RANGER AGAINST WAR: December 2010 <

Friday, December 31, 2010

A Gut Yohr

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
--The Road Not Taken
, Robert Frost

A happy New Year! Grant that I

May bring no tear to any eye

When this New Year in time shall end

Let it be said I've played the friend,

Have lived and loved and labored here,

And made of it a happy year."

--Edgar Guest

For last year's words belong to last year's language

And next year's words await another voice.

And to make an end is to make a beginning

--Little Gidding,
T.S. Eliot

Ranger's scatological and somewhat dismal apperception of the New Year must be juxtaposed.

Though we have knocked the idea of a callow and hollow hope which leads policy, hope is not powerless. We hope you enjoy a prosperous New Year, one in which the focus is more on health; on being, versus doing.
Thank you for being there, and for sharing.

Since the world is fractured, here is Verse 10 of the Tao Te Ching (fr. "The Tao of Healing", Trevino). RAW is nothing if not eclectic:

Truth without compassion
is not the whole truth
And healing without a loving spirit
is not true healing.

A miracle is merely the truth
of God made plain
Healing is merely our separation
from God made whole.

There is no difference between
healer and healed,
Both must be willing to dismiss the
ego's banal struggle
And recognize the utter holiness
Of each breath, of all things.

This is the challenge of love.

A la recherche du temps perdu; A gezunt dir in pupik; A tes amours; À la votre!; Terveydeksi ...

Cheers. Peace, love, faith and joy. See ya in 2011.

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Alter Kocker

--You still think hes in there [the outhouse]?
--Yeah, he's in there.

--Well he's holding onto his shit like it was money
--The Unforgiven (1992)

Well, I'll be damned. It's the gentleman guppy.

You know, he's like a turd that won't flush.


Johnny's playroom

Is a bunker filled with sand

He's become a third world man

--Third World Man
, Steely Dan

Why, oh, why

Did this have to happen?

--Why, Oh, Why?
, Psychostick

Ranger isn't much one for high falutin language, so he's given a cultural piece to stand as metaphor for things that are wrong in the world. The episode seems emblematic of something troubling brewing in the American psyche, as George W. Bush might say.

There are some stories that are so disgusting they must be shared. This report originated while Ranger was communing with nature in the Futureworld waterless urinal at the Mayo Clinic (his original mission was to wash his hands after delivering a gallon of piss to the laboratory for heavy metals testing):

Separated by one thin divide was a toilet stall from which emanated startlingly violent blasts of anal expulsions that would lead to an elevation of alert status if they were heard by a Transportation Security Administration bomb expert. But that is not the story.

The story is that the blastee was on the cell phone during this transformative experience describing the large and great lunch that he had eaten at some indiscriminate earlier moment. He was musing upon the excellence of the thing which led to the current offense. Freud would have something to say about both releasing and retaining the excremental remains of the meal.

So why share this? Why subject other to this episode?

Ranger can't help but wonder from where we have come and to where we are going as a race and as individuals on this last day of 2010, a truly awful decade for the U.S. Do we really feel compelled to communicate while shit is blasting from our anal sphincter? Forgive me, but this is beyond my comprehension, truly unfuckingbelievable. TMI.

And yes, the urinal was waterless.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dog Day Afternoon

Photo by Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

Hell no, I won't go

--Vietnam war protest

I won't be doggone,

I'll be long gone

--I'll Be Doggone
, Marvin Gaye

Joyful, joyful, joyful,

as only dogs know how to be happy

with only the autonomy

of their shameless spirit

--A Dog Has Died
, Pablo Neruda

Photo caption:

Basco from Patrol Explosive Detector Dog (PEDD) of US Airforce refuses to go inside a tunnel as US sergeant Matthew Templet from 627 Security Forces Squadran, Joint Base Lewis McChord coax him to seek for possible explosives in an abandoned house in Loya Derah village during a clearance patrol in Zari district of Kandahar province on December 28, 2010.

US Army soldiers patrol the abondoned villages in Zari district to re-clear the area from the explosives as the Afghan villagers have started moving back to their homes. The residents left their village about three years ago when it turned into a battlefield against Talibans.

There is a reason Basco won't go. This dog is no dummy -- he knows there are no Milk Bones in that hole. (Don't we hire these dogs to guide us? He's telling us something!) It seems Basco is smarter than his handlers.

BTB: Why is an Air Force Sergeant on a combat patrol?

[Update 1.18.11:
Dog handler Sgt. Zainah Caye Creamer, 28, was killed in Afghanistan 1.12.11. Her dog, Jofa, reportedly survived.]

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Revisiting Wanat


The WaPo reports today on the Army's revision of the battle of Wanat (Army edits its history of the deadly battle of Wanat). Top officers were absolved of responsibility, foisting the failure off onto the Platoon level.

Gen. Campbell "concluded that the deaths were not the direct result of the officer's mistakes," but if not that, what did cause the deaths? Mistakes = death in combat.

The Army doctrinal formula is, "officers are responsible for everything that is done of fails to be done."

"The Army's final history of the Wanat battle largely echoes Campbell's conclusions, citing the role of 'uncertainty [as] a factor inseparable from any military operation.'

"In its conclusions, the study maintains that U.S. commanders had a weak grasp of the area's complicated politics, causing them to underestimate the hostility to a U.S. presence in Wanat."

Understanding the political situation is not relevant; an Army plans for worst-case scenarios, and soldiers are not politicians. Uncertainty is not the same as poor mission planning. Uncertainties should be addressed in the assumptions section before the Operations Order is finalized.

Poor planning caused these deaths and the failure rests at Battalion and Brigade which were derelict in this action, not at Company or Platoon level. The Commanders may have misunderstood the hostility of the locals, implying Battalion and Brigade leaders were doing best-case estimates rather than worst-case, the more appropriate combat stance.

Did the Chain of Command lack Predator feeds and satellite photos of the position for use by higher headquarters? If the assets needed to fulfill this mission were not allocated, this cannot be the result of a Platoon leader's failure. Asset allocation is a Battalion Commander function.

The responsibility for placement of the Observation Post (OP) should not be placed upon a Lieutenant. This is why the Army has Company Commanders and higher. The fight is fixed in time and space and the facts are constant. What changes are institutional efforts to justify derelict Battalion, Brigade and Company command actions.

Wanat is important because it is a microcosm of the corrupt macrocosm, which is a corrupt phony war.

[cross-posted @ milpub]

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Duck and Cover

Lest we should see where we are
lost in a haunted wood,

Children afraid of the night

Who have never been happy or good,

--Age of Anxiety
, W. H. Auden

Civil defense film
Be sure to include tranquilizers to ease

the strain and monotony of life in a fallout shelter.

A bottle of 100 should be sufficient for a family of four.

Tranquilizers are not a narcotic,

and are not habit-forming

--The Atomic Cafe

Ranger Question of the Day (RQOD):
Why don't we try OBL in absentia?

A fair trial is still possible
since he is one we have not tortured him.

We could then kill him in accordance with law.


What's going on with supposed legitimate media outlets -- especially liberal ones -- feeding into the terrorist fear?

This summer it was the cover of
Time magazine, "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan" (7.29.10), featuring Aisha, whose nose and ears had been cut off by her husband. The message was: The U.S. Army must not leave Afghanistan and Iraq, lest we, too, be complicit in women's defacing.

Now the front page of the New York Times tells us ten days before Christmas, “We have to get past the mental block that says [nuclear attack] too terrible to think about,” according to W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency
(U.S. Rethinks strategy for the Unthinkable). And we know what a stellar record FEMA has (how are those Katrina Houses going?)

This pronouncement is disingenuous on so many levels. First, as the owners of the world's largest nuclear arsenal, we know as well as anyone that a nuclear strike is easily "thinkable". Second, framing the concern in such an epic way curries fear and dread. What is the purpose of maintaining this level of anxiety? Is it to deflect attention from Congressional tax deals, economic fiascoes and phony wars?

This is brazen peddling of free-floating and unrealistic anxiety, a less-than-subtle argument for the continuation of wars which endanger our security far more than they protect it.
Are we so out of touch with reality that the front page of the NYT goads us into ramped up levels of unreasoned fear? And we wonder why there is so much drug use in the U.S.

If we are so afraid of nuclear attacks on our cities, why is the U.S. sitting on 4,500+ nuclear weapons aimed at foreign targets, to include cities? Why is it alright for us, but not for them?

BTW -- have a happy New Year, but stay out of Times Square during the holidays; I read it in the NYT so it must be true.

--Lisa and Jim

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Law and Order

But there is where the Gulag country begins,

right next to us, two yards away from us.

In addition, we have failed to notice an enormous num­ber

of closely fitted, well-disguised doors and gates in these

fences. All those gates were prepared for us, every last one!

And all of a sudden the fateful gate swings quickly open,

and four white male hands, unaccustomed to physical labor

but none­theless strong and tenacious, grab us by the

leg, arm, collar, cap, ear, and drag us in like a sack,

and the gate behind us, the gate to

our past life, is slammed shut once and for all

--The Gulag Archipelago
, Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn

What's good for the goose
is good for the gander


America quivers before the thought of using its powerful judiciary to address the crime of terrorism while Italy shows that terrorism can be addressed successfully in fair civilian court trials.

"An appellate court in Milan upheld on Wednesday the conviction of 23 Americans charged with kidnapping an Egyptian cleric in 2003 and ordered even harsher sentences. All but one of the Americans are Central Intelligence Agency operatives
(Italy: Court Upholds Convictions of Americans in Kidnapping Case)."

The Italian trials prove kidnapping (
=State-sponsored crime) is a crime, even when committed by Central Intelligence Agency operatives (= convicted felons). Terrorists kidnap; states extradite and arrest. It will be interesting to see if the convicted felons will be extradited to Italy. If not, can we say we are a nation of law?

Why are our agents shielded from serving time for their crime, while suspected terrorists are imprisoned indefinitely sans legal proceedings?
This double-standard is reprehensible. (We should only be applying this standard to relations between the sexes.) To maintain two sets of standards is the definition of hypocrisy.

Did our leaders authorize kidnapping and think they could get away with the crime? Our legacy is not Soviet Russia. As U.S.citizens we should be happy if CIA miscreants do their time for their blatant disregard of civilized behavior.

As distasteful were the illegal renditions ordered by the Bush administration, President Obama has gone a step further in his sanctioning of the assassination of U.S. citizens like al-Awlaki Predator drones killing from the sky is also a form of political assassination, having no connection with legitimate military operations. Why are U.S. policies based in criminal actions? Criminality cannot solve criminality.

Kidnapping is not a counter terrorism tactic; it is a crime.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Meritocracy to Mediocrity

Lately it occurs to me,
What a long, strange trip it's been

, Grateful Dead

Over men and horses hoops and garters

Lastly through a hogshead of real fire!

In this way Mr. K. will challenge the world!

--Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite
The Beatles

Instead of trying to build newer and bigger
weapons of destruction,

we should be thinking about getting more use

out of the ones we already have

--Deep Thoughts
, Jack Handey

Sarah Palin, poster child for a new America, was recently given a forum in which to express her scatter-gun anti-Iran thoughts in that paean to journalistic mediocrity, USA Today ("Palin: It's Time to Get Tough on Iran.")

Her lede falls flat precisely because of its hypocrisy:

"Iran continues to defy the international community in its drive to acquire nuclear weapons. Arab leaders in the region rightly fear a nuclear-armed Iran. We suspected this before, but now we know for sure because of leaked diplomatic cables."

So, La Palin brands Wikileaks founder Julian Assange a traitor and a terrorist for his document leakage, but has no qualms about using data acquired by the same dirty deed. Apparently, irony is a lost art among those who hail from the Great White North. Or maybe it is just that expediency trumps consistency.

How do you say, "hypocrite"?

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

I'm so glad we had this time together

Just to have a laugh or sing a song

--Carol Burnett theme

There's a world of difference between

truth and facts.

Facts can obscure the truth

--Maya Angelou

A noble heart cannot suspect in others

the pettiness and malice that it has never felt

--Jean Racine

We gonna kick the ballistics

of our Christmas wishes

--Funky, Funky Xmas,

New Kids on the Block


Just a little note to thank each and every one of you for sharing yourself at RangerAgainstWar. It is really a privilege to exchange ideas with an earnest community which brings so much knowledge to bear. Thank you for taking the time to join in our learning project.

So here is a wassail to you. We hope you are enjoying this blessed caesura from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Breathe deeply, for there is nothing incumbent upon you except to feel appreciation for this day.

To our servicemen and women in theatre, we hope each of you may return well and soon. You are loved and appreciated. That goodwill extends to everyone who has served his country in time of peace or war. Thank you all.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Aces and Eights

They bought the bullet and they

paid with hand grenades

--All My Friends Are Dead,


I'd rather be dead than singing

"Satisfaction" when I'm forty-five

--Mick Jagger


On the way to a recent gun show, Ranger's thoughts went to the National Match M-1 rifle that was the National Championship Rifle of the 1969 National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. That rifle was won by SFC Elmer Mundon.

The rifle then passed into Ranger's possession as the result of a poker bet in which Mundon needed $200 to cover the pot. Ranger happily obliged, Mundon lost, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The rifle is still in my collection, and thinking on it reminds me of the people present at that fateful game -- eight, just like the number of rounds held tightly in the M-1's en bloc clip: In addition to myself and SFC Mundon there was SSG Melvin Thomas; SSG Dick Bartels; SPC 4 Warren Wiley; and SFC Don Taber, SFC Haygood Tatum and SFC Bill Thornton (all three of whom served as snipers in Vietnam).

This was a group of truly shifty and slick men, with the exception of Thornton and Wiley (despite his name). All required a close leadership eye -- to include myself. The number of questionable things I learned from them defies description. All were old Army soldiers, and the die was broken after them.

These guys were so slicky boy that when and if they agreed to anything Ranger said, he knew immediately that he was either in the kill zone or rapidly approaching one. All of them have since passed on; Ranger's the last gambler left.

These days he seldom if ever gambles (at the table). He is left with a rifle and his memories. Like a bet, he believes a memory is something one should not lose. When he is gone, a long ago card game in old wooden barracks will become another piece of dust in the winds of time.

Nobody can understand the attachment an old Ranger has for a piece of wood and steel. A little tale from an old man who never thought he'd get to be an old man.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Much Atwitter About Nothing

Don't -- don't hang back with the brutes!
--A Streetcar Named Desire
Tennessee Williams

People who need people

Are the luckiest people
In the world!

, fr. Funny Girl

Ex-cuuuse Me!
--Let's Get Small (album), Steve Martin


Front page People mag heralds "Brave" Elizabeth Edwards as "courageous", having gone through "hard-fought" battles.

Yes, she may have been the long-suffering wife of less-than-noble politician John Edwards, and she may have carried herself with dignity, save for the last bit when confronting the issue of his mistress and their bastard child,
but so what? These are the vicissitudes of far too many ignoble lives. We never learn, and we never tire of the voyeurism.

The same week, American soldiers were killed in a manner most vile, and who cares? Not
People, which pretends to portray the lives of those worth talking about. A rich entitled white woman dies and everybody is all atwitter; the Phony Wars on Terror continue to tear up our best and bravest, and no one bats an eye over what should be the central issue for patriotic nation, especially during the holidays when we count our blessings.

Where is the concern for our soldiers, who are truly deserving of our sympathy? As Erin Martin, whose Marine husband is recovering in Walter Reed Medical center, wrote in the letters section of USA Today (12.23.10):
"It always amazes me when someone asks me why my husband wants to "kill people" for a living. I have learned that we live in a backward world. ... We praise celebrities who are addicted to drugs and are floating through life like lumps of nothing ..."

Elizabeth Edwards does not deserve my sympathy. She lived a life of luxury and was not exactly a Mother Theresa. Ditto the other denizens of the 12.20.10 front page, Celine Dion and Brad & Angelina.

Why do we hang out in Fantasyland? Let's get back to reality and get our soldier's out of harm's way.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Father's Birthday

I'm glad it's your birthday

Happy birthday to you

, The Beatles

In a break from our usual programming, Ranger wishes to recognize his father Stephen's 89th birthday, what seems a nice, round year.

As a young man he served in the worthy Civilian Conservation Corps, later working as a loader in the coal mines of Southwest Pennsylvania. He married young and remained married for 70 years, until my mother's death.

He served in the Navy During WW II in the Atlantic Theatre, later returning to the mines. Economic necessity caused him to move to Cleveland where he then entered the world of machine work. Ranger reckons the closest he got to him was in 1965-66 when he worked as
a laborer -- a "chip boy" -- in the same factory as a college summer hire.

He was a skilled machinist, running a turret lathe and working steel to the ten-thousandths of an inch. In those pre-CAD days, manual set up was an exacting business. He worked in the defense and space industry towards the end of his working life.

Beyond these basics he enjoyed cars and automotive mechanical work, one of his favorite pastimes. He has always maintained contact with his Navy brethren, and hopefully this June 4 with the help of my nephew Michael, the old sea dog will once again make the annual pilgrimage to Chicago for the reunion of Task Force 22.3. Hopefully I can stand with them on the deck of the U505.

My birthday present will be an article on his wartime service to be submitted to America in WW II magazine.

Ranger's father always worked, never drank and was not frivolous. He was and is a man of his generation, as Ranger is a representative of his.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Relative Worth

Cpl. Stephen Sanford received DSC (2007)

And I believe we need heroes,

I believe we need certain people

who we can measure our own shortcomings by

--Richard Attenborough

The ultimate measure of a man is not

where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,

but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Aspire rather to be a hero than merely appear one

--Baltasar Gracian


In continued consideration of the Medal of Honor, let's compare Staff Sgt Salvatore Guinta's recent MOH (the first living MOH recipient since the Vietnam War) to the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) awarded to Private First Class Stephen C. Sanford.

[See SSG Guinta's MOH citation HERE; PFC Sanford's DSC HERE.]

The short and sweet question is, why did Guinta receive a MOH when Sanford received only a DSC? What differentiates their actions?
Even patriotic site BLACKFIVE posed the following question regarding the dearth of coverage on the actions of PFC Sanford: "Read this and ask why this story hasn't been all over the media. It was released more than 8 weeks ago...only the Army has information on it. I found no media services have picked this up at all..."

Sanford was wounded in the initial burst of fire, yet he elected to continue the assault. He repeatedly assaulted into the face of the enemy though wounded, receiving two "potentially fatal" gunshot wounds in the service of saving and protecting other soldiers. He administered combat life-saving while under direct fire, sustaining two additional solid hit wounds while so doing.

Objectively reading the citations, it is clear that Sanford exceeded the requirements for the MOH, and in fact, his actions exceeded the valorous acts of SSG Guinta.

Of the eight MOH's awarded in the Phony War on Terror (
PWOT ©), three have gone to Special Operations Forces - Special Operations Command assets and five to the rest of the entire military. That is a heavily weighted fact. Is the SOCOM more valorous than regular line soldiers?

Some painful questions arise from this comparison. Would Stephen Sanford have received the MOH if he were to have been killed? Would Sanford have received it if he were an SOF asset?
If so, why?

This is not a criticism of SSG Guinta, who is a fine soldier and an MOH-worthy recipient. The sole purpose is to question the apparent bias in the conference of this prestigious award. If Guinta deserves the MOH, then so, too, does Pvt. Sanford. That is as clear as a front sight on an M4 carbine.

Note: Ranger would like to discuss this post with Stephen Sanford. Please contact us.]

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

War and Remembrance

If I had a child who wanted to be a teacher,

I would bid him Godspeed as if he were going to war.

For indeed the war against prejudice, greed

and ignorance is eternal

-- James Hilton

The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure

conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness.

They recognized the significance of man's spiritual nature,

of his feelings and of his intellect . . .

They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs,

their thoughts, their emotions, and their sensations.

They conferred as against the government

the right to be left alone -- the most comprehensive of rights

and the right most valued by civilized men
-- Supreme Court Justice Brandeis (Olmstead v. the U.S.)

A nation of warriors and fanatics,
marching forward in perfect unity,

all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans,

perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting -

three hundred million people all with the same face

, George Orwell

The Medals of Honor since 2001 have been about loss and failure, moreso than conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty which they are meant to recognize. Although the medals recognize gallantry, the gallantry is to no end. The reality is the futility and conspicuous waste of young, vibrant American fighting men, to no discernable purpose.

Of all of the Phony War on Terror (
PWOT ©) MOH's, only SFC Paul Smith's is a validation of soldierly skills, leadership, devotion to duty and the subsequent validation of soldierly valor. Of all of the PWOT MOH's to date, only SFC Smith's represented the completion of a mission, albeit at the loss of the soldier's life.

Smith's sacrifice saved a collection point for wounded soldiers, and SFC Smith's loss was for the greater good.
All of the subsequent medals represent the failure of arms. The medals have gone to sacrificial lambs throwing themselves on grenades to save their comrades. This valor ignores the validity of their sacrifice.

The MOH's of the Special Operations Command went to Michael Mansoor, a SEAL that self immolized, and Murphy and Miller, who both symbolized exceptional courage dedicated to the completion of their assigned missions.

However, courage has become institutionalized as a symbol of defeat and frustration within a military that has become devoid of success.
Our losses have become our victories; our medals symbolize a devotion to combat that has no end point and no military significance.

Historically, the MOH was a representation of hope and duty that led to victory; it has now come to signify self-immolation and meaningless death. It is not that heroic actions are not occurring -- certainly Pararescue Technical Sergeant
John Chapman on Roberts Ridge (Operation Anaconda) should have received the MOH, without question. Yet despite these episodes of unmistakable heroism, fully recognized or not, the nagging question remains.

Our medals have become our Cassandras.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Further on SSG Miller's Medal of Honor

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven

--Ecclesiastes 3:1

Man's most valuable trait is
a judicious sense of what not to believe


Further thoughts on SSG Millers Medal of Honor action:

The Special Operations Forces (SOF) MOH's of Lt. Murphy and SSG Miller are similar in that neither team had a realistic chance of fulfilling their mission. Bravado and bluster aside, a mission must be realistically planned and executed, and most importantly, must have a reasonable chance of being successful with assets available and forces engaged.

In Murphy's scenario the team was compromised and forced to fight for their survival. In Miller's scenario the team was sent on a mission with no familiarity training with the ANA forces, lacking translators and solid intelligence. The hunters became the prey; the mission should never have been launched.

Both ODA and ANA small unit elements were sent into contact with a company-sized enemy force; this was a failure of intelligence functions. They either knew this fact or not, and either indicts negligent staff functioning. The ODA Commander should have required firm intelligence prior to kick off.
Both scenarios indicate a lack of professionalism at the command level.

In Miller it is apparent that the friendly elements were never decisively engaged, nor did enemy forces have effective fires placed upon them. While the Afghan Army element was pinned down and lost forward momentum, they could freely move to the rear by whatever route they chose. They, in fact, did so.

During this phase the ODA, possessing vehicles with mounted weapons which provided a modicum protection, were never used for tactical. They had freedom of maneuver to the rear but they did not prudently pull back into hasty defensive positions. The simulated video of the action indicates this was a possibility. The question becomes, why didn't they break contact, which would have been the prudent course of action?

It lacks military sense to expect a small element to attack a
larger entrenched enemy possessing the high ground. One wonders if the ODA Commander had control of the point element at any time during this engagement. One further wonders why the Patrol Leader was not with the engaged element of his patrol (normal combat leadership.)

Further, are the present SOF forces trained to be overly aggressive, and
do only aggressive personnel pass selection to these units. There is a time to attack and a time to defend, and that is what doctrine, training and experience dictate to a leader when engaged in deadly close combat.

As young Infantry officers we were repeatedly indoctrinated to distinguish between effective and ineffective fire, and to temper our actions accordingly. A soldier is not expected to assault overwhelming odds when an escape route is available and no other units will be adversely affected by their actions. Perhaps this is the difference between soldiering and warriorhood.

In Miller's scenario, a fine loyal and dedicated soldier died to what military purpose? Even if all the enemy were killed in this fight we still see evidence that ANA forces were inadequate to the task. Additionally, this terrain could not be held indefinitely, so what was the point of the exercise?

While this is no denigration of SSG Miller's actions, there are questions that should be asked beyond the simple waving of the colors. The U.S. cannot continue to assign missions that lack tactical value and serve no strategic purpose. Simple knock-down, drag-out fights are not military science but rather, mindless wastes of lives.


Ranger does not like to politicize the death of any soldier, but how do insurgents against a corrupt Afghan government equate to enemies of the United States? How does their occupation of their tribal lands adversely affect our freedoms or safety?

Even if the enemy were hard core Arab al-Qaeda fighters the value of this fight is questionable. Killing armed insurgents does not make America one iota safer and surely does nothing to stabilize the created myth that is the Afghan nation.

The Vietnam War was my only experience and this colors my critique. My unit had large numbers of casualties and great bravery and heroism was the order of the day. Yet none of this led to military success. No political success was discernible, either -- How does this differ from Iraq or Afghanistan?

Meanwhile, good soldiers fight and die for what? There must be
meaning beyond the violence; this was not clear in 1970-71 and is still elusive on today's battlefields.

This discussion on SSG Miller's MOH discussed the hows, but perhaps the more important and difficult question is, why?

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SSG Miller MOH, Pt. 3

Pavel Sidorenko (Estonia)

SSG Miller MOH Pt 3:
Things Don't Line Up


As the battle reaches its conclusion, inconsistencies and questions stack up:

"Throughout the engagement, the insurgent fire around Staff Sgt. Miller was so intense that his fellow team members could not see him due to the dust, debris, and RPG and small arms fire impacting around him. During the ensuing 25-minute battle, Staff Sgt. Miller was mortally wounded by a second gunshot to his upper torso under his left arm. Despite suffering a second and fatal wound, Staff Sgt. Miller remained steadfast and continued his selfless acts of heroism. He provided essential disposition and location reports of insurgent actions and he relentlessly fired his SAW until he expended all of his ammunition and threw his final hand grenade."

If there was no visual contact between the ODA element and SSG Miller, how can we be assured that he was not killed by friendly fire? The ANAs carry the same weapons as the enemy. This would not be the first time that friendly data as been twisted to fit the official narrative. Though speculative, it is a valid question. The situation is anomalous and defies logical infantry evaluation.

"At the first opportunity, members of Staff Sgt. Miller’s team bound up to his position to render aid and recover him. Enemy reinforcements overwhelmed the recovery team with direct fire causing the team to seek cover. During the recovery attempt, the enemy’s precision was clearly evident as team members sustained multiple hits from small arms fire to their body armor and equipment."

This still was not effective enemy fire. If it were, the team would have suffered KIA's. SSG Miller was the lone casualty.

"Approximately an hour and 45 minutes later, a quick reaction force arrived, which allowed the ODA to lead a patrol back into the valley to recover Staff Sgt. Miller. As a testament of the enemy’s tenacity, the quick reaction force sent to assist with recovery operations sustained additional casualties from intense direct RPG and small arms fire. Because of the enemy’s dominance of the terrain and potential for loss of additional lives, the patrol was forced to use its second CCP and two MEDVACs."

When it takes a QRF 1 hour 45 minutes to respond to a call for help, there is a remarkable criticism here. A QRF should be dedicated, combat-ready with transportation on-station. Why the delay? Why was the engaged unit so far from mutual support?

Was the planning and execution of this mission realistic and grounded in basic rules of ground combat? Units should not be thrown out piecemeal to be chewed up by concentrated enemy elements.
Why didn't intel know about these enemy dispositions? Where were the visual or photo recons of the route? Was this operation a shot in the dark, or planned and considered in a professional and soldierly manner? Did the ODA Commander have control of the maneuver element? Why would the untested, unknown ANA forces be sent into such reported fire? Why would a Special Forces element? Tactics imply something other than suicidal action.

"Post-battle intelligence reports indicate that in excess of 140 insurgents participated in the ambush, more than 40 were killed and over 60 were wounded. Staff Sgt. Miller is credited with killing more than 16 and wounding over 30 insurgents. His valor under fire from a numerically superior force, complete selflessness and disregard for his own life, combined with his unmatched ability to accurately identify and engage insurgent positions, allowed his patrol to move to the safety of covered positions."

SSG Miller is credited with killing or wounding 46 fighters reportedly in superior fighting positions. Assuming that he carried 300 rounds for his SAW, this means he hit flesh 46 times out of 300 -- a 1:6 ratio. This is astounding accuracy from a squad auto weapon. Especially since the area was reportedly covered by explosions and dust that kept the team from maintaining visual contact.

"Staff Sgt. Miller’s selfless acts saved the lives of his seven of his ODA members and 15 Afghan soldiers. As a result of Staff Sgt. Miller’s heroic actions, the Gowardesh Insurgency was dealt a crippling blow, decimating insurgent forces involved in the battle, and shattering their morale and confidence. Staff Sgt. Miller’s actions exemplify the honored tradition of military heroism and reflect distinct credit upon himself, Special Operations Task Force–33, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force–Afghanistan, Special Operations Command Central, and the U.S. Army."

Summary: This was a classic meeting engagement in which friendly forces had every indication this would be an ambush site. A prudent Commander would have developed the situation and made a correct military decision not to conduct a hasty attack, as they unfortunately attempted.

The doctrinal course of action was clearly indicated: Fall back and conduct a planned attack with additional assets. Instead, this became a totally reactive, fragmented hasty reaction, leaving the initiative to the enemy. Due to the combat power of the hostiles, SSG Miller's one-man symbolic attack had no military significance. His U.S. comrades were not in the kill zone. We mourn his death, all the moreso for its needlessness.

Tomorrow: Closing thoughts

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Partnering with the Unknown -- SSG Miller MOH, Pt. 2

Bullet in a sand storm
Looking for a place to land

Bullet in a sand storm

Full heart beats an empty one

In the deck they dealt to man

Use me while you can

--Use Me While You Can
, Bruce Cockburn

SSG Miller Medal of Honor, Pt. 2:


When we left
Part I, "the entire friendly force still has the freedom of maneuver, has not decisively engaged and maintains initiative, and the main enemy fighting positions had not yet been approached or engaged. At this point it is still a fight to establish and maintain contact."

Their next move contradicts military doctrine.

It is a strange decision to partner with an unknown friendly unit and enter intense combat without knowing the friendlies capabilities and proclivities. This
ad hoc approach is NOT the way elite units operate. One cannot plan in-depth with an unknown quantity leading the point.

"During the movement, Staff Sgt. Miller continually reinforced proper patrolling techniques as well as repeatedly adjusted and corrected the ANA rate of speed. Realizing that the engagement area was located in the mouth of a small, extremely steep and narrow valley that created a natural choke point, Staff Sgt. Miller directed the ANA to disperse from a file into a modified wedge."

Why would anyone enter a choke point -- another word for "kill zone" -- when the high ground is obviously well-defended? Why not pull back and request the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) or conventional force to reinforce the effort? Simply put, twelve men do not an assault force make.

"This contact initiated a near-ambush from a company-sized group of insurgents. The insurgent forces fired on Staff Sgt. Miller’s patrol with multiple PKM machine guns, RPGs, and AK-47 assault rifles from distances of less than 25 meters.

"The patrol was completely vulnerable, in the kill zone and without cover in a complex ambush with insurgent fighting positions located to the front (East), the left (North), and the right (South)."

Why did the patrol enter into such a precipitous tactical environment? When does aggressive soldiering become foolhardy activity?

"It soon became evident that numerous insurgents occupied prepared, elevated and hardened fighting positions in the mountain rock with overhead cover along the North and South valley ridgeline. Insurgents on the valley floor to Staff Sgt. Miller’s direct front, left, and right were fighting in defilade and possessed ample cover and concealment necessary for the employment of overwhelming fires on the totally exposed patrol."

This is confusing as the enemy was in defilade. If they are in defilade, then aren't you also in defilade?

"In the face of devastating insurgent fire, the ANA located directly behind Staff Sgt. Miller broke formation and bound away downhill and out of the kill zone, leaving Staff Sgt. Miller alone and with no support in the open terrain."

If the fire was so devastating, why were no ANAs killed while pulling out of the area? Why would anybody occupy open terrain in the face of intense fire? Why not pull bakc and organize a hasty defensive position? Why not bring the SAW back into the main perimeter to provide direct defensive fire? Why not dismount the vehicular 7.62 machine guns and ground-mount them for defensive purposes?

"To the front of Staff Sgt. Miller’s position one PKM machine gun and five AK47s were inflicting devastating hostile fire on the retreating ANA members and the remaining ODA patrol. Understanding the potential for catastrophe, Staff Sgt. Miller boldly charged the enemy and accurately engaged the entire force with his squad automatic weapon, thus eliminating the threat.

"With heavy fire from insurgent forces from all sides of his position engulfing him, Staff Sgt. Miller continued to engage at least four other insurgent positions, killing or wounding at least 10 insurgents."

This is remarkable since previously we saw that the enemy was in defilade.

"The darkness of the night and limited visibility made Staff Sgt. Miller’s weapon, also the most casualty producing, the greatest threat to the insurgent ambush. The highlighted muzzle flash and the distinct sound from his SAW instantly marked Staff Sgt. Miller as an easily identifiable target."

Why was the MK 19 not serviced and returned to action? Why were the vehicle MG's not utilized by the ODA to provide covering fire? Where was the on-call artillery?

"Staff Sgt. Miller’s cover fire was so accurate that it not only provided the necessary cover to save his team, it also suppressed the enemy to the right flank of the patrol, to the point where they could not reposition from that direction against the ODA for the duration of the engagement."

This belies the idea of the enemy being in defilade. Also, since they were in prepared positions they would have avenues of escape safe from direct fire. Artillery would have been most useful at this time. One man cannot keep an enemy company-sized force pinned down, especially when they occupied numerous prepared fighting positions.

"During his final charge forward, Staff Sgt. Miller threw two hand grenades into fighting positions, destroying the positions and killing or wounding an additional four insurgents. Only when Staff Sgt. Miller realized his fellow team members were out of immediate danger, and in positions to support him, did he attempt to move for cover."

Neither the ANA nor ODA elements entered the kill zone. Only Miller was forward and out of supporting fire range prior to his sustaining his mortal wound. This is not prudent soldiering. Where does valor split from ill-advised tactics? The teams were able to move, and Miller's fire was not supernatural.

Pt. III: Things Don't Line Up

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

SSG Robert Miller's Medal of Honor, Pt. 1

This is an analysis of Staff Sergeant Robert Miller's Medal of Honor action 1.25.08.
It is difficult to do a tactical analysis without access to After Action Reports and Operation Orders, but since these were not available the online "official narrative" was utilized.

"Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, U.S. Army, heroically distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous conduct in the face of the enemy of the U.S. while serving as the Weapons Sergeant, Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force–33, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force–Afghanistan, Forward Operating Base Naray, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"During the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 25, 2008, ODA 3312 conducted a combat reconnaissance patrol to Gowardesh, Afghanistan, to confirm or deny enemy activity and/or insurgents presence in the vicinity of Chen Khar in order to clear the valley of insurgent safe havens. ..."

The stated mission was to confirm or deny enemy activity. The mission would lead to clearing the valley of insurgent (= U.S. enemy) safe havens.

Was there an implied mission to close with the enemy, or was the goal merely to make contact to confirm their presence? Surely a 24-man patrol could not be expected to clear or hold a well-known strong point. Making contact can lead to several results, but meeting engagements such as this are especially sensitive as the enemy situation is unknown.
A prudent Commander would not assault an unknown number of dug-in enemy who hold the high ground without properly defining the situation.

As the combined ODA and ANA convoy neared its objective, ODA 3312 was forced to halt twice to dismount and explode insurgent-emplaced boulders along its route. Staff Sgt. Miller and other members of ODA 3312 recognized this tactict as a potential precursor to an insurgent ambush and immediately heightened security. Recognizing the historical enemy tactic used to canalize and ambush Coalition forces, the detachment dismounted an overwatch element.

This is prudent, especially if the vehicular firepower was utilized as an overwatch feature. This would cover movement by firepower.

"Staff Sgt. Miller led the overwatch elements as the threat of imminent danger increased. The rocky, snow-packed terrain, freezing temperatures and a fierce wind chill further exacerbated the ODA’s movement to the objective. The ODA’s only Pashto speaker, Staff Sgt. Miller took charge of the dismounted element and assembled partnered ANA forces to ensure they could move under cover."

Why was there no interpreter assigned to this mission? In addition, why were the partnered units not familiar with one another? Why was the lone soldier sent with the ANAs? Doesn't modern Special Forces maintain buddy teams? What Commander would send a soldier to an unknown unit without accompaniment by even a single friendly? Why would you send a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) without a cover?

"Once ODA 3312 arrived at the target compound, Staff Sgt. Miller led the ANA and established security around the ODA’s ground mobility vehicles. After security was established, the team confirmed through the employment of an unmanned aerial vehicle that 15 to 20 insurgents were congregating and occupying prepared fighting positions in the targeted compound.

"Maintaining his situational awareness, Staff Sgt. Miller immediately jumped into his vehicle’s turret and engaged the enemy with its mounted MK19 40mm automatic grenade launcher."

Key point: They had a drone above to provide accurate combat intelligence of enemy disposition, to include locations and strengths.
Since the team was vehicular-mounted it is safe to assume that they had mobility and firepower, to include beaucoup ammunition to fight either attacking or defending. They were probably carrying at least two basic loads as they were expecting contact. This would have been more than sufficient as they had air and artillery support.

"As a result of his superior tactical skills, he positively marked the enemy while simultaneously describing the area to the JTAC. Without his expert marksmanship and accurate description of the area, the JTAC would not have been able to provide accurate grid locations for close air support."

Where were the reports from the drone? Why were the close air support elements not able to spot the enemy locations? This was not a one-man show -- there were JTAC and air assets operating, as they should.

"As noted by the team’s JTAC, Staff Sgt. Miller’s involvement in the employment of CAS was largely responsible for the accuracy of four 30mm strafe runs and the emplacement of three precision-guided GBU38 munitions on the objective. As a result of his efforts, two A-10 Warthogs and two F-15 Strike Eagles dealt lethal effects onto numerous enemy positions and disrupted their ability to maneuver."

Accepting this assertion, why do we even have a team JTAC? These assets are not blind and the target area was clear and visible.

Without even seeing the enemy it would be sufficient and desirable to put suppressive fire on the heights above the engaged team. This is what artillery support does.
This scenario required overwhelming fire support in order to offer a reasonable expectation of mission completion. Why was there no Forward Observer/Artillery Liaison Officer assigned from the supporting artillery units -- policy in most ground combat scenarios. How accurate does a cluster bomb run have to be, anyway? If friendlies are pinned in the valleys, the cluster units go on the hillsides.

"As Staff Sgt. Miller continued to neutralize numerous insurgent positions, his MK19 sustained a catastrophic malfunction, which eliminated it for the duration of the battle. Without hesitation, Staff Sgt. Miller quickly transitioned from the MK19 to an M240B machine gun mounted on the rear of his vehicle and continued to effectively engage the enemy."

Why would the vehicle with the MK 19 be pulled into a defilade defensive position to be serviced, later to be brought back into operation? Any weapon can be cleared, and surely a defective gun was not carried on the mission; if so, this was inattention to detail.
The vehicle and gunner were not pinned down or receiving effective enemy fire at this point, as manning the vehicular-mounted guns would not have been possible. That is the difference between effective and ineffective fire.

"Understanding the peril of the battle and the composition of his force, Staff Sgt. Miller moved from his firing position and began emplacing ANA soldiers in positions to provide overwatch, detect movement from the high ground, observe the rear of the patrol and provide security to the flank of the ground assault. His actions provided security for his team and enabled them to maintain their focus on enemy targets. Once ample security was established, Staff Sgt. Miller re-engaged the enemy."

What was the rest of the team doing during this action?

"Upon completion of the initial contact and CAS, the ODA commander directed a dismounted patrol to conduct battle damage assessment and a post-CAS strike assessment of the destroyed insurgent positions. Sensing the need to provide the ANA additional assistance, the ODA commander charged Staff Sgt. Miller with the responsibility to lead the partnered ANA force in an advisory role.

"With the proficiency of an already-proven combat leader, Staff Sgt. Miller briefed the ANA platoon leadership on the scheme of maneuver onto the objective in their native Pashto language. Staff Sgt. Miller established rapport and instilled confidence in the ANA platoon leadership and its soldiers despite being partnered with the ANA platoon only 30 minutes prior to the mission."

At this point the entire friendly force still has the freedom of maneuver, has not decisively engaged and maintains initiative, but the main enemy fighting positions had not yet been approached or engaged. At this point it is still a fight to establish and maintain contact.

NEXT: Partnering with unknowns

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

All I Want

And so this is Christmas

For weak and for strong

For rich and the poor ones

The world is so wrong

--Happy Christmas
, John Lennon

All I want for Christmas

is my two front teeth,

my two front teeth,

see my two front teeth

--All I Want for Christmas
Don Gardner


Below is a perverse inversion of Mr. Gardner's happy little tune.

Whilst perusing the "Barter" section of the Tallahassee Craigslist I happened upon the following (unedited):

barter ? 4 dentist to do dental work. (tallahassee)

Date: 2010-12-04, 9:55PM EST
Reply to: sale-jwqrt-2095738470@craigslist.org

I am in need of a good dentist i have a few bad teeth that need to be pulled yet i have no money or incurance i am willing to barter if you know of a good dentist who would work with me please contact me by e mail with the much needed info please and thank you. i have called all the dentist around gone to the health dept. as well as er thats how much i am in bad pain yet no one will do anything for me this is really bad and i do not want to be in pain for christmas please help . merry christmas. all i want for christmas is my few teeth pulled. good day

This is a slice of how the other half lives. It is a humble request: Not for tooth repair -- neither filling nor crown -- simply, tooth extraction due to pain.

I replied, informing him that the local neighborhood health center offers free dental extractions a few days per month to indigent clients. No other services are offered -- no prophylaxis and no repair. Obamacare will do nothing to reach the needs of such individuals and yet, if a society wishes to largely eradicate what it terms "indolence", it will need to have its workforce ready to work. Hungry and otherwise blighted individuals are not ready to run the race. Many people are out of the entitlement loop.

This individual is probably not thinking about the phony wars and their deleterious impact upon our society, eroding access to even the meager resources which might quell his nagging burden of pain.

All I want for Christmas ...

[The next three days will be a battle analysis of one of the Medal of Honor engagements, that of Staff Sergeant Robert Miller. We hope you are able to participate.]

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Asymmetrical Awards


The military loves buzzwords like asymmetrical warfare, but often fails to examine the words beyond their simplest, most useful meaning.

If our wars are asymmetrical, then are our soldier's heroism and awards also become asymmetrical?
Can asymmetrical warfare produce symmetrical valor and asymmetrical awards for this valor (i.e., medals)? Unlike Napoleon, the U.S. Army does not travel on its stomach but rather upon its awards and decorations. While we do not win many wars lately, but the awards sure do look good.

The Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) is so insubstantial, unquantifiable and insignificant that the suffering and valor of the fights -- though real -- seem diminutive and illusory compared to symmetrical war standards. While our soldiers are exemplary, the so-called wars and battles are devoid of any meaning beyond the violence.

The awarding of medals for valor rests upon the assumption that the violence has a legitimate purpose. Medals try to reassure us that combat is not the same as a drive-by shooting or a barroom brawl. Our medals add dignity to an undignified endeavor, but one which it is presumably undertaken in order to reestablish some more positive order to society. All combat soldiers understand the undignified part of the equation; the only possible salvation is the idea that there is a larger purpose to the brutality.

A brief trip through past award winners gives an idea of what is being suggested:

Lew Millet led a company-sized bayonet assault against a dug-in and fortified Chinese main line of resistance. Contrast this against Staff Sergeant Robert Miller's death struggle; the substance is lacking (with no disrespect to Miller.)

Contrast Lt. Murray's Medal of Honor (MOH) to Gene Ashley's at the Battle of Lang Vei, or Franklin Miller's in Studies and Observations Group (SOG). Think of Crandall's MOH at LZ X-Ray, or Commando Kelley at Anzio. Think of Sergeant York. Think of the magnitude of these past battles.

Assuredly Lt. Murray met the standard for the award, but the scenario lacked military logic. One must ask: Why are we expending valor for no recognizable purpose?

Compare recent MOH winner SSG Salvatore Giunta to Captain Donlon's award, the first of the U.S. Vietnam War. Think of SSG Basilone on Guadalcanal. If Basilone had caved, the perimeter of a Regiment would have been fractured. One man prevented the collapse of a front, while SSG Guinta saved two men. Again, SSG Giunta acted with courage and valor, but it is a flavorless meal leaving no sense of fulfillment.

Perhaps that is why SSG Giunta was angry upon being interviewed after receiving his award. Perhaps he understood the essential insignificance of the losses his unit incurred, for it is there where he put his emphasis -- on the loss, rather than the gain.

The award is real, but the circumstances are like wisps of pipe smoke in nature.

{SFC Smith's MOH is not mentioned because this was a force-on-force battle on a conventional battlefield, and was not asymmetrical warfare.}

The actions of all of the Medals of Honor from Iraq and Afghanistan pale to insignificance when viewed historically. This is not a criticism of our soldiers but rather of our political leadership which puts brave men in untenable circumstances. It should be noted: All of the awards in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan did not add up (will not add up) to victory.

Valor is too precious to expend frivolously. It is apparent that our soldiers are now pawns and targets in incomprehensible and unjustifiable conflicts, and all the sound bytes and awards cannot justify the non-military complexion of the violence.

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