In 2008, Outside the Wire
, a theater company, began productions of Sophocles' Ajax
to audiences of soldiers and marines
returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And whither must I go? What end, what purpose
Could urge thee to it? I am nothing, lost
And dead already. Wherefore- tell me, wherefore?-
Am I not still the same detested burthen,
Loathsome and lame? Again must Philoctetes
Disturb your holy rites? If I am with you
How can you make libations? That was once
Your vile pretence for inhumanity.
Oh! may you perish for the deed! The gods
Will grant it sure, if justice be their care
And that it is I know. You had not left
Your native soil to seek a wretch like me
Had not some impulse from the powers above,
Spite of yourselves, ordained it. O my country!
And you, O gods! who look upon this deed,
Punish, in pity to me, punish all
The guilty band! Could I behold them perish,
My wounds were nothing; that would heal them all. [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.
Diary of an atomic bomb technician.
"I will not be responsible for my actions if you keep me here in this programme."
As part of its effort to combat insurgent forces interspersed within an indigenous population, the use of biometrics has become a central component of the U.S. war effort. Having expanded heavily since its introduction during the war in Iraq, biometric identification and tracking of individuals has become a core mission in Afghanistan with initiatives sponsored by the U.S. and Afghan governments seeking to obtain the biometric identifiers of nearly everyone in the country. [more inside]
The A-Team Killings
"Last spring, the remains of 10 missing Afghan villagers were dug up outside a U.S. Special Forces base – was it a war crime or just another episode in a very dirty war?"
World War I in Color
is a documentary designed to make the Great War come alive for a 21st-century audience. The events of 1914-18 are authoritatively narrated by Kenneth Branagh, who presents the military and political overview, while interviews with historians add different perspectives in six 48 minute installments annotated within. [more inside]
: an interactive visualization of the international trade in small arms (generally defined as lethal weapons for use by individuals) from 1992 to 2011. Click on an individual country or type its name into the search box to examine it separately. Uncheck the boxes in the lower right corner to narrow down by category. Drag the slider at the bottom or click the graph button to view change over time. May take a while to load on slower connections. [more inside]
"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."
: Surge in discharges includes wounded soldiers"
: No break for the wounded"
: Army struggles with wounded soldiers"
"This is What Winning Looks Like
is a disturbing new documentary about the ineptitude, drug abuse, sexual misconduct, and corruption of the Afghan security forces as well as the reduced role of US Marines due to the troop withdrawal." [via vice
] [more inside]
"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]
The Things They Leave Behind.
"When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial opened 30 years ago, something unexpected happened: People started leaving things at the wall. One veteran has spent decades cataloging the letters, mementos, and other artifacts of loss — all 400,000 of them." (Via.) [more inside]
How To Write Drone Fiction
: "One can easily and self-righteously claim the merits of writing non-fiction about drones by asserting a primacy of fact over “false fiction”. The problem is that one does not write non-fiction about drones." [more inside]
Today, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will announce
that the Pentagon has lifted its 19 year old ban on women serving in combat roles in the military. [more inside]
This iconic photo
of the first Aboriginal woman to enlist in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps was used as a recruitment tool, and "appeared all over the British Empire [in 1942] to show the power of the colonies fighting for King and country." Its original caption in the Canadian War Museum read, "Unidentified Indian princess getting blessing from her chief and father to go fight in the war."
Its current caption in The Library and Archives of Canada reads: "Mary Greyeyes being blessed by her native Chief prior to leaving for service in the CWAC, 1942."
But as it turns out, the two people in the photo had never met before that day. They weren't from the same tribe or even related and Private Mary Greyeyes was not an "Indian Princess." 70 years after the photo was taken, her daughter-in-law Melanie made sure the official record was corrected. Via [more inside]
The first thing we learned about war re-enactment is that it's fucking terrifying having guns fired at you, even ones loaded with blanks. The second thing we learned is a common re-enactor's dilemma called "The G.I. Effect", which is basically that people playing Americans don't like to die. So sometimes they just don't.It's Like Vietnam All Over Again, pt 1
. Part 2
What's life like aboard a nuclear submarine? For starters, here's over eight hours
2, as they took their cameras aboard the USS Wyoming SSBN
back in 2000, co-hosted by Rear Admiral Malcolm Fages and writer Robert Holzer. [more inside]
In France, a Mission to Return the Military's Carrier Pigeons to Active Duty
— Grounded After Modern Communication Devices Soared, Birds May Offer Low-Tech Solutions; No Round Trips [WSJ]. Let us not forget Le Vaillant
, Cher Ami
, and the other birds that save lives
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films
were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating
, preparing for being drafted
, and shyness
, as well as to children on following the law
, the value of quietness in school
, and appreciating our parents
. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health
, what kind of people live in America
, how to keep a job
, supervising women workers
, the nature of capitalism
, and the plantation System in Southern life
. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives
as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
'While they never met, they had some things in common. Both were Army captains, engaged in important work for the nation, their costly educations paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Ian Morrison, 26, returned to Fort Hood, Texas, last December after nine months flying 70 combat missions over Iraq. Dr. Michael McCaddon, 37, was an ob-gyn resident at Hawaii’s Tripler Army Medical Center. The pilot and the doctor shared one other thing: they found themselves in a darkening, soul-sucking funnel
that has trapped some 2,500 military personnel since 9/11. Like them, each died, at his own hand, on March 21, nearly 4,000 miles apart.' [more inside]
An essay which looks inside the conflicted mind of an Israeli soldier, stationed at a West Bank checkpoint. By Oded Na'aman, currently a student in the Philosophy PhD program at Harvard University, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces from November 2000 to October 2003. Mr. Na'aman is also a member of Breaking the Silence
, a website that gathers and publishes anonymous testimonials
from IDF soldiers -- combat veterans -- about their experiences and the realities of life in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
The long strange trip
of a Singaporean Cold-War-era assault rifle into the hands of Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, and what it reveals about the unintended consequences of the global trade in small arms and ammunition. [slnyt]
The U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program
has been training the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
and the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus)
in mine and swimmer detection for many years. (The program was declassified in the 1990s.) Military dolphins
were used in the first and second Gulf Wars, and there are rumors they are deployed in the Gulf today. These animals could be important if Iran blockades the Hormuz Strait
is asking Americans to financially contribute to the war. [more inside]
, the tech magazine Wired
's section for covering military and security matters, have compiled The Worst War Movies Ever, From Delta Force to The Empire Strikes Back
for your Friday list viewing pleasure.
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
.) The Rocky Mountain News closed in 2009. [more inside]
"Tanks Are Mighty Fine Things!" And Other Tales Of Truthiness...
At the end of World War II, Chrysler sent small hardbound books to shareholders chronicling ways the company had contributed to the war effort. Two have now been placed online at the Chrysler Imperial Club
's website: "Tanks are Mighty Fine Things"
and "A War Job 'Thought Impossible' (The story of the Chrysler-Sperry Gyro-Compass)" (Via) [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]
100 Firefights, Three Weeks: Inside Afghanistan's Most Insane Fight
"In its first three weeks in Afghanistan’s Sangin district, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines got into more than 100 firefights and sustained 62 casualties. The insurgents managed to negate the Marines’ night-vision gear, and rendered their traditional close-combat tactics useless. Things got so bad, the 3/5’s superior officers even suggested pulling their troops back. That didn’t happen. Instead, the 3/5 went after the militants, hard. When the 3/5 came home, they told counterinsurgency historian Mark Moyar all about their deeply unconventional approach to what was already an unconventional war."
This is an excerpt in Wired of Moyar’s 74-page after action report
. (pdf) [more inside]
Writer, traveler, and kidnapper of Nazi generals, Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
-- Paddy to friends and fans -- is dead at 96
A silver lining: his biographer Artemis Cooper reports that the long-awaited final installment of his trilogy recounting a year-long walk across Europe as a young man in the 1930s, "has existed for some time, and will be published in due course."
'The Pentagon has concluded
that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.'
New working paper
by three economists estimates the psychological costs of war at between $1.5 and $2.7 billion. [more inside]
In 2009, Ctrl.Alt.Shift
, the "youth initiative
of Christian Aid," held a national competition in the UK for aspiring filmmakers aged 18 to 25. Their mission: create a short film treatment based around three key issues: "War + Peace," "Gender + Power" and "HIV + Stigma." The results were then screened to an audience at the 2009 Raindance Film Festival. The films: 1000 Voices
, HIV: The Musical
, Man Made
, No Way Through
and War School
. (All YouTube links. Vimeo links and descriptions of each film are inside this post.) These films deal with adult subject matter and may be disturbing for some viewers. Some may also be nsfw. [more inside]
Warfare: An advancing front
- "The US is engaged in increasingly sophisticated warfare, fusing intelligence services and military specialists" [more inside]
A Tragedy of Errors.
On Feb. 21, 2010, a convoy of vehicles carrying civilians headed down a mountain in central Afghanistan and American eyes in the sky were watching. "The Americans were using some of the most sophisticated tools
in the history of war, technological marvels of surveillance and intelligence gathering that allowed them to see into once-inaccessible corners of the battlefield. But the high-tech wizardry would fail
in its most elemental purpose: to tell the difference between friend and foe." FOIA
of US cockpit and radio conversations and an interactive feature
provide a more in-depth understanding of what happened.
How two American kids became big-time weapons traders
- "Working with nothing but an Internet connection, a couple of cellphones and a steady supply of weed, the two friends — one with a few college credits, the other a high school dropout — had beaten out Fortune 500 giants like General Dynamics to score the huge arms contract. With a single deal, two stoners from Miami Beach had turned themselves into the least likely merchants of death in history." (via
; previously on arms contractors
From the Pentagon to the private sector
- In large numbers, and with few rules, retiring generals are taking lucrative defense-firm jobs [more inside]
With Air Force's Gorgon Drone 'we can see everything.'
"In ancient times, Gorgon
was a mythical Greek creature whose unblinking eyes turned to stone those who beheld them. In modern times, Gorgon may be one of the military's most valuable new tools. This winter, the Air Force is set to deploy to Afghanistan what it says is a revolutionary airborne surveillance system called Gorgon Stare
, which will be able to transmit live video images of physical movement across an entire town."
It may take years, but some researcher will travel to Pakistan’s tribal areas and produce a definitive study on what it’s been like to live amidst an aerial bombardment from American pilotless aircraft. When that account inevitably comes out, it’s likely to find that 2010 — and especially the final quarter of 2010 — marked a turning point in how civilians coped with a drone war that turned relentless
. (previously: 1,2)
Robert F. Gallagher served in the United States Army's 815th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion (Third Army) in the European Theater during WWII. He has posted his memoir online: "Scratch One Messerschmitt,"
told from numerous photos he took during the war and the detailed notes he made shortly afterwards. [more inside]
The U.S. military is sending a contingent of heavily armored battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war... Although the officer acknowledged that the use of tanks this many years into the war could be seen as a sign of desperation by some Afghans and Americans, he said they will provide the Marines with an important new tool in missions to flush out pockets of insurgent fighters. [more inside]
In 2015, if all goes well, the USS Gerald R. Ford
, the most powerful warship
, will begin service
in the U.S. Navy - retiring the venerable Enterprise
(CVN-65). Though displacing the same 100,000 tons as her Nimitz-class counterparts, increased automation will let her operate with hundreds fewer crewmembers. Capable
of launching 90 planes, including the F-35C Lightning II
, on 220 sorties a day, she will defend herself
against anti-ship missiles with the Raytheon RIM-162 ESSM
. [more inside]
In the scale of its intensity, its destructiveness and its horror, Stalingrad has no parallel. It engaged the full strength of the two biggest armies in Europe and could fit into no lesser framework than that of a life-and-death conflict which encompasses the earth.
- The New York Times, February 4, 1943 [more inside]