Archive for category Military

Ben Carson Says There’s No Such Thing As A War Crime

Ben Carson is one of the Tea-GOPers thinking about possibly wanting to be the Commander in Chief of our military. Let’s hope nobody else shares his views about war crimes.

Hashtag Presidents’ Day?

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Draft AUMF ‘Intentionally Fuzzy’

Countries bombed by USA
Source: The Daily Mirror

The Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.

George Washington

Via MSNBC:

President Obama asked Congress on Wednesday for new war powers to go after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The draft resolution (PDF) asks Congress to enact a three-year Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. The resolution notably restricts the use of American ground troops and seeks to avoid a prolonged conflict.

Obama announced his plan to launch airstrikes against ISIS back in September, and the White House’s AUMF resolution seeks to formalize the U.S. military campaign to “degrade and defeat” ISIS.

The draft AUMF has already been criticized as imprecise. For example, it defines the enemy as “ISIL [sic] or associated persons or forces.” But that would include the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels (armed by the U.S.), who routinely fight alongside ISIS. Like the 2001 AUMF (which would remain in effect), there is no geographical limitation in the new draft AUMF. Potentially it could authorize attacking Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Asked today if he agreed that language was “fuzzy,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest replied with a firm yes, saying it is “intentionally” fuzzy “because we believe it’s important that there aren’t overly burdensome constraints that are placed on the commander-in-chief.”

I left the Army with the rank of captain, but it doesn’t take a four-star general to realize you can’t fight a war intelligently unless you know who the enemy is, and where to find them. Oh, and by the way this draft AUMF is probably a violation of the U.N. Charter – though that’s somewhat debatable.

UPDATE:
Hill Progressive Leaders Come Out Against Obama’s AUMF: ‘Too Broad’

“The devastating and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that when we give military authority to the executive, it should not be a blank check,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said.

“Unfortunately, the authorization proposed by the president this week is too broad. In order to ensure meaningful limits on executive branch authority, an AUMF should at a minimum contain a clear objective and geographical limitations. It should also include an enforceable ban on the deployment of ground troops with exception for only the most limited of operations, unambiguous language, and a repeal of the 2001 AUMF,” they said.

UPDATE:
State Dept. Official: US Can’t ‘Kill Our Way Out Of This War’ With Islamic State

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Judge May Order Pentagon to Release Torture ‘Mementos’

Via Firedoglake (why does cable news ignore this?)

The United States government has been given a week to appeal or comply with a federal judge’s order to provide a justification for why approximately 2,100 photographs of torture and abuse of prisoners must remain secret.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein pointed out that the Protected National Security Documents Act of 2009 clearly says the Secretary of Defense must issue a certification for a photograph in order to keep it secret. It does not refer to photographs collectively. So, a process that attempts to justify blanket certification for secrecy is not in line with the law.

Journalist Jason Leopold reported last year that documents from the Defense Department show the photos come from “203 closed criminal investigations into detainee abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Leopold’s report suggested the soldiers had wanted to hold on to these photos as “mementos.”

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IG Report: Afghan National Army Logistics is Failing

“Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.”
Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Commandant of the Marine Corps) noted in 1980

After the U.S. Armed Forces left Iraq, the Iraqis had virtually no logistical capability. Iraqi Army units had been supported by the Americans, not by Baghdad. Iraqi soldiers even had to buy their own food. The inability of the Iraqi military to keep its front-line units supplied was a factor in the rapid ISIS takeover of much of northern Iraq. In at least one instance last September, surrounded government troops ran out of ammo, food and water.

Apparently there has been a effort in Afghanistan to stand up an American-style military logistics operation that can function independently of American help. So far, according to an Inspector General (IG) report, it’s not working well due to corruption, inefficiency, and a lack of trained personnel.

[T]he $57 billion U.S. investment in Afghanistan’s security forces is at risk because the Afghans cannot supply, or resupply their troops, can’t prevent their weapons and vehicles from breaking down and can’t fix them when they do.

…Much of the failure lies …with the Pentagon and its coalition partners in Afghanistan, who poured billions into buying fancy stuff for the Afghans “without building the entire end-to-end logistics system down to operational and tactical levels.” That’s the sorry admission contained in the Defense Department’s most recent report (PDF) on the state of the 13-year war in Afghanistan.

As the U.S. led NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan, the fighting has intensified.

Kabul no longer releases total Afghan casualty statistics in order, officials say, to safeguard morale. But Afghan officials said casualty levels for the police and army have climbed since last year, making 2013 the bloodiest for Afghan forces since the U.S.-led coalition arrived in 2001.

…As coalition forces pull back from combat ahead of next year’s withdrawal, some coalition commanders warned that the Afghan forces can’t be sustained over the long run at the current rate of attrition.

As we return the ongoing Afghan civil war to the Afghans, we’ll need to make a plan of what to do if the Kabul government loses the war.

UPDATES:
Taliban claims NATO ‘defeat’ as 13-year Afghan war draws to a close
Obama Welcomes End Of The Longest War In American History

Headline writers don’t seem to know the Afghan war is still going strong.

Media Claims Afghanistan War Ends, War Continues

Whether the gross misreporting about the war in Afghanistan “ending” was a result of incompetence or malevolence is hard to know given both are in such abundance in the US mainstream media.

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Jihadists Still Have The Initiative in Syria and Iraq

Ahrar al Sham T-72 tank
Ahrar al Sham T-72 tank at the recent battle of Wadi al Daif in Idlib province, Syria

It’s time once again to check in with The Long War Journal and see how things are going in Syria and Iraq. Oh, not good. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, Ahrar al Sham, and elements of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army have reportedly taken Syrian Army positions in the northwestern province of Idlib.

The Al Nusrah Front, supported by jihadist groups Ahrar al Sham and Jund al Aqsa, and units from the Free Syrian Army, today claimed to have overrun Wadi Al Daif, a Syrian Army base located just east of the city of Maa’rat al Nu’man. In addition, Ahrar al Sham, Al Nusrah, and the Free Syrian Army also advanced on Al Hamadiya, which sits just south of the city; the groups claimed to have taken partial control of Al Hamadiya.

Control of the two bases is critical for the Syrian military as they straddle the M5 highway, the main road from Aleppo to Damascus.

Meanwhile in Iraq, ISIS has renewed its attack on Samarra and nearby towns.

The Islamic State seeks to control Samarra and towns and cites to its south in order to secure the northern Baghdad belt. Jihadist control of this area would make it difficult for Iraqi forces to resupply and reinforce military units north of the city. Additionally, the Islamic State would use this area to disrupt security in Baghdad.

The Iraqi government has allowed Shiite militias, including the Badr Brigade, Hezbollah Brigade, Asaib al Haq (League of the Righteous), and Muqtada al Sadr’s Promised Day Brigade, all of which are supported by Iran’s Qods Force, to reinforce beleaguered and demoralized Iraqi forces in Samarra. These militias have remained on the front line and have secured cities and towns, many of which are predominantly Sunni communities, along the road from Samarra to Baghdad.

ISIS is also trying to consolidate its hold on Anbar Province.

Islamic State fighters launched an assault on al Wafa, which is west of the provincial capital of Ramadi, on Dec. 12 and defeated Iraqi security forces and local tribal fighters.

…The Islamic State maintains the initiative in Anbar province, most of which is under its control. The provincial capital of Ramadi and the town of Haditha remain contested terrain. The Iraqi military, the Awakening, and Iranian-backed Shiite militias have been unable to wrest control of the province from the Islamic state since Fallujah and other cities and towns fell in January 2013.

What is the USA doing?

Since Dec. 10, the US has conducted 16 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, and the US and partners have carried out 29 airstrikes against the group in Iraq. President Obama told US troops: “The time of deploying large ground forces with big military footprints to engage in nation building overseas, that’s coming to an end.”

More info:
Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham advance in northwestern Syria
Islamic State releases pictures from recent fighting near Samarra (Note: some gruesome photos here)
Islamic State overruns town in Anbar, executes Awakening fighters
Al Nusrah Front uses American-made anti-tank missile in Idlib (Video)

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“Fury” – Best Tank Movie Yet

“Fury” is the best tank movie Hollywood has done to date (“Fury” is the crew’s name for their later-model M4A3E8 Sherman, also known as an “Easy Eight”). Of course, it’s still a Hollywood production; when Brad Pitt takes off his CVC (combat vehicle crewman) helmet, every hair on his head is neatly combed! And while the plot has elements of realism (how many lieutenants have made the mistake of putting their own tank at the head of the column?) it’s way too melodramatic. This film is very violent, as you might expect. Warfare can be horrifying, that’s why soldiers get PTSD.

Like a lot of movies today, the special effects are the best part. The actors do a credible job, especially Brad Pitt as SSGT Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, and Logan Lerman as Norman Ellison, a clerk-typist newly assigned to the crew of “Fury” (and the guy the audience can identify with, because like most people he’s never seen the inside of a tank before). One thing that’s definitely NOT a special effect is the real German Tiger tank that makes its Hollywood debut (up to now, the “Tigers” you have seen in contemporary feature films have been modified Russian T-34 tanks). This one is an actual Panzerkampfwagen VI.

I had the somewhat bizarre experience of leading a tank platoon across Bavaria as a member of the 2d Armored Division’s 66th regiment (the same unit the fictional Wardaddy was assigned to). Except I did it in 1978, not 1945. We didn’t ask any Germans what they thought of us, because the answer to that question would have to be complicated and hard to understand. As Wardaddy says in the film, “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”

More info:
Fury (2014) – IMDb

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Bombs Away in Syria

Syria strike
An F/A-18E Super Hornet and an F/A-18F Super Hornet prepare to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush

The Obama administration has ramped up the air war against ISIS by attacking bases in Syria. The operation – which employed Tomahawk missiles, B1 bombers, fighter-bombers and drones – was supported by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan and the UAE. According to reports, the $139 million F-22 stealth fighter jet saw combat for the first time ever during the strikes over Raqqa. The U.S. also carried out separate raids on the little-known al-Qaeda group Khorasan near Aleppo, possibly killing Muhsin al-Fadhli, a veteran al-Qaeda operative.

Gareth Evans points out the obvious fact that strategic bombing isn’t going to succeed where the 8-year U.S. occupation of Iraq failed.

The competence of Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces — crucial if territory is to be taken and held — will take time to build up, and may never be achievable with the so-called moderate forces within Syria. Airstrikes anywhere risk civilian casualties — and thus the possibility of inflaming the very sentiments one is trying to counter.

Moreover, airstrikes in Syria without the government’s consent or Security Council authorization will be manifestly in breach of the United Nations Charter.

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Tom Engelhardt: ISIS Can Thank Washington

ISIS

At this point, I think everyone has finally realized that following the al-Qaeda game plan post-9/11 didn’t turn out well. The aim of strategy is to force the enemy to conform to your will. Al-Qaeda had a strategy, and we really didn’t. The Bush administration sent our military to chase after who-knows-who in some 60 countries. When President Obama says, “we don’t have a strategy yet” to avoid spending more trillions and more American lives to give ISIS exactly what they want, he is stating a fact.

Tom Engelhardt (emphasis added):

Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington. Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy — and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing U.S. counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation. In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise. After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington’s weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who would oppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country.

“Blowback” can’t even begin to describe a strategic failure of this magnitude. It would be nice to think that the Obama administration has the intelligence and fortitude to design a new strategy that goes beyond “don’t do stupid shit.” I don’t think that. Nobody in Washington is prepared to call the Global War on Terror an utter failure, or admit that ISIS could not have triumphed without our help. It’s reasonable to predict the USA will keep doing the same thing (if only for lack of a better idea), hoping for different results.

UPDATE:
ISIS Is Beheading Journalists to Lure America Into Another Ground War. Remember the Iraq War’s Lessons

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Are we (finally) seeing the end of US Imperialism?

No.

The Obama administration’s foreign policy approach (Don’t do stupid stuff) has been unbelievably better than the Bush administration’s approach (do as much stupid stuff as possible).
Read the rest of this entry »

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Don’t Go Back To Iraq!

I can’t believe that anybody needs to say this. There is nothing good that can be accomplished by the U.S. military in Iraq. We don’t even know what side to fight on. But MoveOn is right– we can’t just assume that Washington politicians have enough sense to make a smart decision, even after the nine-year fiasco that was the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We must make our voices heard now.

Petition by Iraq War veteran Matthew Hoh: “Tell President Obama and Congress: Keep America Out Of Iraq!”

Petition demanding a vote in Congress: “Join Barbara Lee & Scott Rigell, Stop Rush to Iraq War”

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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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Obama Administration Lawyers: We Don’t Have to Show You Any Stinkin’ AUMF!

Drone Survival Guide
h/t War is Boring

Remember this classic exchange from “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948)?

Dobbs: “If you’re the police where are your badges?”
Gold Hat: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”

On Wednesday, Department of Defense General Counsel Stephen Preston and State Department Deputy Legal Advisor Mary McLeod told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee roughly the same thing, saying that the Authorization To Use Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress three days after the 9/11 attacks is not needed to justify U.S. attacks on perceived enemies worldwide (emphasis added).

The single-paragraph AUMF has been the legal justification for the longest war in U.S. history; everything from the jailing of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo to drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen. Wednesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing was supposed to explore how and when that congressional mandate could be revised or repealed. But the biggest surprise was the administration’s top lawyers didn’t think Obama even needed it anymore to fight the war on terror as he pleased.

Asked by Corker, if the 2001 AUMF was repealed “can the president carry out the counter-terrorism activities he is carrying out today,” McLeod said, “Yes I believe he could.”

Going deeper into the legal thicket, both McLeod and Preston said that the Constitution’s Article II gives the president all the authority he needs to take military action. That view was initially promoted in the Bush White House by David Addington, Cheney’s chief counsel, who constantly told his legal critics, “You are either with us or against us.”

Now, 13 years later, McLeod and Preston say the president doesn’t need congressional authorization at all.

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