Category Archives: Unconventional Warfare

Of Scrounging and Dope Deals

A key character in the Robin Moore novel, and John Wayne movie loosely based on it, The Green Berets, was Peterson, the Scrounger. It’s very clear even in the movie that in SF culture, a Scrounger was a capitalized title. Now, the movie has numerous Hollywood departures from the real world of SF service in Vietnam, but the novel and script were based on immersion in period SF culture. One of the numerous things it got right was the degree to which Group in general and a deployed ODA in particular valued a talented, inspired Scrounger.

Now a very narrow reading of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (and before that, the Manual for Courts-Martial the UCMJ replaced) would probably define Scrounger as a variety of high crimes and misdemeanors, or UCMJ articles, not to mention the all-purpose judicial catch-all of Conduct Unbecoming. But what scrounging did, in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, and back in garrison, is even out some of the unevenness in military logistics.

The military quartermaster effort is amazing. But it’s also centrally planned, like the Soviet economy. And like the Soviet economy, the key information gets bottled up and doesn’t make it to the far-away decision-makers. So you have a bunch of Seabees sitting on a large quantity of pierced-steel planking and other engineering materials, while the A-Camps are trying to dig bunkers in sand, sometimes under enemy shelling. (Can you say Katum? Ka-BOOM? WhirrrrrrrrrrrrrKABLANG! We knew you could). So naturally, an army of Petersons fanned out across Vietnam, Afghanistan, you name it.

One of the best scrounge jobs happened in the early days of the Afghan war, when the teams on the ground were very hard up for vehicles. We don’t say “scrounging” any more, but Peterson would recognize the horsetrading we now call a “dope deal.” Some Toyota pickups were acquired by another agency and dope-dealed to us, but not enough to make our guys mobile. And we couldn’t rely on aircraft: in SF, we didn’t have our own any more, because we’d given them up to TF 160 back in 1980-something, in return for a pledge not to spritz in of undying support. That pledge was meaningless, as even though they were perfectly willing to support us, they were tasked to a variety of JSOC missions that mostly had them standing by waiting for the call that intel had found some worthy Tier 1 Supervillain’s mountaintop lair. The call seldom came, but the MH’s had to sit for the hour when it would.

So we could walk, at the same three to five miles per hour Alexander’s army crossed these same rocks, or we could scrounge vehicles. An army of scroungers and dope-dealers set out to forage the globe for anything that could roll on Afghanistan’s miserable roads.

As it happened, the US Army in Europe was undergoing a major spring cleaning, with lots of entire units having been thrown away in the Clinton era Peace Dividend (that money went into the War on Poverty, still undecided after 50 years, but Poverty is advancing on all fronts). So a young, brash captain we’ll call John (because that was is name) Smith (because that was not his name) was dispatched to see if he could scrounge up some vehicles. The Colonel knew John and thought he might be talented in that vein.

The Colonel had no idea.

John quickly determined that a single Army captain was capital-N Nobody to the people who had the worrisome task of disposing of acres and acres of all-but-forgotten vehicles. But with news starting to trickle back from the war, Special Forces was on everybody’s mind. John harkened back to SF’s genesis as a new effort by the Psychological Warfare Center in 1952, and decided to conduct a psychological operation against the US European Command’s joint vehicle-park beancounters.

He disappeared for a weekend, during which he bought several items at the post exchange, including several pairs of jeans and a couple of sweatshirts. He borrowed a couple of things from an SF guy he knew in the area. He got through on a bad connection to what later would be named Camp Vance (we don’t think Gene Vance was dead yet, actually). The Colonel wanted an update.

John said he was developing the situation.

The Colonel rogered that and passed the word on. The ops officer said, “We’re going to get our vehicles, sir. And we probably shouldn’t worry about how.” The Colonel thought good things about his Three, who had served in the Ranger Regiment before being called to the Jolly Roger. And he started taking the sitreps without asking questions, the answers to which he might not wish to know.

Monday morning, John walked into the Commanding General’s office. He was wearing a pair of jeans he had beaten up a little, a cowboy hat, and a blue sweatshirt. He hadn’t shaved all weekend. He didn’t have an appointment, and he dropped into a chair in front of the General’s scandalized secretary.

And put his feet up on her desk. In scroungy jungle boots.

Before she could gather her wits and remonstrate, he identified himself: “Captain John Smith, from CJSOTF-Afghanistan. Honey, I’m here from the war to see the Boss.”

“Uh…” She forgot whatever putdowns she was lining up, and squeezed him in to that morning’s schedule.

“Thanks, honey,” John said with a wink, and walked out of the office. She could see he had a .45 in his belt.

She wasn’t sure what action of Captain Smith’s was most alarming, but he did get in to see the CG, who wound up being extremely helpful, after a bit of friendly banter about last year’s Army-Navy game (a Navy blowout).

John spent the next several days touring motor pools and selecting vehicles.

“Now, we have to get them to Afghanistan.” The CG couldn’t help there, except with a referral to an Air Force general who made stuff move for Transportation Command. There, John made nice with another secretary, but then ran into someone unimpressed with his beard (by now, Mexican desperado style), his hat (by now, beat up), his boots, or even his .45. Not even his blue sweatshirt.

And he was completely unimpressed with John’s lack of any movement paperwork for 100 miscellaneous surplus vehicles.

“Can’t do it,” the Air Force general — we’ll call him General Jones, which is not his name — said. “You need a –” and he described the forms. He gave John some blank forms. But the forms alone wouldn’t do it. He’d also need some sort of movement code. He showed John what one looked like, on another movement order. Many of these came into his inbox every day. Apart from the source and destination, the code was the most important part of the document, because it drove the accounting. This one, he explained, would charge the Air Force; it was moving a planeload of jet engines back to the USA for overhaul. These others would charge the Army, the Navy, even the State Department, for cargo.

The form had to have a description of the shipment, the weight — it would be weighed again by the cargo specialists, of course — the destination, and the all-important billing code.

“Call your log guys and get that code,” the general explained, “and with that code and my rubber stamp you can go straight to the airhead and ship your stuff. Our guys will take it from there. But you must have the code.”

John nodded. “I’ll call right away. Can I borrow a STU-III?” (That was the sort of secure phone used in those days).

“Well, the only one’s here in my office,” the general said. “Here, have a seat, I’ll give you some privacy. ” As the General walked out, he said, “And bring me those codes tomorrow afternoon — I’m out in the morning, Captain.”

“Yes sir,” said John, and he did in fact make a STU call to Afghanistan.

“It’s in the bag. I’ll explain when I get there.”

John spent the night typing the forms himself on a borrowed typewriter. He was even scroungier the next day when he showed up at the Air Force general’s office. The .45 was showing, even if the forms were not.

“Hi there,” he said to the secretary. “Remember me, honey?”

“Oh,” she said. “Captain Smith! Didn’t General Jones tell you he was going to be out this morning?”

“Yes, but I was hoping I could borrow his STU-III again.”

“Oh… I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”

John closed the door to the general’s office, with an apologetic look at the secretary. She understood secrets — all secretaries do, after all.

And inside the office he pulled out his forms with one hand while dialing the STU with the other. Soon he had a secure connection, and the Colonel came to the phone.

John hit the forms with the rubber stamp in more places than they really needed.

“Sir, I’ll be there in a couple days; the vehicles will be right behind me.”

“How did you — never mind. Forget I asked.”

John broke the connection, and put the State Department shipment order back on top of his in the general’s out-box.

As it happened, John was held up getting back to Bagram and arrived the same day that vehicles were being unloaded there, at Kandahar, and at the FOB at Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan.

He was tired as a dog and scroungy. He’d returned his friend’s Stetson and 1911, but was still wearing those jeans and that blue sweatshirt.

“How did you — forget it. I don’t wanna know,” the Colonel said.

“I just told them I was Captain Smith from the CJSOTF and they all went out of their way to help me,” John said piously.

“And why the hell are you wearing a Navy sweatsh — oohhhhh.”

In due course, the Colonel made general. He never let anyone use the STU-III in his office.

Ramadi: Can’t They All Lose?

ISIL flagIn this corner, flying the black flag, you have the ravening whelp of miscegenation between Ba’athist butchery and Islamist idiocy, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, aka ISIL, ISIS and Da’esh.

They’re Faction Number One. Nobody wants them to win.

In this corner, you have the Iraqi Security Forces and the Shia-controlled elected government that controls them.

They’re Faction Number Two. There are people that want them to win, but based on their performance to date, which includes breaking, running, breaking and running, and generally bugging out, nobody with a clue thinks that they can win. (We do recognize the “clue” bit does exclude much of official Washington, like the President and his slapstick national security team, and Martin Dempsey, the spineless yes-man heading up the Joint Chiefs). The ISF are the Montesquieu ideal of “a rational army”: that is to say, they ride far and fast, away from the sound of the guns.

The Iraqi flag increasingly marks Shia militia under Iranian command.

The Iraqi flag increasingly marks Shia militia under Iranian command.

And in this corner, you have the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and their expendable cannon fodder, the fanatic Hashd al-Sha’abi sectarian militia/sectarian cleansing corps.

This Axis of Shiites makes up Faction Number Three. Almost nobody wants them to win, especially the Iraqi Sunnis whose necks are already on the chopping block thanks to ISIL. So Sunnis not presently in one of the other factins have the choice of try to make nice with ISIL, and probably get whacked anyway, or try to make nice with the Hashd. And probably get whacked anyway.

The reason it’s almost nobody, is that the US Administration is so desperate for a deal, any deal, with Iran, that they’re willing to see an Iranian client state where Iraq used to be. (Heck, they’re willing to see Israel nuked, if only they can have something to point to that erases the asterisk on the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, with an establishment teeming with Establishment anti-Semites, like John Kerry and Susan Rice, they might not see that as a trade-off at all).

Flag_of_Kurdistan.svgAnd in the last corner so far, you have the Kurds.

Formerly divided into factions themselves, they are now more or less unified as Faction Number Four. The Arabs who make up most of the other factions want them — dead, that is. The Persians who stand behind (and sometimes alongside) the Shia factions want them dead, too. The Arabists in the US State Department fall into line with the leaders of their area of interest. The Turks will gladly revisit the Armenian Genocide on them, and then deny it for a century. The only reasons that the Kurds have not been exterminated to date, in the face of all this militant, armed loathing, are about the same reason that Israel still stands:

  1. The Arabs have many gifts as a race, but a command of war is not among them
  2. The Kurds (like the Israelis) insist on their own self-defense.

There is one other significant group — the Gulf Arab states. Formerly allied with the United States, they’ve been cast off in the hasty, drunken tilt towards Iran. Should a Sunni force that could resist ISIL emerge, you could expect the Gulf to support it, US preferences be damned; but with essentially all of Sunni Iraq now under the black flag and dripping sword of ISIL, they need the one thing that money can’t buy them: fighting men in boots on the ground.

What Happens to Iraq?

First, when some Beltway lordling makes strategic noises, you can discount that completely. The more GEN Dempsey, Sec. Kerry, Samantha Power, Susan Rice natter about how “everything is  proceeding as we have foreseen,” the more you realize why people feared Darth Vader and laughed at Baghdad Bob. The US has sacrificed most of its potential in the area; all we’re doing now is ineffectual, symbolic airstrikes, at the risk of real, American lives; and some pinprick SOF raids that can hurt the enemy a little, but that never risk beating him.

For a predictive model, look to the Congo, Chad, Somalia. The collapse of unifying institutions (which in Iraq was basically only the Armed Forces; thank you again, L. Paul Bremer) leaves two possibilities, endless war (which is de facto favored by all players trying to restore an impossible status quo ante), and Failed State, the war of each against each, where men fight for nothing but their lives and their families, and where, every day, they have to.

Very Rare SEAL Taxi Offered on eBay

Before we get to the shell of a historic mini-sub that made a brief appearance on eBay last week, we should take a look at the history — always noting that We Are Not Frogs and, just as importantly, We Were Not There, so all this is subject to revision by those who do have inside information — if they ever feel like talking, which they haven’t, much, to date. (Contrary to popular opinion, not every SEAL gets a book agent’s contact info engraved on the back of his shiny new Trident. Most of them clam up as well as their fellow quiet professionals in other branches).

It all started when World War II ended, and the contracting Royal Navy shared its underwater technology with its American cousins. While the US had developed excellent combat swimmer units in the Navy’s UDTs, and early SCUBA gear of several kinds in the highly compartmented OSS Maritime Unit program, the UK had a capability the US couldn’t touch: machines that could deliver a swimmer, and more to the point, a very large high-explosive charge, over considerable distances — underwater. So the US accepted the gift of “chariots” (the British improvement on the Italian Siluro a Lento Corsa [SLC]“low speed torpedo” and Siluro San Bartolomeo), and of a quantity of “X-Craft,” miniature submarines. The chariots proved to be highly limited, and not very popular; but the frogmen loved the X-Craft.

Italian Siluro a Lente Corsa. The Chariot was a reverse-engineered and Anglicized version.

Italian Siluro a Lente Corsa. The Chariot was a reverse-engineered and Anglicized version.

Until Big Haze Gray officiated at a turf battle between what was then the UDT community and what was, and still is, the  Submarine Service. The Sub Service was massive, full of admirals, had been critical to WWII victory and had a vision of an all-nuclear fleet that would put the Navy back in the strategic-warfare game. Those sub admirals also had a profound jealousy of anything else that dipped under the waves, in what they considered King Neptune’s — and their own — personal territory. The UDT community was tiny and could maybe latch on to one Captain. An agreement was hammered out — that is to say, dictated to the nascent special warfare community — that limited the UDT (and their offshoot, the SEALs) forevermore to wet subs like the Chariot. The Navy promised to support the frogmen, but the submarine service would take charge of that.

One look at the Not-Invented-Here X-Craft, and the Submarine Service sent them to scrap. They also took over a minisub the frogmen had been developing — and scrapped it, too. The choices were: wait for the Submarine Service to support you with a dry sub, which was never going to happen, or develop your own free-flooding wet sub.

So UDTs spent significant time in the 1950s trying to develop a better wet sub. (Indeed, the SEALs are still trying to develop a better wet sub). This remains a major unforced limitation on SEAL capabilities — the problem is, any wet sub can either [1] operate in the tropics or [2] deliver hypothermic SEALcicles in the temperate zones, arctic or in areas of cold currents. Meanwhile, the subs built for general sub service have gotten ever bigger and more coastal-shy over the decades, meaning the frogs are looking at a longer ride in the wet sub at best, or leaving missions on the table for lack of clandestine infiltration capability.

The early Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDVs) were… well, we can charitably chalk them up as learning tools. Orr Kelly wrote in his SEAL/UDT history, Brave MenDark Waters:

Then, in the mid 50s, came the Mark 2, built by Aerojet General according to a design from General Electric. From the outside, the Mark 2 looked like a little airplane, with the two-man crew sitting side-by-side. Inside, it would very much like a 1956 Ford pick up. [Naval Coastal Systems Center ocean-engineering head WT “Tom”] Odum says the designers reasoned that the crew members would find the little craft extremely claustrophobic but that they would be more comfortable in familiar surroundings, so they modeled it after the interior of a popular truck.

Aerojet SEAL SDV Mk2 period photo

The Mark 2 was the Navy’s first effort at a sophisticated swimmer delivery vehicle. It was powered by silver zinc batteries, used a gyroscopic compass, and was equipped both with a hovering system and with thrusters that permitted it to maneuver left, right, up, and down.

Unfortunately, it was, as Odum says, “a hydrodynamic nightmare – it just didn’t have any stability.” The little craft never got beyond the experimental stage. It was so unstable that it could not even be towed through the water until it had been pulled up onto a large sheet of plywood.

At that point, Kelly drops the SDV program and picks it up in a paragraph or three with the Vietnam-era experimental Mark 6. Assuming the original dry sub that was sub-napped and sent to bureaucratic Davy Jones’s Locker by the Submarine Service was the Mark 1, the Marks 3, 4, and 5 were probably intermediate submersibles. This period photo shows numerous early SDVs including the Mark 2… some of the other experiments here may have been some of those little known intermediate numbers. The SDV Mark 2 is third from the left. The small pod on the far right may be a Mark 1 Swimmer Propulsion Unit, another experimental device that was not fielded in quantity. The three machines between the Mark 2 and the possible Mark 1 SPU may all three be a single kind of machine with different transparencies fitted.

Early SDVs

It is unknown how many SDV Mark 2s were manufactured — given its poor performance under test, there may have been only one. But, almost miraculously, one of these early efforts survived. It showed up on sale on eBay with the following blurb:

interesting 2 man wet submarine by defense contractor AeroJet General for Navy Seal use. It has been salvage non operating with missing parts. for years and it probably more of a collector or decorator item needing at least refurbishment or cosmetics. It is about 20 feet long and is pretty heavy Local pickup in central Indiana. sold in “as is where is” condition. Questions call xxx-yyy-zzzz. The black and white photos are from a rare book about seals.

Unmistakably the same craft.

Unmistakably the same craft.

One gets the impression that no naval architect or hydrodynamicist was let within many miles of this design effort. The sources of the instability seem obvious. It looks like the interesting interior fitments are gone, and it looks like there may have been some kind of thrusters on fins or dive planes forward of the doors.

SDV Mk2 03It’s pickup heritage doesn’t seem too occult in these pictures. How it got to Indiana is an interesting question — the SDV program remains today very sensitive, very close hold, and the Navy has not been above doing research in the desert, hundreds of miles from the sea. Maybe it passed through NAVSEA Crane?

SDV Mk2The seller has since withdrawn this old UDT bus from the eBay sale — perhaps a museum has expressed interest.

SDV Mk2 02


If some Dr Evil has visions of deploying the SDV Mark 2 in the sea again, all we can say is, good luck with that. The US Navy never got this thing going, and they have more money than God. You can’t spend your way around faulty design.

Of course, as this guy in Indiana shows, you can display it on your lawn.



Commentary (Magazine) on Iraq: Two Articles Worth a Read

The Iraqi flag increasingly marks Shia militia under Iranian command.

The Iraqi flag increasingly marks Shia militia under Iranian command.

Commentary magazine has two good articles on the current situation in Iraq, which is, in a word, deplorable. It was so damned unnecessary; the place was on its way to a new order of stability, but then we did the bugout for domestic-political purposes, and it went to Hell before anyone could even pick up the handbasket.

Max Boot, a rare defense commentator who’s also been a, shall we say, practitioner, has an article entitled Focus on Obama’s Terrible Iraq Blunder. Which is just what he does.

I remember walking down the ruined streets of Ramadi in the spring of 2007. The vista resembled pictures of Berlin in 1945: ruined buildings everywhere, water bubbling in the streets from water mains damaged by too many explosions. But what was most remarkable was not the evidence of violence but, rather, the fact that no insurgents were shooting at my military escorts or me.
“A few weeks ago you couldn’t drive down this street without being attacked. When I went down this street in February, I was hit three times with small-arms fire and IEDs,” Army Colonel John W. Charlton told me as we drove into town in his up-armored Humvee. But now Ramadi was eerily quiet; by the time I visited in April, not a single American soldier had been killed in Ramadi for weeks.

Ramadi, of course, is the focus of the current ISIL (ISIS if you will) offensive.

ISIL doing their thing. The guy with the AK seldom misses at this range. So he's a better fit in his job than GEN Dempsey.

ISIL doing their thing. The guy with the AK seldom misses at this range. So he’s a better fit in his job than GEN Dempsey.

This is definitely worthy of the Read The Whole Thing™ tag, except, if you’re the sort of person that reads this blog, you have already read widely enough there will be little new in Boot’s analysis. He just piles all the … stuff… into one noxious heap.

ISIL flagThe second article is actually a book review, by journalist Michael J. Totten, of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan. It is a perfect companion piece to Boot’s article; like Boot, Totten spent time on the ground in Iraq, and saw a perhaps unnecessary invasion turned decisive victory, turned chaos with a single monumental blunder (whether you ID that blunder as Paul Bremer’s brain-dead release of the Iraqi military, or President Bush’s brain-dead nomination of Beltway wallah Bremer as Iraq’s answer to Macarthur’s post-war management of Japan. Have ever two men diverged in ability more than Macarthur and Bremer?)

Naturally, there were no consequences to Bremer for his disastrous performance, which directly spawned the initial, Ba’athist insurgency, and led to the Islamist insurgencies that replaced it and were only temporarily forestalled by the Anbar Awakening. The self-interested actions by Sunni Iraqis, by Shia leaders, by Iran and Syria, all have fed the rise of ISIL/ISIS. Totten:

When ISIS fighters conquered the Iraqi city of Mosul last year, they stole enough materiel to supply three fighting divisions, including up-armored American Humvees, T-55 tanks, mobile Chinese artillery pieces, Soviet anti-aircraft guns, and American-made Stinger missile systems. ISIS controls a swath of territory the size of Great Britain and is expanding into Libya and Yemen.

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, paints a gripping and disturbing picture of this new “caliphate” in the Levant and Mesopotamia. In the most comprehensive account to date, the authors chronicle ISIS’s roots as the Iraqi franchise of al-Qaeda under its founding father, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, its near defeat at the hands of Americans and Iraqi militias in Anbar Province, its rebirth during the Syrian civil war, and its catastrophic return to Iraq as a conquering army last summer.

The book is personal for both authors. Hassan was born and raised in the Syrian border town Al-Bukamal, right in the center of ISIS-held territory. Weiss is an American journalist who reported from the Aleppo suburb of al-Bab, back when it had a burgeoning democratic civil-society movement and wasn’t the “dismal fief ruled by Sharia law” it is today. Anger and disgust are at times palpable on the page, but emotion never distracts from the richly detailed narrative—based in part on interviews with ISIS commanders and fighters—that forms the backbone of their book.

It does not help that our uniformed leadership at this time is what happens when you let political suck-ups and Courtney Massengales rise to the top — not like the cream, more like the scum atop the primordial ooze of politics. Back to Boot, for a few words about CJSC Martin Dempsey, one of the emptiest suits, emptiest heads, and emptiest characters ever to stuff himself full of naked ambition and jam into the Chairman’s chair.

Just a month ago, when the ISIS offensive against Ramadi began in earnest, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tried to reassure the world that it was no big deal. Ramadi, he claimed, “is not symbolic in any way…. I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won’t be the end of a campaign should it fall.”

Hey, guys, wake up, Dempsey says it's no big deal. Uh... guys?

Hey, guys, wake up, Dempsey says it’s no big deal. Uh… guys?

We can only watch and wait to hear what spin General Dempsey—who has increasingly defined his role as telling the president what he wants to hear, not what he needs to hear—will put on this latest catastrophe. It is, in fact, unspinnable. The fall of Ramadi is a sign of the abysmal failure of the misnamed Operation Inherent Resolve launched by President Obama in August 2014 to “degrade” and ultimately to “destroy” ISIS. Operation Uncertain Resolve is more like it.

As Boot points out, the vaunted “massive air strikes” are a couple of dozen sorties a day, defining a sortie as an individual aircraft; some of those are reconnaissance sorties, so the enemy are not receiving even two squadron-sized strikes. Shock and awe this is not; it is playing at soldiers, except risking the real lives of US and Coalition airmen, something that bothers Martin Dempsey not a bit, as he tries to figure out how to launch from this position to something in the NGO world. Meanwhile, the rest of us watch the spectacle of a small man’s weak character split asunder by the great man’s share of ambition that the small man could not expect to contain.

Meanwhile, in the key leadership positions of the terrorist anti-state, the Ba’thist functionaries of Saddam Hussein are having the last laugh. Back to Totten:

The first thing ISIS does when conquering a new city or town is set up the grisly machinery for medieval punishments in town squares. “Letting black-clad terrorists run around a provincial capital,” Weiss and Hassan write, “crucifying and beheading people, made for great propaganda.” It was all Assad could do to ensure the Obama administration wouldn’t pursue a policy of regime-change as it had in Libya and as the previous administration had in Iraq.

There was a precedent for this perverted Baathist-Islamist alliance. Osama bin Laden had declared the “socialist infidels” of Saddam’s government worthy allies against Americans, and the remnants of Iraq’s ancien régime—what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld mistakenly called the dead enders—felt the same way. As a result, Weiss and Hassan note, “most of [AQI’s] top decision-makers served either in Saddam Hussein’s military or security services.”

The authors make a compelling case that ISIS “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a would-be Saddam Hussein in religious garb. “Even though he is originally from Samarra,” they write, “his chosen nom de guerre, al-Baghdadi, immediately situates the Iraqi capital as ISIS’s center of gravity, which it was under the Abbasid caliphate, itself an important Islamic touchstone for the dead Iraqi dictator.” Yet ISIS’s leader, like Zarqawi before him, is even more genocidal than Iraq’s former strongman. Al-Baghdadi has “so far demonstrated nothing short of annihilationist intention…To ISIS, the Shia are religiously void, deceitful, and marked only for death.”

But that’s OK. The US has its great new ally, Iran. Everything’s coming up roses… or, if not roses, at least red.

More Jade Helm Assclownery

Jade Helm logo -- we bet they regret the motto now.

Jade Helm logo — we bet they regret the motto now.

You know that 5% that don’t get the word? Well, Texas isn’t just big in area, ranches, and all kinds of other measures: their 5% seems to be a lot bigger than 5%.

Of course, maybe we get that impression because we’re reading Texas media, and you’ll never escape that 5% if you’re in the default position of the modern mediot — embedded neck-deep in your own lower colon.

BIG SPRING – Military officials have negotiated contracts with local ranchers to conduct Jade Helm training on their property, according to Big Spring Mayor Larry McLellan.

However, he said residents will not be “forced out of their homes” to accommodate troops during the large-scale military exercise, scheduled to run July 15 through September 15.

McLellan had no details about the contracts supposedly offered to Big Spring homeowners. Military officials were not available to answer questions about how many ranchers were being displaced or inconvenienced due to Jade Helm, and how much they would receive in compensation.

What are these landowners being compensated for?

Now, it’s possible that some tent camps may be set up on sombody’s ranch — with his permission, while paying him a rental. But a lot of these are for training areas that SF teams and other SF troops are going to walk through. Leaving, if they’re on the ball and comporting with their training, no trace. 

How this bubble-headed TV clown gets from there to “ranchers… displaced,” we’ll never know.

It’s possible some staff section or exercise headquarters will want to rent a barn, equipment shed, or outbuilding. What happens if the landowner says no? This will probably shock the $#!+ out of you, the loyal 5% still getting your news from TV newsreaders selected for their head of hair, but in that case they thank him for his time, and go and ask some other landowner. 

Another reason private land is hired is for personnel and equipment drop zones. It’s totally obsolete, everyone agrees, but there really isn’t a better way to get a lot of teams on the ground fast 1,000 kilometers deep in a denied area than low-level static-line parachuting. Likewise, one of the best of a bad lot of ways of resupplying those teams — it’s very hard to carry more than, max, mission gear and sustenance for one lousy week — is to drop the supplies by parachute. It worked in a half-assed way for the Chindits and Marauders, it worked for the Mobile Guerilla Force in Vietnam, and it works today. With a HSLLADS or CDS bundle or two, a small team is good for up to another month.

Jade Helm operations planners previously confirmed training will only be conducted on private and public land with the permission of landowners or regional authorities.

What part of “with the permission” went over this airhead’s sole professional qualification, that is, hairdo?

One lifelong Big Spring resident told NewsWest 9 he would not accept any amount of money to surrender his home to troops.

“I support our troops, but when they’re trying to take over our civilians, that ain’t cool,” he said. “[Those are] their homes. That’s where they live.”

And… where did this guy, Timothy Yanez, get the idea he was being asked to “surrender his home?” Hint: it wasn’t from exercise planners. It came from the small brain under the hairdo. He’s answering a question she put to him — a ridiculous question, if you understand the exercise.

McLellan told NewsWest 9 residents could anticipate “[hearing] more airplane traffic,” but no other major changes.

You know, more airplane traffic. Which is how those paratroopers and resupply bundles get to those contracted drop zones in the ranches arrayed around Big Spring.

via Big Spring Landowners Paid to Accommodate Jade Helm, Says Mayor – KWES NewsWest 9 / Midland, Odessa, Big Spring, TX: |.

Contrary to ratings-driven hysteria, when our guys do need to practice door kicking, they do it with targets, dummies, or (at the very highest level of training), live, experienced and specifically trained role players inside. Not some rancher (or ranch hand’s) unsuspecting family. (Which would get our guys, who are loaded with blanks for the exercise, shot by a bunch of defensively-oriented Texans. That is, if we were dumb enough to be the dummies the news media think we are).

One last thing, a clip of this was used twice to illustrate the exercise.



Yeah. A firing party at a memorial service for KIAs in Afghanistan. You can just see it going through their well-coiffed but vacant heads: “Hey, people in uniform. Shooting guns! Must be a military exercise. Perfect action clip to illustrate that Jade Helm story.” We bet no one at the station even knew what that firing salute was or when the military uses it.

Well, they’ve got a First Amendment right to write any ill-considered and thoughtless drivel they want to. And this time, they sure did!

G36: A Debacle, in a Fiasco, Wrapped in a Clusterbleep

The G36 saga keeps spreading its Sturm und Drang around the fraught world of German politics.

Our good friend Nathaniel at the Firearm Blog flagged us to a Deutsche Welle report that reminded us that there have been a lot more developments in this Neverending Story. BLUF: none of those developments suggest a rapid fix for the real problem with the rifle, no more do they suggest a way to restore lost soldier confidence in the rifle, and instead they show a military-technical problem becoming a political football. And the game is world, not North American, football, which ensures it will get kicked around a lot before it gets in the goal — if it ever gets in the goal.

Here’s video from the fight that started the whole controversy:

There are several different firefights represented in that video. But near the end of the video, the narrator mentions that the men of “Golf” platoon have been in a running firefight for 9 hours. And then, as they are withdrawing under pressure, a vehicle is struck by an IED. And “several rifles fail due to overheating.”

For all that, we don’t have audio of a lot of rifles firing on full-auto. Instead, we hear single shots and occasional short, controlled, bursts, and the longer, extremely fast bursts of the high-cyclic-rate MG3 (improved MG42). We hear enough to know that these men from the 313th Parachute Infantry Battalion are stone pros. But that’s where the problems began, back in 2010: the troops began to notice that their rifles were underperforming.

Tests, which leaders probably expected to put the modern Landsers’ complaints to rest, began to bear the troop complaints out. If the barrel was heated cherry-red, accuracy declined. Two magazines on rapid semiauto fire? Accuracy declined. If the outside air temperature was more than 23ºC at sea level (about 77ºF), not very high at all, accuracy declined. HK responds: “Hey, that wasn’t the standard we had to meet with the gun, that wasn’t the original test.” True enough, as far as it goes, but that doesn’t make the rifle combat-worthy. How much does accuracy decline? Here’s a handy graphic from Reuters via DW. At 600m, at 30º, instead of hitting an enemy in the window of a building, you might hit the building:

G36 temperature-related failure

Even at 200m, your dispersion is looking like a meter in diameter. (30ºC is about 90ºF, quite a high temperature for Europe).

The German magazine Der Spiegel (“Mirror”) has been all over this. This link should search Spiegel for “G36″ (results in German, selbstverständlich).  Here are some of the results:

At First, it Was About the Gun…

18 April 15: H&K Defends the Breakdown Rifle (which only partially gets the degree to which the neologism Pannengewehr is a putdown of the company and the firearm). HK’s majority owner Andreas Heeschen told a newspaper “Anything we make is 100% combat-ready.” On the same day (different story), Spiegel reported that H&K itself conducts the official proof tests and applies the official marks itself (which is probably not the departure from the norm that the magazine’s writers think). The responsible agency, the Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung (BWB), had delegated this authority to H&K based on past performance. Again, on the same date, the MOD reiterated that the rifle was only provisionally suited for use (another Spiegel story, same date), and that it “endangered the lives of German soldiers.”

Apart from HK’s bluster and threats of lawsuits, the only positive G36 story appearing in Spiegel came the next day, suggesting that the Kurds liked it, at least. And Lithuania and Latvia appear to be satisfied with their G36 purchases.

“With us there has been no trace of technical problems with the G36. On the contrary: the weapon is super”, Pesh Merga Minister Mustafa Sajid Kadir said. “It works without problems. We’d gladly have more of them.” Last year the Bundeswehr gave the Kurds, along with other weapons, 8000 G36 rifles for their fight against the “Islamic State” terrorist militia.

According to the Latvian Defense Ministry, the model used their is “significantly” different from the German variant. A spokeswoman said that there had been no problems in quite a long time..

Also, in neighboring Lithuania the affair in Germany is not in the news. The military command are “aware that there other nations have been confronted with problems with the accuracy and the robustness of certain parts of the G3, said Major General Jonas Vytautas Zukas, commander of the Lithuanian Army. But there is no thought of backing off from the rifle for that reason. Much more there are plans to order additional G36s. “These weapons meet the requirements of the Lithuanian Army.”

The Defense Minister moved decisively on 22 April when she said that the G36, as currently configured, had “no future in the Bundeswehr.

But Soon, it was About the Cover-Up

As it became clearer that the initial heads-up about G36 problems came from a series of firefights by German paras based in the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e Sharif in north central Afghanistan in 2010, and the technical verdict on the problem was largely in during 2012, the political fallout began to raise a noise level that drowned out the voices calling for a technical fix.

Spiegel found that in 2010 and 2011, the German Special Forces Command KommandoSpezialKräfte (KSK) were already looking for a G36 replacement that would be accurate to 300m and capable of selective fire. They didn’t call it a G36 replacement, instead terming it a “close range sharpshooter rifle,” but the weapons tested tell the story: HK 416, SIG 516, Schmeisser Solid and one unnamed competitor. It was a small contract: 5,000 rifles. Spiegel writes, “Insiders suspect that the competition concealed a Ministry of Defense search for a G36 replacement.” But Spiegel can’t have it both ways: was the MOD clueless, or was it scheming? It’s illogical to suggest it was both, which the magazine at least has the decency to avoid by putting the two speculations in different stories.

Various politicians in Germany were calling for the head of Thomas de la Maizière, the Defense Minister on whose watch the problem should have surfaced, but seemed to be covered up. Others pointed to the incumbent, de la Maizière’s party colleague and replacement at MOD Ursula von der Leyen, as the necessary sacrifice. Indeed, by 20 April, days before her pronouncement that the G36 had “no future,” Spiegel was contrasting her high hopes at her swearing-in to the way the chaos of the G36 affair threatened her political career, perhaps not by getting her fired now, but by blocking any further advancement for the ambitious politician.

Competing leaks have pinned responsibility for the cover-up on de la Maizière and on von der Leyen. They describe the accuracy problem various ways: “twice as bad, three times as bad” or, chillingly, noting that with the issue firearm and ammunition combination, “a hit at combat range is not possible.”  One German politician spoke up as the voice of fiscal sobriety:

In almost every armaments scandal we see the same picture: bad material was bought expensively, no one is responsible in the end, and the taxpayers have to pay.

The finance hawk? Jan van Aken of Die Linke, the rump vestige of East Germany’s communist Quislings. Van Aken is a member of the legislature’s Defense Committee.

The most recent, and damaging, release is that a former MOD official sicced a military intelligence agency on the leakers and the reporters they leak to. The Militärabschirmdienst (MAD), or Military Protective Service, is a counterintelligence agency of the Bundeswehr. The MAD appears to have drafted a plan to defend the G36, the Ministry, and HK by going on clandestine propaganda offensive against press critics. The plan was never approved, and the head of MAD transferred laterally to another job, but the scent of the problem has drawn more opposition sharks.

None of this inside-Berlin political drama has any prospect of restoring either German soldiers’ confidence in their individual weapon, or equipping them with an individual weapon in which they can have confidence. But von der Leyen will have to take measures in that direction soon. Or she will have a successor who will.

At least the Germans have alternatives. India recently gave up on the equally problematical (in different ways) home-grown INSAS rifle, and really had nothing to offer its frontline troops but old AK-47s.

45 Years Ago: Cambodian Incursion

45 years ago this week, ARVN (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam, South Vietnam) and American forces were fighting in Cambodia. Their objectives were to disrupt PAVN (People’s Army of Viet Nam, North Vietnam) sanctuaries and base areas inside the ostensibly neutral country, to set conditions for South Vietnamese security for a “decent interval” (Kissinger’s words) after US withdrawal, and, as what today’s Kickstarter kids would call a “stretch goal,” to seize the North Vietnamese headquarters for their invasion of South Vietnam, COSVN (the Central Office for South Viet Nam).

The limited success of the operation stemmed from its limited objectives and the months that US military and political leaders spent telegraphing it before it was launched. That it was a success at all resulted from the superior combat power, mobility and logistics of the Free World forces, and the PAVN’s inability to withdraw combat units and supply dumps, even given months of notice. They did succeed in pulling back COSVN and its leaders.

Target: PAVN base areas and logistic routes in Cambodia.

Target: PAVN base areas and logistic routes in Cambodia.

Prior to 1970, Cambodia was in a unique geopolitical position. Ruled by a hereditary king (who had technically abdicated, but retained the title of Prince, and absolute power), Norodom Sihanouk, with strong Marxist (“for thee, not for me”) leanings, Cambodia was nominally neutral while aligning politically with Eurasian Marxist powers. Sihanouk effectively ceded the eastern part of his country to the PAVN; he used his port, modestly named Sihanoukville (now Kompong Som), as a secure logistics hub and sanctuary for the PAVN as well. To some extent, he was making a virtue of necessity: the tiny and ill-prepared Cambodian Armed Forces could not have disputed a yard of Cambodian territory with the PAVN successfully.

Sihanouk’s family was old, but royalty or not, his support was bird-bath deep, and his advisors worried that his frequent visits to Moscow and Beijing (where much of his support for the PAVN was coordinated), not to mention his French vacations, were vulnerabilities. Indeed, one morning in 1970 he woke up in Moscow to find he was out. (From here on he would alternate between being figurehead of governments in exile and figurehead of governments for the rest of his life, but never held real power again. His most famous and destructive alliance was with the murderous Khmer Rouge, whose atrocities shocked their PAVN sponsors as much as anybody). The Prime Minister who ousted Sihanouk, Lon Nol, was an Army General who wanted to recover Cambodian sovereignty — this led him to deal with the Americans.

NixononCambodiaGeneral Creighton Abrams, then head of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, was a tanker who saw an armored invasion as the answer to the problem of NVA infiltration and logistic routes through Cambodia, and worked hard to sell this idea in the US Government and to Lon Nol. He got a green light, but the Nixon Administration hamstrung the invasion with politically-determined limits and deadlines as bad as any with which LBJ had hobbled US forces. The incursion, Nixon announced, would neither go deeper than 15 kilometers nor stay longer than 60 days.

At that point, Lon Nol must have known he’d been betrayed by Abrams and Nixon.

The incursion ran from 30 April to 30 June. There are a number of books that recount it, especially the actions of US units; for a South Vietnamese view (with some help from Cambodian and American supporting authors) see BG Tran Dinh Tho’s The Cambodian Incursion, available in the usual low-quality microfiche scan from DTIC.

Militarily, the Incursion was a great success, until it hit its limits. It killed over 10,000 PAVN effectives and captured thousands more, including some interesting senior cadres. It captured monumental tons of equipment, enough to arm several divisions from nothing, including tens of thousands of Chinese Type 56 (SKS) carbines, new in their crates — about which we’ll be writing more, shortly. And then the Allies withdrew on schedule, leaving Cambodia with hordes of PAVN flooding back into the vacuum left behind

Politically, it was a disaster. The only permanent loss to the PAVN — apart from the dead, whom the leaders didn’t care about at all — was the Sihanoukville supply line, and they had lost that politically with the ouster of the playboy king, who was soon retired in a 60-room palace in the workers’ paradise, Pyongyang.

The North Vietnamese now redoubled their sponsorship of a rag-tag and arguably insane Marxist movement, the Khmer Rouge or “Red Cambodia.” The KR soon adopted Sihanouk, popular with the peasantry, and with massive PAVN help began to drive the infant Cambodian Army into retreat after retreat. On their victory, the KR set the all-time record for democide by percentage, murdering from a third to a half of the entire population of the country.

Meanwhile, the “anti-war” movement on American campuses, which was primarily, up to this point, an “anti-draft” movement led by spoiled, upper-class youth who feared the war, received a new breath of life. The flames of protest were fanned by dishonest, slanted and even fabricated reporting from the battlefield. (One lesson the Army took from Cambodia was rediscovering Grant’s understanding that you could not trust reporters with the freedom of the battlefield, that they were functionally enemy forces, and they needed to be contained).

But for us… we’ll get back to those SKSes in either a large or multi-part article. If you have a Cambodian SKS story, please share it in the comments.

In Canada, Somebody Loves Omar Khadr

The jihad-friendly, American-hating head of the fringe Green Party, Elizabeth May, stood up at a political roast… and clearly had been hitting the Judgment Juice® like a lumberjack twice her size. She wrapped up a rambling, incoherent and seemingly-endless speech with a squeee! aimed at her apparent crush, Omar Khadr: “Omar Khadr, you’ve got more class than the whole fucking cabinet!”

It's not so much that the picture's out of focus, she's so drunk that she is blurry.

It’s not so much that the picture’s out of focus, she’s so drunk that she is blurry.

No word on whether she arranged to meet him in the Green Red Room.

elizabeth_may_loves_omar_khadr_2In attempts at damage control on what must have been, for May, a pretty head-sore morning after, she wound up doubling down on Khadr, wishing him luck now that Canada has granted the committed Islamist terrorist, (from a family of committed terrorists, mind), “a second chance.”

A second chance for what? Has she forgotten what he did with his first chance? That’s why civilized nations have prisons, you airhead.

Of course, he can make her happy by killing as many Americans as he (and she) likes. Since we start with 330-something million, we’ll still be bigger than Canada. (Jokes aside, she’s not a power figure in Canadian politics, but a fringe crank, a relative nobody; no more important in her own country than fringe Americans like David Duke or Al Sharpton are here).

Canada on Terrorism: “Go, and Kill Some More.”

The Canadian Judiciary has an interesting approach to murderous terrorists: it turns them loose to kill  again.  The bearded sphincter muscle in this picture is one Omar Khadr, who killed a member of a special mission unit, Christopher Speer, and blinded an SF soldier, Layne Morris, in one eye — after feigning surrender. Released from Gitmo by American squishes, he went to Canada, the absolute galactic epicenter of squishdom, where his family, Al-Qaeda and ISIL supporters all, are maintained in upper-middle-class conditions by the Canadian welfare system.

Canadian Premier Steven Harper did what he could to keep Khadr in prison where he belongs, but slimeball lawyers like the little Al-Qaeda hireling with him — one Nate Whitling — managed to get him sprung so that he can kill again.

In the past, we called Omar Khadr “a terrorist asp that suckled at Canada’s breast.” Rather than further reiterate what we’ve already iterated, we’ll send you back to a post from last May that thoroughly describes Khadr’s past, and links (we hope, with live links) to further resources on him, including an excellent report by Canada’s own Ezra Levant.

In a way, Omar Khadr’s crimes are understandable, if not excusable. He was raised in a hothouse of terroristic mohammedanism, and taught the “Koranic truth” that infidels existed only to be killed in any way possible — the crueler the better. He was, and is, brainwashed.

Nate Whitling, conversely, was raised with Canadian respect for civil society, peaceful dispute resolution, and the rule of law. And he threw it all away to sign on with those whose aim is to tear the society down.

For money.

No word on exactly how much soulless traitor Nate Whitling was paid, but we reckon he’s worth 30 pieces of silver.

The Siege of Leningrad & Shostakovich

Here’s a remarkable book review by Algus Valiunas at The Weekly Standard, about the Sieges of Leningrad — the famous 900-day one by the Nazis, and the longer and bleaker one by home-grown Soviet communists — and their relation to Dmitri Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony, named (but not by the composer!) the Leningrad. 

We found these remarkable images blurring scenes from wartime Leningrad into the same location in modern St Petersburg on English Russia.

We found these remarkable images blurring scenes from wartime Leningrad into the same location in modern St Petersburg on English Russia.

In 1942, Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, and the Cleveland Orchestra all performed the Seventh Symphony, and the crowds almost invariably went wild from political sympathy as much as from aesthetic bliss. Millions exulted at the radio broadcasts. Moynahan deals brusquely with Carl Sandburg’s braying encomium, characteristic of American excitement at the time, to “a great singing people beyond defeat or conquest”:

The music succeeded perfectly. It hid the camps and the interrogation chambers. The Soviets were not only civilized and cultured: they were also upholders of human freedom.

That is, of course, a truly Orwellian conclusion. While most of the junior officers and soldiers on either side were simple patriots or even simpler conscripts, the twin socialist ideologies Naziism and Communism were and are the path of terror and death. The winners might be different in the two regimes, but the losers are the same: the bulk of the people.

With the war’s end, no half-serious observer could be fooled any more, as Shostakovich and Leningrad slid into disgrace. The piano-playing apparatchik Andrei Zhdanov found his native city and its sometime heroes to be undemocratic stooges of the imperialist West. He fingered the writers Mikhail Zoshchenko and Anna Akhmatova as enemies of the people, and a Zhdanov flunky denounced Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev, and Aram Khatchaturian as “Formalist vermin” who were conspiring to bring down the state with music insufferable to honest proletarian ears.

Another English Russia-sourced tromp l'oeil of old and new city.

Another English Russia-sourced tromp l’oeil of old and new city. Can’t quite make out what the giant poster says — death to somebody, anyway. A similar poster (same artist, perhaps) had the slogan, The Motherland Calls.

Such attentions were not limited to artists: In 1950, 2,000 Leningrad municipal and regional bureaucrats went to prison or to the wall. “The city’s proud Museum of the Siege was closed,” writes Moynahan. “The heroism of the siege itself was written off as a myth designed to denigrate the grandeur of Stalin.”

How, then, are Shostakovich’s masterwork and the Passion of Leningrad best remembered? Not a single American commentator at the time remarked that Shostakovich’s macabre rendering of malignity on the march might have represented anyone other than Adolf Hitler. But the composer would be quoted in Testimony (1979), his memoir related to musicologist Solomon Volkov, in this way: “I have nothing against calling the Seventh the Leningrad Symphony, but it’s not about Leningrad under siege; it’s about the Leningrad that Stalin destroyed and that Hitler merely finished off.”

Confession time: we love classical music, but most 20th Century music, leaves us cold (definitely including Shostakovich’s bombast). We’re more comfortable in the baroque period: steady rhythms, sensible harmonies, and predictable dynamics for the simple, military mind.

Naturally when we took the Music GRE subject exam (long since eliminated from the catalog, along with most subject GREs. we think) both the music history and the theory were about 75% 20th-Century music, including a question on Philip Glass and whole indigestible lumps of Shostakovich scores. We flunked. Fortunately we scored a face-saving ninety-something percentile on the History GRE.But we’ll never like old Dmitri, and you can’t make us.

Fortunately, Valiunas clearly loves Shostakovich, which makes him a good man to review that book, on the siege and the symphony, by Bryan Moynahan. Rather strangely for a book review, we can find no reference to the title of the book… perhaps Valiunas thinks that if you’re smart enough to read it, you’re smart enough to find it.