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USA Accused of War Crime in Afghanistan

MSF hospital bombing

The U.S. government has been accused of bombing a large hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, early in the morning of October 3rd. After an initial statement that the aerial bombardment was “collateral damage” from a nearby strike, new information has emerged that suggests the hospital was the intended target. At least 23 people died, including 13 staff members and 10 patients, three of whom were children.

Hospitals are generally immune from attack under the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare. Doctors Without Borders, referred to internationally in French as Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF), stressed that it had “communicated the precise locations of its facilities to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months” and yet, despite this, the NATO bombing of the hospital continued for over 30 minutes, even after MSF “frantically phoned” Washington.

The MSF accusations appear to have been confirmed in a Washington Post article that quoted Hamdullah Danishi, the acting governor of Kunduz Province, and Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan member of parliament. Both men suggested that the hospital was deliberately targeted because of the alleged presence of Taliban fighters. MSF denies that the Taliban were ever on the hospital grounds.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, says that an AC-130 gunship fired on the hospital by mistake.

“To be clear, the decision to provide (airstrikes) was a U.S. decision, made within the U.S. chain of command,” Campbell said. “The hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”

Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Campbell said he could not provide more details about what happened, including who may have failed to follow procedures for avoiding attacks on hospitals. He said he must await the outcome of multiple investigations.

More info:
We Have Committed a War Crime: ‘Patients Were Burning in Their Beds’

An exclusive first look at the horrific aftermath of the U.S. attack in northern Afghanistan.


Hillary: ‘I will not hesitate to take military action’

Hillary at warSeriously? As a senator, Hillary Clinton voted to authorize George W. Bush’s war of aggression against Iraq, an ill-fated invasion and occupation halfway around the word that led to enormous loss of life and ongoing chaos in the Middle East, and mind-boggling deficits at home.

Now she says: “I will not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

In other words, Hillary has learned nothing about what constitutes an illegal war of aggression. Fortunately for all concerned, Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and their theocratic government regards nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as un-Islamic. It’s an empty threat.

We can’t help wondering if Hillary thinks that the first woman president needs to take America to war again just to prove she’s a tough commander-in-chief – and never mind the consequences.

Bernie 2016!

Amanda Marcotte suggests the loud Tea-GOP freakout over peace with Iran is mostly if not entirely about political calculation for 2016.

[P]ainting Hillary Clinton as some kind of weak-willed surrender monkey, mostly by dropping the word “Benghazi” a lot, is clearly going to be the centerpiece of the anti-Clinton strategy.

This may explain, but certainly doesn’t excuse, Hillary doubling down on her hawkish foreign policy views.


Lindsey Graham: Attack on Iran Better Than Diplomacy

Iran attack

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is running for president as a super-hawk, but this is just ridiculous.

‘Who wins the war between us and Iran?’

The Senate Armed Services Committee held its own hearing today on the international nuclear agreement with Iran, which regrettably went about as well as the other congressional hearings on the issue. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Republican presidential candidate and one of his party’s most unyielding hawks, got especially animated during an exchange with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter:

GRAHAM: Could we win a war with Iran? Who wins the war between us and Iran? Who wins? Do you have any doubt who wins?

CARTER: No, the….

GRAHAM: We win!

The senator seemed pleased with himself, though this doesn’t exactly help the Republican cause. For proponents of the agreement, the concern has long been that GOP lawmakers want to kill the diplomatic deal because they want a military confrontation with Iran. Republicans usually make a point to deny this, instead saying they prefer a “better” diplomatic solution.

Graham, however, is less subtle – his line of questioning suggested the United States would win a war, which makes war an appealing alternative.

Reminder: Iran is larger than Alaska, with a population of 80 million people. They have an active duty military numbering 545,000, with 1.8 million reservists.

By comparison, the entire U.S. Army consists of 475,000 soldiers. To say a war of aggression against Iran is a bad idea would be a massive understatement. Like Iraq, it’s halfway around the world. Unlike Iraq, they have the capability to defend their country – making Senator Graham’s proposed invasion very costly and bloody.

As usual Donald Trump says out loud what the rest of us are thinking: Trump: Graham a ‘total lightweight,’ couldn’t get a job in the private sector

The Badr Organization, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq, is in possession of at least one US M1 Abrams tank. The Iraqi government has lost control of many of those lately, mostly to ISIS.


‘It’s almost like war is a business’

AT-4 anti-tank rocket

DSWRIGHT on FDL: US Sending Weapons To Iraq To Use Against Weapons US Previously Sent To Iraq

It’s almost like war is a business. The Pentagon announced on Thursday that the United States would be sending 2,000 AT-4 anti-tank rockets to Iraq. While the Department of Defense emphasized that the rockets were being sent to help combat suicide car bombs, there is another target anti-tank rockets might be needed for in Iraq these days – US tanks and other vehicles in the hands of ISIS.

As a point of information, ISIS forces captured more than 100 armored vehicles, (including M1A1 Abrams tanks, artillery, and large quantities of ammunition) when Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) fled the provincial capital of Ramadi last weekend.

More info:
ISIS Captures Hundreds of US Vehicles and Tanks in Ramadi from Iraqis

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Gov. Herbert Not Buying ‘Jade Helm 15’ Conspiracy Theory

Jade Helm map
“Jade Helm 15” exercise map

The office of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) told TPM on Thursday that he’s not buying into the conspiracy theory that the military is plotting a massive multi-state takeover in the western U.S.

The governor’s spokesman, Marty Carpenter, sent an email to TPM about the upcoming seven-state military training exercise known as “Jade Helm 15,” saying the state has “been assured this will be a standard training exercise.”

Conspiracy theorists have sounded the alarm about the exercise, which is slated to take place from July 15 to Sept. 15 in Utah and six other western states. The conspiracy theory this week led Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to order the State Guard to monitor “Jade Helm 15” to confirm that the operation is not in fact a military takeover.

According to speculation, in the “Jade Helm” Special Operations Forces exercise Utah represents Syria– which is why it’s labeled as hostile on the map. Texas is possibly a stand-in for Iran, and southern California may be Palestine.

More info:
What The Nation’s Governors Are Saying About The Texas Takeover


Defense Secretary: No, The Pentagon Is Not Planning A Texas Takeover

Defense Sec. Ash Carter on Thursday disputed the idea from conspiracy theorists that the military exercise known as “Jade Helm 15” was an attempt by the Pentagon to take over Texas.


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?


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


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.

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.

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


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.”

Judge Orders Thousands of Torture Photos to Be Disclosed After US Government Fails to Justify Secrecy

The government is “required to disclose each and all the photographs responsive” to the Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),” according to the order by Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the US District Court of the Southern District of New York.

Hellerstein found that the government still had failed to justify keeping each individual photograph secret. However, the judge stayed the order for 60 days so the Solicitor General could determine whether to file an appeal.


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.

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.


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


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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