Friday, October 28, 2011
... Mestrovic described a "dysfunctional command climate" where officers disregarded the military's declared counterinsurgency mission of engaging and winning support with the local population.
"In this climate there was a 'kill board,'" Mestrovic said, describing the way in which units were ranked for how many Taliban they had killed. "They had a brigade commander who wanted a high body count, who was constantly preaching to search out and kill the enemy rather than what they mockingly called 'go and have tea with the village elders.' "
But prior to Gibbs' arrival, the unit hadn't had any kills, Mestrovic said, and was being pushed to be more aggressive with an enemy that preferred to ambush rather than directly engage them.
The soldiers' frustration and boredom became a toxic mix, Jeremy Morlock testified. "We lost fellow soldiers to IEDs and lived in fear of being killed by them on a daily basis. ... I just wanted to survive and come home in one piece," Morlock told the court. "I realize now I wasn't fully prepared for the reality of war as it was being fought in Afghanistan."
"Soldiers were basically left on their own," Mestrovic said. "The distinction between an enemy and a civilian broke down. They saw everyone out there as an enemy."
-- bth: a very poor leadership situation in that unit led to this unrestrained situation. Now a good many young men are going to spend a large portion of their lives in prison. Not a single officer was held to account.
... When Egypt teargassed and beat protestors in Tahrir Square, the world, including the Obama administration, howled in outrage.
But when police did the same to Americans in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Obama administration said nothing.
It’s clear that while there is no honor in hurting unarmed civilians, there’s no punishment for it, either.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
By Jessica Farrar
Photo by Mark Ostow
On a mid-October night in 2003, Brian Hart, MBA ’84, received a call from his son John, a solider serving in Iraq. John enlisted on his 19th birthday and had been working overseas for just three months. He told his father that he and his fellow soldiers were not adequately protected in their Humvees and was worried about their safety.
John had reason to worry. A third of American soldiers in Iraq didn’t have body armor, and only 225 of 35,000 vehicles were armored at the time.
Days after the nervous phone call, John was killed in an ambush south of Kirkuk. Hart first felt lost and was shocked that a young man so tenderhearted died so violently. But it didn’t take long for him to channel his grief into making positive changes in his son’s honor.
“Since then I have felt a deep obligation to honor him by helping protect his comrades. It was his last request to us, and in my mind, a lasting legacy,” says Hart.
He and his wife could not be more proud of John’s determination to serve after 9/11, and they resolved to prevent the same ill fate from ending the lives of other soldiers.
“John and I shared an abiding love for our country and a belief that we have the power to change the world around us if we have the will,” Hart says.
Hart passed up a promotion, quit his job at a Fortune 50 company and moved his family to Washington, D.C. He worked closely with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy to urge Congress to provide safer military vehicles, sufficient body armor and advanced tourniquets for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2005 Kennedy co-sponsored legislation to provide $213 million to ensure that every Humvee that was manufactured for the army was adequately armored.
Eventually however, Capitol Hill was not enough for Hart. He realized that cost-effective robots could save the lives of soldiers and civilians and decided to co-found a company in 2006—Black-I Robotics—with his brother, a former Marine, and a business partner.
Hart explains that his small team focuses on utilizing the latest technical developments and keeping the cost and price structure below that of competitors in order to make the most affordable robots possible.
With Kennedy’s help, Hart won a contract from the Pentagon in 2008 that allowed for government support of the company. With almost no overhead costs, the modest company works closely with the Department of Defense to ship its products to soldiers overseas.
Black-I Robotics’ mission is to develop robotic devices to aid soldiers in dangerous environments. The Landshark, a robotic unmanned ground vehicle, was named Popular Science Magazine’s “Best of What’s New” in 2008 because of its power, flexibility and low cost.
Hart advises aspiring entrepreneurs to build new products with this cost competiveness in mind. “I would also emphasize partnering with other companies for quick technological development and a greater use of open source software and collaboration.”
John’s death was not Hart’s first time to start a business as a call to action. His dad was killed in 1987 at a hospital in Irving, TX due to a medication error. In 1994 he co-founded a company to improve drug safety and drug dispensing called Telepharmacy Solutions.
Hart admits that “you have to be emotionally committed” to start your own business. “I think it’s important to have an axe to grind because it requires tremendous persistence and both financial and emotional sacrifice.”
Owning a robotics company was an unexpected business venture, but Hart says that “It’s very hard to plan life…it has its own path,” and we have to manufacture our own solutions.
-- bth: well a couple of things. First I hate it when people say I'm grieving. Second I didn't move my family to Washington DC. Pic was kind of cool though.
The wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan may have released more than twice the amount of radiation estimated by the Japanese government, a study by European and U.S.-based scientists said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima station, which was wrecked in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, may have emitted 35,800 terabecquerels of radioactive cesium 137 at the height of the disaster, according to a study in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal. Japan’s nuclear regulator in June said 15,000 terabecquerels of cesium 137 was discharged.
The amount is about 42 percent of that released at Chernobyl in 1986, the worst civil atomic disaster in history, according to the study. The plant north of Tokyo may have also started releasing radioactive elements before the tsunami arrived about 45 minutes after the magnitude-9 quake struck, contradicting government assessments.
“This early onset of emissions is interesting and may indicate some structural damage to the reactor units during the earthquake,” according to the report.
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency remains convinced the quake didn’t cause significant damage to the plant, Tadashige Koitabashi, a NISA spokesman, said by phone. He declined to comment on the report.
NISA and Tepco blame the tsunami, which swamped backup generators, causing a loss of cooling and the meltdowns of the three reactors operating at the time of the disaster. Explosions at the plant sent radiation into the atmosphere. ...
-- bth: so the reactor was damaged by the earthquake itself and then again by the tsunami. Also the turned off reactor 4 was in fact an early source of radiation.
Kristoffer Domeij killed in Afghanistan on his 14th deployment with Elite Army Rangers | Mail Online
The United States Army is today mourning one of its most courageous and decorated heroes.
Sergeant 1st Class Kristoffer B. Domeij was one of three soldiers killed by a roadside bomb last Saturday near Kandahar Province.
Remarkably, the elite ranger, who died when the team triggered an improvised device, was serving his 14th deployment at the time.
In an extraordinary career, Sgt. Domeij was decorated a number of times - and crowning it will be the Purple Heart that military chiefs have confirmed he will be awarded posthumously.
The husband and father-of-two from San Diego will go down in U.S. Army history as one of the team who rescued rescued Private Jessica Lynch from her Iraqi captors in 2003.
And as American troops prepare to leave Iraq in just a few weeks, Sgt. Domeij's astonishing bravery will stand as a fitting memorial to their dedication to service.
A 10-year veteran of the Army Rangers special operations, he has the unwanted distinction of becoming the Ranger with the most deployments to date to be killed in action.
His death saw him supersede a marker laid down 13 months ago when fellow Ranger SFC Lance Vogeler was killed in Afghanistan during his 12th deployment.
He was also one of the first ground soldiers qualified as a Ranger Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), which meant he was able to coordinate Air Force and Navy air attacks from his ground position. The position is usually reserved Air Force personnel....
- bth: it pisses me off that I have to go to a British newspaper to read about this fine American. What is wrong wit American media? I don't give a damn about the McRib. Sgt. Domeij and the others killed with him deserve recognition and acknowledgement by this country of ours.
Early Oct. 20, a small sedan apparently filled with cartel gunmen rapidly pulled in front of a military vehicle, drawing the military patrol into a car chase in downtown Monterrey, Mexico. After a brief pursuit, the vehicle carrying the cartel gunmen turned at an intersection. As the military vehicle slowed to negotiate the turn, an improvised explosive device (IED) concealed in a parked car at the intersection detonated. The incident appears to have been intended to lure the military patrol into a designated attack zone. While the ambush did not kill any soldiers, it did cause them to break off their chase....
Russian prosecutors have confirmed two Chechens shot dead in Turkey last month were being linked to the bombing of Moscow's busiest airport in January.
They said they were investigating the deaths of Zaurbek Amriyev and Rustam Altemirov as part of their inquiry into the bombing, which killed 37 people.
Both were reportedly shot with a pistol fitted with a silencer, along with a third Chechen, Berg-Khazh Musayev.
Russian security services declined to comment on the shootings.
Islamist militants in the North Caucasus have been waging war on the Russian state for years, with attacks intensifying since the last Chechen war, which ended in 2009.
Russia has been accused of assassinating several Chechen rebel figures abroad, including a former acting leader, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, in Qatar in 2004.
Turkish media speculated that the three men had been killed by a Russian assassin.
According to one Turkish newspaper, Sabah, police raided the hotel room of the suspected killer but he had slipped away shortly before their arrival, leaving behind night-vision equipment, a mask and a gun equipped with a silencer. ...
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan has decided to not reveal its full findings and materials to the public for another two decades, despite its stated purposes of investigating and exposing government waste.
The Commission has been at work for three years, revealing that up to $60 billion in US war funds were lost due to waste, fraud, and abuse. One report concluded that “criminal behavior and blatant corruption” were directly responsible for much of the waste in the expensive “reconstruction”projects in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002. It also found that one in every six contracting and grant dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan has been wasted.
But the Commission now says it won’t allow its full records to be opened to the public at the National Archives until 2031, because, according to one official, some of the documents contain “sensitive information.” Evidence of government theft, profligacy, criminality, and waste is indeed sensitive information. That revealing these things was the purpose of the Commission seems lost on those deciding to hide important information from Americans...
The Army laboratory identified by prosecutors as the source of the anthrax that killed five people in the fall of 2001 was rife with such security gaps that the deadly spores could have easily been smuggled out of the facility, outside investigators found.
The existing security procedures -- described in two long-secret reports -- were so lax they would have allowed any researcher, aide or temporary worker to walk out of the Army bio-weapons lab at Fort Detrick, Md., with a few drops of anthrax -- starter germs that could grow the trillions of spores used to fill anthrax-laced letters sent to Congress and the media...
- bth: so because of this lax security we have no idea of we ever caught the 2001 attackers but we do know that unless we caught the guilty party, they have material to strike again at will.
Haqqani talks. The Haqqani network will not take part in peace talks with the US until negotiations are led by Taliban leaders, an unnamed senior Haqqani commander said on 25 October. The US will be unable to resolve the Afghan conflict until it hold talks with Taliban leaders, he said. The Haqqani network, part of the Taliban led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, rejected peace talk offers in the past, the commander said.
Comment: If the Haqqani spokesman is telling the truth, then the US has made a serious analytical error about the nature of the relationship between the Haqqanis and Mullah Omar. The attempt to drive a wedge between Haqqani and Omar appears to have failed...
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Baghdad (NINA) – Muqtada Al Sadr, leader of the Sadr Trend, considered all US embassy employees in Baghdad as “occupiers”, stressing that resisting them after 2011 is an obligation.
In response to a query of one of his followers about the increase of the embassy employees' number from 5000 to 15000 after the expiry of SOFA, Muqtada said “they are all occupiers and resisting them after the end of the agreement is an obligation.” /End/
... Yet, historically, we've never had it this peaceful.
That's the thesis of three new books, including one by prominent Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. Statistics reveal dramatic reductions in war deaths, family violence, racism, rape, murder and all sorts of mayhem.
In his book, Pinker writes: "The decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species."
And it runs counter to what the mass media is reporting and essentially what we feel in our guts.
Pinker and other experts say the reality is not painted in bloody anecdotes, but demonstrated in the black and white of spreadsheets and historical documents. They tell a story of a world moving away from violence.
In his new book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," Pinker makes the case that a smarter, more educated world is becoming more peaceful in several statistically significant ways. His findings are based on peer-reviewed studies published by other academics using examinations of graveyards, surveys and historical records:
_ The number of people killed in battle – calculated per 100,000 population – has dropped by 1,000-fold over the centuries as civilizations evolved. Before there were organized countries, battles killed on average more than 500 out of every 100,000 people. In 19th century France, it was 70. In the 20th century with two world wars and a few genocides, it was 60. Now battlefield deaths are down to three-tenths of a person per 100,000.
_ The rate of genocide deaths per world population was 1,400 times higher in 1942 than in 2008.
_ There were fewer than 20 democracies in 1946. Now there are close to 100. Meanwhile, the number of authoritarian countries has dropped from a high of almost 90 in 1976 to about 25 now...