Cynical Synapse

Tue, 13 Dec 2011

Nation’s Oldest Military Services Celebrates 375 Years

Filed under: Government, History, Military, National security, Patriotism, People — cynicalsynapse @ 5:49 am

The National Guard of the United States traces its roots back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, long before the United States existed or even declared its independence. On 13 December 1636, the Massachusetts General Court established a militia, which makes today’s Guard our nation’s oldest military service. The General Court’s declaration is the only colonial era government-issued proclamation authorizing a militia like that stipulated in the US Constitution.

In the spring of 1637, militia regiments mustered at Salem Common to drill in the interests of defending the colony and not just Salem. Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney (D-MA-6) introduced legislation designating Salem the birthplace of the National Guard, a measure supported by the entire Massachusetts delegation. Tierney described it this way:

Among its rich history, Salem was the site where our country’s earliest military regiment met, organized and conducted drills in preparation for defending the local community.

Guard UH-60 helicopter drops water on a forest fire

After consideration, the House included the designation of Salem as birthplace of the National Guard in H.R. 1540, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, which the House passed 322-96 (with 13 not voting) in May. Of Michigan’s representatives, only Justin Amash (R-3), Hansen Clarke (D-13), and John Conyers (D-14) voted against the measure. As of 7 December, the Senate-approved bill is in conference to incorporate Senate modifications.

Just as in 1637, the Guard of today consists of Citizen-Soldiers. They live, work, and go to school in the same communities as their fellow citizens. In every state and 4 territories (District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands), the Guard is just hours away when disasters or other state emergencies strike. At least since the early 1980s, Guard Soldiers and Airmen have had to meet the same training and qualification requirements as their active duty counterparts. Guard members drill 39 days a year, unless preparing for mobilization. While no one advocates eliminating the standing Army or Air Force, the Guard’s cost-effectiveness and community ties are its strengths. As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) noted the Guard is a great value for the country. While the Reserves of all the services are also a good value, only the Guard has a dual mission in the states and in support of the national military strategy.

Our National Guard and Reserve forces have taken on a major role in our combat missions abroad, while continuing to take the lead on the front lines during disasters here at home. This nation’s increased reliance on the National Guard has earned them a seat at the table along with our active duty forces.


 

Fri, 09 Dec 2011

Workplace Violence is Bigger than Islamist Extremism

Filed under: Congress, Deceit, Good job, Government, Hypocrits, Islamophobia, Media, Military, Politics, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 5:37 pm

Rep. Peter Kane (R-NY)

Propaganda is propaganda and fabrications are fabrications. The blogosphere has come alive with claims DoD and the White House labeled the Fort Hood Massacre simple workplace violence. Normally, I would be very quick to jump on this bandwagon of apparent political correctness run amok. As it turns out, however, this is a politically-motivated twisting facts to create a sound bite by the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY-6) wanted so bad to have Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Security Stockton admit the biggest threat is “radical Islamist extremists”. While agreeing on the need for vigilance and increased security, Stockton said, “The threat we are discussing is serious and enduring. The Department of Defense has become their target of choice.” Consider the following exchange, which brings to mind the Inquisition, where Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3) practically waterboards Asst. Sec. Stockton:

REP. LUNGREN: I didn’t ask that — I did not ask that, sir. I asked whether we’re at war with violent Islamist extremism. That’s my question.

MR. STOCKTON: No, we’re at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates.

REP. LUNGREN: Well, al-Qaida — how does al-Qaida define itself? Are they dedicated to violent Islamist extremism?

MR. STOCKTON: Al-Qaida would love to convince Muslims around the world that the United States is at war with Islam.

REP. LUNGREN: I didn’t say that.

MR. STOCKTON: That’s a prime propaganda tool.

REP. LUNGREN: Sir —

MR. STOCKTON: And I’m not going to aid and abet that effort to advance their propaganda goal.

REP. LUNGREN: No, no, my question is, is there a difference between Islam and violent Islamist extremism?

MR. STOCKTON: Sir, with great respect, I don’t believe it’s helpful to frame our adversary as Islamic with any set of qualifiers that we might add, because we are not at war with Islam.

Capt. Humayun Kuhn's grave marker

While homegrown, self-radicalized jihadists are certainly a concern, they’re not the only ones who kill servicemembers or their families. The January 2010 Department of Defense report, Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood, took a holistic approach. The report identified DoD’s need to improve its posture concerning all types of internal threats—what civilian organizations call “workplace violence”—not just al Qaeda wannabes. Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed the military to implement Fort Hood recommendations in August 2010. His memorandum referenced both workplace violence and force protection.

It is interesting to note the Pentagon’s report on the Fort Hood shootings never once mentions radical Islamists and only uses the word “terrorist” in the context of muti-agency information sharing and expanding current Army force protection training. It does refer to “workplace violence” in several recommendations, however. How is it that wasn’t a problem almost 2 years ago when the report came out but it is now? Could it be, oh, I don’t know, election season?

Fort Hood east gate

In their desires to politicize the Fort Hood tragedy, Collins and King miss the fact DoD has implemented 43 recommendations from the Fort Hood report, with another 15 to be implemented by March 2012. In what seems to be a rarity, we have a government agency addressing identified issues, but Congress wants to beat them down because they’re not blaming the right bogeyman. Collins, King, et al, are on a witch hunt and Stockton won’t play along. Even worse, they have no care or concern for non-Islamist threats. Ranking minority House Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS-2) expressed concern about the Committee’s direction.

Focusing on the followers of one religion as the only credible threat to this nation’s security is inaccurate, narrow, and blocks consideration of emerging threats.


 

Wed, 07 Dec 2011

Lest We Forget: Pearl Harbor 70th Anniversary

Filed under: Heroes, Military, National security, Patriotism — cynicalsynapse @ 5:06 am

Wreath-laying from the USS Massachusetts, 7 December 2010

Just a couple months ago, we marked the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Almost 60 years before that dreadful day, our nation suffered an earlier, just as deadly and despicable, sneak attack. It was the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, a “date which will live in infamy”, declared President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Seventy years later, we’ve been at war for a decade, yet the evils are, amazingly, not so different.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in 2,403 US deaths, both civilian and military, compared to 2,977 killed on 9/11. The Japanese, however, sought to destroy military targets, sinking or severely damaging 18 ships and destroying some 160 aircraft. Pearl Harbor was the catalyst for US entry into World War II, ultimately putting over 16 million in uniform. Nearly 300,000 gave their lives in the name of freedom and democracy.

Pearl Harbor 70th Anniversary

Most of us remember 9/11 and what we were doing at the exact moments of the attacks on the twin towers, the Pentagon, and the downing of the fourth plane in a Pennsylvania field on 9/11. There are not so many who remember Pearl Harbor left.

According to the Bureau of Veterans Affairs, as of this May, approximately 2 million World War II vets were still with us. But we are losing them at the rate of around 850 a day. In February 2009, their median age was 86. In a few years, it will be over 90. In another decade, the survivors will be counted in the thousands. Their children will follow in 20 or 30 years. Who then will remind us of Pear Harbor, the Bataan Death March, Guadalcanal, Midway, Normandy, the Bulge and the U.S.S. Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay?

The deficit in historical knowledge is at least as ominous as the national debt. Sheep have no memory—individual or collective. They are creatures to be sheared and, ultimately, consumed.


 

Fri, 11 Nov 2011

Over 25 Million Served: Honoring Our Veterans

Filed under: Global War on Terror, Government, Heroes, holidays, Life, Military, Patriotism, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 4:18 pm

Veterans Day 2011

Today is Veterans Day, an opportunity to thank all who have served, or are serving, in our nation’s armed forces. The holiday originally marked the end of hostilities in World War I, taking on its 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month distinction from that role as Armistice Day. In 1954, the holiday’s purpose was expanded to recognize the service and contributions—sometimes ultimate sacrifice—of all veterans, living and deceased, who served in any branch of the US military.

Veterans Day is significant this year, not just for its 11/11/11 date. We mark the tenth Veterans Day since we began the Global War on Terror. It’s important to honor those who served in the nation’s longest war. Equally important is recognizing those who wore our military uniforms during wartime and peacetime going back through the centuries to the Minutemen, the Citizen-Soldiers who bore arms in defense of their neighbors even before our country was born. Their legacies are the freedoms for which we owe our veterans such gratitude.
 

Previously on Veterans Day:

Fri, 07 Oct 2011

Global War on Terror 10 Years Later

US 10th Mountain Div. Soldiers in Afghanistan

Today marks the 10th anniversary since US forces began fighting in Afghanistan. It marks the start of the Global War on Terror and was a direct result of Taliban refusal to turn over Osama bin Laden, an issue that predated the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda’s leader was already wanted by the international community for embassy bombings in Africa and other terrorist acts.

I was glad I had not voted for Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential elections. There’s no doubt he wouldn’t have responded as decisively as George W. Bush, who started off right. (Concerning the distraction that became Operation Iraqi Freedom—which I was no in favor of—that’s for another post.) In Afghanistan, US forces, along with those from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, completely ousted the Taliban from power within 2 months. The hunt for bin Laden was on and efforts to build a stable Afghan government began.

Pres. Karzai opens session of Afghan Parliament

What do we have to show after 10 years at war?

Is our national security better off? The verdict is still out, and it’s a subject for much debate. From my view, we’re about even. China’s rise as a world power and the Arab Spring have certainly changed the geopolitical landscape, on which Russia is still a somewhat contrary power not to be discounted. We have less to fear from international terrorists and terror organizations, but a growing trend in so-called homegrown radicals means we must stay vigilant. To counter international and domestic threats, we have willingly surrendered freedoms in exchanged for a perception of security.
 


 

Mon, 19 Sep 2011

Fort Monroe Closes; Historical Significance at Risk

Filed under: Government, History, Indecision, Military, Politics, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 5:46 am

Fort Monroe

All of our military forts have some historical significance. Fort Monroe was the longest serving Army installation, having been completed in 1834. The site on which Fort Monroe sits has had defense works since 1609. Last week, Fort Monroe was decomissioned and is no longer an active military installation. Its closure is a result of the Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) process.

The Army will turn Fort Monroe over to an authority of the State of Virginia by 2012, but there is considerable interest in making Fort Monroe a National Park or monument. Just as its location made it important from a strategic perspective in its day, what an amazing place for a national park.

Fort Monroe emancipates slaves as contraband of war

Without a doubt, portions of Fort Monroe will be sold to the private sector for development. Just as it’s an ideal location for a park, it’s also ideal for commercial exploitation. But the actual stone fortress itself must be preserved for its historical value for generations to come.

Fort Monroe was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Even so, that’s not why we must preserve it. The simple fact is Fort Monroe provides the first tangible act of emancipation by sheltering escaping slaves when Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler classified them “contraband of war”. Next to the Emancipation Proclamation itself and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this has got to be the most significant official action to recognize racial equality in US history.
 

Tue, 13 Sep 2011

How Not to Be an Islamophobe

Filed under: Afghanistan, Behavior, Global War on Terror, Iraq, Islamophobia, Military — cynicalsynapse @ 8:34 pm
US, Afghan forces greet kidsU.S. Air Force Senior Airman Lauren Everett, medic attached to Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team, greets a group of children in Alisheng district, Laghman province, Sept. 12. The PRT, partnered with the security forces assistant team and the Afghan National Police, patrolled through a village to talk to the locals and teach the ANP proper procedures during patrols.
Defense Video and Image Distribution System (DVIDS)

An excellent post from Attackerman: first, be a combat veteran:

What follows is pure and unadulterated speculation. I can’t prove what I’m about to contend. I have no data, no studies, no statistically-relevant sample. Just anecdotes and a hunch.

The least Islamophobic cohort in American society — except of course, for Muslims themselves — consists of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans between the ages of 25 and 40.

I’m basing this entirely on my interactions with combat vets over the years — both downrange and back here in the States. It would be easy — lazy, even — to expect them to harbor blood-curdling hatred of Muslims. The insurgents they fought deliberately blended in with the populace, after all.

Some of them came to war harboring precisely such hatred. They wanted to avenge 9/11, and the average Iraqi or Afghan would do. Not all did, but it would be a whitewash to ignore that some did. I had a long and mournful conversation with one such officer in Mosul in 2007.

Then something unexpected happened. They got familiar with Afghans and Iraqis. “Local nationals” translated for them. They met with local dignitaries and heard plaintive cries for help. They heard locals express bitterness and outrage over the million indignities of war. They found themselves understanding. Then sympathizing. Then wanting to help.

And then they found something more powerful than sympathy: mutual interest. They learned that they couldn’t do anything significant in their unfamiliar stretches of a foreign country without the aid — or at least the acquiescence, or apathy — of the locals. A choice between working together or failing was no choice at all.

Some even made friends. Iraqis and Afghans, especially those who work as interpreters or intelligence analysts, often have wonderfully vile and profane senses of humor. (In my experience, this is truer for Iraqis than Afghans, but not unheard-of for Afghans, either.) A dirty joke, a bullshit boast and an unspeakably nasty DVD or video game can bond people in warzones for life.

Suddenly, those same Americans who barely even knew any Muslims back home — didn’t know that Allah is just the Arabic word for the exact same God many of them worship — wanted to know more about Iraqi or Afghan culture. It didn’t seem so unfamiliar; or if it did, it was the kind of unfamiliarity that posed an appealing challenge to understand. They wanted to debate about the world with the locals, and didn’t even mind when the locals debated back and challenged basic points about America.

Some came home and kept up a correspondence with their new friends. Some took classes about the Middle East or South Asia to contextualize their experience. Some didn’t come home at all.

Obviously, there are exceptions here. I have no illusion that this a universal experience of two searing wars. I know combat veterans who have neither love nor hate in their hearts for Muslims, just… emptiness.

But ever since last year’s “Ground Zero Mosque” flap, it’s struck me that the Robert Spencers and the Pamela Gellars and the lot of them don’t have their stock veterans to trot out in service of the idea that the mosque down the street is a threat to your grandmother. I do not believe that is an accident.

Most non-Muslim Americans don’t have many interactions with their Muslim neighbors. Or if they do, it’s not an issue. I grew up in Brooklyn, one of the most diverse places in the U.S., and it only occurred to me after 9/11 that one of the members of my high school crew was a Muslim. Combat veterans had perhaps the most self-conscious familiarity with Iraqis and Afghans of all Americans. They had no other option.

And many, if not most, came home understanding that Muslims aren’t so different. Muslims don’t have heat vision. They’re not implacably opposed to freedom and all that shit. They’re not looking to join a terrorist group, and “proto-terrorism” doesn’t lurk in their hearts.

Like I said, I can’t prove any of this. It’s all anecdotal. But the more I think about it, the truer it seems. I can’t think of anyone who came home from Iraq or Afghanistan more furious at the average Muslim, which is perhaps of the most surprising and profound aspects of the 9/11 Era.

HT: Doctine Man!!

Previously on Islamophobia:

Thu, 08 Sep 2011

Guardsmen Shot; Crickets From NGB, DoD, and White House

Filed under: Crime, Global War on Terror, Military, Paradoxes, Politics, President, Rants, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 7:56 pm

Nevada IHOP crime scene

Just two days ago, on 6 September, Eduardo Sencion shot 5 Nevada National Guardsmen, killing 3 of them and a civilian, and wounding 5 civilians before taking his own life in a Carson City NV IHOP (International House of Pancakes) restaurant. Authorities still don’t know why Sencion, 32, whom family members say had mental health issues, opened fire at the IHOP with an AK-47, but Sencion doubled the Nevada Guard’s death toll in the Global War on Terror:

One [Maj. Heath Kelly, 35, Reno] was an Iraq War veteran who loved military history. Another [Sgt. 1st Class Christian Riege, 38, Carson City] was an Afghanistan war vet and fitness buff. The third [Sgt. 1st Class Miranda McElhiney, 31, Reno] would bring in cupcakes for colleagues when they got promotions.

All of them were National Guard members and they were sitting at a table at a Nevada IHOP when a gunman burst in and began shooting.

All three died in the attack, a death toll that matched the total number of Nevada guardsmen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over a decade. A patron was also killed.

Eduarco Sencion

While Sencion’s motive for the shootings remains unclear, it is equally uncontestable he shot toward the back of the restaurant where the Guardsmen were seated.

Here’s what bothers me. Whether Sencion targeted the military or not, it took 2 days for a “news item” to appear on National Guard Bureau’s website and there is nothing about this incident on the Army, DoD, or White House websites. Not even condolences to the families. They were in uniform, so they were in a duty status. If this had been on Fort Hood, it would be big news, but shooting 5 Guardsmen in Nevada doesn’t even warrant any comment from senior military officials, even at Guard Bureau? That’s lame and disconcerting. Don’t talk to me about Soldier care if you have nothing to say about this incident.

For those who want to help, the Nevada Support Alliance provides a way to support the Guard family and its fallen, particularly regarding this incident.
 

Mon, 29 Aug 2011

Cold War vs. Cyber War—China Has Already Crossed the Virtual Fulda Gap

Filed under: China, Deceit, Government, Legal, Military, National security — cynicalsynapse @ 6:19 am

11th Cav watching the Fulda Gap

I miss the Soviets. While we didn’t think so then, they pretty much followed the rules and believed in mutually-assured destruction, just like us. While we were concerned the Soviets would come pouring through the Fulda Gap in great armored hordes, it turns out their state-planned and state-controlled economy could not have supported such an imperial expedition. Alas, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ending the bipolar balance of world affairs that had been in place for 46 years.

Post-Cold War, Russia still seeks to be a first-world power. While Russia has much potential, and much in its corner, it’s an even more distant second place than was the Soviet Union. More importantly, as the attacks on 9/11 showed, threats to our national security don’t even need to be nation states.

US 'cyber warriors'

During my studies in the Command and General Staff Officer’s Course (2000-2002), there was a lot of discussion about information technology being the next revolution in military affairs. Proponents believed this to be a strength, while I questioned the soundness of the validity of information as revolutionary. Even ten years ago, I thought connectivity was too subject to interruption.

Today, personnel systems, pay, and logistics are all managed by web-based applications in the US military. Even artillery fire depends on the connectivity of radars with fire direction centers to firing batteries. The problem, as I have always seen it, is the tenuousness of this connection.

China's BluFor

The real threat comes from China. While China is building conventional capability, the real threat is in the cyber realm. China tipped their hand in this regard about a week ago when a Chinese propoganda piece unintentionally showed cyber attack software screen shots.

Intentionally, or not, China substantiated it’s involvment in cyber warfare. If you ask me, this definitely appears to be the “smoking cursor”.
 

Previously on China:

Sun, 28 Aug 2011

Senate Candidate Mike McCalister Abuses His Military Career

Filed under: Behavior, Candidates, Congress, Deceit, Hypocrits, Military, Opportunists, Politics, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 8:53 am

Senate candidate Mike McCalister (R)

Visit Florida GOP Senate candidate Mike McCalister’s campaign website. Do you see any of his political views? No. Do you see any of his stands on the issues? No. Do you see he was a Colonel? Why, yes! That seems to be the only thing his website is about. He’s a Colonel. In fact, the website’s title is “Colonel Mike McCalister for Senate”. There’s no “about the candidate” section, but there is a “Meet the Colonel” tab that does nothing but justify the “facts” of COL (Ret) McCalister’s 33 year career in the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and a few years on active duty. In short, this guy’s entire campaign is based on his being a retired Colonel. While I respect his service, it doesn’t automatically translate into credentials for elected office.

Not much of a platform, but ok. Unfortunately, it seems the Colonel has embellished his record, implying he participated in “black ops” when, in fact, he was a desk jockey. McCalister thinks he’s a superior operator when, in fact, he was just a staff officer.

COL (Ret) Mike McCalister at a political fundraiser

While every officer knows they are entitled to their own political views, they also know they cannot use their military position to support those views. In particular, it’s clearly against regulations to wear the uniform—retired or not—to political events. Yet, COL Mike McCalister did so, wearing his Mess Dress Blues to a fundraiser in February. Any claim by him that he didn’t know any better is inexcusable; a Colonel should know better or research the regulations to know what is permissible.

COL McCalister (“Ret”) says he’s waiting for DoD approval to post copies of his Officer Evaluation Reports (OERs). Dude, they’re your OERs; you don’t need DoD approval to post them. Along the same lines, the award citations on your website are not the official citations presented with your claimed Legion of Merit and Defense Meritorious Service Medals. How about copies of the actual citations accompanying the presentation of the medals? You know, the ones with the signature of the awarding authority.

Pinocchio

Hello, Florida voters: can it be any more obvious this guy is only about padding his resume and personal gain? Even worse, it seems McCalister is not a serious candidate, playing on public goodwill toward the military for nefarious and, as yet, undisclosed purposes. Is that why he’s got absolutely no political positions regarding any issues on his website?

This guy casts a bad name on military officers from all branches and components of the services. His underhandedness and self-aggrandizement makes me sick. It’s time to “terminate the Colonel’s command.”

Take Action: Contact Mike McCalister’s campaign and tell him what you think of his embellishment.
 

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