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]
The US military has been putting more attention into brain science research, covering such potential applications as mind reading, mind control, cognitive enhancement and brain-machine interfaces. This is detailed in the report "Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies" (also available in an abridged PDF version), authored by a National Research Council committee convened by the Department of Defense.
Illusions of Victory: How the United States Did Not Reinvent War… But Thought It Did. Is Perpetual War Our Future? Learning the Wrong Lessons from the Bush Era. Two excerpts from The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, the new book by Andrew Bacevich (previously: 1, 2, 3, 4).
The Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at the United States Military Academy, West Point, has published another report in their analysis of captured al-Qa'ida documents: Bombers, Bank Accounts, and Bleedout: al‐Qa`ida’s Road In and Out of Iraq [pdf] (note to UK readers). [more inside]
Learning from history's mistakes? In the summer of 2002, the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment (ONA), run for 35 years by a man nicknamed Yoda, published an 85-page report titled "Military Advantage in History" (PDF). Drawing on Sun Tzu, Jared Diamond and Roman historian Titus Livius, the book analyzes the rise & fall of the empires of Alexander the Great, Imperial Rome, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon's France and attempts to plot a course for a Pax Americana that can avoid the pitfalls that led to the collapse of those earlier kingdoms. (via)
The Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Costume Illustration has drawings of uniforms and regimental regalia from all over the world. Assembled by one of these great, eccentric collectors of the late 19th Century, Dr. H. J. Vinkhuijzen, a Dutch medical doctor who started out as an army physician and eventually rose to the position of official court physician to Prince Alexander of Netherlands. He pulled plates out of books, colored in black and white drawings and painted his own watercolor illustrations. His collection includes pictures of the soldiers of many different nations and eras, from military superpowers like the Roman Empire, France and Great Britain, to lesser known, but no less formidable forces, like Byzantium and Persia and even taking in such minnows as Luxembourg, Monaco and Montenegro. Due to Vinkhuijzen's unusual classification system it can be hard to find some of the more interesting images, such as pictures of Etruscan cavalry, Spanish military musicians and 1830's Belgian ambulance.
What's as big as a battleship, looks like a star destroyer, and can't do much of anything? [more inside]
2009: A True Story. "My name is Sara Ford and I am 18 years old. I moved to California at the end of last year. Before the first attacks... before everything changed." [Via] [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]
The Victorian Web is your one-stop resource for England in the Victorian era (1837-1901). The site is much too extensive to give but a flavor. It is divided into 20 categories, including Technology, Gender Matters, Economic Contexts, Authors, Political History, Theater and Popular Entertainment, Science and Genre and Technique. Here are a few examples of the articles inside: Inventions in Alice in Wonderland, The Role of the Victorian Army, Earth Yenneps: Victorian Back Slang (and a glossary of same), Algernon Charles Swinburne and the Philosophy of Androgyny, Hermaphrodeity, and Victorian Sexual Mores, Evolution, progress and natural laws and, of course, Queen Victoria.
Prvi svetski rat - Gritty and poignant Serbian postcards from the First World War. Just one of the seriously interesting (e.g. check out the collection of 78s) holdings at the Digital National Library of Serbia.
Suspect Soldiers. "A Sacramento Bee investigation finds the military let in applicants with risky backgrounds -- with sometimes tragic results." Part 1: Troubled histories follow some troops to Iraq war. Part 2: Is there a link between postwar stress and crime? Part 3: Iraq doctor's shooter had long record. Part 4: Patriotic Texas city mirrors nation's recruiting troubles.
[G]ays do not belong in the U.S. military because American troops need to be hardened warriors. "We aren't the Brits. We're not the Europeans. We're not the Swedes," says Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, who is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. The choicest quote from the 16 Dec 2007 60 Minutes investigation into gays in the military (recently updated). [more inside]
In response to Israel's show of might, Iran tested long range missiles capable of hitting Israel and other U.S. targets in the region. Was the image AFP used photoshopped?
Canadian military to gays: Join us! They're even setting up recruiting booths at Gay Pride events (when they are allowed) Note that CBC moderators deleted some of the comments on that first link, but you get a hunch on what they said from the other comments. You may also have heard about two gay soldiers who wed on a military base.
The Safeguard system consisted of three primary components, a Perimeter Acquisition Radar, Missile Site Radar and Remote Sprint Launchers. Boullée in North Dakota [via]
Child Soldiers Global Report 2008. "Despite progress, efforts to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers are too little and too late for many children, according to the 2008 Child Soldiers Global Report, launched today by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers."
PTSD: The War Within. A Marine writes about his PTSD experience. This article from the January issue of the Marine Corps Gazette was written by USMC Staff Sergeant Travis N. Twiggs. Twiggs killed himself and his brother after a long police chase in Arizona earlier this week.
Comrades! Glory once again in the display of
Soviet Russian military might at the revitalized May Day Victory Day Parade!
The F117A Swan Song, the Fall of the Belgrade Embassy...and China Rising China Matters blog offers a fascinating take on "the role that the Belgrade bombing seems to play as the creation myth of the birth of the 21st Chinese strategic military doctrine, founded on the assumption that the U.S. will unscrupulously use its military, diplomatic, and propaganda advantages not only to contain China but even to attack it when need, desire, and circumstances permit."
Paracord is a perennial survival kit favorite, but why carry a boring ol' hank of it when you can get crafty? Parachute cord lanyards, bracelets, watchbands, belts, and other braided items are surprisingly easy and fun to make by following some simple instructions. But they're just the beginning! From water bottle carriers and camera tripods to knife handles, Khukri conversions, flashlight & stick wraps, pace beads, magazine pulls, rifle wraps and rifle slings, there are tons of useful things you can make out of paracord! [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."
The Pentagon's $1 Trillion Problem. Even as the Defense Department prepares to send Congress its $481.4B FY2008 budget request, it also prepares to admit -- for the 18th year in a row -- that its finances are in such poor shape that it is effectively impossible to audit or account for over a trillion dollars in past expenses. [more inside]