"In the early hours of Jan. 26, 2005, one of two large Marine helicopters transporting troops for this expanded and therefore riskier mission crashed, killing all onboard: 30 Marines and a Navy corpsman....I promised myself that night that I would visit all 31 grave sites. I needed to get a sense of where these military service members came from: the schools and churches they attended; the streets where they learned to drive; the neighborhoods where many of their families still lived."
In Unit Stalked by Suicide, Veterans Try to Save One Another. The Second Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment (2/7) was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2008. During eight months of combat, the unit killed hundreds of enemy fighters and suffered more casualties than any other Marine battalion that year. When its members returned, most left the military. Seven years later, at least 13 of the 1200 members of that battalion have killed themselves in the interim: two while on active duty, the rest after they left the military. That is nearly four times the rate for young male veterans as a whole and 14 times that for all Americans. (This story discusses self-harm, suicide and suicidal ideation. Some readers may find the content disturbing.) [more inside]
The Quiet Demise of the Army’s Plan to Understand Afghanistan and Iraq. "In the heyday of counterinsurgency, the United States military’s Human Terrain Teams were a bold idea. In the drone-war era, they became an anachronism." [Previously 1, 2] [more inside]
"Moral injury is not unique to veterans. But as psychologists and advocates come to understand it better, they are discovering that the problem is widespread in that community, and can be deeply damaging to veterans who suffer from it." (SL Vox with YouTube)
Many American, Canadian, and British military veterans opposed to the actions of ISIS in Iraq have been, individually, going over to fight with the Kurdish Peshmerga for some time now, bringing thousands of dollars of military gear and irreplaceable training. There have been so many of them fighting that the Peshmerga are now actively recruiting military veterans online. Not to be internet-outdone, military veterans have begun investigating forming units of their own to fight ISIS -including notable and controversial science-fiction author John Ringo, who suggested trying to crowdfund for 'a brigade of soldiers'. [more inside]
A war machine that costs about as much as the rest of the worlds' militaries combined just doesn't win wars anymore. Why is this, and how can such an expensive public program that obviously fails to achieve its stated goals carry on unscathed?
The day Chris Kyle died - an account of the fateful gun range encounter between the subject of the film "American Sniper" and fellow veteran Eddie Ray Routh. Routh has received a life sentence for killing Kyle and freind Chad Littlefield, with a jury finding his claims of PTSD to be "an excuse".
How the US Stumbled into the Drone Era [WSJ] As ubiquitous as Predators, Reapers, Global Hawks and their ilk may now seem, the U.S. actually stumbled into the drone era. Washington got into the business of using drones for counterterrorism well before 9/11—not out of any steely strategic design or master plan but out of bureaucratic frustration, bickering and a series of only half-intentional decisions.
"A Gazette investigation shows an increasing number of soldiers, including wounded combat veterans, are being kicked out of the service for misconduct, often with no benefits, as the Army downsizes after a decade of war."
"Disposable: Surge in discharges includes wounded soldiers"
"Left Behind: No break for the wounded"
"Locked Away: Army struggles with wounded soldiers"
"Disposable: Surge in discharges includes wounded soldiers"
"Left Behind: No break for the wounded"
"Locked Away: Army struggles with wounded soldiers"
"Women get flustered under fire. They're too fragile, too emotional. They lack the ferocity required to take a life. They can't handle pain. They're a distraction, a threat to cohesion, a provocative tease to close-quartered men. These are the sort of myths you hear from people who oppose the U.S. military's evolving new rules about women in combat. But for women who have already been in combat, who have earned medals fighting alongside men, the war stories they tell don't sound a thing like myths" [more inside]
Six years ago, US Army Captain Ivan Castro was severely wounded in a mortar attack in Iraq that left him permanently and completely blinded. Today, he's one of only three blind active duty Army officers, and the very first to serve in the US Army Special Forces. Thirteen months and 36 surgeries after the attack, Castro ran the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon in 4:14 and the Army Ten Miler in 1:25. And he's still going: In the last 15 months, he's completed 14 marathons. Why? "Because I still can. Because people need to see what's possible." [more inside]
Final Salute. Between 2004 and 2005, "Rocky Mountain News reporter Jim Sheeler and photographer Todd Heisler spent a year with the Marines stationed at Aurora's Buckley Air Force Base who have found themselves called upon to notify families of the deaths of their sons in Iraq. In each case in this story, the families agreed to let Sheeler and Heisler chronicle their loss and grief. They wanted people to know their sons, the men and women who brought them home, and the bond of traditions more than 200 years old that unite them. Though readers are led through the story by the white-gloved hand of Maj. Steve Beck, he remains a reluctant hero. He is, he insists, only a small part of the massive mosaic that is the Marine Corps." The full story ran on Veteran's Day, 2005 and won two Pulitzer Prizes: one for Feature Photography, another for feature writing in 2006. A nice single-page version of one section: Katherine Cathey and 2nd Lt. James J. Cathey (via.) The Rocky Mountain News closed in 2009. [more inside]
Army vet with PTSD sought the treatment he needed by taking hostages – but got jail instead. "Fifteen months of carnage in Iraq had left the 29-year-old debilitated by post-traumatic stress disorder. But despite his doctor’s urgent recommendation, the Army failed to send him to a Warrior Transition Unit for help. The best the Department of Veterans Affairs could offer was 10-minute therapy sessions — via videoconference. So, early on Labor Day morning last year, after topping off a night of drinking with a handful of sleeping pills, Quinones barged into Fort Stewart’s hospital, forced his way to the third-floor psychiatric ward and held three soldiers hostage, demanding better mental health treatment." [Via] [more inside]
American military planners are fascinated with German/Prussian military history. Busts of Von Clauswitz adorn American military academies where On War is taught, often with the misperception that Von Clauswitz viewed war as a controllable science. Shock & Awe is just the idea of Blitzkrieg with better weapons. Endless exhortations about unit cohesion (a complex, multi-layered idea with no military definition that is nonetheless used to keep gay soldiers from openly serving) comes from admiration for the Wehrmacht, their discipline and courage on the battlefield. So too the idea of a military culture separate and more honorable than the civilians they protect, advancing the professional warrior model at the expense of the citizen-soldier model. But to quote author military/adventure author Tom Clancy, “Why do people have a fixation with the German military when they haven’t won a war since 1871?” Previously
Soldiers involved in the "Collateral Murder" video have come forward to tell their story. [more inside]
Three female US soldiers talk about their experiences in the military. (sound starts automatically) [more inside]
A Gay Soldier's Husband — In the backdrop of the conservative activist Supreme Court's recent decision against hearing a challenge to the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, one gay American relates the difficulties he faces having a partner on active duty in Iraq. In Iraq itself, death squads continue to murder gay and lesbian Iraqis, while American occupying forces look the other way.
New friendly fire coverup: Army shreds files on dead soldiers. "Hours after Salon revealed evidence that two Americans were killed by a U.S. tank, not enemy fire, military officials destroyed papers on the men."
Team Lioness is the name given to a group of female soliders, (and the documentary about them) who were some of the first women in modern American warfare to engage in frontline combat — something that is officially forbidden by the military. "The female support soliders were assigned to the 1st Engineer Battalion and they were recruited to accompany Marine units during raids. Originally, the female soldiers were there to search and detain any women they came upon and to guard the unit's Arabic interpreter. Over time, however, as the situation in Ramadi deteriorated, the Marine units transitioned into a more offensive role, baiting insurgents into firefights in order to draw them out. Until officers higher up the chain got spooked over the possibility of a female soldier killed in combat and quietly disbanded the unit, members of Team Lioness were often right in the thick of things, including some of the fiercest urban firefights of the Iraq War."
The Wars of John McCain. "John McCain believes the Vietnam War was winnable. Now he argues that an Obama administration would accept defeat in Iraq, with grave costs to American honor and national security. Is McCain’s quest for victory a reflection of an antiquated pre-Vietnam mind-set? Or of a commitment to principles we abandon at our peril? Is there any war McCain thinks can’t be won?"
Baghdad nights: evaluating the US military ‘surge’ using nighttime light signatures (PDF). A team of UCLA geographers using satellite imagery to track the amount of light emitted in Baghdad at night found that electricity use in Sunni neighborhoods fell prior to the surge and never returned, indicating that ethnic cleansing by Shiite militias drove the Sunnis away before the surge began and was largely responsible for the subsequent decrease in violence. [Via Passport]
In Their Boots is a new online "magazine show" about the impact of the wars on US servicemembers and their families. The latest episode features the founder of the American Widow Project, a new documentary and an organization dedicated to helping out other war widows across the country.
Mission Creep: "Bush and Rumsfeld may be history, but America's new global footprint lives on." [more inside]
"The blogger Andrew Sullivan linked to the Blade account and encouraged readers to complain to the Post. “I can see why outing someone who is alive and closeted is unethical,” he wrote. “Inning someone who is dead and was out is a function of utterly misplaced sensitivity, rooted in well-intentioned but incontrovertible homophobia.”" A Soldier's Legacy.
Battlemind: Armor for Your Mind is a U.S. Army website designed to help, in part, families deal with deployment, including a series of cartoons and videos intended for children whose parents may be sent to or be returning from warzones. Part of the Army's Behavioral Health program, these give intriguing insight into military culture. [more inside]
“People like you are not holding up the Constitution ..." Or so said Major Freddy Welborn, Specialist Jeremy Hall's commanding officer in Tikrit. "Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers." (NY Times)
Television military analysts are wooed, courted, and privileged by the Pentagon. An in-depth investigative report by the New York Times uncovers logrolling, shilling, touting, back-scratching, and just plain bias on the part of the experts that television networks put on the air to talk about the war. Some of them appear to be as good as owned by the Defense Department. "The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air. Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves."
Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan. "Like Vietnam vets did decades ago, a group of soldiers are poised to speak out about atrocities they say the U.S. committed in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The Man Between War and Peace. "As head of U. S. Central Command, Admiral William 'Fox' Fallon is in charge of American military strategy for the most troubled parts of the world. Now, as the White House has been escalating the war of words with Iran, and seeming ever more determined to strike militarily before the end of this presidency, the admiral has urged restraint and diplomacy. Who will prevail, the president or the admiral?" [Via Think Progress.]
The Pritzker Military Library, a "public institution for the study of the citizen-soldier as an essential element for the preservation of democracy." Found while doing some after-film research on Charlie Wilson's War, the site is a trove of largely non-partisan, often refreshingly candid military perspectives. Particular highlights are video and audio interviews with Jim Lovell and Congressional Medal of Honor winners.
Saddam's Confessions - Given Saddam Hussein's central place in the American Consciousness over the last couple decades and particularly in recent years, I found 60 minutes' interview with FBI interrogator George Piro pretty fascinating.
Blood Brothers: 15 months of combat hell forever change the members of Charlie 1-26. Part 1: To Adhamiya and back. Part 2: ‘I’ve seen enough. I’ve done enough.’ Part 3: ‘Not us. We’re not going.’ Part 4: Picking up the pieces. [Via Danger Room.]
Left of Boom - The struggle to defeat roadside bombs. [washpo - flash & flash video]
"Hey look at this shiny trinket, I think I'll pick it up and see what it---OH GOD MY FACE." A Pentagon group has encouraged some U.S. military snipers in Iraq to target suspected insurgents by scattering pieces of "bait," such as detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition, and then killing Iraqis who pick up the items, according to military court documents.
The killing of Jamie Dean. "Police in rural Maryland staged a military stakeout and shot a troubled Army vet. As his family plans to sue, they are asking how a soldier being treated for PTSD could be shipped to Iraq."
Kerr Magee had applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to call their waste an "experimental fertilizer" and just spread it over the top of the land.
Depleted uranium is now understood to have many medical consequences unique to its modern application as munitions, due to its incendiary, aerosolizing behavior when pulverized. (Rosalie Bertell explains, youtube) It has become a leading candidate for the cause of Gulf War syndrome, and was associated with massive increases in cancer and birth defects in Basra. The EU has called for a moratorium on its use four times, and WHO is deeply concerned with its consequences, but the USA (with Canadian complicity) and Russia continue to use it in Iraq and elsewhere. (prev: 1 2 3 4 5)
The War as We Saw It. A powerful op-ed about Iraq written by seven infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division who will soon be heading home, it has received surprisingly little attention.
Court martialed for PTSD? "But I'm very concerned that, in a time when the Army is going out there and saying, we're trying to make sure that we provide good counseling for the troops, that, when someone has asked for help, they're potentially facing a court-martial. "
Embrace the Suck. Intensive military activity creates an incubator for slang. By bringing together people from geographically diverse backgrounds, putting them into stressful circumstances, and teaching them a new language of jargon and acronym, the armed forces create fertile ground for new idioms - many of which return home in civvies when the conflicts are over. In the Civil War, World War I and World War II, in Korea and in Viet Nam, servicepeople created or popularized now-familiar terms like shoddy, hotshot, cooties, tailspin, fleabag, face time, joystick, SNAFU, FUBAR, flaky, gung ho, no sweat, flame-out, and many, many others. Now, the GWOT brings us a new generation of 'milspeak'. Military columnist Austin Bay has published an early collection of neologisms from Gulf War II. On NPR, Bay explains what The Suck is, how to identify a fobbit, and why Marines look down on the attitude of Semper I.
Dr. Noori ... stayed home the day of the strike to prevent his workers from finding out that he knew many of the soldiers.
"I thought, 'Why don't we just raid the place?' " --the newest and only currently viable way to check up on how the billions and billions we're spending on reconstruction in Iraq is being spent--fake raids by the US military, making it seem like the recipients aren't receiving aid from us, and in fact are being targeted by us.
A Soldier's Lament by Brian Mockenhaupt in Esquire, brought to you via MSN. We've seen a similar post by a Marine officer recently, but I liked the tone of this one a bit more because it does a better job of showing us the inside of a warrior's head.
Vet Kills Himself After VA Turns Him Away Marine veteran Jonathan Schulze survived the war in Iraq but almost two years after he came home, it ended up killing him, reports The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. He had one of the toughest jobs in the war: taming the insurgent hotbed of Ramadi in 2004.
The private war of women soldiers. "Last year, Col. Janis Karpinski caused a stir by publicly reporting that in 2003, three female soldiers had died of dehydration in Iraq, which can get up to 126 degrees in the summer, because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being raped by male soldiers if they walked to the latrines after dark."
Confessions of an Army Torturer "...as an army interrogator, he tortured detainees for information he admits they rarely had. Since leaving Iraq he’s taken this story public, doing battle on national television against the war’s architects for giving him the orders he regrets he obeyed...
Born to War is a series of paintings of American women killed in Iraq. The combination of the increasing role of women in the American military and the blurring of lines between combat and non-combat roles in Iraq have made this the first war in which female US soldiers have died in direct combat. The focus on a smaller number of women provides a more approachable view of casualties than more general sites like Iraq Body Count and raises some interesting questions about the role of women in the US military.
The helicopter that was shot down over Iraq this weekend was carrying, among other high-ranking officers, the US Army's chief medical officer for troops in Iraq.
Bill Moyers speech at West Point on "The Meaning of Freedom." I repeat: These are not palatable topics for soldiers about to go to war; I would like to speak of sweeter things. But freedom means we must face reality: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Free enough, surely, to think for yourselves about these breaches of contract that crudely undercut the traditions of an army of free men and women who have bound themselves voluntarily to serve the nation even unto death. Previously on MetaFilter: after 9/11, inequality, religion and democracy, the environment, right-wing media, public broadcasting. Wikipedia.