Category Archives: Military

10% Responsible for Genocide

What a fascinating case.

The Dutch supreme court has upheld a ruling that the Netherlands was partially responsible for 350 deaths in Bosnia’s Srebrenica massacre.

The court said the state had 10% liability, as this was the probability that its soldiers could have prevented the killings.

Bosnian Serb forces killed a total of 8,000 Muslim men in the town of Srebrenica in 1995.

The Dutch had been guarding a UN safe zone when it was overrun.

It is rare for a state to be held responsible for failures in UN peacekeeping work, but the court emphasised that the Netherlands bore “very limited liability”.

[…]

The court ruled that if Dutch forces had given 350 men hiding in the UN compound the chance to stay, there was just a 10% chance they would not have fallen into the hands of the Serbs, and so the Dutch state should be liable for only that proportion of the damages suffered by the bereaved.

The ruling did not give details on how it calculated the 10% chance of survival.

The final verdict draws a line under years of legal battles between the Dutch state and the plaintiffs – a group of victims’ relatives known as the Mothers of Srebrenica.

The case was escalated to the highest court because the state wanted to be cleared of responsibility, while the Mothers of Srebrenica wanted it to be held accountable for all 8,000 deaths in the genocide.

An appeals court had previously set the liability at 30%, but the supreme court’s ruling has drastically reduced that figure.

This is the Dutch court system ruling that their own people were partially responsible for failing in a UN peacekeeping mission that resulted in a genocide. While noble, war is incredibly ugly and I question the rationale of lawyers assigning percentages of blame decades after it happened – particularly for a NOT doing something. These soldiers didn’t commit a war crime. They merely failed to act to prevent one when they might have been able to.

Storm Area 51

It’s all fun and games until the military turns you into a fine red mist. They ain’t the docile Berkeley police.

As of Wednesday morning, over 1.5 million people said they were “attending” the event, called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” The event is scheduled for Sept. 20 at 3 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Another 1.1 million Facebook users indicated they were “interested.”

“We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry,” according to the Facebook page. “If we naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Lets [sic] see them aliens.”

Admiral to Retire After Being Confirmed or Top Job

Rough times at the Pentagon.

The four-star admiral set to become the Navy’s top officer on Aug. 1 will instead retire, an extraordinary downfall prompted by what Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Sunday called poor judgment regarding a professional relationship.

The sudden move by Adm. William Moran may add to the perception of turmoil in the Pentagon’s senior ranks, coming less than a month after Pat Shanahan abruptly withdrew from consideration to be defense secretary after serving as the acting secretary for six months.

The high price of liberty

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here you go:

In a bit of serendipitous timing, I found myself in the nation’s capital last week. With Memorial Day looming, I took the time to spend several hours in Arlington National Cemetery, reflecting on the terrible price that liberty collects from each generation of Americans.

There are over 400,000 men and women buried in Arlington. To walk among the dead is to walk through our nation’s history of bloody sacrifice for the cause of liberty. After paying my respects to two family members near the McClellan Gate, I walked through every section. The dignity and respect of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier set an example that we should all follow when honoring our heroes.

While some parts of the cemetery were loud with swarms of schoolchildren on their year-end field trips, some areas were peaceful, as one would imagine eternity to be. The silent Argonne Cross standing watch over our fallen heroes of World War I; the crypt at the top of the hill where 2,111 unknown Union soldiers gathered after the Civil War in northern Virginia; the silence of the stones for those killed battling communism in Vietnam was only disturbed by the whir of the electric wheelchair of one of their brothers still watching over his comrades.

Two thoughts imprinted themselves on my mind as I left the cemetery that day. First, we all have a responsibility to honor their sacrifice by protecting our liberties and fulfilling the responsibilities that go with those liberties. Exercising our liberties responsibly is not only respectful of the sacrifices made to protect them, it is a sure way to protect them from oppressive impulses to restrict them in the name of civil order.

We have a right to speak freely, but we have a responsibility to do so with respect for one another. We must not use our voices to lie, slander, or disparage. Instead, we must use our voices to educate, advocate, and debate.

We have a right to keep and bear arms, but we have a responsibility to do so safely. To own and carry the means to end someone’s life carries with it the responsibility to maintain the weapons, learn how to use them, store and handle them safely.

We have a right to vote, but we have a responsibility to know what we are voting for. We must educate ourselves on the issues and cast a vote for a candidate in accordance with our conscience. A vote cast in ignorance is not an act of self-governance. It is an act of disrespect to those who died to guarantee our right to vote.

When we exercise our rights in a responsible manner, we rob tyrants of excuses to infringe on our rights.

The second thought that lingered was that death humbles all. Under that grass and marble, great commanders who led legions into war lie yards away from the simplest private who never made it through his first battle. All of them are part of the same dirt now. Arlington reminds me of a missive penned by Stephen F. Austin that life is just a “speck between two eternities.”

While we all took some time on Memorial Day to reflect on the ultimate price paid made by so many American heroes for our liberty, it is what we do on the other 364 days of the year that truly honors their sacrifice. Make those days worth their sacrifice.

Some Gave All

U.S. Fights Terrorism in Africa

May God keep our special forces safe and effective in their efforts.

Juniper Shield and Obsidian Nomad II were not isolated efforts but part of a panoply of named military operations and activities U.S. forces have been conducting from dozens of bases across the northern tier of Africa. Many of these operations are taking place in countries that the U.S. government does not recognize as combat zones, but in which U.S. troops are nonetheless fighting and, in several cases, taking casualties.

Between 2013 and 2017, U.S. special operations forces saw combat in at least 13 African countries, according to retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who served at U.S. Africa Command from 2013 to 2015 and then headed Special Operations Command Africa until 2017. Those countries, according to Bolduc, are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia. He added that U.S. troops have been killed or wounded in action in at least six of them: Kenya, Libya, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia.

Yahoo News has put together a list of three dozen such operations across the continent.

The code-named operations cover a variety of different military missions, ranging from psychological operations to counterterrorism. Eight of the named activities, including Obsidian Nomad, are so-called 127e programs, named for the budgetary authority that allows U.S. special operations forces to use certain host-nation military units as surrogates in counterterrorism missions.

Used extensively across Africa, 127e programs can be run either by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the secretive organization that controls the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, the Army’s Delta Force and other special mission units, or by “theater special operations forces.” These programs are “specifically designed for us to work with our host nation partners to develop small — anywhere between 80 and 120 personnel — counterterrorism forces that we’re partnered with,” said Bolduc. “They are specially selected partner-nation forces that go through extensive training, with the same equipment we have, to specifically go after counterterrorism targets, especially high-value targets.”

Using documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, interviews, published reports and a Defense Department list of named U.S. military operations that leaked online, Yahoo News put together the following list of 36 operations and activities that are (or were until recently) ongoing in Africa.

Where possible, Yahoo News has also listed the bases that support these operations, relying mostly on information sheets about those locations obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. Yahoo News does not claim that this list is comprehensive.

While the Defense Department has acknowledged the names, locations and purposes of some of these operations, others are far lower-profile. Almost all are unknown to the general public:

Federal Judge Rules Male-Only Draft is Unconstitutional

This was only a matter of time. The draft is more of an academic exercise for everyone born in the last 30 years or so, but including women just makes sense at this point.

A federal judge in Texas has declared that an all-male military draft is unconstitutional, ruling that “the time has passed” for a debate on whether women belong in the military.

The decision deals the biggest legal blow to the Selective Service System since the Supreme Court upheld the draft registration process in 1981. In Rostker v. Goldberg, the court ruled that a male-only draft was “fully justified” because women were ineligible for combat roles.

But U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled late Friday that while historical restrictions on women serving in combat “may have justified past discrimination,” men and women are now equally able to fight. In 2015, the Pentagon lifted all restrictions for women in military service.

The case was brought by the National Coalition For Men, a men’s rights group, and two men who argued an all-male draft was unfair.

Men who fail to register with the Selective Service System at their 18th birthday can be denied public benefits such as federal employment and student loans. Women cannot register for Selective Service.

Trump Open to Use of Military in Venezuela

While I support and pray for the opposition in Venezuela to succeed in casting off the yoke of oppression, I oppose direct military intervention by the U.S. Supplies, logistical support, aid… yes. Military on the ground… no.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump said that the use of US military force in Venezuela is still on the table amid its ongoing political crisis and that he turned down a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro several months ago.

The President’s comments came in an interview taped Friday with CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation” in which he also declined to say what would cause him to use the military in Venezuela, noting only that “it’s an option” for his administration.
When Brennan asked Trump what would make him use military force in the country and what the national security interest for such action would be, he said, “Well, I don’t want to say that, but certainly it’s something that on the — it’s an option,” according to the transcript of the interview.

Cole Attacker Killed

Justice

President Donald Trump confirmed that a U.S. military strike in Yemen last week killed Jamal al-Badawi, an al-Qaeda operative believed to be involved in the deadly 2000 attack on the USS Cole.

US Strategic Command Tweets About Readiness

Oh, fer cripes’ sake. Settle down, Nancy. We WANT our military to be combat ready. Thanks for keeping us safe, Strategic Command!

An official Twitter account run by the United States military posted and then deleted a video on Monday bragging about dropping massive bombs.

The tweet, which was posted as Americans get ready to ring in the New Year, noted that the ball was set to drop in Times Square when the clock strikes midnight late Monday.

The tweet by U.S. Strategic Command then goes on to brag: ‘If ever needed, we are #ready to drop something much, much bigger.’

An official Twitter account run by the United States military posted and then deleted a video on Monday bragging about dropping massive bombs
[…]

Users on Twitter were angry for what they said was the military’s making light of the use of such a destructive weapon during a festive time.

Tim Miller wrote: ‘If you missed it since the tweet is now deleted, US Strategic command decided to tweet about war and death on NY eve with a ww3 masturbatory fantasy video.’

Robert Boyle thought it was inappropriate for the military to be tweeting ‘jokes about starting nuclear Armageddon on New Year’s Eve.’

Another Twitter user wrote: ‘Such an irresponsible tweet. Tweeting about a nuclear bomb drop.’

Russia Warns of New Arms Race

Let’s be clear… the only reason it isn’t a race now is because America hasn’t been racing. That hasn’t stopped Russia from running down the track. Russia is now upset because America is lacing up our cleats.

Russia says it will be forced to ‘respond in kind’ if America pulls out of a key nuclear weapons treaty and begins developing new missiles.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke out after Donald Trump threatened to quit the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty on Saturday, accusing Russia of violating it.

If the US and Russia make good on their threats, it would mark the first nuclear arms race between world superpowers since the end of the Cold War.

Peskov’s comments came as National Security Adviser John Bolton met with Russian security chiefs in Moscow on Monday, ahead of talks with Putin on Tuesday.

Recruitment Issues

Here’s a stunning, if not surprising, bit of data in the Washington County Daily News:

According to a news release, 71 percent of the nation’s youth are ineligible for military service. The most common reasons for exclusion are obesity, drug use, low aptitude and physical and/or mental health issues. Muth said obesity is the “largest disqualifier” at about 31 percent.

On the other hand, I would question the need for physical fitness for many jobs. In an era where many military jobs – even combat roles -involve sitting at a computer, who cares how many sit-ups the person can do? Cyberwarfare is probably fought best by the Cheetos-eating basement-dwellers.

Trump Moves to Cancel $300 Million to Pakistan

Good.

The US military says it is cancelling $300m (£230m) in aid to Pakistan over what it calls Islamabad’s failure to take action against militant groups.

President Donald Trump has previously accused Pakistan of deceiving the US while receiving billions of dollars.

Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Koné Faulkner said the US military would aim to spend the money on other “urgent priorities”.

The move, which needs to be approved by the US Congress, is part of a broader suspension announced in January.

The US state department has criticised Pakistan, a key ally, for failing to deal with terrorist networks operating on its soil, including the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban.

“We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Col Faulkner said in a statement on Saturday, adding that the $300m aid – which had earlier been suspended – should be used elsewhere due to “a lack of Pakistani decisive actions” in tackling the issue.

Foreign aid is a foreign policy tool like any other. It is to be used as leverage to advance America’s interests. If it’s not working, then look for another place to place the fulcrum.

Cannon Returned to Alamo

Gig ’em.

Texas A&M University’s Alamo cannon conservation project came to a historic conclusion Wednesday as the last of seven battle-used cannons were returned to the Alamo in a changing of the guard ceremony between living historians and members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets.

During the “Texas A&M and The Alamo Present: A Salute to Alamo Cannon Conservation” event at the Texas A&M System’s RELLIS Campus, Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp thanked Conservation Research Laboratory (CRL) Director Donny Hamilton and Research Associate Jim Jobling and the students who worked on the project for their year of conservation work. He also recognized members of the Corps of Cadets on who participated in the changing of the guard ceremony.

“I’m also proud to be part of a place that has the men and women in the Corps of Cadets, who have the same attitude that the people in the Alamo had, and that is life is not worth living without liberty,” Sharp said.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, whose General Land Office manages the Alamo, called the event an “important milestone in preserving Texas history” and commended Texas A&M and the CRL for undertaking the conservation effort.

20180822_alamocannon_event_36

Taliban Hold Peace Talks with US

According to them.

The Taliban held their first direct contact with a US official in a preliminary discussion about future peace talks on Afghanistan, a senior member of the insurgent group claimed on Saturday.

If correct, it marked one of the most significant developments amid efforts to find a negotiated end to the country’s protracted war.

The Taliban source described as ‘useful’ a meeting with Alice Wells, America’s top diplomat for South Asia, earlier this week.

One can hope.

Oshkosh Working on Autonomous Vehicles

This is the perfect application for this technology.

OSHKOSH (WLUK) — Oshkosh Defense will be adding self-driving technology to some vehicles as part of a $49 million contract with the U.S. Army.

The company says the vehicles will allow soldiers to be removed from the vehicles in highly contested areas. Under the contract, Oshkosh will initially convert 70 palletized load system (PLS) vehicles, with an option for as many as 150 vehicles total.

“The PLS has been an integral part of the U.S. Army’s resupply and distribution fleet for over 25 years,” Pat Williams, Vice President and General Manager of Army and Marine Corps programs for Oshkosh Defense, said in a news release. “By equipping these vehicles with autonomous capabilities, we can significantly reduce our soldiers’ exposure to enemy threats by taking them out of the vehicle altogether.”

Some Gave All

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Remembering those who gave their lives so that we may live free.

Five IS Leaders Captures with App

Good!

A jubilant President Trump tweeted on Thursday to announce that five of the ‘Most Wanted leaders of ISIS’ have been captured after they were lured from Syria to Iraq with fake Telegram messages.

Iraqi officials used the cell phone of already captured ISIS lieutenant Ismail al-Eithawi to send instructions via the app for the four other leaders to come to Iraq, where they were seized.

The encrypted app was officially named by ISIS as one of its favored mobile messaging services in 2015 and has been regularly used by the terror group for private communication and to spread propaganda.

Western Allies Strike Syrian Chemical Weapons Facilities

All things considered, Trump got this exactly right.

The US, UK and France attacked three government sites, targeting what they said were chemical weapons facilities.

More than 100 missiles struck in response to a suspected deadly chemical attack on the town of Douma last week.

[…]

At a Pentagon briefing on Saturday, Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie listed the three targets that had been struck in a “precise, overwhelming and effective” manner:

  • The Barzah chemical weapons research and development centre near Damascus was hit by 76 missiles, 57 of them Tomahawk cruise missiles, and “destroyed”
  • The Him Shinshar chemical weapons storage facility near Homs was hit by 22 “weapons” – US, UK and French
  • The Him Shinshar chemical weapons bunker facility near Homs was targeted with seven Scout missiles and was “successfully hit”

Gen McKenzie said the “initial indications are that we accomplished the military objectives without interference from Syria”.

The Syrian civil war is highly complex and there are no good options. The world has also returned to a state of Big Power geopolitics and Russia has clearly planted its flag in Syria. The struggle for America is that we have no real national interest in Syria other than to protect our allies in the neighborhood should the war spill over. We do, however, have a moral interest in protecting innocents and a strategic interest in keeping the conflict from spreading.

So what were the options?

  1. Do nothing
  2. Launch a ground invasion
  3. Covert action aimed at regime change
  4. A measured, surgical, retaliatory strike

There is no appetite in America to get into another war in the Middle East. Plus, launching an invasion in Syria risks escalating into a full scale with Russia. Option 2 is off the table.

Option 3 is interesting, but then what? There are no good sides left in Syria and removing Assad just leaves a vacuum for some other tyrant to fill.

Option 1 is one that I would have been satisfied with. It is difficult for me to justify expending more American treasure and possible lives in the morass of Syria. The downside is that both Obama and Trump promised the world that we would react if Assad used chemical weapons again. To not follow through on a threat would be to weaken America’s stature and ability to influence future events – especially in the face of a tyrant like Putin.

So we are left with option 4. The Trump Administration gathered our allies in France and Britain and stuck at specific targets related to Assad’s ability to conduct chemical warfare. They made it clear that this is not the start of a larger conflict and it is not designed to change the regime. It was just a hard spank from the Western Powers to make it clear that using weapons of mass destruction to kill innocent people is not acceptable. This approach also has the added advantage of dispelling the myth of Russia’s impenetrable air defenses. Perhaps Assad will be having a chat with Putin about this technological failure.

Again, there are not any good options left in Syria for America. Any good options evaporated within the first year of the conflict. Now it is just a matter of trying to prevent it from spilling out into the larger world any more than it already has.

Paul Allen’s Crew Finds the USS Lexington

Wow!

The Lexington was critically damaged. Despite the best effort of its crew, it was reduced to a burning wreck. It had to be scuttled.

Now, 76 years after it settled to the bottom, it’s been found.

It’s the latest find by billionaire Paul Allen.

And it’s in a remarkably well preserved condition.

Soon-to-be US ambassador to Australia, US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris says he is elated at the find.

“As the son of a survivor of the USS Lexington, I offer my congratulations to Paul Allen and the expedition crew of Research Vessel Petrel for locating the ‘Lady Lex’,” he said in a tweet.