Friday, May 22, 2009

Dueling Speeches on National Security

Although not impressive by historical standards, Obama's speech clearly captured the reasoned approach that this nation needs. Obama's speech highlighted both past successes and failures, while outlining an approach for the near term. Unfortunately, that approach still appears vague and undefined, allowing wiggle room for executive power to supersede constitutional authority.....again.

Cheney was noted from the beginning for waiting for Obama's speech to end, then cracking a poor joke about the length of the speech. Cheney used the Giuliani crutch.....all 9/11 all the time. The dichotomy of repeatedly stating that the Bush Administration kept this nation safe, while ignoring that 9/11 happened on their watch, was apparently lost on Cheney. This nation suffers from the pendulum effect of the two party system......and an insufferably short attention span. Cheney played to those two symptoms with aplomb. His speech was fervently laced with apocalyptic hypothesis of another 9/11, without remotely identifying whether or not that is even part of Al Qaeda's strategy. Cheney speaks of a truthful telling of history, all the while the myrmidons and pundits are in spin mode to legitimize the un-Constitutional and un-American excesses of the previous eight years.

We are of course, hearing about these speeches from the five minute news cycle media....but only couched in terms of the two party's and their competing ideologies. Anyone who doesn't toe Line A or Line B, as represented by the two party's is ostracized and shut out of the national debate. There are, however, several policy experts who take a logical and scholarly approach to the issue of national defense. Men such as Sageman, Bacevich, Barnett and others lay out the problems and the pitfalls without regard to party. As such, you are not likely to hear of them outside of wonkish defense blogs and academic seminars. That's our loss as a nation. The general population gets stuck listening to Liz Cheney on her 'Legacy Restoration' tour.

Unbiased information is not hard to find. You simply must look outside of the cable news media. Military sites such as the Strategic Studies Institute and academic sites like the World Affairs Council of Northern California always offer analysis from policy, regional and professional experts. People that you won't find on Fox or MSNBC; for a reason. They promote understanding and education, not party politics.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Silent Passing

A man died today. He was not famous.....he was not a celebrity. He was a veteran of WWII who came home to make a life for himself and his family, as an ordinary patriotic American.
But what he made, his vision, has inspired Americans to remember those countrymen who never came back. Our countrymen whose whereabouts are known but to God.
Newt Heisley died today at the age of 88. His legacy however, will endure far beyond his years. In 1971, Newt designed the sketch of what would become the POW/MIA symbol. A symbol adorning lapel pins, flags, shirts, helmets and license plates across the nation. That symbol was never copyrighted; Newt never became famous for this endeavor. Not many know his name, and he did not copyright it. But the POW/MIA symbol he created, belongs to everyone. It unites Americans from disparate lives all across the nation in a collective mourning for those left behind.
Newt Heisley, the designer of the POW/MIA flag adopted by Congress in 1990 as a symbol of the nation's concern for those missing during military actions in Southeast Asia, has died. He was 88.
Mr. Heisley died at his home in Colorado Springs Thursday after years of failing health, said his son Jim.
Mr. Heisley's image sketched in pencil in 1971 during the Vietnam War shows the silhouette of a gaunt man, a strand of barbed wire and a watchtower in the background with the words POW/MIA "You are not forgotten."
Congress in 1998 mandated the flag be displayed at the White House, U.S. Capitol, military installations and other federal buildings on national observances that include Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. The flag also flies at Veterans Affairs medical centers each day, along with the American flag.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/obituaries/1580469,CST-NWS-xheisley19.article
The next time the drive-by media laments the passing of some celebu-twit or another.....remember the ordinary citizens like Newt, who have had far more impact on the ideals of this great nation.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Iraq Surge: Astounding Success or Cruel Joke?

**Selected as a recommended diary on VoteVets.org**

I figured it was only a matter of time before the true instigation's of the 'surge success' found its way out of the wonkish COIN blogs and circles of strategists; but I was shocked and dismayed that this story may be true.

Iraq has been a national nightmare, but the tremors are going to be felt for years to come, as little known vestiges of deceit, incompetence and arrogance continue to trickle out. The question remains, will the collective national response be righteous outrage or a desire to 'turn the page' and 'move forward'....because we know which is easier.

What the history books should also record, revealed here for the first time, is that the Sunni insurgents had offered to come to terms with the Americans 30 months earlier, in the summer of 2004, during secret talks with senior U.S. officials and military commanders. The Sunnis were gathered by an Iraqi named Talal al-Gaaod, a Sunni sheikh and wealthy businessman based in the Jordanian capital, Amman. The American officials included Jerry H. Jones, then a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and later serving as an expert on transitional government to Rumsfeld’s successor, Robert Gates; the late ambassador Evan Galbraith, Rumsfeld’s special envoy to Europe; Colonel Mike Walker, the head of civil affairs for the Marine Corps in Iraq; and James Clad, then a counselor to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (which was seeking to foster economic development in Iraq) and later the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for South and Southeast Asia. These men were desperate to pursue the Sunni contacts, and took serious risks with their own careers in order to do so. They were supported by officers close to the top of the U.S. military, including Lieutenant General James T. Conway, then the Marine Corps commander in Iraq and today the commandant of the Corps. For a variety of reasons, some of them petty, some of them ideological, and some of them still obscure, these men were blocked by superiors in the State Department, the Pentagon, and the White House.

The Sunni Awakening, when it did finally come, provided welcome relief, says Jerry Jones. But the cost of delay is quantifiable. “From July ’04 to mid-’07,” he points out, “you can directly attribute almost all those K.I.A. [killed in action] in the Sunni regions of Iraq to this fatal error, and if we hadn’t been fighting the Sunni, we’d have had a lot more resources for dealing with Shia militia leaders like Moqtada al-Sadr in places such as Baghdad. It didn’t have to happen. Those lives did not have to be lost.” To put the matter concretely: if the compromises accepted later by the Bush administration had been accepted when a rapprochement was first broached by the Sunnis, in 2004, some 2,000 Americans and thousands more Iraqis might not have died.

Vanity Fair

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Bracelet on my Wrist




On the 29th of September 2007, I lost my friend Jim Doster.

A guy, who like me, wanted nothing more than to lead soldiers one more time before retiring. A guy who, like me, had heartache about where the Army had sent him during his career, and the regrets of missed opportunities. Jim and I became friends while sitting next to each other during Battle Staff NCO Course at Fort Riley. Since we had PC's at our desks, we would entertain each other by trying to find the most ridiculous and raunchiest pictures possible on the internet (not easy on a .gov domain), while the instructor droned on about Combat Service Support or some other less than thrilling topic.

Leading men in battle is the pinnacle of the profession of a warrior. It's not a dream or desire that someone truly wishes for, because true warriors pray for peace. But when the call comes, there is no greater honor, nor greater test than meeting the challenge of combat, defeating your enemy and keeping your men alive.

After enduring the indentured servitude of staff work at FOB Falcon, Jim was called up, and took the reigns of a platoon of door kickers from our Brigade, but based out of FOB Rustimiyuh. A couple of weeks before he was scheduled to come home for R&R, an IED took his life. He didn't go quickly or without a fight. Despite severe trauma and loss of blood, Jim held on through the evacuation to the CSH in the IZ (Green Zone). He fought his greatest battle, but it was not enough.

My brother, who I could always go to when I was down....who would always join me in bitching about the oxygen thieves we worked with, and for......left for another FOB, and then left forever.

Like me, he had a loving wife and two beautiful daughters that were the center of his universe. We made plans to get our families together after we returned from Baghdad. We talked of our plans to retire and what in the world we would do once we grew up.

Two friends, two brothers..........united in profession, the love of our families and the simple pursuit of trying to do the right thing. One gets to go home and lead a full life, the other ripped away in an instant. One family living each day in innocent bliss, sometimes taking for granted the true treasures of life; the other living each day changed by the pulse of an electrical circuit and explosives, never enjoying a day without sorrow.

Why? Who rolled the dice that day and decided that Jim couldn't come home? What greater purpose was served by Kathryn and Grace not having their Daddy? My greatest nightmare is to think of Emelie and Susanna in that same situation. That's all I can write now, I'm sitting in Starbucks and people are starting to look at me funny.

I try to honor Jim's memory in the only way I know how.....to love my wife and daughters like he loved his. I wear his KIA bracelet on my wrist everyday to remember.

For Emelie

video

Because my little guitar playing girl wanted to see this video....here it is.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rendition and Accountability

**Selected as a recommended diary on VoteVets.org**

There has been a recent trend to compare the actions of one administration to another, in the defense of torture and rendition. Here's the part they're missing when trying to defend the Bush Administration and compare their actions to the Clinton Administration; Prior to 9/11, rendition was an acceptable legal authority to extradite suspects and known terrorists back to either their home nation or a nation that had a warrant for that suspect. This was conducted under the auspices of treaty agreements between the US and said nation. Torture was no doubt conducted in some of those nations, but once a suspect was under the legal jurisdiction of that nation, we did not control the events. We may even have suspected that torture was going to be or was conducted.....but under the treaty obligations, we did not have the authority to withhold that suspect without evidence of impending torture.

In 1979, the Justice Department re-affirmed the US statute that states that the executive needs congressional authority for rendition transfers; must be in accordance with treaty or statute authority; AND the rendition must be for the primary purpose of bringing that suspect to trial. The statute prevents the executive from transferring a suspect back to a nation where they would be subject to political persecution; so if someone can make a case that the Clinton Administration was guilty of knowingly violating that portion of the statute, then state your case.

After 9/11, under the Bush Administration, the policy was changed to extraordinary rendition, where the executive relied upon the Office of Legal Counsel [notably Yoo] to formulate [or invent] legal precedence to render someone to another nation without the primary purpose being a trial, and knowing that political persecution [or torture] would take place. In fact, Yoo could only cite the executive's powers under Article II, as it concerns the Geneva Convention and Convention Against Torture, where it deals with Prisoners of War. Ironic, as Bush declared Al Qaeda and other groups as not being POW's [again upon requested advice from the OLC]

The process of rendition dates back to the authorizations of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, but held that rendition must be bound by treaty and statute law, with checks and balances in place by Congress. Those safeguards were completely removed by the Bush Administration, and rendition [no extraordinary rendition] entered the realm of independent and arbitrary executive law.

Legal experts have long stated that harsh methods of interrogation used in unlawful rendition would nullify potential prosecutions because evidence and confessions would have to be discarded by the court, as they had been illegally coerced. In 1998, Congress stated in the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act (FARRA) that: `It shall be the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States.' . To do otherwise would violate our obligations under Article 3 of the Convention against Torture.

The TORTURE VICTIMS RELIEF ACT OF 1998 further spells out what treatment is abhorrent and unlawful in the eyes of the US government.

And that merely scrapes the surface of the policy of rendition, then and now. One legal and with oversight, one without. You are free to make a case where the Clinton Administration probably knew that torture was conducted in some cases, but to attempt to compare those practices, under legal auspices, with Bush's policy, with black sites and not for purpose of trial.....is grasping at vapor trails of partisanship.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Emelie's 1st Communion



I'm not especially religious, but I was so proud to see Emelie that day. The next day, she was chosen over the other 1st Communion girls to crown the statue of Mary with flowers. Quite the honor.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thought of the Day


You can have your pansy-ass Tea Parties......I want a Whiskey Rebellion!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Great Weekend

All of my girls [except the fuzzy one] came to Fort Bragg to spend the weekend with me. We had a great time swimming, shopping and seeing the place where Mommy and Daddy first started dating.

I'm pretty lucky......

Engaging the Tribes of AF/PAK.........it's not Cowboys and Indians

It is the presence and interdiction of ISAF formations in Afghanistan and the Pakistani Army in the FATA and borderlands region that is fueling a rise in what David Kilcullen [Petraeus's Counter-insurgency Advisor for Iraq] calls the 'Accidental Guerrilla'. The tribes in that region resent an intrusion by foreign and governmental forces in their socio-political stratum. They traditionally engage in a number of quasi-illegal activities for subsistence; this in turn drives more into the camp of the militant groups.

The tribes must be engaged on their terms, with an end state of persuading them to be at least neutral towards the idea of a central government in Kabul and adverse to assisting anti-ISAF militants. The 'inkspot' strategy is beginning to be implemented in some parts of the country. The inkspot is a counter-insurgency metaphor that describes clearing an given area of insurgents, securing it long term and bringing in government representatives, foreign aid workers, humanitarian and civil assistance.....and using the example of success of one area to spread to another, in the hopes of duplication. But each tribal area must be approached in a specific manner, and the inkspots cannot reach success in a heavily hostile area. Many commanders and planners seem hesitant to make this approach their main effort, because it is a population-centric rather than an enemy-centric approach. The ideology of not repetitively chasing after the bad guys can be an anathema to some in uniform, but every successful counter-insurgency has used a population-centric strategy.

Statecraft is not unknown in that region at all; but western concepts of statecraft are. The socio-political dynamics of the tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan rest on a triad of power and negotiation between the government representative, the local Imam and the tribal elder(s). When ISAF and inept, urban-ish Afghan bureaucrats enter a tribal area to conduct operations and/or dictate government decrees without going through the traditional steps of introduction, negotiation, cooperation and if necessary, reparation.......the tribe will be far more likely to aid Islamic militants over the coalition. Foreign intervention, open warfare, and repetitive raiding has only brought animosity and opposition from the people we're wishing to win over....while expending our blood and energy in a futile attempt to wage a weak counter-insurgency against much better insurgents.

Our Armed Forces have gained immeasurable experience in waging counter-insurgent warfare, but it has come at a terrible price for our gains, and amidst an institutional debate over the future configuration and funding of a COIN oriented military or a conventional oriented military. This has led to a half hearted and half funded effort in the COIN arena, though some shining stars have emerged [speaking only of Army here] in the persons of LTC Nagl, LTC Crider, LTC Gentile and LTC Yingling....to name a few. Each theater has a COIN Academy of varying efficacy, and the School of Advanced Military Studies and War Colleges are making strides in institutionalizing the lessons learned and COIN philosophies.

Finally.........don't overlook the fact that Pashtun people have an inherent warlike nature and a love of the fight - known as jang [battle]. What makes sense to the tribes in question usually won't make sense to us....and vice versa.