In April 2016 an article written by Malik Jalal was published in the Independent (UK) newspaper and posted on the newspaper’s web site. Jalal is a member of a peace group recognized by the government of Pakistan, and he was pleading to be removed from the US government’s “kill list”. He described four attempts by American armed drones to kill him since 2010. Simple luck averted his being in the kill zone each time, but the four attacks (so far) did take the lives of a total of 51 innocents, who, like him, had no membership in any extremist group. Jalal said the US drone war in Pakistan (which is still operating under a 15-year old authorization passed by Congress to pursue “the people responsible for the attacks against the US of 9/11/2001”) kills “nine of our children” for every assassination attack and inspires rage and extremism among survivors. Of the Americans he asked, “Please stop terrorizing my wife and children.”
Armed drones are weapons of war. Period.
They belong solely under the operational control of the military combatant commander who can be held fully accountable for their employment in ways that fully support completion of the specific mission he is handed as rapidly as possible. They do NOT belong under control of anonymous unaccountable civilians safely located thousands of miles from the scene and engaging in political assassination with “acceptable levels of collateral damage” without regard to the negative impact their “separate war” has on deployed American soldiers.
One can engage in the chicken-and-egg debate all they wish, but the simple fact is that the ONLY currently available way for enemy fighters to retaliate against the use of these drones is by killing and maiming American soldiers on the battlefield – also by cowardly remote control – and they are doing a truly excellent job of that. Latest count: over 3,200 dead American soldiers, over 40,000 more wounded – to IEDs alone. While a very few very specific cases may warrant the very discriminate use of these armed drones under current practice, their wide use by those waging their own separate wars is simply undermining the military battlefield commander’s mission and unnecessarily killing American soldiers. General Petraeus was entirely correct to disapprove a number of such drone strikes proposed by members of the CIA after he took over as Director.
Anyone who thinks that the ideology of Islamic militant extremism can be “decimated” by killing its various leaders-of-the-moment also believes that the little boy on the beach can empty the sea into his hole in the sand. That person is NOT a military thinker. The notion that Islamic militant extremism can be defeated (or “decimated”) by a “Kill List”, regardless of whether or not it’s shamefully managed in the Oval Office, is simply an asinine fairy tale intentionally designed as juvenile political propaganda. But, sadly, it’s apparently against the law to cast public disparagement on women appointed to affirmative action positions in very high places, regardless of whether they are named Hillary, Condoleezza, Susan or whatever. So every moron in the country WILL embrace this ridiculous narrative so that some woman can ascend to the throne on the basis of nothing but total smoke and mirrors illusion. Just look at the colossal self-defeating mess they created in Libya.
The ONLY way to defeat such an enemy is to render its support base ever less willing to render its support – by working to improve their condition, and by NOT killing their children or bombing their country safely from afar. Just ask yourself, “What would I do if my family or neighbors were so slaughtered by such cowardly aliens in the sky?” (Or, “How far did that brilliant “thinking” get us in Vietnam?”)
Some day those machines WILL be used against us, and with the same rationale and “legality” WE establish today. Just what do we do when states like Iran or North Korea start killing people inside the US, with “acceptable levels of collateral damage”, whom they deem a threat to them? Of course, then there’s that whole matter of how a guy with a rifle and maybe a homemade bomb 7,000 miles away can possibly be an “imminent threat to the United States”. What this country needs most is people who know how to THINK, who are able to see the board from the other player’s vantage, who are responsibly adult enough to see the precedent their actions today set for their children tomorrow. (See Footnote #1.)
Individual Soldiers and Marines with less than a second to decide to fire or die, under the Uniform Code Of Military Justice (UCMJ), are subject to “war crimes” charges for killing innocent civilians in battle. (See Footnote #3.) Why should committees of civilians safely located thousands of miles from danger with as long as they want to make their decision enjoy immunity from such public accountability? Anyone who tries to describe this as “war”-by-drone is engaging in self-serving delusion; it is zero-risk bully murder, pure and simple, directed by history’s greatest girly cowards – American Baby Boomers. (Just imagine the sick irony of a guy who grew up in Hawaii failing to see the direct parallel between Pearl Harbor and what all those emotional women appointed to high places demanded he do in Libya – and the impact the cowardly eight-month bombing of Libya will have on what future generations of our children learn about their history.) The United States has killed more people inside Pakistan, where no state of war exists, than it has inside Afghanistan, where a state of war clearly does in fact exist. And Pakistan is a Muslim democracy with 173,000,000 pissed-off citizens. All of this is simply insane.
According to classified documents leaked to the whistle-blowing website “The Intercept” in October 2015, only 35 of 219 people known to have been slaughtered by US drone strikes in Afghanistan during the one-year period 2012-13 were intended targets of the program; the rest (84%) were “collateral damage”. (There was no indication as to what judicial process was accorded the “intended targets” before they were summarily executed by pansy remote control.) Ground soldiers risking their own lives would be charged with war crimes for such innocent casualties, but girly drone operators, safely far away in mom’s basement, shamefully may kill innocents with impunity. It’s not difficult to imagine how their self-serving rationalizations will completely reverse once they find themselves on the receiving end of such cowardly tactics. (It’s very easy to identify those who are teaching our young their “values”, from birth onward, mostly by their own hypocritical example.)
The post-WW II Allied trial in Manila of the Japanese supreme commander in the Philippians established the legal concept of “command responsibility” – subsequently upheld by the US Supreme Court – which makes commanders responsible for the conduct of those under their command. In this case, the supreme commander (Yamashita) had ordered all Japanese forces to withdraw from Manila to remote mountains as American expeditionary forces approached. All Japanese ground forces complied with the commander’s order, and he was unaware of any illegal actions undertaken by a navy admiral who had defied the supreme commander’s order and held his forces in Manila. These naval forces then committed mass atrocities until they were all killed and the city was in rubble. In the subsequent allied trial, General Yamashita, despite his ignorance, was found guilty of war crimes committed by those under his command, and sentenced to die. After the US Supreme Court’s ruling, General MacArthur refused his request for clemency, and he was executed. If this concept is indeed valid, then someone at the Pentagon can be held responsible for double standards applied to ground forces under his command that are not applied to air forces. Furthermore, the post-WW II Allied trials in Nuremberg extended such concepts to civilians in positions of authority – which means that the Director of the CIA can be held criminally accountable for the conduct of drone operations conducted by members of his agency, including by military personnel detailed to that agency for such purposes. This is especially the case now that instant aerial video surveillance is so very detailed and a committee deliberates each such use of weapons of war by a civilian agency, i.e., there is almost no sense of urgency involved, so every strike is a fully calculated act without extenuating circumstances. (See Footnote #4.)
How does such condoned extra-legal behavior on the part of federal government officials affect the “thinking” of other officials who demonstrate a sickening tendency to shoot-to-kill as their automatic default position when dealing with American citizens? Whatever happened to the priciple that ALL citizens are equal under the law? What self-serving jerk invented the asinine notion that some citizens are more equal than others, that some citizens are “special” in a nation theoretically based on equality? What perverted video game law sanctions summary execution by “macho mighty Ninja warriors” as preferable to taking prisoners? Are these the same “macho hunters” who kill harmless vegetarian deer a mile away from the running board of a $75,000 SUV with a $5,000 high tech weapon requiring almost no skill? Why has no American woman ever been able to commit “suicide-by-cop”? Just which twisted mentality is doing our “thinking” for us?
After eleven years of war the most powerful military force in the history of humanity is still losing soldiers and Marines every day on the battlefield to an impoverished uneducated enemy who does not possess one single ship, plane, tank, missile or drone. Why? Because there are two billion thinking people behind every “terrorist” we kill, and they will keep coming until we either acquire some brains of our own or run out of Army soldiers and Marines. The very much touted killing of bin Laden has had absolutely zero effect on the “war against terrorism”, and, in fact, it is arguable that it had exactly the opposite effect. (It would have been far more effective, but also considerably more difficult, to have engineered an operation that appeared to have bin Laden killed by his own people. This is what CIA case officers did before they decided it was more fun playing video games.)
P.S. “Terrorist” is just a different label for “unconventional fighter”, one of a whole lexicon of re-labeled terms that were dreamed up Inside The Beltway in a conscious effort to paint this war as somehow different from the past war in Vietnam. It is the slick application of propaganda – for a naïve public. As military campaigns, there is zero difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan, and we are clearly making many of the same mistakes today in Afghanistan that we made in Vietnam yesterday, just with the added insanity of a purely political strap-hanger entity called “NATO” making it all a hundred times more confusing and ineffective. (After the mission in Afghanistan “evolved”, the Europeans were supposed to do the non-combat “nation-building” part of the job, but didn’t.) The war in Afghanistan, which was originally intended to last no longer than six months, is much more difficult than Vietnam because it is an entirely land-locked country, and many of those living in neighboring countries don’t like us one bit. (At least now we are not committing really huge numbers of conventional forces to an unconventional war; the great 1970s Army manuals seem to have gotten at least this point across. Or maybe it’s simply because we no longer have even a quarter of the number of professional soldiers required for such missions.) And, even more incredible, Afghanistan is a war directed by civilian Baby Boomers who, when they were young, found a million things “wrong” with Vietnam, but never gained any experience with, or understanding of, the military or with war – and are now entirely content to demand the military replicate the past they hated.
This idiocy that says, “Do as I say, not as I do” carries zero weight when you have completely lost the moral high ground, and are, in fact, setting the precedent for behavior exactly opposite to that which you advocate. For a century we have railed from our high horse against those, including the Russians, Latin American dictatorships, African tribes and former Soviet republics engaged in political assassination, not only inside their own countries but also abroad. We go into incensed indignation when such behavior is carried out inside the United States, and even hold up our courts as the proper place to try those accused of such acts of terror and murder anywhere in the world. How can we now condemn such behavior when we ourselves have become the world leader in it, when even our President operates from a “Kill List” in the Oval Office with zero “plausible deniability” to such reprehensible criminality? And all because we would prefer to kill than to capture, when we are far more at ease eradicating human life than dealing with the “messiness” of taking people prisoner, questioning them and holding them for open-ended incarceration or trial? (Think about the “logic” a moment: Taking prisoners, and possibly employing some “enhanced interrogation methods” is “politically and morally reprehensible”, but remote-control murder that even includes innocent deaths and maiming is just fine, thank you. There’s no logic here, folks; it’s just emotional girly nonsense, the pathetic self-serving rationalizations of spineless chicken littles viewing war as an antiseptic video game – until it all comes home to them.) I do not endorse torture, but most morons can usually make a reasonable selection between the lesser of two evils.
We use the argument that the drones are employed to kill “terrorists” in other sovereign countries, but then say that we cannot substantiate that claim with any hard evidence or duly constituted judicial procedure because that might compromise “sources and methods”. The White House also insists that it has the “right” to conduct drone strikes in countries whose governments are “unwilling or unable” to take action against terrorists, and has done so in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Nigeria and Somalia, because such people represent a “threat” to the United States (from the other side of the globe). So just what precludes the Kremlin from making the exact same arguments to claim a “right” to launch drone strikes in chaotic right-next-door eastern Ukraine (or even in Kiev)? Or the Iranian government in Iraq? Or any other country that has a dispute with another, including the US? There are good reasons, American reasons, why dozens of other countries are now developing armed drones to conduct “antiseptic” assassinations across international borders, i.e., to commit “acts of war” without placing “boots on the ground” – all with “acceptable levels of collateral damage”. (Acceptable to whom?)
Everyone is all upset about Russia surreptitiously assisting rebels who are seeking to separate their region from Ukraine and join Russia (“self-determination”), but it is the Ukrainian military that is bombing Ukrainian cities and killing its own citizens. When the Libyan government was doing the same thing just three years earlier, the US and some Europeans, over very strong Russian objections, argued that they needed to assist Libyan rebels as a humanitarian measure – which was a pretext for bombing the whole country for eight months until the Libyan government was destroyed and its leader dead in a sewer. What do we do when Russia makes the same argument for assisting rebels in Ukraine and begins its own “humanitarian” bombing of Ukraine? When YOU are the one setting precedents for “acceptable” behavior in the world, it’s more than hypocritical to condemn others for the exact same activity; you should not be surprised when they just give you the finger and go on copying your example. The Russians know our words are just self-serving bullshit; our actions say everything that counts.
It’s absolutely absurd to accuse Russia of “violating the sovereignty of another country” and demanding accountability – while conveniently absolving ourselves of also “violating the sovereignty of another country” without accountability. Only the twisted mind of the undisputed “King Of The World” could ever dream up this nonsense. (Why am I constantly reminded of Henry VIII? Is this just another of the ways that we are systematically paving the path for a birthright entitled and unaccountable Hillary I to ascend to the throne?)
The only country that has a “right” to employ armed drones is the country that first developed them – Israel, based on many years of constant aggression against its tiny state by a surrounding sea of fervent hatred dedicated as a matter of official policy to erasing the Israeli people forever. Israel is in a state of constant declared war with those against whom it uses the drones; the US is not.
The American armed drones are managed and operated outside the military so as to avoid the inconvenient irritant of the UCMJ, but they still nevertheless set precedents for the conduct of warfare. Our enemies, both present and future, do not make the finer domestic distinctions that we do. Still, such distinctions present difficult problems for our own internal policies and procedures, even our own laws. How is it possible to prosecute in court those who engage in behavior which even our own government routinely engages? It is fundamental to our Constitution that “all men are equal under the law”, but we have now established that some people are “special” and can engage in any actions they wish simply because they can rationalize the actions in their own minds, all under the nebulous pretext of ensuring “safety and security” for our spineless cowering masses. With the simple push of a button in the very safe confines of a climate-controlled office thousands of miles from danger, we have become our own worst enemy, a tragicomic caricature of our former self. Just what is “moral” anymore?
Remote control murder (April 2013), from the receiving end:
Yemen. Al-Monitor.com: Thousands of innocent people live in daily fear of being suddenly murdered by an American drone strike. The buzz overhead is terrifying. “Where will they strike? Will I be next? These are the questions youngsters now grow up asking.” Yet the collateral damage goes further than the body count. Right now, the vast majority of Yemenis do not support al Qaida. Enough senseless killings, though, and that could change. Apparently it doesn’t matter to the Americans “whether they terrorize —and radicalize—entire populations as they check another name off their kill list.”
Pakistan. Frontier Post: Drone strikes have led to a vicious cycle in Pakistan. The US claims that these strikes are carefully targeted and take out only militants, but according to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, more than 880 civilians and nearly 200 children have been killed in Pakistan since 2004. Even when al Qaida and the Taliban are hit, their numbers aren’t ultimately diminished. Instead, “these attacks have provoked militants to speed up their activities” and target security forces, drawing on new recruits from the angry, radicalized masses.
Pakistan. Pakistan Today: Still, if we’re going to allow drone strikes, there has to be some kind of legal framework. As it stands, the US claims that it is acting under the U.N. Charter’s right to self-defense, by targeting al Qaida militants who, in President Obama’s words, “pose a direct threat to the US.” But this is nonsense, as a McClatchy news investigation has found: In the 12-month period ending in September 2011, more than half the 482 people killed by CIA drones were not al Qaida leaders, but rather Afghan or Pakistani extremists or “unknowns.” The US doesn’t know who these people are, much less whether they intend it any harm.
Pakistan. Express Tribune: A Facebook post that went viral after the Boston bombings pretended that the police had called in a drone strike to take out Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in that boat in Watertown. “An enormous explosion engulfed the area, destroying the boat and several nearby homes,” the post read. “Sources say 46 Watertown residents were killed in the missile strike, including 12 children.” The post, written by an American, was liked and shared by thousands of Pakistanis. If only more Americans tried to put themselves in our shoes.
This is how we are “winning the support base”. The object of war is not to win battles; the object of war is to win the war. We have met the enemy and discovered that the enemy is us. We have already “lost the war”.
Air power exists to support ground soldiers. Period. And both belong fully under the control of one experienced military ground commander who understands both war and the bigger picture and also knows what he’s doing.
Probably the strangest and scariest guy I ever met was a man named Westmoreland, whose supreme arrogance was matched only by his ignorance. Westmoreland was an Army general commanding US military forces in Vietnam. Born too late, both he and the US Air Force General Curtis LeMay “school of thought” probably would have done well in a totally conventional war such as that during WW II in Europe, but in an unconventional war such as was Vietnam, they were entirely out of their element with zero understanding of either the enemy or the Vietnamese people, much less unconventional warfare. And a truly huge number of humans on both sides paid the price. I was able to recognize within three weeks of arriving in Vietnam that such a strategy would never prevail, but when I left three years later in 1970 I found it absolutely incredible that we were still waging the same lie. And here we are at the beginning of the 21st century, and it’s the Baby Boomers’ turn at the helm in Afghanistan. So, naturally, it’s déjà vu all over again, just with new labels for old tricks. Thank God this time the American numbers of ground soldiers have been kept relatively low while the Boomer politicians run the show with THEIR arrogance matched only by their ignorance, under a new dogma. It’s just sad that so many threw out the Vietnam Vets’ greatest gift to future generations; those really terrific 1970s Army manuals on how to fight such wars and what they really require. I guess it’s now in the American DNA to automatically seek the short cuts, quick fixes and easy answers. “If you can’t win with brains, dazzle them with bullshit.” And nifty machines. From a ground soldier’s perspective, the best thing about the endless war in Afghanistan is that really terrific body armor; it’s kept the very cheap body bags low in exchange for very expensive missing body parts. Still, the net result will be the same; only this time, most Americans won’t care. Now everyone can be a “special” American women, and consider stupid wars as strictly for “someone else” to fight.
Check out sculptor Dahn Vo’s rendition of the Statue of Liberty, scattered in 400 pieces throughout the world, including 5 at New York’s Art Institute. It’s a rendition that mimics in reverse the way the original was created. In 1979 at age 4 Vo fled with his family the hell the Baby Boomers left behind in Vietnam, and he now at 37 sees American promise and power in irreversible decline, with her once-powerful symbols already lying shattered and scattered like those of ancient Rome. (Perhaps just as telling, while the art is his own, the copper pieces were manufactured in China.)
There are many things about my society today that fill me with shame, but officially sanctioned and directed sissy murder-by-remote-control is very close to the top of the list. (But it is so very “girly European”, isn’t it?)
(Many related and side issues associated with this subject are discussed in “Military Fruit Salad” and “Enhanced Interrogation“, posted separately.)
(Background and original strategic thinking is contained in “Smiling Faces and Purple Fingers – And Egypt“, posted separately.)
(See below for a discussion of the role of politics in confusing matters military in the popular mind (Footnote #5) and why General Petraeus resigned (Footnote #7).)
Footnote #1. Assassination Policy Rationale. No standing Federal law criminalizes the assassination of a foreign official outside the United States. In the absence of such a statute, only Executive Order 12333 prohibits the act of state-sponsored killing. This Order, which was drafted in the mid-1970s in the wake of revelations of CIA involvement in plots to kill several foreign leaders, has been maintained by every administration since President Ford. The Greatest Generation thinking was that if we did not ban such activity on our part, we had little argument to present against others who would use such tactics against our own leaders. Executive Order 12333 was publicly signed in 1981 by President Reagan. At section 2.11 it stated: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” Most Americans think that this is the law of the land, but, since it can be rescinded or altered at any time, it is “law” only as long as a sitting president chooses to follow it. In 1995 Baby Boomer President Clinton signed Executive Order 12947 which approved creation of a list of specific terrorists, and from there things have “evolved”. Past Presidents have issued Executive orders which severely limit the use of the military when dealing with potential threats against the US, threats assumed to be in an existing state of war with nation states; the strategy allows the military to bomb targets hoping to eliminate a terrorist leader, but supposedly prevents the designing of a limited action which would specifically accomplish that purpose. In other words, it can be argued that such Executive orders limit the swift, certain, and precise action needed by the US to protect our national security. But such “thinking” assumes that the military is a big dumb club incapable of precision action, and thus the country requires a smarter extra-military entity to do what the military cannot. (Does anyone remember the US military precision bombing “by mistake” of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade – using coordinates provided by the CIA?)
Actually, the critical factor is the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the codified body of law that holds military people accountable under the law for their actions, including for their conduct on the battlefield during war. So, rather than address that law to accommodate specific situations involving a different kind of stateless enemy, the decision was made to engage in the assassination activity outside the military command structure. It’s sort of like using the Soviet KGB to engage in activity that the Soviet GRU was prohibited from doing – even though the distinction made absolutely no difference to the targets, and even though the Soviet leadership was always held responsible by the West. US military people, still held to a higher standard, are still accountable, but civilian people are not subject to that law and are free to operate under different standards – while conveying the impression that it’s a military action. Apparently this even allows military people and their weapons to be placed under a civilian command structure and thus avoid military accountability, i.e., to operate freely where the standards are lower – and with zero risk to themselves.
The only logical justification for the current separate program is to afford those in that extra-military program freedom from legal accountability for their actions.
In May 2012, the New York Times published an extensive background investigation into the authorization process involved in such targeted killings. It placed President Obama himself at the center of decision-making about specific operations of this kind, including the selection of the specific individuals to be targeted, and the monitoring of the success of these operations was said to be closely followed by the President, so closely that former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair described Obama’s attention to it in the following way: “It reminded me of body counts in Vietnam.” (Anyone remember all the Baby Boomer rioting in the streets and their affixing of all sorts of vile labels to US military people? Now they are running the show. The Communist Vietnamese were enormously smarter than these people are today – simply by not bringing their unconventional war to Main Street USA, and thereby garnering far greater support inside the US.) But, in this case today, there is no messy accountability, not even an independent review process to verify what is actually taking place in secret and that what little is reported to the American people is even true. (Have you ever heard of one of these infallible people being charged or disciplined for making a “mistake”?) And no one seems concerned with how others view our mental gymnastics, with what precedents our activities establish for others to follow tomorrow. It is absurd to think that anyone seeking to retaliate in kind will make the same military-civilian distinctions that we do. (One result has been the use of many more billions of taxpayer dollars now needed to protect our “leaders” and all their bureaucracies, including our overseas diplomatic missions.) Just which side is the “terrorist” side here?
(Another “brilliant” Baby Boomer “solution” is to have their Army vet, recruit and train young men in a few basics, while the men serve just long enough to qualify for a few VA benefits, and then have contractor companies hire them away for similar work. Even at enormously higher pay, it’s a good deal for the government, which is paying the companies under contract (with either the CIA or the Defense Department). The practice frees the government of any responsibility for the man and his family, for government insurance, for any required health care and rehabilitation, any benefits he might earn if he served long enough for retirement, etc.. When the services of the company are no longer needed, the government, which is afforded a certain basic level of “plausible deniability”, can simply terminate or not renew the contract. The company can then simply fire the men, paying only those obligations specified in their individual contracts, which rarely extend beyond a month’s severance pay – or go looking for another client for its services. Young men are extremely susceptible to the high pay inducement and rarely see the longer range consequences of their actions. And almost no one stops to realize that a very significant portion of the “defending the nation” job is now being borne by small armies of hired mercenaries – mercenaries who eventually may have no option but to subsequently sign on with the next highest bidder for their services, regardless of who that bidder is. We are not talking about the military spending a king’s ransom to vet, recruit and train young men to ride around in flying computers or floating cities who eventually become bus drivers for commercial airlines or cruise lines; these soldier mercenaries do only one thing well – risk their own lives to kill people (or train others to do the same). It is not inconceivable that one day they or those they trained may be trying to kill US soldiers. In the now all-volunteer Army, we pay real soldiers fairly well, enormously higher than what was previously paid to draftees, but not nearly as well as mercenaries (or even UN boy scouts). This is because real American soldiers realize a greater sense of service to nation; they actually believe that they are “defending the country”. Mercenaries own allegiance only to money, anyone’s money. Who is responsible for what these men may eventually become? How would you expect me to react if you, or anyone else, dares to confuse me with one of these men? (Don’t ever try. I’m an American soldier; I can not be bought.) Pretending that we are not consciously creating a whole new world of problems is delusional at best. Most Americans would be shocked to learn just how many of these small armies of mercenaries are now employed in Afghanistan alone – on their taxpayer dollars. (They’ve learned to keep a much lower profile while employing much better “public relations” than in the early days of the “war on terrorism”.) It’s all a rather extreme example of getting “someone else” to do the hard stuff for “me”, while we are busy studying our glorious navels and playing with our little toys. And, of course, whenever “budget crunches” visit the Defense Department, the first to go are always uniformed soldiers, not those civilians whose jobs and votes are dependent on Defense contracts or employment. (Sooner or later a thinking man has to consider whether or not such a people is actually worth defending.)
On the other hand, maybe the nation no longer has a choice. The Regular Army has to recruit people from the top 20% of young Americans, since the other 80% are discounted because they simply don’t meet minimum educational, physical, mental, moral and psychological requirements. And even those who want to join have major problems. Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling (US Regular Army ret) said he was floored by what he found in 2009 when he was assigned to overhaul the Army’s training system. Seventy-five percent of civilians who wanted to join the force were ineligible, he said. Obesity was a leading cause. But it doesn’t stop there. “Of the 25 percent that could join, what we found was 65 percent could not pass the [physical training] test on the first day,” he said in a recent speech. “Young people joining our service could not run, jump, tumble or roll — the kind of things you would expect soldiers to do if they’re in combat.” (In other words, all these young American adults – who thought they could be soldiers – couldn’t even do what most kids used to do on the school playground, what I can still do today without breaking a sweat. And I weigh exactly what I did at age 15 – precisely what I should weigh for my height, with zero “adjustment” for age.) Just who is responsible for such shameful conditions throughout our entire population? Greatest Generation mothers raised on their own, with zero help from government, the largest, healthiest and best educated generation of children in history. And what did all their Baby Boomer children do?
Footnote #2. Close Air Support.
On 12 November 2017, ’60 Minutes’ ran a story by correspondent Bill Whitaker titled “Why were five U.S. soldiers killed by an American bomber in Afghanistan?“. The two-part ’60 Minutes’ story concerned an incident in Afghanistan three years earlier (June 2014) that resulted in a very long inquiry followed by a lengthy report. The incident involved a small US Army Special Forces team working with a 90-man Afghan force to clear out a swatch of very remote territory in Kandahar Province – a small valley surrounded by steep mountains – of enemy fighters. The force was divided into three separate groups operating in a triangle pattern each spreading out from the valley center and working toward and up the surrounding mountains. As night fell, the three groups were separated by significant distances in a triangular pattern near the foot of their respective mountains. With no contact reported by any of the elements throughout the day, they settled in and awaited dawn to start working up toward the ridges.
Once full night had arrived, one of the groups came under heavy small arms fire from an elevated position. That group found itself in a “kill box” under assault from high ground, i.e., sitting ducks, from what appeared to be about 6-to-10 fighters laying down quite accurate fire. So the SF captain sent some of his men plus some Afghani soldiers to work up to higher ground across from, and on a level with, the enemy position. Once in that position, they engaged the enemy fighters opposite them but were unable to neutralize the enemy fire, fire aimed both at them and at the men still below. Since one of the team’s members was an enlisted Air Force air controller, they elected to have him call for air support.
The air support soon arrived, and on a fourth pass, dropped two 500-pound bombs – smack on the hill that was the (break-off) SF team’s return-fire position. The result was five dead American soldiers, one dead Afghani soldier, and several severely wounded other soldiers. Presumably it was just the usual “acceptable levels of collateral damage” for the button-pushers. The investigation report, directed by an Air Force general, laid very heavy fault, naturally, on the Army SF ground soldiers, and especially their Captain leader. (Button-pushers, like all women, are self-anointed “special” people, with a million rights and no responsibilities. The Air Force would have been in Really Big Trouble if the people on the ground had been women complaining about “sexual harassment” instead of just a few expendable male soldiers blown to small pieces by their military “friendly partners”. Since the flight crew members were never identified, it’s assumed that one or more of the pilots was female.) Blaming your victim is probably the most pathetic of self-serving girly rationalizations possible among those who never do anything courageous. Those Special Forces guys were all very experienced professionals with sterling records, of careers spent waging war among actual humans, on the ground where they live, up close and very personal. After release of the report, most of the SF men involved, even though cleared by the SF for return to duty, left service in disgust. About half of even the enlisted SF men, including some of those killed, were college graduates with years of Army and SF experience. All were outstanding soldiers, the Army’s best. What just happened?
Well, one factor was the enlisted AF air controller. He had shown up just two days earlier. The SF people were not informed that he had just been kicked out of an Air Force rescue unit for various infractions, including incompetence, and was scheduled for separation from the Air Force. This was the man who provided the targeting coordinates information to the pilots. When interviewed by accident investigators he showed a lack of even basic air controller know-how. (How did such a loser ever get in the Air Force, much less allowed to remain in such a life-or-death position?)
Another factor was the plane sent to provide “close air support” to ground combat soldiers. That plane was a strategic heavy bomber, a B-1B Lancer, developed during the 1980s as a “Cold” War nuclear bomb delivery system. The plane flies with a crew of four at Mach 1.25 at 60,000 feet and can carry 50,000 pounds of external bombs plus 75,000 pounds of internal bombs over a combat radius of 3,000 miles. At low level it can decrease speed to 700 mph with a turn radius of five miles (i.e., the smallest circle it can fly is ten miles wide). This big 146-foot-long plane is designed to deliver enormous destruction on large targets located on the other side of a continent. There is nothing tactical about it. In “close air support”, it’s akin to using a sledge hammer to crack an egg shell. (There is a significant difference between dropping bombs on stationary enemy targets and providing close air support for your own soldiers engaged with very nearby enemy fighters who can move around quickly.)
Another factor was equipment. A little known fact is that the helmet worn by deployed American ground soldiers has on its top a small infrared beacon that sends out a blue strobe light that can’t be seen by the naked eye. That strobe light can be seen by other men wearing night vision goggles up to a certain distance, and by equipment carried by aircraft (rotary and fixed wing) providing close air support to ground soldiers. How? Inside the aircraft, the equipment (the “SNIPER” system) automatically shows each of the strobe light positions on a dashboard screen so the pilots know the exact positions of every ground soldier even if they can’t see the lights themselves. (Knowing this, the SF guys on the ground usually spread themselves out among their local friendly forces to minimize the danger to them, too.)
Unknown to everyone involved in this instance is the fact that the aircraft sent to provide close air support to those soldiers did not have such equipment. Why not? Because that aircraft is not designed or intended to be used in close air support to ground soldiers. The aircraft sent that night was a strategic weapon never intended for tactical missions; there was no logical reason to outfit the plane with the “SNIPER” system because it would never get close enough to ground forces to be useful. Incredibly, the four Air Force fliers — two pilots and two weapons officers – plus the Air Force ground controller, did not know this (or think it through) and assumed that the plane’s supercomputers would tell them all they needed to know.
The best tactical close air support provided to ground soldiers, of course, is provided by the Army’s own Apache and Kiowa helicopter gunships, but such aircraft have inherent weaknesses in speed and distance. Unless they are deployed with the ground soldiers, and refueled nearby, they are usually too far away to respond quickly to such calls for help. (On ground missions seeking a certain level of covertness, Apache or Kiowa attack helicopters hovering in the area also broadcast American presence. Blackhawk or Chinook cargo helicopters ferrying in soldiers usually use mountains for cover when coming in to quickly drop off soldiers and then quickly depart the area before it’s recognized that the birds ever touched ground. Post-mission retrieval is usually more leisurely.)
So you often need a fixed wing plane with greater speed and range than can be provided by helicopters. What usually shows up are Air Force or Navy Fighter jets carrying heavy ordnance, including missiles, excessive to the need. Fighters are designed to fight other fighters in air-to-air combat, something that hasn’t happened for the past half century. While their speeds are also excessive to the local need, they do have considerable maneuverability, much more than does a strategic bomber. Equipment on the fighter jets also usually now facilitates them getting reasonably precise in delivering their ordnance, once the target is clearly determined. The use of such aircraft for tactical ground support missions affords their pilots an opportunity for flight experience handling the planes; i.e., it’s better than nothing, which would be the case otherwise. (A fighter pilot dropping bombs is not really engaged in “combat”.) So, since there is no air-to-air fighting to be done, the fighters in recent times have been “repurposed” for tactical support missions; many do carry equipment that can read the helmet strobe lights.
But the problem here is much bigger than sensors used to support this particular mission, and it’s a long-standing and very familiar problem. The US Air Force exists in a universe in and unto itself. Its “thinking” and equipment is all designed to wage conventional warfare such as was the 100-hour Persian Gulf War in 1991 and the first three weeks of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Almost none of its “thinking” involves small “low intensity” wars or unconventional warfare – such as we have been doing for the past 16 years, such as was done in Vietnam for ten years. No other service is more dedicated to fighting the last conventional war (à la WWII), while also planning to wage war in outer space (against Darth Vader?). Living in the real world is actually a despised irritant for the US Air Force.
The USAF is therefore designed to engage in air battles with enemy air forces or inflict massive damage on large concentrations of enemy ground forces well before those enemy forces close with friendly ground forces. It can also destroy strategic enemy targets. This is viewing “war” in strictly conventional terms, where you don’t have to even imagine that there are actual humans on the other end of your remotely controlled weapons. As a result, for example, no US “fighter” pilot has fought anyone for over a half century, so their “fighter” planes are used as bombers – a function that could be met by little more than their 60-year old C-130 cargo planes. But in this case, they went a Big Step further. They employed a STRATEGIC long-range conventional B-1 Bomber flying faster than 700 mph to provide close air support to a small TACTICAL-level unconventional ground force under very close small arms enemy fire – and then used 500-pound bombs to hit some guys with rifles on a hill top. The whole notion is simply asinine in itself. It’s highly likely that the deciding factor was simply that some B-1 pilots needed some flight time.
The Air Force maintains only ONE single aircraft actually designed for close air support to deployed ground soldiers – the 40-year old A-10 “Warthog”. Ground soldiers regard the very well, and appropriately, armed A-10 Warthog, an Attack plane flying at 350 mph, as more valuable to them than even the venerable C-130 (or C-141) Cargo planes – both of which deliver the most critical USAF air support (transport) needed by ground soldiers. The very maneuverable 53-foot-long A-10 bristles with all sorts of firepower needed to neutralize a wide range of tactical military ground targets. With a crew of one, it can slow down to 150 mph, turn on a dime, and carry about 18,000 pounds of ordnance (rockets, missiles, bombs, decoys and chaff), including for a 30 mm rotary cannon. It usually can go out a combat radius of about 300 miles. As its nickname implies, the A-10 is not a very sexy plane. You won’t see it in any Star Wars movies or in “war” video games. Even with a lower combat radius and higher response times than fighters, it has all the right qualifications needed for close air support to ground soldiers, and is simply very effective at its intended purpose. And yet the Air Force has been trying for years to get rid of the tactical A-10, and, incredibly, replace it with the most advanced strategic fighter jet on Earth, the F-35. That is just as asinine as using the B-1 strategic bomber for close air support.
Since the A-10 (“Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II”) is actually designed for close air support, it can get quite close to friendly forces on the ground and with appropriate ordnance. Everyone involved, from A-10 pilots to ground soldiers, recognizes that such proximity is inherently dangerous. Since 2001, the A-10 has been involved in four friendly fire incidents that killed 10 US soldiers, but such figures say nothing of the number of such missions flown or the particular circumstances of each “friendly fire” incident. (Was the enemy so close and overwhelming that the US soldiers probably would have died anyway even without the A-10?) Slow enough to spot and identify, the plane’s mere presence can reassure American soldiers and strike fear into their enemy. But rather than seek to improve the plane (say with precision-guided missiles), the Air Force uses such statistics as an excuse to get rid of it.
Would using armed drones to provide the close air support fix the problem? This is obviously the very dedicated (obstinate) intention of the US Air Force – because it doesn’t involve any danger to its own personnel. But while drones are a slight improvement over using strategic bombers or even strategic fighters, the problem is still the two distinct and very separated worlds occupied by the supporter and the supported. (Very few people in the military like to view themselves as supporting those who actually do the hard stuff; they all prefer to think that they are the most important thing the military has, even if they never hear a gunshot or see actual blood. As Vietnam and every war for the past three thousand years showed, it’s possible to win all the battles, but still lose the war. Wars are fought among humans on the ground. Regardless of the toys used, all wars are decided by infantry soldiers. They are the teeth; everyone else is tail.)
A good summary of this “different worlds” issue is outlined in Why Troops Don’t Trust Drones; The “Warm Fuzzy” Problem, by Jacquelyn Schneider and Julia Macdonald, published in Foreign Affairs, 20 December 2017. (Jacquelyn Schneider is Assistant Professor in the Strategic and Operational Research Department at the US Naval War College. Julia MacDonald is Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.) Following are quotes from their article.
“In order to understand ground forces’ perspective on drones, we performed over 450 surveys and 150 interviews with two types of military personnel: Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and Joint Fires Observers. JTACs and JFOs are both embedded in the front lines, where they call in air strikes and coordinate air support from manned and unmanned aircraft.” (With the exception of the loser involved above, these are usually well trained, knowledgeable and experienced air controllers deployed with ground combat units.)
“According to their advocates, unmanned systems of the future will not only increase combat effectiveness by improving decision-making and targeting accuracy but also give the United States the ability to pursue national security goals without risking the lives of its military personnel.”
What’s missing in this second statement, of course, are the words “air and naval” before the words “military personnel”. The people who operate these machines are driving the train, but the people who depend on the machines for their lives – Army and Marine ground soldiers – don’t even have tickets. And, incredibly, those ground soldiers already incur over 98% of US casualties in today’s wars. Those men want a human operator right above them with actual skin in the game, with full 360 degrees of situational awareness, preferably a human crew in an A-10 Warthog attack plane, pilots who actually fly the plane, pilots who can actually see what’s happening on the ground, pilots who rely more on their own thinking skills than on a computer, pilots who won’t miss the enemy and kill American soldiers instead. Already with a great preference for manned aircraft over drones to provide their air support, the men even preferred one manned A-10 over ten unmanned A-10s. War is NOT an asinine Star Wars video game.
The solution to the problem is simple: Drop a few of the most expensive planes in human history – the F-35 – and buy a lot more cheap and improved A-10 Warthogs, to save a few of the American soldiers who actually fight our wars these days. Experienced Special Forces men are worth far more than their weight in gold, while video gamers can be found down in almost any mom’s basement. The mere existence of the world’s only conventional super-power guarantees that the only wars that will challenge it will be unconventional. The existence of the F-35 actually increases the need for the A-10.
So while the Air Force and Navy cling to such obstinate “thinking”, on big-ticket machines needed for a conventional war, American ground soldiers have been dying for a generation against an unconventional enemy that does not posses one single ship, plane, tank, missile or drone. While American ground forces could use some cheap surveillance drones enabling them to see around the corner or over the hill (their original intention), the Air Force and Navy desperately need a credible conventional enemy to somehow justify trillions of dollars of useless machines. Enter the “evil Russian empire” (with a military strength about equal to that of Canada) used to play the American taxpayers for fools.
The Air Force obviously thinks that its personnel are far too valuable (“special”) to risk getting hurt in actually dangerous things like combat. My solution for this asinine problem, a problem that’s been growing for the past thirty years, is also simple: Either put the Air Force back in the Army, or simply convert them all to blue suit bureaucrats. Either they’re “military” on a military team of equals, or they’re just more self-inflated office weenies, cheaper by the dozen. (At least the Navy tries to compensate a little with its very public use of a few SEAL teams to cloak the whole service in glory, but the Air Force doesn’t even want to try this cheap propaganda tactic. And the Navy would do itself more of a favor by championing its Corpsmen and Seabees working with Marines.)
Footnote #3: Baby Boomer Brilliance. Part of the rationale for using machines to do our “antiseptic” remote-controlled killing for us is that we are severely limited in what we can do with traditional methods. It’s very revealing, for example, to note two major parts of the “strategy” for future US military personnel strength figures, and especially those of the US Regular Army, that accompanied the enormous nearly 50% reduction in that strength at the conclusion of the “Cold” War around 1990-94.
One part of that “thinking” dealt with the pronouncement, strongly supported by both CIA and State in testimony before Congress, that, since the opposing global ideology of Soviet communism had been defeated, there was no longer a need to engage in “low-intensity” wars designed to win “hearts and minds” over to principles of democracy and capitalism. Since “low intensity” wars (unconventional wars), are enormously personnel-intensive, this was the primary justification for summarily firing nearly 1,000,000 military people who did such things and dumping them on the street during a recession. A mere ten years later, of course, an enormously under-strength US Regular Army was faced with a whole new global ideology that “suddenly materialized”. (Actually, it had been festering right there all during the long “Cold” War. A critical quick-fix “solution” in 2002 was to hire armies of mercenaries and other people under contract at greatly inflated wages and costs to do what uniformed soldiers did before and far more effectively.)
A second part of the “thinking” around 1990 involved a way to avoid a professional army being committed to wars that had no ending, wars about which American citizens could simply forget, wars of no real consequence since they did not involve them. The “solution” to this aspect of the problem was to shift what nascent capability remained in the US military in a wide range of professional specialties (the “tail”) to the part-time soldiers of the National Guard, while retaining in the Regular Army primarily only front line conventional combat forces (the “teeth”). The thinking was that if American citizens were faced every day with their policemen, firemen, plumbers, electricians, emergency rescue people, car mechanics, teachers, etc., being away at war, they would ensure that their elected representatives kept a very close eye on those wars with a determination to end them as soon as possible. This thinking, too, proved deeply flawed when it turned out that American citizens just didn’t give a damn. To make matters even worse, when these wars began in 2002, Americans were not asked to contribute anything toward those wars, but were instead, incredibly, even given a really huge tax cut. (“Fight as many wars for as long as you want, just so they benefit me financially!”) Besides, politics in America is now driven by women, and wars are just about as far down on their list of priorities as it’s possible to get. Wars become of interest to such people only when they see a way to take money away from the military and give it to “me” – like they did at the end of the “Cold” War.
We’ll never know how many of our, so far, 7,500 dead soldiers or 45,000 maimed soldiers paid the price of such “thinking”. Such “brilliance” was one of the crowning “achievements” of the entire self-involved Baby Boomer generation. Americans now care a million times more about multi-millionaire football players getting hurt on a manicured field on their TV screens than they do about thousand-dollar soldiers getting killed and maimed on dusty battlefields completely out of sight.
P.S. As another part of this new “peacetime” strategy, government agencies like State and USAID during the early 1990s were given significant new spaces and money to be prepared and able to do some of the critical “nation building” things that were formerly done by the military. This part of the “strategy” has proven equally ineffective – inasmuch as civilians, like our European “allies”, remain hunkered down in incredibly expensive Little America fortified bunkers while earning lucrative “hardship” pay bonuses until the (US) military is able to “stabilize a secure working environment”. Of course, “nation building” is the critical part of creating such an environment in the first place. It’s all just more Baby Boomer stupidity.
December 2012: There was recently even serious discussion of placing one of those most virulent 1960s anti-Vietnam War agitators, the unabashedly opportunistic and self-promoting Senator John Kerry (D-Mass), in charge of the Department of Defense. (This was a guy so intent on becoming the “next Jack Kennedy” that he even somehow managed to have a cameraman follow him around in Vietnam to document his exploits for later political campaign use.) But it now appears that Kerry will be nominated for State, and the President will nominate former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) for Defense. While I don’t agree with all of Hagel’s views, especially with regard to Iraq, I think Hagel is a good fit for Defense. Hagel, not known as an especially deep strategic thinker, is at least a twice-wounded Vietnam Vet who wore the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (as a sergeant), has always been an independent thinker not married to any particular ideology and is not afraid to buck the herd mentality. Despite Kerry also having served in Vietnam, I do not think that Hagel will work well with Kerry, but at least State will have a boss who actually earned the position and knows something about the real world out there. (Except for General Powell’s brief stint, State has not had such a Secretary since the end of the “Cold” War, way back in 1990.) Still, Kerry is no Colin Powell.
Footnote #4. War Trials. Most Americans are familiar with the Nuremberg Trials of senior Nazi officials, fewer about the Allied trials of Japanese fascist officials in the Pacific, but almost none know about those conducted by the Russians. Russian war tribunals of captured senior Nazi officials began shortly after the Red Army began advancing against and over-running German forces on the eastern front – from November 1943 to May 1945 – and continued long after the end of the war. The trials of those complicit in mass atrocities like that at Babi Yar in Kiev – extending from Lithuania and Latvia through Belarus and Poland to Ukraine and Romania – were conducted even as the war still raged and while eyewitnesses were readily available. And in every country were many natives who were fully complicit with the German Nazis in atrocities committed against their own people as uniformed and armed paramilitary murder groups. These Russian war tribunals were not quite as formal and structured as those in Nuremberg or the Pacific, especially while the war still raged, but in the end they were much more effective. For example, those responsible for the most horrific systematic mass atrocities in Europe were 3,000 members of the Einsatzgruppe SS (paramilitary death squads), all known to the Nuremberg prosecutors. After years of executing their extermination duties in eastern Europe, many of these men were sent to the western front as the Allies advanced. Only 200 of these men were tried in Nuremberg; most of the rest eventually went back to work as West German police officers or Interior Ministry bureaucrats. And some went to work for the CIA. However, none captured by the Russians are believed to have escaped harsh punishment, including execution.
Footnote #5. It wasn’t so long ago that I considered the following writer, a very knowledgeable and smart former US Representative (California), a prime candidate for Director CIA.
Remote-Control Warfare Requires Rules
By JANE HARMAN*, Op-Ed Contributor, New York Times, March 18, 2013
A strange thing happened in the United States earlier this month: A freshman senator named Rand Paul stood on the Senate floor and spoke for 13 hours about the dangers of weaponized U.S. drones if targeted against American citizens in the United States.
The marathon ended only when the U.S. attorney general pledged in writing that this would never happen unless there is armed combat on American soil. But that guarantee — and the continued outrage against drones by many around the world — points out how tactical advantage can risk strategic defeat.
In a stunning Foreign Affairs magazine interview, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (I.S.A.F.) and the Joint Special Operations Command, reflects on lessons he learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, he says, the first question was “Where is the enemy?” As things evolved, the question became “Who is the enemy?” Then “What’s the enemy doing or trying to do?” and, finally, “Why are they the enemy?”
This catechism is so revealing. In short, the tactic of taking out bad guys may ultimately create more of them. A thoughtful academic in Israel named Boaz Ganor calls this the “boomerang effect.” His idea is that there is often a contradiction between dismantling the capability of terrorists and removing their motivation.
Without a clear legal framework around our counterterrorism tactics, they can become inadvertent recruitment tools (think Abu Ghraib). Moreover, playing whack-a-mole will not win the argument with the kid in rural Yemen deciding whether or not to put on a suicide vest. Finally, as Senator Paul’s filibuster showed, the American public is also tuning in and insisting on clear limits on tactics like drone use.
Other countries are already in the game. Drones, and other evolving tools in what might be called “remote-control” warfare, are not limited to the United States, though most weaponized strikes to date are attributed to the U.S. More than 70 countries have or are developing drones, and the total absence of international rules is troubling.
The United States needs to develop a strict legal framework. Inside the U.S., without exception, an American suspected of plotting a terror attack should never be targeted by an armed drone. In “ticking-bomb” situations — when a person in the U.S. is poised to push the button and create large-scale mayhem — SWAT teams and helicopters can do the work. This is consistent with long-standing law enforcement protocol.
Internationally, the United States has experience in constructing protective, rule-based foundations for our most sensitive programs. The framework established in the 35-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act should be used to cover targeted killings of U.S. citizens abroad and for offensive cyber-operations. Crucial probable-cause judicial determinations used in the current F.I.S.A. can be easily applied in the context of new counterterrorism tools. ((I would first tighten up FISA rules and procedures. Then I would place all drone operations solely under the military – which has a legal system for accountability, even under secret conditions. Armed drones are weapons of war.))
America has seen the “creeping executive power” movie before. Using lethal tools without public debate or clear legal authority is a mistake and a slippery slope.
In essence, the means of combating terrorist threats may have changed, but the end for preserving international security remains the same. We need strategies, not just tactics — and a necessary part of that equation is creating a durable legal structure for remote-control warfare that will secure buy-in from a global audience.
>*Jane Harman, former Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She was also a principal member of the US House Intelligence Committee.
Jane Harman is an intelligent and perceptive women who often proved her independent savvy (at least to me) while serving as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. But there is another reason why I selected her article for posting here: Jane Harman is a smart American woman. There was a time when I believed that this woman’s knowledge and sound thinking qualified her to be Direector of the CIA.
Remember the woman general commanding National Guard MPs in Iraq who failed to ensure her NG subordinates executed their duties properly, in accordance with law, regulation and policy, and avoided calamities like those at the Abu Ghraib prison? She was later demoted one grade in rank, primarily because, I believe, she wouldn’t keep her mouth shut and allow things to take their natural course and just disappear. And why would such things disappear? Because that whole shameful problem was far wider than just that one prison in Iraq, and there was one sticky thread linking them all. The methods employed at that prison were brought to Abu Ghraib by an Army woman captain, a junior “intelligence” officer previously serving in Afghanistan. Once there, they were further employed by contract hires of the CIA, who just walked in and took over. Just consider: Civilians pretending to be para-military Rambos and operating outside the UCMJ – running roughshod over a military prison, in a war zone! And the senior command staff intelligence officer in Iraq, an Army two-star general officer, was also a women. Both of these women, who did keep their mouths shut, later rotated from Iraq to assume plum positions at the Army’s intelligence school in Arizona (presumably so they could teach all that nonsense to new recruits). And where did that Army captain learn what she did back in Afghanistan? She learned it all at the “special” prison there being run by other civilian contract hires of the CIA.
A critical aspect of this whole problem is the fact that a key figure in shaping and directing the entire “rendition” and “enhanced interrogation” programs, which made heavy use of contract hire brutes, was a CIA woman who has steadily risen in the agency on the basis of her supervisory work in those programs. Of course, the only prisoners ever subjected to such extreme methods have been men; American women everywhere, including this woman (and those military women), would be the very first to scream bloody murder if such methods were ever used on female prisoners. But she obviously has no problem at all in ordering men to torture other men, even blurring the lines enough to get uniformed military people to also do her brutish bidding.
It was this woman, then a senior official in the Agency’s Counterterrorism Center, who also had video tapes of 99 such “enhanced” interrogations in a secret CIA prison in Thailand destroyed before they could be reviewed by members of the US Congress. When the head of the Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, was then promoted to head the clandestine service (formerly Deputy Director for Operations (DDO)) in 2004, he took this female officer along as his chief of staff. This woman (in April 2013) has now become the first woman in history to be appointed to head the agency’s clandestine service (DDO, now called the National Clandestine Service (NCS), the directorate that runs the agency’s operations case officers). This appointment that has become a sticky problem for the CIA’s new Director, John Brennan, following his move back to the agency from his position at the White House after intense confirmation hearings in Congress.
Because her CIA/NCS appointment is as ‘interim’ head, she remains in cover status, and her name has therefore still not become public. Her mentor, Jose Rodriguez, retired as head of NCS in 2007 after 31 years with the agency. Several years after his retirement he was interviewed by Leslie Stahl on ’60 Minutes’. His most astute observation during that interview was that, rather than deal with the “messiness” of prisoners, the United States now prefers to simply kill people by remote control and forgo any intelligence gain. (Killing is now a lesser crime than torturing.) But in posing this valid (and telling) observation, he side-stepped the far more critical question: whether it is necessary to use torture in interrogation or whether more sophisticated, and less brutal, methods could systematically produce comparable results, even if they meant taking longer to get there. As a long-serving multi-lingual operations case officer myself, as well as a man with strong backgrounds in both psychology and sociology, plus familiarity with Israeli interrogation methods, I know what the answer to that question is. Baby Boomers, however, are all about quick fixes, short cuts and easy answers; morality, ethics, is seldom relevant to the approaches they select. And without guiding philosophical beliefs, it’s all about “me”. What longer range effects their methods might have on the overall strategic objective, or on deployed American soldiers on the battlefield in the direct line of fire, on “someone else”, are irrelevant. Of course, anyone with half a brain can’t avoid noticing how many years all those “enhanced” methods took to finally get to bin Ladin anyway; speed, and expediency, were irrelevant to the outcome. A major 6,000-page investigative report by the Senate Intelligence Committee remains classified, but is said to document a pattern of exaggerations and false statements by CIA officers to the White House and Congress about the efficacy of the interrogation program. Based on my own direct experiences over a very long period, this does not at all surprise me. I suspect a far greater role in herd mentality mixed with self-promotion and “me-ism” than I do in any objective analysis. “I wrote the book”. Bullshit. It was just a bunch of nitwits way out of their element trying to play Rambo, who began by throwing out the real books.
The reason this whole arena has so defied rational resolution for a decade is that everywhere one turns there’s a key woman hiding just outside the epicenter, and in America it is next to impossible to hold women accountable. Women have rights; they do not have responsibility. And they have almost no sense of being on the receiving end of the deadly conditions they impose on men, either in prisons, on the battlefield, or on the psychologist’s couch. That National Guard Military Police woman just didn’t get it. She should have stood her ground without fanfare and immediately banned the activities she saw at Abu Ghraib as was her sworn duty; if she had, the resultant furor would have led, not necessarily to Dick Cheney, but to a raft of women in key places all along the chain eager to cut corners they didn’t fully understand, safe in the knowledge that their rights trumped their responsibilities. (Of course, it is also possible that if the MP general had adequately executed her command responsibilities before she took her people into Iraq, the mess wouldn’t have happened in the first place. These were military police! They exist to uphold US military law, to protect and serve – the US military. If the military can’t rely on its own police, who can it rely on?)
The only positive development in this area since the beginning of President Obama’s second term has been a tentative decision to finally remove weapons of war – remotely controlled armed drones – from the hands of unaccountable civilians and return them to the military, which must operate under the UCMJ and international law governing warfare – within an overarching strategy squarely in the long range national interest. This decision may just eventually get the CIA back to what it is supposed to be doing – collecting and analyzing intelligence information critical to all the national defense needs of the nation and its armed forces. CIA operations officers are supposed to employ controlled human assets in sophisticated and complex operations to clandestinely obtain that critical information which cannot be otherwise obtained; no one is asking them to also be soldiers. Leave that stuff to men like me, who DO have standards of ethical conduct, and who can straddle the line between intelligence and combat.
(See “A Raid From History”, posted separately.)
P.S. Integral to “The Great Peace Dividend”, that fired almost a million military people at the end of the Cold War, was a really huge contingent of intelligence professionals, including interrogators. The rationale for that massive cut, strongly supported by both CIA and State, was that, since the global ideology of Soviet communism was no longer a threat, the US no longer had to “win hearts and minds” in “low intensity” unconventional warfare. Less than a decade later, another global ideology, one that had been sitting there seething all along, “suddenly arose” to threaten the entire West – and caught the US military without the proper people needed to combat it. Enter the CIA and similar “contingency” solutions. The dust had not settled on Abu Ghraib when the US Army re-activated in 2006 the 201st MI Battalion – and began recruiting and training the military personnel needed to man this linguistically-qualified interrogation unit and three more like it. It will take at least a decade to get them up to snuff, but, in the meantime, the US is already sustaining another round of huge cuts to its personnel strength. With such “brilliant leadership”, “strategic thinking”, and “intelligence analysis”, is it any wonder that the US military is continually reinventing the wheel? This incredibly short-sightedness literally invites charlatans of every stripe to come running in from the woodwork at the first scream of “Fire!” – with all their short cuts, quick fixes and easy answers. Sometimes we look just insane. Does anyone know what “SNAFU” means?
Footnote #6: Sowing Confusion. Probably the most destructive force experienced by the US military is our own domestic process of political primary and national election campaigns, during which all sorts of candidates, with the help of sophisticated marketing experts, try to make political points with naive voters by throwing around their views on employing that military – almost none of which comes from any solid understanding or even from any basis in reality. This process instills all sorts of confusing nonsense, mostly emotional, into the minds of the public, much of which ends up in the minds of politicians. And this results in all sorts of stupid political decisions that do little more than render the military a political piñata, but one that almost always just keeps its mouth shut. Making it even crazier is the fact that all politicians are trying to buy votes from our super-majority of women voters and their clones, few of whom are even interested in military stuff.
Running throughout this process is the fact that really huge numbers of civilian jobs are dependent on making stuff for that military machine, regardless of whether or not the military needs the stuff, and more hundreds of thousands of civilian jobs are now an integral part of that military, regardless of whether or not the military needs them, either. These civilian government and contractor defense jobs are always a hundred times more important to politicians and voters than are those people who actually wear uniforms.
(In fact, the US has a long history of readily sacrificing uniformed personnel for civilian jobs. One reason why the US military is so effective is due to the fact that its members, unlike in almost every other western military, are prohibited by law from forming or joining unions; it’s one of the last places in American society where self-interest is subordinated to the nation’s interest. However, this does not preclude all the country’s self-serving lobbies championing women and minorities, in fact every interest group except the white male minority, from having their power felt forcibly in that military, usually via regulation, Congressionally imposed rules and top-level political appointees. This has been another of the military’s missions in American society over the past forty years: the best petri dish possible for enforced social engineering, in which the “oppressor” members have no lobbies of their own and even relinquish some of their civil rights with their acceptance of military service. It’s been going on so long that it has become just another “normal” aspect of American society, the way that double standards for all the self-anointed “special” people become institutionalized, ingrained in the very psyche.)
Due to its large size, the Pentagon is also a great place for politicians to pay back political campaign contributors with taxpayer money – by appointing them to very senior cushy positions, with staff, at the top of the Defense bureaucracy. (It would be great if the military could cordon off a big chunk of the building, encase it in 10-inch thick solid steel walls, and call it The Playpen – in an effort to contain the lasting damage these self-important bloated egos, many of whom are women who never even thought of actually serving in uniform, routinely render to an institution they don’t even begin to understand.)
Anyone who wants to throw more taxpayer money at the military (mainly for civilian jobs) is “strong on defense“; anyone who wants to try making that military more efficient and effective (usually via social engineering) is labeled “weak on defense“. Any actual “defense” is rarely a part of the equation.
In fact, no one ever even defines what the military is supposed to defend – “the nation” (as intended by the US Constitution) or “US interests” (which is political speak for “World Cop”), much less against any specific actual “threat” out there. (The US military, in fact, has rated for the past five years the greatest threat to the future security of the nation our incredibly humongous national debt, which increasingly and dramatically restricts our range of options; there is nothing “military” in such a threat.) “Defender Of The Nation” is favored by conservatives (Republicans), while “World Cop” is favored by liberals (Democrats). Unfortunately, neither political persuasion understands just what it takes to fill either role. (Both roles and their respective requirements are enormously different. For instance, given the machine firepower of today’s military needed to just defend the nation, the “World Cop” role is incredibly more personnel intensive simply because you can’t use that firepower in a Cop role.) So it’s all vague political nonsense, begetting more political nonsense. In the end you end up with a military that is supposed to do anything and everything, but nothing specific, and few things really well. (Do you have any idea how many thousands of incredibly complex contingency plans are constantly updated at the Pentagon, only one or two of which will ever be used, after a frantic last-minute revision?) This whole political universe seems tailored for schizophrenics. And very little of it involves people in military uniforms, and fruit salad, the people who have to actually go out there and do things.
Using the US military to further various political objectives in the world (“World Cop”) always wins Big Points for American liberals from leftist Europeans – whose chief talent is talking world problems to death while using the dumb Americans to do the dirty work for them. So, naturally, American conservatives using the US military to “Defend The Nation” always brings heavy scorn and condemnation from Europeans, who prefer to be the “enlightened elitist” cleverly manipulating the dumb American working dog on their leash for their own objectives. The very best mechanism that the Europeans have to control the dumb Americans, while also getting US taxpayers to bear the lion’s share of their defense costs, is that silly political anachronism still called “NATO” masquerading as a “military alliance”. (If it’s a military alliance, it’s the least effective and most one-sided such alliance in world history. Its sole utility to the US is as a shallow cover behind which to engage in activities without appearing to be doing so unilaterally. But that sole utility comes at a really huge cost, both to American taxpayers and to US military commanders who have to accommodate all that phony European tokenism with its fifty different sets of rules for “participating”. It’s an incredibly complex task just trying to herd all those loose cats.) If American Baby Boomers knew how to think for themselves, they would have retired NATO when its mission was completed back in 1990, and formed a new military alliance with new players under fully equitable rules designed for this century, not the last. But, alas, we go to war with the “leaders” we are stuck with and thus saddle our military with the task of dragging around a gigantic useless European anchor wherever it goes. (It inflates the egos of our pompous diplomats with all sorts of unearned self-importance.)
Footnote #7: Questions From Our Children
After two innocent civilians – an American and an Italian being held as hostages – were killed by a CIA drone attack on a suspected “terrorist” compound in Pakistan in January 2015, officials and talking heads in April of that year were still using the same arguments to defend the drone program. But someone really bright needs to be answering some very heavy questions from our children. Here are just a few:
>Are those conducting drone strikes that kill innocents subject to criminal investigation and charges of war crimes as are American Army and Marine ground soldiers who are actually directly exposed to deadly danger to their own lives?
>Just what legal accountability is applied to those killing people from the comfort of an office 7,000 miles away from any remote possibility of danger to them? If the answer is none, is this the reason why someone decided to hand weapons of war to unaccountable civilians? We certainly have not absolved ground soldiers of the UCMJ.
>Who verifies CIA statements about its secret activities? The CIA continually says that almost no “innocent civilians” are killed in the course of its drone strikes – an assertion that is nearly impossible to verify without expert on-site human intelligence assets, of which there are none. So, in the absence of solid evidence to the contrary, the CIA’s own self-serving assessments are accepted as fact, despite news accounts stating otherwise. In order to protect its own drone “turf”, the CIA has even resorted to eviscerating past US military strikes in harshly critical assessments that have infuriated US military leaders – but there are no such outside assessments of CIA strikes.
>Since these strikes are not in retaliation for any offensive military activity conducted by the targets, what is the difference between what we are doing and the political assassinations by others which we for a century have always strenuously condemned? The deciding factor seems to be a suspicion of something that “might happen” in the future – a thought process that allows the drone people to play god, and without a judicial process.
>Note that we are using a negative – the absences of attacks on the West mounted from Pakistan – to “prove” the program’s “effectiveness”. But how do we know that a negative is actually a proof? And, if it “proves” anything, is it nothing more than the effect of “squeezing the balloon” – forcing the bad guys to simply move to somewhere else?
>How many additional recruits to the other side have resulted from our own behavior? Are those defending the program making the same argument as the little boy on the beach trying to empty the sea into his hole in the sand? A UN study recently found that the number of foreign terrorist fighters world-wide increased 71% from June 2014 to March 2015. Despite the drone killings, or because of them, at least a record 25,000 people from more than 100 nations left home to join ISIS and other radical Islamic groups in that period.
>How is it possible to regard bombing another country from afar NOT as an act of war against that country – as is the whole rationale behind the use of intercontinental ballistic missiles? Does the world now get a “do-over” about, for example, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the London Blitz, the siege of Leningrad (none of which involved “boots on the ground”)?
>Just who is doing our “thinking” for us? Has there been anything like the Geneva Conventions to reach international consensus on all these new “rules of war” that we keep making up on the fly to serve ourselves? Do we make these decisions simply because we can, that it’s so very easy, knowing that for the moment no one can do us real hard in retaliation? Just how are other countries supposed to interpret all this stuff in deciding how they will now operate?
>Does anyone find it even a little shameful that the United States now actually prefers killing people to dealing with the “messiness” of taking them prisoner? It’s not surprising that the bureaucrats who are running the CIA drone program are also the same people who ran the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program.* And the same US Senator who was such a strong supporter in Congress of “enhanced interrogation” – Diane Feinstein (D-CA) – until she became convinced that the CIA had lied to her, is also the strongest supporter of the drone killing program. (Feinstein was the long-serving majority chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.) (See “Enhanced Interrogation”.)
>What happens when others start using the same self-serving rationalizations to attack us in the same manner? Are we bequeathing hell to our children?
Also, note that there is only one way for this enemy to retaliate against the use of those remotely controlled drone bombs – and that is by using their own remotely controlled bombs, which we now call “improvised explosive devices”, which have killed and maimed hundreds of our own Army and Marine ground soldiers (but none of the drone operators).
*Michael D’Andrea, Chris Wood, Greg Vogel and similar others at CIA enamored with supervising paramilitary operations (rather than with conducting clandestine human intelligence operations) many of whom started at Alec Station and the “Salt Pit” in Afghanistan. Vogel, a former agency paramilitary officer who started off in Afghanistan, is now even CIA’s Deputy Director of Operations, a fact that reflects the agency’s shift from clandestine HUMINT into paramilitary operations (under the Special Activities Division) that are best left to the US military’s SOCOM.
Footnote #8: People keep asking me why General Petraeus resigned. (Actually Mr. Petraeus resigned from his CIA post. Earlier General Petraeus was honorably placed on the Army’s Retired List; as such he was no longer on active duty but retained his military rank for earned military benefits purposes. As a fit Regular officer with no disabilities, however, he did remain subject to immediate recall to active duty by the US Regular Army. With that Army administrative action, his national security access clearances were also withdrawn, but the safeguards, including FBI background investigations, involved in granting those clearances remain on file as do his signed secrecy statements.)
Some have tried to make it a CIA “counter-intelligence” matter, that his secret affair made him vulnerable to “blackmail”, etc.. The general had already long held the nation’s highest compartmented national security clearances and was subject to all the safeguard requirements that accompany such access. His shift to the CIA would have at the very least set off an intense review of all those safeguards as the CIA went about the systematic process of re-granting his access clearances under CIA purview. But, these days, “affairs”, by both genders, in western society are far too common to rank high on any foreign “blackmail potential” list, if they became known, especially since avoiding the blackmail could be easily accomplished by the preemptive act of ending the affair and/or resigning from the position held. (A South Carolina politician easily won election to Congress after being caught in an affair while serving as Governor of that state, and then lying about it.) The primary threat of “blackmail” in this case probably would have come from people in the US Government seeking some political leverage, and I, like many others, believe that this is exactly what happened, and most likely over matters involving Libya. The situation would have been entirely different if the other party in the affair had been a foreign agent, but in this case the other party was a member of the US Army Reserves with her own national security clearances subject to similar safeguards. (She, by the way, was also a married military leader having an affair, which is equally unacceptable in the Army, and she had not resigned her commission.)
Others have suggested that his affair was the consequence of position, a “power” thing, that such men become so “intoxicated” with power that they think they are above the rules that govern others. This is just utter nonsense from incredibly small people who are delusional about their own society and have never been in the general’s shoes, who have never even led their own children. In our society, literally everyone cheats, holier-than-thou women just as much as men (even while their spouses are away at war), politicians just as much as athletes, teachers just as much as students, employees just as much as employers, taxpayers just as much as welfare recipients. It’s an inevitable consequence of a society based solely on “me”.
No one except the two parties will ever understand exactly what transpired, but I seriously doubt that General Petraeus would have made his private mistake if he had not previously undergone over a decade of constantly intense international pressure, if he had not been relentlessly trying to meet the demands of everyone above, around and below him, including in that absurd anachronism “NATO”, all while stuck in the intense glare of the spotlight. Dealing directly with unending wars is not a nine-to-five job at the office. It’s even far worse when everyone who is telling you what to do knows next to nothing about contemporary wars much less about the contemporary military, when you can expect to be fired if you say anything that doesn’t parrot the nonsense of ignorant politicians, when you have already been demoted to replace a subordinate gifted officer who failed to bite his tongue, when others in your own government are out there waging and orchestrating their own separate wars on the side for their own agendas. Power? Get real. The guy was more a piñata than a general. Normal humans, much less humans in Petraeus’ position, can keep up public appearance, project the required image, for just so long, until it finally becomes unbearable, until some form of escape becomes critical to sanity, to their very humanity. Such has been the case throughout the history of warfare, for both genders. Combat commanders are constantly vigilant for the signs among their subordinates, but who keeps an eye on the commander? He had insisted on formally retiring from the military before accepting the CIA posting, and it was only after his military retirement that he made his error in judgment. But cheating was not his gravest error.
The real answer for the general’s resignation is contained in what I have written above and elsewhere throughout my posts about leadership, about responsibility, about leading by example, from the front. Even in a civilian position, the general could not escape who he is, the military leader he had become. Even at the CIA, he was not “Mr. Petraeus”; he was still “General Petraeus”. Once he fully considered and realized what he had done, and that the shift to CIA had changed nothing, he also realized that he had no option except to resign. Otherwise, everything that he had stood for throughout his whole career as a military leader would have become a lie. It is not simply a matter of, “It depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.” He had placed himself in a position that offered only a choice between lying and resigning, and lying in the military is simply not an option. Things that are acceptable in the larger civilian community are often simply unacceptable in the military with its much higher standards. Those standards exist for extremely good reasons, reasons that can instantly take on really huge gravity. Never ever trust a liar. Rock solid mutual trust is a fundamental pillar of the US military, the life-and-death granite at its very foundation, without which it could not function. Never accept excuses for lies, and never grant liars a second chance. You WILL regret it, and a lot of others will pay the price. Anyone in the US military who seeks wriggle room in such a principle of trust is flirting with disaster. If any subordinate had lied to him, General Petraeus would have relieved that person – or risked being relieved himself for not doing so. Everyone in the US military must know instantly that what they are being told by responsible others is the full and accurate truth; otherwise all you do is introduce very dangerous doubt and hesitation into matters of grave life-and-death importance.
For General Petraeus, resigning from his post at CIA (where the standards are similar to the military) was an inescapable matter of honor. This was true even though he had long earlier ended the affair on his own. There is only one way to lead – from the front, by your own example, by your own assumption of responsibility. That is from where trust and respect derive. Such things are not birthrights; they must be earned. Regardless of why, the general had created his own dilemma, and it was up to him to accept the responsibility. He did.
P.S. The general had been wrestling with his dilemma for quite some time. He had ended his four-month affair long before it became publicly known. He knew what his decision would be long before he had to make it, that in Washington, where the word “secret” is itself an oxymoron, it was only a matter of time. Unfortunately it was not a decision that he could make abruptly or in isolation, without consideration of the other party and her family, as well as his own. His son, who was commissioned in the US Regular Army after graduating from MIT, quietly served a full tour as a lieutenant in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade last year. Of course, only a small handful of Americans even cared about that war, or anyone serving in it, until the tabloids sunk their teeth into a childishly gossipy “scandal” – after the election. Now all the nation’s junior high school girls, of both genders and all ages, have something “military” that really interests them to prattle about on their little toys.
The FBI subsequently concluded its investigation of Petraeus, deciding that his affair had broken no laws and done no harm to national security.
(Side Observation: Did you ever notice that men always pay a very high price for affairs? If you looked at the public awareness of these things, you’d think the guy was having the affair with himself, that there wasn’t another adult party involved in the mess at all. Outside the military, the woman, who also voluntarily involved herself in the illicit affair, simply waltzes away unscathed, never sharing blame. The risk is all one-sided. Why is this? It’s just another of the thousands of perversions of “equality” in American society. It’s because women wallow in their eternal victimhood, and men are stupid. Many men in high places who are removed from their positions for having such affairs, in fact, are replaced by women. The latest incidence of this now familiar practice occurred recently at Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor. It’s becoming the surest way possible for women to “advance”. You can’t make this stuff up.)