Category: War

Pic of the Day

Musa, a Kurdish marksman
Click to enlargeBulent Kilic

Musa, a 25-year-old Kurdish marksman, stands atop a building as he looks at the destroyed Syrian city of Kobani on Friday. Kurdish forces recaptured the town on the Turkish frontier on January 26, in a symbolic blow to the ISIS militants who have seized large swathes of territory in their onslaught across Syria and Iraq.

The American military in a chickenhawk nation

The Atlantic magazine has unveiled a new cover story bluntly titled “The Tragedy of the American Military.” Written by James Fallows, it explores the problems and culture of the U.S. military after more than 13 years of war, and what it might take to fix them.

In particular, Fallows targets the “chickenhawk nation” that has sent its troops into combat without clear strategies, weapons acquisition programs that are expensive and politically connected, and an American public that is largely disconnected from the wars. Fallows also reports on the findings of a commission that President Obama requested in 2011 to examine how the Pentagon could best be reformed.

The commission, headed by former Sen. Gary Hart (D.-Colo.), made a series of recommendations that will be familiar to those following defense policy in Washington. It sought the creation of another panel to assess the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, a separate effort to determine how the decision-making process for the use of military force should work in the future, and for the president himself to help bridge the gap between those who have served and the rest of American society…

The piece has created buzz on social media, in part because of the senior officials and famous academics quoted in it. But it’s the latest in a long line of journalism this year that grapples with how the military should reassess and reinvent itself following wars that have cost billions of dollars and thousands of American lives, without many clear victories…

Earlier this year, The Washington Post also published a series of stories titled “After the Wars.” Relying in part on a poll conducted along with the Kaiser Family Foundation, it found that 87 percent of the 2.6 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans feel proud of what they did during the wars, although more than half struggle with physical or mental issues and feel disconnected from civilians.

I wonder if our government, the Pentagon or even the Washington Post considered surveying the Iraqis, the Afghans, the civilian populations killed and maimed a hundred times more than our invading military?

All of these pieces expose the same basic issues: There will be no easy fixes for the military adjusting to life after a generation of intense sacrifice. The military is now shrinking and coping with budget cuts that would have been unheard of five or 10 years ago, increasing anxiety for many who want to serve at least 20 years and retire from the military honorably.

People write these articles as if they – and we – don’t discern any difference between war with an honorable task – fighting back against Fascist Imperialism, freeing nations from occupying foreign legions out to steal land and resources for a master race.

Sorry to hurt a few folks’ feelings; but, our military history since 1946 seems more and more like role reversal every decade since.

Thousands of Nazis were rewarded with life in the U.S. to aid the Cold war

In the early ’70s, New York Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman received a confidential tip that American immigration authorities knew of dozens of former Nazis — some implicated in serious war crimes — who were living in the U.S.

Holtzman looked into it and discovered that it was true, and that the formerly named Immigration and Naturalization Service wasn’t doing much about it.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg, according to investigative reporter Eric Lichtblau.

In his new book, The Nazis Next Door, Lichtblau reports that thousands of Nazis managed to settle in the United States after World War II, often with the direct assistance of American intelligence officials who saw them as potential spies and informants in the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

Lichtblau says there were whole networks of spy groups around the world made up of Nazis — and they entered the U.S., one by one…

Most Americans knew little about the Nazis among them. And then in 1979, media reports and congressional interest finally spurred the creation of a Nazi-hunting unit with the Justice Department.

That prompted the first wave of Nazi-hunting, Lichtblau says.

There are still documents that remain classified today about the CIA’s relationship with Nazi figures in the ’40s and ’50s and into the ’60s. A lot of these documents have become declassified just in the last 10 or 15 years. … There are documents that may open up whole new chapters that still remain classified…

RTFA for all the delightful topics in Lichtblau’s book: Generals who wanted Nazis in charge of DP camps; the ease of Nazi collaborators to slide through the DP camps vs the roadblocks faced by Jews.

Our transparent government continues to be see-through in name only. We have a new generation of politicians raised on the model of the Cold War. They are no less inclined to hide who they’re spying on and why. And the political hacks who set the standards were the creeps who brought Nazis into the US by the boatload – figuring they did their job “thoroughly” — why not do the same for us?

Or something like that.

Remembering absent friends — all wars

I presume these Canadian troops are marching away from a memorial to those who fell during the liberation of Belgium during World War 2. Yes, I remember all of those days. I can’t forget those days.

My best friend died ten years back. He was the most decorated soldier from our home state in WW2. He had 16 months in hospital to reflect upon how he got there – not just the German soldier who threw a hand grenade at him at the liberation of a death camp; but, the corporate and political creeps who helped scum like Hitler into power. Both sides of the pond.

We learned a lot together over the years. Both of our fathers’ families came to the US from Canada, btw. His from Montreal and mine from PEI.

This weekend watching football from England the silent tributes pre-match – and more – have started. Tens of thousands of sports fans of all ages in complete silence remembering all they have to remember. I thought I’d repost this tribute.

I salute you, too, Clyde.

Thanks, Mister Justin

The Gulf War photo no one would publish

The Iraqi soldier died attempting to pull himself up over the dashboard of his truck. The flames engulfed his vehicle and incinerated his body, turning him to dusty ash and blackened bone. In a photograph taken soon afterward, the soldier’s hand reaches out of the shattered windshield, which frames his face and chest. The colors and textures of his hand and shoulders look like those of the scorched and rusted metal around him. Fire has destroyed most of his features, leaving behind a skeletal face, fixed in a final rictus. He stares without eyes.

On February 28, 1991, Kenneth Jarecke stood in front of the charred man, parked amid the carbonized bodies of his fellow soldiers, and photographed him. At one point, before he died this dramatic mid-retreat death, the soldier had had a name. He’d fought in Saddam Hussein’s army and had a rank and an assignment and a unit. He might have been devoted to the dictator who sent him to occupy Kuwait and fight the Americans. Or he might have been an unlucky young man with no prospects, recruited off the streets of Baghdad.

Jarecke took the picture just before a ceasefire officially ended Operation Desert Storm—the U.S.-led military action that drove Saddam Hussein and his troops out of Kuwait, which they had annexed and occupied the previous August. The image and its anonymous subject might have come to symbolize the Gulf War. Instead, it went unpublished in the United States, not because of military obstruction but because of editorial choices.

RTFA for a sensitive, thoughtful discussion – decades after this young man was killed. My hatred for war is no surprise to any of our regular readers. Even the only “just” war in my lifetime – the war against fascism, World War 2.

That war produced two books which have guided my whole life – in war and peace, about war and peace. I doubt if either are easily available anymore. BEACH RED by Peter Bowman is a short novel in what he called sprung prose, as much poetry as prose – as much about death and dying as anything else. DAYS AND NIGHTS by Konstantin Simonov is a heroic tale from a journalist who lived through the siege of Stalingrad. It is a love story.

Photographs like this are also an important part of how we look at war. Outside of dispatches published in newspapers; curt, prosaic sound bites on TV. As hard as it is to look at this photo, I think it should be a required part of anyone’s education.

Thanks, Mike

Economics 101 for our latest Coalition of the Willing

US/UK warplanes are flying sorties, at a cost somewhere between $22,000 to 30,000 per hour for the F-16s, to drop bombs that cost at least $20,000 each, to destroy ISIL hardware.

That means if an F-16 were to take off from Incirclik Air Force Base in Turkey and fly two hours to Erbil, Iraq, and successfully drop both of its bombs on one target each, it costs the United States somewhere between $84,000 to $104,000 for the sortie

Watching today’s endlessly repeated video clip of one of our heroic sorties bombing a freaking pickup truck. At a cost of $85K-104K.

Just send in some creepy salesman from a local used car lot and offer the bandit in charge $20K cash on the spot for his truck – and we’re in business – making the world safe for capitalism.