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The US always seems to betray people who have helped it. Current instance: Afghan interpreters

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The Kurds are another ally treated shabbily (at best) by the US. Now Afghans who assisted the US are being left to the Taliban’s dubious mercy. David Zucchino and Najim Rahim report in the NY Times:

It was an offhand comment, blurted out in frustration. It may have destroyed Shoaib Walizada’s chances of earning a cherished visa to the United States.

Mr. Walizada, who interpreted for the U.S. Army for four years until 2013, said that he had complained one day, using profanity, that his assigned combat vest was too small. When the episode came to light later that year, Mr. Walizada’s preliminary approval for a visa was revoked for “unprofessional conduct.”

Mr. Walizada, 31, is among thousands of Afghans once employed by the U.S. government, many as interpreters, whose applications for a Special Immigrant Visa, or S.I.V., through a State Department program, have been denied.

The program, established to relocate to the United States Iraqis and Afghans whose lives are threatened because they worked for the American military or government, has rejected some applicants for seemingly minor infractions and others for no stated reason.

Now, as American troops depart and Afghans experience a growing sense of anxiety and despair, the visa applications have taken on renewed urgency. With the Taliban taking advantage of the U.S. withdrawal, many former interpreters say they are more likely than ever to be killed.

“I get phone calls from the Taliban saying, ‘We will kill you’ — they know who I am and that I worked for the Americans,” Mr. Walizada said. He has delayed marriage because he does not want to put a wife at risk, he said, and he has moved from house to house for safety.

The slightest blemish during years of otherwise stellar service can torpedo a visa application and negate glowing letters of recommendation from American commanders. In the last three months of 2020 alone, State Department statistics show, 1,646 Afghans were denied one of the special visas, which are issued to applicants satisfying demanding requirements and rigorous background checks even though interpreters would already have passed security screenings.

Among reasons cited for denial were the failure to prove the required length of service, insufficient documentation, failure to establish “faithful and valuable service” and “derogatory information.”

More than 18,000 Afghans are awaiting decisions on their S.I.V. applications, according to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Many say they are seized by dread, fearing they will be denied, or approved only after they have been hunted down and killed.

No One Left Behind, a nonprofit that advocates for the relocation of Afghan interpreters to the United States, says that more than 300 translators or their relatives have been killed since 2014. Thousands of S.I.V. applicants have submitted “threat letters” they received from the Taliban.

The visa program, first approved by Congress in 2006 for interpreters in Afghanistan and Iraq, has long been slowed by chronic delays and logjams. Most recently, a 2020 report by the State Department Inspector General identified six serious shortcomings in the Afghan S.I.V. process, including staff shortages and lack of a centralized database.

Many interpreters complain that they wait for months, and in some cases years, for a decision. Some joke that they have “S.I.V. syndrome” from constantly logging on to a State Department website for updates.

Nearly 21,000 visas were issued to Afghans from 2009 to March 2021, according to State Department figures. Just under 11,000 visas are still available.

Sayed Obaidullah Amin, 46, who interpreted for the U.S. Marine Corps for two years, said that he had passed an in-person interview at the American Embassy. But he was abruptly denied in 2019; a terse letter cited “lack of faithful and valuable service” and “derogatory information associated with case.”

Mr. Amin says he believes the S.I.V. program learned that, during one stint with a Marine unit, he returned to duty two days late after being granted leave to deal with his father’s heart attack.

Officials at the State Department and at the embassy said they could not provide the percentage of Afghan S.I.V. applicants who had been denied.

Most interpreters carry thick folders stuffed with letters from former commanders extolling their dedication and courage. A letter from a Marine officer, sent in hopes of reversing Mr. Amin’s rejection, praised his loyalty and steadfast service.

The officer, Andrew Darlington, a retired captain, said in an email that the embassy had not responded to his queries about the denial. “Thousands like Obaid are facing certain death in the next 12 to 24 months,” he wrote.

Waheedullah Rahmani, 27, said he had been waiting since 2015 for an S.I.V. decision. That year, he said, the embassy asked him to resubmit threat letters and letters of recommendation. He did so, he said, but his emails to the program have since gone unanswered. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s disheartening.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 5:09 pm

Great story: British engineer who accidentally took off in a high-performance fighter jet

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Great story — and a very interesting fighter jet.

Written by Leisureguy

10 June 2021 at 11:25 am

Malcolm Gladwell’s Fantasy of War From the Air

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In the New Republic Colin Dickey reviews a recent book by Malcom Gladwell:

There’s a scene in the 2011 film Moneyball where Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane is mentoring young Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) on how to cut a professional baseball player from the roster: bluntly, without euphemism. “Would you rather,” he asks, “get one shot in the head or five in the chest and bleed to death?” Imagine, if you will, that this was not a rhetorical question or an analogy about firing someone but rather a serious, literal question. Now imagine 206 pages of this, and you have a sense of what it’s like to read Malcolm Gladwell’s new book.

The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War is a nasty, brutish book—if it’s also short, it’s not nearly short enough. It is a breathless and narratively riveting story about the best way to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians. It is the story of two different approaches to killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, and of the heroic men who each championed their own method for mass killing. Its central question is whether one should approach the wholesale massacre of the innocents with indifference or with hypocrisy, and its conceit is that this is a relevant or fascinating distinction. It is a book detailing a series of ingenious new technologies for butchery, dressed up in the polished technophilic language of a TED talk.

The book details the rise and fall (and rise again) of the doctrine of precision air bombing, an idea that emerged from the Air Corps Tactical School (the aviation equivalent of the Army War College), nicknamed the “Bomber Mafia.” The Air Force was not yet a separate branch of the military in the 1930s, but with the advent of military aviation the men at the Air Corps Tactical School (based at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama) began to fantasize about entirely new kinds of war-making and attempted to birth a revolution in how war might be fought. Their singular obsession, according to Gladwell, was this: What if, instead of bringing the full might of one’s military on the enemy, battering them into submission, you could take out key infrastructure and manufacturing targets (“choke points,” in the Bomber Mafia’s parlance) that would incapacitate your opponent while avoiding mass death?

It’s an interesting enough idea. In the opening years of World War II, aerial bombing meant total destruction. The London Blitz was designed to overwhelm the British and demoralize them into submission. England’s answer to this was Arthur “Bomber” Harris, whom Gladwell describes as, simply, a “psychopath.” Harris was one of the chief architects of the British tactic of “area bombing” or “morale bombing”: Reduce cities to rubble and incinerate the civilians until they submit. For Harris, civilians were viable targets if for no other reason than some of them worked in the factories that made bombs and submarines. As he would say later, “They were all active soldiers, to my mind.”

The minds at the Air Corps Tactical School thought there might be a different way. “The whole argument of the Bomber Mafia, their whole reason for being, was that they didn’t want to cross that line,” Gladwell writes. “They weren’t just advancing a technological argument. They were also advancing a moral argument.” When the Americans joined forces with the British Royal Air Force in bombing Germany, the Bomber Mafia sought to prove its approach. Under the command of General Haywood Hansell, the Americans argued that if they could destroy the German’s capacity to make ball bearings, they could bring their manufacturing to a standstill. What if you could leave the Germans for want of a nail and lose them the whole ship?

This is the “dream” of the subtitle—what if by changing one’s perspective and focusing on something small and seemingly insignificant, one could change how wars were fought? One can see how the author of The Tipping PointBlinkand Outliers would be taken by a group whose motto was Proficimus more irrententi—“We make progress unhindered by custom.” The Bomber Mafia is adapted from an audiobook, which means that what sounds conversational and engaging on tape can sound garrulous on the page, but it also allows Gladwell to telegraph his breathless fascination with these men. “I worry that I haven’t fully explained just how radical—how revolutionary—the Bomber Mafia thinking was,” he says at one point, before launching on a long digression about chapel architecture. Unbound by tradition, the Bomber Mafia wanted to innovate and rethink war from the ground up (or the sky down). This is a group “utterly uninterested in heritage and tradition,” Gladwell explains; rather than “studying the Peloponnesian War or the Battle of Trafalgar,” they were readying themselves for “today’s battles.”

In Gladwell’s world, the people who matter are the innovators, the disrupters. The protagonists of The Bomber Mafia are all various analogs of Steve Jobs or John Lennon—heroic icons who brought a unique perspective and, through determination and insight, pursued a dream that changed the world. But such decisions never happen in a vacuum, and by foregrounding such technological pursuits, The Bomber Mafia furthers the fiction that somehow airstrikes can be moral.


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How much can you change the world from the air? In the 1920s, when aviation was in its infancy, proponents for air power imagined a utopian possibility: The airplane was so new, so unrefined, and offered so much potential. The sky was the limit, and perhaps somewhere in this technology would be a way to end war once and for all.

Though this dream would fade fast, the book strains to carry this early naïveté over to the realities of World War II. Gladwell organizes his chapters around individual men with unique, startling ideas, like Carl L. Norden, a Dutch engineer whose obsession was the aerial bomb sight, which would enable precision strikes and could entirely change how aerial warfare was conducted. The book follows first Norden and then the Air Corps Tactical School under Haywood Hansell, as it attempts to prove the efficacy of the precision bombing thesis. This group is repeatedly contrasted with men like Harris, as searching for a “moral” approach to bombing. Hansell, we’re told, “provides us with a model of what it means to be moral in our modern world.”

Gladwell repeats this line throughout; he quotes Tami Biddle, professor of national security at the U.S. Army War College, on this as well: “I think there’s a strong moral component to all this,” she tells Gladwell,

a desire to find a way to fight a war that is clean and that is not going to tarnish the American reputation as a moral nation, a nation of ideas and ideology and commitment to individual rights and respect for human beings.

Tellingly, though, Gladwell provides no direct quotes from Hansell or the Bomber Mafia suggesting that they thought their approach was moral; it’s all a retrospective appraisal from contemporary historians. After all, here is what their so-called “moral” approach looked like at the time: In a wargame that proposed a conflict between Canada and the United States, the Bomber Mafia gamed out what it would take for a hypothetical airstrike launched from Toronto to take out New York City. Bomber Mafia associate Muir Fairchild instead theorized that you could bring the city to its knees by striking 17 targets: the bridges, the aqueducts that brought fresh water to the city, and the power grid. As military historian Robert Pape explains, “They basically want to create a situation where there’s almost no potable water for the population to drink.” This would avoid “wave upon wave of costly and dangerous bombing attacks” or reducing the city to rubble, while still incapacitating the city. This, somehow, is the moral option: cutting off a city of millions to die slowly of thirst. We are back to Billy Beane’s question: Would you rather get one shot in the head or five in the chest and bleed to death? . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2021 at 8:03 am

The Republican Party is a clear and present danger to American democracy

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today, Katie Benner of the New York Times broke the story that former president Trump tried to use the Department of Justice to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Five emails provided to Congress show Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, asking the acting attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, in December, to investigate rumors of voter fraud. One of the fantastical stories Meadows wanted investigated was the story that “people in Italy had used military technology and satellites to remotely tamper with voting machines in the United States and switch votes for Mr. Trump to votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr.”

The Department of Justice is not the president’s to command. It is supposed to enforce the laws of the United States and administer justice. The office of the president has its own lawyer—the White House counsel—and the president can also have their own personal representation. That Trump tried to use our own Department of Justice to overturn the will of the American voters is eye-popping.

But that was not the only news of the day. We also learned that the Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, told Trump advisor Steven Bannon on a public show that had he not been able to block a great deal of mail-in voting in 2020, Biden would have won Texas.

We also learned that Oregon Representative Mike Nearman, who was already in trouble for opening the doors of the Oregon Capitol to anti–coronavirus restriction rioters on December 21, held a meeting beforehand, on December 16, to plot the event. An attendee filmed the talk, which set up “Operation Hall Pass.” That operation ultimately opened the Oregon capitol building to far-right rioters, who endangered the entire legislature. The video, which shows Nearman winking and nodding at setting up the invasion, has raised questions about whether other Republicans worked with insurrectionists in other settings.

It is an odd day for these stories to come to light. 

Seventy-seven years ago today, on June 5, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was preparing to send Allied troops, who fought for democracy, across the English Channel to France. There, he hoped, they would push the German troops, who fought for an authoritarian fascist state, back across Europe, securing a victory for democracy over authoritarianism. 

More than 5,000 ships waited to transport more than 150,000 soldiers to France before daybreak the following morning. The fighting to take Normandy would not be easy. The beaches the men would assault were tangled in barbed wire, booby trapped, and defended by German soldiers in concrete bunkers.

On the afternoon of June 5, as the Allied soldiers, their faces darkened with soot and cocoa, milled around waiting to board the ships, Eisenhower went to see the men he was almost certainly sending to their deaths. He joked with the troops, as apparently upbeat as his orders to them had been when he told them Operation Overlord had launched. “The tide has turned!” his letter read. “The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!”

But after cheering his men on, he went back to his headquarters and wrote another letter. Designed to blame himself alone if Operation Overlord failed, it read:

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

The letter was, of course, never delivered. Operation Overlord was a success, launching the final assault in which western democracy, defended by ordinary men and women, would destroy European fascism.

U.S. Army photograph, 1944, Library of Congress

Written by Leisureguy

5 June 2021 at 8:07 pm

A Military Drone With A Mind Of Its Own Was Used In Combat, U.N. Says

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Highly recommended: Kill Decision and also influx, by Daniel Suarez (and I would also highly recommend his other books, including the duology Daemon and Freedom™). Joe Hernandez reports for NPR:

Military-grade autonomous drones can fly themselves to a specific location, pick their own targets and kill without the assistance of a remote human operator. Such weapons are known to be in development, but until recently there were no reported cases of autonomous drones killing fighters on the battlefield.

Now, a United Nations report about a March 2020 skirmish in the military conflict in Libya says such a drone, known as a lethal autonomous weapons system — or LAWS — has made its wartime debut. But the report does not say explicitly that the LAWS killed anyone.

“If anyone was killed in an autonomous attack, it would likely represent an historic first known case of artificial intelligence-based autonomous weapons being used to kill,” Zachary Kallenborn wrote in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The assault came during fighting between the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord and forces aligned with Gen. Khalifa Haftar, according to the report by the U.N. Panel of Experts on Libya.

“Logistics convoys and retreating [Haftar-affiliated forces] were subsequently hunted down and remotely engaged by the unmanned combat aerial vehicles or the lethal autonomous weapons systems such as the STM Kargu-2 … and other loitering munitions,” the panel wrote.

he Kargu-2 is an attack drone made by the Turkish company STM that can be operated both autonomously and manually and that purports to use “machine learning” and “real-time image processing” against its targets.

The U.N. report goes on: “The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability.”

“Fire, forget and find” refers to a weapon that once fired can guide itself to its target.

The idea of a “killer robot” has moved from fantasy to reality

Drone warfare itself is not new. For years, military forces and rebel groups have used remote-controlled aircraft to carry out reconnaissance, target infrastructure and attack people. The U.S. in particular has used drones extensively to kill militants and destroy physical targets.

Azerbaijan used armed drones to gain a major advantage over Armenia in recent fighting for control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Just last month, the Israel Defense Forces reportedly used drones to drop tear gas on protesters in the occupied West Bank, while Hamas launched loitering munitions — so-called kamikaze drones — into Israel.

What’s new about the incident in Libya, if confirmed, is . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2021 at 3:34 pm

US Soldiers Expose Nuclear Weapons Secrets Via Flashcard Apps

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It seems as though society has lost control of technology, with technology no longer serving us so much as undermining us. Foeke Postma writes at Bellingcat:

For US soldiers tasked with the custody of nuclear weapons in Europe, the stakes are high. Security protocols are lengthy, detailed and need to be known by heart. To simplify this process, some service members have been using publicly visible flashcard learning apps — inadvertently revealing a multitude of sensitive security protocols about US nuclear weapons and the bases at which they are stored.

While the presence of US nuclear weapons in Europe has long been detailed by various leaked documents, photos and statements by retired officials, their specific locations are officially still a secret with governments neither confirming nor denying their presence.

As many campaigners and parliamentarians in some European nations see it, this ambiguity has often hampered open and democratic debate about the rights and wrongs of hosting nuclear weapons.

However, the flashcards studied by soldiers tasked with guarding these devices reveal not just the bases, but even identify the exact shelters with “hot” vaults that likely contain nuclear weapons.

They also detail intricate security details and protocols such as the positions of cameras, the frequency of patrols around the vaults, secret duress words that signal when a guard is being threatened and the unique identifiers that a restricted area badge needs to have.

Like their analogue namesakes, flashcard learning apps are popular digital learning tools that show questions on one side and answers on the other. By simply searching online for terms publicly known to be associated with nuclear weapons, Bellingcat was able to discover cards used by military personnel serving at all six European military bases reported to store nuclear devices.

Experts approached by Bellingcat said that these findings represented serious breaches of security protocols and raised renewed questions about US nuclear weapons deployment in Europe.

Dr Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk.com and Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said that the findings showed a “flagrant breach” in security practices related to US nuclear weapons stationed in NATO countries.

He added that “secrecy about US nuclear weapons deployments in Europe does not exist to protect the weapons from terrorists, but only to protect politicians and military leaders from having to answer tough questions about whether NATO’s nuclear-sharing arrangements still make sense today. This is yet one more warning that these weapons are not secure.”

Hans Kristenssen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, broadly agreed and said that safety is provided by “effective security, not secrecy.”

Some flashcards uncovered during the course of this investigation had been publicly visible online as far back as 2013. Other sets detailed processes that were being learned by users  until at least April 2021. It is not known whether secret phrases, protocols or other security practices have been altered since then.

However, all flashcards described within this article appear to have been taken down from the learning platforms on which they appeared after Bellingcat reached out to NATO and the US Military for comment prior to publication. A spokesperson for the Dutch Ministry of Defence stated that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more

For what it’s worth, my favorite flashcard program is Anki.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2021 at 11:43 am

A dinner described

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The description occurs in Post Captain, the second book of Patrick O’Brian’s marvelous series of British naval novels of the Napoleonic era. (The first is Master and Commander, highly recommended.) O’Brian writes:

‘Dinner,’ said Captain Christy-Pallière, closing the file of Death Sentences, F-L. ‘I shall start with a glass of Banyuls and some anchovies, a handful of olives, black olives; then I believe I may look at Hébert’s fish soup, and follow it with a simple langouste in court-bouillon. Possibly his gigot en croûte: the lamb is exquisite now that the thyme is in flower. Then no more than cheese, strawberries, and some trifle with our coffee – a saucer of my English jam, for example. None of your architectural meals, Penhoët; my liver will not stand it in this heat, and we have a great deal of work to do if the Annibale is to be ready for sea by next week. There are all Dumanoir’s dossiers to deal with – how I wish he would come back. I should have interrogated the Maltese this morning. If we have a good dinner they risk to escape unshot . . .’

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2021 at 9:56 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Food, Military

History rhymes: Israel does not want outsiders to observe their actions

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Many still recall the USS Liberty incident, in which Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats attacked and attempted to sink a lightly armed US Navy technical-research ship that was in international waters. The ship was clearly flying the US flag, and there is no doubt in the minds of many that Israel deliberately attacked the vessel. Casualties included 35 killed and 171 wounded, and the ship was badly damaged.

And day before yesterday, Israeli warplanes bombed and destroyed a civilian building in Gaza, giving the residents had 1 hour to pick what possessions they wanted to keep and get out of the building. Al Jazeera reports:

Youmna al-Sayed had less than an hour to get to safety.

But with just one elevator working in al-Jalaa tower, an 11-storey building in Gaza City housing some 60 residential apartments and a number of offices, including those of Al Jazeera Media Network and The Associated Press, al-Sayed made a dash for the stairs.

“We left the elevator for the elderly and for the children to evacuate,” the Palestinian freelance journalist said. “And we were all running down the stairs and whoever could help children took them down,” she added. “I myself helped two children of the residents there and I took them downstairs – everyone was just running quickly.”

Moments earlier, the Israeli army, which has been bombarding Gaza for six straight days, had given a telephone warning that residents had just an hour to evacuate the building before its fighter jets attacked it.

Al Jazeera’s Safwat al-Kahlout also had to move quickly. He and his colleagues “started to collect as much as they could, from the personal and equipment of the office – especially the cameras”, al-Kahlout said.

“Just give me 15 minutes,” an AP journalist pleaded over the phone with an Israeli intelligence officer. “We have a lot of equipment, including the cameras, other things,” he added from outside the building. “I can bring all of it out.”

Jawad Mahdi, the building’s owner, also tried to buy more time.

“All I’m asking is to let four people … to go inside and get their cameras,” he told the officer. “We respect your wishes, we will not do it if you don’t allow it, but give us 10 minutes.”

“There will be no 10 minutes,” the officer replied. “No one is allowed to enter the building, we already gave you an hour to evacuate.”

When the request was rejected, Mahdi said: “You have destroyed our life’s work, memories, life. I will hang up, do what you want. There is a God.”

The Israeli army claimed there were “military interests of the Hamas intelligence” in the building, a standard line used after bombing buildings in Gaza, and it accused the group running the territory of using journalists as human shields. However, it provided no evidence to back up its claims.

“I have been working in this office for more than 10 years and I have never seen anything [suspicious],” al-Kahlout said.

“I even asked my colleagues if they’ve seen anything suspicious and they all confirmed to me that they have never seen any military aspects or the fighters even coming in and out,” he added.

“In our building, we have lots of families that we know for more than 10 years, we meet each other every day on our way in and out to the office.”

Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of AP, also told Al Jazeera: “I can tell you that we’ve been in that building for about 15 years for our bureau. We certainly had no sense that Hamas was there.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

It strikes me that Israel did not want reporters covering the conflict in Gaza, and this was an efficient way to preventing it.

I have to say Jared Kushner’s great peace plan doesn’t seem to be working. Patrick Kingsley in the NY Times explains what led to the current outbreak of war:

 Twenty-seven days before the first rocket was fired from Gaza this week, a squad of Israeli police officers entered the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, brushed the Palestinian attendants aside and strode across its vast limestone courtyard. Then they cut the cables to the loudspeakers that broadcast prayers to the faithful from four medieval minarets.

It was the night of April 13, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It was also Memorial Day in Israel, which honors those who died fighting for the country. The Israeli president was delivering a speech at the Western Wall, a sacred Jewish site that lies below the mosque, and Israeli officials were concerned that the prayers would drown it out.

The incident was confirmed by six mosque officials, three of whom witnessed it; the Israeli police declined to comment. In the outside world, it barely registered.

But in hindsight, the police raid on the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, was one of several actions that led, less than a month later, to the sudden resumption of war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, and the outbreak of civil unrest between Arabs and Jews across Israel itself.

“This was the turning point,” said Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the grand mufti of Jerusalem. “Their actions would cause the situation to deteriorate.”

That deterioration has been far more devastating, far-reaching and fast-paced than anyone imagined. It has led to the worst violence between Israelis and Palestinians in years — not only in the conflict with Hamas, which has killed at least 145 people in Gaza and 12 in Israel, but in a wave of mob attacks in mixed Arab-Jewish cities in Israel.

It has spawned unrest in cities across the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians on Friday. And it has resulted in the firing of rockets toward Israel from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, prompted Jordanians to march toward Israel in protest, and led Lebanese protesters to briefly cross their southern border with Israel.

The crisis came as the Israeli government was struggling for its survival; as Hamas — which Israel views as a terrorist group — was seeking to expand its role within the Palestinian movement; and as a new generation of Palestinians was asserting its own values and goals.

And it was the outgrowth of years of blockades and restrictions in Gaza, decades of occupation in the West Bank, and decades more of discrimination against Arabs within the state of Israel, said Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli Parliament and former chairman of the World Zionist Organization.

“All the enriched uranium was already in place,” he said. “But you needed a trigger. And the trigger was the Aqsa Mosque.”

It had been seven years since the last significant conflict with Hamas, and 16 since the last major Palestinian uprising, or intifada.

There was no major unrest in Jerusalem when President Donald J. Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital and nominally moved the United States Embassy there. There were no mass protests after four Arab countries normalized relations with Israel, abandoning a long-held consensus that they would never do so until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had been resolved.

Two months ago, few in the Israeli military establishment were expecting anything like this.

In private briefings, military officials said the biggest threat to Israel was 1,000 miles away in Iran, or across the northern border in Lebanon.

When diplomats met in March with the two generals who oversee administrative aspects of Israeli military affairs in Gaza and the West Bank, they found the pair relaxed about the possibility of significant violence and celebrating an extended period of relative quiet, according to a senior foreign diplomat who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely.

Gaza was struggling to overcome a wave of coronavirus infections. Most major Palestinian political factions, including Hamas, were looking toward Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for May, the first in 15 years. And in Gaza, where the Israeli blockade has contributed to an unemployment rate of about 50 percent, Hamas’s popularity was dwindling as Palestinians spoke increasingly of the need to prioritize the economy over war.

The mood began to shift in April.

The prayers at Aqsa for the first night of Ramadan on April 13 occurred as the Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, was making his speech nearby.

The mosque leadership, which is overseen by the Jordanian government, had rejected an Israeli request to avoid broadcasting prayers during the speech, viewing the request as disrespectful, a public affairs officer at the mosque said.

So that night, the police raided the mosque and disconnected the speakers.

“Without a doubt,” said Sheikh Sabri, “it was clear to us that the Israeli police wanted to desecrate the Aqsa Mosque and the holy month of Ramadan.”

A spokesman for the president denied that the speakers had been turned off, but later said they would double-check.

In another year, the episode might have been quickly forgotten.

But last month, several factors suddenly and unexpectedly aligned that allowed this slight to snowball into a major showdown.

A resurgent sense of national identity among young Palestinians found expression not only in resistance to a series of raids on Al Aqsa, but also in protesting the plight of six Palestinian families facing expulsion from their homes. The perceived need to placate an increasingly assertive far right gave Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s caretaker prime minister, little incentive to calm the waters.

A sudden Palestinian political vacuum, and a grass-roots protest that it could adopt, gave Hamas an opportunity to flex its muscles.

These shifts in the Palestinian dynamics caught Israel unawares. Israelis had been complacent, nurtured by more than a decade of far-right governments that treated Palestinian demands for equality and statehood as a problem to be contained, not resolved.

“We have to wake up,” said . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Benjamin Rosenbaum, a writer, made this comment on Facebook:

American politicians enjoy piously invoking “Israel’s right to defend itself”, and many Americans catch themselves nodding along to what seems like a commonsensical thought experiment: what if someone lobbed a missile over your borders? Surely no nation would simply ignore it! We too would pound the hell out of them!

And, yes, firing a missile over your borders is an act of war. However — never mind for a moment occupation and UN resolutions and all that other stuff that makes our heads hurt, just keeping it very simple — embargo is also an act of war. As is assassination. Somehow we always do the thought experiment “what if Canada fired a missile at us” and we never do the thought experiment “what if Canada embargoed all our ports and airports, periodically shut off our water and power supply, didn’t allow anyone to sell us food or medical supplies, didn’t allow us to leave, didn’t allow anyone to come in, and we were regularly dying for lack of medical care, and also they regularly assassinated our political leaders?”

“Israel’s right to defend itself” sounds like Israel is minding its own business (terrorizing and evicting its minorities, brutally suppressing its protesters… hey, we’ve all been there, right?) when Hamas, just trying to stir shit up, makes an unprovoked attack. This is very silly because if Hamas-controlled Gaza is a neighboring state, then Israel is constantly committing acts of war against it. Every day the ports don’t open is a day when “any other nation” would fire a rocket, right?

I am not a big fan of Hamas, people. Hamas is loud and clear that it wants to kill me (Hamas isn’t too into making fine distinctions between “the Israeli state”, “Israelis” and “Jews”). (Also there are a bunch of people I love in Israel, and it is very scary to be herded into bunkers because your prime minister is an asshole who has provoked a war, and I have a deep emotional connection to Israel as a big part of world Jewry and as the source and locus of my religion, and, sure, my people’s homeland; which is, by the way, all a bunch of emotions happening in my brain, which does not magically give me any rights to anything).

But: come on. You cannot have it both ways. If Gaza is a separate state, it is a state with which Israel is at war, all the time; and acting shocked when it fires rockets is very odd. If you are at war with a state and you want it to stop shooting at you, maybe consider making peace?

And if Gaza is not a separate state — and you have to squint pretty hard to claim that an entity that has no control of its exports, imports, water, power, free movement of people, where no one has a valid passport, etc., is a state — then it is a piece of territory Israel controls in which it is slowly strangling three quarters of a million people, and depriving them of almost all human rights. It’s one or the other.

I mean, no, dude, I don’t know how to make peace there either, the positions of the two sides are so incompatible. A younger me was full of ideas, but a younger me was partly playing into a racist and colonialist idea that clever people from the enlightened West should arrive with Solutions. So, younger me, STFU. I’m not Palestinian or Israeli; it is not my job to know what they should do. I am a human, so I know that people should stop killing each other, and also particularly the people with 95% of the weapons who are inflicting 95% of the casualties bear the responsibility for that happening. And, I am an American; so it IS my job to react to the bullshit American politicians spout. And this whole “oh noes! For Some Reason naughty Hamas is firing the rocketz! Everything was Going So Well before Why Would They Do That” is a monumental act of willful pretend ignorance.

Written by Leisureguy

17 May 2021 at 6:31 pm

“No legal objection, per se”

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E.M. Liddick writes in War on the Rocks:

The commander turns to me. “Any issues, Eric?”

I am the legal advisor to a special operations task force conducting counter-terrorism operations. Our mission: locate and capture — or kill — terrorists.

My “morning,” like so many others, began a few hours earlier, but that means little when day blurs into night, night into day. I had removed my boots and lain down in my uniform on my well-worn twin-sized mattress shortly before the last of our teams began their return to base at about 3 a.m.

The pager, habitually positioned on a ledge near my head, buzzed obnoxiously around 5 a.m., jolting me awake, spiking my heart rate. I reached for it, desperate to reclaim the silence, before swinging my legs off the bed and exhaling an audible groan.

Sleepwalking and squinting, I made my way down the hall to the joint operations center to answer the page. A flurry of activity had replaced the normal quiet found in the few hours between an operation and sunrise. As the commander and operations officer intently focused on an unfolding situation, I walked over to the chief of operations. With a quiet and solemn voice, he broke the news: We just lost one of our men.

With a start, the fog lifted. My brain revved from zero to 60, rifling through battle drills and searching for potential legal issues. Knowing this tragedy could beget more, I sent a runner to wake my deputy and paralegal. When they arrived, I explained the situation and assigned tasks, reminding them that, though we all justifiably felt anger, we needed to be the ones who remained unemotional. I tried to exude confidence and certainty, but my face, I fear, betrayed insecurity and anxiety.

Now, roughly four hours after that obnoxious buzz, I find myself staring at an oversized screen. On it, I observe three congregating individuals, two on bicycles, one who appears young — perhaps a boy, but I can’t be sure — and I, as the legal advisor, am being asked by the commander whether he may legally kill these three humans. I am the judge — he the jury and executioner.

This is a story about how a lawyer’s professional responsibilities, when tossed into the pressure cooker of combat, can produce unpalatable consequences; a story about the reaches of war and post-traumatic stress and moral injury on its less obvious participants; and how the hidden costs of war may be more expansive than we realize.

****

The reports began surfacing almost a decade into the “Global War on Terror”: Drone pilots operating from within the safety of the United States were beginning to show signs of post-traumatic stress.

I remember balking, laughing even. How could a drone pilot who worked in an air-conditioned box in Nevada or wherever, a pilot who worked eight or ten or twelve hours before returning home for dinner, a pilot who faced no real physical danger suffer from post-traumatic stress or moral injury? Absurd, I thought.

Now, almost two decades into that same war and confronting my own grief, I ask: How could I be so scornful, so wrong, so quick to judge?

Much has been written about the invisible wounds of combat, injuries suffered by, among others, infantry soldiersmedicsdrone pilotsinterrogatorsspecial operations forces, and even journalists. Their wounds seem easy to comprehend, with their proximity to the action or direct causal link between the push of a button and manufactured death. But no one speaks about the potential for these wounds to affect others, like judge advocates, who find themselves far removed from the physical danger or the direct causal link. Yet, I feel these wounds within me.

Sure, I was geographically closer to the action, but, psychologically, I remained nearer to Nevada and those drone pilots. I faced little danger beyond sporadic, and ineffective, mortar attacks. I didn’t receive or return fire, didn’t experience “friendly fire,” didn’t fear improvised explosive devices, and, most importantly, didn’t order the strikes or pull the trigger that took another human life. Instead, I was a mere cog in the machinery of death, advising in relative comfort away from the action, fueled by a steady supply of caffeine, snacks, and adrenaline, providing a cloak of legality to the decision-maker’s choice to approve a strike, to pull a trigger — to kill.

Even so, every cog contains some thing. And this something has changed since I returned home. I am different, and the difference is the weight of the guilt I feel. But it is not only the moral weight of how even legal advice kills, but also the burden of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2021 at 1:43 pm

A Scar on His Soul: A conversation with a Vietnam veteran

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Stephen Chamberlain has an interesting article on Medium, which begins:

Fifty years have passed and the trauma and memories of a 12-month hitch in Vietnam have not faded a bit.

John volunteered for the Army in 1969 when he was 19 years old. The war in Vietnam was raging and he knew it. Joining the Army was not something a kid did if he wanted to avoid combat. John knew he was signing up for trouble but did it anyway out of a sense of blind patriotism. There was no way a 19-year-old New York boy understood the politics or rationale for the war. Like so many of us he felt it was the right thing to do.

I wonder what he’d have done if he realized that although he’d survive the war, he’d carry the trauma with him for the rest of a long life. Would he still have signed up? Probably.

He was trained as a Combat Engineer, that is he drove a bulldozer, which served as a primitive method to remove landmines and clear roads.

John, now 71, enlisted in the army just before the Woodstock music festival and then requested a deferral until he could attend the event. The good old Army assented, affording him the opportunity to precede one life altering event with another. After seeing his favorite performer, Janis Joplin, on the stage he headed off to boot camp.

Woodstock to Saigon

Three months after Woodstock, shorn of his hair and his individuality, he was one of many young Americans about to be transported out of the world they had known to a violent, unfamiliar and bewildering world that would never leave them. Nothing that happened to John in the years prior to his tour in Vietnam or the decades after — including the loss of his son to a fentanyl overdose — would mark him more than 12 months in Southeast Asia — risking his life for unknown reasons, fighting people who were unknown to him in a place that was unknown to him.

Dozing for Mines

One of his duties was using the dozer to plow up potential landmines. He  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2021 at 10:27 am

Posted in Army, Daily life, Military

Tagged with

“I Fought in Afghanistan. I Still Wonder, Was It Worth It?”

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Timothy Kahn, formerly a USMC captain, served in Iraq and Afghanistan and writes in the NY Times:

When President Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States would withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, he appeared to be finally bringing this “forever war” to an end. Although I have waited for this moment for a decade, it is impossible to feel relief. The Sept. 11 attacks took place during my senior year of college, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed consumed the entirety of my adult life. Although history books may mark this as the end of the Afghanistan war, it will never be over for many of my generation who fought.

Sometimes there are moments, no more than the span of a breath, when the smell of it returns and once again I’m stepping off the helicopter ramp into the valley. Covered in the ashen dust of the rotor wash, I take in for the first time the blend of wood fires burning from inside lattice-shaped mud compounds, flooded fields of poppies and corn, the sweat of the unwashed and the wet naps that failed to mask it, chicken and sheep and the occasional cow, the burn pit where trash and plastic smoldered through the day, curries slick with oil eaten by hand on carpeted dirt floors, and fresh bodies buried shallow, like I.E.D.s, in the bitter earth.

It’s sweet and earthy, familiar to the farm boys in the platoon who knew that blend of animal and human musk but alien to those of us used only to the city or the lush Southern woods we patrolled during training. Later, at the big bases far from the action, surrounded by gyms and chow halls and the expeditionary office park where the flag and field grade officers did their work, it was replaced by a cologne of machinery and order. Of common parts installed by low-bid contractors and the ocher windblown sand of the vast deserts where those behemoth bases were always located. Relatively safe after the long months at the frontier but dull and lifeless.

Then it’s replaced by the sweet, artificial scents of home after the long plane ride back. Suddenly I’m on a cold American street littered with leaves. A couple passes by holding hands, a bottle of wine in a tote bag, dressed for a party, unaware of the veneer that preserves their carelessness.

I remain distant from them, trapped between past and present, in the same space you sometimes see in the eyes of the old-timers marching in Veterans Day parades with their folded caps covered in retired unit patches, wearing surplus uniforms they can’t seem to take off. It’s the space between their staring eyes and the cheering crowd where those of us who return from war abide.

My war ended in 2011, when I came home from Afghanistan eager to resume my life. I was in peak physical shape, had a college degree, had a half-year of saved paychecks and would receive an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in a few months. I was free to do whatever I wanted, but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything.

Initially I attributed it to jet lag, then to a need for well-deserved rest, but eventually there was no excuse. I returned to my friends and family, hoping I would feel differently. I did not.

“Relax. You earned it,” they said. “There’s plenty of time to figure out what’s next.” But figuring out the future felt like abandoning the past. It had been just a month since my last combat patrol, but I know now that years don’t make a difference.

At first, everyone wanted to ask about the war. They knew they were supposed to but approached the topic tentatively, the way you hold out a hand to an injured animal. And as I went into detail, their expressions changed, first to curiosity, then sympathy and finally to horror.

I knew their repulsion was only self-preservation. After all, the war cost nothing to the civilians who stayed home. They just wanted to live the free and peaceful lives they’d grown accustomed to — and wasn’t their peace of mind what we fought for in the first place?

After my discharge, I moved to . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

13 investigations, no court-martials: Here’s how the US Navy and Marine Corps quietly discharged white supremacists

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Will Carless reports in USA Today:

For decades, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have quietly kicked out some of the worst white supremacists in their ranks, offering them administrative discharges that leave no public record of their hateful activity, a USA TODAY review of Navy documents found.

The documents, obtained via a public-records request by the open-government advocacy group American Oversight, detail 13 major investigations into white supremacist activity in the Navy and Marine Corps over more than 20 years. They show a pattern in which military leaders chose to deal with personnel involved in extremism by dismissing them in ways that would not attract public attention.

Take what happened to Edward Fix and Jacob Laskey.

In the early hours of Dec. 10, 2000, three white men left a neo-Nazi rally and headed to downtown Jacksonville, Florida. They were looking for a Black person to beat up, according to the Navy records.

On Main Street, they found John Joseph Newsome, 44. They beat him severely with their fists, boots and a broken bottle, all the while shouting “Kill the n—–,” according to the documents.

Then they went looking for another victim.

The trio was soon arrested and charged with aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and committing a hate crime. All three pleaded guilty to felonies and were sentenced to varying terms in the Duval County jail.

But two of the men faced another investigation. Fix and Laskey were enlisted members of the United States Navy, serving at nearby bases.

Yet the two sailors never faced military charges, which likely would have resulted in them being dishonorably discharged if they had been found guilty.

Instead, the Navy dismissed them via administrative discharges. Their only punishment from the Navy for almost beating a man to death in a racially-motivated hate crime was to lose their jobs, documents show.

Fix and Laskey entered civilian life with barely a blot on their military record. Fix fared even better: Because he had cooperated with civilian prosecutors, the felony conviction never went on his record.

13 investigations into white supremacy. No court-martials.

The Navy records describe investigations into allegations of white supremacist assault, theft, verbal abuse, threats and even gang crimes between 1997 and 2020.

One investigation involved members of a white supremacist gang called the “RRR”— an apparent nod to the KKK — who branded themselves with lighters and got in fights with nonwhite Marines.

In another case, a female sailor started one of the earliest online white supremacist message boards. She bragged about her top-secret security clearance while writing screeds about Hitler, Jews and Black people.

Not one of the 13 investigations resulted in a military trial, known as a court-martial, according to the documents. That’s the only way a member of the military can receive what’s called a “punitive discharge” such as a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.

Instead, some of the personnel received small fines or pay cuts. Most of the troops who were let go received a general discharge under honorable conditions, the most mild administrative discharge.

Besides the 13 cases, records for another 10 have not been released because they are being reviewed, said a spokeswoman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigates felony-level criminal activity.

Most of the cases in the documents were never written about in the media. The names of Navy personnel are redacted, along with other identifying details. USA TODAY identified a few through other sources, but most remain anonymous.

What most of the accused white supremacists went on to do after leaving the Navy is also unknown.

a’s most violent and notorious neo-Nazis. At the time of the beating, he already sported a chest tattoo of a swastika, according to the civilian prosecutor who handled his case.

Less than two years after the Navy let him go, Laskey was involved in an attack on a synagogue full of worshippers. He was convicted of throwing bricks etched with swastikas through the windows of the temple. After spending more than a decade in prison, he was released in 2018, only to quickly be charged with assaulting and stabbing another neo-Nazi.

He was released in 2020, sporting a mask of facial tattoos including the words “white power” inked across his jawbone.

Laskey could not be reached for comment. Fix, whose last known address was in Rochester, New York, didn’t respond to calls.

Navy officials said the documents viewed by USA TODAY represent only the most severe instances of white supremacy investigated in the ranks. Most incidents are dealt with internally rather than being formally investigated, according to military law experts and service members. That means there’s no paper trail.

The military doesn’t track how many people are removed for extremist activity, but there are signs that incidents of white supremacy are rising among troops, reflecting a surge in hate crimes among the general population.

More than a third of active-duty military personnel reported seeing white supremacist or ideologically driven racism while on duty, according to a 2019 survey by the Military Times. It’s higher for nonwhite members of the military. The 36% of respondents who reported seeing white supremacist or racist ideologies on display was up from 22% in 2018.

“As a country, we haven’t decided that white supremacy is something that we really want to acknowledge, let alone address in a major way,” said Sarah Vinson, a forensic psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Morehouse School of Medicine.

If the military truly wants to ferret out white supremacy, she said, transparency and consequences are critical. “If you allow things to go unchecked, they don’t magically get better and go away — they escalate.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it suggests some serious problems within the US military and the US itself, problems the US is trying to ignore.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2021 at 1:35 pm

Three groundbreaking journalists saw the Vietnam War differently. It’s no coincidence they were women.

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Cambodian Prime Minister Long Boret, center, meets with war correspondent Elizabeth Becker in Cambodia in 1974. (Elizabeth Becker)

Margaret Sullivan writes in the Washington Post:

Frances FitzGerald paid her own way into Vietnam. She was an “on spec” reporter with no editor to guide her, no office to support her, and no promise that anyone would publish what she wrote about the war.

She knocked out her first article on a blue Olivetti portable typewriter she had carried from New York and mailed it the cheap and slow way from a post office in the heart of Saigon’s French quarter to the Village Voice, nearly 9,000 miles away.

It arrived, and on April 21, 1966, the Voice published FitzGerald’s indictment of the chaotic U.S. war policy.

“The result was a highly original piece written in the style of an outsider, someone who asked different questions and admitted when she didn’t have answers,” wrote Elizabeth Becker in her new book, “You Don’t Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War,” which celebrates the work of FitzGerald, Kate Webb and Catherine Leroy.

Becker, a former war correspondent in Cambodia toward the end of the decades-long conflict, wrote about these women in part because she had experienced much of what they did — just a little later, and with appreciation for the paths they’d broken.

“I went through it at the tail end, and they were my role models,” Becker told me last week. She admired them because they had broken gender barriers, endured sexual harassment and been belittled by journalistic peers who thought women had no place near a war zone.

But “I wanted to write more than a ‘breaking the glass ceiling’ book,” said Becker, who has broken a few of her own: It’s likely that, as a stringer in Cambodia in the early 1970s, she was the first woman to regularly report from a war zone for The Washington Post. Later, she became the senior foreign editor at NPR and a New York Times correspondent.

What struck Becker about her subjects went far beyond gender. It was the women’s approach to their work. They were more interested in people than in battlefields, quicker to see the terrible cost of violence to the Vietnamese as well as to Westerners, less likely than many of their male colleagues to swallow the government’s party line.

“They brought this common humanity and an originality to their work,” Becker said.

Remarkably early, FitzGerald clearly described what American officials didn’t want the public to see: the chaos, the lack of sensible purpose.

“For the Embassy here the problem has not been how to deal with the crisis — there is no way to deal with it under U.S. Standard Operating Procedures — but rather how to explain what is happening in any coherent terms,” she wrote in that 1966 article for the Voice. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2021 at 6:22 pm

The now-declassified story Juanita Moody and the Cuban missile crisis

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David Woman writes in Smithsonian:

On the morning of Sunday, October 14, 1962, Juanita Moody exited the headquarters of the National Security Agency, at Fort Meade, Maryland, and walked the short distance to her car, parked in one of the front-row spaces reserved for top leadership. The sky was a crystalline blue, “a most beautiful day,” she recalled later. Moody had just learned that the U.S. Air Force was sending a U-2 spy plane over Cuba to take high-altitude photographs of military installations across the island. Moody was worried for the pilot—twice already in the past two years a U-2 spy plane had been shot out of the sky, once over the Soviet Union and once over China. She was also worried for the country. Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were worsening by the day. President John F. Kennedy, American military leaders and the intelligence community believed that the Soviet military was up to something in Cuba. Exactly what, no one could say. “I went out and got into my old convertible at the precise moment I had been told this pilot was going to get into his plane,” Moody said.

What unfolded over the next two weeks was arguably the most dangerous period in the history of civilization. Close to 60 years later, the Cuban Missile Crisis is still considered a nearly catastrophic failure on the part of America’s national security apparatus. How America’s top agents, soldiers, diplomats, intelligence analysts and elected officials failed to anticipate and uncover the buildup of a nuclear arsenal on America’s doorstep, less than 100 miles off the coast, is still being studied and debated. At best, the story of American intelligence activities before and during the crisis is far from complete. One of the most extraordinary omissions to date is the central role played by Moody, a 38-year-old code-breaking whiz and the head of the NSA’s Cuba desk during the perilous fall of 1962. Even today her name is largely unknown outside the agency, and the details of her contributions to the nation’s security remain closely guarded.

Of medium height, with lightly curled brown hair and a round face, Moody was not a spy in the secret agent sense. Her world was signals intelligence, or “sigint”—radio messages, radar data, electronic communications, weapons systems readings, shipping manifests and anything else that could be surreptitiously intercepted from friends and foes alike. Her only brief turn in the spotlight came more than a decade after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when she found herself caught up in the domestic surveillance scandals that engulfed Washington after Watergate. But who was this woman? I’ve spent several years trying to find out, digging through government archives and reviewing formerly classified documents, including internal NSA reports and performance reviews obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, as well as interviewing historians, current and former NSA staff and Moody’s surviving relatives, who provided personal letters and photographs. Now the story of this spy service pioneer and key figure in the nation’s response to Soviet encroachment in the Western Hemisphere can be told for the first time.

* * *

Juanita Moody (Née morris) was born on May 29, 1924, the first of nine children. Her father, Joseph, was a railroad worker turned cotton-and-soybean farmer, and her mother, Mary Elizabeth, a homemaker. The family lived in the hamlet of Morven, North Carolina, in a rented house with no bathroom, no electricity and no running water.

Moody was a leader from an early age. “I felt I had to do what Juanita said,” her sister Virginia “Dare” Marsh, 90, told me on a call last spring. To her siblings, Juanita’s authority was on a par with that of their parents, yet her brothers and sisters didn’t resent her. “She was always sweet lovin’ and fair to me,” Marsh said. There was also a sense that Juanita was special. “I felt at times like my parents looked up to her as well.” The school superintendent in Morven saw a spark in her, too, and recommended her for Western Carolina Teachers College, in Cullowhee.

Juanita borrowed money and enrolled, but then came the war. “All of the sudden there were practically no men left on the campus,” Moody recalled later, in one of a series of interviews with NSA historians that were declassified in 2016. “I felt that it was wrong to be spending my time in this beautiful place—clear blue skies, going around campus and studying and going to classes at leisure, when my country was in a war.” At the Army recruiting office in Charlotte, she said she wanted to volunteer. “What do you want to do?” the recruiter asked. “I’d like to get into intelligence work,” she said.

It was spring 1943. Moody took a few tests and was sent to Arlington Hall, in Virginia, headquarters of the Signal Intelligence Service, the precursor to the NSA. She was trained quickly in what was known as “cryptanalysis,” and was soon part of a group that used ciphers to crack encrypted Nazi communications. When she finished work for the day, she and a few other obsessives stayed late into the night, working illicitly on an unsolved “one-time pad,” a code that could only be cracked with a key provided to the message’s recipient ahead of time. She recalled working “every waking moment” and subsisting on buns made by a sympathetic local baker who left them for her to pick up on her way home in the middle of the night.

The painstaking nature of code breaking in those days, when teams of analysts sifted through piles of intercepted texts and tabulated and computed possible interpretations using pencil and paper, made a deep impression on Moody. Eventually, she and a colleague, a linguist and mathematician who had worked at Bletchley Park, Britain’s code-breaking headquarters, persuaded agency engineers to custom-build a machine for the one-time pad problem based on Alan Turing’s work that could generate cipher keys automatically, using the agents’ inputs. “It was a very clumsy thing,” Moody recalled. But it worked, helping the Americans decode secret messages sent to Berlin from the German ambassador in Tokyo. It was the first of many times in her long career that Moody, who would herself become a familiar face at Bletchley Park and at the IBM campus in New York, helped advance intelligence work by pushing for an ambitious and innovative use of new technologies.

After Japan’s surrender, Moody told her superior at the SIS that, with the war done, she planned to return to college. Although he himself had earned a PhD, he told her that she was making a big mistake. “This is your cup of tea, and there are going to be other targets”—other secrets to uncover in defense of the nation. “This effort is not going to stop today. This is just the beginning.”

Moody stayed with the SIS, as a staff cryptanalyst focused on signals collection in Eastern Europe. In 1947, she was promoted to chief of the Yugoslavia section. Five years later, on October 24, 1952, President Harry Truman signed a secret memorandum, and the National Security Agency was born. Since the NSA’s inception, its role was unambiguous: snoop, scoop, filter, deliver. The agency’s responsibility ended at gathering information. Analysis was the purview of the brains at CIA.

During the 1950s, Moody took on several new leadership roles at the NSA—chief of European satellites, chief of Russian manual systems, chief of Russian and East European high-grade manual systems. She also fretted over technical inefficiencies. At a time when computing technology was advancing quickly, she viewed the NSA’s use of handwritten decryptions, memos and top-secret communications as anachronistic. Where she excelled was not high-level mathematics or engineering but the application of new technologies to distill huge amounts of data and make it available to decision makers as quickly as possible. She was an advocate for using big data long before the concept had taken hold, and she pushed the agency to adopt the latest tools—Teletype, Flexowriter, early IBM computers, an intranet precursor and a searchable database called Solis.

She managed whole teams of people—her “troops,” as she called them. As a leader, she was impolitic by her own measure, occasionally calling meetings to order by whacking a hockey stick on the table. She established a system she called “Show and Tell.” Each morning, while she sipped her coffee, the division heads under her command would come by her office one by one to present highlights from the previous day’s intelligence haul. Moody would then grill them about when the intercepts were made and when the information had been sent to the NSA’s “customers”—the White House, congressional leadership, military brass, the other intelligence agencies. When she judged the lag time to be substantial, she said so. “You people are doing a tremendous job producing beautiful history,” she’d tell them. “You’re not producing intelligence.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

23 March 2021 at 11:18 am

A modest step forward: George Schulz forces Andrei Gromyko to discuss the Soviet shooting down of a Korean civilian airliner — Notes of the meeting)

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It’s not often that one can read the actual notes from a diplomatic encounter. From the Office of the (US) Historian:

105. Memorandum of Conversation1

PARTICIPANTS

• U.S.—Secretary Shultz
• Assistant Secretary Richard Burt
Ambassador Arthur Hartman
Ambassador Jack F. Matlock
Mr. William D. Krimer, Interpreter
USSR—Foreign Minister A.A. Gromyko
Deputy Foreign Minister Komplektov
• Ambassador Makarov
• Mr. Viktor Sukhokrev, Interpreter

[Page 363]

The Secretary thought it would be fair to say that when he and Foreign Minister Gromyko agreed to hold this meeting several weeks ago, he had hoped that this meeting might make a modest step forward in the relationship between our two countries. Instead, the destruction of a civilian airliner carrying 269 people by a Soviet military aircraft has created a major new obstacle to progress.

Gromyko interrupted at this point, threw his glasses on the table, stood up and said he refused to discuss this matter as he had told the Secretary earlier.2

The Secretary interrupted and said he strongly insisted on such a discussion, that he had instructions to discuss this matter with Gromyko in order to draw his attention to how deeply this action had shocked all Americans. We were shocked by the cost in human life.

Gromyko interrupted again to say that he knew this without the Secretary telling it to him. He proposed that they first discuss an agenda on what issues were to be taken up at today’s meeting.

The Secretary said that he would take up the Korean airliner shoot-down right now. If Gromyko did not want to listen, that was his privilege.

Gromyko said he proposed that they discuss the major, important questions of curbing the nuclear arms race, and did not agree to start off on another issue.

The Secretary said that we must start with the question of the Korean airliner since it was on everyone’s mind as Gromyko surely heard in the conference room during the last two days. We must know the facts and how the Soviets plan to deal with them.

Gromyko said he knew this without the Secretary telling him, only he knew the facts of the matter better than anyone, i.e., he knew the truth.

[Page 364]

The Secretary repeated that his agenda called for first discussing the question of the Korean airliner tragedy.

Gromyko repeated that he wanted to talk about nuclear arms first; later he would be ready to discuss the question of the airliner.

The Secretary said that the airliner matter was of first importance and this was the subject he proposed to discuss with GromykoGromyko need not listen if he did not choose to, but he himself intended to explain his concerns.

Gromyko said he was reaching the conclusion that the Secretary did not want to discuss any other problem. In that case they had nothing to discuss at this meeting. The Secretary was in the clutches of an artificially built scheme.3

The Secretary interjected that if Gromyko did not want a meeting, so be it, and rose from his seat. He was disappointed that Gromyko did not want to hear our position. He pointed out that the other matters Gromyko had mentioned were the subject of discussions in Geneva and elsewhere but here, today, and under these circumstances, he had to address the problem that was foremost not only in his mind but also foremost in the views of most people throughout the world. Many Foreign Ministers had raised the question of the meeting here; airline pilots are very concerned; so are publics everywhere.

Gromyko said that the Secretary had already said a great deal on this question. He could report to the United States that he had only one matter to discuss, but Gromyko would report to his Government and to the whole world that the US side refused to discuss matters of such enormous importance as curbing the nuclear arms race and preventing the outbreak of nuclear war, and that he himself was prepared to discuss nuclear weapons. He added that he was entirely prepared to discuss other matters as well, including the Korean airliner matter. But priorities had to be agreed upon first and he would note that this was the first time that he found himself in a situation where the Secretary of State of the United States was attempting to impose an agenda for a meeting without taking into account the views of the other side.

The Secretary said that if Gromyko did not want to discuss this question with him, that would be his choice. But the Secretary’s choice [Page 365]was to convey to Gromyko the information he had regarding this matter.

Pacing and greatly agitated, Gromyko said,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

18 March 2021 at 4:22 pm

Removed from command: A two-star general’s mental health disaster and fight to recover — A good discussion of bipolar disorder from a man who’s been there

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Gregg Martin and Philip Martin write in Task & Purpose:

t was mid-July 2014. I was 58 years old and after more than three decades in the Army, I was a two-star general and President of the National Defense University, the nation’s highest military educational institution, located in Washington, D.C. NDU fell under the supervision of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the country’s top-ranking military officer. And the Chairman had just ordered me to report to his office at the Pentagon the next day. 

Something was up. Until very recently, my job performance had been rated as exemplary, and I had received extremely positive feedback. Had the Chairman approved my request for a three-year extension at the university? Did he want to reinforce what a great job I was doing and give me guidance for my upcoming third year at the helm? Was he unhappy with me and about to terminate my presidency? Or, was it something else? I would soon find out.

The Chairman was a brilliant, inspirational, and friendly man. He had been a fabulous boss, as well as a colleague, mentor and friend for nearly 20 years. When I walked into his office, I noticed his lawyer was in the room, which was not a good sign. I saluted the Chairman and he walked over and gave me a hug.

“Gregg, I love you like a brother,” he said. “But your time at NDU is done. You have until 1700 today to submit your letter of resignation to me or I will fire you. Is that clear?” Had I been in a normal state of mind, with a healthy brain, I probably would have been stunned, upset, or disappointed. But I was in a state of acute mania, and I had none of those feelings or reactions. I was already anticipating my next grandiose mission from God.

“A lot of people think you have serious mental health problems. I’m ordering you to get a command-directed psychiatric health exam at Walter Reed. You need to go this week.”

Indeed, my behavior had become erratic and disruptive to the mission. I had lost the confidence of much of the staff and faculty of National Defense University. I resigned that afternoon. My 35-year career would end sooner than I had anticipated.

To be clear, I was not wronged. The Chairman made the absolute right decision. He was taking good care of my own health and welfare, as well as his university’s welfare and mission success. Had I been in his shoes, I would have made the exact same decision. NDU benefited greatly under the leadership of the ambassador who took my place as interim president. I do not dispute any decision, medical or administrative. Furthermore, I am not a medical doctor and I believe that the clinicians at Walter Reed are true professionals who did their best. 

But consider this: One week before I was asked to resign, two medical doctors — my general practitioner and a psychiatrist — had evaluated me and given me a clean bill of health. 

“It is my professional opinion that [Major General] Martin is physically and mentally fit for duty,” wrote one. 

The psychiatrist wrote: “I do not find evidence of psychiatric illness. Specifically, he does not have depression, mania or psychosis…he is psychiatrically fit for duty.”

The reason I say this is not to criticize, but to emphasize how devilishly difficult it is even for medical professionals to recognize and correctly diagnose bipolar disorder, even when it is in an acute state.

That day in the Chairman’s office, it had never crossed my own mind that I was mentally ill. I felt terrific and was full of energy, drive, enthusiasm and ideas. There was important work to be done. In fact, the week after I had resigned, I was given yet another unremarkable medical examination: “fit for duty.”

Yet the truth is that for more than a decade, I had unknowingly served as a senior leader in the U.S. military with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. According to medical authorities, my bipolar disorder was “triggered” in 2003 when I was serving as a colonel and brigade commander during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It grew worse for nearly a decade, and between 2012 and the summer of 2014 my mania became “acute.” At last, in late 2014, four months after my resignation from NDU, I spiraled, then crashed, into hopeless, terrifying depression and psychosis. From late 2014 through 2016, I was in a battle for my life.

Had there been warning signs and indications? How did I myself miss them? How did my family, friends and colleagues miss them? How did the institution I worked for so long miss them? If there were warnings, what were they? 

Bipolar disorder in a nutshell: What exactly is it?

Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a general term that, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), comprises a cluster of related disorders that are characterized by distinctive and extreme shifts or cycles, in mood. These moods oscillate between varying degrees of two poles: mania and depression, or “highs” and “lows.” 

Manic states are typically marked by elevated, expansive or irritable moods and increased energy; feeling overly happy and optimistic; being highly talkative but with pressured speech; having an inflated self-esteem or feeling grandiose or religious, as if on a mission directly from God. There’s often little need for sleep, since it’s common to feel rested after three hours, but the mind is always racing with ideas and distracted, which can lead the afflicted to take part in high risk, dangerous, or potentially painful activities, such as drug and alcohol abuse, high risk sex, affairs, and extravagant spending sprees. 

Mania is much more than feeling up, happy or energetic. It can be life-threatening and highly destructive, with some manic symptoms being severe enough to cause marked social or occupational impairment or require hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others. And it is driven in large part by  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2021 at 12:23 pm

The Boogaloo Bois Have Guns, Criminal Records and Military Training. Now They Want to Overthrow the Government.

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A.C. Thompson, ProPublica, and Lila Hassan and Karim Hajj, FRONTLINE, report in ProPublica:

Hours after the attack on the Capitol ended, a group calling itself the Last Sons of Liberty posted a brief video to Parler, the social media platform, that appeared to show members of the organization directly participating in the uprising. Footage showed someone with a shaky smartphone charging past the metal barricades surrounding the building. Other clips show rioters physically battling with baton-wielding police on the white marble steps just outside the Capitol.

Before Parler went offline — its operations halted at least temporarily when Amazon refused to continue to host the network — the Last Sons posted numerous statements indicating that group members had joined the mob that swarmed the Capitol and had no regrets about the chaos and violence that unfolded on Jan. 6. The Last Sons also did some quick math: The government had suffered only one fatality, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, who was reportedly bludgeoned in the head with a fire extinguisher. But the rioters had lost four people, including Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran who was shot by an officer as she tried to storm the building.

In a series of posts, the Last Sons said her death should be “avenged” and appeared to call for the murder of three more cops.

The group is part of the Boogaloo movement — a decentralized, very online successor to the ­­militia movement of the ’80s and ’90s —­ whose adherents are fixated on attacking law enforcement and violently toppling the U.S. government. Researchers say the movement began coalescing online in 2019 as people — mostly young men — angry with what they perceived to be increasing government repression, found each other on Facebook groups and in private chats. In movement vernacular, Boogaloo refers to an inevitable and imminent armed revolt, and members often call themselves Boogaloo Bois, boogs or goons.

In the weeks since Jan. 6, an array of extremist groups have been named as participants in the Capitol invasion. The Proud Boys. QAnon believers. White nationalists. The Oath Keepers. But the Boogaloo Bois are notable for the depth of their commitment to the overthrow of the U.S. government and the jaw-dropping criminal histories of many members.

Mike Dunn, a 20-year-old from a small town on Virginia’s rural southern edge, is the commander of the Last Sons. “I really feel we’re looking at the possibility — stronger than any time since, say, the 1860s — of armed insurrection,” Dunn said in an interview with ProPublica and FRONTLINE a few days after the assault on the Capitol. Although Dunn didn’t directly participate, he said members of his Boogaloo faction helped fire up the crowd and “may” have penetrated the building.

“It was a chance to mess with the federal government again,” he said. “They weren’t there for MAGA. They weren’t there for Trump.”

Dunn added that he’s “willing to die in the streets” while battling law enforcement or security forces.

In its short existence, the Boogaloo movement has proven to be a magnet for current or former military service members who have used their combat skills and firearms expertise to advance the Boogaloo cause. Before becoming one of the faces of the movement, Dunn did a brief stint in the U.S. Marines, a career he says was cut short by a heart condition, and worked as a Virginia state prison guard.

Through interviews, extensive study of social media and a review of court records, some previously unreported, ProPublica and FRONTLINE identified more than 20 Boogaloo Bois or sympathizers who’ve served in the armed forces. Over the past 18 months, 13 of them have been arrested on charges ranging from the possession of illegal automatic weapons to the manufacture of explosives to murder.

Most of the individuals identified by the news organizations became involved with the movement after leaving the military. At least four are accused of committing Boogaloo-related crimes while employed by one of the military branches.

Examples of the nexus between the group and the military abound.

Last year, an FBI task force in San Francisco opened a domestic terror investigation into  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more.

Later in the article:

The Marine Corps is working to root out extremists from its ranks, a spokesman said.

“Association or participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is directly contradictory to the core values of honor, courage and commitment that we stand for as Marines and isn’t tolerated,” Capt. Joseph Butterfield said.

No reliable numbers exist about how many current or former military members are part of the movement.

However, military officials at the Pentagon told ProPublica and FRONTLINE that they have been concerned by a surge in extremist activity. “We are seeing an increase in concerning behavior,” said one official, stressing that military leaders are “very actively” responding to tips and are thoroughly investigating service members linked to anti-government groups.

Experts worry about people with military training joining extremist groups.

Boogaloo Bois with military experience are likely to share their expertise with members who’ve never served in the armed forces, building a more effective, more lethal movement. “These are folks who can bring discipline to a movement. These are folks that can bring skills to a movement,” said Jason Blazakis, director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Written by Leisureguy

1 February 2021 at 12:44 pm

Arrows vs Armour – Medieval Myth Busting

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Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 7:41 pm

Posted in History, Military, Video

‘Be ready to fight’: FBI probe of U.S. Capitol riot finds evidence detailing coordination of an assault

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It’s becoming increasingly that what happened on January 6 was a serious and deliberate attempt at a coup, which failed only because of the extraordinarily high level of incompetence of those attempting it .

As an instance of deliberate intent, see “Trump Defense Secretary Disarmed D.C. National Guard Before Capitol Riot,” a report by Mark Sumner in The National Memo, which begins:

testimony before the House this week, Capitol Police and D.C. National Guard officials acknowledged that by Jan. 4 they understood that “… the January 6th event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020. We knew that militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be attending. We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target.”

On that same day, former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller issued a memo to the secretary of the Army placing some extremely unusual limits on National Guard forces for that event. It’s not a to-do list. It’s a list of thou shalt nots. A long list. A list that says guard forces can’t arrest any of the pro-Trump protesters, or search them, or even touch them. And that’s just for starters.

The full memo shows that the D.C. Guard did receive a request from D.C. government for guard presence during the Jan. 6 event. Miller responds promptly to go ahead, so long as the soldiers are given no weapons, no body armor, and no helmets. They can bring agents like pepper spray or flashbangs. They can’t share any gear with Capitol Police or Metro D.C. Police. They can’t … really do much of anything.

When initial reports indicate that the handful of National Guard forces that were deployed to D.C. on that day were dedicated to directing traffic several blocks away from the area of the Trump rally, it may simply be because that’s the only thing they could find for them to do considering the restrictions that were given. It’s clear that these restrictions would have absolutely prevented any guard forces from trying to protect any location. . .

Read the whole thing.

And see also the report in the Washington Post by Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu, and Aaron C. Davis:

When die-hard supporters of President Donald Trump showed up at rally point “Cowboy” in Louisville on the morning of Jan. 5, they found the shopping mall’s parking lot was closed to cars, so they assembled their 50 or so vehicles outside a nearby Kohl’s department store. Hundreds of miles away in Columbia, S.C., at a mall designated rally point “Rebel,” other Trump supporters gathered to form another caravan to Washington. A similar meetup — dubbed “Minuteman” — was planned for Springfield, Mass.

That same day, FBI personnel in Norfolk were increasingly alarmed by the online conversations they were seeing, including warlike talk around the convoys headed to the nation’s capital. One map posted online described the rally points, declaring them a “MAGA Cavalry To Connect Patriot Caravans to StopTheSteal in D.C.” Another map showed the U.S. Congress, indicating tunnels connecting different parts of the complex. The map was headlined, “CREATE PERIMETER,” according to the FBI report, which was reviewed by The Washington Post.

“Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in,” read one posting, according to the report.

FBI agents around the country are working to unravel the various motives, relationships, goals and actions of the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some inside the bureau have described the Capitol riot investigation as their biggest case since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a top priority of the agents’ work is to determine the extent to which that violence and chaos was preplanned and coordinated.

Self-styled militia members planned days in advance to storm the Capitol, court papers say

Investigators caution there is an important legal distinction between gathering like-minded people for a political rally — which is protected by the First Amendment — and organizing an armed assault on the seat of American government. The task now is to distinguish which people belong in each category, and who played key roles in committing or coordinating the violence.

Video and court filings, for instance, describe how several groups of men that include alleged members of the Proud Boys appear to engage in concerted action, converging on the West Front of the Capitol just before 1 p.m., near the Peace Monument at First Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Different factions of the crowd appear to coalesce, move forward and chant under the direction of different leaders before charging at startled police staffing a pedestrian gate, all in the matter of a few minutes.

An indictment Friday night charged a member of the Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, N.Y., with conspiracy, saying his actions showed “planning, determination, and coordination.” Another alleged member of the Proud Boys, William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, N.Y., also was charged with conspiracy.

Minutes before the crowd surge, at 12:45 p.m., police received the first report of a pipe bomb behind the Republican National Committee headquarters at the opposite, southeast side of the U.S. Capitol campus. The device and another discovered shortly afterward at Democratic National Committee headquarters included end caps, wiring, timers and explosive powder, investigators have said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 3:05 pm

960lbs crossbow vs 150lbs crossbow

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Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Military, Technology, Video

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