"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."
Sweden's initial humanitarian response, and subsequent withdrawal in the face of the European refugee crisis. (Single link foreign policy article.)
Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia executed 47 people of "terrorism-related offenses", including Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shi'ite cleric who supported protests against the Sunni government. In response, protestors in Tehran set the Saudi embassy on fire, and the Saudi and Bahraini governments cut diplomatic ties to Iran, ejecting Iranian diplomats and closing their embassies in Tehran. The United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassador to Iran as well. [more inside]
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]
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 Galula Doctrine: An Interview with Galula's Biographer A.A. Cohen, who wrote Galula: The Life And Writings of the French Officer Who Defined Counterinsurgency, and an excerpt. [more inside]
President Obama will announce today that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is submitting his resignation. According to the New York Times, "The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ." [more inside]
Lieutenant General Daniel P. Bolger, recently retired from 35 years in the US Army, reflects on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "As a general, I got it wrong."
Angry Letters to the One Member of Congress Who Voted Against the War on Terror
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Lee's story is how little credit she or her constituents receive for what they got right. Even though a majority now considers the war most understood the AUMF to authorize to be a mistake; even though it has been used to justify military interventions that no one conceived of on September 14, 2001; even though there's no proof that any war-making of the last 13 years has have made us safer; even though many more Americans have died in wars of choice than have been killed in terrorist attacks; even though Lee and many of her constituents were amenable to capturing or killing the 9/11 perpetrators, not pacifists intent on ruling out any use of force; despite all of that, Representative Lee is still thought of as a fringe peacenik representing naive East Bay hippies who could never be trusted to guide U.S. foreign policy. And the people who utterly failed to anticipate the trajectory of the War on Terrorism? Even those who later voted for a war in Iraq that turned out to be among the most catastrophic in U.S. history are considered sober, trustworthy experts.[more inside]
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.
The young men and women enlisting in the armed forces now were in pre-school on 9/11. "As a nation we have internalized our longest military conflict; it has suffused the social, political, and cultural body. The war is not something the nation is doing; it's simply something that is." Vox on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, from Jessica Lynch to Bowe Bergdahl. [more inside]
This morning, the Veterans Affairs Chief Eric Shinseki tendered his resignation, following the release of an independent review detailing corruption in the reporting of wait times and scheduling practices, along with alleged patient deaths in the Phoenix Health Care system. [more inside]
Forty maps that explain the Middle East. Includes sections on Middle East history, the region today, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and oil, Iraq and Libya, and "points of light." [more inside]
The Interpreters We Left Behind. "As our troops pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we're abandoning fixers and translators to the dangerous countrymen who view them as traitors. Asylum in the U.S. could be their last hope. If only we'd let them in."
"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]
Andrew Bacevich on the war: "So what tentative judgments can we offer regarding the ongoing [war formerly known as the global war on terrorism]? Operationally, a war launched by the conventionally minded has progressively fallen under the purview of those who inhabit what Dick Cheney once called “the dark side,” with implications that few seem willing to explore. Strategically, a war informed at the outset by utopian expectations continues today with no concretely stated expectations whatsoever, the forward momentum of events displacing serious consideration of purpose. Politically, a war that once occupied center stage in national politics has now slipped to the periphery, the American people moving on to other concerns and entertainments, with legal and moral questions raised by the war left dangling in midair."
"Almost 1,500 people from Royal Wootton Basset [Wiltshire, England] have taken part in a music video filmed on the same high street that they once lined to pay their respects to Britain's fallen soldiers."* They hope to raise £1 million for military charities with their cover of Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends". [more inside]
Throughout time immemorial, songs of patriotism, such as Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" are a staple of countries at war. Our ballads root for our soldiers to come back safe and sound to families and sweethearts, but who sings the tale about the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, the autonomous drone that pines for the vending machine it left at home? Only the evil ghost of Johnny Cash does. [more inside]
Three days late, The War Nerd looks back on 9/11 and mourns.
In pictures: the life of a war photographer (There are some graphic images in here; not for the squeamish, though for most would be SFW for most workplaces).
The U.S.'s military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq are mostly staffed by Third Country Nationals (TCN), who are often victims of human trafficking. [more inside]
“I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up … I finally wanted to speak the truth.”
Last year, the unofficial Dean of the White House Press Corps, Helen Thomas, spoke about the State of Israel on camera. (Previously) Her replies: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine," and that the Jews "can go home" to "Poland, Germany and America and everywhere else," sparked media outrage, prompted her to issue an apology and retire. After months of being out of the the public spotlight, she has now given her first long-form interview, which will appear in the April issue of Playboy Magazine. In it, she explains what she meant, tells us how she would like to be remembered and expands upon her positions regarding Israel, Jewish political influence, Presidents Bush and Obama, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The U.S. governmental Commission on Wartime Contracting held hearings today regarding the corruption, mismanagement, massive financial waste and lack of oversight among private defense contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. [more inside]
The Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Effexor, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Restoril, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, Haldol, Risperdal, Seroquel, Ambien, Lunesta, Elavil, Trazodone War New York Magazine's Jennifer Senior writes on prescription drug (ab)use among soldiers and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. [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
"Regardless of political stance, no one can deny the joy felt upon seeing your loved ones return home safely -- WelcomeHomeBlog.com is a site celebrating that amazing feeling. Visit daily for heartwarming stories, videos and pictures of members of our courageous armed forces returning home to their families and friends..."
"For a lot of soldiers, there are two kinds of people: those who serve, and those who expect to be served, and those who serve are pretty noble.'' The U.S. Army now begins its 10th continuous year in combat, the first time in its history the United States has excused the vast majority of its citizens from service and engaged in a major, decade-long conflict instead with an Army manned entirely by professional warriors.
Soldiers involved in the "Collateral Murder" video have come forward to tell their story. [more inside]
CNN.com's 'Home and Away' initiative honors the lives of U.S. and coalition troops who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The extensive data visualization project tells the story of where and how the lives of these troops began and ended. The project is a sobering look at the human cost of two wars in the Middle East, and as such is restrained with a sober palette of blacks, whites and greys. [via] [more inside]
Suicide bombers from Lebanon, the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Chechnya have two things in common: they are Muslim and they live under occupation. University of Chicago Professor Dr. Robert A. Pape, who has assembled a comprehensive database of every (or nearly every) suicide bombing since 1980, has been the most prominent proponent of the view that it is occupation, not religion, that is the single most important motivating factor for suicide bombers... more than 95% of suicide bombers come from countries under occupation... Pape and his colleagues at the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, ask What Makes Chechen Women So Dangerous? -Via The Washington Note
Iraq gave us the heavy-metal band Acrassicauda (previously), who have recently relocated to the US and released their first EP. In Iran, indie-pop is a dangerously subversive underground phenomenon, with innocuous-sounding twee-pop bands hiding from persecution by the authorities. And now Afghanistan has Kabul Dreams, a duo who dress in skinny jeans and cardigans and write songs inspired by British guitar bands like Oasis, Radiohead and The Beatles.
The number of refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan seeking asylum in Europe continues to grow. Recently, despite criticism from the UN, deportations have begun. Most of those on a recent flight to Iraq were forced to return to the UK (the nationalities of some remains unclear, as does their fate). Furthermore, the move to deport has meant denying that Iraq and Afghanistan are each in a state of war.
Exit wounds: - It is the poet's obligation, wrote Plato, to bear witness. With the official inquiry into Iraq imminent and the war in Afghanistan returning dead teenagers; Carol Duffy, recently elected UK Poet Laureate invited a range of her fellow poets to bear witness, each in their own way, to these matters of war. More about the poets inside: [more inside]
Jeremy Scahill talked with Bill Moyers recently about the continued role and increasing centrality of private military contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq, the use of military drones, and other issues related to these two ongoing wars. [more inside]
The U.S. replaces the top General in Afghanistan after he'd held his post for less than a year. General McKiernan is being replaced by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who came under some criticism in the past for the treatment of detainees by his Special Operations forces under his command. He is credited with the death of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi in 2006, and the Obama administrations hopes he will bring unconventional thinking to the use of force in Afghanistan. He is already working on some new ideas in military civilian collaboration, but does he play poker? Will he embrace the population-centered warfare approach? Will this General, a prominent figure in Bush's war on terror, be an effective tool in the use of Smart Power, or just make matters worse?
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.
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]
American-Dutch photographer Peter van Agtmael and English photographer Olivia Arthur are the two newest nominees recently welcomed into Magnum Photos. Agtmael's images of Afghanistan and Iraq are very powerful - he discusses his work in Conscientious. Arthur's recent work has focused on women's experiences in what she calls the Middle Distance. [more inside]
...even after five agonizing years of the Iraq War, a summer blockbuster isn't prepared to say that not only is its action hero is corrupt, he's corrupt because America has become corrupt.
Iron Man, who represents an imperial America, can only win Pyrrhic victories. Spencer Ackerman of Tapped Online has a nice history of the Iron Man comics that reads the character's alcoholism, Civil-War overzealousness, and persistent blundering "into a hell of unintended consequences" as a symbol and subtle critique of American exceptionalism and what Jonathan Schell among others has called "impotent omnipotence".
The Makhmalbafs are an Iranian family of filmmakers, although Samira tends to get the most press. [more inside]
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