Feb 26, 2011

Will Middle Eastern Democracies be Friends or Foes?

Will Middle Eastern Democracies be Friends or Foes?

Citing the Reichstag fire just one month after to solidify his grip on power, Hitler shredded the constitution and outlawed all other political parties. Six years later WWII began, costing some 60 million lives

The Americano
By J.D. Gordon
25 Feb 2011

Many in the West have cheered the prospect of Western-style democracies taking hold in the Mid-East, siding with protest movements that have toppled autocratic regimes in Egypt and Tunisia while spreading like dominoes to Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Libya and Algeria.

That’s a natural reaction, given the fact that democracies have yielded successful outcomes in Western societies and embodied the concepts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

However, a closer look at existing social conditions in the Middle East and North Africa, combined with a quick glance at some past “democracies” ought to give one pause.

In condemning violent crackdowns, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay cited the root of anger as, “decades of neglect of people’s aspirations to realize not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights.”

While true, it doesn’t address why there has been so much neglect of people’s aspirations. As if a sudden switch to democracy might fix everything?

Realistically speaking, most Middle Eastern and North African countries don’t enjoy the social conditions that would fulfill such needs – regardless of the type government.

There religious leaders wield the type of power and influence over daily lives in ways we haven’t seen in America for centuries. And their standard fare is preaching intolerance, demanding subservience of women, and blaming the West and Israel for all their problems. In a society of devout followers, most people naturally become conditioned to view the West unfavorably, just as public polls show. Truly representative democracies under these circumstances would likely be deeply hostile to U.S. interests.

Those still pushing democracy for the sake of an egalitarian “power to the people” should at least take a look at some case studies. History is full of notionally democratic, yet also deeply troubled societies that do not have happy endings.

For instance:

Germany, 1933 – As the elected leader of the Weimar Republic’s Majority Nazi Party, Adolph Hitler was appointed as Chancellor by octogenarian President Paul von Hindenburg to form a coalition government that would pull Germany out of the Great Depression. Citing the Reichstag fire just one month after to solidify his grip on power, Hitler shredded the constitution and outlawed all other political parties. Six years later WWII began, costing some 60 million lives.

Iran, 1979 – After a pro-democracy movement toppled the U.S.-backed Shah, the Mullahs quickly instituted Sharia Law — legitimized through a national referendum. Declaring that protests against the Ayatollah were the same as protests against God, Iran has ruthlessly suppressed any form of dissent ever since. Dedicated to its nuclear program in pursuit of regional dominance, Iran is just years away from producing the bomb.

Algeria, 1991 – In reaction to centuries of colonization and a few decades of secular yet incompetent autocratic leaders, Algerians elected the Islamic Salvation Front which promised to enact Sharia Law. Seeing the nightmare that unfolded in Iran, Algeria’s Army launched a coup and removed the Islamists from their elected posts. The result? A decade long civil war that killed over 150,000 people.

Venezuela, 1999 – Failing to take power in a coup, Hugo Chavez was elected by a populist movement fed up with poverty and a lack of social mobility. Since then, the murder rate has quadrupled, foreign investment has all but dried up, and chronic food shortages plague the nation.

Gaza, 2006 – Once Palestinians finally had the chance to pick their elected leaders, they chose Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Cut off from Western aid, Hamas wasted little time before firing rockets into Israel.

So what can we learn from all this?

First, though democracy may represent the ideal form of government, successful ones must be accompanied by the social conditions that can lead to positive results for its people.

Second, instant democracies in the Middle East and North Africa are most likely to result in highly antagonistic nations, given the prevailing anti-Western sentiments and climate of intolerance. This is particularly true if Islamist parties like the Muslim Brotherhood come to power – either directly via general elections, or through steamrolling political opposition within their respective legislatures.

Navigating this crisis will be difficult for America, even with the wisest policy decisions from Washington. If the current administration’s waffling through the Egyptian chaos gives any indication of things to come, we may be in real trouble.

J.D. Gordon is a communications consultant to several Washington, DC think tanks and a retired Navy Commander who served in the office of the secretary of defense from 2005 to 2009 as the Pentagon’s spokesman for the Western Hemisphere. For more info: www.jdgordoncommunications.com [1]

Feb 20, 2011

Rob Raimond: On the Scene in Cairo...

A post from Rob Raimond (Allegheny College) who is studying at the American University in Cairo. A boots-on-the-ground report:
Since I last wrote Egypt has almost been flipped on its head. Mubarak announced he would not step down then stepped down the protesters have left Tahrir and life is more or less normal again. Before I get ahead of myself though, let me congratulate Egypt, and say that the courage, discipline and sheer humanity the protesters showed is by far and away the most inspirational thing I have ever experienced in my life. Since I’m not Egyptian is a little hard for me to comprehend exactly the sentiment of the people here but I’ll try my best to explain the sheer euphoria that an entire nation felt on the 12th:

I was on my way up from grocery shopping when my bawab, which is a security person, came up to me hugged me and said “Mubarak khalas” which means Mubarak done, finished. I didn’t really know what he meant though so I went up to my apartment and turned on the news, the headline flashing on the screen was “Mubarak Steps Down”. I was so excited I dropped my groceries and ran across the street to my Egyptian friend’s apartment. I knocked on the door and the look on his face was complete euphoria. So we decided we should go to Tahrir one last time to celebrate. When we got there, thousands and thousands of people were in the square we could barely move and sometimes we just got pushed along with the crowd. People were shooting off fireworks it was like a party for a team that just won the Super Bowl. After that we went to a bar to celebrate, and all night we sang Egyptian songs and celebrated as one group, Expats and Egyptians. It made up for having been accused of being an Israeli spy a week before.

The next day though realization that maybe Mubarak stepping down wasn’t as great as we had all thought began spreading. During the revolution the people and the military had been “one hand” as the protesters said. Then the supreme military council took over the presidency and left all ministers in their positions, of course all of these ministers had been handpicked by Mubarak, and many were former or current members of the military. So while I congratulate Egypt I do also think it should be tempered with the understanding this was more or less a coup. And even though the military is promising to hold elections and reform, they are still Mubarak cronies and have benefited heavily from the last 59 years of military rule. Also the military made a fairly sinister sounding statement about how protesters needed to leave Tahrir immediately and return to normal life. This also caused some shock waves here and many protesters returned to Tahrir simply because of this message. Shortly thereafter the army began dismantling the camp that had been set up on traffic circle in the center of the Square.

I personally believe that until there are elections there should be demonstrations. Of course nothing on the scale of the 18 days that lead to Mubarak stepping down, but enough to make sure people remember they haven’t won quite yet. For many people here though the sentiment is anyone is better than Mubarak and so many are content to trust in the military to keep their word and hold elections within in the next six to eight months. But I guess the thing of it is, no one really knows what will happen, I have a friend who works in the Embassy Economic and Political Analysis Department and he doesn’t even know exactly. My very cynical guess is that free and fair elections will not happen because the military does not want to give up the grasp it’s had on politics for almost 60 years. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Feb 17, 2011

Demonization of the US in Pakistan

Demonization of the US in Pakistan
by Ali K Chishti

“When hatred of foreign policies turns into hatred for an entire people and their civilisation, then enlightenment is dead, giving way to demonology – something similar has happened to the US in Pakistan…”

In a recent Gallup survey conducted in Pakistan, 35 percent of the people hold the US responsible for terrorism in Pakistan, 39 percent say it is America’s war that Pakistanis are fighting and 52 percent think that WikiLeaks has been published by the Americans themselves. At one of the country’s biggest universities, the Karachi University, the flag of the US, Israel and India are embossed on a road by an Islamist party for students to walk over as a sign of hate. Recently, Altaf Hussain, the leader of one of the most secular political parties – the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – lashed out at the US over the Aafia Siddiqui issue.

So why is it that the US, which has given Pakistan billions in aid and whom the Pakistani security establishment holds regular “strategic talks” with, has become a punching bag for all segments of society in Pakistan?

Historically speaking, it was the 1965 war that initiated a burst of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, as it was alleged that the weapons that were to be given to Pakistan were instead given to India. The 1967 Arab-Israeli war fuelled anti-Israel sentiments with images of Abraham tanks on the newly-launched PTV and later in 1971, the futile wait for American fleet to rescue West Pakistan further fuelled anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

While the Americans directly supported the religious lobby throughout the 1980s in countering the Soviet threat, the real dent was the Pressler sanctions stopping the delivery of F-16s and the opposition to the country’s nuclear programme.

It was due to a rise in anti-American sentiment that two right-wing governments were formed in at least two provinces in 2002. The US has not become suddenly more powerful since the end of the Clinton administration, but anti-American sentiments have certainly risen significantly since Bill Clinton left the Oval Office – the proof of it is that the much-ignored phrase of ‘anti-Americanism’ was widely circulated only after the tragic 9/11 incident, motivated not by the actions of the US, but by its reaction, which most Pakistanis think of as against Muslims and not against any group of people or a nation.

Another factor often ignored is the institutional hatred present, especially in the army, and other sensitive security services created by over a decade of sanctions, which created a gap between the US and Pakistani military throughout the 90s. The intelligence community in Pakistan, much like the security establishment, is ‘India centric’, but also confused about the role that the US plays and often sees an American hand in whatever happens in Pakistan. A former intelligence chief, Alam, commenting on the Raymond Davis issue, described the role of Americans in pin-pointing certain targets in Pakistan and using jihadis to launch attacks. When asked about an example, the spy master did not come up with an answer. Another example is of former ISI operative, Commander (retd) Nasir, who also served in the Pakistan High Commission, New Delhi, in the late 80s. He told TFT , “It is the US that is behind the destabilisation of Pakistan. The Americans wants to disintegrate our country.”

Though anti-Americanism has spread into our institutions, it is important to understand that while there is some sort of understanding and alliance between the top brass of the US and Pakistani army and intelligence agencies, the same has not trickled down to the mid and lower cadre of the country’s security establishment. They blame the US for sending out ‘Blackwater’ and even financing Baloch nationalists. A recent example of this is the treatment dished out to Raymond Davis, who is an American diplomat, but is considered and portrayed by the right-wing media as a ‘Blackwater operative’ who went on a rampage to kill Pakistanis.

Let us take the Dr Aafia Siddiqui case, which had over the years been used and initially abused by Islamists and the right-wing to spread anti-Americanism, but has over the years been hijacked and compelled even the most secular parties in Pakistan to issue statements in favour of Aafia and curse the US. “This has happened because anti-Americanism sells in Pakistan,” confirmed a leading politician who wished not to be named. “We are a conspiracy-ridden society and it is politically convenient to issue anti-American statements, as it keeps the people happy and most importantly keeps us away from suicide bombers,” he said.

A classic example of how the US is blamed in Pakistan is how the leader of the Sunni Tehreek, Sarwat Ejaz Qadri, candidly told TFT , “The US helps the Wahabi/Deobandi movement in Pakistan and is using liberals in the country to amend the blasphemy law.”

Another Wahabi/Deobandi cleric, who had been the leader of the National Jihad Council, told TFT , “It is the US that is actually helping Barelvis and promoting Sufism in Pakistan to counter the Deobandi movement.”

While the media contributes to such sentiments with planted and manufactured stories like last year’s fake WikiLeaks story filed by a leading local news agency, or the conspiracy culture manufactured by certain proxies of the state to take the blame off of them, it is the dismissal of American pluralism that has allowed a renewed anti-Americanism to take hold. While no one would defend the controversial US foreign policy in Iraq, the rise of anti-American sentiments is unfortunate and likely to be counter-productive. It is important to criticise the US, but any criticism of a nation needs to be based on detailed evidence rather than sweeping generalisations and prejudices. Given the power and influence of the US, close scrutiny is a necessity, but narrowcast or a priori view of its motives and behaviour will inevitably lead to distortions and foreclose sensible conversation and debates. We need to let go of this blame game and paranoia of foreign powers disintegrating Pakistan. Instead we need to introspect and reform ourselves.


Ali Chishti is a writer based in Karachi. He can be reached at akchishti@hotmail.com

Feb 15, 2011

A survey on military family life - MilSpouses pls assist!!

Hi, my name is Emily Mulvey and I am a Marine spouse working on my PhD in Clinical Psychology at The Catholic University of America (CUA). For my degree, I am conducting a survey that explores family life from the perspective of military spouses. We are interested in exploring how military families adapt and overcome the stresses associated with family life. I want to know how she (or he) feels her family is doing (i.e., the adjustment of herself, her military spouse, and her children).

The online survey is open to all Civilian Spouses of Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, and/or Wounded Warriors. Dual military couples or active duty service members will not be eligible to participate. The survey is anonymous and will take no more than 30 minutes to complete. To learn more about the survey, or to participate, please click: https://surveys.cua.edu/military/


Emily Mulvey, M.A.
Doctoral Candidate

The Catholic University of America

Feb 14, 2011

The Navy & Asbestos

A Guest Editorial by Ms. Krista Peterson:

Asbstos Care Today

The Navy has protected Americans even it was offically named. Since 1775, the US Navy has sacrificed comfort and security to travel the seas, keeping peace alive and inspiring hope in people all over the world, including those at home in the US. It is imperative that we, as civilians, do our parts to keep these men and women safe. Though we may not be able to shield them from bullets and bombs, we can protect them from health hazards like asbestos.

Beginning in 1939, asbestos has been used in the industry of military shipbuilding. Asbestos is a natural mineral found in deposits in the earth. It was used for its heat and fire-resistant properties in steam pipes, gaskets, boilers, turbines, and generators. However, once disturbed by sanding, cutting, breaking, or burning, the fine fibers in the asbestos were released into the air. Marines, Navy personnel, and shipbuilders then inhale or ingest the fibers, unaware of what doing so could do to their long term health.

Asbestos was often used in boiler and engine rooms, and other places that lacked proper ventilation, trapping the toxic, asbestos-filled air. Men and women who worked in these conditions often left their ships with asbestos fibers in their hair and on their clothes and shoes. Secondhand asbestos exposure is a reality for many families and friends of those who worked with asbestos.

If inhaled or ingested over a prolonged period of time, asbestos fibers build in the lining of the lungs or stomach, causing a cancer called mesothelioma. Mesothelioma symptoms are latent for 20-50 years, meaning that many Navy veterans are only recently being diagnosed with the cancer. Because symptoms are subtle, including shortness of breath and chest heaviness, many mesothelioma victims are misdiagnosed or remain undiagnosed altogether. Thus, mesothelioma life expectancy is often rather short, ranging anywhere from a year to a few months.

There is another illness brought on by exposure to asbestos called asbestosis. Asbestosis is caused by inhaling asbestos fibers as well. These fibers cause the scarring of tissue in the lungs, restricting the lungs’ ability to contract and expand properly. Scarred lung tissue cannot perform gas exchange, which is necessary for optimal muscle and brain function. Similar to symptoms of mesothelioma, asbestosis symptoms go unnoticed for 20 years or more after initial asbestos exposure. Symptoms include a cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

According to the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center, there are two types of Naval asbestos workers: past workers and current workers. Past workers were exposed to asbestos sometime in the past. Current workers, however, are still being exposed to asbestos. Unfortunately, stricter laws concerning the usage of asbestos in the military are yet to be passed. Current asbestos workers may not realize mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms for several decades.

There is no known cure for mesothelioma and asbestosis. In order to protect our servicemen and women from asbestos related illness, it is important that they receive cancer screenings, especially if they have been exposed to asbestos or if they are experiencing or have experienced symptoms of either illness. Screening procedures often include chest x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, and MRI’s.

Our veterans, Marines, and Navy servicemen and women have been with us through every crisis and even during peacetime. They have protected us, and we as a nation can respect and honor them by spreading health through information. If you know someone who serves his or her country, advise that they see a doctor and request a mesothelioma and asbestosis screening. Prevention is always a better option than treatment, and our troops deserve the best.

Ms. Peterson is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer. She and a few select others have been invited to write for The Military Observer on a guest basis.

Feb 11, 2011

The intelligence and agencies of Pakistan

The intelligence and agencies of Pakistan (Part I)

By Ali K Chishti
Daily Times

Karachi: There are visible signs. What is, however, not so visible and will not be is the role that has been played by the intelligence agencies in shaping and running of the political process in Pakistan. There are more than a dozen or so intelligence agencies working in Pakistan which is commonly referred to as “agencies”. The primary objective of these intelligence agencies is to collect intelligence and pre-empt terrorist’s attacks. While an average citizen has serious doubts and apprehensions about the working style of the intelligence agencies in Pakistan - from the assassination of the country’s first prime minister, whose assassin was once on the premier intelligence agency Intelligence Bureau’s payroll to destabilise a democratically elected government with operations like Midnight Jackal to the only recent “missing persons case” – where intelligence agencies kidnap and kill fellow Pakistanis without trial.

While there are numerous smaller intelligence and investigating agencies, like Rangers Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, Naval Intelligence, Special Branch, CID, FIA, etc –the big three, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB), are at the forefront as far as “intel operations” are concerned in Pakistan and aboard. The job description of the big three intelligence organisations are pretty clear where the ISI in principle looks after the foreign threats; MI looks after the military related affairs and the IB looks after the internal affairs – but these three intelligence agencies seems to be out of control and “often cross the lines and even step on each other’s toes”, a former top intelligence official confirmed to Daily Times. In fact, according to Brigadier (r) Shaukat Qadir, former vice president and founder of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), “the ISI, at least under Gen Mehmood in 2000-2001, completely went out of control until he was sacked. It was more of an ego problem, where Gen Mehmood, the ISI director general, considered himself unaccountable.” A trend which shows that it’s not the institution but often its personnel which goes freelance for which various intelligence agencies have made there “counter-intelligence” units more stronger for better vigilance of their own operatives.

The civilian-military distrust could also be witnessed in the intelligence community where it is part of the book by the uniformed intelligence agencies, the Military Intelligence and the ISI to seals off the K-Block or the IB’s Headquarters as a routine whenever there’s a coup which shows a thread of animosity and mistrust between the civilian and military institutions. The politicisation of the intelligence agencies could be judged with the fact that at least 4,000-5,000 sacked Intelligence Bureau officials, who were previously profiled to be “unfit for service” due to political connections, were reinstated by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government with back pays and benefits only recently. The IB often accuses other intelligence agencies of interfering in its affairs – remember only in recent years more IB operatives have gone down than anyone else. So, how do our intelligence agencies work? They send out a daily report to the president and the prime minister via COAS, titled “eyes only” mostly “googled stuff” and constantly plays up threat levels apart from nagging for more funds. While the three big intelligence agencies have received all the latest tech and surveillance equipment from the United States, including serious investments in a new field, quantum computing to break terrorist codes, it is the human intelligence which the Pakistani intelligence agencies normally rely upon but lacks training in. “They work like sub-inspectors and mostly tap phones and chase people,” confirmed a former intelligence operative. The incompetence of our intelligence agencies could be judged from the fact that they have completely failed to stop or pre-empt at least 87 percent of terrorist related crimes despite millions of dollars of funding and investment by the GoP and other allies in Pakistani intelligence network. The CIA’s former operative Jonathan Hugh confirmed to Daily Times that the CIA had only recently secured around $500 million under a covert programme to give out “carrots” to the ISI for catching top wanted terrorists. The funding, part of the intelligence agencies, is also dubious and deliberately kept murky, one example of which is how General (r) Pervez Musharraf gave out a record allocation of Rs 2.2 billion and Rs 140 million to a premier intelligence agency from the Finance Ministry funds in November 10, 2007 in an effort to manipulate the elections which were to be held in 2008. Mostly a “secret fund” is also abused for funding various operations with no records available.

There’s also a psychological warfare unit and press-handlers operated by various intelligence agencies through which they unleash targeted propaganda and plant stories through journalists on agencies’ payroll. Certain top journalists had only recently received plots and houses via the new Younas Habib of the intelligence agencies, a notorious builder and developer from Islamabad known to be close to all politicians. Only recently, news planted by an intelligence agency made sure that Qari Saifullah backed by another intelligence agency was victimised and re-arrested on the basis of the story filed. Intelligence coordination is an area which Pakistan lacks and is regarded as the prime reason why our intelligence agencies had failed. As of now, there is no practical mechanism to actually exchange information between various intelligence agencies and although the government had set up the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NCTA), now headed by Zafarullah Khan, has “fallen to the dogs” according to the sources and is practically non-functional. A top intelligence chief confirmed to Daily Times that “we need an effective and efficient institution for collection of data, assets and monitoring of activities of all national, defence and domestic intelligence organisations – right now it’s not working out well for us.”

Feb 10, 2011

HUD and VA Issue First-ever Report on Veteran Homlessness

HUD @ VA Issue First-ever Report on Veteran Homlessness in America
Assessment part of Obama Administration plan to prevent and end homelessness

WASHINGTON – For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today published the most authoritative analysis of the extent and nature of homelessness among American veterans. According to HUD and VA’s assessment, nearly 76,000 veterans were homeless on a given night in 2009 while roughly 136,000 veterans spent at least one night in a shelter during that year.

This unprecedented assessment is based on an annual report HUD provides to Congress and explores in greater depth the demographics of veterans who are homeless, how veterans compare to others who are homeless, and how veterans access and use the nation’s homeless response system. Read Veteran Homelessness: A Supplement to the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

“This report offers a much clearer picture about what it means to be a veteran living on our streets or in our shelters,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Understanding the nature and scope of veteran homelessness is critical to meeting President Obama’s goal of ending veterans’ homelessness within five years.”

“With our federal, state and community partners working together, more Veterans are moving into safe housing,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “But we’re not done yet. Providing assistance in mental health, substance abuse treatment, education and employment goes hand-in-hand with preventive steps and permanent supportive housing. We continue to work towards our goal of finding every Veteran safe housing and access to needed services.”

Last June, President Obama announced the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness, including a focus on homeless veterans. The report, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, puts the country on a path to end veterans and chronic homelessness by 2015; and to ending homelessness among children, family, and youth by 2020. Read more about the Administration’s strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness in America.

Key findings of the report released today include:

Ø More than 3,000 cities and counties reported 75,609 homeless veterans on a single night in January of 2009; 57 percent were staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program while the remaining 43 percent were unsheltered. Veterans represent approximately 12 percent of all homeless persons counted nationwide during the 2009 ‘point-in-time snapshot.’

Ø During a 12-month period in 2009, an estimated 136,000 veterans—or about 1 in every 168 veterans—spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. The vast majority of sheltered homeless veterans (96 percent) experienced homelessness alone while a much smaller share (four percent) was part of a family. Sheltered homeless veterans are most often individual white men between the ages of 31 and 50 and living with a disability.

Ø Veterans are fifty percent more likely to become homeless compared to all Americans and the risk is even greater among veterans living in poverty and poor minority veterans. HUD and VA examined the likelihood of becoming homeless among American veterans with particular demographic characteristics and found that during 2009, twice as many poor Hispanic veterans used a shelter compared with poor non-Hispanic veterans. African American veterans in poverty had similar rates of homelessness.

Ø Most veterans who used emergency shelter stayed for only brief periods. One-third stayed in shelter for less than one week; 61 percent used a shelter for less than one month; and 84percent stayed for less than three months. The report also concluded that veterans remained in shelters longer than did non-veterans. In 2009, the median length of stay for veterans who were alone was 21 days in an emergency shelter and 117 days in transitional housing. By contrast, non-veteran individuals stayed in an emergency shelter for 17 days and 106 days in transitional housing.

Ø Nearly half of homeless veterans were located in California, Texas, New York and Florida while only 28 percent of all veterans were located in those same four States.

Ø Sheltered homeless veterans are far more likely to be alone rather than part of a family household; 96 percent of veterans are individuals compared to 66 percent in the overall homeless population.

HUD and VA are currently working together to administer a joint program specifically targeted to homeless veterans. Through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, HUD provides rental assistance for homeless veterans while VA offers case management and clinical services. Since 2008, a total investment of $225 million is working to provide housing and supportive service for approximately 30,000 veterans who would otherwise be homeless.

In addition, last month HUD awarded $1.4 billion to keep nearly 7,000 local homeless assistance programs operating in the coming year. The Department also allocated $1.5 billion through its new Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing (HPRP) Program. Made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, HPRP is intended to prevent persons from falling into homelessness or to rapidly re-house them if they do. To date, more than 750,000 persons, including more than 15,000 veterans, have been assisted through HPRP.


Feb 9, 2011

Gen Amos's speech last night @George Schultz series

I want to thank the World Affairs Council of Northern California and the Marines’ Memorial Association for inviting me here tonight to speak about our Nation’s Marine Corps.

I’m also grateful for Major General Mike Myatt’s faithfulness to our Nation over many years...And last, but certainly not least, I want to thank Secretary George Shultz, for whom this lecture series is named. He is a renowned leader, diplomat and – most importantly – a United States Marine.

Six months ago, Secretary Gates stood right here at this podium and asked some very pointed questions about the capabilities and future of the Marine Corps. He challenged the Corps to, “define the unique mission of the Marines going forward.” When the boss challenges you to do something, you probably ought to take it seriously…and we did.

Prior to becoming Commandant, I spent considerable energy and time with some of our brightest folks to look critically at defining the role of the Marine Corps in our Nation’s defense. It was as important for us as Marines to clearly know where we fit in the future security environment as it was for our civilian leadership. The results of those extensive efforts were published in October in my Commandant’s Planning Guidance. Our mission set is unambiguously framed and defined as follows...
“The Marine Corps is America’s Expeditionary Force in Readiness — a balanced air-ground-logistics team. We are forward-deployed and forward-engaged — shaping, training, deterring and responding to all manner of crises and contingencies. We create options and decision space for our Nation’s leaders. Alert and ready, we respond to today’s crisis, with today’s force…TODAY. Teaming with other services, allies and interagency partners, we enable and participate in joint and combined operations of any magnitude. Responsive and scalable, we operate independent of local infrastructure. A middleweight force, we are light enough to get there quickly, but heavy enough to carry the day upon arrival. We operate throughout the spectrum of threats — irregular, hybrid, or conventional — or the shady areas where they overlap. Marines are ready to respond whenever the Nation calls…wherever the President may direct.”

In every location that we’ve deployed in the past 10 years — Pakistan, Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast, Lebanon, South America, the Gulf of Aden, and the Philippines — Marine forces were: engaging with our allies, conducting full spectrum combat and Counter Insurgency operations, enabling the Joint Force, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, evacuating personnel from embassies, deterring aggression, or contributing to assured access. Clearly, Marines have been responding and engaging throughout the range of military operations.

I refer to our Marine Corps of today as a ‘middleweight force.’ I liken it to boxing, where a middleweight boxer can box up into the heavy weight division or box down to the lightweight division simply by changing his weight and training regime. The same is true for the Marine Corps. We fill the void in our Nation’s defense for an agile force that is comfortable operating at the high and low ends of the threat spectrum, or the more likely ambiguous areas in between. Larger than special operations forces, but lighter and more expeditionary than conventional Army units, we engage and respond quickly – often from the sea – with enough force to carry the day upon arrival.

To Marines, the notion of ‘expeditionary’ is a state of mind that drives the way we organize our forces, the way we train and the kind of equipment we buy. This necessitates a high state of unit readiness and an ability to sustain ourselves logistically. We integrate logistics to provide the “middleweight force” the agility to get into position, the endurance to allow it to last all 12 rounds and the power to deliver the knockout punch when the time is right. Our logistics capability is the equivalent of packing up Walmart, Home Depot, AutoZone, and your local pharmacy and being able to place it – ready to go – anywhere in the world in 96 hours.

We are our nation’s crisis response force. Crisis response is incompatible with tiered readiness. You’re either ready to respond to today’s crisis, with today’s force… TODAY, or you’re late and risk being irrelevant.

Factoring all aspects of our role in the Nation’s defense, the United States Marine Corps affords the following three strategic advantages:

•We provide a versatile ‘middleweight’ capability to respond across the range of military operations.

•We possess an inherent agility that buys time for national leaders and provides them decision space to better analyze developing situations.

•And finally, we bring an enabling and partnering capability to joint and combined operations of any magnitude.

Let me give you a perfect example of the utility of America’s Expeditionary Force in Readiness…

Just weeks after 9/11, Task Force 58, under the capable direction of now CENTCOM Commander General Jim Mattis, rapidly aggregated two Marine Expeditionary Units that were already afloat half way around the world, a total of 4,400 combat-ready Marines from six amphibious ships. One Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) (pronounced MEW) had been conducting training with the Egyptians, while the other had been providing humanitarian assistance in East Timor. Both raced full speed to the coast of Pakistan.

With all six ships aggregated off the coast of Pakistan, Task Force 58 launched north into Afghanistan in the dark of night, securing three critical lodgments in hostile terrain: Forward Operating Base Rhino, Kandahar Airfield and the American Embassy in Kabul. As important, these actions provided decision space for our National leaders, and facilitated the introduction of follow-on forces. Task Force 58’s efforts maintained pressure on the Taliban and Al Qaeda, enabled special operations forces and interagency operations, and facilitated the prosecution of high value targets. This was the versatile and potent middleweight force that we are talking about.

You may ask, “Well, that was almost ten years ago, what has the Marine Corps done for our Nation lately?” Let’s turn the clock forward to just this past fall.
The 2,500 Marines of the 15th MEU were operating off the coast of Karachi assisting the flood-stricken people of northern Pakistan. While Marine heavy lift helicopters were rescuing families and providing food and medical support 400 miles deep into Pakistan, Marine Corps Harriers flying off the USS Pelelieu were conducting close air support missions inside Afghanistan. Simultaneously, the USS Dubuque sailed over 1,000 miles west to the Gulf of Aden and rescued the crew of the pirated ship Magellan Star from Somali pirates. All of this was happening at the same time, and all of this capability came from a single Marine Expeditionary Unit.

With the flooding in Pakistan worsening, our nation’s leadership sailed the 26th MEU from North Carolina a month early to help mitigate the humanitarian crisis. Not waiting for the twenty-plus day transit to complete, the 26th MEU sent its four heavy lift CH-53 helicopters via Air Force C-17s to Pakistan to support the ongoing 15th MEU relief operations. Once the 26th MEU arrived, it teamed up with the 15th MEU to conclude the flood relief efforts and to assume further CENTCOM responsibilities as the theater reserve.

This past December, the 26th MEU received the CENTCOM Commander’s warning order to deploy two-thirds of its force into Afghanistan to consolidate gains in the Marine Corps’ zone in Helmand Province. Within three days of Secretary Gate’s approval of this action, elements of the 26th MEU – 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, armed with reinforcements and a detachment of MV-22 Ospreys and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters – were on the ground in Afghanistan.

In short order, the Marines of the 26th MEU had commenced combat operations southwest of Sangin, in direct support of General Petreaus’ winter campaign. Their efforts are further driving a wedge between the insurgents and the local Afghan populace. Meanwhile, the remaining elements of the 26th MEU are still out at sea fulfilling theater reserve responsibilities in CENTCOM for whatever may occur.
In 1957, Lieutenant General “Brute” Krulak wrote, “when trouble comes…there will be Marines — somewhere — who, through hard work, have made and kept themselves ready to do something useful about it, and to do it at once.” Spoken more plainly, and harkening back to the old FEDEX commercial, “When it absolutely, positively has to be accomplished overnite…send in the Marines.”

Let me switch gears and speak about our Marine Corps in transition. Over the past six years, we have grown accustomed to large sums of Supplemental and Overseas Contingency Operations funds. We’ve grown into what I like to characterize as a “culture of plenty.”

The Marine Corps has always given our Nation the “best bang for its buck.” In Fiscal Year 2010, the United States Marine Corps consumed only 8.5 % of the DOD budget, while it provided our Nation 31% of its ground operating forces, 12% of its fighter/attack aircraft and 19% of the Nation’s attack helicopters.

In today’s fiscally constrained environment, we must continue to improve our efficiency. Marines have historically been known as “the Penny Pinchers.” At the end of the day, Congress and the American people know that the Marine Corps is a value and that we only ask for what we truly need. During my four years as Commandant of the Marine Corps, we will rededicate ourselves to our frugal roots, while maintaining the high state of preparedness required of America’s Expeditionary Force in Readiness.

In early September, the Marine Corps began an internally-driven, comprehensive Force Structure Review. Armed with the “mission of the Marine Corps” from my Planning Guidance, and using the future security environment as the backdrop in which we will most likely operate, a team of our brightest Marines and Civilian Marines, guided by myself and the top leadership of our Corps, crafted a post-Afghanistan Marine Corps. Yesterday, I briefed Secretary Gates and our senior leadership on the results of this study, and Congress is being briefed, as well. As a result of our review, the Marine Corps will:

• Right-size the Marine Corps for a post Afghanistan world
• Build capabilities that support a “middleweight force” whose role is to respond to today’s crisis… TODAY
• Fully institutionalize the lessons learned during nine years of combat and counter insurgency missions
• Assure access, preserve freedom of maneuver and deny sanctuary against irregular, hybrid and conventional threats
• Maintain a force with a minimum capability to simultaneously deploy two Brigade’s worth of assault forces from 33 amphibious ships
• Eliminate unnecessary HQ’s and flatten the Marine Corps command structure where it makes sense to do so
• Build regionally-aligned Marine Expeditionary Brigade Command Elements that provide scalable, Joint Task Force-capable, crisis response command and control for our Regional Combatant Commanders
•Maintain Reserve force structure at current levels while internally reorganizing for increased operational relevance with the Total Force
•Increase Marine Cyber-forces by 67% and Marine Special Operations Command by 44%
• Turn high demand/low density forces into high demand/‘right density’ forces
• Transition 7% of non-operational forces to operational billets
• Reorganize and Consolidate Irregular Warfare Organizations
• Restructure our logistics groups to increase the depth, availability and responsiveness of our combat service support.

Last month I recommended to the Secretary of Defense that we cancel the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program. I recommended this adjustment as an opportunity to cut an onerous fiscal program, thus allowing the Marine Corps the ability to recapitalize on savings from the cancellation of EFV. As the Secretary affirmed last month, the cancellation of the EFV is by no means a rejection of the Marine Corps’ amphibious assault mission. I want all here tonight to know that I remain absolutely committed to develop and field a more affordable solution.

In the complex future security environment, the execution of amphibious operations requires the use of the sea as maneuver space. A New Amphibious Vehicle enables the rapid and seamless projection of ready-to-fight Marine units from sea to land in permissive, uncertain, and hostile environments. Once on land, a properly configured modern amphibious vehicle bolsters the lethality and versatility of the Marine rifle squad. As a result of the cancellation of the EFV, approximately $2.8 billion of the program’s assets will be reinvested in a comprehensive, three-pronged approach for our future ground vehicles.

First, we will immediately begin the process to develop our New Amphibious Vehicle. Second, to ensure continued capability to maneuver from ship-to-shore until the next generation of systems is brought on line, we will upgrade a portion of our existing legacy amphibious vehicle fleet with new engines, electronics, and armaments. Finally, we will accelerate the production of our wheeled Marine Personnel carrier.
In addition, to further demonstrate our renewed commitment to frugality and innovation, we will reduce our total number of vehicles from 44,000 to 32,500, and recapitalize a portion of our legacy HMMWVs. In collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, we are testing some interesting concepts now at our Warfighting Lab that could markedly improve portions of our existing fleet of HMMWV’s, and in doing so, speed up our ground vehicle recapitalization efforts while saving millions of tax payer dollars.

Despite some minor engineering setbacks, the F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) remains vital to the Marine Corps’ doctrine of conducting expeditionary operations. We currently have three different Type/Model/ Series aircraft – F-18 Hornets, AV-8 Harriers and E/A-6B Prowlers – that the F-35B will replace. The efficiency gained in training, maintenance, and support realized when the Marine Corps is operating a single aircraft – vice three – will save the Nation over $1 billion a year.

The capability inherent in a Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing jet facilitates our doctrinal form of maneuver warfare and our need for close air support in the many austere conditions and locations where we will likely operate in the future. When evaluating runways around the globe, there are 10 times as many 3,000-foot runways capable of handling the STOVL JSF variant as there are 8,000-foot runways required for conventional fighter aircraft. The Marine Corps maintains the organic ability to build an expeditionary 3,000-foot runway in a matter of days in support of STOVL missions conducted in uncertain, non-permissive, or remote environments, which are the likely places where we expect to be employed.

We built two of these “expeditionary airfields” in the middle of the desert in Afghanistan, in anticipation of heavy combat operations in Marjah and throughout the Marine zone. The quick sortie turnaround for our Harriers and F/A-18 Hornets resulting from these forward expeditionary airfields significantly changed the tempo of the battle for Marjah.

In light of the decision announced in January relative to the STOVL JSF, the Marine Corps is committed to working closely with industry during the next two years to get this platform back on track in terms of cost, performance and schedule. I am personally tracking the progress of the F-35B on a daily/weekly/monthly basis via meetings with government and industry, and through a detailed set of metrics that I maintain in my office. My intent is to do the same thing with our New Amphibious Vehicle, once it begins development.

Another main effort is a concept called “Lightening the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF).” This means reducing the size, weight and energy expenditure of our forces from the individual rifleman to wholesale components of the MAGTF. Over the past decade of operations, we have become tethered to equipment sets resulting from the emergence of new threats, most notably the improvised explosive device. We have also become overly accustomed to the acquisition of resources that, in some cases, are incompatible with the ethos of an agile, expeditionary force. We are currently developing a plan for reducing the size and weight of Marine Expeditionary Units and Marine Expeditionary Brigades so that they can begin to fit within likely lift constraints. I intend for this effort to begin this year in earnest and be fully registered in the next two budget cycles.

Finally, the Marine Corps is leading the development of expeditionary energy solutions for the Department of Defense and the Navy; reducing energy demand in our platforms and systems, increasing the use of renewable energy, and instilling an “ethos of energy and water efficiency” in every Marine.

As I close tonight, I want to remind you that your Marines have been busy. They have been providing assistance in Haiti, in Pakistan, capturing Pirates, fighting in Afghanistan, training partner nation forces and forward-deployed throughout the world over this past year. As we gather here tonite in this wonderful Memorial Club, there are roughly 32,000 Marines forward deployed. Many of these Marines are living in hard conditions and in great danger, but all are doing the Nation’s bidding. I ask that you keep them in your thoughts and in your prayers.

Secretary Gates said here this past summer, “The Marines’ unique ability to project combat forces from the sea under uncertain circumstances – forces quickly able to protect and sustain themselves – is a capability that America has needed in this past decade, and will require in the future.” I want to assure you that the Marine Corps will remain our Nation’s Expeditionary Force in Readiness and remain the force-of-choice for crisis response.

Feb 3, 2011

Will Egyptians Ever Like Us?

Will Egyptians Ever Like Us?

By J.D. Gordon
AOL News
February 3, 2011

Except for Hosni Mubarak and his throng of increasingly violent supporters in Cairo, it seems just about everyone's cheering the uprising in Egypt. But while the events in Egypt may ultimately be good for Egyptians, they seriously complicate our relations with the country.

After all, the more representative Egypt's government is of its people, the less likely it's going to be very friendly to the U.S.

A Pew Global Attitudes poll from June showed just how little regard Egyptians have for the United States and our ways.

According to that poll, a mere 17 percent of Egyptians view the U.S. favorably, while 59 percent hold positive views of Islamists. Half view the radical Palestinian terror group Hamas favorably.

And 20 percent even favor al-Qaida -- sadly, making this terrorist organization more popular in Egypt than the U.S. is.

The same poll found that more than 80 percent of Egyptians favor stoning to death as suitable punishments both for adultery and for any Muslim who changes his or her religion.

And while there's no doubt Mubarak ruled with an iron fist, he did that in part at least to keep Egypt's radical Islamic groups in check.

This is no small matter. Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1981 in retaliation for his making peace with archrival Israel, while Egyptian groups like Islamic Jihad and Gamaat al Islamiya formed the cornerstones of al-Qaida. The writings of Egypt's Sayyid Qutb, considered the father of the Islamist fundamentalist movement, are widely credited with inspiring Osama bin Laden's war against the U.S.

To gain better insights into whether Egyptians will ever like the U.S., it would be helpful to know why so many hold such negative views in the first place. Among the reasons:

* U.S. support for Mubarak. While preaching democracy around the globe, three decades of U.S. leadership has stood by Mubarak despite the lack of any meaningful dissent -- combined with Egypt's lack of social mobility and widespread poverty.

* U.S. support for Israel. The crushing defeat of Egyptian forces by the Israelis in the Six-Day War in 1967 still humiliates a nation that sees itself as the cradle of civilization. Though the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has essentially no impact on the daily life of Egyptians, nearly all are incensed by the notion that fellow Muslims are being oppressed.

* Media portrayal. As commonly found in the Middle East, many local and pan-Arab media are typically virulently anti-U.S. and prone to generate conspiracy theories. On a visit to Egypt in late 2009, I spoke with many Egyptians who cited Arabic press reports that 9/11 was a CIA plot, in which 3,000 Jews were told to stay home, to justify invasions of Muslim countries.

So is it realistic that Egyptians will ever like us?

As with all things in life, it is certainly possible.

However, given the vast differences in cultural norms, religious beliefs, and the key issues of both Israel and significant U.S. military presence in Muslim countries, such a turnaround in public sentiment would likely take at least a generation.

To start, the U.S. should avoid the appearance of taking sides in the current protests.

Siding with the protesters may seem noble at the moment, though should the country fall into the hands of hardliners such as the Muslim Brotherhood with perceived U.S. assistance, those Egyptians truly fighting for a secular, prosperous, liberal democracy surely will not forget our role if their country becomes a Sunni version of Iran.

Next, solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be understated, as it is of enormous symbolic importance in the Arab world. Efforts to date just have not been good enough, and the U.S. should apply more pressure to both sides -- failure to do so is at our own peril.

Finally, the U.S. must do a better job of public diplomacy in working with Egypt's government and media outlets to challenge deeply flawed portrayals of the country and correct the record at every opportunity.

So before U.S. leaders rush to force elections in Egypt, they might want to look across the border in Gaza -- a place where they backed historic elections just five years ago. And the result? Palestinians overwhelmingly elected Hamas, which then wasted little time before firing rockets into Israel. Would a newly "democratic" Egypt follow suit?


The author is a communications consultant to four Washington, D.C., think tanks and a retired Navy commander who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2009 as the Pentagon spokesman for the Western Hemisphere. For more info, visitwww.jdgordoncommunications.com.