Category Archives: Unconventional Warfare

From Nimitz to Numbnuts: RIF Poison Pills in Action

You're Fired!

Wake up, Bumstead! You’re Fired!

Thanks to all who read the post on the Army’s Officer Retention Board and the way the ongoing Reduction In Force is being used to shape a New Model Army (sorry, Ollie) of knob-polishing yes-men (and -women, and -people-of-no-fixed-gender-identity. “Progress” is… interesting, and it’s a damned good time to be retired).

We thought we’d follow up with links to a couple stories of individuals whose careers were terminated by the same Poison Pill — long past alcohol-related incidents.  One is a combat-decorated (Purple Heart) Army officer sacked by this exact ORB. The other, illustrating that this is not an Army or officer corps problem alone, is a Marine NCO with the Silver Star Medal, which is awarded for “gallantry in action, while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.”

We have expressed concern that this ongoing, all-services RIF would, if badly managed, have results like the disastrous post-Vietnam RIF. More and more that is looking like a best case scenario. Post Vietnam, there were still places off the books for the warriors to hide (one of those was Special Forces). Nowadays those bolt-holes have also been brought under the purview of the personnel mismanagers. While the Army officer below is a case where there’s a colorable argument on both sides, the Marine NCO case is the sort of “own goal” we see more and more.

An Army Officer Tells His Tale

The first, a former Army officer’s letter published by the genially anti-military reporter Tom Ricks, tells the human story of one of these “rejects.”

I was selected for the recently convened Officer Separation Boards for the Department of the Army for a mistake over eight years ago. The mistake was a DUI in which I received a General Officer Memorandum for Record in 2006. Since this incident, I strived for excellence in every job that I performed.

I trained soldiers for deployments to Iraq as part of the surge into theater from 2006-2008. From 2008-2011, I attended and completed Ranger School, Air Assault School and earned the Expert Infantryman Badge. I commanded troops in combat in Afghanistan where I earned the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal for Valor, and the Purple Heart for actions against a determined enemy in RC East. After the deployment, I was selected as the executive officer for the deputy commander for the Combined Arms Center of Training at Fort Leavenworth serving in the capacity as the daily assistant for a general officer. The following year I was selected among a field of majors to attend the Commanding General and Staff Officer College at Fort Leavenworth, as well as the school of advanced military studies. Both prestigious institutes serve as the educational nexus for field-grade officers. Upon graduating from SAMS in May 2014, I was notified that I would not receive an assignment due to being assessed as high risk the GOMAR in my restricted file.

The officer in question, Major Charles V. Slider, was ejected from the Army this summer.

Slider also notes:

[M]y interpretation of this entire process is that it involved no critical thinking…. the board process chose individuals for elimination that met all of the requirements, but possessed one black mark. …. This created a system in which officers were selected based on a mistake rather than their overall contribution to the Army. One lapse in judgment does not constitute a pattern of misconduct, nor a judgment of overall character.

I believe that we should be judged on our body of work, not one isolated incident.

Usually Ricks is not worth reading, but in this case he just stepped back and gave his pen to Maj. Slider. Slider is clearly very upset (enough that it’s affected his grammar). Do Read The Whole Thing™. Read the comments too, most of which tend to be along the lines of: “F him, he got a DUI, *I* never did that because I maintain laser focus on my career 24/7.” (That cheeser must be a real delight to serve under). One unwritten subtext to the moralizing is that Army officers are disproportionately members of certain abstemious sects and religions, some of which encourage them to attempt, by fair means or foul, to make their religion your religion too. It’s not the enormous problem that militant atheist Mikey Weinstein (who would like to make his lack of religion your religion, too) makes it out to be, but it’s there.

One commenter also noted that black officers (like Slider, did we mention that about him? Probably not) were more likely to be binned by OSBs than whites, and one of the organization-defenders demanded data. It’s actually in the slides: “too much” melanin doubles your chances of being bilged. This is probably, given the crude and mechanistic way the OSB was just a purging of men with a black mark, just because minority officers are more likely to have one of the Four Poison Pills. (As did Slider: the GOMOR).

An Enlisted Marine’s Experience with a Poison Pill

Jesus says youre firedWhile dismissing Slider can be defended on several grounds, the next case seems to be the Marine Corps, which is mistakenly thought to be a smarter institution than the Army, actively rejecting an NCO who is a model to his subordinates (and to those of his superiors who are alert).

As a rule of thumb, things that are career killers in the white-glove world of the officer corps have been less so in the enlisted world: second chances are real there, and a guy can soldier his way out of a junior screwup. But just in the way that pointless, ticket-punch and content-light “schools”  have seeped down into the NCO corps, the “zero defects” system of personnel-management has done so as well. Consider Frank:

Frank… selflessly exposed himself to blistering enemy fire to search for targets with his MK 11 sniper rifle in order to alleviate pressure on the Marines in the kill zone. Frank was able to positively identify an enemy fire team moving through the trench to flank the Marines in the kill zone with three RPGs, an RPK and a PK machine gun. With no regard for his personal safety, Frank ignored the fire being directed at his position, controlled his breathing, relaxed, and began engaging targets.

Frank destroyed two RPG gunners with rounds to the head and another with a round to the sternum. In return, an enemy machine gunner targeted him with long barrages of machine gun fire that impacted within a foot of his position. Frank made corrections for wind and distance and killed him with a single round to the torso. At this point the RPK gunner attempted to break contact but Frank was able to strike him down with a round from his MK 11 before he reached cover, killing him with his second round.

Still under intense enemy small arms and machine gun fire, Frank observed enemy fighters reinforcing the trench line from compounds to the north, targeting his fellow Marines who were pinned down in the trench to his east. He engaged fourteen enemy combatants with fourteen rounds, wounding two, mortally wounding another eight and killing four outright.

Frank repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire with no regard for his personal well-being during a decisive point in the battle to effectively neutralize and destroy twenty one enemy combatants. He continued to engage and destroy enemy targets as our platoon surged forward in a vicious counter attack that drove the Taliban from the battlefield after inflicting over a hundred casualties on the enemy. He was later awarded the Silver Star for the exceptional heroism he displayed in this battle.

What a great story right? Here is the punch line. While most of you are probably wondering when this exceptional Marine will become Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, you may be surprised to find out that he is being forced out of uniform. Frank has reached service limitations because he has been on active duty over ten years and the Marine Corps will not promote Frank to Staff Sergeant. Does that make any sense to anyone else? I certainly can’t make any sense of it. I forgot to mention a small detail. Frank used to have a bit of a drinking problem.

Frank racked up two alcohol incidents, was reduced from Sergeant to Corporal, and went to rehab and dried out — six years ago. Been dry ever since, got his Sergeant stripes back, but in today’s zero-defects USMC the man who fought in that engagement described above — and that’s far from his only one, you must Read The Whole Thing™ — is not what they’re looking for.

Now, imagine this: you are a Marine officer preparing an element to deploy, who has been granted, by the beneficent shade of Chesty, a boon no Marine officer gets: you can choose your gunny rather than take the one hand-receipted to you by the Corps. Your two options are, a guy who has never transgressed, and whose membership in an approved abstemious sect keeps him from being any kid of a DUI risk, or Frank.

The Marines chose the other guy.

Future Marines will suffer the consequences of that decision. But that’s the way all the services roll, these days; the Marines were merely the last bastion of warrior-hood to fall to the tea drinkers.

It means that the service, then, is more and more like a Turkish water-pipe full of opium: the more you suck, the higher you go. As a result, first-time screwups (especially officer screwups) happen at higher and higher levels. What used to be the tolerable 2LT dumbs is now the rather more consequential COL or BG dumbs. And instead of mentors and confident subordinates to keep him straight, that senior officer has, careerlong, been surrounded by superiors he has toadied to and juniors who toady to him, and who would sooner walk the plank than utter a word that might be taken as criticism of their lord and master.

There’s a lot of bullshit from the personnel managers about how they consider “the whole man” during the 3.5 seconds an officer or NCO’s file is on their desk. It’s bullshit designed to cover for a mechanistic system that produces mediocrity (at best). In a centralized system, all the incentives are for a mechanical, quantifiable, check-the-box approach, and mirabile dictu, that is what we get. In a decentralized system, which has not existed, perhaps, for a century, we get whining (from the same toadies who excel under the current system) that it’s not faiiiiir.

Note Nimitz's grade when he autographed this picture of DD-5 USS Decatur.

Note Nimitz’s grade when he autographed this picture of DD-5 USS Decatur.

Once, a young naval ensign recovered from career damage after being convicted at court-martial of “hazarding his ship.” It was an open-and-shut case: the overconfident young man had run USS Decatur aground, nowadays such a career killer than some officers shrink from shiphandling. This took place, mind you, 107 years ago. You know him as Adm. Chester Nimitz; the Navy of a century past didn’t see a problem with  Today’s armed services have concluded they need no Nimitzes and more numbnutses.

Ave atque vale: Robert Richards, Cpl. USMC, Ret.

micturating marineYou may not remember Richards (l.), but surely you remember the Micturating Marines, a scout-sniper element who were pursued like Ahab pursued the white whale, with Marine Commandant James Amos cheerfully playing the Ahab role, demanding that the convening authority “crush” the offending Marines, legalities be damned.

Amos has been quietly taking his revenge on the survivors of the unit, including the former company XO, whom he squeezed out of the Corps in 2013, and their former lawyer, James Weireck, who himself got “crushed” last September after daring to send an email to a former Amos horse-holder. But Richards’s death appears to be related to his combat wounds and the resulting medical problems.

After his “crushing” over the incident, he was never again promoted but was deployed and wounded seriously. He suffered lasting injuries and was medically retired as a Corporal. He always identified as a Marine and stayed close to his fellow Marines for the rest of his life.

Retired Cpl. Robert Richards, 28, died at his home in Jacksonville, North Carolina, according to Guy Womack, his attorney and friend. An autopsy is being conducted, Womack said, adding that the cause of death does not appear to be self-inflicted. A medical examiner will look at the mix of medication Richards was taking, he told the paper.

Richards had said in recent years that he regretted the whizzing, and the less easily explained act of filming the whizzing. He accepted responsibility at court-martial:

Richards pleaded guilty to failing to obey a lawful order and violating Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was reduced one pay grade but avoided jail or a bad-conduct discharge and was later medically retired.

His explanation of the incident in a post-retirement video:

I’m really tired of explaining why we pissed on them. What led up to it — what really led up to it is, they desecrated one of our Marines…. When you’re under that much stress, and you’re in that environment, your whole mental being changes. You’re no longer Joe the Family Man.

Five other enlisted Marines were punished judicially or nonjudicially for the incident. The Marine leadership also lashed out against the unit’s XO, binning him after being unable to pin charges on him, and on the attorneys that represented the Marines.

The Marine Corps dropped the criminal charges filed against the only officer implicated in the video, Capt. James Clement, but he was involuntary separated from the service early this year.

via Marine who urinated on Taliban in video found dead – News – Stripes.

Yeah, it's Army camo. Tell it to the Marines.

Yeah, it’s Army camo. Tell it to the Marines.

Another officer avoided charges, perhaps because he was the son of a former Commandant himself. After all, the military is a society of ranks, not of laws. This probably is the end of the line for the story of the Micturating Marines, except that it will forever be an asterisk or footnote on James Amos’s turn as Commandant.

Typical of the command climate in the Marine Corps lately: in May, investigators working for Marine prosecutors raided defense attorneys and searched their files in a fruitless fishing expedition, with a phony “warrant” that had never been seen by a judge; this week, they scheduled a second trial of a Marine convicted of murder in 2007 on the basis of a tainted “confession,” after an appeals court threw out the conviction.

Who’s Getting Riffed?

A little birdie visited the other day, and among its droppings we discovered a very interesting .pptx document: Its title was HUMAN RESOURCES COMMAND: Briefing to to General Odierno, CSA, 10 July 2014.

hrc_brief_splash_slideYes, the double “to” is in the title, and yes, it was shown to the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) that way, and yes, he missed it, too. The country’s in the very best of hands.

We’ve had the document for about a week now, and have shared it with some Army friends, and we’re sure we’re not the only ones. It’s unclassified, but we didn’t want to share it all publicly for one very specific reason: since much of it deals with the officer RIFs, there are some specific slides that are potentially damaging to the reputations and privacy of individual officers selected for separation by several recent boards. One slide in particular uses the DA photos of four individuals selected for termination (three of them combat vets with the CIB or CAB) and demeans them in the process of arguing HRC’s position, which stripped of personnel-wallah cant is basically: these are the slugs we’re getting rid of.

As we’ll see, the HRC definition of a “slug” is somewhat different from ours. (Ours encompasses much of the Human Resources Command, for starters). But our concern is that these four proud officers, and others whose individual selves may be clearly identifiable from elements in the presentation, need not be personally dragged in the mud in public, just because they were privately dragged through the mud — unknowingly — for the edification of the Chief of Staff. Maybe they are slugs, but to have that decision made by a Washington-based personnel drone whose plush bottom has polished his chair smooth is some gross violation of the 6th Amendment’s guarantee of an impartial jury. As in the 1970s RIFs, there seems to be a bias against combat vets and for the combat-shy baked into the system.

The Agenda of the meeting was the following.

Agenda

Officer Separation Board (OSB) Follow Up
Command Selection List (CSL) Audit Update
CSL Briefing Due Outs (7 Apr 14)
Branch Monitoring Update
Cyber Branch Update
Korea Rotation Business Rules and Manning Timeline
Building NCOs for 2035
Other Key Initiatives

 

Each item deserves analysis, but we’re going to stick to the Officer Separation Board (OSB) in the interests of brevity and focus. We’re most likely to circle back, in future posts, to the Korea Rotation and Building NCOs bits (2035? Yeah, FY 15 is just around the corner, and career NCOs joining as privates today will be senior NCOs in 2035… if we still have a nation and an Army, and HRC hasn’t mismanaged it into strategic defeat). And the “Branch Monitoring” thing? That’s Affirmative Action quota management in action, especially for combat arms. Surely there’s a post in that. But we need to fixate on the OSB for now.

How Does A Captain or Major Get out of this Chickenshit Army? The OSB!

7,957 Majors, a rank that normally comprises only career, not obligated-service, officers, were considered, and 550 of them were selected .

What was a career killer? Having Officer Evaluation Reports that list you as “Center Of Mass” of your peers (“COM”s). Even if three of your last four were “Above Center Of Mass,” one COM could kill you. Now, commanders can’t give everyone ACOM, and the COMs often go to the new guy who volunteered to fill in on a deployment, etc. In other words, the system has an intrinsic bias against voluntary deployers and independent thinkers, and an intrinsic bias towards toadies and suck-ups. Courtney Massengale, call your office. You didn’t get riffed. There’s also a Below Center Of Mass (BCOM). If you got one of those, you’re history; HRC treated it as one of the four Poison Pills.

An officer of our acquaintance used to mentor cadets thus: “There are only two kinds of OERs, perfect and career-ending. You just don’t know when and how the second kind ends your career.”

The Four Poison Pills were derogatory reports in an officer’s file. Those included a General Officer Memorandum Of Reprimand (for which the Army has two acronyms: GOMOR and GOMAR), Article 15 Nonjudicial Punishment, the above-mentioned BCOM, and something called an NLJ, an acronym that is not in the HRC acronym glossary, and that no one we know could explain. We believe it to be the existence of a comment on an officer’s OER that indicates Non Leadership Judgment — a severe condemnation from a rater or senior rater, if that’s the case. ETA: NLJ has been explained by many helpful commenters as “Not Left Justified,” meaning an officer has an OER with a check in any box other than the one that says he or she is superior to his or her peers. We’re grateful for the correction and explanation. In any event, one of any of the poison pills was a career killer.

Of the 550 Majors selected for disposal:

Number Percent Reason
226 43%. Derogatory information in file (GOMOR, etc). Guys who blotted their copybook. (Or pissed someone important off).
190 34% NLJ OER. We believe that to be “non leadership judgment” Basically, a non-max OER; see the comments for a detailed explanation.
 108 20% COM OERs. Most of them had ALL COMs (87), some had one ACOM and 4 (the ones pictured in the slide mentioned in the text) had multiple ACOMs, but at least one COM.
26 5% had a BCOM OER. This is essentially a rater’s method of ejecting an officer from the army (albeit a delayed-action method).

The derogatory information didn’t have to be recent. Got a GOMOR as a 2nd Lieutenant for Dumb LT Tricks, eight years ago? Kiss your ass goodbye. Got an Article 15 as a private before soldiering your way back into the Army’s good graces, and then getting a ROTC scholarship? You’re gone.

A non-GO Memorandum Of Reprimand was also a career killer, if you got it for something the Chief of Staff doesn’t like — like carrying a personally owned weapon. That sent one combat-vet with a Purple Heart to the Dreaded Private Sector.

Being overweight, or looking overweight in your photo: killer.

A more trivial career killer, but one the board actually used: having your official DA photo in the old Army Green service uniform, not the new blue Army Service Uniform. Given the few seconds’ consideration the board gave to each officer, the photo has an outsized impact. (Some board veterans say they look at other things besides the photo, but by that, they mean “look for signs of a COM or BCOM OER.”)

Another career killer: being in the AFPak Hands program. Captains in this program got borked at a higher level, and Majors at a double level, than average for those ranks. In addition to the RIF that decimated the company grad and junior field grades, LTCs who volunteered for the AFPAK program have also committed career seppuku: in FY 14, only 6& were selected for command and 3% for promotion to Colonel (compared to 27% and 40% of officers who declined this particular forlorn hope).

Why is command selection a big deal? The LTC Command Selection List is probably the single most key event in a senior officer’s career. Only one in twelve or so is selected. Roughly ¾ of the officers selected for Command at that level will be promoted to COL and offered attendance at a Senior Service College such as the US Army War College, an important grooming milestone for general officer. Roughly half of the COL selectees will make the COL level Command Selection List, so the gating function of the LTC CSL is clear.

hrc_brief_why_ltc_csl_counts

Similarly to the poor bastards of the once-emphasized but now-radioactive AFPAK program, officers in the understrength Functional Area 48, Foreign Area Officers, were hit hard. And the hardest hit among them were officers whose area was in the CENTCOM Area Of Responsibility (AOR) — the most deeply understrength area.

hrc_brief_fa_48_majorsFive of these 48Gs were among the 14 48s binned, for such HRC violations as one of the Four Poison Pills and, in one case, the crime of wearing greens in his DA Photo. From the outside looking in, it looks like one more war-vet purge. One of the terminated 48s was the current Army Attaché in a nation where the USA cooperates closely with the government while we together fight a strong insurgent presence. The geniuses at Human Resources Command haven’t any prospect of laying hands on an Arabic speaker to replace him until January of 2015, so they’re hoping he’ll take one for the team that screwed him and forego terminal leave.

See, that’s why we need professional personnel officers, to make brilliant moves like that.

Most of the officers selected were in troop units, but that’s where most officers in these grades are.

What Amulets Protected and What Didn’t

Having come into the Army the “right” way was a big factor, but all it did was change the rate of selection (the only source of commission from which nobody was selected was service acadmies other than USMA. Service academy grads can elect to take their commission in a different service; very few do. The Army has only seven such majors in the nearly 8,000 member ORB pool: less than one in a thousand, and none of them was selected; too little data for statistical significance).

Still, USMA “ring-knockers” were selected at a fraction of the rate of other sources of commission; indeed, at less than half the rate of the next most immune group, ROTC scholarship students. Still, 25 Academy grads and 178 of the scholarship grads were on the hit list. Those were the only groups selected at below-average rates. The most unlucky were interservice transfers, officers initially commissioned in another branch. Of 25 of them considered, 4 were selected (16%) compared to the <3% selection rate for USMA grads. Still, 3% is not zero; get a GOMOR or BCOM and even The Ring can’t save you.

Not only did combat tours not save an officer, and lack of combat tours not put him at risk, even a Purple Heart didn’t spare him. Seventeen combat-wounded officers are among the casualties.

We’ve talked primarily about the Majors (this is long enough) but the fate of the Captains was similar. One notable thing is that a small but distinct number of CPTs were binned for Article 15s or Letters of Reprimand that they collected during prior enlisted service. As with the Majors,  having the Ring of Power halved one’s chances of being booted — but so many captains have been selected that 6.2% of the considered academy grads are among them.

How SF/SOF fared

Generally, SF officers did better than their conventional peers. Again using Majors data, either 341 or 353 officers were considered (the data are inconsistent), and 11 were selected. Of these, one was one of the PH recipients. None of the SF selectees was African American (overall, AA officers were selected at a higher rate than average). The SF captains were selected at an even lower rate, one that rounds to 1%.

Aviation officers also were selected at a below average rate, but other combat arms (Armor, Artillery, Combat Engineers) were selected at higher than average rates; Infantry split, with Majors selecting below average and Captains above (as the saying goes, lower is better, in this measurement). SF was the lowest-percentage combat arms branch, and the only consistently lower branches were extremely low-density ones like Space Operations and Operations Research.

The Bottom Line

So what does it all mean? The Army is reshaping itself into a peacetime service again. This requires disposal of a large number of combat vets. And this won’t be the last RIF by any means, either. Combat and what the Army is getting ready for (mostly, to fight the budget battles with the Marines, et al., on the playing fields of Congress, endless corridors of the Pentagon, and leaks to the Washington Post) are different and incompatible things.

Thanks for serving your country, Major. Now hit the bricks.

What We Can Learn from Operation Protective Edge’s KIAs

Sean Carmeli, a Texan who emigrated to Israel and died serving in the Golani Brigade.

Sean Carmeli, a Texan who emigrated to Israel and died serving in the Golani Brigade.

Unlike most of the other Western Allies, Israel doesn’t actively share its AARs with its counterterrorist allies. It used to, but that’s largely a thing of the past; don’t know why, or who’s to blame.

We took the trouble of reading the casualty list in the Times of Israel and trying to parse out some usable information from the very limited data to be found there. We discovered that the mean and median ages of the fallen were 23 and 21; and officers made up exactly a quarter of the killed, a fairly high percentage consistent with Israeli doctrine and combat leadership tradition.

Two of the killed were Jews from the United States serving voluntarily in the IDF.

Where did the casualties come from?

First, the table, then the analysis.

Unit Number KIA % of total % of Knowns
Golani Brigade 16 25% 26%
Armored Units 12 19% 20%
Paras 7 11% 11%
Training Base 6 9% 10%
Misc 5 8% 8%
Givati Brigade 4 6% 7%
Nahal 4 6% 7%
Engineers 4 6% 7%
Maglan 3 5% 5%
Unknown 3 5% 5%
Total KIAs 64
KIAs from Known Units 61

As you can see, the units that took it hardest were the Golani Brigade, Armored Corps elements (some of the AT weapons were serious crew-killers, apparently), the paras, and, surprisingly, the training base. Two of the six were an officer and a candidate from an officer training school, and the other four were members of an NCO academy class targeted by tunnel infiltrators.

It’s really been an expensive war for the Golani.

What caused the casualties?

Again, the table first, then the analysis.

Cause of KIA Number % of total % of knowns
AT weapon 14 22% 28%
small arms (non sniper) 12 19% 24%
Mortars 10 16% 20%
Tunnel Infiltrators 8 13% 16%
UNRWA 3 5% 6%
Snipers 2 3% 4%
Poss FF 1 2% 2%
unspecified 14 22%
Total KIAs 64
KIAs from known causes 50

 

Max Steinberg, from the San Fernando Valley. 30,000 Israelis attended his funeral (& another 20,000 Carmeli's).

Max Steinberg, from the San Fernando Valley. 30,000 Israelis attended his funeral (& another 20,000 attended Carmeli’s).

The Israeli press appear to use the frustratingly vague term “anti-tank missile” for everything from RPG to EFP to ATGM. It does appear that Hamas used some ATGMs, but these are probably mostly RPG fatalities. Likewise, many casualties are described as “firefight;” we attributed these to small arms, although some could be grenades. We expect that most of those killed by tunnel infiltrators were killed by small arms, but suicide vests are certainly also in play. 

The 3 Israeli special operations soldiers killed by “UNRWA” were blown up in a booby-trapped UN Relief and Works Agency facility. The terrorist-aligned Palestinian branch of the UN seems to have thrown open its schools, offices, hospitals and all other facilities for combat use by Hamas. Conversely, nine UNRWA workers and two UNRWA contractors have been killed so far, some of them in armed combat with the IDF and some while allowing Hamas to use their facilities to launch attacks. The UNRWA continues to call for the arms blockade against Gaza to be lifted:

The Israeli blockade must be lifted so that Palestinians can take control of their lives instead of being trapped in a man-made cycle of aid dependency and poverty.

Say the guys who make a very, very good living keeping the Palis in that trap. No mention of the fact that Egypt, too, is blockading the terrorist sub-state.

How many Palestinian casualties? Well, Hamas doesn’t care. Why should we?

UPDATE

This post has been edited. A duplicate entry for the Givati Brigade has been removed from the table. The numbers now add up right. Thanks to Alon in the comments. -Ed.

From Boy Refugee to Brigadier General

COL Viet Xuan Luong USALast week, Colonel Viet Xuan Luong made his first star. COL Luong became the first Vietnamese-American to reach general or flag officer rank. He’s a USC grad (in bio, of all things) and a career infantryman who has excelled in command at all levels from platoon through brigade, and has avoided blotting his copybook in a series of critical staff assignments.

He came to the US in 1975 as a young boy, as his family fled the collapse of the Republic of Vietnam.

At his promotion, he rocked the Cavalry Stetson, and humbly accepted his promotion, while calling on attendees to remember the soldiers — including those under his command — who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Here’s his official bio:

Colonel Viet Xuan Luong emigrated from Vietnam with his family to the United States in 1975 as a political refugee. He began his military career upon graduating from the University of Southern California.

His first assignment was with 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado, where he served as Rifle Platoon Leader, Anti-Tank Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, and Battalion Maintenance Officer. In 1993, Luong was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina and served in the 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, as the Battalion Assistant S-3 (Operations) and Commander of Alpha Company. While commanding Alpha Company, he deployed to Haiti in support of Operation Uphold Democracy as the Commander of the Theater Quick Reaction Force. Following his assignment at Fort Bragg, he was assigned to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., as an Observer Controller.

Following his assignment at JRTC, Luong attended the Command and General Staff College and then was assigned to the Southern European Task Force (SETAF). Luong served as SETAF G-3 Chief of Plans, and the Operations Officer and Executive Officer of 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173d Airborne Brigade, in Vicenza, Italy. During his assignment at Southern European Task Force, Luong deployed to Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina on several occasions as part of the NATO Strategic Response Force.

Following this assignment, Colonel Luong was assigned to Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss, Tx., where he served as a plans officer and Chief, Targeting and Exploitation Division in support of the Department of Homeland Defense. In 2005, he assumed command of the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3d Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division. During this command, Luong deployed his battalion in September 2005 as the Division Ready Force 1, in support of Operation American Assist, the Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts in New Orleans, and Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08, in support of the War on Terror.

In February 2009, Colonel Luong assumed command of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (Rakkasans), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). In January 2010, 3rd BCT deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom 10-11. Following BCT command, Luong attended Stanford University as a National Security Fellow and subsequently served as the Deputy Director, Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell, J5, The Joint Staff.

Colonel Luong holds a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Southern California and a Master of Military Arts and Science.

He might be ethnically Vietnamese, but it his military command style he’s as American as John Wayne. He’s not an SF kind of guy, he’s general-purpose forces all the way, and has commanded both paratroopers and mechanized forces.

Luong is maybe not the first guy you’d call when you have a sensitive, delicate, culturally finesse-dependent scenario, but when you need some guy to take an armor brigade and lay waste to all obstacles in its path, ending with a pivot-turn by the command track on the enemy commander’s shredded remains, Luong’s your guy. We wish him well in his stint as DCG, and, no doubt, in the Division they hope to hand him to command in a few years.

And you know, along with all the foreign-language-enabled nonjudgmental Sneaky Petes, it’s damn good for the nation to have a few Viet Luongs sitting in those command tracks.

MARSOC’s New (Old) Name: Marine Raiders

MARSOC (er, Raider) Special Operations Officer 0370 candidates in training. USMC Photo.

MARSOC (er, Raider) Special Operations Officer 0370 candidates in training. USMC Photo by Cpl. Donovan Lee.

In an announcement welcomed by many current Marine Special Operations personnel and, most critically, by the surviving handful of Marine Raiders, most of the US Marine Corps’ MARSOC special operations elements have been renamed Marine Raiders. The overall command will retain the MARSOC name, but the subordinate commands will be Raiders:

  • Marine Raider Regiment
  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd Marine Raider Battalion(s)
  • Marine Raider Support Group, etc.

Today’s MARSOC mission may be different from its 1942 counterparts, but the esprit is the same. Major General Mark A. Clark commands MARSOC and welcomed the change:

“We are proud and honored to adopt the name Marine Raider, carrying on the rich heritage passed along to MARSOC by the Raiders of World War II,” said Clark. “As with every Marine Corps unit, MARSOC desires a moniker that creates its own unique identity that is based on Marine Corps heritage and enables Marines to trace the legacy of those Marines who served before them.”

MG Mark Clark MARSOC

Maj. Gen. Mark A. Clark, outgoing CO of MARSOC. USMC Photo.

Two battalions of Marine Raiders were raised in World War II, with a view to doing the sort of Commando operations the British were conducting against the German-occupied shores of Europe. There was some resistance to the formation of these units, but they had considerable political support: President Roosevelt’s son James served in one of the battalions, and their commanders, Edson Merritt and Evans Carlson, wrote their names in Marine history (Carlson also wrote the term Gung Ho into Marine slang). By 1944, the brass, always especially suspicious of Carlson (whose ideas of military operations had been forever altered by an observation tour with Mao’s 8th Route Army in China) and generally suspicious of elitism, disbanded the Raiders, after analyzing their missions and concluding that any Marine infantry unit, given some specific pre-mission training, could have done as well. One of the battalions was used to reform the 4th Marines, which had been annihilated in the Philippines.

The MARSOC leaders initially asked for the Raider name when the unit was stood up in 2004, but the same Marine resistance to “elitism” within the Marine ranks torpedoed that idea. Still, unofficial Raider paraphernalia proliferated throughout MARSOC, to the irritation of certain officers and sergeants major (and to the delight of others). Here’s one such Raider patch in Afghanistan:

Unofficial Raider patch downrange

Now, Commandant James Amos, who previously denied MARSOC the Raider name, has reversed himself, and not just for the sake of today’s Marines.

The reason for the recent designation is two-fold. First, Clark said, the Marine Raiders were performing special operations missions during World War II and therefore provides a logical, historical link to MARSOC.

The second reason is one backed by Raiders themselves. At recent Marine Raider reunions, its remaining original members have highlighted their strong desire for their legacy to not be forgotten and to be carried on by another Marine Corps unit.

“The Marine Raiders have chosen MARSOC to be the holder of their legacy,” said Clark. “We feel we owe it to those Marine Raiders still living and their families to make every attempt to do so.”

MARSOC did not come from the sort of mission the original Raiders had; instead, it’s its own thing. It started with the men of the two Force Recon Companies and evolved from there, so it has plenty of Force DNA. It continues to evolve into something that’s not “like” Army SF, not “like” SEALs or even past Marine elements like the original Raiders or even its own foundational Force Recon, but in a new direction that’s appropriate for a 21st Century fighting force. But it’s probably fair to say that every Marine Critical Skills Operator (CSO) in the Marine Special Operations Raider Battalions feels the weight, and the thrust, of all that Recon, Force and Raider history.

Recently, MARSOC also announced a career path for its officers and allowed them to hold the 0370 officer MOS as a primary specialty. The importance of this is that it signals command emphasis on keeping officer continuity — in other words, command emphasis on the continued survival and success of Marsoc.

Ineffective Bombing is Worse than No Bombing at All

M64 bomb 2

In all history, about 99% of these have accomplished nothing but blind destruction, unrelated to war aims. Guernica myths notwithstanding.

We made the mistake of watching some Aspen Institute foreign policy luminaries (including ex-secretaries Madeline Albright, Condoleeza Rice, and Bob Gates) and then parts of the Sunday talking head shows. We’ve also read the Post and the Times on the pinprick airstrikes in Iraq, stories that seem to agree that they were made for the domestic political effect. (“We didn’t want another Benghazi.”) In time-honored Harvard-Yale-Georgetown Masters of the Universe™ fashion, these war-experts-from-the-campus-quad either endorsed or criticized the Obama policy of tiny strikes, as a fancied means for bringing the parties to the negotiating table, that Happy Hunting Ground of all diplomats.

We’re here to pickle off some precision-guided practical truth on that.

Here’s what bombs from the air can do:

  1. Kill people.
  2. Blow things up.

That’s about it. And to achieve that limited potential, they need to be dropped exactly on the people and things you intend to kill or blow up. Otherwise, they’re just wasteful fireworks, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Here’s some of what they can’t do:

  1. Kill specific people (unless there are friendly and reliable eyes on the ground).
  2. Send a message. No one ever successfully “sent a message” with bombing, unless the message was: “Bang. You’re dead.” You can send that message — if you have eyes on the ground targeting the bomb. Any other message you were trying to send is as likely to get across as the messages for the enemy that the ordies scrawl on the bombs. That is, not very.
  3. Weaken the resolve of those under the bombs. Yeah, that’s why England folded in 1940, Germany in 1944, the Norks in 1951, and the DRV in 1967. Oh, wait… looks like bombing stiffens resolve, except for the people it physically makes stiffs out of. Seriously, if some foreign air force blew up your house and killed your family, would you (1) Japan is the exception, and they still had to be nuked twice after some fire-bombings that made the nukes look mild, on top of years of sub-blockade starvation.
  4. Take and hold ground.

Over and over again, the lesson has been, bombing without eyes-on recon, terminal guidance, and eyes-on post-mission BDA, is wasteful and ineffective. For example, in the 1999 bombing of Serbia, the US killed — over and over again — obsolete jets wheeled out of museums, and broken-down tanks hauled into bait positions. What was lacking? This:

SOFLAM

If we don’t have terminal guidance teams on the ground in Iraq, these missions are being set up for failure. If we do have them, and only give them two or four carrier strike fighters a day on a one-pass-and-haul-ass limit, we’re not going to succeed. We get that the President does not want to encourage Maliki, whose sectarian score-settling is a big factor in the current collapse of his country’s defense establishment.

Then, there’s the question of what we’re risking. 

ISIL (the enemy on the ground, even if Obama can’t bring himself to admit that the Kurds are friendlies) has modern AA weapons, and the F/A-18, the only arrow remaining in the Navy’s quiver, is no less vulnerable to AA gunfire and SAMs than its Vietnam and even Korean War counterparts. (It’s actually slower, on the deck with stores, than the Vietnam era F-105). So, if we keep exposing them we’re going to start losing them.

That means: remains of pilots, or live pilots, in ISIL hands, whether as hostages (given the big payoff the Taliban got for holding deserter Bowe Bergdahl, certainly a possibility) or as stars in a single episode of JihadTube each. Normally, SOF take responsibility for personnel recovery, but it’s very, very different to do without some kind of footprint on the ground, and it’s a rare PR that goes off without losing at least one helicopter, potentially compounding the problem.

Now, we have no doubt that the Navy and Marine strike pilots will fly whatever missions they get — that’s what they do. But sending them on symbolic, ineffective pinprick strikes, and exposing them to a high risk of capture, is not good policy. That it’s being done to “send a message” to Maliki (and that the message is the amorphous, “you need to form a unity government and be more diplomatic and inclusive”) is extremely troubling.

Bottom line: for bombing to be effective, we need CCTs, JTACs or equivalent on the ground calling the strikes. (True story: in the early part of the war – remember, the part we won?  — nobody sweated who had and didn’t have credentials or ticket punches. When we got friendly fire, it came from an Air Force ETAC and Air Force aircraft commanders who had all the requisite qualifications. But now, you gotta have a ticket punch). For bombing to be effective, there needs to be enough of it to kill lots of the enemy and break all his favorite toys. For bombing to be effective, it needs to be targeted by junior officers and NCOs on the groundwho can lay the Mark I eyeball on the enemy and direct the money shot all the way down, not by some committee of drones who attended all the right schools and never felt the chafe of a uniform collar.

Ineffective bombing is worse than no bombing at all. And that’s what we’ve got, so far.

Khmer Rouge leaders finally face justice

One of Cambodia's many chilling memorials to KR days. From a travelogue by Lauren Irons.

One of Cambodia’s many chilling memorials to KR days. From a travelogue by Lauren Irons.

Decades after their 1970s mass murders, two Khmer Rouge leaders, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, finally were convicted for a small subset of their crimes during the Killing Fields massacres that halved the population of Cambodia in the 1970s.

The New York Times, whose editors and reporters don’t seem to remember now their paper’s support and admiration for the KR in 1973-78, has reported on the trials:

Witnesses have given harrowing testimony of being forced out of their homes and into the countryside by Khmer Rouge soldiers, denied medical care and seeing executions and other atrocities. The evacuation of Phnom Penh in April of 1975 left the capital a ghost town and portended the social fragmentation that would follow over the next three years, eight months and 20 days of Khmer Rouge rule. Families were separated, money was abolished, and the country’s population was forced into a giant, failed effort of collectivized labor.

“The heart of the Khmer Rouge crimes was the complete disregard of human costs of their revolution,” said David Chandler, a former American diplomat who served in Cambodia and is a leading historian on the Khmer Rouge atrocities. “Their vision was completely flawed and unhitched to reality.”

The trial began in 2011, more than three decades after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, a delay that was one of several factors that complicated the quest for justice.

“Justice on this scale cannot be done by any trial mechanism as far as I can see,” Mr. Chandler said.

The limited scope of the trial and verdict, which dealt only with the forced evacuations and one site where mass executions occurred, has frustrated many observers and victims, and even the staunchest supporters of the trial have been ambivalent about the process.

“We knew that the court would not resolve everything. But it was important to have the proceedings. We had to continue the search for truth,” said Youk Chhang, the founder of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an organization that has amassed a trove of documents and photographs from the Khmer Rouge era.

via 2 Senior Khmer Rouge Leaders Are Convicted in Cambodia, Decades After Rule – NYTimes.com.

It was standard New York Times (and academic) narrative in 1975 that the KR were not that bad, or, if they were that bad, that, “Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia” made them do it (this last was the position of the Times’s Sidney Shanberg). It all depended on whose ox was gored:

canon.PDF

[T]here were many times more stories and editorials by the New York Times and the Washington Post on the condition of human rights in South Korea and Chile than there were on Cambodia, Cuba, and North Korea, combined.

 

The Times, which supported Lenin, Stalin, Castro, and Cambodia’s Samphan, Chea, Ieng Sary and Pol Pot (the last two of whom cheated justice by dying in 2013 and 1998 respectively), has never, ever, faced the fact that “scientific international socialism,” like its kissing cousin “national socialism” always ends in mass murder. It is a fine thing to welcome the Times, after three decades plus, to the opposition to the Khmer Rouge, but it’s a pity it hasn’t shaken their underlying belief, nor their fundamental gullibility: they’ll fall for the next revolution, too.

The KR leaders were the Times’s kind of people: bright, highly verbal, university graduates with an internationalist outlook (most of them educated in 1950s and 60s Paris). Like the editors of the Manhattan broadsheet, they believed in central planning, big government, the subordination of the individual to the needs of the collective many.

Of course, the Times editors except themselves, and those like themselves, from such expropriation: “special ones like us” had needs, you know? And so did the Khmer Rouge.

Well, a Cambodian court has spoken, and the KR communists are officially guilty. In this day and age, a court doing the right thing, however belatedly and wherever found, is something worthy of remark. Who knows, an outbreak of journalistic integrity might follow.

The Mechanical Arts, the Liberal Arts, SF, and Survival

In the medieval period, philosophers imagined a division between the seven Liberal Arts, and the seven Mechanical Arts. To give you an idea of the weight they put on the two domains of knowledge, the Mechanical Arts were also known as the Servile Arts or Vulgar Arts.

During periods of world history in which most people had an arduous, demanding physical struggle to live, not to have to struggle was a marker of the upper class. Thus a snobbery evolved which derides work, and celebrates idle pursuits. But the Mechanical arts are, you will see, in all cases more immediately useful than the liberal arts, and in some cases they constitute applied knowledge that closely follows on some aspects of the Liberal Arts’ classroom learning. For example, you will master neither architecture nor warfare without a decent grasp of arithmetic and geometry; and the better you know those latter subjects the better equipped you are to study the former, for instance.

This is one division of the medieval Arts:

Mechanical Arts Liberal Arts
Clothes-making Grammar
Farming Rhetoric
Cooking Logic
Architecture & Building Arithmetic
Warfare, Military Arts Geometry
Commerce / Business Music
Metalworking Astronomy

What’s interesting to us is the degree to which all those skills are needed in a typical SF COIN, FID or UW mission. But the most practically applicable ones, of course, are the Mechanical Arts. Every SF man can pull his weight in all of these and stands out in some of them. One is reminded of the distinctly non-medieval thinker, science fiction author Robert Heinlein, and this famous quote from his character Lazarus Long:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

During a tour downrange, an SF guy will check off most if not all the above. Except the die gallantly bit, one hopes.

Recently, a professor type, Lewis Dartnell, has published a book called The Knowledge. His concept, or conceit, is this: what would you need to know to reboot civilization after some variation of TEOTWAWKI? We suspect that, so long as you didn’t lose sight of the knowledge that certain knowledge and how-to had existed, whether big picture (“the scientific method”) or small picture (“how to make gunpowder from natural materials”), the knowledge could be recovered in less time than it took society to establish it for the first time.

Still, one remembers that we stand on the shoulders of all who have come before us. TEOTWAWKI is something, like a gunfight, that is often better avoided entirely, than handled in the best manner possible. But, like a gunfight, you may not have a choice about whether it happens, just about how you play it.

To end on an up note,  his blog also turned us on to this cartoon:

From what we’ve seen of the strip, it’s a pretty consistent hoot.

As far as his thick-as-bricks interlocutor is concerned, nobody expects the Spaniel Inquisition.

Returning for a moment to Lewis Dartnell, his website has many interesting posts and links, such as this one of adventure and science-fiction novels that involve rebuilding a society from nothing, and that were published from 1719 to 1912, and are thus in the public domain and free for downloading. Some of the books are famous in themselves (Robinson Crusoe, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Time Machine), and others are lesser-known works of famous authors like Mary Shelley, Jules Verne and Jack London.

We’re reading the Jack London work, The Scarlet Plague, in iBooks. It tells of an epidemic that erased civilization in 2012, as told by an old man, desperately trying to pass on civilization to his savage hunter-gatherer grandsons. A sample:

“Returning to the corner, I found the two robbers were gone. The poet and his wife lay dead on the pavement. It was a shocking sight. The two children had vanished—whither I could not tell. And I knew, now, why it was that the fleeing persons I encountered slipped along so furtively and with such white faces. In the midst of our civilization, down in our slums and labor-ghettos, we had bred a race of barbarians, of savages; and now, in the time of our calamity, they turned upon us like the wild beasts they were and destroyed us. And they destroyed themselves as well.”

Excerpt From: Jack London. “The Scarlet Plague.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=2CC04B4AAB96855983001EB5ECF5B583

We have, indeed, bred a race of barbarians and savages, but the idea of “labor ghettoes” is amusing. In the real 2010s, we pay them to be idle, because, in part, their labor would have no value.

In London’s book, the absence of The Knowledge, of the Mechanical Arts, makes it impossible to rebuild civilization in time to save the Liberal Arts, of which the elderly protagonist was a professor:

But it will be slow, very slow; we have so far to climb. We fell so hopelessly far. If only one physicist or one chemist had survived! But it was not to be, and we have forgotten everything. The Chauffeur started working in iron. He made the forge which we use to this day. But he was a lazy man, and when he died he took with him all he knew of metals and machinery. What was I to know of such things? I was a classical scholar, not a chemist.. The other men who survived were not educated.

….all that was lost must be discovered over again. Wherefore, earnestly, I repeat unto you certain things which you must remember and tell to your children after you. You must tell them that when water is made hot by fire, there resides in it a wonderful thing called steam, which is stronger than ten thousand men and which can do all man’s work for him. There are other very useful things. In the lightning flash resides a similarly strong servant of man, which was of old his slave and which some day will be his slave again.

….There is another little device that men inevitably will rediscover. It is called gunpowder. It was what enabled us to kill surely and at long distances. Certain things which are found in the ground, when combined in the right proportions, will make this gunpowder. What these things are, I have forgotten, or else I never knew. But I wish I did know. Then would I make powder, and then would I certainly kill Cross-Eyes and rid the land of superstition—

Many writers of apocalyptic fiction make it seem like it would be almost fun. In fact, it would be a miserably long slog

Answer Untruthfully!

With increasing frequency, news sites are hiding their news stories behind an intrusive question. Most of them ask about consumer preferences or personal matters (such as political preferences). This is one of the mildest, which asks about whether you will be making a business decision about purchasing certain technology:

nsa_wants_to_know_you_better

 

Let’s leave apart, a minute, the fact that this is coming from the post-American, Constitution-hostile throne room of a corporation that holds itself above the law and even above the society. Let’s just talk about what it is and what it means to you. 

You may notice these questions tracking advertising you have previously clicked on across many sites, or you may see them coming from out of left field. If you have a normal level of healthy paranoia, the kind that recognizes that even paranoids have real enemies, you will soon be asking yourself some questions.

Some of the questions are a bit… intrusive, when you considered that your answers will be shared with everybody at Google, everyone who gives money to Google, and every agency in a government from which Google makes a life of seeking favors:

a_real_google-nsa_question

Again, this stuff goes into your personal file, and is used to target both advertisers and warrantless, persistent, pervasive government surveillance.

How to answer them? Who is behind them? Where does your answer go, and why? Who has access to your answers? Is it really a good thing to “answer truthfully,” as the shadowy organization behind the questions wants?

Answering truthfully is the worst mistake you can make.

The questions originate either from Google, or from the Mountain View company’s de facto managing partner, the National Security Agency. Google’s interest is to sell your profile to advertisers for more money. They say they safeguard your personal privacy in this, which they only do to the extent it’s needed for them not to lose control of the profile to their customersYour own interests are no factor in the equation. You are never respected, never represented, never consulted.

But that’s only half of it. Your answer is appended to your permanent profile across all the shadow realms of Google, and is available to all with access to Google, including, directly or directly, all United States government agencies, and an increasing number of foreign ones. In the USA, Google is credibly reported to provide direct access to its servers only to NSA. But that claim offers no reassurance, both because NSA does not respect your privacy (or even the laws it ostensibly works under), and because NSA provides unlimited and unsupervised access to other government agencies through so-called task forces and fusion centers, which permit any Federal, state or local agent pull your profile for any or no reason. (The agents are instructed to lie about their information sources on any resulting court documents, which is called by the euphemism “parallel construction”).

What’s more, the NSA connection to Google is not read-only. They can also alter data in your profile. How cool is that? (From their, and Google’s point of view, if not from yours).

Google’s real motto: “Don’t do evil… or we’ll make some money off of it.”

Once the source of the questions and destination of the answers is understood, only a madman would “Answer Truthfully!” even one of these questions.

So you have three options at this point:

  1. Do not answer the questions. In time, the data for the number of people who made it to the Google/NSA Privacy Invasion Questionnaire and backed out may encourage Google and advertisers to throw in the towel on this particular intrusion. In time, it may encourage newspaper managers to see that it is not in their best interest to drive away readers. However, that hinges on newspaper managers being alert enough to recognize their own interests, a proposition for which evidence is weak.
  2. Do answer the questions, but untruthfully. There are several approaches to this. Anything that can provide a hint of the right answer (such as, always choosing the most wrong answer) is probably a mistake. Google (and NSA, and Google’s other spy agency partners) will analyze your answers with very sophisticated algorithms. Choosing your answer consistently based on the position of the response (always first one, always last one, always middle, alternating first and last, etc.) is a superior choice because (1) it betrays nothing about you but your dislike for Google’s, NSA’s, and the newspaper’s invasion of your privacy and (2) it allows you to get through the pop-up Privacy Invasion Questionnaire without reading the responses. This information will be used against you. You gain nothing by providing it. You are under no obligation to tell these moral lepers the truth. 
  3. If you can figure out the advertisers who sponsor these questions, drop their marketing honchos a note telling them you’ve seen the company’s ad for Sex Tours of Thailand or whatever they sell popping up on every single one of your Google results, and you’ve never been in the market for a Patpong boom-boom vacation; the purpose of this is to set the two anti-privacy forces (marketing dweebs and Google) at one another’s throats.

Note that #3 is not exclusive of doing #1 or #2. The first two are mutually exclusive.

If enough people do this, we can pollute Google’s data, and that of the world’s spy agencies.

Exit thought: everyone has heard Google’s sanctimonious, prolefeed-for-the-public motto, and has come to mentally add the in-group-morality extension Google insiders have long operated by: “Don’t be evil… unless there’s a ha’penny in it.” Remember that Google has given complete access to US intelligence agencies, without any apparent thought or consideration. Now, you may be the person who thinks you are completely boring to NSA, but can you guarantee that no government agency, from the politicized IRS to the Amtrak SWAT team, will ever take an interest in you?

Why make these enemies of liberty more knowledgeable about you and yours? It’s not in your best interest. Answer untruthfully.