Category Archives: Unconventional Warfare

Counter-ISIL Strategy: Designed to fail.

Did we call it? USS Arleigh Burke launches Tomahawks against targets that essentially round off to zero. Navy photo.

Did we call it? USS Arleigh Burke launches Tomahawks against targets that essentially round off to zero last night, as part of the Potemkin offensive. Navy photo.

The president has a simple, straightforward strategy for combating ISIL in the Middle East. But there’s just one problem with it: it’s designed to fail.

As he describes the Allied approach, it comprises ground forces provided by the Iraqis, along with separately-stovepiped air forces provided by the US (and possibly some allies, if he can convince any of them to sign on to a war he himself prosecutes halfheartedly). The problem is, for precision strikes to be effective you need two things: one, eyes on target to control and direct the fire, and two, precision guided munitions. In the past every attempt to use one or the other in isolation has come a cropper.

For example, the Kosovo War was conducted by PGM without eyes on the ground. Most of the ordnance was wasted on decoys or mistaken targets. In 1998, the US conducted a retaliatory strike against several Al-Qaeda-related targets in Afghanistan and Africa. The strikes were carried out using PGMs – specifically, sea-launched cruise missiles. The missiles we will have we hit their targets, but the targets were at best, worthless: in Afghanistan, we blew up the empty bleachers at training camps; and at worst, counterproductive: in Africa, we blew up an unrelated factory because of bad intelligence. In 1993, in Somalia, we tried putting Special Operations Forces on the ground without PGMs or, for that matter, any air support to speak of. We know how that worked out.

Precision guided munitions and drone strikes appeal to Washington politicians because politicians are men of incrementalism and half-measures and compromises, and these weapons are half-measures. War is no place for half-measures; ask a Vietnam veteran.

Some in the commentariat see the problem, that is, the problem of will and intent, if not the tactical and operational problem of how these half-measures can be even half-effective without skilled guidance from the ground, in close proximity to the targets (and therefore, in close proximity to the enemy). Angelo Codevilla, writing in The Federalist:

This indulgence so overwhelms our ruling class’s perception of reality that the recipes put forth by its several wings, little different from one another, are identical in the one essential respect: none of them involve any plans which, if carried out, would destroy the Islamic State, kill large numbers of the cut-throats, and discourage others from following in their footsteps. Hence, like the George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and for the same reasons, this exercise of our ruling class’s wisdom in foreign affairs will decrease respect for us while invigorating our enemies.

via Washington’s Ruling Class Is Fooling Itself About The Islamic State.

Codevilla is right, and he is right on target: none of the plans being kicked around by the amateur strategists in DC have either the intent or the capability of defeating the enemy.

There’s another problem with the absence of boots on the ground — what happens when a pilot goes down? Without a PR package on standby, he or she stars on al-Jazeera’s Beheading of the Week.

History tells us how Fortune disposes of irresolute half-measures. We’ve mentioned Vietnam, but another eerie parallel to the situation now unfolding in Syria and Iraq (and threatening Jordan and Lebanon) is the Bay of Pigs invasion of April 17-19, 1961.

Operation Bumpy Road was ordered by President Eisenhower, but was not ready to execute yet… and therefore the go/no-go decision fell to Eisenhower’s successor, John F Kennedy.

But Kennedy couldn’t decide, “go” or “no-go”. Instead he, And his brother, Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy, decided to micromanage the invasion plan. They moved the invasion, from a place where a failure could’ve left the survivors in good position to conduct guerrilla warfare from the mountains, to a place where a failure would have left the survivors defenseless on the water’s edge. And then they cut the planned Exile Air Force airstrikes, to well below the minimum the professional planners had originally been willing to accept. (Once the operation was undeway, RFK cut the strikes still further).

Result: the biggest US foreign policy fiasco of the 20th Century.

And it looks like the prototype of what they’re planning now.

Well, the 21st Century is young.

UPDATE

Well, what did we tell you? The image we just added to this is not a file photo of the futile, symbolic, domestic-politics-driven cruise missile pinpricks against AQ in 1998. No, it’s from last night’s futile, symbolic, domestic-politics-driven cruise missile pinpricks against Khorasan (same Islamic turd with a new label on the punch bowl):

U.S. strikes hit the group’s “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communications building, and command and control facilities,” according to a Pentagon statement released Tuesday morning.

…White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes …

Wait, was he the guy who used to be a campaign flack, or the guy who used to be a campaign van driver? We get our incompetent national security officials confused sometimes…

Rhodes said that Syrian opposition forces alone are “certainly unable” to combat the threat of the Khorasan Group.

What Syrian oppo is he referring to? ISIL, against whom we’re supposedly also launching ineffectual pinpricks with one eye on the approval ratings and the other on the midterm elections? The Al-Nusra Front, which has made common cause with AQ? AQ itself? There’s no western, pluralistic opposition.  They were wiped out during a previous period of half-measures and poll-watching!

And what good can we expect a handful of Tomahawk pinpricks directed at empty bleachers (“training camps”) and mud huts (“explosives and munitions production … and command and control facilities”) to do? Ah, but it makes a manikin look more like a man, perhaps.

And finally — the Navy was critically low on Tomahawks before this little play opened in off-Broadway national security theater. Now they’re lower than that, and nothing to show for it.

 

“Book” Link: the Rhodesian African Rifles

Most of the writing about the Rhodesian Army concentrates on three specific units: the Rhodesian Light Infantry, the SAS, and the Selous Scouts. One of the most effective regiments in the Rhodesian army was the Rhodesian African Rifles, a unit in which other ranks were all black natives, and which led, or tried to, anyway, in developing black African officers. The RLI was a white unit, as was the SAS; the Scouts were a mixed-race unit, like the RAR.

Commander and sergeants major of the RAR (identified by name in the book).

Commander and sergeants major of the RAR (identified by name in the book).

All of these units, and the overall strategy and tactics of the Rhodesian UDI government, were significantly more effective than a simple comparison of available forces would suggest. Why was that?

While the other three units participated in the high-profile cross-border operations, the RAR most we operated inside the country. There were reasons for this, and they come out in the volume we’re currently reading, thanks to DTIC. It also answers some of the questions about why the Rhodesians were so effective, and most interesting of all, it suggests why the RAR was effective, even though its officers and men were came from three different, and sometimes politically opposed, ethnic groups: white Englishmen, black Ndebele (relatives of the Zulus) and black Shona (the ethnic majority in Rhodesia and today’s Zimbabwe).

The Rhodesian African Rifles: The Growth and Adaptation of a Multicultural Regiment through the Rhodesian Bush War, 1965-1980 is actually a thesis, written by MAJ Michael P. Stewart as a Command and General Staff College graduation requirement, and it’s over 160 pages of deep dive into RAR history and sociology. Stewart notes the cultural differences between the RAR’s battalions, as well as the cultural “secret sauce” that made the unit not only one of Rhodesia’s most effective, but the only one the Zimbabwe government could count on when faced with a coup threat by the Matabele minority ZAPU party and its well-armed ZIPRA wing in the first year of majority rule. The abstract tells you what Stewart thought that “secret sauce” is: regimental tradition and spirit:

The Rhodesian African Rifles overcame profoundly divisive racial and tribal differences among its members because a transcendent “regimental culture” superseded the disparate cultures of its individual soldiers and officers. The RAR’s culture grew around the traditions of the British regimental system, after which the RAR was patterned. The soldiers of the RAR, regardless of racial or tribal background, identified themselves first as soldiers and members of the regiment, before their individual race and tribe. Regimental history and traditions, as well as shared hardships on deployments and training were mechanisms that forced officers and soldiers to see past differences. The RAR is remarkable because these bonds stayed true through to the end of the war, through incredible pressure on black Rhodesians to succumb to the black nationalist groups and cast off a government that was portrayed to them as oppressive, racist and hateful. Through the end of the Bush War, 1965-1980, RAR soldiers remained loyal and steadfast to their regiment, and that must be their legacy. In the end, the values of the government were irrelevant. It was the regiment that drew these men in, and their loyalty was more to their comrades and their heritage than to any particular government or cause.

While Stewart depends heavily on previously published works, and on Rhodesian historian Dr JRT (Richard) Wood, he also conducted 30-odd interviews with former RAR officers and warrant officers. He came away with a great admiration for them and their “worthy and noble regiment.”

As early as World War II, the RAR distinguished itself, against the Japanese in Burma. Stewart quotes an excerpt from Japanese officer’s diary, initially published in Christopher Owen’s 1970 The Rhodesian African Rifles.

[t]he enemy soldiers are not from Britain, but are from Africa. Because of their beliefs they are not afraid to die, so, even if their comrades have fallen, they keep on advancing as if nothing had happened. They have excellent physique and are very brave, so fighting against these soldiers is somewhat troublesome.

When officers of the Imperial Japanese Army take note of your fearlessness, you’ve arrived.

The unit heritage, history, culture and traditions provided something to unify everyone; the badge combined Ndebele and Shona symbology, but the basic trust was man-to-man and mutual leader-subordinate respect.

There were also informal traditions, one of the most amusing being the African soldiers’ secret nicknames for their white officers:

African soldiers had a name for every officer in the regiment. It was a sign of acceptance for a white officer to be given a name by his soldiers, from Lt Col F.J. Wane (named Msoro-we-gomo, or “the top of the mountain”), who served with the Rhodesia Native Regiment in World War I and then rebuilt the RAR in 1940, to a young subaltern (named “Mr. Vice” after his father’s position in the Rhodesian Air Force), or Captain (later Brigadier in the Australian Army) John Essex-Clark (named Mopane, after the tall, slender hardwood found in the Rhodesian bush). The names were not always particularly flattering or exalting, but the existence of a nickname demonstrated acceptance of an officer among the ranks of his soldiers, and were shared with the officers only occasionally by the NCOs of his platoon.

The best traditions, in our experience, are organic and spontaneous. The naming of officers is a perfect example.

There was also a uniquely RAR adaptation on the TO&E, the Platoon Warrant Officer, in effect a platoon-level sergeant major — something a bit grander than the American platoon sergeant, and a bit more dedicated to the propagation of unit culture.

He knew, taught, and exemplified the history and values of the regiment. Without exception, every former officer interviewed spoke with special respect and reverence for this class of leaders in the regiment.

Coming in to this multitribal, multiracial environment, the successful officer was the one who best learnt his men’s language and culture, and who led by example.

RAR troops with FALs and MAG-58.

RAR troops with FALs and MAG-58.

Finally, Stewart notes that the lessons of the RAR, the African soldiers who fought like lions against African nationalism, are exactly on point to those, native and foreign, trying to build multicultural armies today, in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere.

The Rhodesian African Rifles: The Growth and Adaptation of a Multicultural Regiment through the Rhodesian Bush War, 1965-1980 is not the last word on the RAR — Stewart admits it’s too dependent on the views of former officers, and the enlisted men’s viewpoint is largely missing and left to a future researcher. But it’s an excellent work that you ought to enjoy reading, if the Rhodesian bush war interests you, or if you might be charged with unifying disparate groups under a single command.

You can download the .pdf or read it online from DTIC, and if DTIC reorganizes their files again and breaks that link, you can pull a copy from WeaponsMan.com: Rhodesian African Rifles – a556553.pdf

ISIL VBIED with American Suicide Operator

aby_hurayra_moner_abu_salahMeet al-Hurayra al-Amriki, the last bit of which means “the American.” He blew himself up in an attack on the Syrian Army in Jebel al-Arba’een in Idlib Province on 25 May 14. (Al-Hurayra, “The one with the kitten,” was one of the companions of Mohammed; al-Qaeda’s glamor shot of his suicidal namesake shows him holding a kitten, presumably his love interest).

This long video, captured by the Middle East Media Research Institute, is his “martyrdom video,” the crude mohammedan imitation of the genteel Shinto tea and saki ceremony that saw the kamikazes off. The parallels are remarkable, notably the shallowness of awareness of the propaganda-soaked suicides. Our interest is not in his reasons, nor in his message — the first is shallow, juvenile angst and gang-identification, the death-seeking of a 22-year-old going on 16; the latter the empty boasting of a child-man about to die in futile service to a lost cause and cynical leaders — but in his means. If you skip ahead to about three minutes from the end, you’ll see what’s purported to be the VBIED that he used to make an attack on Syrian government forces, and film that purports to be the explosion that may or may not have injured the Syrians, but presumably was, as SVBIEDs always are, 100% effective in punching “Abu’s” ticket. Did he see the “smile of allah” he so wished for? We’re doubtful.

An ideology that tells you, “Blowing yourself to smithereens in the hopes you indiscriminately kill somebody, practically anybody, is the path to salvation,” may be bearing a message from a supernatural being, but it ain’t God.

As he tells us, he’s the spawn of an Arab palestinian man and an Italian-American woman. Well, this neckbearded numbskull is not the worst result ever of an airheaded broad getting her multiculti mandingo on; he’ll be a forgotten footnote to these decades of barbarism.

As he doesn’t tell us, his real name was Moner Mohammed Abu-Salha. He was from Vero Beach, Florida. His father carried a Jordanian passport; his mother converted to the religion of death and barbarism, and they raised their children — including two other boys and a girl — in the ways of Mohammedanism. The father was a grocer, but the family was improvident with money and lost their home to foreclosure. Yet they managed to find money for visits to the middle east.

Moner was a loser, suspended from high school for fighting, then dropping out. He obtained a ticket-punch GED from a “school” that specializes in that kind of thing, then stumbled through three different colleges, dropping out of each without measurable achievement.

The jihadis who launched this not-so-smart bomb were smart enough to avoid any opsec violations that tell us much about the bomb and its triggering device(s). It is customary to have multiple initiators: a command initiator for the splodydope himself to pull, a remote initiator for the commanders to use if the splodydope loses his nerve or is disabled, and a dead-man switch. Judging from the fireball, there was a lot of low-grade explosive in the truck, probably a mix of ANFO and fillings melted out of ordnance (or complete shells if they were in a hurry). Other jihadi social media postings have suggested that the truck contained 17 tons of explosive, primarily artillery shells.

svbied_truck_01

The vehicle is a commercial dump truck, crudely armored. It’s a good choice as it has plenty of power and a very strong frame, just the ticket for carrying the explosives and the armor. The armor appears to be mild steel plate, little respected by armor buffs, but wait… what are the steel targets at your range made out of? Exactly. This thing isn’t a tank designed to go into combat, fight, disengage and then go back later, keeping the crew safe: it’s designed to go into combat and keep the crewman alive long enough for him to trip the bang switch, or to get close enough to the enemy for his ever-helpful masters to trip the switch for him.

(These masters are surely going to shaheed themselves, surely, one of these days, just not right now).

svbied_truck_03

The armor, then, is meant merely to delay the vehicle’s penetration. In front of the main front armor plate, there is an additional flat front plate, and a sort of cow-catcher plow to remove road obstacles. The heavy armor on the front indicates that they intended a straight, direct assault against their objective.

svbied_truck_06

This second shot of the cow-catcher was taken as the vehicle drove off to perdition. The bags may contain explosives. The cow-catcher was rather high, probably in order to clear the unimproved roads where the vehicle started out. It appears to be welded in place. The cow-catcher also adds to the protection of the vehicle’s powerplant; a mobility kill is a mission kill against a VBIED.

The flags are those of the al-Nusra Front, one of the al-Qaeda-associated jihadi groups fighting against Bashar al-Assad. After literally years of American dithering, there are no significant anti-Assad groups left that are not also anti-American. Arming Syrian rebels now means arming American enemies. Naturally, Washington is all for it.

svbied_truck_02

Visibility from inside the vehicle was poor straight ahead. The driver had a small window in the armor plate in front of him, and an even smaller one in the vertical armor plate in front of that. Standoff between the two plates provides some protection from RPGs as well. Jihadi slogans and Koran quotes painted in the cab bolster his will.

svbied_truck_01

There was no armor visible on the side of the cab.

svbied_truck_04

The nose was not the only vital part of the VBIED to be armored. Jihadi welders added plate to the rear wheel area and the fuel tanks, and armored the tires with big disks attached to the lug nuts. It’s impossible to tell if the steel plate alongside the nose end of the dump body is armor or trim. (The part that is forward of the slanted front of the dump body).

svbied_truck_05

We are not sure what make of truck this is. We have ruled out most of the Japanese brands, Mercedes, Magirus, Renault, and Kamaz. Any ideas?

The armor shows that the enemy is a learning enemy, even if his splodydopes themselves can’t pass on their lessons learned. It’s a far cry from the SVBIED of ten years ago, which was a couple of 155 rounds in the trunk of a taxi driven by some martyrdom wannabe. But it’s not invulnerable.

Vulnerabilities of this kind of SVBIED include antitank weapons and enfilading fire. Accurate .50 M2HB or DShK fire would also be effective, even from dead ahead. If you’re operating in SVBIED country, you want to have flanking outposts on your high-speed avenues of approach, able to light up the cab of your would-be al-Jazeera star from the side. You need them on both sides, and they need aiming stakes so that they know to check fire when their fire would otherwise fall on the opposite outpost. (The enemy will be trying hard enough to kill you. Don’t do his work for him).

That an attack like this is still effective over 30 years after they did it to the USMC in Beirut shows that the attack, while easily frustrated by effective fire, can often be executed in the time it takes defenders to shake off the cobwebs. Also, too many gate posts are expected to stop an attack with a rifle or a rifle-caliber light machine gun; what happens when the attack looks like this? We’ll tell you what: your gate can’t stop the attack, not in time.  Give them something that can hit a moving tank and turn it to slag… and give them no-hesitation ROE. (The enemy will probe your ROE with unarmed civilian vehicles, and then go all lawfare on you if you smoke ‘em. Smoke ‘em anyway. You’ll have sent some jihadi impersonating a civilian to the martyrdom he seeks, and your guys will not go to the martyrdom they most definitely aren’t seeking — win all round.

More on Moner al-Deadmeat:

Weds Thurs Weapons Website of the Week

spy vs spyIf you’re a prepper…

If you’re a veteran…

If you’re interested in how the world of intelligence works at the nuts and bolts level…

…you’ll want to read GuerillAmerica.

The blog provides practical, doctrinally-based instruction in intelligence tradecraft across a wide range of disciplines. In particular, its analytical tradecraft posts like this one about evaluating single-source information are pure gold (and something that is often covered poorly in analytical training, even inside the IC).

Few people think about UW intel tradecraft beyond collection, or perhaps beyond agent handling. Those things are important, but anything from networks to entire countries that has been rolled up after being taken unawares, usually had collected all the information they needed to see the fist that was about to hit them. It was their failure to evaluate and analyze this information — failure to process raw information into usable, actionable intelligence – that condemned them to be bystanders at Pearl Harbor, the roll-up of SOE’s réseaux in the Netherlands, the Nork invasion of South Korea in 1950, the abject failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, or the al-Qaeda attacks on 11 Sep 2001.

(Yeah, this was supposed to go up on Wednesday. It didn’t. So sue us. Our next scheduled date for lawsuit service is 29 Feb 15).

Sten Gun Manufacturing, 1943 or So

This footage survives because it was documenting something thought remarkable at the time — entire ordnance factories operated mostly by women. But if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may be more interested in what these British ladies are doing in the Royal Ordnance Factory at Enfield: manufacturing STEN Mk II submachine guns.

The guns and their near-cottage-industry manufacturing processes are both interesting. The guns are clearly Mk. IIs, but there appear to be two variants of the tee stock — perhaps the film crew was there at the exact moment of a running change, or perhaps the stocks came in from subcontractors and a degree of variation in appearance was the norm.

The industrial processes in use include some automatic rifling machines, but it looks like a lot of manual labor went into a STEN. It was only the el cheapo gun of legend because these ladies of Enfield were getting paid such token sums. In the short video, you’ll see brazing, welding, and hand-riveting with a hammer. There has to be a video somewhere of Guide Lamp cranking out Grease Guns, and you can imagine the automotive industry process engineers shaking their heads if they saw how a STEN went together.

Some men work in the plant, too, but the original filmmaker’s focus was on the women. Men have had held some jobs exclusively, including test-firing completed STENs, but women are doing a lot of things that they’d never have applied themselves to pre-1939. After the war, it was no longer unprecedented for women to work outside the home, even in industrial crafts, and England (and the world) never reverted to the status quo ante.

As a bonus, in keeping with the theme of women in war production, here’s a film about how they did it at the Willow Run B-24 plant (Ypsilanti, MI).

Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal

Actors in an Indian movie about the 21 Sikhs.

Actors in an Indian movie about the 21 Sikhs. Note the practical Khakis for desert/mountain combat.

Say whaaat? We thought we were perfectly clear. We said, “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!”

But of course, for most of the world that Sikh battle cry is meaningless. It means “Victory is his who calls on God with a true heart,” and it was the last phrase on the lips of the “21 Sikhs of Saragarhi,” the most valiant forlorn-hope defense that you probably never heard of. Everyone knows about the 300 at Thermopylae, the 47 Samurai, the Alamo, the Little Big Horn, Isandlhwana, and Dien Bien Phu. If you’re a military historian you might have heard of Lima Site 85, Camarone or Shiroyama. But we had never heard of these plucky Sikhs until recently.

After the battle, the outpost was in ruins. With soldiers from the 36th Sikhs.

After the battle, the outpost was in ruins. With soldiers from the 36th Sikhs’ too-late relief force.

Saragarhi was a rocky outcrop with hastily built brick or rock sangars, west-southwest of Peshawar, and two Pathan tribes were in arms: the Afridi and the Orakzai. These same Pathans — we call them Pushtuns — have been involved in numerous insurgencies ovet the centuries, and in 1897 they were rebelling against Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, and Victoria’s Indian Army.

The British and their Indian allies had built a chain of forts, but Saragarhi was not designed to be a defense position. It existed because the British had a radical new communications tool, the heliograph, and there was no line of sight between the deliberate forts Gulistan and Lockhart, which had been sited by Maharajah Ranjit Singh to defend a major line of communication.

The helio-relay site was occupied by 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment, under command of Havildar (Sergeant) Ishar Singh. Their mission was to defend their communicator, Sepoy (Private) Gurmukh Singh (Sikhs take “Singh,” lion, as a surname). But instead of targeting the harder forts, the Afridi-Orakzai force, 10,000 tribesmen armed with a mix of modern rifles, jezails, and edged weapons, attacked the relay site.

Havildar Ishar Singh had Gurmukh Singh send an immediate request for relief, or support. But his commander, Lt. Col. John Haughton, had his hands full (perhaps with a feint or demonstration) at Fort Gulistan to the west. Haughton asked the Sikh detachment to hold out.

At this point, Ishar Singh and his 20 men — a corporal, a lance-corporal, and 18 privates — made a pact. They would not surrender; they would fight to the last round and the last man. There was a camp follower with them, a cook, and he would share their fate.

Ishar Singh was remembered by Viscount Slim as having the reputation of an extrovert.

The Pathans would take a bloodless victory if they could get it, and they made all kinds of promises to the holdout Sikhs, both before the battle was joined and once it was underway. Pushtunwali would not let them dishonor a truce, so their promise to the Sikhs that they might keep their lives was, and the Sikhs new it was, not an empty one.

The Sikhs rejected every offer.

The Sikhs fought until their ammunition was exhausted — then, the shrinking garrison fought with sword, bayonet, and captured arms. As night approached, Pathan engineers who had approached by stealth breached the wall, and the garrison went down in desperate cold-steel fighting.

The last man at his station was Gurmukh Singh, reporting all of this faithfully by heliograph to Lt. Col. Haughton. With Ishar Singh and the other 19 privates dead, Gurmukh respectfully asked permission to fix bayonet and charge the Pathans.

Haughton granted permission. Gurmukh was soon among his mates, in the Sikh afterlife.

The burnt-out ruins of Saragarhi

The burnt-out ruins of Saragarhi.

The Pathans set fire to the outpost and celebrated their victory — 14,000 men had defeated 21. About then, the British forces shook off their opponents and began to rain artillery on the Pathans. Point made, the Pathans withdrew, leaving behind a garrison of Orakzai who, in turn, died in the ruins of the fort.

The 21 Sikhs were granted posthumously the highest medal of the time, the Indian Order of Merit, in an unprecedented and unrepeated mass award. Their mates of the 36th Sikhs advanced on the post the next day.

The Pathan withdrawal hadn’t been deliberate; they’d left 600 of their dead unshriven on the field alongside the 21 Sikhs of Saragarhi.

The 36th Sikh Regiment has, in the way of these things, undergone some changes as the British granted India independence and the Indian Army reorganizes from time to time, as any Army must do. But its traditions and honors remain with the 4th Battalion, Sikh Regiment, Indian Army today, where the story of the 21 Sikhs of Saragarhi is taught to every recruit, and the Sikh forces celebrate it much as the Foreign Legion celebrates their glorious last stand at Camarone.

Sources: The Business Standard (India), Times of India, Badass of the Week, SikhWiki, News and Views 24.

Ari Fleischer Remembers 9/11 (via twitter)

Geez. Ari was President Bush’s press secretary and was close by him for most of the day. Ari writes (tweets, to be specific):

I started 2take notes of what Bush was saying and doing. I have some 6 pages of notes on a legal pad. The originals are in a bank vault now.

There were a few times he wasn’t with the president, like this moment:

He also called Ted Olson, the Solicitor General, whose wife was killed on Flight 77. I stepped out of his cabin so he could have privacy.

Everyone who was old enough to be alert that day knows where he was and what he was doing. Imagine the memories that survivors like Ted Olson have of that day. One’s heart fills.

Fleischer’s whole Twitter feed is worth a look, to see his memories of that day. He was in the eye of the hurricane, and they were getting just as much bullshit and misinformation as we were getting out in the cheap seats. It was 13 years ago, so for many people some aspects of the raw shock of the day may have dimmed, some memories of the fog of war descending on our fair land may have evaporated. Read Ari. They’ll come back.

Your humble WeaponsMan was in Florida. My team had drilled that prior weekend (it was the weekend our unit had a disastrous range accident, nearly killing former team member Rich Connolly, who is alive and well today, thank a merciful God and a lot of good surgeons) and we were already trying to process both Rich’s wounding (which we all expected to be fatal; sometimes it’s great to be mistaken) and the murder of Ahmad Shah Massoud, which had just taken place. And then this happens. Rich’s injury was coincidental (but it would deprive us of his good nature and talents in Afghanistan in the coming year) but Massoud’s assassination, by suicide bombers disguised as reporters, was not.

We were immediately convinced the attack was a response to the weak, feeble answer of standoff munitions lobbed at the perps of previous al-Qaeda atrocities. A family member who was a devotee of President Clinton, the man launched those inept and ineffective strikes between, shall we say, puffs on his cigar, didn’t want to hear it. Fans never do.

We had missed the Fort Drum range weekend for a corporate board meeting in FL. After the attacks, US airspace was closed, and all of us were stranded in Florida (the board members and presenters were mostly from the Northeastern USA and Central and South America; Miami is where inter-American business gets done). But that’s another story.

Ari’s twitter feed from yesterday brings back all the confusion, the false reports, the horror of that day. So if you don’t want to see that, with insights as to how it looked from three feet left and behind the President, you don’t want to check out his feed. We have no idea what he’s doing now.

We Remember

We were going to post about the numerous problems with the President’s speech, but instead we’re going to tell a short, personal story.

never forget never surrender

In 1988, your blog host reported to ODA 122 in B Company, 1/11th Special Forces Group (Airborne), USAR, which was housed in a condemned warehouse at 22 Dupont Avenue in Newburgh, New York. He was plugged in as a junior Weapons Man, because there were two senior 18Bs on the team already, one a Vietnam veteran who was a New York City cop, and one a New York City firefighter. The jake, a wiry Italian guy named Ron Bucca, was serving as team 18F or intel sergeant, but he was having a hard time of it. (Now that I think of it, Ron might even have been an 18C, demo guy, before taking the intel slot).

11th Group Coin

The team was a great team, maybe a legendary team; its officers retired as colonels. Or higher. Its NCOs went on to great things. Some of them in civilian life, some in the Army or the Army Reserve. The commo guys became team sergeants. One medic retired as a CW5; the other became an executive in our industry. Their kids went on to serve in EOD, SF, the intelligence community, all kinds of vital jobs. Almost everybody distinguished himself, one way or another, in the GWOT. Except for Ron, that is. He couldn’t be there when the men of the long-disbanded 122 in the all-but-forgotten 11th went to war in Afghanistan, in different teams and different groups.

Ron, it turns out, had been seriously injured fighting a fire. He crashed through a doorway and the fire escape was gone (stolen by metal thieves? Removed by drug dealers paranoid about being snuck up on? Your guess is as good as mine). Ron fell four or five stories. He struck some kind of flagpole or drainpipe before he hit the ground, and it stuck between his Scott rig and his back, and decelerated him enough that he didn’t die on impact.

That was the good news. The bad news was: that pole broke his back. This was 1986, before I knew him. Ron lay in a hospital with that part of the city that reads its tabloids pulling and praying for him. (The New York Times does not deign to notice mere firefighters, cops and other downstairs servants. To wealthy Manhattanites and wannabes, they’re just part of the infrastructure that’s just there for you). One of the papers labeled him “The Flying Firefighter,” and the name stuck. Most of the guys were New Yorkers and when they told me Ron was “The Flying Firefighter,” they were shocked I’d never heard of that costumed hero, and immediately suspected me of being that worst of things, a Times reader.

When they found out I was only a Red Sox fan (with, at the time, season tickets to Fenway Park), but most emphatically not a fan of the Times Square Tip Sheet, I was received like the Prodigal Son, and initiated into the cult of Ron Bucca, of which all team members, except Ron Bucca, were happy members. Ron, for his part, was mortified that people were paying too much attention to him.

He was a good guy with technical savvy and tactical sense. But he couldn’t do it anymore, physically, after his back fracture. He tried, and would probably have killed himself trying, if the leaders hadn’t handled it with tact and delicacy after Exercise Lions-Lowlands in Germany in 1988.

Ron went to an intel unit, and ultimately became a warrant officer, working on CT intel. Meanwhile, the injury ended his firefighting career, too, but there, also, they found productive work for him, just as the Army Reserve did. He became a Fire Marshal — in NYC, that means, mostly, an arson investigator who is a sworn, armed law officer. But after he left A-122, many of us would never see him alive again.

Days before September 11, 2001, Ron and his partner investigated, of all things, a toilet arson. Turns out, it was an innocent accident caused by a jilted girl burning her beau’s love letters — with charcoal-grill starter fluid, in the commode. Instead of arresting Miss Lonelyheart, they left her with Ron’s advice: “Next boyfriend, buy a shredder.”

On September 11, that same pair of marshals ran into the burning towers. They weren’t needed yet, but that was where the action was, and they weren’t going to be anywhere else. Ron kept climbing and sent his partner back, helping a crippled woman out of the building. Ron was, we later learned based on radio calls, on the 78th floor with several high-ranking firefighters when the building came down. He was the only fire marshal lost in over 150 years of the service.

His body was found months later. 300 firefighters from across the nation and world, maybe 100 SF guys, and a company of Union reenactors (long story) joined city officials, an FDNY helicopter flyby, and Ron’s family at a funeral that would have embarrassed the hell out of him.

In Iraq, a prisoner-of-war camp was named after him, by one of the officers that had known him. It seemed fitting to lock these bums up in a jail named for one of the guys they’d killed..

One of the first acts of our new Islamist-friendly regime in 2009 was to free the terrorists confined there. One of them had a message for his captors as he proudly strode out: “See you guys in New York.”1

The terrorist? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Al-Husseini Al-Qurashi, aka Amir al-Mu’minin Caliph Ibrahim, real full name Ibrahim ibn Awwad ibn Ibrahim ibn Ali ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai or Ibrahim al-Badri for short. The head of ISIL.

The US strategy to stop him? Ron Bucca would have had some good suggestions. But the DC brain trust seems content to wait and see al-Badri in New York.

Notes

1 Source for this is Col. Kenneth King, then-commander of the camp. Some press reports suggest that this clown was released much earlier, in 2004. Whenever he was released, it was a serious error that has cost thousands of lives.

When Defense Cuts Go Too Far

These two scanned stories about Britain’s hollow armed forces came from a retired senior special operations officer. He points out that this not only represents the reality of Britain’s weakened defenses today after decades of cuts, but that these stories could have been describing the defenses of the US during their 20th Century period of neglect between the wars — and they could be describing the future of US defense, given the rate at which were making cuts now.

ITEM: Land forces? No tanks.

There’s no typo in that. We’re just noting that the last time Britain had this few operational tanks was probably in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Cambrai in 1916. When the Kaiser’s boys had taken possession of ‘em and were trying to figure ‘em out.

To our correspondent’s commentary, we’d add only that no one ever started a war because he thought the object of his attack was too strong. Defense spending doesn’t cause wars. Weakness, on the other hand, is an invitation to war. And this looks like weakness to us:MBTnumbersdwindledownwards001

 

The basic problem facing the cousins is this: you can either have a welfare state for your aging, soon-to-be-declining population, or you can have sufficient armed forces to guarantee national sovereignty. Pick one. (Note well, that in the absence of sufficient armed forces, your welfare state survives at the forbearance of your enemies).

And while we’re picking on the cousins here, our own unilateral disarmament may be behind theirs, but it’s on the same track.

ITEM: No Sailors Please, We’re British

But if the status of the British Army is weak, take a look at the Navy. We have compared the Royal Navy’s current status to its relative strength at the time of the Falklands War in the Spring of 1982 before, but this graphically makes the point. In the usual budget-cutting “do more with less… on the backs of the personnel” spirit, the RN’s reaction to not enough ships is to flog both the ships and their crews harder, with deployments now going nine months.

Navalreductions001

Our correspondent notes that the Royal Navy’s end strength is about 2/3 that of the United States Coast Guard. But the real problem is human capital: the navy’s smaller shipwise, from 85 to 34 major combatants in 30 years, but it’s so much smaller in headcount that it can’t fully crew its 34 remaining ships.

The story notes one positive development. PM David Cameron has called for commissioning a carrier into service that his Conservative party had previously slated for mothballing. Where the RN will get the officers and seamen to crew the ship up is another question. But as the story notes, the longer deployments and declining budgets are driving people out at an increasing rate, and the crews for the carriers will have to come from somewhere, perhaps causing other shortages.

Islamic Jihad Propaganda and other Pulitzer Bait

Islamic JihadJournalists wonder why America hates them, and why they poll lower than telemarketers, pedophiles, ebola or even Congress. If any journalists happen to read WeaponsMan, they’ll find out by the end of this post.

ITEM: The website that absorbed the failed news magazine Newsweek has a new lease on life — as a propaganda outlet for Islamic Jihad. IJ supporter and Beast writer Jesse Rosenfeld has been running repeated stories about a supposed Israeli atrocity in the village of Khuzaa, where six of his IJ comrades seeking martyrdom apparently found it.

In previous stories, Rosenfeld tried to sell the six decomposing men, at least one of whom was dressed in a camouflage uniform, as civilians. And if you read his latest story, he seems to have but a single source, a putative IJ fighter. Making Rosenfeld his bitch steno pool, Abu Muhammad dictates:

However, as the ground invasion neared, according to Abu Muhammad, an intense Israeli campaign that included bombing from F-16s and intense artillery fire killed many fighters. Civilians began fleeing as shelling intensified, but real panic came when Israel moved in its tanks, and the civilian exodus began in earnest.

During this phase of the fighting, the Palestinian resistance in the town hunkered down and waited as the Israeli shelling and aerial bombardment laid waste to one building after another in order to clear a path for tanks and jeeps. From the tunnels, the fighters could hear above them Israeli troops carving out the buffer zone that would eat up about 44 percent of Gaza’s territory and leave much of that area reduced to rubble.

“After we had been in the tunnels about a week, with the Israelis firing mortars, they drove in with the tanks,” said Abu Muhammad, who apologized about his uncertain grasp on specific dates. He’d lost track of the days after so much time underground, he said, but he remembered, “There were around 60 tanks.”

Flag_of_the_Islamic_Jihad_Movement_in_Palestine.svg

Only when Israel had positioned its forces around Khuzaa did the armed Palestinian groups begin their counterattack, according to Abu Muhammad. “First we targeted the tanks and the jeeps with IEDs,” he said mechanically, as if recalling a combat briefing. In the second stage of their effort to bog down and then repel Israeli forces, the three guerrilla factions launched a multi-pronged hit-and-run campaign from all directions.

“Some of our people would come out of the ground, attack the soldiers and then disappear back into a tunnel,” said the combat veteran.  “Others surprised them from empty houses,” he said.

“The guerrillas found themselves in an all-out firefight at the entrance to the tunnel.”
In one of those brazen attacks, says Abu Muhammad, fighters used a shoulder-fired rocket to hit a house the Israeli army had taken over, killing two of the soldiers with sniper fire as they fled the building. He is unable to give an overall estimate of Israeli or Islamic Jihad casualties in Khuzaa, but says 130 fighters from his group were killed during the war. (Israeli intelligence puts that number at 182.)

When I visited Khuzaa on four occasions during and after the war, there were clear signs of an intense battle in the ruins of the town. Incoming and outgoing machine-gun fire covered homes and apartments near positions taken by Israeli soldiers. Israeli bullet casings littered the floors of the entrances to residences that were transformed into stucco barracks.

via Did Israel Execute Jihadists in Gaza? – The Daily Beast.

Abu Muhammad said there was another guy, and describes what the other guy saw, but IJ didn’t make that guy available to their loyal scribe, so the corroboration for Rosenfeld’s single source is the single source’s alleged hearsay from another source.

It’s all Propaganda

tonguebathThe rest of the Beast is similarly slanted Scheissdreck. We’ll just describe one more ITEM: There’s a story about Chuck Todd’s debut as host of Meet The Press – a slavering tongue bath of Todd’s reproductive tackle to the same extent that Todd’s fawning, servile “interview” of the President was a slavering tongue bath, in turn, of Todd’s President Boyfriend. It’s getting pretty meta in the Washington press corps.

The media wonders, sometimes, why their stock is so low with the public. Jesse Rosenfeld, the Jake Lingle of the Islamic Jihad, is one reason. The Chuck Todd tongue baths — incoming and outgoing — are two more reasons.

bettercallsaulAnd then – ITEM. There’s William Langewiesche, the Vanity Fair writer who in 2007 worked with a plaintiff’s attorney to craft a one-sided, partly fabricated and the remainder slanted, story in that mostly celeb-gossip magazine, to help advance the lawsuit.

“You and I are now firmly on the same side,” he told [the ambulance chaser] in one of his emails. “But actually we were about an hour after I met you.”

Footnote: I emailed Langewiesche, asking if this is the way he approaches all his stories and if there was some explanation of how his conduct constituted fair journalism that I was failing to understand. He didn’t reply.

Gee, that’s special. (Well, not really. That’s typical, that’s what they learn at J-School). Langewiesche has written a defense of his so-called ethics that is mostly heat, not light; it amounts to, “sure I was on the side of the ambulance chasers, because they were right, and the oil company was eeevil.” In his words:

As to my being on Donziger’s side: yes, and openly so, but only to this degree—after weeks of fieldwork, and an even longer time being stonewalled by Chevron, I concluded, quite explicitly in the piece, that the plaintiffs were essentially right…

So here we have a professional journalist, the Miami Herald’s Glenn Garvin, crucifying another pro, Langewiesche, for the sort of underhanded misreporting that’s characteristic of the entire profession. Journalists come to their desks with a Manichean worldview, and every story is a B-western with good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats. They make the decision early on, select the Narrative they’re going for, and from then on, the facts are cut to size, beaten to fit, and painted to match.

We have discharged our duty to our readers by linking, above, the takedown and the reponse. Personally, we’re amused by the outraged bleat that how dare a fellow ink-stained wretch treat a member of the Guild like the Guild treats the Muggles.

This is no less than Carnegie’s maxim about talent in generations, playing out on the public stage. Langewiesche’s father wrote a book on airmanship, published 70 years ago, that’s still cherished by new generations of pilots — at least, by those who aspire to mastery of the craft. The son inherited the skill with words, but that’s the extent of it.

Rather like a gun, verbal facility can be used for good or for ill. Q.E.D.

And then, again, ITEM: there’s the Guardian’s Damian Walter, who wanted his readers to loathe a book editor and publisher, one Toni Weisskopf, as much as he loathes her himself. Since she hasn’t done anything loathsome, he just made up a bunch of quotes and stuff. Novelist Larry Correia (author of the great HK: Because You Suck. And We Hate You meme) finally wrung an admission to the fabrication out of Walter, who is not very bright and perseverates like an autistic kid. (We just gave you the tl;dr version because we don’t have Larry’s patience for putting up with this scrote).

Perhaps Damian is striking for a job at Vanity Fair.

Bottom line: we can’t imagine why people don’t trust the media. Can you?