Friday, January 30, 2009

With A Little Help From My Friends

I've had a number of folks tossing me bones to chew on; and some choices to make. Should I gnaw more on the continuing saga of the victimization/demonization of combat veterans, or should I look once more towards the little country that could?

Today, I choose to shift my gaze eastward... past New York and the arrogant media who know all and are all... to the place with more rocks than can be imagined, and a people who are losing hope in a country that just swore in a president who was elected on a platform of "hope."

John of Argghhh! sent me a link with a simple note: "This looks like something you can sink your teeth into."

Indeed. It also leaves a better taste in my mouth than Michael Sweeney's ass. Go figure.

John tossed me a tidbit to gnosh on, a bit on National Review Online by Lisa Schiffren about winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan. While not offering specific solutions, Ms. Schiffren has a very good point; our history of delivering "recovery" in Afghanistan has been abysmal. I disagree with her, however, on a couple of things.

Ms. Schiffren's critiques of Karzai and our economic aid failures are a bit too shrill for me; I don't buy off on the criminal aspects of it. Karzai was elected by the majority of Afghans in their first election, so he's not an installed president; he is their president, just as much as Mr. Obama is our president, duly elected and sworn. Karzai was installed by the Bonn agreements, but gone are the days of the interim government in Kabul. To echo the Taliban meme that he is somehow illegitimate is to legitimize their cry, and I don't subscribe to that. As far as the economic mismanagement, if she is talking about throwing money over the compound walls to Afghan contractors who don't produce results proportionate to the money spent, then she has a good point. If she's on that tired "Haliburton" type kick, I'm deaf. We've been phoning in our economic aid, no doubt.

For an original idea on how to deploy economic aid that has a prayer of working, see Tim Lynch's latest over at Free Range International.

We've got to get out to get the job done. In counterinsurgency (COIN,) the safer you try to make yourself, the less secure you actually are. The Taliban are currently schooling us in insurgency. They are doing a pretty good job. More on that another time.

The real point of Ms. Schiffren's post was Senator Joe Lieberman's comments at the Brookings Institution, a transcript of which can be found here. It was a good speech. While I think he was a bit too kind to my Army, referring to us as the most capable counterinsurgent force that the world has ever seen, he does get to some very good points later on in the speech, when he discusses five points that he feels will pave the way there.

The problem in Afghanistan today is not only that we have devoted too few resources, but that the resources we have devoted are being applied incoherently. In contrast to Iraq, where General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker came together two years ago to develop a nationwide civil-military campaign plan to defeat the insurgency, there is still no such integrated nationwide counterinsurgency plan for Afghanistan. This is an unacceptable failure. ~ Sen. Joe Lieberman

I'd call that accurate. Heavy on the unacceptable failure. There is no excuse for this. While some may construe this statement as harshly focused on one person, it is no way intended that way. This unacceptable failure is more, in my mind, an institutional failure than it is the failure of one man or even a small group of men. Again, Mr. Lieberman was too kind to my Army. Our sacred trust with this nation is not to have such unacceptable failures, and this is bigger than one man or one small group of men. If most of us were getting this right, that man or small group of men would look like freaking geniuses; but we are not, so it may seem to some that the ones in charge downrange are failing.

Civilian capacity must also be ramped up outside our embassy—at the provincial, district, and village levels, embedding non-military experts among our troops as they move in. Provincial Reconstruction Teams need to be expanded in number, size, and sophistication, with seasoned experts pulled from across the U.S. government and the private sector. ~ Sen. Joe Lieberman

Bingo. That's similar to what I've been saying for awhile. The military's major malfunction is our difficulty with getting past our original raison d'etre (in our military minds;) to break things and kill bad guys, and to get on with the 90% non-kinetic work of counterinsurgency. The Army is not full of governmental mentors. We can teach others how to break things and kill bad guys very well. We can even do fairly well in teaching others how to be better police in a Wild West sort of country.

We simply aren't equipped for teaching a Wuliswahl how to make life better day by day for the people of his district. We aren't equipped for teaching others how to pry massive deposits of iron and copper out of the ground. We aren't equipped to teach others how to leverage the massive mineral wealth that comes with a still-growing mountain range pushing up the treasures of the earth from deep within. We have no idea how to manage a gem mining industry. We don't know how to show someone how to start and run a business in a developing country.

Afghanistan isn't even a pre-industrial country, and we don't know how to jump-start industries. We know how to destroy them. There are loads of civilians out there who do know how to do these things. We need, along with our NATO partners, to get on that. Afghanistan will not long survive without an economy, and an organization that primarily breaks things is not the organization that is needed to build a durable economy.

It has been pointed out many times that some of our NATO allies cannot fully participate militarily in Afghanistan. "Caveats," as they are called, prevent full participation in what we like to call, "full spectrum operations." As Senator Lieberman points out, there are other, crucial contributions that can be made. Perhaps it's time to renegotiate with some of our NATO partners to find a role for them in improving the economic and governmental life of Afghanistan.

...getting the appropriate civilian talent from a recalcitrant federal bureaucracy for an unconventional assignment is a difficult task. But it is absolutely critical to the success of any counterinsurgency campaign. ~ Sen. Joe Lieberman

That's putting it mildly.

We need to further expand the Afghan National Army, beyond the current goal of 134,000 troops, to at least 200,000 troops, while taking a fresh look at how our forces partner with the other, more neglected branches of the Afghan National Security Forces, in particular the police and the internal intelligence service.

We must also take tough action to combat the pervasive corruption that is destroying the legitimacy of the Afghan government and fueling the insurgency. This requires more than threatening specific leaders on an ad hoc basis. Because the problem is systemic, it requires a systemic response.

We must roll back corruption by strengthening Afghan governance and development comprehensively—both from top-down and bottom-up. The truth is, in the last seven years, we have only invested in one Afghan state institution in a patient, resource-intensive, and system-wide way: the Afghan army.

And the ANA, as a consequence, is emerging as a capable, courageous, professional, multi-ethnic force. If we want other Afghan institutions to operate this way, we need to make similarly focused, long-term investments in them. If we can build an army of 200,000 that works, we should be able to build a civil service of 20,000 that also works. ~ Sen. Joe Lieberman

My enthusiasm for Mr. Lieberman's speech is beginning to swell. I don't know about the beginning part, but I could have written this part of his speech myself. I think I have written very similar things on this very blog, among other places. The Afghans have no institutional memory of governance. It has been wiped out by thirty years of warfare. What makes us think that even a dedicated group can take over a nation of thirty million people and just make it work?

Here's a better question: What makes us think that we can expect that even the most committed people can take over a country of thirty million people five minutes out of the Stone Age and make it work? These people need help; we can give it to them, and it will make us a lot more secure to do so. Now all we have to do is believe that.

As Caspar Weinberger Jr., wrote in Human Events in June: “While wars of insurgency are what are happening now, it is correct to say that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan, regardless of these two wars’ outcomes, will cause the downfall of America. However, a loss of any type of World War III most certainly would.” Weinberger quotes George Friedman: “The United States can lose a dozen Vietnams or Iraqs and not have its (most important) interests harmed. But losing a war with a nation-state could be catastrophic.”

America needs a large and powerful Army prepared to engage innovatively across the entire spectrum of conflict as part of the joint team. Hybrid conflicts that combine elements of low- and high-intensity war will be common in the 21st century (as they were in many wars of the past). The point is that excessive focus on one sort of operation — and particularly the type that every indicator suggests that the American people are loathe to repeat — as an organizing principle puts at risk the entire armed forces’ ability to provide decision-makers with options that reflect the military’s fullest potential. ~ MG Charles J. Dunlap, Jr

Oooops. Looks like we're still not "getting it." There are a lot of rice bowls that are perceived to be at risk when you start talking about COIN. Nobody wants their rice bowl to be broken. They are only moderately more pleased with the concept that it will be filled with dog feces instead of rice. There is a crowd who are building the excuse that it's really okay to lose in Afghanistan, because losing Viet Nam really didn't kill us.

Viet Nam's mantra wasn't "Death to America," either. Viet Nam never attacked us on our own soil; Jane Fonda notwithstanding. Viet Nam never vowed to do it again as soon as possible and even more horribly.

Sacred trust. Our nation doesn't ask us to fight the wars that we want sometimes. Sometimes it asks us to do the hard thing, the unpopular thing (either for them or for us,) and/or the unconventional (irregular) thing; they do not put a caveat in that sacred trust that says that we may determine that it really doesn't matter; to pre-excuse a failure.

The guys who are paid a lot more than most of us to predict that when we decapitate a country it doesn't grow a new, better head in a matter of seconds, and that the result will be chaos unless someone (I wonder who that might be) provides some order and structure until a new one does grow, didn't do their job when it came to Iraq. What makes any of us think that imagining WW-III around the next bend is an indication of some newly-developed prescience instead of an excuse for giving up on that sacred trust in an actual shooting war? Who, exactly, is going to instigate this next, nation-destroying cataclysm? Really?

So, we find ourselves in a very difficult, culture-challenging war (I mean military culture.) This is hard, hard stuff.

Hard is not hopeless. ~ GEN David Petraeus

There is hope.

Fifth and perhaps most importantly, success in Afghanistan requires a sustained, realistic political and public commitment to this mission here at home. ~ Sen Joe Lieberman

I think that perhaps he should have included military leadership in that statement.

Indeed, there are already voices on both the left and the right murmuring the word “quagmire.”

They say Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, that we should abandon any hope of nation-building there, and that President Obama should rethink his pledge to deploy additional forces.

Why, then, is this wrong? Why should we send tens of thousands of our loved ones to a remote country on the far side of the world?

The most direct answer is that Afghanistan is the frontline of the global ideological and military war we are waging with Islamist extremism. Afghanistan is where the attacks of 9/11 were plotted, where al Qaeda made its sanctuary under the Taliban, and where they will do so again if given the chance. ~ Sen. Joe Lieberman

The essence of the threat to our nation. There is another threat to the content of our character; not following through on our commitments. It is the the single greatest fear of most Afghans I met who were not Taliban supporters, and it's not like we haven't done it before.

We all agree, our foremost interest in Afghanistan is preventing that country from becoming a terrorist safe haven. But the only realistic way to prevent that from happening is through the emergence of a stable and legitimate political order in Afghanistan, backed by capable indigenous security forces—and neither of those realities is going to materialize without a significant and sustained American commitment. This will be difficult, but it is absolutely necessary. ~ Sen. Joe Lieberman

Well, as long as this type of stuff is still part of our national conversation, then all is not lost.

There is some other good stuff there that I will let you find for yourself. We can always discuss them in comments. I am personally thrilled to see someone other than this wee tiny blogauthor has taken up the call for a "civilian surge." Let's hope that somehow this discussion gains an audience.


Bit of a discussion going on in Comments. I'm going to be out of the loop, over at Castle Argghhh! today for a bit, but I can shut off moderation and risk some porn spam comments for a bit so that lively conversation can continue.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

In The Company Of A Titan

I had the great fortune of meeting John Donovan of Argghhh! It's always great to meet another blogger. That's two for me now. I wasn't able to attend the Milblogging Conference in 2008, so I didn't get to meet the crowd.


Unfortunately, for reasons that are yet to be revealed, I probably won't be available to attend the one coming up in April, either. For one shining moment, though, I got to stand in the presence of blogging greatness. (sound of choir hitting C sharp)

In any case, both John and I were late getting back from lunch. What an interesting guy... I think we could have swapped thoughts, stories and ideas for hours. Maybe we'll get a chance to do that before I leave.

Anyway, that's my big news for the day. I spent the rest of my time writing, editing, and looking for flow charts for Splashes of Blue. This is going to be the definitive work on COIN-O'-Lets... the portable solution for all of your counterinsurgency needs.

We believe that we've come up with the obvious yet overlooked answer to the war on terror; free the masses from the need to squat.

Free your ass and your mind will follow...
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Good Idea Fairy

Sometimes a visit from the Good Idea Fairy can be a good thing. Often such a visit has an effect in inverse proportion to the rank of the individual visited, but that's another story.

Anyone who's ever had a close encounter with an enraged Wily Bull Fobbit in full rut would understand.

In any case, I've had a couple of visits from the Good Idea Fairy lately. One crept in through a pismiov port on my computer, tickling my fume response and leaving Mr. Michael Sweeney of Leavenworth, Washington covered in sticky infamy that will cling to him for quite some time.

I can't wait until he Googles himself.

The Good Idea Fairy failed me in goading me to insult one K-9 Soldiers' Angel and the Angel wife of a deployed soldier who happens to be a practicing attorney. The wife, not the soldier... well, maybe both of them... I don't know if he is, but she is; and she's one of our Angels.


Fortunately, she seemed to be of good cheer. Towards me, that is; she didn't seem to have much use for Mr. Sweeney other than as a doorstop or a speed bump. The K-9 Angel (love to see that one taping up a box for a deployed Soldier,) apparently envisioned Mr. Sweeney as a chew toy.

"What is it??? I can't read!!!! It's bacon!! Blech! Phooey! No! It's cat poop!"

A sizable group of people did wrap our Angels in the respect that they deserve, though, letting them know that they are truly part of us, and how much we appreciate them. So that was cool.

The second visit from the Good Idea Fairy was much more benign. It was a little voice in my ear telling me that perhaps I should recommend a good book to everyone. This voice in my ear (it could have been my Bluetooth, or I may have been having an auditory hallucination, I'm not sure) told me that I sometimes talk a lot about counterinsurgency, or COIN, and that while many do understand what this stuff is all about, for many it's all very interesting but a little frustrating. Perhaps suggesting a good book would be of help.

"Aha, I thought... the Bill and Bob's Book Club? Hey, someone's going to have to take over for Oprah, now that her name came up for the Senate, right?" The sands of delusion slowly trickled down upon me from the hourglass of wisdom and the Good Idea Fairy's work was soon done. The seed began to grow. Letters swirled through the mists of half-formed thoughts and began to settle into form.


"Gawhola?" you may ask.

Galula. David Galula. The name that rolls so trippingly off of the tongue leads us to the best book, the primer, to help an individual take their rightful place in any meaningful discussion of how to move forward in Afghanistan. He is the author of the primer on counterinsurgency. After his death in 1967, his work lay largely dormant until dug up as if in some Pirate of the Caribbean movie; a treasure as precious as Davy Jones' heart beating forlornly in a box littered with old love letters. Our Army's most recent doctrinal offering, FM 3-24, is based upon his writings (among others,) inspiring COL Gian Gentile to refer to FM 3-24 as "Galula on steroids."

Images of a bespectacled Frenchman with Popeye arms flash through my head.

David Galula's book, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice is the the first (and, at this point, only) book on the Bill and Bob's Book Club list.

You see, there is an internal struggle going on inside the Army. I've commented on this before, and I've gone into a little bit of detail on it. Reading this book will make a person more or less instantly conversant in COIN. Much of the debate raging withing the great marbled halls of Milacademia will be instantly within one's grasp.

You will also know how to kick a Senator or Congressman squarely in the direction of encouraging the development of policies that may stand some chance of bringing success in Afghanistan. Not all of these policies are military.

Oh, and the book is a pretty quick read and not nearly as dry as it sounds. Miracles happen when it is read with a mind eager for enlightenment. Suddenly, the mystery of Viet Nam is revealed. It makes you want to dig up Walter Cronkite and explain it to him.

And so, I proudly recommend David Galula's Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice to you. Then we will have spirited discussions of such things as the four basic rules that Galula submitted as the guidelines for COIN (which, by the way, was not called COIN until our Army got ahold of it. It is our contribution to counterinsurgency. Since we can't practice it with any degree of consistency, at least we can give it a snappy name.

1. The first law is that the population is paramount. That is, the support of the people is the primary objective of a counterinsurgency campaign. Without the support of the population, it is impossible to root out all the insurgents and stop further recruitment.

2. Such support is most readily obtained from an active minority. Those willing to actively support a counterinsurgency operation should be supported in their efforts to rally the relatively neutral majority and neutralize the hostile minority.

3. Having attained the support of the population it is imperative to remember that this support is conditional. What you do matters, and support can be lost if your actions are unfavorable to the population.

4. The fourth and final law of counterinsurgency regards the "intensity of effort and vastness of means." Because counterinsurgency requires a large concentration of effort, resources,and personnel, it is unlikely that it can be pursued effectively everywhere at once. Rather, action should be taken in select areas, and resources moved as needed. Thus, according to the laws of counterinsurgency, it is important to continuously make efforts at gaining and maintaining the support of the populace in distinct areas by leveraging an active minority.

There's actually a lot more to it than that, but as you can see, it's not Clausewitz. Counterinsurgency is warfare forced to recognize that war is politics writ violent. Hell, it looks like a presidential campaign plan more than a war strategy, doesn't it? That's part of the reason why many conventionally trained warriors read it, have the same reaction that AngelDog did upon tasting Sweeney's butt, and go back to chasing ghosts.

It's worse than that. Many of our Soldiers can't even spell Galula. I've got a good idea... why don't we start training them in this stuff early... like when they're Corporals? What if we had Corporals that understood the strategy? What would happen if we had Strategic Corporals? What a concept!

It's mind-boggling.

Of course, we'd have to actually buy-in to the theory. Corporals are funny that way; they don't like the "do as I say, not as I do," stuff. What an idea.

Isn't the Good Idea Fairy cool?

This one was. And the one that goaded me into a healthy Sweeneysliming. Hell, I've had just a blast this week with the Good Idea Fairy; so much so, in fact, that I decided to make a pilgrimage to a veritable shrine to the Good Idea Fairy... Ft Leavenworth. I will be a resident COIN Gnome at this Palace of the Good Idea Fairy for the next couple of weeks, scribing mysterious tracts on parchment in a candlelit attic, texts that will bring enlightenment to millions.

Or a couple of dozen. We're not really sure yet.

I'm co-authoring what promises to be the definitive work in its field; Splashes of Blue; the Judicious Use of Portable Latrine Technology in COIN. It's sort of a new take on the "ink-spot theory."

It's all so darned exciting.
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Oh No You Didn't!

First I need to make a couple of things crystal clear. I was not asked to do this. I am pissed, and if you don't want an adrenaline rush, don't read this post.

I'm sure that you are all aware of who Soldiers' Angels are. They are the most magnificent Angels on God's green earth; they are heroes, and I love them. I saw their generosity and love lavished upon many Soldiers in Afghanistan, and I know that they did just as much... more... for the Soldiers in Iraq (there were more Soldiers to be loved there.) Among these Angels are some who do extra extraordinary things. They give of themselves in the most difficult of situations. These Angels spend their time ministering to gravely wounded warriors who find themselves in the fight of their lives, sometimes struggling to live; sometimes losing that fight. When there is no one else to hold their hand as they lay in such peril, there are Angels there with them.

This is in no way a dismissal of what medical personnel do. Our medical personnel are magnificent, too. This is not about them. This is about our Angels, and I will explain that shortly.

These Angels are volunteers. No one makes them do what they do. They do what they do out of patriotism and love and respect. They give; they do not take. Their motto is, "Let no Soldier go unloved."


Right now I am telling you; if you mess with my Angels, you are messing with me, and I am calling on each Soldier, Marine, Sailor, and Airman to say, "Amen," and stand with me in their defense. I am claiming each of them as one of us. They are our Angels. Someone has messed with one of my Angels, and I am about to call him by name.

Many Soldiers' Angels chapters have blogs. They share with the world what they think, some of their experiences, and their patriotism. They call for help and tell stories of inspiration. They summon other Angels. The most powerful experiences will never be shared with anyone, even their own friends, because they are moments of private human intimacy that require great respect. They are moments of incredible pain, shocking life-changing realizations, terrible loss, and moments when life ends. They willingly subject themselves to great pain, and they go in there knowing that it will hurt, but they go anyway. That is bravery. These Angels are strong, strong people. They are, in every sense of the word, Angels. I am a Soldier, and I will call them my own.

Soldiers' Angels is an apolitical organization. This does not mean that they do not stand for anything; but they are non-partisan. They do not endorse candidates, but they may, from time to time, point out anyone who takes a stand against Soldiers or that is not in the best interest of Soldiers. Their angelic tendencies do not stop at the door.

Soldiers' Angels in Landstuhl, Germany, has such a blog. As the world of milbloggers draws together, we talk and support each other. It is part of the evolution of blogging and within a community of patriots who find a common ground.

That being said, I have a part in this, too. I have written now on several occasions about Lizette Alvarez and the New York Times' propensity to portray unfavorable information about combat veterans, painting a picture of victimhood and instability that appears practically designed to alienate combat veterans from the very country they loved enough to serve. In case you haven't noticed, I don't bring politics into this blog. I avoid it, and while I may let slip a bit here and there, I did not endorse any particular candidate or party. That is a conscious decision. My posts about Alvarez made no mention of politics. Soldiers' Angels Germany picked up on my call for more balanced reporting from the NYT regarding combat veterans and echoed me. The Angels stand up for Soldiers. I love them for that.

Their reward was this attack:


I think the work that you do aiding wounded soldiers and their families at Landstuhl Army Medical Center is commendable, but as a veteran I find the extreme right-wing political slant of your web site to be a disturbing travesty that runs in direct contradiction of the official policy of the United Stated Army which is to always remain above politics . Perhaps you should consider re-registering your entity as a PAC?

The latest example of this politicking is your slagging off a highly respected journalist at the New York Times. You seem to have a problem with either the first amendment of the United States constitution or with dissenting opinions vis-a-vis your own personal views. I assure you that the entire US army and the DOD civilians involved with the US military's efforts do not all think in the same repressive right-wing fashion that you do, there is a vast variety of political opinion in the uniformed services/DOD and there is a proper time and place to express them. I find your blog disturbing not because of your opinions, but because you are a non-profit organization tasked to aid soldiers and their families, not a political action committee to further right wing Republican causes which is exactly what you are behaving like. I have written to both my congressman and the DOD leadership to register this complaint and have asked that they insist that if you persist in these biased political diatribes that they revoke your status and demand that you register as a PAC.

I read the articles that you stated are slanted in the NY Times, and as far as I can ascertain they are all 100% factual. If you can prove they are not you are free to redress them with the editor by providing factual evidence or in a court of law under the state's slander statutes. If you think that nine returning soldiers from a single brigade (at Ft Carson) all murdering people in the United States over the past 36 months is normal or not newsworthy then I think that you either have personal problems or would be better suited to serving as a propagandist in some unquestioning totalitarian country's army. In fact, the United States Congress feels that this particular incident is indeed so troubling they have launched a full-scale investigation into it. I also note a lot of grousing on your site about Senators and Congressmen from the Democratic Party such as "Kennedy, Edwards, Frank" etc. but never pray-tell a critical word about any Republican congressman or the recently departed Bush administration.

The free press plays an important role in the functioning of American society. If the press just printed what the government wanted us to hear then we would not have known the truth about the lurid behavoir at Abu Graihb or what really happened to the late Mr.Tillman or Jessica Lynch's real story. I for one prefer know the truth rather than to hear sanitized versions, misleading propaganda, or outright lies.

I urge you to change your blog's policy, remove all of the politicized posts and stick to your primary (and important) mission which is to provide support for wounded US soldiers and their families, not to advance right wing political causes. I have written Major General Kevin J. Bergner, the US Army Chief of Public Affairs, concerning this matter.

Thank you for your consideration and best regards,

Michael Sweeney
Leavenworth WA
(former Staff Sgt., Strategic Air Command, Unites States Air Force)

Oooh... so dominant, so butch, so... what's that word? Bitchy.

Michael Sweeney of Leavenworth, WA, how dare you try to intimidate one of my Angels? There is no other purpose for this email other than to do exactly what you are claiming to object to; to silence another in their First Amendment rights. Well, Mikey, your problem is no longer with my Angel. Your problem is with me now. Of course, if you had a problem with what I wrote, you should have started up with me to begin with. Your mistake; now corrected.

Game on, bitch.

Let's start at the top, shall we, Herr Sweeney? Let's start off with your desultory commendation of the efforts of which you clearly have no grip. You have no idea that you "slag" this Angel on the tail end of three straight days of sitting with a wounded Soldier; sitting in for his Mom, who couldn't be there. She sat with this young hero who had been hit with an IED, badly burned, while he went through what are without a doubt the most horrifying moments of his young life. She shared them and she hurt for him. Nobody forced her to do this, and you feel compelled to hit her with a, "your efforts are commendable, but?"


Let me explain something to you, Michael Sweeney; there is no "but." Her efforts are so far beyond commendable that you can't possibly wrap your little political diatribe-driven mind around it. If you stopped at "commendable," you might have had a hope of behaving like a human with a clue. With the word, "but," you lost all rights to an opposable thumb.

Okay, next asininity. What does the official anything of the United States Army have to do with Soldiers' Angels? These Angels are a wholly separate organization and do such wonderful things for the members of the United States Army that they are above reproach, and certainly from a former member of the United States Air Force. When the United States Army needs help enforcing its policies from a former Air Force Staff Sergeant, we will beat it out of you. I don't speak for the United States Army or the DOD (see the disclaimer prominently displayed at the top of this page,) but speaking as a current Soldier and a combat veteran, your quoting of Army policy rings so hollow as to make you sound like the little brown jug being blown.

It's apparently empty because you've sucked all the fire water out of it. You sound so much like an angry drunk.

Your condescending drivel continues with referring to Soldiers' Angels Germany's website as a travesty. I'll clue you in to a travesty, Michael Sweeney; take a look at your own thumbs. You don't deserve them. Monkey paws would fit. Don't get used to them; we are working our way down the evolutionary scale as we deconstruct your blather. You use the word "disturbing" a lot. While you seem to blame Soldiers' Angels Germany's blog for this, I would submit that you were disturbed prior to your alleged reading of it. I am not entirely convinced that you actually did read it, for I find no mention of Franks or Edwards anywhere on the site. Disturbed indeed. Try "delusional" on for size. You see things that aren't there. I suspect there are voices, too.

You take issue with the "slagging" of a "highly respected journalist?" Perhaps you highly respect Lizette Alvarez, but if there is a propagandist to be found between the two of them, I would suggest it is the writer with access to the mass media who manipulates numbers to portray the image that she chooses instead of a balanced view; Lizette Alvarez. Shades of Himmler there, boy. If you take issue with that, you can talk to me. I am the one who deconstructed Alvarez' writings to demonstrate the statistical weakness of her writings, and last year the NYT ombudsman had to admit that her articles used "fuzzy figures that were impossible to compare to society as a whole." How often exactly, Michael, do you walk on your hind legs? I'm starting to get the image of a quadruped here, buddy. I'm wondering if your role in the Strategic Air Command was in the role of a test animal for a space shot. I know they give K-9's rank; why not a live crash test dummy stand-in? I think they left your belts loose and you bounced around the inside of the capsule a bit. That might explain the ringing noises and the voices, Michael.

Having you as a fan certainly speaks volumes for Alvarez, too. Check the mail for your fan club card cancellation, Skippy; not sure she's going to enjoy the association. I know that I wouldn't care for your support. I'd rather get an endorsement from Castro.

You then lapse into behavior I haven't witnessed since belting the playground bully in the fourth grade. Your wail about notifying your Congressman and DOD leadership; what the hell was that? Why don't you just go and tell the playground monitor? What in the living hell makes you think that the DOD would want to make trouble for our Angels? For you? To make little Mikey Sweeney of Leavenworth, Washington happy in his pants? Is it hard to smoke that stuff without opposable thumbs? How do you light the lighter? Do they let you have stuff what makes fire?

I think that you spend a good deal of time with protective headgear on and a drool bib, bandaids covering the various abrasions you get from your favorite pastime of making gravel angels. That's the closest you get to being an angel. You are truly a wonder of Paleolithic survival.

You are apparently a lawyer as well; this all begins to gel. Your helpful interpretation of the laws surrounding non-profit service organizations vs PACs is destined to be published in the Law Review. It'll be in the back right next to the ad for the X-ray glasses. Let me get this straight; she sits for days at a time holding the hand of a young man in the agony of his life, and you think that's a PAC activity? Yep, you're a lawyer. See? We are working our way down the evolutionary scale.

I have perused the very writings in Soldiers' Angels Germany's blog that you rail about, and I have in fact found the finger pointed at Republicans. Last time I checked, Richard Lugar and George Voinovitch are Republicans. Either you have cognitive problems or you are blinded by your self-righteous fury at seeing information that makes some of your favorite figures appear in a poor light. Either way, you are factually in error. When you sling arrows at my Angels, you need to be correct in your depiction of facts, Sir.

I resisted the temptation to end that sentence with, "you incipient ass," and went with, "Sir." Aren't you proud of me, folks? I'm so high-minded.

Else what?

Else I will... well... what I am doing; pointing out that jackassery is its own reward. Aren't you glad that you learned how to type with your paws? Maybe next time you'll think twice before assaulting an Angel, big boy.

You then go into professorial mode and begin explaining the workings of a free society, wrapped gloriously in the robes of a pompous hypocrite. While you try to muzzle someone else's free speech to your liking you are explaining how that goes against everything you believe in? Put down the pipe, Mikey, and slowly step away. Try that muzzle on yourself. I think it might fit just fine.

Evolution check; no opposable thumbs, doesn't walk upright much, muzzle fits, rode in test shots for the Air Force... I'm thinking that your whole back end swings back and forth when you're happy. I'm right, aren't I? Yep... I've got you pegged. You're a smart one, Mike. A real rocket scientist... err... test subject. I know you. Your deepest secret; you piddle a little on the rug when you get all excited.

I'm thinking Spaniel. That piddling problem is hereditary; you can't help it. It comes from inbreeding at puppy mills. Not your fault, but probably has something to do with your anger and control issues. Look into Detrol.

By the way, it was Specialist Tillman. Give him the respect that he deserves. He was a Soldier. He was a Ranger. He was killed by friendly fire doing a very dangerous job in a very dangerous place that you will never see. He is not a tool for you to use to assault Angels. If you read my archives, you will see where I have encouraged my Army to tell the truth always; good, bad and ugly. You barely deserve to utter his name, much less incorrectly. The Angel that you are tearing into sees Soldiers like him every day, holding their hands while you dream your political dreams, imagine threats to your way of thinking, and spout self-righteous hypocrisy against those who you imagine offend you. She is a hero, too. You still have no clue. You exemplify the "cocker" in Cocker Spaniel; a credit to your breed.

I think your word was "disturb." Yes, Michael, you are indeed disturbed, but it's not her fault.

Lastly you try to focus my Angel back to her "mission." Who are you to tell her what her mission is? I mean, really? Who do you think you are to tell this volunteer hero what her mission is? You should be ashamed of yourself, Michael. I, for one, am ashamed for you; just in case you didn't get the message. So step off, punk.

You deserve to be made fun of. You brought this on yourself when you tried to intimidate a Soldiers' Angel. If you don't want your name on my blog, don't commit jackassery and put your name on it to boot. I know you thought it was a private little mugging; your own little power game. Clearly, she wasn't keeping your dirty little secret. When you emailed her your threats, they became her property, which she brought to light in amazement, but not in the slightest bit intimidated. Not everyone is a wuss like you. Remember to tell your Congressman that when you write him to whine about being outed for your perfidy. Congressmen love spineless wussies. They'll probably commission a panel to study you, which will publish their findings that you need to be a protected species; the wily North American Blither-typing Rocketspaniel.

Perhaps it's all tongue-in-cheek, like that poor-taste piece in The Onion. That was some piece of comedy you wrote. I mean, you've written MG Bergner about this? My goodness, you are either a superlative comic or the most ridiculously self-important dog who ever learned to use his master's computer when he wasn't looking. The Onion removed their offense. If it was comedy, you can put a retraction or apology right here on this blog. Open invitation.

You'll earn your thumbs back.

Just to be clear about this; this is not about your politics, so you can let your paranoia take a break. This is about your assault on a heroic Angel, one who experiences pain with wounded warriors, absorbing some of their pain. It hurts her, too, you know. You, on the other hand, are busy being a pain. Big difference there, Chumley. I don't like you... paranoia switch back on.

Our Soldiers' Angels are a national treasure. After reading about her last three days, I wanted to send my Bronze Star to her; I think she deserves it more than I do. Perhaps I was a bit hard on Mr. Sweeney. What do you think?

Nah, probably not.

In any case, responding to this dastardly attack on our Angels, I showed my fangs. Hey, I'm not proud of it; I hate being so ruthless to anyone, but it pisses me off and I will do it for other Soldiers or for our Angels. Please show your Angels some support today and let them know that they are patriots and heroes. In response to this attempted slap, give them a pat on the back and let them know that you support them.

I do not represent Soldiers' Angels. These opinions are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of Soldiers' Angels. I do, however, endorse Soldiers' Angels and denounce anyone who denounces them. Thoroughly.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From A Reader

I don't want to turn this into "Alvarez Watch," but you have to acknowledge the tainted pen when it appears. Thanks for the heads-up, Caitlyn.

Caitlin has left a new comment on your post "Agendas":

She's doing it AGAIN. God forbid anyone might possibly join up out of love for their country or their friends . . .

It's not so much quoting statistics, but it's the tone that she sets. I wonder how many of the enlistees have a Bachelor's Degree... she didn't mention that...

She didn't mention how many scored really well on their ASVAB tests, either. Strange. I wonder how many joined who were doing quite well and suddenly couldn't look at themselves in the mirror anymore.

At FOB Kalagush I met a PFC at the front gate to the FOB one day while waiting for some local ANP and civil leaders to make it through the outer gate. He was obviously older than the other PFC's. I asked him about that.

"I'm 39, Sarn't."

"Wow. How'd you wind up in the 173rd in Afghanistan?"

"Well, Sarn't, I had an electrical contracting company with a buddy of mine. We were doing okay, but I just felt like I had to serve. I handed everything over to him to run while I was gone and I went active duty. Here I am."

So, I wonder why Lizette Alvarez, who seems to focus her efforts on the military, doesn't tell such stories. That man was a successful small businessman who felt the call to serve his country, and so he did. He is a great example of America, and a great example of our soldiers. Is he typical? No, most of our enlistees are much younger (even in the Guard, although Lizette would lead you to believe that the Guard is full of old men like me.) No, he's not typical. He's something of an oddity, in fact. He knows it. He's also not that much of an oddity.

Why doesn't Lizette Alvarez tell stories like that? There would certainly be that human interest aspect to it. I suspect that his story is the last story that Lizette Alvarez would like to tell. It simply wouldn't fit with her agenda.

I'm getting tired of writing about Lizette Alvarez, but when someone points something like this out, it's not like I can just sit idly by.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Great Discussions; Good Commentary

There have been a number of great discussions taking place lately. The COIN/Conventional - Crusader/Conservative conversation is in full swing. It can only benefit the Army. What is more important is that it bring benefit in our current struggles in Iraq and particularly Afghanistan.

COL Gian Gentile, consistent in his role, wrote a new piece in Foreign Policy again taking his stance on COIN vs Conventional Capability. No real surprises; he is carrying the torch that has more followers than I think he knows. Abu Muqawama takes him on in a very concise post and invites a discussion. Make sure that you read the comments. Considerably longer than the post itself, it was a good back-and-forth in which AM and Gentile both weighed in. Good stuff.

There was also a call by AM for someone other than Gentile who will also co-carry that torch with him. One reply to that was Christian Brose, also in Foreign Policy. He wonders if degraded conventional capability will encourage state actors to mischief.

In other news, a rarity occurred; an MSM article about Afghanistan and the way forward that didn't leave me shaking my head and vomiting in my mouth a little. Malou Innocent manages a decent high-level piece without all of the screaming and thrashing about that many seem to descend into when approaching the subject. I recommend it. It is actually sort of optimistic in its tone. Offered as advice on rethinking the approach in Afghanistan, I found much to nod my head to. Perhaps I will delve into that further, but it's definitely worth a read.

These two conversations are actually intertwined. Perhaps it's time to invite a discussion here about that.
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sincerity And The Blessing Of A True Reflection

A goodly portion of the American population are very concerned with how the rest of the world sees us. We see ourselves in a funhouse mirror reflection through the press and through anecdotal evidence reflecting the personal views of the teller. We find what we are looking for.

This was forwarded to me today. The blogosphere is large, and sometimes it takes a while to become aware of such things. A bullcrap story about a CIA agent plying a village elder with Viagra can go 'round the 'net in short order, but something like this takes weeks, apparently. It is out there, though; and it's destined to be a classic because it shows us something rarely seen. It shows us a glimpse of ourselves through someone else's eyes. For a small group of Frenchmen assigned to an OMLT (Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team... the NATO partner equivalent of ETT's) working with the ANA, a company-plus element of the 101st Airborne represented America. They were America.

There are a couple of different translations of this, and I'm going to use the one that was published, along with the prologue that I found with it. Then I will add a couple of comments that were made on the original site, a French blog written in English by Jean-Marc Liotier.

It has been said what a blessing it is to see ourselves as others truly see us. This is true not just personally, but as a nation. We are told that the world hates us, and for some that goes greatly into their decision making process when voting. We are told many things, convincingly, by people who have their own viewpoints and want to steer us towards them. I've dealt with some of that in the past couple of posts. Those messages lack integrity, other than the cohesiveness of the beliefs and perceptions that drive them beyond facts. Here is a reflection of our nation through its Soldiers, as seen through the eyes of an outsider who has seen the truest character; that which comes out through long periods of close association and is put to the test of deadly stress.

You never really know someone until you have lived with that person in close quarters and have seen them subjected to great stresses. It is easy to display the character that you wish for others to see for certain hours of the day and away from your home. Many people have a "public face." A person's truest character cannot be concealed in months of combat. A group's truest character is shown the same way.

Somehow I missed this the first time around. If you did, too, then enjoy this glimpse with me of our national character through this most honest reflection of it.

American troops in Afghanistan through the eyes of a French OMLT infantryman

The US often hears echoes of worldwide hostility against the application of its foreign policy, but seldom are they reached by the voices of those who experience first hand how close we are to the USA. In spite of contextual political differences and conflicting interests that generate friction, we do share the same fundamental values - and when push comes to shove that is what really counts. Through the eyes of that French OMLT (Operational Mentoring Liaison Teams) infantryman you can see how strong the bond is on the ground. In contrast with the Americans, the French soldiers don’t seem to write much online - or maybe the proportion is the same but we just have less people deployed. Whatever the reason, this is a rare and moving testimony which is why I decided to translate it into English, so that American people can catch a glimpse of the way European soldiers see them. Not much high philosophy here, just the first hand impressions of a soldier in contact - but that only makes it more authentic.

Here is the original French article, and here is my translation :

“We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while - they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing “ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events”. Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day ? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.

They have a terribly strong American accent - from our point of view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.

Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.

Here we discover America as it is often depicted: their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by lack of privacy and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location: books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.

And they are impressive warriors! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.

And combat ? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks : they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the ennemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting: they just charge! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later - which cuts any pussyfooting short.

We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.

To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America’s army’s deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owned this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers”.

Here are some selected comments from that site:

From the original author:

# french autor Says:
September 21st, 2008 at 15:30

thanks for having translate my article. thanks to my partnership U.S unit for all. American people must be proud to get this kind of boys.

An American reader of the French blog writes:

# United Conservatives of Virginia Says:
November 14th, 2008 at 19:47

Serendipitious Praise from an unexpected source…

We see only the opinions that the press deem worthy to repeat. Anti-Americanism sells papers in other nations as much as it sells here. We don’t hear the voices of foreigners that work closely with Americans and admire them.

Until now.


Another says:

# Stephen Says:
November 18th, 2008 at 8:43

Wow. I have NEVER read a positive thing about us from the French point of view. Thank you so very, very much!

An American Captain writes:

# Captain Jason Adler Says:
November 19th, 2008 at 15:34

It is truly rare that articles like this reach the mainstream media. As a Soldier who has fought in Iraq and am about to deploy to Afghanistan, it makes me proud to know that our Coalition partners appreciate all that we do. The American Soldier is absolutely amazing. When a comrade needs help, they will lay down their lives without a second thought. It is an honor and a privilege to command America’s sons in battle. Thank you for writing such a positive article, and know that the US Soldier is appreciative of all that our Coalition partners do.

Jason N. Adler
US Army

The father of a 101st Soldier writes:

# Bill Says:
November 20th, 2008 at 18:32

My son is a platoon sergeant with the 101st in Afghanistan and was recently serving alongside French troops. He had nothing but positive comments to pass along about THEM! Seeing such a nice article about our own men (and women!) should make us all proud. He and his men will be happy to see how they are viewed.

A veteran writes:

# Terry Says:
November 21st, 2008 at 17:34

In four years soldiering with the French in France, Germany, and Iraq, I can tell all that the feelings expressed here were felt just as strongly about our French counterparts. Forget the stereotypes! Know the people.

An American Blue Star Mother writes:

# Pam L Says:
November 21st, 2008 at 20:02

This article moved me to tears. If you believe the U.S. media, the entire world hates us, especially our military. Both my sons serve. It really hurts me to hear this day after day. This moving tribute restores my faith in humanity. There is an old Army saying: There ain’t no athiests in fox holes. Well, I’d like to add to the saying: There aint’ no strangers in fox holes.

God bless the French. A big Merci from Texas. In closing, I just want to say my mothers maiden name was LeMonds.

And where can I get some of that French chow? You guys eat better than I do! :)

God bless the French military. May we forever be allies.

A Brit expatriate living in France writes:

# Steve Fox Says:
November 21st, 2008 at 20:41

As a Brit living in Normandy, who worked alongside wonderful Americans in North Sea oil drilling (Ocean Victory, Odeco, 1980-1) it’s good to read this post and the comments. HarleyDavidson writes about the American press, well you know what those people are the same over here in France and the UK. They purport to speak for us, but really don’t have any grip on the way ordinary people live or see the world. They don’t understand patriotism at all, for example. France is maybe more dominated by its so-called intellectuals than any other country, so it tends to come over as pretentious and arty-farty, but I know from living in the country out here, its full of warmhearted, gifted, yet modest people who match up to anyone anywhere.
Lets all make sure we listen to the people behind the frontpeople, people…

There are 190 comments on the page over at the original site. I've been beaten to the punch here by several other milblogs, including my old buddy Bouhammer. What the hell... the tripe Viagra story has been so oft-repeated now that it has become urban legend... so I will once more repeat this story and point you to this site, which has become a friendship letter between French and Americans, with others commenting. People are still commenting, months later. Perhaps you will add one, too.

Vive les Etats Unis! Vive la France!

I copied that. I don't speak a lick of French, but I do understand the sentiment.
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Gumby's a combat veteran, too. Lizette Alvarez and the NYT are starting to piss him off.

The response to my posting about the venerable Lizette Alvarez and her attempts to start a meme concerning combat veterans of the Global War On Terror has been tremendous. A quick look at the subjects that Alvarez has written about in the past few years shows a definite trend. Below I have listed the titles and a brief description (taken from the NYT,) of her articles.

These articles regard the Army, occasionally the Marine Corps, and trend towards a focus on combat veterans and their misadventures following the their combat experiences. There is also a tendency to focus on violence committed by combat veterans. This is combined with articles which point the finger at the Armed Forces and their apparent mishandling of such issues as PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury.) Among these are articles depicting alcoholism, drug abuse, and felony waivers granted by the Army and Marine Corps. It is my assertion that this is a pattern of depiction that is designed to send a consistent message to the readers: "Combat veterans are potentially dangerous. They are trained in violence and are subjected to mind-warping combat that turns their violent training into potentially anti-social behavior. Many of the recruits are defective to begin with, and all are victims of a monstrous system that doesn't care for them, dooming them to eventually give in to their own violent tendencies. Returning Soldiers will be subject to a myriad of problems and while pitiable, one must safeguard themselves against these animal-victims."

Using vignettes designed to inspire shock and pity, Alvarez uses her considerable writing skill to guide the perceptions of the reader gently and not-so-gently towards the conclusions. She also has a tendency to leave the article on a dramatic note, perhaps an open question to be answered by the reader's now-informed opinion. I think that it's effective. If I didn't think so, it wouldn't bother me. Alvarez is no amateur, excelling at her work. That's why her editor keeps her on this path. She devastates Soldiers with a mixture of kindness and horror while simultaneously indicting an entire system that struggles to keep pace in the midst of war.

Message received, Lizette. The question is what is driving this message? While it could be argued, probably by the NYT and Lizette Alvarez, that the message is a compassionate Soldier-oriented concern, it does not appear that way to this Soldier. To this Soldier and combat veteran, it seems to be a consistent pressure towards isolating combat veterans and creating a stigma similar to the Viet Nam Era isolation of veterans. Folks, there is a reason why there is a checkbox on every job application asking, "Are you a Viet Nam Era veteran?" under the EO column. Viet Nam Era veterans have their own demographic group. That didn't happen because American employers were showing a preference for Viet Nam vets, hiring them like they were going out of style.

That's because it wasn't in style; not at all. Viet Nam vets lived in the shadow of a stigma. It's only in the past few years that men who are not veterans are claiming to be veterans; because it is now in style to have served.

This whole line of articles appears to be cleverly designed to gently manipulate public opinion regarding combat veterans. I am not a believer in conspiracy theories or overarching cabals, but I do believe that there are those who hearken to the days when the press was "raising awareness" about Viet Nam. Alvarez even references Viet Nam several times in her writing, showing her hand as far as the influence it has on her "awareness." Awareness is in the eye of the beholder, and some beholders have the ability to influence, through media, the perceptions of larger numbers of people.

I use this blog, since I've been home, to show the perception of Afghanistan, my Army and its methods, counterinsurgency vs conventional methods and other primarily war-related issues as seen through these eyes; forever changed by my experience on the ground in Afghanistan in the Global War On Terror. I work to influence, too. I have an agenda, too... and part of that must be to stand in the face of such portrayals and say, "No."

The argument that these portrayals are not part of an agenda is belied by the clever use of fuzzy numbers, such as the murder statistics claimed in last year's article about murders by combat veterans to make them appear to be an alarming trend. These numbers were later apologized for (after a fashion) by the NYT. Too late, I'm afraid. They had already painted the picture that they wanted to paint, and a mild refutation in the Opinion section doesn't erase the effort. The point is that one without an agenda, who seeks only truth, does not manipulate information to make it appear to be more or less dire than it actually is.

There are inconsistencies also in Alvarez' stance on PTSD, for instance. Notice that when it suits her purpose, PTSD is a "mental disorder," but when it suits another purpose, it is a "wound." A quick glance at the titles of the articles below will bear this out. Her latest column cries out about the Purple Heart, but an earlier article warns of untreated "mental disorders," PTSD being chief among them. Who would advocate for the award of a medal for a mental disorder? Who would even generate an article announcing that the DoD had denied a medal for a mental disorder? Nobody. For a wound? Yes.

The point is that this appears, to this Soldier, to be an agenda-driven relentless line of march that Alvarez and the NYT are on. I find this to be less than acceptable, to put it mildly. I could rant like a field Soldier about this, but I choose not to. Instead, I'm trying to show, through the eyes of a combat veteran, how this continuing behavior by Alvarez and the NYT appear to be less than helpful in any regards.

I am "on about" this subject, obviously. Hey, it's upsetting to actually witness the attempted stigmatization of my kind, who have only the best for our nation in our hearts. To be thus treated by a reporter and a large publication is just as frustrating as can be.

I think I need a little help again (no, not from a professional... heh heh.) I emailed the Public Editor at the NYT, but have not received a response. It appears that he is a busy man, and that only a volume of contacts will bring to his attention that I am not the only one who sees this pattern and objects to it. So, if you can spare a moment to copy and paste his email address into your email, I would appreciate a moment of moral outrage on your part to be sent in his direction. This has worked before, and while I hope not to make a staple out of this type of activity, I feel compelled to stand up to certain behaviors and object. If you're with me and Gumby on this, please send a note to Clark Hoyt at:

Your help would be greatly appreciated. If they know that we're aware and that we're keeping an eye on them, it may dissuade them from continuing to portray combat veterans as dangerous or at best pitiable "victims" of the Global War On Terror. This is the beginning to the path of having to spend public money on "Don't Forget; Hire The Vet" advertising as a result of a persistent meme. It's time to stop this portrayal of combat veterans as somehow "less than" because of their combat service.

What follows below is a list of Lizette Alvarez' articles for the past year. This goes to show the pattern of her portrayal of combat veterans as victims or as dangerous potentially violent criminals.

Purple Heart Is Ruled Out for Traumatic Stress

The decision ends hope of recent war veterans who have the condition that the medal could honor their sacrifice.
January 8, 2009

A Focus on Violence by Returning G.I.’s

The Army is reviewing whether combat trauma played a role in killings by soldiers in Colorado.
January 2, 2009

Despite Army’s Assurances, Violence at Home

Abuse allegations against a soldier illustrate the gaps in the way the Army handles domestic violence cases.
November 23, 2008

Mental State of Soldier Questioned

An internal Army document raises questions about the mental state of Specialist Robert H. Marko during his time at Fort Carson in Colorado and his time in Iraq.
November 21, 2008

New Veterans Hit Hard by Economic Crisis

A combination of factors including unemployment and injury has forced many veterans into foreclosure.
Noveber 18, 2008

Mental State of Soldier Questioned


An internal Army document raises questions about the mental state of Specialist Robert H. Marko during his time at Fort Carson in Colorado and his time in Iraq.
November 21, 2008

Soldier, Student

They know where the exit is and how many windows there are. Crowded classrooms can send them into a panic. They have trouble focusing. They can't remember facts. And no one around them understands what they've seen. The new G.I. Bill is expected to swell the number of post-9/11 veterans at the nation's colleges and universities. These new students will need help. Are campuses ready?
November 2, 2008

Combat to College

A new G.I. bill is expected to swell the number of veterans in the nation’s colleges and universities. But the transition is especially difficult for returning soldiers. Are campuses ready for them?
November 2, 2008

Army and Agency Will Study Rising Suicide Rate Among Soldiers

The Army will collaborate with the National Institute of Mental Health in an ambitious five-year project to identify the causes and risk factors of suicide.
October 30, 2008

Action Is Sought to Ensure Timely Financing for V.A.


As the veterans’ health system strains to handle a growing caseload, a move is under way in Congress to avoid yearly delays in financing that can hamper the medical care of the nation’s veterans.
September 19, 2008

War Veterans’ Concussions Are Often Overlooked


The complications from concussions, a signature injury of the Iraq war, often are not recognized in singular ways.
August 26, 2008

After the Battle, Fighting the Bottle at Home


A body of evidence suggests that alcohol abuse is rising among veterans of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.
July 8, 2008

Army and Marine Corps Grant More Felony Waivers


The trend raises questions about the military’s ability to attract quality recruits at a time when it is trying to increase enlistment.
April 22, 2008

Nearly a Fifth of War Veterans Report Mental Disorders, a Private Study Finds


Little more than half of the returned soldiers who reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression have sought mental health treatment.
April 18, 2008

Six of the Fallen, in Words They Sent Home

Unlike soldiers of previous wars, who were only occasionally able to write letters, many who served and died in Iraq left behind an extraordinary electronic testimony.
March 25, 2008

When Strains on Military Families Turn Deadly


An examination of cases of fatal domestic violence and child abuse indicate wartime pressures have complicated the Pentagon’s efforts to change the current system.
February 15, 2008

In More Cases, Combat Trauma Is Taking the Stand

Prosecutors, judges and juries are increasingly prodded to assess the role of combat trauma in crimes by veterans.
January 27, 2008

Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles


The Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war.
January 13, 2008
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Friday, January 9, 2009

She's At It Again!

Right on time. It's January, folks; time for Lizette Alvarez to get back on her horse and back to demonizing combat veterans. In her latest public disservice announcement, Lizette has now focused on the narrow population of Fort Carson, Colorado. No doubt still smarting from the general lambasting that she took last year at the hands of numerous bloggers and journalists after her multiple installment series that sought to depict returning combat veterans as a pitiable yet oh-so-dangerous contingent, our heroine takes a remarkably similar tack in this scary little piece in the New York Times. It took me days to catch it because I consider the NYT to be a less than adequate source of any information, and so I do not generally seek my news or opinion reporting there.

My eye was directed there by a scholarly international relations website,, who published a link to an ill-informed, sensationalist and generally dreadful Op-Ed piece by Bob Herman on Afghanistan. While Herman's piece displayed the depth of soup ladle, it reminded me to check for Ms. Alvarez' recent writings. Since she repeatedly displayed her predilection (and that of the NYT) for combat vet character assassination, I've occasionally checked to see if she has gone back to her bread and butter.

She has. Almost a year to the day from the piece that had me spitting spent casings in Afghanistan, she has produced this intellectual giant: "A Focus on Violence by Returning G.I.’s."

I'm a few days late on this one, which ran on January 3rd, but I did catch it. In the meantime, Ms. Alvarez has gone on from her poisoning of the well; but I will attempt to scathe her as thoroughly as I can. Now, I understand her fascination with the idea of PTSD. It is, as it should be, part of our national dialogue. Why, just this week, milblogger Susan Katz Keating has addressed the same issue on her blog, exploring the DoD's recent decision not to grant Purple Heart Medals for those diagnosed with PTSD. PTSD is also a big issue in the Army. You cannot come home on leave from a combat theater until you've got your chit that you've been through the awareness class at Ali Al Saleem Air Base in Kuwait. I think I still have mine somewhere. It's an issue of some conversation both inside and outside the military. I even saw a news clip on the Pentagon Channel News today about a DoD round table addressing depression and suicide in the military.

As she did last year, Lizette found a well-meaning senior officer who was willing to talk to her. This officer, MG Mark Graham, has lost a son in combat and another, an ROTC cadet who struggled with depression and ceased his medication for fear that it would cost him his Army career, to suicide. MG Graham has understandably made soldier mental health one of his prime concerns as the commander of Fort Carson, Colorado; which happens to be the focus of Alvarez' piece. Lizette took advantage of MG Graham's willingness to speak openly about such issues to couch her article in authority.

General Graham, whose oldest son, Jeff, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq a year after another son, Kevin, committed suicide, has made mental health a focus since taking command of Fort Carson in 2007. “I feel like I have to speak out for the Kevins of the world,” he said. ~ Lizette Alvarez, NYT, 3 JAN 09

As you can tell from the screaming title of her article, the target is clear; violence by returning vets. In her triumphal return to her pet subject, Alvarez announces somberly that in the past three years, there have been nine murders perpetrated by current and former members of the 4th BCT, a unit stationed at Fort Carson. There apparently weren't any from the remaining units on Fort Carson, judging from her reporting.

Alvarez even refers to her multi-installment assault on the reputations of combat veterans last year, a series that drew fire from multiple quarters, including mine.

Last January, The New York Times published articles examining the cases of veterans of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan charged with homicide after their return. At the time, it counted at least 121 such cases. In many of them, combat trauma and the stress of deployment appeared to have set the stage for the crimes. ~ Lizette Alvarez, NYT 3 JAN 09

Was that the same series of articles that the NYT apologized for the shoddy research on, Lizette? Was that the same series of articles that pointed out through the research of others, not yourself (though a staff of nine... count 'em nine reporters worked on it,) that returning combat veterans were actually less likely to kill you than non-veterans? Would that be the same series?

Uh, I'll take "Yes" for a thousand, Alex.

Now, for those of you who are not in the military, I will explain a little bit about an aspect of military life that tends to drive soldiers a touch insane. We'll start with this example; a question: In the civilian world, when you ride a motorcycle, what is required? Answer: A motorcycle, a motorcycle endorsement on your license, and in some states, a helmet (though helmets are not required in all states.) In the military, to ride a motorcycle you must wear boots, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, a helmet, and a day-glo vest or belt slung diagonally across your body.

On the larger FOB's in Afghanistan, in hours of reduced visibility (at night,) you must wear, with your ACU uniform, a day-glo PT belt. If you wear PT gear at any time of day, you must wear a PT belt. Is that insane, or what? The Army issues you all this camouflage gear and while you are in a combat zone you must wear an item that makes you easily visible?

Yep. Someone got hit by a vehicle on some FOB and it was decided that the new ACU's made that soldier invisible. In response, the entire Army belted up in day-glo to prevent further hazards to its highly trained and alert combat soldiers.

Are you catching the pattern here? The Army will react to what is in the civilian world a hazard of living and walking (or riding) and respond to a degree that you will not see in civilian life. (Thank God, or this would be like the ultimate police state.) Generals and such have just that kind of power, and it's senior NCO's who bear the brunt of enforcing those GAB standards, the same ones the Privates and Specialists bitch about so entertainingly on their blogs.

Disclaimer: I was never a GAB Nazi or a Smoke-Zone Nazi. I was at all times a "don't flag people with your weapons" Nazi. Thankfully, we had lots of Bull Fobbit Sergeants Major to take care of the first two parts. Oddly enough, they didn't seem to notice the flagging issue much. They could, however, spot a Specialist in a tower who was not wearing his gloves from a thousand meters. At night.

The point is that the Army micromanages risk. You should see the Risk Assessments that have to be done for any training exercise. You should see the Risk Assessments that are done for combat missions. They almost didn't let me out of the wire at Bagram on numerous occasions because we didn't have as many vehicles as was their norm. The Army is risk averse. If there is any uptick in any negative activity, the Army will come down on it with both feet and will determine the proper belt to wear to prevent further occurrences. MG Graham has developed a commission to look into the occurrences related to Fort Carson and is looking for preventable causative effects. The Secretary of the Army is considering appointing a commission to look into the same thing on a wider scale. Ms. Alvarez fairly crows.

Now the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, says he is considering conducting an Army-wide review of all soldiers “involved in violent crimes since returning” from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a letter sent to Mr. Salazar in December. Mr. Geren wrote that the Fort Carson task force had yet to find a specific factor underlying the killings, but that the inquiry was continuing. ~ Lizette Alvarez, NYT 3 JAN 09

You've got to read the article. Lizette Alvarez does such a wonderful job of telling salacious and tragic tales of murder and mayhem, just as she did last year. She's quite talented at drawing on the heartstrings, that woman. The best propagandists are usually quite skilled at stirring emotions. Let's look at the bigger picture.

Alvarez reports that the census of Fort Carson ranges from 11,000 to 14,500 people at any given time. We'll take 12,000 as an average. About 15% of the Army is female, so we'll just throw that percentage out and we wind up with abut 10,800 soldiers. Just as a swag, about 60% of those would be junior enlisted, the group most likely to fall into the 18-24 age group. That would be about 6,480 males between 18 and 24 years old. 20% of these soldiers would be black, going by Army statistics from the office of the G-1. According to a paper quoted in the NYT by James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, we could expect about 1 in every 5000 white males between the ages of 18 and 24 to commit a murder in 2007, and we could expect 1 in every 500 black males in the same age group to do the same.

The simple arithmetic shows that we would have about 5184 white males soldiers between 18 and 24 and about 1296 black males in the same age group, on average, at Fort Carson during those three years that Alvarez refers to. We would expect about 1 murder a year from the white males and about 2.25 murders a year from the black males on base if this were just a slice of America instead of an Army base full of slack-jawed PTSD-suffering combat veterans. That's 3.25 murders a year just from the 18 to 24 year old males that we could expect to be present. Over the three year period, we could expect 9.75 murders from just over half the population of the base. They've had 9; which is still 9 tragedies, the repetition of which the Army is trying its hardest to stamp out, but it's less than you would expect from a similar slice of 18 to 24 year old Americans of similar demographics.

This is totally disregarding the other 5,520 people that we could expect to find on base at during the same period. It's quite possible that we could come up with a quarter of a murder in a three year period somewhere in that woodpile, don't you think? That would put Fort Carson's murder rate a full murder low. Of course, we are not counting the fact that two of these murders did not take place at Fort Carson, and I have not added in all of the discharges (at least those two were discharged personnel, but still clearly linked to Fort Carson.) In other words, I have left out chunks of people who would help me make my case and still am coming up with Fort Carson having a lower murder rate than a similar bunch of 18 to 24 year old males from a slice of America.

I don't personally believe that Lizette Alvarez or the NYT is too stupid to have done the simple arithmetic and figure out the above. They are the ones who printed the murder rate demographic study. If you read her series from last year, and this article, it's really hard not to spot a consistent message; an agenda; stigmatizing combat veterans.

Congratulations, Lizette; you've just identified another serious danger to America. You have also managed to have published in a major paper another Deer Hunter episode replete with tragic and frightening stories which will paint combat veterans as a danger to themselves and Americans in general. You've done us all a wonderful service and raised public awareness with your righteous cry.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my ***. You should be dating Nick Meo. I could possibly arrange an introduction, if you'd like. He's sure as hell not working in Afghanistan anymore. You two would be perfect for each other, since you like to defame soldiers so much.

It pisses me off to see some snooty New York journalist mess with soldiers like that. If you can read that article along with the series she wrote last year and not smell an agenda, let me know. In my service I have met what are probably the finest young men and women that this nation has to offer. While others are self-absorbed in their search for money, stuff and status, these young soldiers go an do what most find unimaginable. In the past year, veterans and soldiers have been nearly the sole target of her writings, and not once in a favorable light. If it's not to tell a sad story of violence, it is written in pity. If you look at the list of her articles, it's not an agenda; it's a campaign. That's just not right. The NYT bears responsibility for this, too. Maybe it's time to start researching their advertisers.

Note to senior officers: When are you gentlemen going to realize that talking to Lizette Alvarez is like serving your own soldiers arsenic sauce for their future pudding? Gentlemen, this is an information fight in more ways than just in the Afghan villages. Lizette Alvarez will take your concern for your troops and your efforts to keep your soldiers healthy and to keep the murder rate of soldiers and veterans to much lower than the national average for their same demographic groups and turn it into a spectacular story of death and carnage at the hands of demented soldiers; she will use your concerned efforts and words as authority for her painting a picture of your boys as tainted criminals-in-waiting. Read her articles, for Pete's sake. Remember how hard it was for returning Viet Nam veterans, who were painted with that same brush. You are not helping your soldiers with your "transparency" on this issue with this reporter. The ones who talked with her last year regret it. Don't be next. When Lizette Alvarez shows up at any military base she should be shunted directly to a diligent SSG at the PAO's office and given a polite tour and a goody bag of recruiting brochures and refrigerator magnets. Maybe a nice coffee cup. I urge you gentlemen to quit helping her make your soldiers look like Jason-in-training. Please, gentlemen, have some discernment; don't help this "journalist" stigmatize your soldiers. This war is hard enough on them already.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009


In the past two days I have written nearly two complete posts which will have to remain for consideration at another time. Something didn't feel quite right, so I hovered over the "PUBLISH POST" button and refrained from clicking. Then I realized why I had non-clicked; there was something out there that I had not discovered yet that layered upon one of the subjects that I have explored before. My thoughts on this subject go back to a concept that began to jell for me in Afghanistan.

This concept began swirling around in the back of my consciousness at first as a vague feeling that something wasn't working. It coalesced into a pool of misgivings, congealed into half-formed ideas and finally jelled over the next couple of months into the wiggly self-standing mass that I've expressed before directly and indirectly. It is a criticism, in part, of My Army; one made out of respect and a sincere desire to witness and be a part of success in the protection of these United States through our efforts in the Long War.

As I stumbled through the internet, uncomfortable with not one but two postings which sat still steaming in my "POSTS" archive with the red-lettered Draft next to them, I was led by my Irish nose to this gem in Baltic Security and Defense Review by LTC (Dr) Robert Cassidy entitled "Counterinsurgency and Military Culture: State Regulars versus Non-State Irregulars." While this scholarly paper addresses the military command culture of the Army, it is this culture that permeates down to the soldier level and which I found to be unsupportive of our objectives in Afghanistan (and by extension Iraq, which I am unqualified to address specifically.)

I have expressed these same thoughts in less scholarly fashion on more than one occasion. There are two instances in particular in my experience where there are direct, to my mind, soldier-level examples that I mentioned in my Afghan ramblings. The first took place during Operation Nauroz Jhala, and the second after my migration to Nuristan.

In the first example, my sad peschak (hundred cats) and I were operating in the Afghanya (or Afghania) Valley, a sub-valley of the Tag Ab Valley, with a company of ANA, their Army ETT's, a light platoon of Pathfinders from the 82nd Airborne, two Psyops Operators, and a squad of elite 82nd Airborne soldiers from Task Force Fury. We were in the "Clearing" phase of the operation, sweeping the valley from one end to the other. For the first few days, we had divided the American mentors up to support three separate but parallel lines of advance up the mile-wide Afghanya Valley, with the TF Fury element operating in trail behind the center group, giving them flexibility to bound left or right to support any serious contact. On the fourth day, we entered the Ghain Valley, a thumb-like appendage of the Afghanya. LTC Jhala had expressed his belief that this area was where the Taliban leadership would escape our hammer. There was no anvil, as his recommendations for the placement of a blocking force at its terminus had been ignored.

As we moved into the Ghain, the TF Fury soldiers came into direct support of my sad peschak. Mind you, we had been given very little time with these cats to prepare them for this operation, concentrating our efforts on the most dangerous aspect; house clearing. The ANP moved exactly as I have described them; like a herd of cats. Their tactical movement bore scant resemblance to the tactical movement of the more highly trained ANA and no resemblance whatsoever to the movements of the elite kids from the 82nd. The airborne troops held my peschak-ha in absolute disdain. They couldn't get enough of amusing themselves derisively at the ANP's expense. While the ANP couldn't understand a word that was said, they understood every word that was said.

Disrespect requires no translation.

It took a lot of work to help my ANP through the Psyops that were laid on them by these "highly-trained, elite" soldiers of the Airborne Pride of the Army. I wanted to butt-stroke the muscle-headed airborne bastards. (For those of you who just got a funky visual, the butt-stroke is a close combat technique, part of the "bayonet drill," it involves clobbering someone in the head with the butt end of your rifle. It is the Infantry equivalent to two-by-fouring a jackass.) This was a cultural display on the part of our young soldiers that was not entirely their fault. They were completely untrained in how to work with indigenous forces and bred to look down their noses at others they deemed inferior.

In the American Army, there is a hierarchy, as most are well aware. This hierarchy is based on the "Hooah Factor" or the degree of eliteness of one soldier as compared to another. In the Infantry, the Airborne is higher than the Leg, for instance. In any initial sizing-up, an American soldier is weighed by his or her rank, apparent physical prowess, qualifications, what unit they belong to, and what badges they wear; and their ability to project a stream of urine for any distance is immediately assessed. It is the unspoken pissing contest. It is bred into our beings as younglings while still sopping wet behind the ears and is actively encouraged and trained. It becomes second nature. In fact, it is in our natures even before we reach the reception stations. Soldiers want to be elite.

This elitism is expressed in many different relationships. Marines are the same way, as they are instinctively bred to match streams of urine with any Army soldier, especially Combat Arms soldiers. Marines naturally assume that they are superior to any non-Combat Arms and most Combat Arms soldiers. Soldiers naturally assume that they are more intelligent than any Marine, but this is largely in reaction to the inbred haughtiness of Marines and takes advantage of the Marine ASVAB minimum score. In all fairness, the Marines set the standard for training all Marines as fighters and support tasks as a follow-on skill as opposed to the Army's history of a cursory basic training for support soldiers, a culture we've paid the price for heavily in the current conflict.

Oddly enough, the Marines seem to be getting the "working with indidge" thing a lot better than the Army is, too. I did not witness the same tendency to look down their noses at Afghans among Marines that I noticed among soldiers. I think this odd because the Marines assume that they are elite, as opposed to the Army, where most of the Army finds itself resentful of the few "elite."

This quote is out of context, and yet it applies perfectly:

Because cultural preferences tend to value certain roles and to devalue other roles, military culture can impede innovation in ways of warfare that lie outside that military’s preferred core roles. ~ LTC Robert Cassidy

One innovation would be to grant respect to the host nation's forces and instead of disrespecting them, work patiently with them to raise their performance. To an Afghan, there is no greater wrong than to be disrespected as a man. The only thing the young 82nd soldiers could have done to make it worse would have been to make a pass at their wives or mothers. Given their performance with the Afghans, I think that if the opportunity had arisen, that's precisely what they would have done. My ANP were left with the impression that on the whole, Americans suck, and that my little crew was an anomaly. Keep in mind that when you lose the hearts and minds of those who are supposed to be fighting on your side, then you are really screwed.

The second example centered on my experiences with the arrival of our new SECFOR team in Nuristan, led by SSG Smokey Jackalacker and our experiences with a squad of MP's who determined that they could project a stream of urine for a greater distance than could CPT Mack or myself, largely due to the fact that we were National Guardsmen (another immediate loss of elite-points in any dealing with Regular Army types.) These two experiences were intertwined, as SSG Jackalacker found a willing listener and enabler in his fantasies of "sweeping the objective" and "double-tapping everyone on the objective" in the MP's. In hours of discussions with SSG Jackalacker, I could not disabuse him of the concept that he needed to be scary to the Afghan civilians. He tried his best to look like an alien invader (actually, he was enamored of the "Transformer" cartoon series, and you can see it in this picture.)

SSG Smokey Jackalacker as Optimist Prime..."In the beginning, there was the cube..."

Looking closely, you will note that SSG Jackalacker is wearing every bit of kit that was issued to him and more. If it looks like he's carrying about two basic loads of ammunition, it's because he is. He's actually got layers of magazine pouches (because we got into so many firefights where we had run out of ammunition.) We never wore knee pads, and we only wore the shoulder armor (DAPs, or Deltoid Armor Panels) when in the turret of the humvee. He never took them off, because they added to "the look." Note also that he is wearing a neoprene face mask, which he thought made him look even scarier to the Afghan civilians. It did. It also made him look like something other than a human being, exactly what you don't want when your job is winning their hearts and minds. He thought we were trying to win their hearts and mimes and thought that the articulated robot toy look would appeal to a mime. The cool part was that he if you pressed the button in the middle of his back, he turned into a truck.

"I've been in the Army for thirteen years, Sarn't, and all that time I've trained to kill, to fire and maneuver. Now you're telling me that's not my job?"

"Be friendly to everyone you meet, but have a plan to kill them," I told him, "Take off that mask and use a shemagh."

"But my face is cold," he faux-whined to me, desperate for an excuse to continue his charade.

"Take the &*$%#@ thing off or I will confiscate it. Use a shemagh. It will keep your face nearly as warm, it will do a better job of keeping the dust out of your mouth, and Afghans wear them on their face all the time. You will look like a human being to them instead of a bad Sci-Fi character. This is important."

He wore the neoprene mask whenever I wasn't around.

The MP's were performing soldier training and SSG Prince, the MP squad leader, was also responsible for the local security plan while we were staying in the village of Alingar (scene of "Smokey Jackalacker And The Hyena Of Doom" and "Nighttime In Shades Of Green.") We were staying in the Wuliswahl's (Sub-Governor's) compound there, and the MP's had guards at the gate to the walled compound to wand visitors for our greatest tactical threat at that point, a suicide vest. The visitors to the compound were often village elders who had come to see the Wuliswahl. The MP's assigned females into the rotation to wave wands over the bodies of these elders, who already found it hard to swallow that they had to be searched in the first place. Now, in addition to the ignominy of being searched coming into their own District Center, they were being searched by females? Thankfully, we had stopped short of cavity searches, which to the Afghan patriarchs would have been the next natural step in humiliation of them on their home turf.

When those village elders went home to their villages and had chai with their neighbors, do you think that they were talking about the Americans working diligently to improve the professionalism and ability of the ANP to provide security in their districts? No. They sat and complained about being humiliated for having the unmitigated temerity to go and visit their Wuliswahl in their own District Center. Now that, my friends, is counterinsurgency at its most devastatingly effective. For the Taliban, that is.

When I forced SSG Prince to reassign the females from this task, he objected vigorously, saying, "F&%# 'em. They're soldiers doing their jobs and those elders are going to have to get used to it."

"No, they aren't going to have to get used to it, Staff Sergeant. You are going to get used to them. This is their District Center and it's bad enough that we have to search them in the first place. They didn't ask for us to come here, and the Sub-Governor has graciously allowed us to use his compound. We are going to respect their values and not insult them. Make that happen."

Soldiers operate among populations, not adjacent to them or above them ~ FM 3-0 Operations

For Afghanistan, counterinsurgency in difficult terrain against tribal mountain fighters requires special operations forces and specialized general purpose forces with agility and knowledge of the people and terrain. Thus, irregular war there seems to require the opposite type of military culture, force structure, and doctrine that the American military went to war with in Afghanistan and Iraq at the beginning of this long and irregular war. Finally, there seems to be a contradiction that inheres in irregular wars that see big power conventional forces fighting irregular adversaries: it is a paradox of hubris and humility. ~ LTC Robert Cassidy

As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater. ~ Aristotle

I had to put up with some childish games out of the MP's after that; nothing that you could bring thunder on them for, just silly BS. As soon as I went on pass, they went back to doing whatever they wanted. The culture of elitism is hard to overcome. SSG Prince is still convinced, I am sure, that he was right. I am also sure that he remembers the situation completely differently than I do. Sometimes we look at history through the lenses that suit our prejudices.

LTC Cassidy describes in his paper how the Army chose to avoid responsibility for the failure of the counterinsurgency and resulting defeat in Viet Nam. He describes how a book commissioned by the War College took a left turn at Albuquerque and never quite made it to Pismo Beach:

In the late 1970s, the Commandant of the U.S. Army War College arranged for Colonel Harry G. Summers to be assigned there. The Commandant assigned him to write a book on Vietnam and to apply and to incorporate the findings of a previously documented report, a BDM Corporation study which had found that the U.S. Army never learned how to prosecute counterinsurgency and that it learned from Vietnam, only, the notion to avoid such interventions. Instead of applying the BDM report, however, Summers employed for his theoretical framework Karl von Clausewitz's On War. Consequently, the argument which Summers put forth in his book, On Strategy: a Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War, proffered conclusions that were absolutely converse to the conclusions of the BDM study. Summers concluded that the Army failed in Vietnam because it had not sufficiently focused on conventional warfare. In other words, the U.S. Army's problems in Vietnam stemmed from its deviation from the big-war approach and its temporary and very incomplete experiment with counterinsurgency. Not surprisingly, Summers' book was readily embraced by the Army culture while the BDM report drifted into obscurity. ~ LTC Robert Cassidy

LTC Cassidy is discussing culture writ large, and I am discussing that same culture as it trickles down to the soldier level. It takes time to change the culture of the Army.

The American military has been compelled by the challenges of two ongoing irregular wars to become an institution that can learn, innovate, and adapt in contact. However, the disadvantages that the American military accrued to itself by embarking in 2001 on an unanticipated long irregular war characterized by multiple counterinsurgencies, still encumbered by a deeply embedded regular war military culture, are essentially temporal: military cultural change requires five to ten years; it generally requires a minimum of eight to 12 years to prevail in counterinsurgency; and the U.S. domestic political cycle exhibits a fickleness every four or eights years. Time is everything when a democracy wages protracted irregular warfare. To paraphrase a quote attributed to an anonymous Taliban guerrilla in Afghanistan, the U.S and the West may have the all the nice wrist watches, but, the insurgents have all the time. ~ LTC Robert Cassidy

LTC Cassidy points out and demonstrates that the Army has a preference as to what kind of its nation's wars that it wants to fight. SSG Jackalacker is an example of how that preference trickles down to the soldier level and becomes a personal preference. One of the founders of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Brandon Friedman, wrote a book entitled The War I Always Wanted: The Illusion of Glory and the Reality of War in which his lamentation echoes and gives, I'm sure, a greater prose to SSG Jackalacker's cartoonish whine. Apparently neither of them has gotten over their disappointment with the war their nation needed them for as opposed the war they always wanted. Mr. Friedman blamed the administration, and his disillusionment with the war that he wound up being tasked with brought him to actively campaign politically. He seems to express some sort of enlightenment that came from his shattered quest for glory, but the truly enlightened never went to war with visions of glory, for there is no glory in war itself; there is only a magnification of the character of each participant. All of the trappings, whether they be massed tank battles, isolated firefights with insurgents, or the sudden destruction of an IED are just the stage upon which that character is exposed and magnified.

“I will be damned if I will permit the United States Army, its institutions, its doctrine, and its traditions, to be destroyed just to win this lousy war” ~ Anonymously attributed to an American general from the Viet Nam era

LTC Cassidy seems to feel that we have turned the corner in finally adapting to counterinsurgency. It is possible, given that we have a Commander in CENTCOM who has successfully implemented counterinsurgency on a national scale in Iraq, that it will be pushed down now, but as LTC Cassidy points out, that change takes years. I submit that it requires forceful effort to push it down to the soldier level. The young idealists who join the Army and Marines have visions in their heads of what it's like, bred by movies and video games and books of the glories of yore. Their visions of what it means to be a soldier are carried within them and like those of Smokey Jackalacker will die hard. If we continue to breed in them the ugly elitism and lack of respect for those who we must win for first in order to secure our own peace, our job is that much the harder.

One thing that surprised me in action was the disconnect between the conventional forces and the Special Forces. Counterinsurgency has typically been the realm of the Special Forces, but this is too large for just the SF. The job that my team did, that Bouhammer did before us and Vampire 06 has done after us, is traditionally a Special Forces mission. Just to clarify for anyone who might care, I am not a Special Forces soldier. In fact, there's nothing for me to feel especially elite about; but I know what I know. What I know is that the thing that makes the Special Forces so special is their attitude, the same one that gave them their nickname; Quiet Professionals. The SF have found a way to be elite without having to act elite. Just as we have had to borrow lessons from them on how to train indigenous forces, we need to learn from them how to have the humility to work with others and to respect other cultures. We need to learn how to be elite without having to be better than anyone else.

We can start, I suppose, with dropping our preference as to what type of war we personally want. It does boil down to that, because an institution's preferences always stem with the preferences of the members of that institution. We are here to fight our nation's wars, not just the ones that we would like to fight or the ones that suit our childhood images of war and glory.

There is more to discuss in the paper by LTC Cassidy, but that's a start. Overall, it's a subject that bears further review and discussion by Army leadership. LTC Cassidy presents a very well thought-out and researched effort; and I think he makes a lot of sense. It struck a nerve with me, as there is so much of this that I've perceived before, but he demonstrates why he has a doctorate and I don't with his lengthy set of references and excellent assembly of the information he has gathered. It's not a long read, and I recommend it.
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