Archive for the ‘Army’ Category
You can search this blog on “medal of honor” and find previous stories. Basically, what seems to have happened was that a command decision was made that this Medal of Honor was for the Marines to get, and so the Army nominee’s paperwork was destroyed and they (quite successfully) pushed him aside, until news started to leak. I would imagine that there remains a cadre of officers to whom such conduct seem dishonorable and unbecoming, and I imagine some of those contacted McClatchy. As the publicity mounted, the stalled paperwork was found and, much later, Cpt. Swenson gets the MoH: an honor but the toll opretty much wrecked his life. At any rate, now we get more information from McClathcy in a report by Jonathan Landay (who surely must be going to write a book on this), including video:
In his memoir of the 2009 battle in Afghanistan that brought him the Medal of Honor, Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer describes how he reflexively switched from his machine gun to his rifle and back to his machine gun as he mowed down a swarm of charging Taliban from the vehicle’s turret.
“My mind was completely blank. I fired so many thousands of rounds I didn’t think what I was doing,” Meyer, then a corporal, wrote in his 2012 book, “Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War.”
But videos shot by Army medevac helicopter crewmen show no Taliban in that vicinity or anywhere else on the floor of the Ganjgal Valley at the time and location of the “swarm.” The videos also conflict with the version of the incident in Marine Corps and White House accounts of how Meyer, now 25, of Columbia, Ky., came to be awarded the nation’s highest military decoration for gallantry.
The videos add to the findings of an ongoing McClatchy investigation that determined that crucial parts of Meyer’s memoir were untrue, unsubstantiated or exaggerated, as were the Marine Corps and White House accounts of how he helped extract casualties from the valley under fire. The White House and Marine Corps have defended the accuracy of their accounts of Meyer’s actions. The Marine Corps declined to comment on the videos.
Army National Guard Sgt. Kevin Duerst, the helicopter crew chief whose helmet camera recorded one of the videos, confirmed the absence of insurgents on the valley floor as the aircraft flew in on a first run to retrieve casualties.
“We totally flew over everything. . . . There was nothing going on down there,” Duerst said in a telephone interview Friday. “There was no serious gunfight going on.”
Former Army Capt. William Swenson, who’s to receive a Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama on Tuesday for gallantry in the same battle, declined in an interview Sunday to directly address questions about the purported swarming of Meyer’s vehicle. . .
UPDATE: Ah, here’s why Swenson was the target of such underhanded treatment. From later in the story:
A nearby U.S. base failed to provide air support or adequate artillery cover to the Afghan and U.S. forces for 90 minutes. Two Army officers later received career-ending reprimands, while Swenson – in an interview with military investigators – accused senior U.S. commanders of imposing politically driven rules of engagement that were getting U.S. troops killed.
I’ve blogged about how it appears some unethical (and illegal) steps were taken to “lose” a recommendation for a Medal of Honor. This earlier post describes what was known about this time last year, and it contains links to a couple of earlier posts on the incident. Jonathan Landay has a current report in McClatchy:
A Pentagon investigation into how a Medal of Honor nomination was “lost” – possibly because of an improper effort to kill the award – is focused on its mishandling by members of the chain of command that included retired Army Gen. David Petraeus and other senior U.S. commanders.
The investigation is being conducted by the Directorate for Investigations of Senior Officials, a division of the Defense Department Office of Inspector General that handles cases involving top military and civilian defense officials.
“Specifically, officials within the Directorate for Investigations of Senior Officials are conducting an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the lost recommendation,” the inspector general’s office wrote in a Sept. 3 letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who pressed for the probe.
The review is the latest turn in the convoluted history of the Medal of Honor nomination of former Army Capt. William Swenson, who was recommended for the nation’s highest military decoration for valor for his actions on Sept. 8, 2009, in one of the most extraordinary battles of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The Seattle native is scheduled to receive the medal from President Barack Obama on Oct. 15, nearly four years after he was first nominated and more than a year after his papers reached the White House.
The inspector general’s “investigation is looking at the approval process for Capt. Swenson’s award, specifically how the chain of command mishandled his nomination,” said Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter.
Bridget Serchak, a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office, declined to comment on the matter, saying she could not discuss any ongoing case.
The consequences of the investigation are unclear. Typically, the inspector general’s office refers cases in which allegations of regulation violations are substantiated to the secretary of defense or the service secretaries for further action. Cases in which evidence of crimes is found are sent to the Defense Criminal Investigative Service for further investigation, often in conjunction with the Department of Justice.
Swenson, 34, will be the first living U.S. Army officer to receive the medal in more than 40 years. He was recommended for his role in extracting a small group of American military advisers trapped in an eastern Afghanistan valley by a Taliban ambush and then leading U.S. and Afghan forces on repeated forays back into the valley to recover casualties while under vicious enemy fire.
Four U.S. servicemen, nine Afghan security forces and a translator died in the six-hour clash outside the village of Ganjgal. A fifth U.S. soldier, who was among some two dozen American and Afghan wounded, died two months later.
A slew of decorations were awarded to survivors of the battle, including a Medal of Honor for Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer, and two Navy Crosses. Moreover, two Army officers were reprimanded for dereliction of duty for failing to provide air and artillery support for the Afghan troops and their American military advisers.
A chain of U.S. officers and senior officials – beginning in the field and ending with former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta – were required to recommend approval or disapproval for Swenson’s nomination.
Petraeus, based in Kabul, commanded the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan in the summer of 2010, when Swenson’s original Medal of Honor packet – the telephone book-size package of sworn witness statements, maps and other documents supporting the nomination – went missing. Every electronic copy of the packet also disappeared from U.S. military computer systems, except for an incomplete version that was found on a classified network.
A duplicate file was assembled in July 2011 and sent up the chain of command. At the time, U.S. military spokesmen asserted that an internal investigation found that Swenson’s original packet was “lost” through bureaucratic bungling because of a high staff turnover rate at USFOR-A, the headquarters of the U.S. military contingent serving in Afghanistan.
But according to an Aug. 4, 2011, Memorandum of Record obtained by McClatchy, the “informal” investigation failed to pinpoint the reason why Swenson’s paperwork disappeared. Moreover, the probe was closed despite uncovering evidence of a possible attempt to kill Swenson’s award through an improper downgrade to a Distinguished Service Cross.
Under Defense Department and Army regulations, only the president of the United States has the authority to downgrade a Medal of Honor nomination to a lower award.
The memorandum – a report on the results of the internal investigation – said the probe “did not reveal any suspected criminal activity.”
It mirrored a U.S. military letter outlining those findings that McClatchy reported in August 2012. The memorandum, however, contains details that were not in the first document.
Petraeus, while serving as the CIA director, told McClatchy last year that he had “no recollection of seeing” Swenson’s packet. The memorandum noted that Petraeus signed Swenson’s packet on July 28, 2010. Petraeus didn’t respond to several email requests for a telephone call to discuss the discrepancy.
Another new detail: Briefing slides tracking the status of military award nominations in eastern Afghanistan showed that Swenson’s packet was one of two Medal of Honor nominations sent to USFOR-A on the same day, May 19, 2010.
The second nomination was from a separate battle, and the identity of the nominee was redacted. But both packets were processed concurrently, according to the memorandum. Yet while the second proceeded through the system, Swenson’s Medal of Honor packet disappeared.
The second packet “was logged and tracked through the same process,” said the memorandum. “It is reasonable to assume that had both . . . MoH packets been submitted at the same time, as indicated by the slides, both would have been tracked and processed in the same manner.”
A footnote on an Aug. 21, 2010, briefing slide uncovered by the internal investigation provided a clue to what happened to Swenson’s Medal of Honor packet. . .
Things have come to a pretty pass when we already know that the details of the full email correspondence between Jill Kelly and Gen. Allen have been covered up? That the investigation was a whitewash job? That the entire aim was to exculpate all military personnel?
At any rate, Jillian Rayfield reports at Salon:
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., has called for a renewed investigation into potentially inappropriate emails exchanged between socialite Jill Kelley and Gen. John Allen.
“The fact that they didn’t even pursue accessing the private e-mails is very disturbing to me,” Speier said of the Pentagon’s inspector general report on the matter, in an interview with USA Today. “Because it would suggest that it was an incomplete investigation at the very least. At the worst: [they were] intentionally not pursuing an investigation into whether or not there was an inappropriate relationship, secrecy, national-security breaches. Classified information.”
The emails in question were the thousands of exchanges between Gen. Allen and Kelley. Kelley was pulled into the spotlight when she complained to the FBI about harassing emails, eventually revealed to have been sent by David Petraeus’ biographer Paula Broadwell, which eventually led to revelations that Petraeus and Broadwell were having an affair.
From USA Today:
The FBI initially looked at Allen’s case and referred it to the Pentagon for further review. The inspector general told Speier that Allen and Kelley exchanged 3,000 e-mails from July 2010 to July 2012 on his government account. Allen served at Central Command from 2008 until July 2011 when he became the top commander in Afghanistan. Of those e-mails, 41 were reviewed more thoroughly, Speier was told.
“So that’s two years, 1,500 e-mails a year,” Speier, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said. ”I don’t think I communicate with my husband by e-mail more than 150 times a year. That’s a lot of e-mails. This is a four-star general in the middle of a war zone. The most disturbing part of my discussion with them was that they requested access to his private e-mail and were denied access and took it no further.”
Since the Petraeus scandal broke, Kelley has sued the Pentagon and the FBI, alleging . . .
Continue reading. We live in rather too interesting times.
I clicked the category “NSA” because of course NSA knew all about it—they were reading the emails, for Christ’s sake—in real time! And they tapped away, everthing read by NSA. In real time.
Talk about cover-ups! NSA knows all the scandals—even the ones we’ve not heard about and those we never will—and it’s just sitting on the data? Pull the other one.
Look: the one thing we do know is that the NSA has clearly lied, and in fact is still lying (vide the web site alterations, Clapper’s considered statement (he had a day to think it over) to Congress, et al.), and thus, we can reliably predict, will continue to lie. I think that we have to consider every statement from the Administration and the NSA and the intelligence community—including a lot of government sources who seem quite ready to leak classified information with some weird assurance that they can transgress the same law without penalty? Doesn’t that strike you as very Soviet-Unionish? That the intelligence agency whose activities are being exposed is able to break classification restrictions with impunity while accusing the whistleblower of breaking classification restrictions? Doesn’t that show a total moral imbalance? That Snowden will be imprisoned for life (most likely) for the very same crime that they committed with no accountability whatsoever? Something is enormously wrong with this picture.
The sci-fi-horror-fantasy analogue: Something foul has come to life in the bowels of government, and it’s taking over everything. I think that’s it, more or less.
UPDATE: Read through this short piece by David Sirota:
“James Clapper Is Still Lying”: That would be a more honest headline for yesterday’s big Washington Post article about the director of national intelligence’s letter to the U.S. Senate.
Clapper, you may recall, unequivocally said “no, sir” in response to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asking him: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper’s response was shown to be a lie by Snowden’s disclosures, as well as by reports from the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News (among others). This is particularly significant, considering lying before Congress prevents the legislative branch from performing oversight and is therefore a felony.
Upon Snowden’s disclosures, Clapper initially explained his lie by insisting that his answer was carefully and deliberately calculated to be the “least most untruthful”response to a question about classified information. Left unmentioned was the fact that he could have simply given the same truthful answer that Alberto Gonzales gave the committee in 2006.
Now, though, Clapper is wholly changing his story, insisting that his answer wasn’t a deliberate, carefully calibrated “least most untruthful” response; it was instead just a spur-of-the-moment accident based on an innocent misunderstanding. Indeed, as the Post reports, “Clapper sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 21 saying that he had misunderstood the question he had been asked” and adding that “he thought Wyden was referring to NSA surveillance of e-mail traffic involving overseas targets, not the separate program in which the agency is authorized to collect records of Americans’ phone calls.” In his letter, Clapper says, “My response was clearly erroneous — for which I apologize,” and added that “mistakes will happen, and when I make one, I correct it.”]
So Clapper first says it was a calculated move, and now he’s saying it was just an innocuous misunderstanding and an inadvertent error. With that, the public — and the Obama administration prosecutors who aggressively pursue perjurers — are all supposed to now breathe a sigh of relief and chalk it all up to a forgivable screw-up. It’s all just an innocent mistake, right?
Wrong, because in this crime, as Clapper’s changing story suggests, there remains a smoking gun.
Notice this statement from Sen. Wyden about Snowden’s disclosures — a statement, mind you, that the Post didn’t reference in its story yesterday (emphasis added): . . .
It is important, apparently, that our soldiery be kept in ignorance of what the country is doing—because they would not be so willing to fight for it? Hmm. Phillip Molnar reports in our local paper:
The Army admitted Thursday to not only restricting access to The Guardian news website at the Presidio of Monterey, as reported in Thursday’s Herald, but Armywide.
Presidio employees said the site had been blocked since The Guardian broke stories on data collection by the National Security Agency.
Gordon Van Vleet, an Arizona-based spokesman for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM, said in an email the Army is filtering “some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks.”
He wrote it is routine for the Department of Defense to take preventative “network hygiene” measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information.
“We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security,” he wrote, “however, there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information.”
In a later phone call, Van Vleet said the filter of classified information on public websites was “Armywide” and did not originate at the Presidio.
Presidio employees described how they could access the U.S. site, www.guardiannews.com, but were blocked from articles, such as those about the NSA, that redirected to the British site.
Sources at the Presidio said Jose Campos, the post’s information assurance security officer, sent an email to employees early Thursday saying The Guardian’s website was blocked by Army Cyber Command “in order to prevent an unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”
NETCOM is a subordinate to the Army Cyber Command, based in Fort Belvoir, Va., said its website.
As you see, it’s merely the nitwit bureaucratic mind at work: even though the entire world knows, the information is (technically) still classified—it’s like those rules in the Manhattan Project, in which a foreign-born physicist was drafted to work on the bomb, but since he could not get security clearance, each page that he wrote was taken from him as soon as he finished and he was not allowed to see it again (because it was classified, you see: there’s a type of mind to which this makes perfect sense—avoid those people at all costs).
Fred Kaplan’s book is newsworthy, but not in the way you might assume. Kaplan’s years of research and writing for The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War had evidently come to their end shortly before November 9 of last year. On that date, Kaplan’s title character, the retired four-star general and national hero who had been renowned for his advocacy and management of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq and dreamed of by many Republicans as an eventual presidential candidate, resigned as CIA director after the revelation of his affair with a much younger former Army officer, Paula Broadwell.
Kaplan alludes to the sudden, shocking collapse of the omni–competent, hyper-disciplined “mystique that had shrouded David Petraeus for nearly a decade” only in a page-long postscript to the book. In it he half-convincingly argues that although the affair took the military and political worlds by surprise, it should be seen as just one more of the very close mentor-apprentice relationships that had been indispensable to Petraeus’s own rise and to the spread of his influence within the military. With this little difference: “Unlike other protégés, Broadwell didn’t merely admire Petraeus, she adored him.”
Sooner or later we’ll surely get an account of how and when Petraeus decided to ignore his own oft–promulgated “Front Page of The Washington Post Rule.” (If you don’t want to see something on the front page of the paper, then don’t do it or say it, he would tell his associates—other than Broadwell, it seems.) What Kaplan has given us in this book is rarer than the latest reminder of the folly of powerful middle-aged men. He uses David Petraeus’s pre-Broadwell career as the narrative thread for what is really an authoritative and accessible overview of the ideas, insights and blind spots, successes and failures on the battlefield, intrigues, and alliances within the military and civilian bureaucracies, and all the other factors that have shaped what President Barack Obama recently called our “decade of war” in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. As that decade ends, the defense budget will inevitably shrink, controversial practices like drone warfare and warrantless detention will apparently continue, and debates over the proper size and mission of the American military should begin. The Insurgents is a tremendously clear and informative guide to the strengths and weaknesses of the military we have today and to the decisions we are about to make.
The shorthand version of Kaplan’s richly detailed narrative is a tale of the military’s long struggle to repair its culture and reconceive its doctrine and tactics in the aftermath of its agonies in Vietnam. David Petraeus was part of the first post-Vietnam generation of officers. He grew up near West Point (though not in a military family—his father was an immigrant sea captain from Holland, and his mother was a librarian) and graduated from there in 1974, just as the American disengagement from Vietnam was nearly complete. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the military reflected upon what had gone wrong in Vietnam—putting less emphasis on stab-in-the-back betrayal by politicians than many civilians would guess and more on its own shortcomings in doctrine and leadership.
Kaplan does a particularly good job of describing the . . .
Interesting post by Tom Engelhardt:
History, it is said, arrives first as tragedy, then as farce. First as Karl Marx, then as the Marx Brothers. In the case of twenty-first century America, history arrived first as George W. Bush (and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith and the Project for a New America — a shadow government masquerading as a think tank — and an assorted crew of ambitious neocons and neo-pundits); only later did David Petraeus make it onto the scene.
It couldn’t be clearer now that, from the shirtless FBI agent to the “embedded” biographer and the “other other woman,” the “fall” of David Petraeus is playing out as farce of the first order. What’s less obvious is that Petraeus, America’s military golden boy and Caesar of celebrity, was always smoke and mirrors, always the farce, even if the denizens of Washington didn’t know it.
Until recently, here was the open secret of Petraeus’s life: he may not have understood Iraqis or Afghans, but no military man in generations more intuitively grasped how to flatter and charm American reporters, pundits, and politicians into praising him. This was, after all, the general who got his first Newsweek cover (“Can This Man Save Iraq?”) in 2004 while he was making a mess of a training program for Iraqi security forces, and two more before that magazine, too, took the fall. In 2007, he was a runner-up to Vladimir Putin for TIME’s “Person of the Year.” And long before Paula Broadwell’s aptly named biography, All In, was published to hosannas from the usual elite crew, that was par for the course.
You didn’t need special insider’s access to know that Broadwell wasn’t the only one with whom the general did calisthenics. The FBI didn’t need to investigate. Even before she came on the scene, scads of columnists, pundits, reporters, and politicians were in bed with him. And weirdly enough, many of them still are. (Typical was NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams mournfully discussing the “painful” resignation of “Dave” — “the most prominent and best known general of the modern era.”) Adoring media people treated him like the next military Messiah, a combination of Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Ulysses S. Grant rolled into one fabulous piñata. It’s a safe bet that no general of our era, perhaps of any American era, has had so many glowing adjectives attached to his name.
Perhaps Petraeus’s single most insightful moment, capturing both the tragedy and the farce to come, occurred during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He was commanding the 101st Airborne on its drive to Baghdad, and even then was . . .
From the grandson of a highly regarded WWII general, Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.:
FASTIDIOUSNESS is never a good sign in a general officer. Though strutting military peacocks go back to Alexander’s time, our first was MacArthur, who seemed at times to care more about how much gold braid decorated the brim of his cap than he did about how many bodies he left on beachheads across the Pacific. Next came Westmoreland, with his starched fatigues in Vietnam. In our time, Gen. David H. Petraeus has set the bar high. Never has so much beribboned finery decorated a general’s uniform since Al Haig passed through the sally ports of West Point on his way to the White House.
“What’s wrong with a general looking good?” you may wonder. I would propose that every moment a general spends on his uniform jacket is a moment he’s not doing his job, which is supposed to be leading soldiers in combat and winning wars — something we, and our generals, stopped doing about the time that MacArthur gold-braided his way around the stalemated Korean War.
And now comes “Dave” Petraeus, and the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. No matter how good he looked in his biographer-mistress’s book, it doesn’t make up for the fact that we failed to conquer the countries we invaded, and ended up occupying undefeated nations.
The genius of General Petraeus was to recognize early on that the war he had been sent to fight in Iraq wasn’t a real war at all. This is what the public and the news media — lamenting the fall of the brilliant hero undone by a tawdry affair — have failed to see. He wasn’t the military magician portrayed in the press; he was a self-constructed hologram, emitting an aura of preening heroism for the ever eager cameras.
I spent part of the fall of 2003 with General Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division in and around Mosul, Iraq. One of the first questions I asked him was what his orders had been. Was he ordered to “take Mosul,” I asked. No answer. How about “Find Mosul and report back”? No answer. Finally I asked him if his orders were something along the lines of “Go to Mosul!” He gave me an almost imperceptible nod. It must have been the first time an American combat infantry division had been ordered into battle so casually. . .
A new look at Petraeus’s early military contributions suggests that they were not that new and very much oversold. Hannah Allam and Nancy Youssef report for McClatchy:
Gen. David Petraeus’ affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, has muddied the carefully crafted narrative of America’s most eminent “soldier-scholar statesman,” allowing unprecedented scrutiny of the policies of a man who was so venerated in Washington that one could be labeled unpatriotic simply for challenging his strategies.
The still-unfolding Petraeus scandal offers space for the most critical look to date of the popular general’s resume, including his blueprint for counterinsurgency, the “surge” tactic he applied to Iraq and then Afghanistan, and the recruiting of Iraqi tribesmen in the battle against al Qaida.
Critics raised serious doubts about those and other projects years ago, but, in public at least, their concerns were steamrolled by a propaganda machine that was designed to protect Petraeus’ military legacy – perhaps even for a future presidential bid.
“The country put him on a big, high pedestal, and he took himself off that pedestal with his own actions,” said retired Col. Steve Boylan, Petraeus’ former aide and acting spokesman since the scandal broke. “As he told me, ‘I screwed up.’”
While Boylan and other diehard supporters insist that the general’s military accomplishments endure, more critical voices say that it’s about time his entire record got a closer look. The infallibility of Petraeus, detractors say, was a myth created by his inner circle, nurtured by a sycophantic press corps, swallowed by a fawning government and, ultimately, punctured by his own weakness when it came to an attractive and ambitious devotee.
“I think there’s always a cult of celebrity, a cult of power,” said a Western official who was present at Petraeus’ headquarters in Afghanistan and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
That personality cult made it difficult to criticize Petraeus on the national stage. Petraeus skillfully worked the media early in the Iraq war to shape his public image as a thoughtful, modern military thinker. As a major general in 2003, Petraeus invited Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rick Atkinson to accompany him throughout the invasion of Iraq. The journalist’s subsequent book about his two months with Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division left a defining image of the general as someone clearly “entranced by the problem-solving nature of high command.”
Mark Jacobson, a former deputy NATO representative to the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan, said it’s too early to determine the extent of Petraeus’ legacy or how this scandal will affect it. A better barometer, he said, will come when the generation of officers that was shaped by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and, he added, successfully navigated the challenges there – moves into greater positions of authority.
“That’s when you’re going to see the evolution that began after Sept. 11, 2001, completed,” Jacobson said. “That’s a military that’s more agile, more experienced and more adept.”
From Baghdad, Petraeus pushed the 101st north to the restive city of Mosul, where the general was credited with bringing stability through counterinsurgency methods – a type of warfare the conventional army typically shunned. Petraeus became the face of the counterinsurgency renaissance, his ideas heralded as groundbreaking. In fact, they were old strategies that had been rejected by the military in the post-Vietnam period, according to military historians.
Petraeus returned to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Army’s intellectual hub, and began drafting its counterinsurgency manual, which he envisioned as a vital tool to fill a gap in military thinking. It was published during the worst days of the Iraq war and became a national bestseller, overshadowing the fact that Petraeus had arrived in Kansas after overseeing the training of the new Iraq army in Baghdad – a disastrous venture in which millions of dollars vanished and U.S.-trained forces morphed into sectarian death squads that fueled the ensuing civil war.
To a nation that was desperate for anything resembling success in the abyss of Iraq, however, Petraeus was regarded as a trailblazer for challenging the military to move away from its timeworn tactic of major combat operation. Never mind that the manual was an amalgam of old military thinking and similar to a blueprint written in 1964 and based in part on the French incursion into Algeria.
Petraeus’ application of those ideas to Iraq in February 2007, along with a surge of 25,000 additional American troops, “qualifies neither as particularly new nor even as a strategy,” wrote Army Col. Gian Gentile, a Petraeus critic who teaches American and military history at West Point and who commanded a combat battalion in Baghdad in 2006.
“Better to call it, instead, an enhanced reliance on tactics and operational concepts previously in use,” Gentile wrote in the World Affair Journal in summer 2008. “Or, put less charitably, an over-hyped shift in emphasis that, on the one hand, will not necessarily yield an American victory in Iraq, but on the other might well leave the United States Army crippled in future wars.”
Such harsh criticism barely surfaced in the public arena, however, where a pliant media helped to turn Petraeus into a national figure for embracing the risky “surge” proposal at a time when the Bush White House had lost all credibility in the war, and the military was losing as many as 120 service members a week. . .
Besides the failures of leadership noted in the NY Times today, the Army is losing (or failing to create) war records required by veterans to secure benefits. Two reports, first a ProPublica piece by Peter Sleeth:
A strange thing happened when Christopher DeLara filed for disability benefits after his tour in Iraq: The U.S. Army said it had no records showing he had ever been overseas.
DeLara had searing memories of his combat experiences. A friend bled to death before his eyes. He saw an insurgent shoot his commander in the head. And, most hauntingly, he recalled firing at an Iraqi boy who had attacked his convoy.
The Army said it could find no field records documenting any of these incidents.
Over the last decade, millions of military field records from Iraq and Afghanistan have been lost or destroyed, making it difficult for some soldiers to prove their combat experiences and obtain medical benefits or other veteran awards and services. Our reporting found a few reasons behind the problem:
System failure: In a string of critical reports, historians said Army units were losing their own history by failing to keep adequate field records. The U.S. military began relying on computer records during the Gulf War, introducing major gaps in recordkeeping as the old-style paper system fell apart. The Army then introduced a centralized system for collecting electronic field reports, but units have failed to submit records there.
Security concerns: Some military commanders ordered units to purge computer hard drives before redeploying to the United States, destroying any classified field records they contained.
Leadership: Disagreements among military officials have also led to lack of coordination in record-keeping. “The Army would say it’s Centcom’s responsibility… Centcom would say it’s an Army responsibility,” said one Archivist. Recordkeeping took a backseat to wartime demands: “Something just had to fall off the plate, there was so much going on,” a former Centcom records manager said.
» Are you a veteran who can’t obtain your military field records? Tell us your story.
DeLara appealed, fighting for five years before a judge accepted the testimony of an officer in his unit. By then he had divorced, was briefly homeless and had sought solace in drugs and alcohol.
DeLara’s case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War.
A joint investigation by ProPublica and The Seattle Times has found that the recordkeeping breakdown was especially acute in the early years of the Iraq war, when insurgents deployed improvised bombs with devastating effects on U.S. soldiers. The military has also lost or destroyed records from Afghanistan, according to officials and previously undisclosed documents.
The loss of field records — after-action write-ups, intelligence reports and other day-to-day accounts from the war zones — has far-reaching implications. It has complicated efforts by soldiers like DeLara to claim benefits. And it makes it harder for military strategists to learn the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the nation’s most protracted wars.
Military officers and historians say field records provide the granular details that, when woven together, tell larger stories hidden from participants in the day-to-day confusion of combat.
The Army says it has taken steps to improve handling of records — including better training and more emphasis from top commanders. But officials familiar with the problem said the missing material may never be retrieved.
“I can’t even start to describe the dimensions of the problem,” said Conrad C. Crane, director of the U.S. Army’s Military History Institute. “I fear we’re never really going to know clearly what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan because we don’t have the records.”
The Army, with its dominant presence in both theaters, has the biggest deficiencies. But the U.S. Central Command in Iraq (Centcom), which had overall authority, also lost records, according to reports and other documents obtained by ProPublica under the Freedom of Information Act.
In Baghdad, Centcom and the Army disagreed about which was responsible for keeping records. There was confusion about whether classified field records could be transported back to the units’ headquarters in the United States. As a result, some units were instructed to erase computer hard drives when they rotated home, destroying the records that had been stored on them. . .
And then, part two: A Son Lost in Iraq, but Where Is the Casualty Report?
For more on the story behind the story, read How This Story Came About.
I have blogged previously about the apparently unjust and deceptive award of the Medal of Honor in the Battle of Ganjgal: More Military Lies and The Army’s suspicious conduct toward a Medal of Honor nomination. Now we have eye-witness reports contradicting the accounts used to justify the award. Jonathan Landay reports for McClatchy:
Nine Afghan soldiers who survived a 2009 battle that brought the first Medal of Honor to a living Marine since the Vietnam War have disputed the official accounts of how Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer won the country’s highest military decoration.
The Afghans, whom U.S. military officials never interviewed , contradict key details of the narratives cited by President Barack Obama and the Marine Corps in awarding the decoration to Meyer for his actions during a battle that took place in the Ganjgal Valley in Afghanistan three years ago this past weekend.
The Afghans said that Meyer, who received the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony on Sept. 15, 2011, couldn’t have killed up to eight insurgents as they charged his Humvee and that he didn’t twice vault from the vehicle to load up two dozen Afghan soldiers and drive them to safety. They also insisted that it was the belated arrival of U.S. helicopters – not Meyer’s intervention – that ended the Taliban ambush, allowing the withdrawal of U.S. and Afghan troops who’d been trapped in the valley.
The Afghans didn’t dispute that Meyer, of Greensburg, Ky., who’s now a 24-year-old sergeant in the Marine reserves, risked his life by braving enemy fire in helping U.S. and Afghan personnel recover the bodies of four American servicemen.
Questions about what Meyer did during the battle touch on the rigor and integrity of a military awards process that’s supposed to leave no margin of doubt or possibility of error in granting the nation’s highest military honor. A McClatchy investigation published last December showed that many of the feats attributed to Meyer by the Marine Corps and the White House were embellished or invented and weren’t substantiated by sworn statements from Meyer himself and others who participated in the battle.
McClatchy raised more questions about the process in August, when it revealed that another Medal of Honor nomination from the same battle, for former Army Capt. William Swenson, conflicted with parts of the official narratives of Meyer’s achievements.
Swenson’s nomination mysteriously disappeared from military computers, . . .
The military, of course, will never admit to its deceptive behavior. “Honor” is a vacant word in the military nowadays, and the Medal of Honor seems to be equally empty.
The Army, despite its frequent exhortations of “honor,” seems increasingly removed from it. This report by Jonathan Landay in McClatchy is astounding—and equally astounding is that the Army seems totally uninterested in finding out what happened or in fixing the problem.
Like other U.S. trainers with the Afghan force that day, former Army Capt. William Swenson had expected light resistance. Instead, the contingent walked into a furious six-hour gunfight with Taliban ambushers in which Swenson repeatedly charged through intense fire to retrieve wounded and dead.
The 2009 battle of Ganjgal is perhaps the most remarkable of the Afghan war for its extraordinary heroism and deadly incompetence. It produced dozens of casualties, career-killing reprimands and a slew of commendations for valor. They included two Medal of Honor nominations, one for Swenson.
Yet months after the first living Army officer in some 40 years was put in for the nation’s highest military award for gallantry, his nomination vanished into a bureaucratic black hole. The U.S. military in Afghanistan said an investigation had found that it was “lost” in the approval process, something that several experts dismissed as improbable, saying that hasn’t happened since the awards system was computerized in the mid-1970s.
In fact, the investigation uncovered evidence that suggests a far more troubling explanation. It showed that as former Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer’s Medal of Honor nomination from the same battle sailed toward approval despite questions about the accuracy of the account of his deeds, there may have been an effort to kill Swenson’s nomination.
Swenson’s original nomination was downgraded to a lesser award, in violation of Army and Defense Department regulations, evidence uncovered by the investigation showed.
Moreover, Swenson’s Medal of Honor nomination “packet,” a digitized file that contains dozens of documents attesting to his “heroism . . . above and beyond the call of duty,” disappeared from the computer system dedicated to processing awards, a circumstance for which the military said it has “no explanation.”
The unpublished findings, which McClatchy has reviewed, threaten to taint a military awards process that’s designed to leave no margin of doubt or possibility of error about the heroism and sacrifices of U.S. service personnel. They also could bolster charges by some officers, lawmakers, veterans’ groups and experts that the process is vulnerable to improper interference and manipulation, embarrassing the military services and the Obama administration.
“The whole awards system is just totally jacked up,” said Doug Sterner, a military historian who’s made a career of verifying the authenticity of commendations.
The Pentagon and the military services deny that the system is flawed, and the U.S. command in Afghanistan denied that there was any attempt to downgrade Swenson’s Medal of Honor nomination.
Yet despite the possibility of malfeasance or worse, no further effort was made to determine what happened. The “discrepancies” posed by the evidence of a downgrade to a Distinguished Service Cross “could not be resolved,” the investigators said.
Swenson’s nomination was resubmitted last year. President Barack Obama must approve it before Sept. 8, the third anniversary of the battle, or it expires and can only be revived by an act of Congress.
It couldn’t be determined whether there was an effort to kill Swenson’s Medal of Honor nomination, but there are several possible motives for doing so. . .
Continue reading. The possible motives are revealing of the state of the Army.
Mary Elizabeth Williams has a sobering column in Salon:
Kirby Dick’s “The Invisible War” is already the darling of the festival circuit, a documentary that won the audience award at Sundance and critical praise for its sharp, skillful storytelling. But as compelling as his film is, the director of “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” and the Catholic Church sex abuse documentary “Twist of Faith” doesn’t merely want to impress you. This is a movie that intends to reform the entire United States military. And it stands a very good chance of succeeding.
Inspired by Helen Benedict’s 2007 Salon story “The Private War of Women Soldiers,” “The Invisible War” is a gut-wrenching condemnation of the way the military has, across the board and in every branch, failed to protect its members from sexual assault – and then failed them again and again afterward. In a series of harrowing personal accounts, victims – mostly women but a sampling of men as well – recount the trauma of their rapes while in uniform and the sickening personal consequences they experienced for reporting them. It’s estimated that over 20 percent of female veterans have been sexually assaulted during their service – and some believe the real figure is even higher. It’s an epidemic.
As the film demonstrates, because the military handles sexual assault internally, a stunning number of victims are simply brushed off by their superiors. But even more outrageously, many of them have faced retribution. The subjects speak of having their careers ruined, of being punished for committing “adultery” with their married rapists, or being denied veterans’ benefits for the long-term consequences of the emotional and physical batterings they received.
Dick’s film is a devastating, intimate portrait of the aftereffects of sexual abuse. It’s impossible to see the photographs of the astonishing number of women and men who talked to the filmmakers — each looking so fresh and sharp and proud in their uniforms — and not be heartbroken and enraged at the perpetrators and the institutions that protected them. . .
Continue reading. “Honor”—the military seems to have abandoned the idea.
The military, when faced with a scandal, has a standard operating procedure—probably some MilSpec thing that includes a Field Manual. The essential steps are to lie, deny, cover-up, admit nothing, and—if absolutely necessary—punish the highest ranking enlisted man involved.
You can see the initiation of the process in this story by David Goldstein and Matthew Schofield in McClatchy, though more benign interpretations are possible. Still, given the military’s history of lying, cover-ups, and protecting officers at all costs, I think a more cynical view is not out of the question:
Besides waiting nearly a week before identifying the Army staff sergeant who’s accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers, the U.S. military scrubbed its websites of references to his combat service.
Gone were photographs of the suspect, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, as well as a recounting in his base’s newspaper of a 2007 battle in Iraq involving his unit that quoted him extensively.
But not really.
Given the myriad ways that information remains accessible on the Internet, despite the best efforts to remove it, the material about Bales was still out there and available, such as in cached versions of Web pages. Within minutes of the Pentagon leaking his name Friday evening, news organizations and others found and published his pictures, the account of the battle — which depicts Bales and other soldiers in a glowing light — and excerpts from his wife’s personal blog.
So why did the Pentagon try to scrub Bales from the Internet in the first place?
The military said its intention in removing the material wasn’t to lessen the Army’s embarrassment over the horrific attack — nine of the victims were children — but to protect the privacy of Bales’ family.
“Protecting a military family has to be a priority,” said a military official, who like several interviewed for this story spoke only on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.
“I think the feeding frenzy we saw after his name was released was evidence that we were right to try. … Of course the pages are cached; we know that. But we owe it to the wife and kids to do what we can.”
A second Pentagon official acknowledged that one of the reasons for the delay in releasing Bales’ name was to remove references to his Army service from the Internet. However, when Army Maj. Nidal Hasan was arrested in the deadly shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, the Pentagon released his name immediately.
Several former military officers said they were perplexed that the Army would try to remove information that already had been public. One called it “unusual.”
Experts agreed that the effort was futile.
“Once a site has been accessed enough times, it’s very, very difficult to remove content,” said Dan Auerbach, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that supports Internet access. “I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but there’s no evidence of it happening in recent times.”
Another likely concern of the military was that criminal charges against Bales are expected, and the case could last a long time. He’s at the Army’s maximum-security prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
“The military actually does a very good job of protecting defendants’ rights,” said Allan Millett, a military historian at the University of New Orleans and a retired colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. “I suspect it was simply a matter of not prejudicing either public opinion or anyone who might be involved in the case. I’m sure they’re leaning over backwards.” . . .
Continue reading. I was struck by the strong concern expressed for the military family, and total lack of concern for the Afghans murdered. “Protect the family” and “collateral damage, so what?” do not go easily together, IMO. The military has shown no concern at all for the families who live in countries we invade—indeed, we slaughter them by the hundreds, paying a head bounty to settle things if the survivors insist, but always first denying that there were any civilian casualties at all, and then shrugging them off as “collateral damage.” Why the sudden concern for family welfare? Sure hasn’t been evident before. And if they are so damned concerned about family welfare—even military family welfare—why so little attention given to detecting and treating PTSD. I’m sorry, but the concern shown seems to be alligator tears and doesn’t pass the smell test.
I do not think the US is doing well in Afghanistan. Events like this one, reported in the NY Times by Alissa Rubin and Sangar Rahimi are more likely to increase terrorism than reduce it:
Nine boys collecting firewood to heat their homes in the eastern Afghanistan mountains were killed by NATO helicopter gunners who mistook them for insurgents, according to a statement on Wednesday by NATO, which apologized for the mistake.The boys, who were 9 to 15 years old, were attacked on Tuesday in what amounted to one of the war’s worst cases of mistaken killings by foreign-led forces. The victims included two sets of brothers. A 10th boy survived.
The NATO statement, which included an unusual personal apology by the commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, said the boys had been misidentified as the attackers of a NATO base earlier in the day. News of the attack enraged Afghans and led to an anti-American demonstration on Wednesday in the village of Nanglam, where the boys were from. The only survivor, Hemad, 11, said his mother had told him to go out with other boys to collect firewood because “the weather is very cold now.”
“We were almost done collecting the wood when suddenly we saw the helicopters come,” said Hemad, who, like many Afghans, has only one name. “There were two of them. The helicopters hovered over us, scanned us and we saw a green flash from the helicopters. Then they flew back high up, and in a second round they hovered over us and started shooting. They fired a rocket which landed on a tree. The tree branches fell over me and shrapnel hit my right hand and my side.”
The tree, Hemad said, saved his life by covering him so that he could not be seen by the helicopters, which, he said, “shot the boys one after another.”
Continue reading. This reminds me of the incident we learned of through Wikileaks, in which an Army helicopter gunned down people attempting to help the wounded.
I think these actions will be defended only because they were not the actions of an enemy. In the US today, the same behavior is condemned if done by our enemies, excused if done by us. There seems to be no recognition that the US is doing very bad things, things that work to increase terrorism.
The US can certainly massacre civilians, but when our forces had the opportunity to capture Bin Laden, they instead allowed him to escape and did not push the attack.
My jaw dropped. Reported in the Washington Post by Joshua Partlow:
KABUL – To the shock of President Hamid Karzai’s aides, Gen. David Petraeus on Sunday suggested that Afghans caught up in a coalition attack in northeastern Afghanistan might have burned their own children to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties, according to two participants at the meeting.
Petraeus’s exact language in the closed-door session at the presidential palace is not known, nor the precise message he meant to convey. But his remarks about the deadly U.S. military operation in Konar province were interpreted as deeply offensive by some in the room. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.
They said he dismissed allegations by Karzai’s office and the provincial governor that civilians were killed, and said residents invented stories, or even injured their children, to blame U.S. forces for targeting civilians and to stop the operation.
“I was dizzy. My head was spinning,” said one participant about listening to Petraeus. “This was shocking. Would any father do this to his children? This is really absurd.”
Petraeus, through a spokesman, declined to comment.
U.S. and Afghan officials have started to investigate what happened during a three- to four-day operation in the mountains of Ghaziabad district, one of the most dangerous and inhospitable parts of Afghanistan. U.S. military officials said there is no evidence innocent civilians died. The governor of Konar, Fazlullah Wahidi, disagreed, citing reports from villagers that dozens of women and children perished. Karzai’s office placed the civilian death toll at 50 . . .
Continue reading. The military’s record on reporting civilian deaths is extremely clear: the military will immediately and officially say that all deaths were armed insurgents or terrorists or whatever, and then if an independent investigation determines that there were in fact civilian casualties (and occasionally all those killed were civilians, as in the case of the wedding party), the military accepts the findings, expresses regret, and promises to make changes. And so it goes on and on.
But this is a new low.
Elisabeth Bumiller reports in the NY Times:
Senior Airman Michael Kearns had been back from Iraq for only two months when he was pulled over on a Florida highway for going more than 120 miles per hour on his new Suzuki. He knew his motorcycle riding was reckless, but after living through daily mortar attacks on his base in Iraq, he said he needed the adrenaline rush.
“When you get here, there’s nothing that’s very exciting that keeps your pulse going,” Airman Kearns, 27, said in a recent interview.
His experience is so common that the United States military, alarmed by a rising suicide rate and the record number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who die in highway accidents back home, is asking a provocative new question: Nearly a decade into two bloody wars, are the armed forces attracting recruits drawn to high-risk behavior?
“In January 1990, you could join the military and think, ‘You know, I’m probably not going to get deployed,’ ” said Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University professor who has done research on the gap between the military and civilian society. “So on the margins it is reasonable to expect that there might have been a few more people in the pre-9/11 period who said, ‘I have no interest in war and there are other reasons for me to join.’
“By 2005, there were very few, or nobody, like that,” he said. “Or if you were like that, you were a fool. The evidence was staring you in the face that you would be deployed in ground combat.”
The military says the people who enlist to serve their country have always included plenty of adrenaline addicts, which recruiters say is a good thing when troops are needed to jump out of airplanes and go on raids in Afghanistan. But military researchers say they have been compelled to take a deeper look at the psychological demographic of an all-volunteer force during the most prolonged period of combat in American history.
“We’ve never been at war for as long as we’ve been, and we don’t know the effects of that,” said Bruce Shahbaz, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and one of the three main authors of a recent Army suicide report. “We may be attracting people who are more comfortable with risk, and if so, how do we measure that?”
Beyond that, Colonel Shahbaz said, the Army wants to know whether risk-takers are more likely to commit suicide or die in accidents, and whether a predisposition to risk-taking is increased by combat.
To try to find answers, this fall the Army and the National Institute of Mental Health are beginning a five-year study of 90,000 active-duty soldiers and all new Army recruits, 80,000 to 120,000 per year. The recruits are to answer confidential surveys that Colonel Shahbaz said might include questions on whether they owned motorcycles, used drugs or liked to bungee-jump. There will be cognitive tests to measure reactions to stress as well as an in-depth look at a recruit’s family background and genetics.
“It will give us an assessment of someone’s cognitive style and whether they have a history that draws them to high-risk behaviors,” said Thomas R. Insel, the institute’s director.
Researchers acknowledge that in focusing so much on recruits, they are slighting what many say is the biggest reason for the high military suicide rate, the stress of repeated wartime deployments. But in one of the more surprising statistics cited in the Army’s suicide report, 79 percent of the soldiers who committed suicide in recent years had had only one deployment, or had not deployed at all…
But perhaps he’s missing the point on purpose? Or he just didn’t think it through? Mistermix tries to explain the problem, but I doubt that the guy will ever understand.
The Wikileaks videos also do not reveal the hundreds upon hundreds of cases in which American forces refrain from attacking targets precisely because civilians are in harm’s way. That is today an iron rule in Afghanistan, and one for which our soldiers are themselves paying a price in increased casualties. Yet even with the greatest care, armed conflict cannot be sanitized. In almost every war America has ever fought, things on occasion go badly awry. In World War II, instances in which Allied forces massacred captured enemy soldiers were not unheard of. While such cases were a blemish on our military honor, broadcasting the facts to the world and thereby stiffening enemy morale would have been unthinkable in the midst of the great global conflagration.
Although our current struggle does not compare to World War II, there can be no doubt that the dissemination of military videos—far more potent in their impact than written dispatches—can have a profound affect upon our soldiers, inflaming opinion against them in the battlefield and placing their lives at risk. Such videos also undermine the larger counterinsurgency mission of winning hearts and minds. That is why the military keeps them classified. [...]
Schoenfeld is a think-tanker neocon who’s an expert on the media, so it’s interesting to see what’s implicit in his argument. First, the “hearts and minds” he’s concerned about aren’t actually experiencing what’s going on in those videos. Hell, most Afghanis don’t even have an Internet connection. As for “stiffening” the morale of the “enemy”—if their morale isn’t stiffened by an almost-decade of occupation, will one or two videos more make much difference?
The real risk of Wikileaks is that the videos posted there will convince Americans that our endless entanglement there is both brutal and useless. That’s why Wikileaks are so essential, and why they’re a target: Nobody else is doing it.
The military routinely classifies things not because they are truly a matter of national security, but because they are embarrassing to the military or to some particular officer who has the authority to get the materials classified. Cover-up: that is the most important military virtue, based on occurrence.
And we certainly cannot depend on our corporate-owned, corporate-friendly media to report anything that might rock the boat. Corporations like things to run smoothly, keep the dirty work behind the scenes. (Cf. BP’s aggressive efforts to prevent media coverage of the effects of the spill.)
Interesting that the investigation of the incident was done by non-Army personnel—I’ve noted before that the Army’s investigations of itself inevitably turn out to be cover-ups, with officers getting off and enlisted personnel taking the rap. But this time, the investigation was conducted by Togo West, a former Secretary of the Army, and Adm. Vernon E. Clark, a former Chief of Naval Operations. The story in the NY Times by Scott Shane and Elisabeth Bumiller:
The military’s defenses against threats from inside its own ranks are outdated and ineffective, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Monday as he described the findings of a Pentagon review of the Nov. 5 shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas.
Mr. Gates cited poor communications about internal threats to the security of personnel, as well as a weak supervision by commanders, as systemic problems with implications that go beyond the single case of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the military psychiatrist accused of the shootings.
The formal report, released at noon by the Pentagon, found that “some medical officers failed to apply appropriate judgement and standards of officership” when judging Major Hasan, and that more attention should have been paid to his overall performance rather than just his academic record.
Major Hasan behaved erratically and had questionable communications with a radical cleric during the years and months before the shootings, which killed 13 and injured 28 more, according to various officials monitoring the investigations that ensued.
But his supervisors took no actions based on his behavior, and he was transferred to a combat unit at Fort Hood last summer.
Several officers may be held accountable for any failures in supervising Major Hasan during his psychiatric training in the Washington area, Mr. Gates said. He referred the recommendations to the Army for further review. He did not provide details, but the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times, which first reported the findings overnight, said that as many as eight mid-ranking officers could face reprimands…
Some of you may recall Elisabeth Bumiller for her inept and inadequate reportage on the Bush Administration, somewhat explained by her remark that President Bush is so impressive and important that she didn’t feel she could question him. I was amused to note in posting the above that Windows Live Writer questioned the word “Bumiller” and suggested “bumbler” instead. I had no idea Live Writer monitored the news. :)
A loss of nerve that cost tens of thousands of lives. David P. Colley, author of Decision at Strasbourg: Ike’s Strategic Mistake to Halt the Sixth Army Group at the Rhine in 1944, writes in the NY Times:
IXTY-FIVE years ago, in November 1944, the war in Europe was at a stalemate. A resurgent Wehrmacht had halted the Allied armies along Germany’s borders after its headlong retreat across northern France following D-Day. From Holland to France, the front was static — yet thousands of Allied soldiers continued to die in futile battles to reach the Rhine River.
One Allied army, however, was still on the move. The Sixth Army Group reached the Rhine at Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 24, and its commander, Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, looked across its muddy waters into Germany. His force, made up of the United States Seventh and French First Armies, 350,000 men, had landed Aug. 15 near Marseille — an invasion largely overlooked by history but regarded at the time as “the second D-Day” — and advanced through southern France to Strasbourg. No other Allied army had yet reached the Rhine, not even hard-charging George Patton’s.
Devers dispatched scouts over the river. “There’s nobody in those pillboxes over there,” a soldier reported. Defenses on the German side of the upper Rhine were unmanned and the enemy was unprepared for a cross-river attack, which could unhinge the Germans’ southern front and possibly lead to the collapse of the entire line from Holland to Switzerland.
The Sixth Army Group had assembled bridging equipment, amphibious trucks and assault boats. Seven crossing sites along the upper Rhine were evaluated and intelligence gathered. The Seventh Army could cross north of Strasbourg at Rastatt, Germany, advance north along the Rhine Valley to Karlsruhe, and swing west to come in behind the German First Army, which was blocking Patton’s Third Army in Lorraine. The enemy would face annihilation, and the Third and Seventh Armies could break loose and drive into Germany. The war might end quickly.
Devers never crossed. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander, visited Devers’s headquarters that day and ordered him instead to stay on the Rhine’s west bank and attack enemy positions in northern Alsace. Devers was stunned. “We had a clean breakthrough,” he wrote in his diary. “By driving hard, I feel that we could have accomplished our mission.” Instead the war of attrition continued, giving the Germans a chance to counterattack three weeks later in what became known as the Battle of the Bulge, which cost 80,000 American dead and wounded.
Garrison Davidson, then Devers’s engineering officer and later a superintendent of West Point, believed Devers’s attack would have succeeded and pre-empted the Bulge, writing, “I have often wondered what might have happened had Ike had the audacity to take a calculated risk, as General Patton would have.” Patton wrote in his diary that he also believed Eisenhower had missed a great opportunity; the Seventh Army’s commander, Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch, felt the same way.
Why did Eisenhower refuse to allow Devers to cross? …
Continue reading. The short answer: Eisenhower was appallingly petty.
How old is old enough for students to be approached by military recruiters?
High school? Junior high? Fourth grade? How about ten weeks into kindergarten?
Last week at the dinner table, my five-year-old son announced blithely, "Soldiers came to school today." He then added, "They only kill bad people. They don’t kill good people."
He made the announcement with the same levity he uses in recalling the plot line of Frog and Toad or a Nemo video.
My wife and I looked at each other incredulously.
"Soldiers came to school? What do you mean?" I asked.
He repeated himself and then I remembered – it was "Career Day" at school. My son mentioned a bus driver too, but it was the soldier who stuck out in his mind. When my wife asked if the soldier was cool, he nodded yes.
The soldier had given my five-year-old a gift. From his yellow backpack, he produced a six-inch, white, plastic ruler with big, bold, red letters reading "ARMY NATIONAL GUARD" next to a waving American flag and below that www.1-800-GO-GUARD.com.
So, now we know the answer to the above question…