Yesterday, US President Obama signed a $680bn military policy bill, which cuts military spending, including $2bn in funding for new F-22 fighter jets. However, the bill also contained the first major piece of federal gay rights legislation, and fulfilled an Obama campaign promise: acts of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have now been added to the list of federal hate crimes.
A handful of female seniors at the Naval Academy or in the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps could very well be the first women to be assigned to a U.S. submarine. And if initial plans fall into place, those women — joined by some seasoned supply and surface nuke lieutenants already in the fleet — will be included in four crews assigned to two Ohio-class submarines by late 2011. [more inside]
January: Newly sworn-in President Obama says, "We need greater investment in... essential systems like the C-17 cargo... aircraft, which provide the backbone of our ability to extend global power." April: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says, "Our analysis concludes that we have enough C-17s, with the 205 already in the force and currently in production." May: The Office of Management and Budget proposes the termination of the C-17 program with a savings of $17 billion. July: The 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill includes funding for the program. September 29: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) proposes an amendment to strip that funding - "You can't walk through these hallways without bumping into a lobbyist from Boeing." September 30: By a vote of 64 to 34, the Senate defeats the amendment.
John L. Perry worked in the Johnson and Carter administrations. He posts once a week at a blog called Right Angles. Perry's latest column suggested that a "civilized" military coup to "resolve the Obama problem" should not be dismissed as "unrealistic". Another person who thinks a military dictatorship may be in America's future? Gore Vidal.
Afghan Lessons Learned for Soldiers - a collection of musings on life as a soldier in Afghanistan. [more inside]
Sustainable Security is a website launched this month by the Oxford Research Group "to be an important platform for promoting a better understanding of the real threats to global security in the 21st century and the policies that should be implemented to address those threats at their root cause." It highlights "four interconnected drivers of global insecurity: climate change; competition over natural resources; global militarism; and poverty and marginalisation. Prof. Paul Rogers makes the case for a rethink of the security paradigm.
The Warrior Writers Project brings together recent veterans and current service members to be in creative community and utilize art-making processes to express themselves. There is a deep necessity for veterans to create when so much has been shattered and stolen. A profound sense of hope comes from the ability to rebuild and transform.
Three female US soldiers talk about their experiences in the military. (sound starts automatically) [more inside]
Pictures of military subjects, many of them annotated, from all over such as Russia, Malaysia, Japan (Special Police), Ireland, Cyprus, Sri Lanka and Canada. [more inside]
'Silent partner' examines what happens when people 'don't tell' "We can really see the destructive effects of 'don't ask, don't tell' . . . when you see the pain that these spouses and partners go through". Lt. Dan Choi introduces a new documentary film about three gay partners of military personnel. [more inside]
The Medill School of Journalism's Washington Program revealed its Pentagon Travel project last week (multimedia). Most privately paid for travel was found to be within the bounds of federal law, but some still show a clear conflict of interest. Key findings: From 1998 through 2007, sources outside the federal government paid for more than 22,000 trips worth at least $26 million. The medical industry paid for more travel than any other outside interest — more than $10 million for some 8,700 trips, or about 40 percent of all outside sponsored travel. Among the targets: military pharmacists, doctors, and others who administer the Pentagon’s $6 billion-plus annual budget for prescription drugs. Medill acquired 10 years worth of trip data and partnered with the Center for Public Integrity to form a searchable database which includes destination, date, sponsor, sponsor nationality, cost of trip or agency.
Science fiction writers have always been writing about remote control war, the Isreali arms industry has been develping remote control drones (as seen in Pakistan), but only the US military has a remote control mini tank driven via an Xbox controler!
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.
The aircraft carrier, a majestic and grand symbol of American naval might... susceptible to swarming small-boat assault and weak against ballistic missiles, nevermind an anti-ship ballistic missile. Is it time to reevaluate the role of the aircraft carrier in a modern naval strategy?
The Department of Veterans Affairs has reported that military scientists tested hundreds of chemical and biological substances on them, including VX, tabun, soman, sarin, cyanide, LSD, PCP, and World War I-era blister agents like phosgene and mustard. The full scope of the tests, however, may never be known. As a CIA official explained to the GAO, referring to the agency's infamous MKULTRA mind-control experiments, "The names of those involved in the tests are not available because names were not recorded or the records were subsequently destroyed." Besides, said the official, some of the tests involving LSD and other psychochemical drugs "were administered to an undetermined number of people without their knowledge."
A Presidential Boeing 747 along with two fighter planes continuously circled jarringly close to the tops of buildings in Lower Manhattan and Jersey City this morning. From the ground it looked as though a plane had been hijacked again, and the Air Force was attempting to force it down. Panic ensued. Another terrorist attack? No, just a top secret photo op. [more inside]
Soldiers' Stress: What Doctors Get Wrong About PTSD. A growing number of experts insist that the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder is itself disordered and that soldiers are suffering as a result.
"A young mother is injured and her three month old baby killed by shell fragments as she breastfeeds the child in the government declared no fire zone. Parents hide their children in roughly dug bunkers to escape LTTE press gangs who comb the no-fire zone for conscripts. A woman loses her husband to sniper fire and the toddler he was carrying too drowns when they attempt to wade across a lagoon to escape the no-fire zone. A father is shot in the head by LTTE members as he attempted to flee with his family." - The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) discuss the situation in Vanni, Sri Lanka, in their 47th information bulletin.
Field Force to Lhasa 1903-04 Captain Cecil Mainprise accompanied General Sir Francis Younghusband's expedition to Tibet in 1903. He wrote 50 letters home which trace the expedition’s progress into Tibet. Read this insider's account on the day they were written some 105 years later. Final post is 18 November 2009. [Via]
Fox News, keeping it classy, recently aired a comedy segment ridiculing the Canadian military's efforts in Afghanistan. On the overnight programme, host Greg Gutfeld and friends joked about Canada's plan to pull out troops in 2011 to "do some yoga, paint landscapes, run on the beach in gorgeous white Capri pants." He also suggested invading Canada seeing as how they "have no real army", and mocked the last name of one of the Canadian generals as being unmasculine. [more inside]
The Pentagon plans to spend $400 million to develop a giant blimp that will float 65,000 feet above the Earth for 10 years, providing unblinking and intricate radar surveillance of the vehicles, planes and even people below. [more inside]
Combat Outpost. "As US and the UK forces struggle for a way forward in Afghanistan, John D McHugh's unique film from one of the US military's most dangerous outposts shows just how western forces are losing ground to the Taliban." Where are Afghanistan's missing millions? "Clancy Chassay hears charges of corruption levelled against the UN and aid agencies after millions earmarked for a Kabul hospital disappear."
That was too close. RAF Tornado comes within 30ft of mid-air collision.
Now that the fighting in Gaza is over for the time being, it's time for urban legends to arise out of the morass. One story now making the rounds on the Israeli side involves soldiers claiming the Biblical matriarch Rachel warned them of Hamas ambushes and guided them away from booby-trapped homes. Strangely, Rachel supposedly appeared as an Arabic-speaking older woman. Meanwhile, American soldiers during the second Iraq war spawned their own urban legends. But these stories are just the latest entries in a long tradition. [more inside]
"Authored by the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), the Joint Operating Environment (JOE 2008, pdf) outlines a strategic framework and forecasts possible threats and opportunities that will challenge the future joint force." One portion picked out by the media: Mexico and Pakistan are the two countries most likely to undergo "sudden collapse". [more inside]
How to blog, or counter-blog, for the US Air force, in handy flow chart form.
Samuel Phillip Huntington, best known for his work "Clash of Civilizations," died on December 24. Previously on the blue (here, here, here, and here)
America's Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress (2.3 MB PDF). A new report from the Center for Defense Information on the DoD's wastefulness, and suggested solutions. Recommended holiday reading from James Fallows and Andrew Sullivan.
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."
"I have never considered myself anything but a Soldier." The U.S. names its first female four-star general: Ann E. Dunwoody. [more inside]
Iran says it caught two pigeons spying on it's nuclear reactor. It sounds crazy, but it's not as farfetched as you might think. The lowly pigeon has been used in military operations since the 12th century. Commando the Pigeon flew 90 missions in German-occupied France during WWII. Pigeons like Commando, Winkie, and Paddy had a lock on the Dickin Medal for animal bravery during WWII. Then again, maybe it's just crazy. Last year Iran said it had arrested 14 squirrels for espionage.
Military equipment drawn as anime girls. Probably SFW, but good luck explaining it to the boss. Wikipedia explains.
Army Funds Synthetic Telepathy Research Inspired by video game research [previously] the army has issued funding to research the possibility of sending/receiving e-mail via brainwaves. Some progress has been made using EEGs already, although the army's motives don't seem so pure.
Burlap paradummies called Ruperts were dropped during D-Day, later depicted in the film The Longest Day. But prior to D-Day, both the British and the Germans had used straw-filled decoys in various locations. Later in the war, the U.S. tested "Oscar" but found him lacking, adopting instead the PD Dummy. [more inside]
Make-Believe Maverick. "A closer look at the life and career of John McCain reveals a disturbing record of recklessness and dishonesty."
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?"
"Beginning in October, the Army plans to station an active unit inside the United States for the first time..." (SLthisisveryscaryYT)
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]
Psychology Group Changes Policy on Interrogations. The American Psychological Association has adopted a measure prohibiting its members from participating in interrogations of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay and other military prisons where detainees have been tortured (previously). [Via Paper Chase]
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.
Some new and disturbing footage following an air raid on Azizabad seems to be forcing the US military to do a U-turn on civilian deaths in Afghanistan. [more inside]
Above Enemy Lines (youtube 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) is a BBC Documentary about a RAF Chinook crew on their tour of duty in Afghanistan. Part 4 and 5 of the film deal with the crew attempting to rescue a wounded 19 year-old soldier from a combat zone.
Nazis in the military is dedicated to the investigative project undertaken by journalist Matthew Kennard while studying for a MS in Investigative Journalism at Columbia University in New York. It was completed over six months and explores the increasingly liberal attitude of the U.S. military to neo-Nazis and white supremacists serving in the armed forces. via [more inside]
Mission Creep: "Bush and Rumsfeld may be history, but America's new global footprint lives on." [more inside]