal authority to kill had a bloody lip?

MT:     After you were eventually cleared, you wrote a book – as a private citizen, not as a SEAL – called Battle on the Homefront based on your experiences, in which you complained about various ways in which Americans are failing to live up to our country’s own exceptionalism. But the Navy brass gave your manuscript the runaround and did their best to suppress publication. Why do you believe they did that, particularly since many of them privately agreed with what you wrote?

CH:     I spent almost two years, 24 times the length of time the DOD has allowed by their own standards for the review. At every corner, they stonewalled me, refusing even to conduct a review. I had been consulting an attorney throughout the process who was dumbfounded, as we had continuously jumped through hoops to accommodate their ever-changing requirements.

The book was controversial and no one wanted to review it because they were concerned about how it would affect their careers if they were the ones with the approval stamp on it. The military spent more resources trying to bury it than it would have taken to conduct the review. After a review from NCIS on security, and under advice from my attorney, we published without command approval since they had failed to comply with their own rules.

MT:     Since leaving the Navy, you’ve pursued a path as a political commentator in the media. Is that another way you feel you can best serve your country? Do you have political ambitions in the future as well? Tell us about what you’re doing to help reinvigorate the American Dream.

CH:     I have pursued the political route because I believe that to be the root of the problem today. I am unsure whether I will run again but I am heavily involved with this presidential race and many other races as well. If we want to fix this nation we have to start at the top.

Can US, Turkey keep up appearances in Syria?

May 30, 2016

Can US, Turkey keep up appearances in Syria? Al-Monitor, May 29, 2016

A terrorist group linked to the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Tartus and Jableh in Syria on May 23 that killed more than 150 civilians and wounded more than 200 others. Maxim Suchkov points out that the attack in Tartus occurred deep inside government-controlled territory. Russia maintains a naval base in Tartus and an air base and reconnaissance center in Khmeimim in the Latakia region. The suicide attacks, Suchkov suggests, could be a catalyst for a Russian “first strike” strategy against terrorist and aligned Salafi groups.

Moscow had already signaled the prospect of escalation against Jabhat al-Nusra and allied groups prior to the May 23 attacks. The Russian Ministry of Defense has announced a pause in its air campaign to allow armed groups allied with Jabhat-al Nusra to distance themselves from the al-Qaeda affiliate. On May 26, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and allied groups seized the town of Dirkhabiyah near Damascus. Ahrar al-Sham has coordinated more closely with Jabhat al-Nusra in response to increased US and Russian targeting of the al-Qaeda affiliate over the past few months.

This column last week suggested that the United States take up a Russian offer to coordinate attacks on Jabhat al-Nusra, which is not a party to the cessation of hostilities. For the record, we have no tolerance or empathy for groups or individuals who stand with al-Qaeda. We hope that this is at least part of the message the United States is conveying to its regional partners who have backed these groups.

With the Geneva talks suspended for several weeks, the prospect of a Russian campaign to deliver heavy and potentially fatal blows to Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies, especially in and around Aleppo and Idlib, could signal yet another turning point in the Syria conflict.

Turkey’s failed proxy war

The United States and Turkey are struggling to keep up appearances in Syria, despite even further signs of division and discord.

Gen. Joseph Votel, US CENTCOM commander, met last week with Syrian Kurdish forces during a “secret” visit to northern Syria as part of a regional diplomatic tour that also included a stop in Ankara. Votel told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that he is seeking to “balance” Turkey’s role as a “fabulous” partner in the battle against IS with that of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the backbone of the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), which is a “very good partner on the ground.”

In contrast to the YPG, Turkey’s proxy forces, including a worrying mix of Salafists who are willing to run operations with Jabhat al-Nusra, have been a flop. Last week, IS seized at least seven villages in the northern Aleppo region.

Fehim Tastekin reports that SDF-led military operations to liberate Jarablus, which is an essential gateway along with al-Rai to the outside world via Turkey, were postponed “because of Turkey’s red line against the Kurds.” The offensive against Raqqa has also been slowed, writes Tastekin, because “the SDF’s operational capacity still leaves much to be desired. It is not an option for the Kurdish YPG-YPJ to control Raqqa, because they will encounter local resistance. They also worry that scattering their forces in Arab regions could weaken the defensive lines of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). Therefore, Arab forces would have to get in shape to control the situation in the post-IS period.” Laura Rozen reports from Washington that the United States is seeking to boost the numbers of Arab Sunni forces among the SDF in anticipation of an advance on Raqqa.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon found itself in a public relations fiasco after Turkey complained that US special forces in Syria were wearing badges with the logo of the YPG, which Turkey considers the Syrian partner of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and therefore also a terrorist organization. This might be compared with what in the sports world is known as an unforced error, and made Votel’s already daunting diplomacy that much more complicated.

Air Force Col. Sean McCarthy also told Ignatius that US air operations against IS out of Incirlik Air Base were mostly “autonomous” of Turkish missions, saying that “we don’t discuss with them where we’re going.”

Adding it all up, the US-Turkish “partnership” against IS may be more fable than fabulous. The open secret is that Turkey is preoccupied first with thwarting advances by Syria’s Kurds, and second with shutting down the remaining lifelines for IS in northern Syria. These priorities are of a piece. No doubt Turkey is taking up the fight against IS, but first things first. Tastekin, who previously broke the back story on Turkey’s disastrous proxy efforts to retake al-Rai from IS in April, now concludes that “there is no room for optimism that Ankara will erase its red lines vis-a-vis the Kurds. Instead, Turkey is now trying to put together an even more formidable force with Jabhat al-Nusra, which it is trying to steer away from al-Qaeda.”

The catch might just be that many of the Syrian armed groups backed by Washington’s regional partners are proxies for a sectarian agenda that is mostly about toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, however unlikely that now appears, and, by extension, keeping the heat on Iran. The when and where of taking the fight to IS or Jabhat al-Nusra is more or less negotiable, depending on trade-offs and pressure. We do not feel we are out on a limb in suggesting that efforts by Ankara or others to wean Jabhat al-Nusra from al-Qaeda will come to no good. This column has repeatedly documented the fluidity of foreign-backed Salafi groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam shifting in and out of tactical alliances with Jabhat al-Nusra, all the while preaching an ideology almost indistinguishable from al-Qaeda and IS.

The losers, of course, are the people of Syria, including those who suffer under IS’ tyranny that much longer because of Turkey’s concerns about the Kurds, and as Washington’s policymakers and pundits begin another maddening deep dive into how to rejigger ethnic and sectarian fault lines. Syrians fleeing IS terror in Aleppo, meanwhile, told Mohammed al-Khatieb that living under IS is “like hell … unbearable.” While we acknowledge the complexities and challenges of the raw ethnic and sectarian politics of Syria, as well as the potential for vendettas and mass killings, there is, in our score, an urgency and priority to focus on the destruction of IS and al-Qaeda above all else.

Sur’s aftermath

Diyarbakir’s historic district of Sur has witnessed some of the most brutal fighting between Turkish military and PKK forces over the past year. Mahmut Bozarslan reports from Diyarbakir that “historical landmarks in Sur, which was last year added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, also suffered their share of destruction. The walls of the Armenian Catholic church are partially destroyed, while the nearby Haci Hamit Mosque is missing its minaret, with a dome riddled with bullets. Another Armenian church, Surp Giragos, had its windows shattered and interior damaged.”

“Still, those ancient monuments were lucky compared with more ordinary structures in the area,” writes Bozarslan. “A building with an intact door was almost impossible to find. The warring parties had used some buildings as fighting bases, others as places to rest. Stairways were littered with empty tins; one was also stained with blood. At the bloodied spot, a piece of paper reading “body #1” was left behind, suggesting that the security forces had been there for a crime scene report. A couple seemed relieved that they had escaped with relatively little damage, but grumbled that their apartment had been broken into, with the bedroom and closets rummaged. They claimed it was the security forces who had entered, while their neighbor showed Al-Monitor binoculars that had been left behind.”

US military chiefs overrate damage to ISIS

May 28, 2016

US military chiefs overrate damage to ISIS, DEBKAfile, May 28, 2016

The US military chiefs fighting ISIS, have recently claiming that the US has re-organized its military resources and is determined to cut down the Islamic state after its lame efforts in the last two years.

These words of encouragement have come from genral Votel commander of US Middle East forces and the first US General to be assigned to Syria in its nearly six years of war, and Lt. Gen Charles Brown commanding the US Al Udied Air Base in Qatar where 750 aircraft operating in the Gulf and Middle East are based.

When US airstrikes against the Jihadist organization began the offensive in late 2014 was marred by inadequate intelligence and (specifically that of intelligence analysis), and sporadic aerial action.

DEBKAfiles repeatedly reported that American and coalition air strikes  against the Jihadists were too few, misfired and many of the bombers returned to base with much of their ordinance unused.

It appears that the Obama administration has finally decided to tackle ISIS in earnest.

Our military and anti-terror experts claim it is too soon to determine whether the US commitment is real.

It is true that there are signs of limited US military movement in Syria, Libya and Iraq indicating a possible change.

For example: Increasing the number of US special forces in these three countries, far beyond the framework that President Obama is talking about publicly, when he says ‘small forces’.

There are about 7,500 US soldiers deployed in Iraq and Syria, with an additional  2,000-3,000 fighters working for private security contractors. In Libya there are an additional 1,000 to 1,250  soldiers. American planes take off from Incirlilk base in South Turkey 350km by air from Raqqa, ISIS Syrian capital, and 700km from Mosul, ISIS Iraqi capital, and do not need to fly more than 1,450km (about 770 miles) when they approach from the Persian Gulf.

ISIS still shows no sign of cracking or dismantling its Islamic Caliphate, and its military and terrorist capabilities.

ISIS_State_of_war_25.5.16

There are several reasons for this:

ISIS is expanding fast. While the Obama administration treats Iraq and Syria as the main fronts against the jihadi organization, ISIS has opened three more fronts: in Egypt, Sinai Peninsula, and Libya. While the US had quietly added 4 to 5 detachments of US special forces, these forces are too small to be a military challenge to the terror organization, and all they can do is fight ISIS with the help of local forces, as the US are doing in Iraq and Syria.

In addition to Mosul and Raqqa, the ISIS has established capitals at the Lybian port of Sirte on the Mediterranean Sea and in Jabal Halal mountain range in central Sinai with a cluster of ISIS bases. They provide a fallback option for the terrorist organization in the still distant prospect of Raqqa and Mosul falling to US and local forces.

When General Brown reported that the US Air Force is now hitting ISIS held oil fields, funds and headquarters, and that its revenue has fallen “only” to $56 million per day, he omitted to mention the ISIS Lybian oil fields and their revenue. In fact, DEBKAfile’s military sources note that ISIS is making up for revenue shortfalls in Syria and Iraq by pumping oil in Libya and the surrounding desert.

While US military sources claim that 45 percent of the territory the Islamic State seized in Iraq in 2014, and 20 percent in Syria, has been reclaimed, ISIS still hangs on to its key strategic assets.

Furthermore ISIS this week launched an offensive in the northern and eastern Syrian regions of Aleppo, Azaz, and Deir-a-Zor`; and inflicted damaging assaults on May 14 and May 23 on Russian bases and Syrian Syrian government centers near Jableh and Tartous in Western Syria. It is obvious its external terrorist capacity has not been cut down as was expected.

US and Middle East intelligence agencies hold information showing that ISIS is going to expand its bomb attacks in major cities in Europe and the Middle East, in the coming weeks. This follows an estimate of the organization’s leaders that the attacks on the Russian and Egyptian passenger aircrafts, and the terror attacks in Paris, Brussels and Tunisia, to be very successful.

Unnecessary loss of life – The deadly price of politically correct rules of engagement.

September 30, 2015

Unnecessary loss of life – The deadly price of politically correct rules of engagement.

afghanistan_-_american_soldiers_fob_baylough

War is nasty, brutal and costly. In our latest wars, many of the casualties suffered by American troops are a direct result of their having to obey rules of engagement created by politicians who have never set foot on — or even seen — a battlefield. Today’s battlefield commanders must be alert to the media and do-gooders who are all too ready to demonize troops involved in a battle that produces noncombatant deaths, so-called collateral damage.

According to a Western Journalism article by Leigh H Bravo, “Insanity: The Rules of Engagement” (http://tinyurl.com/p59nlqs), our troops fighting in Afghanistan cannot do night or surprise searches. Also, villagers must be warned prior to searches. Troops may not fire at the enemy unless fired upon. U.S. forces cannot engage the enemy if civilians are present. And only women can search women. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said: “We handcuffed our troops in combat needlessly. This was very harmful to our men and has never been done in U.S combat operations that I know of.” Collateral damage and the unintentional killing of civilians are a consequence of war. But the question we should ask is: Are our troops’ lives less important than the inevitable collateral damage?

The unnecessary loss of life and casualties that result from politically correct rules of engagement are about to be magnified in future conflicts by mindless efforts to put women in combat units. In 2013, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta officially lifted the ban on women serving in ground combat roles. On Jan. 1, 2016, all branches of the military must either open all positions to women or request exceptions. That boils down to having women serve in combat roles, because any commander requesting exceptions would risk having his career terminated in the wake of the screeching and accusations of sexism that would surely ensue.

The U.S. Army has announced that for the first time, two female officers graduated from the exceptionally tough three-phase Ranger course.

Their “success” will serve as grist for the mills of those who argue for women in combat. Unlike most of their fellow soldiers, these two women had to recycle because they had failed certain phases of the course.

A recent Marine Corps force integration study concluded that combat teams were less effective when they included women. Overall, the report says, all-male teams and crews outperformed mixed-gender ones on 93 out of 134 tasks evaluated. All-male teams were universally faster “in each tactical movement.” The report also says that female Marines had higher rates of injury throughout the experiment.

Should anyone be surprised by the findings of male combat superiority? Young men are overloaded with testosterone, which produces hostility, aggression and competitiveness. Such a physical characteristic produces sometimes-poor behavior in civilian society, occasionally leading to imprisonment, but the same characteristics are ideal for ground combat situations.

You may bet the rent money that the current effort to integrate combat jobs will not end with simply a few extraordinary women. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told the Navy Times that once women start attending SEAL training, it would make sense to examine the standards. He said, “First we’re going to make sure there are standards” and “they’re gender-neutral.” Only after that will the Navy make sure the standards “have something to do with the job.” We’ve heard that before in matters of race. It’s called disparate impact. That is, if the Navy SEALs cannot prove that staying up for 18 hours with no rest or sleep, sitting and shivering in the cold Pacific Ocean, running with a huge log on your shoulder, and being spoken to like a dog are necessary, then those parts of SEAL training will be eliminated so that women can pass.

The most disgusting, perhaps traitorous, aspect of all this is the overall timidity of military commanders, most of whom, despite knowing better, will only publicly criticize the idea of putting women in combat after they retire from service.

Taliban storm Kunduz city

September 28, 2015

Taliban storm Kunduz city, Long War Journal, September 28, 2015

[R]eports from the Afghan media, as well as Taliban fighters and residents from inside the city, indicate that parts if not all of the city are now under Taliban control.

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The Taliban assaulted the northern provincial capital of Kunduz from three directions and seized control of areas in the city. Unconfirmed reports from residents and Taliban fighters inside Kunduz indicate that Afghan forces have been driven out of the city and the Taliban are in full control.

According to the BBC, hundreds of Taliban fighters launched their offensive today from three districts: Imam Sahib to the north, Khanabad from the southeast, and Chardara from the southwest. All three districts are thought to be under Taliban control.

The Taliban confirmed they launched a three-pronged assault on Kunduz city. “The operations have commenced on the city center from 3 directions with Mujahideen quickly taking enemy positions and the enemy is retreating from their positions,” according to an initial statement that was posted on Voice of Jihad.

The Taliban later stated that their fighters have “reached the main city intersection, are targeting the governors [sic] compound and clearing the small remaining pockets from enemy presence.”

Afghan security officials have denied that the Taliban are in control of the city and have stated that the fighting was largely confined to the outskirts of the provincial capital.

But reports from the Afghan media, as well as Taliban fighters and residents from inside the city, indicate that parts if not all of the city are now under Taliban control.

According to TOLONews, “Taliban insurgents have taken control of Kunduz city’s provincial council building and the local High Peace Council offices.”

Ehsanullah Ehsan, a stabilization manager at the international development agency DAI who is based in Kunduz, has said that the Taliban have seized the city and Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF] have retreated.

“Kunduz city is completely with taliban ANSF are out,” Ehsan tweeted. “[T]he city is completely with taliban now, taliban walking inside streets, i am trapped at home.”

Ehsan posted photographs purportedly showing Taliban fighters walking the streets of Kunduz and prisoners who have been freed from the city’s main jail.

Kunduz province has been hotly contested since the Taliban and its allies launched an offensive to seize control of the province at the end of April. The districts of Imam Sahib, Aliabad, and Qala-i-Zal were overrun in the initial assault, while Chardara and Dasht-i-Archi fellin mid-June. It is unclear when Khanabad fell under Taliban control. The status of the six districts is unclear, but the Taliban is still thought to be in control of Imam Sahib, Aliabad, Chardara, Khanabad, and Dasht-i-Archi.

The Taliban and allied jihadist groups based in Kunduz have been flexing their muscles in the province in recent weeks. In August, hundreds of fighters from the Taliban and the allied Islamic Jihad Union massed in the open, in daylight, to swear allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the new emir of the Taliban. Last week, the Islamic Jihad Union claimed it controlled large areas of the border with Tajikistan and a border crossing from Kunduz into the northern Afghan neighbor.

The loss of Kunduz city, if confirmed, would be a major blow to the Afghan government and military, which have struggled to maintain security after US and NATO forces have drawn down to a token presence. Kunduz city would be the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban.

Additionally, the fall of Kunduz would invalidate the entire US “surge” strategy from 2009 to 2012. The US military focused its efforts on the southern Afghan provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, claiming that these provinces were the key to breaking the Taliban. Little attention was given to other areas of Afghanistan, including the northern provinces, where the Taliban have expended considerable effort in fighting the military and government. Today, the Taliban are gaining ground in northern, central, eastern and southern Afghanistan, with dozens of districts falling under Taliban control over the past year.

Obama’s Politicized Intelligence

August 29, 2015

Obama’s Politicized Intelligence, Washington Free Beacon, August 28, 2015

(Please see also, Pentagon Not Targeting Islamic State Training Camps. Is there anything that Obama has not distorted for political purposes? — DM)

“Analysts,” reports the Daily Beast, “have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is.” This sort of dishonesty helps no one—except a president whose primary concern is leaving office with his reputation for ending wars intact, and the military brass who wish to remain in his good graces.

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The anniversary of the U.S. war against the Islamic State passed with little notice. It was August 7 of last year that President Obama authorized the first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, a campaign he expanded a month later to include targets in Syria. So far this month, the president has delivered remarks on the Voting Rights Act, his deal with Iran, the budget, clean energy, and Hurricane Katrina. ISIS? Not a peep.

Obama’s quiet because the war is not going well. Despite the loss of Tikrit earlier this year, the Islamic State’s western boundary is stable, and its eastern boundary now encroaches on Damascus. The president’s air campaign is one of the most limited and desultory America has fought in decades—ranking last in daily averages of strike sorties and bombs dropped. In late July, when the Turks permitted America the use of their air bases to launch attacks on ISIS, a “senior administration official” told the New York Times that the decision was “a game changer.” In the ensuing days the number of airstrikes in Syria actually fell.

The growing number of U.S. advisers—there are now more than 3,300 American military personnel in Iraq—has been unable to repair the damage wrought on the Iraqi Army by sectarian and political purges after our 2011 withdrawal. Even as the administration brags about killing more than 10,000 ISIS terrorists, a number that strains credulity, the Caliphate has become more deeply entrenched in its territory, and inspires attacks abroad.

Meanwhile the congressional authorization that the president sought is dead. One of our most gifted generals predicts the conflict will last “10 to 20 years.” And now comes news that the Pentagon is investigating whether intelligence assessments of ISIS have been manipulated for political reasons. “Analysts,” reports the Daily Beast, “have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is.” This sort of dishonesty helps no one—except a president whose primary concern is leaving office with his reputation for ending wars intact, and the military brass who wish to remain in his good graces.

What’s especially galling about this allegation is that Obama and the Democratic Party have spent years spuriously accusing President Bush of lying the United States into war in 2003. Spend a moment thinking of what the news cycle would be if George W. were still our president and the Pentagon inspector general opened an investigation into whether the bureaucracy was sprucing up intelligence to make it politically palatable: The chorus of “Bush lied, people died” would be deafening, Congress would demand investigations, the national security leak machine would start humming, John Conyers would reconvene his mock impeachment hearing, and the entire controversy would be set against the backdrop of antiwar marches and publicized denunciations of militaristic policy. What have we instead? ABC’s Good Morning America mentioned the Pentagon investigation. No other broadcast network did.

It’s an unanticipated consequence of Barack Obama’s presidency: his immobilization of the antiwar legions, the way his election immediately neutered the zealots who, if a Republican were in office, would be marching against drone strikes and mass surveillance and war in Afghanistan and air war in Libya, Syria, Iraq and proxy war in Yemen. What does it say about the left that the most spirited attacks on Obama national security policy have come from the right: On drones, surveillance, and congressional authorization for war, you are far more likely to hear criticism from Ted Cruz or Rand Paul than from the politicians who rode into office denouncing Bush’s misadventure in Iraq. The protestors who flooded New York in 2004 and fell to the ground at the D.C. “Die-In” in 2007—they either support the president or are too busy with Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter to care.

Obama has thus been allowed to wage a war for more than a year not only without the authorization he called for but also without the accountability that pressure from his left would bring. He’s flying solo, and below him are an endless, inconclusive war, a terrorist state built on sharia law and sex slavery, rampant chemical weapons use, civilian casualties, and a refugee crisis that is causing social, economic, and political instability in Europe. The only thing missing from this picture is outrage—elite fury over the geopolitical and humanitarian results of the president’s evasive policy, of doing only the bare minimum necessary to convince people that you aren’t ignoring the problem.

There’s no outrage because the media, our bipartisan political establishment, and indeed the American people themselves are unwilling to face the scope of the challenge the Islamic State presents. To uproot it we would have to send U.S. ground forces to Iraq in large numbers, not just special forces operating in tandem with unrestricted air support. We would have to retake and hold ground lost in the years since we departed Iraq, and we would have to commit to remaining in Iraq and Syria for a long time. To deal a blow to radical Islam that would deter recruitment, stop the bandwagon effect, and secure America from attack by militants and their fellow-travelers would require a military and economic commitment the United States, and least of all our president, is simply not prepared to make.

Easier to perform the illusion of activity, of success and advance, so that all the boxes are checked, all our consciences placated. Easier to pretend that the problem of ISIS can be “contained” and that our new ally Iran can handle the situation in its emerging capacity as regional hegemon. Easier to go about our business, to spin or outright ignore the war our country has been waging in Iraq and Syria for more than a year. So much easier not to worry about what’s happening over there—until, that is, the enemy attacks us here.

Army is breaking, let down by Washington

August 3, 2015

Army is breaking, let down by Washington, Stars and Stripes, Robert H. Scales, August 2, 2015

(Last year I also wrote a depressing article on the lamentable combat readiness of our military. It’s here at my blog and here at Warsclerotic. The situation has continued to deteriorate. How could Obama’s America help to protect freedom, particularly against an enemy whose name must not be mentioned, without a combat effective military — even if Obama wanted to do it? — DM)

image militaryU.S. paratroopers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade load a M119A2 howitzer at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, July 28, 2015.
GERTRUD ZACH/U.S. ARMY

Last month, Gen. Ray Odierno, outgoing Army chief of staff, and Gen. Mark Milley, his successor, testified to the difficulties faced by the Army. I’d like to make the same points by telling a story.

When I was a boy, tonsillitis was a dangerous illness. In 1952, it kept me in Tokyo General Hospital for weeks. I shared a cramped ward with dozens of soldiers horribly maimed in Korea. The hospital had only one movie theater. I remember watching a Western sandwiched between bandage- and plaster-wrapped bodies. I remember the antiseptic smells, the cloud of cigarette smoke and the whispers of young men still traumatized by the horrors of the war they had just left.

My dad came from Korea to visit me, and I recall our conversations vividly. At the time he was operations officer for the 2nd Engineer Battalion. He told me how poorly his men were prepared for war. Many had been killed or captured by the North Koreans. During the retreat from the Yalu River, some of his soldiers were in such bad physical shape that they dropped exhausted along the road to wait to be taken captive.

“We have no sergeants, son,” he told me, shaking his head, “and without them we are no longer an Army.”

In the early ’70s, I was the same age as my Korean-era dad. I had just left Vietnam only to face another broken Army. My barracks were at war. I carried a pistol to protect myself from my own soldiers. Many of the soldiers were on hard drugs. The barracks were racial battlegrounds pitting black against white. Again, the Army had broken because the sergeants were gone. By 1971, most were either dead, wounded or had voted with their feet to get away from such a devastated institution.

I visited Baghdad in 2007 as a guest of Gen. David Petraeus. Before the trip I had written a column forecasting another broken Army, but it was clear from what Petraeus showed me that the Army was holding on and fighting well in the dangerous streets of Baghdad. Such a small and overcommitted force should have broken after so many serial deployments to that hateful place. But Petraeus said that his Army was different. It held together because junior leaders were still dedicated to the fight. To this day, I don’t know how they did it.

Sadly, the Army that stayed cohesive in Iraq and Afghanistan even after losing 5,000 dead is now being broken again by an ungrateful, ahistorical and strategically tone-deaf leadership in Washington.

The Obama administration just announced a 40,000 reduction in the Army’s ranks. But the numbers don’t begin to tell the tale. Soldiers stay in the Army because they love to go into the field and train; Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently said that the Army will not have enough money for most soldiers to train above the squad level this year. Soldiers need to fight with new weapons; in the past four years, the Army has canceled 20 major programs, postponed 125 and restructured 124. The Army will not replace its Reagan-era tanks, infantry carriers, artillery and aircraft for at least a generation. Soldiers stay in the ranks because they serve in a unit ready for combat; fewer than a third of the Army’s combat brigades are combat-ready.

And this initial 40,000-soldier reduction is just a start. Most estimates from Congress anticipate that without lifting the budget sequestration that is driving this across-the-board decline, another 40,000 troops will be gone in about two years.

But it’s soldiers who tell the story. After 13 years of war, young leaders are voting with their feet again. As sergeants and young officers depart, the institution is breaking for a third time in my lifetime. The personal tragedies that attended the collapse of a soldier’s spirit in past wars are with us again. Suicide, family abuse, alcohol and drug abuse are becoming increasingly more common.

To be sure, the nation always reduces its military as wars wind down. Other services suffer reductions and shortages. But only the Army breaks. Someone please tell those of us who served why the service that does virtually all the dying and killing in war is the one least rewarded.

My grandson is a great kid. He’s about the same age I was when I was recovering at Tokyo General. Both of his parents served as Army officers, so it’s no wonder that in school he draws pictures of tanks and planes while his second-grade classmates draw pictures of flowers and animals. The other day he drew a tank just for me and labeled it proudly “Abrams Tank!”

Well, sadly, if he follows in our footsteps, one day he may be fighting in an Abrams tank. His tank will be 60 years old by then.

At the moment I’d rather he go to law school.

Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general, is a former commandant of the U.S. Army War College.