Jan 29, 2009

Blackwater Thrown Out of Iraq

Iraq: Blackwater not welcome

U.S. embassy told to find new security after contractors' 'improper conduct'

The Associated Press
updated 4:54 a.m. ET, Thurs., Jan. 29, 2009

BAGHDAD - Iraq will not authorize Blackwater Worldwide, the U.S. Embassy's main security company, to operate in the country anymore, a senior Iraqi official said Thursday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf said his ministry's decision was sent last Friday to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and "they have to find a new security company."

Khalaf added that the decision was prompted by what he called the guards' "improper conduct and excessive use of force" in a shooting that killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured dozens of others in 2007.

He spoke to The Associated Press in a phone interview.

A new U.S.-Iraqi security agreement gives Iraq the authority to determine which Western security companies operate in Iraq.

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Jan 27, 2009

To Win In Afghanistan

It might be easier to "win" in Afghanistan than the Pentagon thinks.

Afghanistan is the 3rd poorest country in the world. The average salary is about $ 1.50 @ day, and the nationwide literacy rate is approx 40 %, although out in the countryside, it’s closer to 90%. The Karzai Government is basically broke, so it’s kept alive by donations from the international community. The country’s biggest export is opium, whose export value is some $ 300 million annually. This money goes to the Taliban, however, as they and the drug lords (one of which is Karzai’s brother) control the opium business.

There are only three large cities; most of the population lives in the countryside, where the Taliban and its allies are regaining control of the countryside. Since Afghanistan has twice the population, and twice the landmass of Iraq, how do we ‘win’ with the only 1/3 of the troops we currently have in Iraq?

It’s quite simple, actually, except most of our ‘big picture’ military doesn’t really like it…except the Marine Corps, who excels at it.

While we need more Marines and soldiers to defeat the Taliban, we also need to win the confidence of the locals. When this happens, then they’ll tell us who the bad guys are, and both we and the locals will take them out. It worked in Ramadi; it’ll work here.

First; you need to be in the villages with them. Not on a FOB close by, but in the village with the ANA and ANP.

Next: they need jobs…and they need jobs that are appropriate to a medieval economy. Take the following:

1 – Give a guy a couple of boxes welding tips, an old welding torch and some hoses, and a couple of tanks of Argon and oxygen…and you’ve just put a welder in business. Now he can fix farm implements, do some basic iron work, and help mechanics. Total cost ? Under $ 350.00

2 – Get a couple of old sewing machines, some bolts of cloth, and get a couple of ladies to start a clothing shop. Cost? Under $ 500.00. Now you’ve started a tailor shop.

3 – Without storage, the farmers only grow as much food as they can eat, or quickly sell. Import a cold storage unit (which is only an insulated 40’ cntr with a freezer, set up a co-op, make the tribal chief the boss, and have the villagers (all members of the co-op), store their crops. It’s food for them during the winter – as well as a source of revenue as they can now sell food all winter long. What a concept – food AND an annual cash-flow! Cost? Under $ 15,000 per cold storage unit.

And this is how a local economy is created...money circulates as the welder buys something from the tailors who then buy food from the farmers...the more small jobs that are created puts more cash into the local economy. Do this in a couple of valleys, and you've just pacified a province.

You think the locals are going to side with the Taliban now? No way..when the locals have jobs, cash, and can afford things like school books and medicine for their children..and they get them from us; they’ll be looking to help us. Like in Ramadi when Sheikh Sattar realized working with the Marines was to his advantage; Ramadi “turned” before Bush and Petraus’s “surge troops” had even left the United States.

Give me $ 20 million and I’ll drag Afghanistan into the 19th century. Then we’ll let the whiz kids in DC take over from there.

Jan 24, 2009

More Marines to the 'Stan !!

Marines Propose Iraq Withdrawal, Shift To Afghanistan In '09
Wall Street Journal
January 24, 2009
By Yochi J. Dreazen

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Marine Corps is proposing to completely withdraw from Iraq later this year and shift 20,000 Marines to Afghanistan, boosting the Obama administration's plan to devote significant new resources to the Afghan war.

Gen. James Conway, the top Marine commander, said Friday that the combat portion of the Iraq war was effectively over. "The time is right for Marines in general terms to leave Iraq," he told reporters. "A building fight taking place in another locale -- that's really where Marines need to be."

On Friday, U.S.-fired missiles killed 18 people on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border, in the first attacks on the militant stronghold since President Barack Obama took office. The strikes from unmanned CIA planes confirm that Mr. Obama, as expected, is continuing the Bush Administration's attacks in the ungoverned tribal regions.

The Bush administration had devoted the vast bulk of the nation's military resources to the war in Iraq. Mr. Obama has made clear that he sees Afghanistan as a higher priority, and has promised to withdraw all U.S. combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

Pentagon officials are drawing up plans to shift up to 30,000 new troops in Afghanistan in coming months. White House aides say that Mr. Obama, who as a candidate called for a shift of roughly similar scale, is likely to approve the request.

"The president has been quite clear that the mission is to responsibly draw down and end our active combat role [in Iraq]," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday. "He wants to put more emphasis on Afghanistan and deal with the problems ... and the challenges that we face in Afghanistan."

The new president will have to make some difficult trade-offs. The military is facing significant manpower strains because of the demands of the two long wars. "Anything that you put into Afghanistan must necessarily come from a reduction of the number of Marines in Iraq," Gen. Conway said. There are currently 22,000 Marines there.

Many uniformed officers in Iraq -- including Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander there -- want to keep troop levels relatively steady to avoid jeopardizing Iraq's recent security gains.

Shortly after the election, military commanders briefed Mr. Obama on an initial plan to withdraw roughly 10,000 troops from Iraq by the summer. But now senior military officials are crafting plans for faster and larger withdrawals. One of the options would remove all U.S. combat troops within 16 months.

Gen. Conway said Mr. Obama would visit the Pentagon next week to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A White House aide said the discussion would be devoted largely to troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gen. Conway said most of the 20,000 Marines likely to deploy to Afghanistan will head to the south, a Taliban stronghold at the heart of the country's booming narcotics trade.

U.S. commanders there say the Taliban run shadow governments and drug revenue allows them to replenish supplies. "When you've got those two elements you've got the potential for a long-term insurgency," Gen. Conway said.

Jan 20, 2009

A Letter to President Obama:

To: President Barrack Obama
From: Andrew Lubin
Ref: Afghanistan
Dear Mr. President:

I’m one of the many hundreds of millions today who watched you take the Oath of Office to become the 44th President of the United States. (and who would want to miss a chance to see the United States Marine Corps Band – known since 1801 as “The President’s Own” – open the ceremonies) And your inaugural speech was even more impressive.

You’ve got an interesting four years ahead of you. Between the economy and two wars, your first day at work will be a long one…so having spent a fair amount of time in Iraq and Afghanistan, let me make a few suggestions that might make your first day a little easier:

1 – Pull the Marines out of Anbar. You have 23,000 Marines sitting in the desert doing nothing. General John Kelly, the Marine CG in Anbar, gave an interview last week where he said that he considers his year in Anbar a failure – because he couldn’t convince the Shia Government in Baghdad to fund normal reconstruction projects like schools, hospitals, or anything else that would improve the standard of living in this Sunni province. If Maleki and the GoI doesn’t care about Iraq, why should we ? And you can put your Marines to a far better use…

2 – Send 23,000 Marines to Afghanistan.

2A- Put the fight in Afghanistan under command of the Marine Corps.

Since you want to ‘win’ in Afghanistan, let’s do it right this time. Here’s how:

Afghanistan is a small wars fight against two enemies; 1 -the Taliban, who we can beat, and 2 – Corruption in Kabul, which we cannot. Right now we’re losing the support of the locals because they have no trust in the ANP’s or their own government. Until their central government can regularly provide the basic services that American and Coalition force currently provide, why would any local side with us or Karzai over the Taliban?

But with the Marines in charge, it’ll be run differently. As the Marines get out in the field with the ANA, (it’s called “Muscular Mentoring”, and the ANA loves it) we’ll be building an ANA that can control its own battle space. Their 201st Corps already handles its own logistics, planning, and fighting – have our Army get away from mentoring via powerpoint, and get out in the field and walk point with the ANA.

Stop the ‘big project’ nonsense. This is the third poorest country on earth, and we’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars rebuilding power plants ? These folks live in mud-brick huts…they own nothing they can plug into the expensive power grid !! Instead, start a thousand micro-loan projects like Grameen Bank did in Bangladesh…even better, hire Mohammed Yunis (Grameen’s CEO, initiator of the microloan strategy and winner of the Nobel Prize) and let him run it. By the way, he’s a Muslim from Bangladesh; he understands poor Islamic societies better than we do.

Let the Marines fight in the villages. Do you know why the Marines ‘won’ Anbar ? Because the Sunni’s in Ramadi saw that the Marines would fight – and beat – AQI. And as the Sunni’s joined up with the Marines, their services improved- they got jobs - their economy improved- and then the other Sunni’s saw the improvements and wanted in…and all this was ‘pre-surge’. It’ll work here. And with 23,000 more Marines over there, you’ve now got enough for them to fight and live with the ANA in the villages. This kind of security will give the villagers the confidence in their own army and local –provincial governments that will let them build a decent local economy and marginalize the corrupt Karzai government.

Get the Army off their huge stupid bases where their bureaucracy flourishes. Put them in the field where they belong. Their “creature comforts” have gotten out of control -Burger King, Orange Julius, jewelry shops; do you know they now offer massage services at Bagram? In a war zone? Either bring in some hookers, or get rid of the ladies completely. Perhaps the Army has lost focus as to why they’re deployed.

Level with the American public about what we’re trying to do in Afghanistan. We’re not going to turn this place into a garden of democracy; we just want to build a relatively stable country that won’t launch another 9/11. (ask me about nuclear Pakistan and the NW Territories next week).

Catch- and kill - Osama Bin Laden. His still being alive should be an embarrassment to the Bush administration; it certainly casts America as ineffective. By killing him you can send a message to these dirty Islamic masses who hate the United States that if you f___k with us, it’ll cost you. After all, this was why we sent the Marines to Afghanistan back in October 2001.

You’ve got our support…good luck!

Jan 19, 2009

City Council to Support Peralta Medal of Honor

City Council May Pass Resolution On Peralta Medal

Honolulu Advertiser
January 18, 2009
By William Cole, Advertiser Columnist

The Honolulu City Council doesn't normally involve itself with U.S. Department of Defense matters.

For a Hawai'i Marine, it might make an exception.

A resolution proposed by Councilman Charles K. Djou last week and passed out of committee, urges the president, secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy to reconsider a past decision not to award the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Rafael Peralta.

The 25-year-old Peralta, who was with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment out of Kane'ohe Bay, died during intense house-to-house fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 14, 2004.

At least four Marines with Peralta at the time stated in written reports that they saw the short and stocky Mexican-American nicknamed "Rafa" pull a grenade to his body after it had bounced into a room.

A friendly-fire gunshot and the grenade blast combined to kill Peralta.

The Medal of Honor recommendation passed examination by the Marine Corps, U.S. Central Command and Department of the Navy before being rejected by five individuals appointed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The decision was made to instead award Peralta the Navy Cross — the service's second- highest award for valor.

"I don't think city government — or any municipal government, really — should be getting involved in national security affairs," Djou said. "I'm only getting involved in this particular case because Sgt. Peralta was a Kane'ohe-based Marine."

As such, Peralta was a member of the community.

Djou, who is a captain in the Army Reserve, said that "having heard from family and having spoken to several of the Marines who served with (Peralta) É I think there's a lot of merit for him to be awarded the Medal of Honor."

Djou said he's optimistic about the resolution's passage before the full council on Jan. 28.

Rosa Peralta, the Marine's mother, sent an e-mail to the City Council from San Diego saying: "Many people ask me why my son was denied the Medal of Honor, but we ourselves don't have an answer to that question. He was a son, a brother, and a friend to the fullest and there is nothing that will replace our loving son. However, it will give me peace if the president returns my son Rafael Peralta's honor back. He was a man that died with honor for the honor of this country that he adopted."

Rafael Peralta had become an American citizen while in uniform.

Members of Congress in California and Hawai'i have asked similar questions about the medal downgrade. The family hopes Barack Obama will intercede once he's president.

In a November letter to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, Gates explained his decision. "The department went to significant lengths to ensure the (Medal of Honor) recommendation for Sgt. Peralta received thorough and complete consideration, just as we do every recommendation," Gates said.

But Gates added that, unfortunately, an internal review could not reconcile "contradictory evidence." As a result, Gates said, he took the unusual step of soliciting the counsel of five independent experts.

Questions were raised as to whether Peralta, hit in the head by a gunshot, had the mental capacity to reach out for the grenade.

Jan 13, 2009

Time to Win or Lose in Afghanistan

Some in the Pentagon want to repeat the Iraq strategy of securing the towns while others want to focus on the border. This war didn’t start yesterday, why are these questions still being debated?

Next week Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States. His immediate focus will be on the economy, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan – he’s going to have a busy first few days.

It’s good news that he wants to make the Afghanistan War the main part of his foreign policy, and it’s better news that VP-elect Joe Biden was touring the AO last week with Sen Lindsay Graham, and that Sen’s McCain and Lieberman were there also. When one adds new NSC head Gen James Jones (USMC, ret) and SectDef Gates to the group, one can say that finally America has an Administration that equals its Marines and soldiers in competence.

But within the Pentagon, there is still no clear idea of either the strategy or tactics they might recommend to their new Commander-in-Chief, so let’s assist these desk-bound bureaucrats and do their job for them.

Their debate is as follows:
1 - Some argue that the majority of the build-up should be arrayed along the border with Pakistan, focusing on fighting with militants as they move easily across the rugged terrain.

2 - Others, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new Centcom commander, want to see the U.S. copy Petraeus’s Iraq strategy and make Afghanistan’s cities and towns their top priority in protecting civilians from the Taliban and other militants.

BUT there is a Marine strategy known as “Muscular Mentoring” that entails working closely with both the Afghan Army and the local citizenry that brings security, jobs, and confidence in local government that is successful but low-key and “non big-picture” – which makes it a non-starter to those back-office Army and Pentagon officers who do their best to avoid real field experience.

President Obama has only a finite time to implement a clear and coherent strategy. The Afghan people are increasingly frustrated in the face of both rising violence and American Air Force killings of civilians, and increasing numbers of Americans believe the war in Afghanistan has been mis-managed and is going badly.

Most everyone agrees that the new strategy needs to focus on controlling the border, security for the locals, and increased training for the totally corrupt Afghan police. But will this work?

The biggest issue is that unlike the Marine strategy, the Army proposals have no role for local, provincial or their central government in Kabul. Yet this is their country, things need to be done their way, and if they don’t stand-up and begin to take control of their own destiny, then for how many generations will American troops stay ?

There are about 32,000 U.S. troops today in Afghanistan, with an additional 20,000 -30,000 expected to deploy this year. The current idea is to use the majority of the new troops to safeguard villages and cities, but to send some of the additional forces to the border, but to "There is a primacy on securing the population," Army Maj. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, director of operations for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, told the New York Times today . "The approach is to reach out to the population, get into the villages, and separate them from the insurgency."

That’s fine in theory, but will it work? Afghanistan has a bigger population than Iraq, a larger land-mass, and is being invaded daily by the Taliban Pakistani’s. The ‘surge’ in Iraq boosted American troop levels to approx 150,000 – this surge will boost them to only 50- 60,000.

Additionally, as opposed to Iraq’s Sunni- Shia – Kurd issue, Afghanistan has literally hundreds of isolated tribes who have no allegiance or loyalty to anyone outside of their tribe.

While Gen Petraeus is loathe to admit it, the Marines and Sheik Sattar were working together months before he announced his ‘surge’ campaign – and there is surely no Afghan equivalent of the charismatic Sheik Sattar.

Iraq was ‘won’ because Sheik Sattar realized that AQI was a worse threat to them than the Marines – and that by allying with the Marines they could mutually rid themselves of AQI. Once AQI was rooted out of Ramadi, the other Sunni tribes saw the economic boom that resulted and wanted their share of it – and Anbar turned pro-Marine very, very quickly.

This won’t happen in Afghanistan, and to build a strategy based on non-existent leaders and tribes who don’t trust each other is a losing strategy from the onset.
Assuming that American troop levels will stay at the 60,000 level, then the Marine plan to engage the population, the Afghan Army, and empower local government is the only plan that bears a modicum of success.

When the local Afghan citizen sees his that his Army and his local government can successfully protect his family, provide some basic services – and god forbid- a job, then we’ve given him a stake in making his country viable again.

But until then, Afghanistan will continue to burn as the Army and Air Force hunkers down on their huge bases like Bagram, continues to refuse to engage with the locals, and again makes plans for a war with too-few troops

Jan 12, 2009

Corruption - Afghan Style..Or Why Our Efforts May Fail

Wealthly Afghan elite sows bitterness

In one of the world's poorest nations, a myriad tales of official corruption

By Pamela Constable
The Washington Post

KABUL - Across the street from the Evening in Paris wedding hall, a monument to opulence surrounded by neon-lighted fountains and a five-story replica of the Eiffel Tower, is a little colony of tents where 65 families, mostly returnees from Pakistan, huddle against the winter cold and wish they had never come home.

Similar startling contrasts abound across the Afghan capital. Children with pinched faces beg near the mansions of a tiny elite enriched by foreign aid and official corruption. Hundreds of tattered men gather at dawn outside a glittering new office building to compete for 50-cent jobs hauling construction debris.

"I am a farmer with 11 children. Our crops dried up, so I came to the city to find work, but all day I stand here in the cold and no one hires me," said Abdul Ghani, 47. "All the jobs and money go to those who have relatives in power, and corruption is everywhere. How else could they build these big houses? Nobody cares about the poor," he added bitterly. "They just make fun of us."

Seven years after the fall of the Taliban and the establishment of a civilian-led, internationally backed government, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with rates of unemployment, illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition on a par with the most impoverished nations in sub-Saharan Africa. Most homes lack light, heat and running water; most babies are born at home and without medical help.

Now, according to U.N. figures, the populace is getting even poorer. A combination of drought, soaring food prices, scarce jobs and meager wages has meant that about 5 million Afghans -- far more than in any recent year -- are slated to receive emergency food aid. Many families spend up to 80 percent of their income on food.

Ill-gotten wealth?

Yet against this grim backdrop, pockets of wealth have mysteriously sprung up in Kabul and other cities. Officials who earn modest salaries on paper have built fantasy mansions, and former militia commanders with no visible means of support roar around the muddy streets in convoys of sport-utility vehicles, spattering the burqa-covered widows who squat at intersections with their hands held out.

It is difficult to prove, but universally believed here, that much of this new wealth is ill-gotten. There are endless tales of official corruption, illegal drug trafficking, cargo smuggling and personal pocketing of international aid funds that have created boom industries in construction, luxury imports, security and high-tech communications.

"The entire economy has become criminalized," said Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official who quit his post as Afghan finance minister several years ago and is expected to challenge President Hamid Karzai in elections this year. "There is a crisis of governance. Corruption is way up, and poverty is massive. People are disheartened and confused."

Much of the corruption takes the form of penny-ante bureaucratic palm-greasing, with clerks demanding small bribes to stamp forms or police officers at checkpoints requiring truck drivers to pay to enter cities. But some is more audacious, such as municipal authorities selling government land for luxury housing projects or security officials colluding with the drug traffickers they are supposed to be catching.

Afghanistan has always been poor. Its people are among the hardiest on the planet, and its warriors have been famed for fighting foreign armies in sandals and shawls. But it is the widening gulf between the haves and the have-nots -- between the VIPs in speeding SUVs and the garbage scavengers riding donkey carts -- that has increasingly embittered the public, turning it against the Karzai government and its foreign backers.

In dozens of interviews this month, Kabul residents complained that they were struggling to feed their families and heat their rooms on scanty or occasional wages, while access to sources of prosperity such as ministerial sinecures and jobs with international agencies was limited to the lucky few with relatives in high places or the means to pay bribes.

"People are really feeling the gap between rich and poor now," said Ebadullah Ebadi, a spokesman for the World Food Program here. "Once there were three classes in Afghanistan: the rich, the middle and the poor. Now those in the middle are joining the poor, and prices are rising so high that people can't feed their families on salaries that once allowed them to educate their children and even save a little money."

Karzai has publicly acknowledged that corruption plagues all levels of his government, yet critics say he is either unable or unwilling to stop it. The new Afghan constitution has numerous provisions requiring officials to disclose their assets and perform their duties with financial transparency and accountability, but they are rarely heeded, according to a recent study by the Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan.

The public mood of frustration, desperation and disgust has played into the hands of Taliban insurgents, who present themselves as an alternative source of justice and carry out swift physical punishments of thieves or other miscreants in rural areas under their control. It was a similar appeal to law and order in the mid-1990s, when Afghanistan was in the throes of civil war, that allowed the Taliban militia to quickly achieve power with little bloodshed.

Most Afghans do not favor a return of the Taliban, especially in cities where their extreme version of Islam clashed with the lifestyles of the country's educated classes. But more and more, people recall the five years of Taliban rule as a time of brutal but honest government, when officials lived modestly and citizens were safe from criminals.

"Nobody loved the Taliban, but what we see now is outrageous. The leaders are not rebuilding Afghanistan, they are only lining their pockets," said Abdul Nabi, 40, a high school teacher. "I haven't been paid in three months. The other day, a colleague came to me weeping and asked to borrow money to buy bread. Who can we blame for this?" he demanded. "Where can we turn to change things?"

In the tent colony next to the Evening in Paris, Zakia, a mother of seven, recounted how her family had been forced to leave its refugee camp in Pakistan and return to Kabul last year. They had expected to obtain land and jobs but found neither, she said. Last week, a young woman in one tent died while giving birth. "If we had known what we would face here, we would never have come back," she said.

Across the street, sitting in his ornate office, the owner of the French-themed wedding hall expressed surprisingly similar sentiments. He complained that the government had done nothing to encourage private development, that he had to buy water and power privately and that the unpaved street outside his elegant premises was a sea of mud.

"Do I regret making this investment? I regret it 100 percent," said the owner, who gave his name as Hajji Obaidullah. "When I built this hall five years ago, there was a lot of hope and excitement, but now it has all turned to disappointment. We have no electricity, no drinking water, no security. If the government doesn't want to help people like me, how is the man with the little shop or the donkey cart going to survive?"

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

Purple Hearts & PTSD ?

PTSD And The Purple Heart

New York Times
Jan 12, 2009

The Pentagon’s recent decision not to award the Purple Heart to soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder strikes us as reasonable and well considered. This is not to say that the result was uncomplicated or unlikely to cause understandable sadness and pain.

The military has always honored the sacrifice of veterans who are wounded in its wars. But it has been slow to recognize that those wounds can include invisible injuries: the nightmares, rages and terrors of PTSD, which are as real as any scar or missing limb.

PTSD can be difficult to diagnose, with symptoms that can arise later in life, far from the battlefield and are not necessarily linked to any specific actions of an enemy. So the Pentagon contends that it has no choice but to exclude its sufferers from the Purple Heart, given to those whose injuries result from direct and intentional action by the enemy. Doing so would not debase the medal, as some defenders of the Purple Heart callously put it, but it would change it, perhaps in unintended and unwelcome ways.

The main criterion for awarding the Purple Heart has always been bloodshed. Those looking for absolute fairness in this distinction will never find it: a soldier who cowers or blunders into harm’s way will receive his medal just as surely as his quick-thinking, unscathed buddy will not. A soldier whose lacerations heal completely will wear the same medal as someone who has lost a limb or been paralyzed for life.

None of this relieves the military of its duty to fully honor those whose injuries are unseen. A Purple Heart may not be the answer — not until, perhaps, advances in brain science bring full objectivity to the diagnosis of mental injury. But PTSD sufferers surely deserve medical care every bit as diligent and excellent as what their fellow veterans receive for more visible injuries. The Pentagon has been prodded to do so by the deadly innovation of the current war: the bomb blasts that have exacted such a deadly toll in brain injuries.

The military is, in fact, moving forward merely by mentioning PTSD and the Purple Heart in the same breath. Imagine Gen. George Patton, who so notoriously slapped a quivering enlisted man, learning that his beloved Army was even considering giving medals to those whose combat tours left them mentally shattered.

But there is far more to do. Recent veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan will tell you that the military stigma against mental illness has not abated, that the combat ethos — suck it up, soldier — persists and that some officers continue to belittle the severity, and even question the existence, of post-traumatic stress.

At least 300,000 service members who were in Afghanistan or Iraq show symptoms of PTSD. They know a truth their forebears of Vietnam, Korea and World War II have lived with for years: war injures everyone it touches.

Jan 6, 2009

Military Recruiting Today

Lost in the noise of the football games this weekend was an announcement that the Marine Corps is three (3 !!) years ahead of its recruiting schedule.

When President Bush announced “the Surge” two years ago, he also ordered the four services to increase their manpower, with the Marine Corps growing from 177,000 to 202,000. The Pentagon estimated that it would take the Marines 5 years to do so, at an unheard of rate of finding 5,000 recruits annually. The Army (told to increase their size by 65,000) and other services were also tasked to increase, but warned gloomily that “wartime conditions” would make meeting even their old recruiting standards impossible. Well, recruiting in the same ugly 'wartime conditions', the Marine Corps hit 200,000 last month.

Perhaps it’s not the “wartime conditions” that makes young American men and women reluctant to join the other services, but what those services offer?

Look at the recruiting advertisements on television. When was the last time you even saw a Navy or Air Force advertisement? Only recently did the Army even drop their “an Army of one” campaign…when I’m embedded, the last thing I want to be out there is alone…maybe our young 17-18 year olds feel the same? And accepting felons ? And forget a high school diploma or even a G.E.D…now the Army will take kids without even a GED…they refer to these dropouts as having an “alternative education.” Who’d want to go out into combat with them?

All four services offer the same bonus plans, the same pay scales. Yet as the Marine Corps gets the dirty jobs (winning Anbar Province) as Air Farce deployments only last three months - Marine recruiting still sets records monthly.

Let’s look at the Marine Corps advertisements…over the years, they don’t change. It’s “Honor – Courage – Commitment” – if you’re good enough to be accepted. Forget the Army promising to teach you how to drive a truck, or the Navy teaching you repair skills….Marine ads show old photos of Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, and Vietnam…now here is something of which a young man can be proud.

Maybe thats the message for which these young men and women are searching; life is too easy these days – what does one do to differentiate him-or-herself from the boring pack? The Marine Corps has an answer: stretch yourself…become a part of something larger and more important than yourself…be part of a tradition of fierce excellence that earns you worldwide respect for the rest of your life.

It's like Brig Gen Robert Milstead, head of Marine Corps Recruiting Command said this weekend “kids don’t join the Marines because they’re tired of flipping burgers; they join because they want to be Marines.”

Well done, Gentlemen, and Semper Fi.

Jan 5, 2009

2008 Military Blog Contest

I usually avoid blogs and bloggers; they're a bunch of opinionated wankers who don't like to go outside..as opposed to me and my friends; we're not 'bloggers', we're studs who do "News and Informed Analysis..."

That said, I'm comfortable promoting a friend who is a finalist for the "Best Military Blog" category in the 2008 Weblog Awards -- "The War on Big Tobacco."


While some of Big Tobacco's blog posts are R-rated, so what - he lives and fights in an X-rated world - so WTF, right?

Voting starts today, 5 Jan and ends 13 January. And you can vote again every 24 hours. This means you can vote early and often for "The War on Big Tobacco."

So vote for him - or he'll blow smoke in a bloggers face, and make him cry.