Brad Taylor, Author Brad Taylor, Author Sat, 20 May 2017 15:06:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Syrian Conundrum Part III: Crossing the red line…Again Sun, 09 Apr 2017 23:37:29 +0000 To say the least, the Tomahawk strike on Syria has caused a great amount of chatter throughout the world, but most of it is misplaced and some is outright outlandish. I thought I’d weigh in, not in a partisan way, with an agenda, but simply to clear the air a bit. So here, in no […]

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To say the least, the Tomahawk strike on Syria has caused a great amount of chatter throughout the world, but most of it is misplaced and some is outright outlandish. I thought I’d weigh in, not in a partisan way, with an agenda, but simply to clear the air a bit. So here, in no order of precedence, are the primary questions being asked:

Who did the chemical strike in Syria?

The minute I heard that chemical weapons had been used in Idlib, the first thing I thought was, “That makes no sense whatsoever. It has to be the rebels.” Assad, for all his faults as a dictator and a murderous thug, is nothing if not a survivor. Two days before the attack, President Trump acknowledged this. Both his secretary of state and his ambassador to the UN said that his removal was no longer a goal of US policy. For Assad, this is a win-win. Through Russian and Iranian help, he is slowly but surely winning the civil war in Syria, and without outside interference, the endstate is preordained. What, on the surface, would cause outside interference? A horrific act, such as the use of chemical weapons.

So why on earth would Assad do such a thing? It doesn’t make sense. For one, chemical weapons are designed for a specific reason. Yes, they kill, but they do more than that. They deny terrain, block approaches, generally make areas uninhabitable, or instill terror that forces the other side to capitulate. Unlike a bomb that just explodes, they present a problem that has to be resolved long after the strike. It’s why they were invented. In this case, the weapon used did none of that. It wasn’t even in an area with a concentration of rebels. A conventional bomb could just as easily have been used. But it wasn’t. So why on God’s green earth would Assad choose to use it, knowing the outcry that would be engendered, and knowing President Trump’s chosen policy position?

One possibility is he didn’t do the strike, but someone inside his orbit did. Someone who was now antithetical to his desires, and knew the strike would cause massive repercussions that might cause his downfall. I thought about this for a bit, but found it far fetched. Assad officially turned over all of his WMD after the 2013 Obama fake “red line”, which means any he kept behind would have been under serious lock and key. A dissident regime member would need a significant number of like-minded men to load, arm, and use a WMD from an aircraft. The weapons would be kept separate from the usual ordinance, with significant restrictions on their withdrawal, and even more on having them loaded on an aircraft. So, you’d have to have an enormous conspiracy of high level members of the regime who a) knew where the weapons were secretly stored, b) had the ability to get them out to use secretly, and c) hide such a thing from an entire strike package of pilots and planners. It’s much more than a single aircraft, and it just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Another possibility is it was a rebel strike (or a strike on a rebel chemical facility, which is what Russia is claiming). Initially, this held water with me. It’s the only thing that makes sense, given the state of play and the fact that the weapons’ use held no extra value to the regime. A conventional bomb would work just as well, and the downsides to chemical far outweigh any upside. Two things overcame my doubt: One, every intelligence service on the earth (outside of Russia and Wikileaks) states it was the regime. Admittedly, I’ve heard this over an over for the last few days, but still thought, “That doesn’t make sense. Am I falling for a narrative to uphold a strike?” In fact, the alt-right conspiracy theorists are saying just this thing – that it was a “false flag” attack perpetrated by the “deep state” (so American “cuckservatives” did the attack? I can’t keep up…) to engender a response. For them, the term “false flag” is a catch all that’s been used for everything from the Murrow Federal building to Sandy Hook, with 9/11 in between, so I had a little cognitive dissonance when I found myself agreeing with them. But as the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t out to get you. So what’s the proof that it was the regime?

This strike held something different: It was Sarin nerve gas, and that is not easy to manufacture, and even harder to stabilize and weaponize. The only other time Sarin was used was also by the regime, in 2013. Since then there have been several more chemical attacks in both Syria and Iraq, but they were of a lesser variety, using chlorine or mustard gas, both of which are far easier to manufacture than Sarin. Sarin is a killer of the first order, and is something that requires a state capability to produce and weaponize. You can’t make it in a bathroom, unlike mustard gas.

The fact that Sarin was used implicitly implicates the regime. But maybe it wasn’t Sarin? Maybe anti-Assad forces are just calling it that because they know the repercussions. I’d believe that but for two reasons: 1) As I said above, there have been multiple chemical attacks in this war since the 2013 attack, and none of them have been called Sarin. They’ve all been called chlorine or mustard, so it doesn’t make sense that everyone in Syria would suddenly start calling THIS attack Sarin. 2) Multiple autopsies, both from inside Syria and outside, have stated that the gas used was Sarin. This leads to the conclusion that it was, in fact, Sarin, which leads to the ultimate conclusion that it was the regime. No two-bit rebel group – not even ISIS – would have the capability to manufacture the weapon in question. Which means it was from the regime.

At the end of the day, as idiotic as it appears, it has to be the regime. It’s Occum’s razor here. So why do it? My thoughts: As I said in a blog from 2013, after watching what happened to Qaddafi when he turned over his WMD, Assad would be stupid to do the same, and I didn’t think he would back then. From that blog:

If anything, Assad has looked at the past and realized one of the few things keeping him in power are precisely his chemical weapons.  One of the primary – and smart – reasons we haven’t conducted “regime change” with him like we did with Qaddafi is because we’re afraid of those weapons ending up with a bunch of fanatical jihadists.  If he relinquishes his weapons, he loses that edge, and as I said before, his survival is the only thing he holds dear.  In fact, I’m sure he’s looking at recent past history.  Under President Bush, we convinced Qaddafi to give up all of his WMD capability, verified by international inspectors.  Fast forward ten years, and President Obama is launching airstrikes to remove him, regardless of the jihadist rebels and regional chaos that would follow his fall.  Assad knows full well that if Qaddafi had kept his WMD, there would never have been any NATO airstrikes because the west would have feared the consequences.  With the WMD out of play, the west could pretend to be humanitarian by dismantling Qaddafi’s regime, and then allow the country to fall into chaos without worrying about the aftermath.  After all, it’s way, way over there and not something that can affect us.  Throw WMD in the mix though, and we’d spend a little more time debating the outcome before slinging missiles.  No, if Assad’s learned anything, it’s keeping his weapons (and using them), only garners a potential pinprick, but giving them up guarantees his eventual fall.

Turns out, I was right, but having the weapons hidden does him no good. He needs to let folks know he has them, as that is the one thing that will give us pause on his overthrow. He needed a small strike to show that he did, in fact, have such weapons even after he said he’d given them up, and with the early assurances of the new administration saying he was not a priority, he decided to let the secret slip. He was putting the world on notice that he does have WMD, and if we overthrow him they will fall into the hands of the chaos left behind. The only counter-balance to Russian and Iranian attempts to prop up the Assad regime was/is the United States, and Assad had a moment in time when the administration stated that he was no longer a target. Given that pause, he wanted the world to know he HADN’T given up his WMD, and his downfall would cause those to be unleashed in terrorist hands. For him, it was a bulwark to protect his regime, and he read the backlash for what it would be – a limited strike – but also knew the back-room chatter in places that matter for his survival would completely change. Now, removing him would involve significant repercussions beyond just quibbling over who would be in charge after his fall. It would involve containing a clear and present danger to us, and in this gambit, Assad more than likely succeeded. Violent overthrow of his regime is now something that will give us pause, so as loony as it seems on the surface, there is some strategic logic in Assad’s strike.

Or, maybe he’s just batshit crazy. Either way, the above will play out.

What did our retaliatory strike gain?

On the surface, the strike did little to the Assad regime, so little, in fact, that aircraft were taking off from the same airfield we hit less than 24 hours later, but this is shortsighted. The strike did two things – and both of them are game changers. One, it showed that the US is willing and able to use military force for a transgression involving chemical weapons. I said this in 2013, namely that you can’t create a redline and not enforce it. Chemical weapons are unlike others. Some say that it’s ridiculous to go haywire over chemical and then sit back while conventional munitions slaughter – and there is some credence to that – but allowing chemical munitions to be used without repercussions is allowing an expansion of sanctioned violence that is antithetical to the world order. To the layman, it may make little sense that we care whether someone is killed with a bullet or suffocates to death by neurotoxin, but there is a difference, just as there is between dying in battle and getting burned alive on video by ISIS. The fact remains that there is a world order, and that order is predicated on precedence. Allowing these attacks to continue sets precedence for any other two-bit dictator out there. This strike put a much-needed marker down.

Two, on a bigger geopolitical scale, it showed that the United States is willing to use force, period. That, on the surface, should be a given, but with Obama’s missed redline in 2013, it’s most certainly not. Telling someone in a bar that if they bump you one more time, you’ll hit them, is a hell of a lot different than actually getting bumped and making a choice. At that point, you have two responses: Hit them, or not. When you don’t, you tell everyone else in the bar that your bluff was just that – a bluff. Whack them in the head and everyone else sees the blow – and that everyone else is North Korea, Iran, Russia, and every other state that wants to bump us. Trump just put them all on notice that the bump WILL engender a response, and the response of the US arsenal is a pretty heavy thing to go against. Make no mistake, the strike was limited, but the calculations now going on in every seat of government – both friendly and enemy – is wildly different from three days ago. All of Trump’s isolationist rhetoric on the campaign trail just went flying out the window, and the world took notice.

What does this mean for the outcome of the civil war in Syria?

Very little. I hear the pundits on TV breathlessly claiming that the strike has altered the calculus of Russia/Iran/Assad, but that’s not the case. The goal, pure and simple, was to prevent Assad from using chemical weapons in the future, and in that, it will succeed. Assad would be a lunatic to use them again – but if I’m correct, he got what he wanted out of the strike. The world now knows that he DIDN’T give up his WMD, and if he falls, so do the chemical weapons stockpiles. The strike will in no way bring him to any negotiation table – especially if he still has the support of Iran and Russia – and will not lead to more involvement by the United States. It’s not, as some have stated, mission creep whereby we’re now obligated to put boots on the ground to get rid of him. Three days later, Trump’s primary policy remains – defeat ISIS – and I don’t see that changing with the dynamics in play involving two other state systems. At most, we did what we set out to do – namely, we won’t tolerate the use of chemical munitions – but the slaughter will continue with little substantive changes to our strategy.  This strike was a one-off, unless Assad does something heinous – and he’s not that stupid.

Was the strike legal?

Yes, it was. Quit your damn bitching, Tim Kaine. Where were you when we went into Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, or Libya? Oh wait, those were under democratic administrations. That must be why they were legal.

What could happen that we didn’t anticipate? What’s the second or third order effect?

There is a wild card, and that’s the rebel’s use of chemical munitions. Having seen the reaction from Assad’s attack, it would definitely behoove them to use whatever chemical munitions they have in a true false flag attack. It won’t be Sarin, but on the world stage, that may not matter. Now that we’ve sent the signal that further use of chemicals will engender a broader response, the world may see a separate attack of chlorine or mustard, and expect a United States response. Trump – who, by his own admission, relies on gut instinct – may feel forced to initiate a response before the evidence is in – especially if the attack was against coalition troops instead of civilians. American SOF breathing foam out of their mouths as they die will be hard to ignore, and the easiest target for a rapid response – in fact the only target – will be the regime. Even if there are civilian casualties, both the Russians and the Chinese demanded an impartial investigation for this attack, and it’ll be hard to say the next time, “We’re going to wait for proof on this one” when the last time you just pulled the trigger. Trump will risk looking weak, which is something he cannot stand. That, in my mind, is the biggest risk for mission creep – especially if the only proof you have of rebel use is your own intelligence agencies. It’s going to be hard bringing that evidence to the world stage when just a few months ago you were disparaging them by saying, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had WMD.”

Finally, a caveat:  Whenever one tries using logic to explain war, one finds that war has a logic all its own.  As with all the TV pundits, take what I’ve said with a grain of salt.

UPDATE – 9 APR – Yes, not less than thirty minutes after posting.

I made fun of the alt-right with their homogenous adherence to “false flag” attacks, because they’re really loony, but this – from the left -takes the cake.  What if Putin smuggled in Sarin nerve gas to kill civilians precisely so that Trump could attack, and thereby alleviate suspicion about a Putin/Trump nexus?  YES!  You’ve solved it.  It only cost every shred of credibility you could possibly ever own, both in this world and the next.  This is some absolutely batshit stuff, and I’m worried about what I’ll see next.  Independence Day was only a movie, wasn’t it?

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Some fast facts on NATO Thu, 19 Jan 2017 23:34:37 +0000 Lately, there’s been some discussion about NATO and its member nations not paying their fair share, leaving the American public believing that the United States is getting screwed making up the shortfall. It’s not that clear cut. With the transition between Commander’s in Chief, I thought I’d clear the air a little bit, and describe […]

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Lately, there’s been some discussion about NATO and its member nations not paying their fair share, leaving the American public believing that the United States is getting screwed making up the shortfall. It’s not that clear cut. With the transition between Commander’s in Chief, I thought I’d clear the air a little bit, and describe exactly what the cost is with NATO since both the outgoing commander in chief and the incoming seem to use the numbers to drive up interest. Bottom line up front: We don’t spend a single dime more because of a NATO member nations’ shortfalls.

President Obama has stated repeatedly that NATO member nations must pay their fair share, saying as far back as 2014, “To its great credit, Estonia stands out as an ally that contributes its full share…And Latvia and Lithuania have pledged to do the same…So this week’s summit is the moment for every NATO nation to step up and commit to meeting its responsibilities to our alliance. Estonia does it. Every ally must do it.”

More recently, our new president elect reiterated that he thought NATO was a bad deal. Previously, he said this on Charlie Sykes radio show: “The other thing that’s bad about NATO, we’re paying too much. We’re spending a tremendous — billions and billions of dollars on NATO. …We’re paying too much! You have countries in NATO, I think it’s 28 countries – you have countries in NATO that are getting a free ride and it’s unfair, it’s very unfair.”

Before that, on ABC, he said, “We pay so much disproportionately more for NATO. We are getting ripped off by every country in NATO, where they pay virtually nothing, most of them. And we’re paying the majority of the costs.”

This makes it sound like if Germany doesn’t pay a dollar on their defense, we pick up the slack, adding up to “billions”, but that’s incorrect, and it’s confusing to the general public.

First of all, it’s not “billions and billions”. Direct expenditures on NATO – things like office space, salaries, etc – are based on Gross Domestic Product, so yes, we spend more because we have a greater GDP, but our total expenditure is around 685 million a year. A far cry from “billions and billions”. And every country in the alliance spends what’s required for direct expenditures. Nobody is in arrears. We aren’t making up some country’s slack because they missed a rent payment. So what are we talking about?

Since the alliance was formed in 1949, there has been an agreement on what constitutes collective defense, but no firm guidelines – because they weren’t necessary. Prior to the 1990’s, each country voluntarily contributed upwards of 3.3% of their GDP on defense. By 2000 that number had slipped below 2% (Not too hard to figure out why – the USSR ceased to exist). In 2006, for the first time, NATO came up with a standard for membership defense spending, and in a nutshell, it was that each country would spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. That’s what the disparity is about. Currently, only five countries in the alliance meet the threshold of “paying their fair share”, and that’s a travesty. I freely admit that those countries should be held to task with respect to building their defensive capabilities up to the point of the threshold for being in NATO, but it doesn’t mean we – as the United States – pay anything extra because they don’t. Basically, all this means is that they don’t contribute to the alliance like they should. That’s terrible, and should be corrected, but it doesn’t translate into the United States spending money to make up the shortfall. We don’t buy France new tanks when it refuses to do so out of its own pocket.

The United States spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined. Not just NATO countries, every country on earth. We don’t do that because a NATO member is slacking. There isn’t a brigade in the US Army that’s there because Germany failed to meet the threshold. We do it because it’s in the best interests of the United States. Saying we’re losing “billions and billions” of dollars because NATO members aren’t paying their fair share is disingenuous. If NATO ceased to exist tomorrow, our military would be the same size.

Make no mistake: I think President Obama and President-elect Trump are right to hold member nations’ feet to the fire. They should and do. If countries want NATO’s blanket of security, then they need to meet the commitments, and should PAY FOR THEM. I just wish they’d be more precise on what it costs America. It’s not a direct dollar exchange, but everyone seems to think it is based on the rhetoric.

As far as NATO being “obsolete”, two quick facts: 1) In 1995 Serbia was slaughtering every Muslim in Bosnia. In Srebrenica 7,000 Muslims were massacred while the United Nations stood by – with armored vehicles – letting it happen. Since nothing could be done with that worthless organization, NATO launched Operation Deliberate Force – an air campaign against Serbian forces. They stopped the slaughter and brought Serbia to the peace table (Something that degenerates like ISIS seem to forget…).

2) Article five – the backbone of NATO – states that an attack on any member nation is an attack on all. It’s only been invoked once in the entire existence of NATO – after 9/11. NATO went into Afghanistan because we invoked it. They did and continue to do good work. When talking about costs to bear or who’s “paying its fair share”, it would be good to remember that the sons and daughters of member nations killed in Afghanistan were solely there because the United States invoked Article Five.

NATO is old, but it’s not obsolete, and member nations most certainly should pay their fair share, but let’s be honest about the true impacts to America’s own defense budget.

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A Simple Primer on “NoFlyNoBuy”: It’s Complicated Fri, 17 Jun 2016 21:49:50 +0000 The NRA and the right are getting shellacked for apparently religiously protecting gun rights to the point that they’d rather allow terrorists to buy weapons than give one damn inch at anything smacking of gun control. It seems simple enough: If you’re on a no-fly list, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. I […]

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The NRA and the right are getting shellacked for apparently religiously protecting gun rights to the point that they’d rather allow terrorists to buy weapons than give one damn inch at anything smacking of gun control. It seems simple enough: If you’re on a no-fly list, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. I mean, really, if the government thinks you’re so dangerous they won’t allow you to even enter an aircraft AFTER going through TSA security, why in the world would the NRA defend your right to own a gun? Unfortunately, just like banning “assault rifles” is not a simple as it seems, the issue is a little more complicated.

There are certain proposals for weapons purchases I have no issue with, but this one has significant repercussions. For instance, I have no heartburn with universal background checks. While I might be missing something, I just don’t see the problem with having to go through a background check to purchase a firearm (Yes, I know, I’ll now be blasted with emails and comments saying I’m a damn apostate). In the last year I’ve purchased three firearms: Two long guns and a pistol. For all three, because I went through a dealer with a Federal Firearms License, I had to go through a background check. It took about ten minutes in total. I’d venture that over 98% of gun purchases are made this way, so what’s the big deal with the final small percentage?

The reason I have no issue with it is because the background check runs against a repository of hard data, such as my felony record (if I had one), as proven in a court of law, with due process. And therein lies the rub: Including the terrorist watch list into the background check moves away from concrete data and into intuition, leaving due process behind.

First, the so-called “terrorist watch list” isn’t a single, consolidated list, but a compilation of lists from a plethora of different organizations with more than a million names combined. Each one of these organizations (FBI, DHS, CIA, DIA, etc, etc, etc) can nominate someone to be placed on the list, and the bar for doing so is ridiculously low. There is no due process involved. Buy a one-way ticket to Turkey? “Put him on the list”. You’d think I was using hyperbole, but noted conservative commenter Stephen Hayes actually had this happen to him. In fact, he never could get a concrete answer as to why he was placed on the list and could only come up with his one-way ticket purchase as the reason. He’s lucky, though. As a media personality, he had connections, and access to people in high places to get himself removed – even if it took forever.

Others aren’t so lucky – and there are plenty of them. For instance, a veteran of the US Air Force was detained in Turkey, and has yet to get off the list – or even be told why he’s on it – leaving him stranded overseas. He grew so frustrated he decided to take the government to court – and in so doing is highlighting the problem with the list: It’s very easy to get on, but damn near impossible to get off. Have a name similar to someone else? – You may be on the list. Buy a ticket to a country that appears “suspicious”? – You may be on the list. There are no firm criteria for being placed on the list, just the judgment of some nameless bureaucrat in the bowels of a three-letter agency, and its mantra is “better safe than sorry”. It’s so bad that even the ACLU – no friend of gun-owners to be sure – has been fighting for five years to declare the list as unconstitutional, and on this issue sides with the NRA.

The administration’s defense in the various lawsuits brought on by people wrongly labeled as terrorists has been that “travel”, in and of itself, is not a right, and therefore no American citizen has been infringed. Ignoring for a moment that the government doesn’t give a damn that restricting an innocent persons ability to travel can have catastrophic consequences – and has, with people losing jobs, missing deaths of loved ones, stranding families overseas, and forgoing medical care – tying a gun purchase to the list invalidates that argument. Whether people like it or not, the 2nd amendment is enshrined in the US Constitution. It is by definition an inviolate right of a US citizen that can only be abridged through due process in a court of law, in accordance with the 5th amendment. And THAT is where the argument lies.

Nobody – least of all me – is saying they want a terrorist to have the ability to purchase a firearm, but the question is bigger than a catchy slogan of “NoFlyNoBuy”. It’s about precedent beyond the 2nd amendment. We’ve already shredded the due process clause in the 5th amendment by even proposing this, but what about the 1st amendment? If, at the stroke of a pen based on some analyst’s intuition, we can tell someone they can’t buy a gun, can’t we go further? Why can’t we tell them they can no longer use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or any other form of free speech? In fact, what’s to stop the executive branch – and the executive branch alone, as nobody else factors into who goes on the list – from saying, “If you end up on the list, you can no longer practice your religion.” You’d say that’s ridiculous, but why? Radical Islam is a driving force behind the attacks, and the Internet is how people are being radicalized, so it makes sense. Screw the 1st amendment. In fact, why can’t the list be used to shred any of the planks in what’s known as the Bill of Rights? End up on it, and you give up your right against unreasonable search and seizure. Doesn’t that also make sense? If you’re too dangerous to be allowed on a plane, why should you get protection under the 4th amendment? Get on the list, and the FBI no longer needs a warrant to tap your phones or search your house. After all, if we’re worried about you buying a gun, shouldn’t we want to know if you already have one? You gave up all of those rights by purchasing a ticket to Turkey.

Speaking of the 4th amendment, two years ago that man-child Snowden exposed a plethora of NSA collection methods designed to thwart terrorists, and one of them set off a firestorm: Metadata collection. The left – the same ones screaming for the “NoFlyNoBuy” – went ballistic over the evil, “unconstitutional” storing of metadata, claiming it went against the 4th amendment, and yet the very intelligence collection they claimed was unconstitutional actually had due process in the form of the FISA court. If someone wanted to use the data, they first had to go to a court of law to prove probable cause. Now, when no such protection is even remotely in the room – when there is no due process whatsoever – they’re more than willing to remove a separate but equal plank of the Bill of Rights. Ironic.

The sad thing is that the issue has become nothing more than a partisan witch-hunt, twisting this horrific tragedy to gain political points. I applaud attempts to keep weapons out of terrorists’ hands, but just slapping an answer on a mechanism that’s bloated with inconsistencies, incorrect data, no oversight, and ripe for abuse is not the way to go about it. There is, however, a simple way to fix this: give the American citizen due process.

The republicans have proposed various amendments stipulating methods of due process, and the administration has rebuffed every one, even as its database grew with clearly innocent people. At one point, far from adjudicating why an accused person was on the list, the attorney general actually claimed in court the entire terrorist watch list was a state secret, and that he didn’t even need to confirm the man was named. That is fine by me when you’re dealing with Jonny Jihad from the Middle East, but when you’re talking about a United States citizen, that just doesn’t fly. No pun intended.

In our judicial system, we have a sacred concept of innocent until proven guilty. I realize that’s impossible with a terrorist watch list – as it’s precisely a tool to keep track of suspected evildoers – but there should be some type of due process before ending up labeled a terrorist. After all, when the FBI suspects someone is in the Mafia, they still have to go to court for such things as warrants to search a residence. Just because they suspect a citizen doesn’t mean he loses his constitutional rights, and it should be the same here. If the administration and congress wants to use the list to deprive a US Citizen of his or her rights, then it should have to refine and quantify how someone goes on the list, to the point that perhaps a court should be involved instead of just an analyst reading a flight manifest or learning a person stayed at the same hotel as a suspected terrorist. Right now, the administration’s answer is “The aggrieved can always bring suit against the government.” Huh? If some jack wagon puts my name on the list because I went to Morocco for book research, then the only way to get off is to hire a lawyer and SUE the United States Government? Ridiculous. How about put some due process on the front end and determine that placing me there was wrong to begin with?

Using the database for prevention methods is a good idea, but it requires hard work, diligence, thought, and non-partisan oversight, something that should have been done from the beginning when creating the list – and was done with the metadata. Maybe, instead of following “better safe than sorry” when we’re talking about depriving a US Citizen of his or her rights, we need to create a secondary list involving the judiciary. A US Citizen’s-only list. In order to get on it, the government has to prove you’re a clear and present danger – moving away from analyst intuition and flight manifests and into actual probable cause. Right now, out of the more than one million names on the terrorist watch list, the FBI is tracking perhaps a couple of dozen US Citizens who could be construed as presenting clear and present danger. They would go on the secondary list after proving to a “FISA”-like judge that they deserved it – and there is a structured form of redress if the accused chooses to fight the designation. Why is this thought so repulsive to the left? Am I the only one that thinks it’s ridiculous that the FBI has to go to court for a warrant to wiretap a known drug kingpin, but all it takes to be flagged as a terrorist is a nameless analyst’s intuition or a computer scanning flight records? Especially when the proposed endstate is an infringement on a person’s constitutional rights?

As it is now, leveraging a list that is completely secret and solely controlled by our intelligence organizations is about the slipperiest slope I can imagine. In fact, to show how quickly it can degenerate, federal law enforcement officials have already been accused of using the list to blackmail certain wrongly accused into being informants. “Sorry about mistakenly placing you on the list. Want off? Just go infiltrate that mosque for us.” Makes you wonder if it was a “mistake”.

If the storage of phone record metadata – with its use only allowed after a court order – was the end of the republic as we know it, how can anyone claim any less with this proposal as it stands now?

Yes, terrorists buying guns is abhorrent, but as the administration is fond of saying, let’s not lose who we are in our fight against them. Secret lists and sound bites alone are not the solution.

Update 23 June 2016

This is exactly what I was talking about above about political tap dancing:  Representative Jerrold Nadler tweeted this today:

“We must not use due-process as an excuse to support mass murder”.  Yes, a sitting congressman just demanded that the US Constitution be thrown out to prevent terrorist attacks.  Funny thing is, when the Patriot Act was being debated, he said this:

“This dangerous proposal would relegate our fundamental constitutional rights to the status of historical trivia.”

“It sets a frightening precedent,” he added.

So, the Patriot Act was a frightening precedent, but using a secret list with no oversight or due process to strip constitutional rights is perfectly okay?  Come on.

Update 18 May 2017

I should have just posted this video instead of writing the blog:

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Waterboarding – or “The Way I Can Show How Big My Balls Are on TV” Tue, 12 Apr 2016 03:22:55 +0000 I purposely don’t get into political debates on this forum, but I’ve grown a little weary of the current debate surrounding waterboarding and torture, as if the entire discussion was a referendum on who’s going to be “tougher” on terrorism. Today, the director of the CIA said he’d never allow his men to waterboard. From […]

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I purposely don’t get into political debates on this forum, but I’ve grown a little weary of the current debate surrounding waterboarding and torture, as if the entire discussion was a referendum on who’s going to be “tougher” on terrorism. Today, the director of the CIA said he’d never allow his men to waterboard. From that came a bunch of talking heads opining about his comments – none of whom have ever heard a shot fired in anger, and all of whom seem to believe that being savage is, in some way, helpful to our national goals.

I’ve watched the waterboarding debate for months now, and I honestly think it shows a glaring lack of knowledge on the purpose of the technique. Succinctly, it’s designed to gather information, period. We didn’t do it because someone flew a plane into the twin towers, and we shouldn’t use it in the future because ISIS is lopping off heads. We don’t use enhanced interrogation techniques to be “tough”, which is something apparently lost on the current crop of political candidates. The entire discussion is bordering on the Twilight Zone.

In an interview, Donald Trump, the current front-runner, maintains that we “can’t win against ISIS” because they “drown people in cages and cut off heads”, and our hands are tied because we don’t use the same tactics. I watched that interview and wondered, what have we become? This idea is patently false and absolutely shows a complete lack of knowledge of the decisions a commander in chief should make. Ramping up our savagery will in no way increase our ability to defeat ISIS. All it will do is drag us into the gutter with them.

Every single time I hear someone say this – and make no mistake, it’s not just Trump – the first thing I want to ask is, “Will you hold the bucket? Will you pull out the fingernails? Will you place the electrodes?” Before you think I’m exaggerating what candidates have said, remember this: Trump’s said repeatedly he would do “a hell of a lot worse” than waterboarding. And then he always backs up his assertion with the atrocities that ISIS does, as if that justifies it. Which is ridiculous.

We didn’t used enhanced interrogation techniques because we wanted revenge. We wanted information. Period. I’m honestly still unsure in my own mind where I stand on the specific technique of waterboarding, as applied, because I know the extreme controls that were used to ensure the safety of the detainee. However, I will say, I still have my doubts – and by the way, I’m sick of the trope about “We do it to our own SOF forces. How bad can it be?” excuse. I have been through several different SERE schools, one of them the harshest and at the pinnacle of SOF. I have never been waterboarded. I’m not saying it’s never happened, just that it’s not something that “every SOF guy” goes through like the news would have you believe. Using ANY technique because the “other side did” is tantamount to admitting you have no idea how to win, and are participating in a tit-for-tat because you have no idea what serious military strategy entails. It’s literally like devolving into a gang-war between drug dealers and shows a strategic skill at the same level.

According to Trump, we can’t win against ISIS because we won’t lower ourselves to its savagery. In his words, we can’t “compete” because we aren’t playing by “their rules”.  Maybe he’d like to behead some people, I don’t know, but the notion is steeped in stupidity. He asks his massive rallies if Patton or MacArthur were alive now, how long would ISIS exist, implying that there are no military men today of their caliber. I have a news flash for him: We defeated the Nazi machine and the Japanese imperial army without resorting to their inhumane tactics.

According to Trump’s current doctrine, there is no way we could have won World War II unless we’d created our own gas chambers and flushed all of the German soldiers we’d captured through them. Or maybe we should have beheaded or burned alive every Japanese soldier we captured like they did to us. Can you imagine him running against Roosevelt in 1944? “We aren’t winning! We should be gassing every single German we catch! We can’t win this war unless we reduce the playing field to their level. We are TOO SOFT!” That isn’t hyperbole. It’s almost exactly what he said in an interview on ISIS. He literally thinks that because we don’t torture, ISIS is going home and “laughing at us.” It is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. Luckily, we didn’t have Trump in 1944. And when we were done, the defeated nations allowed us to work with them precisely because we were viewed as fair and just.

War isn’t based on a tit-for-tat response, and defeating ISIS has absolutely nothing to do with the level of savagery we can perpetuate against captured individuals, using a justification that they did the same. Nothing. Well, there is something. The people a president orders do such things are forever damaged. Of course, as the president is far removed from such action, he doesn’t have to deal with the fallout. Only the adulation from a bunch of other people far removed from the battlefield.

If you are one of the one’s cheering this doctrine, if you think that torturing terrorists is within our values, and wish it to happen, then by all means, go to the nearest recruiting station and sign up as an interrogator. You’ll be able to get your Johnny Jihad on at will if one of the one’s espousing this doctrine is elected. If you’re not willing to do so, like this guy, then don’t force it on another who only wants to serve a country with values enshrined by our founding fathers.

The problem with torture is that you never know if the guy you’ve caught is, in fact, Doctor Evil. You suspect it, but you don’t know. There have been plenty of times when captured ‘insurgents’ have actually been innocent. If the people espousing this doctrine had their way, we’d have tortured the hell out of them just because they happened to be on the battlefield. And before you accuse me of extending Trump’s doctrine – HE is the one who says it. He’s the one that says we should go “much worse”, not based on collection of information, but solely based on what activities our enemy chooses to use. He clearly doesn’t understand – or care – that on the battlefield, you don’t know what you don’t know. According to him, this guy from the Boston bombings would have been under the knife. Luckily, he wasn’t. Because you figure that out through interrogation – not torture.

Winning a war isn’t predicated on what atrocities you can inflict on the population based on what the other side does. Warfare is much more complex, and creating a platform of torture, as a method of success – to me – is something making me glad I retired from the military. All the candidates claim to support the veteran, without even realizing the damage they’re doing to the entire military with their wild boasts. I served in the finest military on earth – and that military wasn’t the finest based on satellites, tanks or ballistic missiles. It was based on values and a moral compass I was proud to uphold.

The next guy that enlists will not. He’ll be told that the intrinsic values espoused by our founding fathers don’t matter, that our very founding documents don’t matter, and that whatever the enemy does is how we’ll conduct ourselves. In essence, we’ll sacrifice our own moral code to the enemy we’re fighting based on an idiotic notion that such savagery should subsume rational strategic thought.

Guess what? It won’t help one iota in winning a war.

Update 12 April 2016

I’ve received a few comments via email and social media on this topic that basically assert that the writer has no problem with torturing known terrorists.  While I certainly don’t have any sympathy for some blood soaked savage, and would willingly send him to “paradise”, I thought maybe I should expand on the reality when making a statement about using “torture” on a “known” “terrorist”.  It’s a black and white statement, but the world isn’t black and white.

A. What do we mean by “known” terrorist? The truth is, outside of UBL or Zawahiri, we’re just guessing. For one, terrorist names are usually Kunyas they have chosen, and they are used both by evil doers and by normal citizens. Abu Bakr is used all over the place, and it’s almost impossible to determine if you’re holding THE Abu Bakr, or if the guy really IS a mechanic from down the street. For another, even with a real name, once it’s translated from Arabic to English, it gets somewhat mutilated, meaning you end up rounding up the wrong guy because of a bad spelling. The “hat guy” in Brussels had three different names – and was at one point confused with someone who’d actually blown himself up at the airport – before he was finally captured. We actually held a guy in GITMO for over a decade before we finally admitted it was a case of mistaken identity. How much certainty would one use to get to the “known” portion of the statement? 25% 50% or does it need to be 100%?

B. What does one mean by “terrorist”? What level is eligible for torture? Is it a guy you know has blood on his hands? Like the shooter in Paris? What about the guy who built the bombs but didn’t use them? Is he eligible? If so, what about the guy in Syria producing the fake passports that allow the terrorists entry into the country? He has done nothing violent, but without him, they can’t succeed. Is he eligible? What if the passport guy is actually a Russian mobster who’s selling passports to anyone who wants one on the deep web? He didn’t even know they were terrorists, but he accomplished the same thing as the dedicated guy in Syria. Is he eligible? Going further, what about a chemical engineer in Raqqa that’s simply teaching future terrorists to build improvised explosives? Does he reach the threshold? What if he was doing it against his will? What threshold should we use to reach eligibility for torture?

C. What are we defining as “torture”? Everyone has a different idea. Is it simply waterboarding? Or can we pull out fingernails? What about flaying the flesh and applying salt? Can we do that? What about applying a car battery to genitals? Is that too much? All of those techniques (including a much more harsh form of waterboarding) were used by the Japanese on us in World War II (and were convicted of war crimes because of it). What level of coercion is the limit?

Completely ignoring the moral dimension, a problem set still exists.  In the end, the ROE has to be strict, and all of those questions need to be written in stone. If they’re not, and it’s simply based on the man on the ground, we devolve into a land like the Lord of the Flies (or Abu Ghraib). We have a strict ROE now, in accordance with international law, and it’s simple: Nobody ever rises to the threshold of torture.

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Donald Trump, Gun Control, and the Lunacy of Fear Wed, 09 Dec 2015 01:05:58 +0000 In my hometown, a stone’s throw from my house, Donald Trump – on an aircraft carrier that actually helped destroy the tyranny of fascism – doubled down on his statement that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. If you’ve read my blogs, you’ll see that I understand there’s an issue with […]

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In my hometown, a stone’s throw from my house, Donald Trump – on an aircraft carrier that actually helped destroy the tyranny of fascism – doubled down on his statement that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States.

If you’ve read my blogs, you’ll see that I understand there’s an issue with Islam. The left doesn’t want to admit it, and the right wants to demonize it, which would be business as usual in our republic, but this proclamation is possibly the scariest thing I have ever heard. And, not surprisingly, the dumbest idea yet for combatting the very issues we face. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the various calls for gun control after any shooting, with all of the proclamations for additional laws completely disconnected from the attack in question.

This time I’d like to analyze the two together, using the San Bernadino attack that has spawned both:

As soon as the attacks occurred, demands came for closing the so-called “gun show loophole”, increasing background checks, and preventing people on the no-fly list from buying firearms. Which, all together, would have done nothing to prevent the San Bernardino attack.

If we had enacted ALL of those before San Bernardino, the attacks still would have occurred. California has some of the strictest gun control laws on the books in the United States, yet the guns were purchased legally, with a background check, outside of a gun show, and the shooters were not on the “no fly” list. None of those new calls would have prevented the tragedy. Which brings us to Donald Trump.

He proclaims he wants to ban all Muslims from entering in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks like San Bernardino, which seems to resonate, but what, actually, would that do? Like increased gun control, very little.

First of all, he clarified his remarks to say that American citizens would be exempt, and could return home. Guess what? Both the Boston Marathon Bomber and the killer in San Bernardino – the last two terrorist attacks on our soil – were US citizens. The ban he proposes would have done nothing to prevent the attacks – just like every call for more gun control.

Second, when asked on how it would be enforced, he stated that the customs official would ask the person attempting to enter. This is exactly what we on the anti-gun control debate stress: A criminal will not self confess to being a criminal. The only people who will obey the law are law-abiding citizens. Does Trump really think that an ISIS fanatic from Belgium, coming to the United States for mischief, is going to say, “Yes, I’m a Muslim. In fact, a devout one that has pledged fealty to the Islamic State. But I mean no harm.” How is the customs official supposed to disprove such a thing when the man simply says, “Muslim? Nope”? Ask the man for the twelve apostles? Ask him to prove he’s NOT a Muslim? Funny, just such a tactic is used by the Islamic State. When overrunning Mosul and other towns, they captured people and demanded they prove that they were Sunni and NOT Shia. When they didn’t know the religion well enough, they were beheaded.

This talk is more than just fear mongering. It plays right into ISIS’ hands of an “us versus them” doctrine. I’m the first to say that Islam has a problem, and – far from being immune – is a cause of the current fight, but the only solution will come from within that same religion. If you want Muslims to quit hating America and quit wanting to kill us, that involves them seeing the very beacon on the hill that we are. It depends on them learning what life can be like outside of a Sharia state, and that’s a long, long process. I’ve read the reports of “honor killings” in America, where the parents or siblings killed a female for being too “westernized”, and they sicken me. Some will say that that proves an incompatibility. I say the opposite – the female was assimilating. Yes, the death is horrific and the man who did it should have his nuts barbecued, but for every single report of an honor killing, there are literally thousands of other Muslims who are assimilating into our democratic society peacefully. And that is the method to defeat the virulent strain of barbaric Islam.

Make no mistake, Pakistan isn’t going to reform Islam. Neither is Saudi Arabia. But Baywatch might. If we allow the Muslims to watch it.

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A Simple Primer on Assault Weapons Part II: Some Inconvenient Truths Mon, 07 Dec 2015 03:12:19 +0000 The San Bernardino terrorist attacks have spawned an editorial on page one from the vaunted New York Times, its first time doing so in nearly a century. What would cause the Gray Lady to be so incensed? Surely it has something to do with the Islamic State, or maybe our vulnerability to other terrorist actions […]

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The San Bernardino terrorist attacks have spawned an editorial on page one from the vaunted New York Times, its first time doing so in nearly a century. What would cause the Gray Lady to be so incensed? Surely it has something to do with the Islamic State, or maybe our vulnerability to other terrorist actions and our ability to combat it. Surely they would use such an unprecedented event for this menace that we can barely comprehend.

But no, that’s not what it used its front-page platform to discuss. Instead, it proclaimed the evil nature of so-called “assault weapons”, the end state being that if only we got rid of them, we’d solve the damn problem of ISIS attacking us on US soil.

As in my previous blog on assault weapons, I’m not going to get into a debate with respect to the second amendment or the he-said she-said gun control arguments. I’m simply going to relay some facts. Whenever something like this occurs, the first thing that erupts is emotion, which is exactly what this editorial contains. It’s long on emotion, but woefully short on facts.

The op ed’s end state is that we should eliminate weapons that “civilians can legally purchase [that are] designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.” In other words, “weapons of war” which are solely designed to kill other humans should not be in the hands of civilians. Hunting rifles, in its opinion, should be the only weapons allowed. From this, I know immediately that the editorial board who wrote it has no business writing about weapons of any sort, because they apparently have absolutely no knowledge of the subject. Some facts:

1) While it’s not a particularly glowing endorsement on the human condition, every single firearm revolution in history came about specifically to kill another human. The secondary effect of such research and development was that it, as a tool, was also more efficient for hunting, target practice, and other sports. The bolt-action deer rifle the esteemed authors would presumably allow to remain in shooters’ hands was first designed and purchased by the Prussian army in the 19th century. The invention of the metal cartridge itself – or “bullet”, in Hollywood parlance – wasn’t made to put meat on the table, but to allow a soldier to reload faster without having to stand up from cover as he had to with a muzzle-loader. Rifling, which makes tac-driving long guns work their magic in NRA and Olympic competition, came about from the Civil War. John Browning designed the venerable 1911 handgun for the US Army in, of course, 1911. Today, it is one of the most widely replicated and used handgun designs on the competition circuit. The .30-06, one of the most widely used center-fire rifle cartridges for hunting of big game throughout the world, was invented by the military – to kill humans. And so it is with the venerable AR 15 platform that the article is decrying (by the way, the AR does not stand for Assault Rifle. It stands for Armalite – the first company to make the weapon). Currently, the AR 15 variant is the single most sold rifle platform in the United States. Why is that? Is it because everyone who purchases it wants to secretly slaughter humans? No. It’s because it is accurate, reliable, and easily modified for a plethora of different shooting situations and calibers. It is simply the evolution of firearms, and making a distinction, as if the AR 15 is a death-dealing weapon solely useful for killing humans, is incorrect. The very attributes the Army and Marines chose through its development directly translates to every lawful endeavor for which firearms are purchased, just as evolution in racing informs the next generation of automobiles. Anyone who’s tinkered with vehicles knows the term “street legal”. Some types of automobiles are only suited for the racetrack, but the R&D informs our everyday ride. The same is true of actual assault weapons – which are fully automatic, and already illegal to own – but the advances for legitimate civilian use can not be parsed simply because it was at one time invented for the military. To do so would reduce firearm ownership to the bow and arrow – something I’m sure the New York Times would love.

2) The article goes on to state that some calibers of ammunition should be banned as well, presumably meaning the one used in San Bernadino because the round is a death-dealing slaughter monster unfit for any lawful use. Once again, the writer shows little knowledge about ballistics. That caliber was 5.56/.223, the NATO round primarily found chambered in an AR 15 in the military  (actually the fully automatic M16/M4 variants). Guess what? In Afghanistan and elsewhere the US Military stated it was inefficient in its chosen purpose: That it was not very efficient in combat – it was not that great at killing humans – and something else was needed. Every time “assault weapons” are mentioned, there’s some talking head proclaiming how deadly the round is, failing to mention that the 5.56 round is less powerful than fully two-thirds of center-fire rifle cartridges used in hunting throughout the United States. It is not, pardon the pun, a magic bullet. I’m not sure how that little fact will play with the New York Times, but emotionally, it doesn’t really matter. All that is necessary is demonization. Facts are irrelevant.

3) The capstone paragraph, with typical NYT vagueness, states, “Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens.” Apart from the scary implications, I’ve already shown in my previous blog that in fact, it is not possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way – and as a matter of fact, they are already outlawed in California. That didn’t seem to matter to the terrorists. Take a look at this in an alternate universe. Had the AR 15 platform been unavailable, what would they have used? Shotguns? The two pistols they already owned? The next hue and cry from the New York Times will be that those must be outlawed as well. What would happen then? They would have used their pipe bombs, causing potentially more death than they were allowed to inflict with the rifles. If that had happened, I’m sure the NY Times would demand that pipe bombs be outlawed. Oh, wait….

4) The relentless quest to obliterate civilian ownership of the AR platform in order to save lives is, on its face, a chimera. I’m assuming of course, since the NY Times put this on the front page – the first time they’ve done so in nearly a century – that they are actually attempting to save lives. In that endeavor, as an uninformed reader, emotionally I must assume that the evil AR platform must be one of the most used methods of humans killing other humans, since they’ve put so much emotional time and space into the editorial, but statistically it is not. In fact, it’s not even close. From 2010 to 2014, using FBI crime statistics, rifles of ALL types – lever action, bolt action, pump action, single shot and semi-auto – account for fewer homicides than hammers. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m not sure why we haven’t seen an editorial demanding the banning of blunt objects. Knives account for almost TEN TIMES as many deaths as rifles of all types. But I haven’t seen anyone demanding they be banned. I’m not making that up. It’s not an emotional appeal. It’s simply a fact. One other: Rifle deaths have been falling steadily year after year, even including the horrific mass attacks in recent years and the repeal of the so-called assault weapons ban. Yes, at the height of the vaunted ban that everyone is trying to reinstate, there were more deaths by rifles than there are after the ban’s repeal. Banning the AR platform again will not create the utopia that the New York Times hysterically proclaims. They can have their opinions, but they can’t have their own facts.

In the end, the New York Times makes much of people “deflecting attention” away from gun control by using “ridiculous” terms like terrorism, but they are only speaking from emotion. When facts are used, their statements don’t hold up. Anyone who cares to look can clearly see that their solution would do little in the way of preventing future death at the hands of Islamic Jihadists. And they know that as well, because their ultimate goal is total disarmament.

Something I’m sure ISIS would love.

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What’s in a name? Wed, 02 Dec 2015 19:35:50 +0000 It’s the political silly season – or at least the start of it – and candidates are grasping at anything to use as a weapon to garner support. Into this cauldron is thrown the religion of Islam and the terrorists of the Islamic State, with the terminology providing the fault line. The left refuses to […]

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It’s the political silly season – or at least the start of it – and candidates are grasping at anything to use as a weapon to garner support. Into this cauldron is thrown the religion of Islam and the terrorists of the Islamic State, with the terminology providing the fault line.

The left refuses to use the term “Islam” when discussing the Islamic State, preferring to completely separate the religion from terrorist’s actions. The right, on the other hand, seems to firmly believe the solution to defeating the Islamic State is precisely using the term Islam whenever discussing terrorism.

Does it really matter? The right states that if you can’t even name the enemy, you can’t ever win, but doesn’t that beg the question of the name itself? I mean, if I called all Nazis in World War II Peter Pumpkin Eaters, and every one of my soldiers and allies did the same thing, would it matter one whit if they continued to call themselves Nazis? Would that really have caused D-Day to fail? By the same token, by not using Islam when discussing terrorism, have we really harmed our ability to fight it?

The left will tell you that they don’t believe in conflating the Muslim religion with terrorism, and that Islam has nothing to do with the Islamic State. In their eyes, yes, the name definitely matters – and not in a good way. They believe that using Islam when discussing terrorism conveys the very legitimacy the terrorists crave, and will only help recruit future terrorists while turning off moderate Muslims. It paints a narrative of “us versus them” and plays directly into the terrorists’ goals. Thus, their belief that separating Islam from all terrorism discourse is the best course of action.

But is it? While it matters not at all what I call the enemy when I’m squeezing the trigger, there is a more fundamental reason to link the two in public discourse: In not doing so, we effectively absolve the religion of all responsibility, and by extension, relieve 1.6 billion peaceful adherents of the duty to take action.

Many will say that Islam itself isn’t the root cause of Islamic terrorism, and that the answers can be found in societal woes like poverty/despotic tyrants/no opportunity/alienation/put your own cause here. Yes, of course, those things may certainly be a catalyst, but it doesn’t explain other support. Osama bin Laden himself was a scion of the bin Laden family, one of the richest families in Saudi Arabia, and had none of the issues described in reams of research. How is his radicalization explained? When all of the usual suspects are eliminated, as they are in his case, what’s left?  Islam.

Currently, the Islamic State receives funding through a variety of means: Oil production, selling of captured antiquities, hostage ransom – and private donations from wealthy Gulf Arabs. What explains the latter? It’s certainly not poverty. Forget the vaunted 1%. The men providing the funds would represent the .0001% in the United States. It’s not a despotic government. These same men are immune from any governmental interference. And it’s not a lack of opportunity, so what are we left with? The answer is simple and obvious: They believe in the ideology espoused. An Islamic ideaology.

Plenty of analysts have researched why a person would decide to put on a suicide vest and have compiled a host of different reasons, most centered around the individual’s self actualization vis a vis a lack of opportunity or discrimination, but I’ve seen no analysis on why someone would pay for the vest in the first place. We know it’s happening – in the words of the State Department, “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide” – and we’ve tried hard to get wealthy Gulf States to stop it, but the fact remains that it is occurring, and it can’t be explained away with convenient societal pressures. There is another reason, and it’s fairly simple: a fundamental belief in the perverted brand of Islam the terrorists use to justify their actions. The wealthy Gulf Arabs who are providing support are not unique. For every one who can donate a million dollars for the purchase of death making materials, there are four or five who can’t provide a dime, but believe the same way. In the grand scheme of the overall Muslim population, it’s a small number, to be sure, but it exists, and as long as it does, so will Islamic terrorism—which has an outsized impact with respect to a percentage of the total. Remember, it only took five men with box cutters to kill 3,000. And therein lies the rub.

In order to truly defeat Islamic terrorism, the ideology must be addressed, and the only way it can be is within Islam itself. By continually removing Islam from the discussion, we allow the religion, as a whole, the ability to ignore self-reflection and reform. We allow the overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims the excuse that it isn’t their religion, when it most assuredly is.

Can you imagine the ridicule if someone were to design a campaign against alcoholism and refuse to discuss alcohol? Because, Lord knows we wouldn’t want to paint everyone who has a drink as an alcoholic, and we can find a host of other reasons why someone opened the bottle. That would be ludicrous, and yet that is exactly what we are doing when we disassociate Islam from the discussion of Islamic terrorism.

Eventually, if he is to survive, an alcoholic will have an intervention, and that intervention will be with people he trusts. People who understand the complex web that has encircled his life. A stranger telling him to knock it off won’t do it, and it’s the same problem with Islam. The West can’t do it. Only the Muslim majority can, but like the alcoholic, the first step is admitting there is a problem.

By not referring to Islam – by using euphemisms like “violent extremism” – we are ignoring the root of the issue because we’re worried about insulting an entire religion based on the actions of a few. Maybe it’s time we did so. Maybe it’s time to cause a little strife. To cause Islam to reflect.

To admit Islam’s got a problem.

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The Quiet Professional, and Why It Matters Part II: The Journalists Edition Wed, 02 Sep 2015 22:29:52 +0000 A few months ago I wrote a blog on how disclosing military secrets is harmful to national security, focusing on the military members who have chosen to talk. A new book has been released, and while I don’t agree with anyone who decided to play Deep Throat, in this blog I’d like to take a […]

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A few months ago I wrote a blog on how disclosing military secrets is harmful to national security, focusing on the military members who have chosen to talk. A new book has been released, and while I don’t agree with anyone who decided to play Deep Throat, in this blog I’d like to take a look at this journalist’s lack of responsibility.

The book is called Relentless Strike, by Canadian Sean Naylor, and it purports to be an accurate history of the Joint Special Operations Command. I’ve excoriated the press on multiple occasions, but at least then, with Glenn Greenwald, Seymour Hersh or Julian Assange, I understood the purpose: They have a massive agenda to actively harm our national security apparatus. In this case, I can’t fathom why Naylor decided to write this book, other than his unbridled ego and his penchant to be viewed as an insider, as seen when he brags that he’s been told that Fort Bragg, “is going ape shit over your book”.

In interviews, Naylor states that to his knowledge, he wasn’t given any classified information, but that’s absolute hogwash. Does he honestly believe that none of this story was classified? And does he not understand that – regardless of the veracity or lack thereof – it will have implications on our ability to operate? Does Canada hate the US that much? Then again, maybe he’s just too naive to realize the harm. In a podcast, he actually compares the impact of his reporting to that of a sports reporter digging for dirt on an NFL team. Because, you know, it’s the NFL that keeps us safe at night. In 2011, while dissecting another story that was full of untruths, I showed that once something is printed, the damage is already done.

He goes on to state that he “trusted my sources not to give me information for publication as experts with a stake in the matter that know what would be dangerous”, which I find utterly preposterous for two reasons: A) If someone is talking to him, violating the Non Disclosure Statements they signed with the full knowledge that he’s writing an unauthorized book, clearly they don’t have the capacity for reason to determine what’s damaging, and B) He, as the journalist, is the one who is taking all the bits and pieces and painting the picture. Deep Throat A may say one thing, thinking it’s not harmful, then Deep Throat B, then C and D. All just gave a snippet – after all, what could be the harm? Naylor takes all of the snippets and puts the puzzle together in such a way that all four are shocked at the results. While the Deep Throats are doing damage – maybe even unwittingly, although that’s not an excuse – it’s the journalist who bears the ultimate responsibility.

Naylor states that he “personally kept information out of the book that I thought might pose a risk to specific individuals if published”. Let’s take a look at that for a second. What, at the very basic level, would create the most risk for an American Soldier, and by extension, his family? What one piece of information? Hmmm…why, it would be the soldier’s true name, and for some unfathomable reason, Naylor did just that over and over again.

I remember the anger around the country when the administration released the unit that killed Usama bin Laden, with some even proposing that THAT leak directly led to the targeting of a helicopter in Afghanistan, killing all aboard. Imagine the outrage if the administration had not only released the unit, but the names of the individuals in that unit and the operations they’d conducted. That’s what this book does on about every single page.  Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with what he’s published.  It’s just like a book on the NFL.

He’s supposedly a journalist, so I’m assuming he’s seen the jihadi call from ISIS to behead US service members. Since the book is about JSOC, it’s unreasonable to assume he doesn’t know of the recent raid against the Islamic State where a financier was killed and his wife captured. Does he not think that every name in the book will now be tied by association? Now they and their families have a giant bullseye on their heads. Does he really not believe that some wanna be jihadist with computer skills isn’t diligently scouring the internet, looking to build a target list, like the one they released before? Maybe he feels that’s too far fetched. But surely he’s heard about the massive Chinese hack of our OPM database, where the trove of SF 86 security questionnaires were taken. Right now, they’re currying through that information looking for matches to identify government officials and where they work, and he just gave them a golden ticket in the form of a name. Does he not think they aren’t collating every name he mentioned, then pulling up every SF 86 with those names, looking for patterns? And when they find those patterns – say the same office code or investigator – they’ll go back, using those patterns instead of names. Guess what they’re going to find then? Does Naylor think they’re too stupid to make associations? Yeah, it’s damaging all right, and for the life of me I can’t understand why he didn’t just use initials, or change them outright. Why would that have harmed the “integrity” of the book?

Speaking of the book’s integrity, yours truly is named outright. On page 123 there’s this sentence: “…led by Major Brad Taylor HALO’d in northeast of Kandahar to call in air strikes against Taliban and/or al Qaeda targets fleeing southwest from Kabul…” It then goes on to describe the death defying feat and incredible prowess of the super team, of which I was the fearless leader.

But maybe it’s another Brad Taylor.  Maybe I’m just confused.  Nope. Here’s an email exchange between me and the intrepid reporter from two years ago: 

From: Sean Naylor <>


Sent: Friday, November 1, 2013 11:48 AM

Subject: Double-checking 


I am just checking in with you again to see if your circumstances have changed and you might be able to talk to me on background for my book. I am particularly keen to learn more about your HALO mission in November 2001 (the one in which XX got hurt). I’d be willing to come down to Charleston. 

I hope all is well with you and wish you congratulations on the continuing success of your own literary career. 



C: 202-641-0378


From: Brad Taylor <>

To: Sean Naylor <>

Sent: Friday, November 1, 2013 1:00 PM

Subject: Re: Double-checking 


Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, I’m unable to discuss any operational actions I might have knowledge of.  I’m afraid those circumstances won’t change for about 25 years, when they might be declassified under the security review guidelines.   

Sorry, but thank you for the well-wishes. 



So clearly, he’s talking about me. Guess what? He’s wrong. I don’t know who the Deep Throat was that gave him the information, but I have never once participated in a parachute operation in Afghanistan. Maybe the guy who gave him my name made up the whole thing. I’ll leave it up to you to determine the accuracy of the rest of the book.

Naylor states that he took measures to protect a source’s identity, and would never intentionally put them at risk, but I guess that’s only if you decided to talk to him. If you do what’s correct, the vindictive little shit puts a bullseye on your back. Like I said, it’s irrelevant whether it’s true or not. The damage is done – and that’s for even the ones he thinks he’s “protected”, as the Chinese will soon know them as well – along with anyone they consider worthy of the information. Unless, of course, he means he’s just protecting them from US prosecution for breaking their oath of confidentiality and he doesn’t really care about US security.

Naylor stated that keeping JSOC under wraps is “no longer realistic”. I guess he believes that in the information age it’s just going to come out anyway, so he might as well make a buck providing our enemies all the dots to connect. Maybe he’s got a point – I mean, after all, the Chinese hacked the information. All he did was help them collate it, but for me the statement is the same as saying keeping child porn off the Internet is “no longer realistic”. Even if true, it doesn’t make the pedophile any better.

As for all the Deep Throats who talked on “background”, I hope you can sleep at night, especially the jerk who gave Naylor incorrect information about me. Naylor said sources talked to him because they felt that “my guys or my buddies deserve recognition.” Clearly, since I refused to talk to him, that statement is not a reflection of my desires, and yet he printed my name anyway.

Thanks for the recognition, asshole.

Update 9 November 2016

I was just informed that the paperback edition of Relentless Strike has been edited, removing any mention of me conducting a HALO operation.  Guess the publisher read this blog.  I suppose that’s one way to vet a non-fiction book for veracity.  Small victories!

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The Iran Nuclear Deal: Missing the Forest for the Trees. Mon, 20 Jul 2015 23:20:28 +0000 I’ve had a few days to listen to all of the talking heads and various “experts” discuss the pros and cons of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and most of the arguments have focused on specific details of the agreement. There’s a lot of hyperbole over inspection timelines, centrifuges, hostages currently held, sanctions […]

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I’ve had a few days to listen to all of the talking heads and various “experts” discuss the pros and cons of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and most of the arguments have focused on specific details of the agreement. There’s a lot of hyperbole over inspection timelines, centrifuges, hostages currently held, sanctions relief, etc, but in my mind the whole discussion misses the broader picture.

For the record, I think some of the debate on the details of the agreement is misguided from both the pro and con camp. For instance, one camp decries the fact that the American hostages currently held in Iran were not a non-negotiable part of the deal. While I despise them rotting in an Iranian jail for no other reason than being American, I tend to agree with the administration that including them would have been self-destructive, both for their release and for the negotiations. The president said that throwing them in the mix would have tied their fate to the nuclear deal itself, in effect holding their release hostage to something that had nothing to do with them. If the Iranians had thrown out something that was absolutely ludicrous, we would have had to make a choice over the hostages’ fate – take a deal we did not want to obtain their release – or walk away. If we’d walked away, then any negotiation to release the hostages afterwards would immediately default back to the nuclear deal. In effect, every time we attempted to free them, the answer would have been, “You know what you need to do to obtain release.” In addition, this deal wasn’t crafted by the United States and Iran alone. It was called the P5 + 1 because there were five other countries besides the United States working the deal. If we had included the hostages as a non-negotiable plank, Russia, China, and other members could have attached issues specific to their country, until the nuclear deal devolved into a waste of “what can I get out of this?” non-negotiable planks that had no bearing on nuclear weapons, but provided some specific benefit. It’s a travesty those men are being held, but this is not the primary problem with the nuclear deal.

The other camp touts the “teeth” of the sanctions, and dismisses fears that Iran will cheat because of the robust ability to “snap back” those penalties. In effect, the sanctions are crippling the country, and the Iranians know that if they fail to live up to the letter of the agreement, they’ll be brought to their knees within 65 days. This is an absolute farce, and the president’s own words prove it. The administration has made much of how shrewdly they crafted the “snap back” – that we don’t need a majority vote to reinstate sanctions, and the United States can initiate the proceedings on its own – but it fails to address the fact that sanctions are only as good as the willingness of the countries to impose them, and here is where the whole house-of-cards falls apart. Obama himself stated that, without the deal, the sanctions were going to be removed anyway, because the EU and other countries were tired of enforcing them:

“Keep in mind it’s not just Iran that paid a price for sanctions. China, Japan, South Korea, India — pretty much any oil importer around the world that had previously import arrangements from Iran — found themselves in a situation where this was costing them billions of dollars to sustain these sanctions…In some ways, the United States paid the lowest price for maintenance of sanctions, because we didn’t do business with Iran in the first place. They made a significant sacrifice.”

In the president’s own words, various countries were going to stop the sanctions in the absence of a deal anyway. Do we really believe that those countries who are willing to stop the sanctions on the potential economic benefits would reinstate them after feeling the actual returns? It’s never going to happen, and Iran knows this. Even if some form of weaker sanctions – say just the United States – were to be imposed, Iran will have recovered enough to absorb the punishment. It’s like watching a man dying of thirst. Just before he fades out, you give him water. A week later, you take it away again. He’s now recovered, and is going to last as long as he did before, and in the case of Iran, it’s been over decades. If Iran wants to cheat, they’re going to get the bomb, and no new sanctions will stop that after they’ve recovered from where they are now.

This, I believe is what is wrong with the entire deal. Everyone is debating the development of a nuclear weapon in isolation, failing to address the underlying problem. Obama himself repeatedly stated that this agreement wasn’t about Iranian hegemony or meddling in regional affairs, but strictly about their ability to develop an atomic bomb. While I see why he focused on that for this agreement, it ironically misses the entire point – and in so doing, so does the deal. In reality, we don’t care about a nuclear weapon per se. We care about IRAN getting a nuclear weapon. It’s not about the bomb. If it were, we’d have had France in front of the UN Security council a long time ago.

Focusing on plutonium and centrifuges ignores the true problem, and that is Iran. They have destabilized or attempted to destabilize every country in the region, from Yemen to Bahrain. They’ve created armies with Hezbollah in Lebanon/Syria and the Shiite militias in Iraq, and both have caused havoc – many with American blood on their hands. We currently seem confused because they proclaim a hatred of the Islamic State, but their actions in Syria and Iraq have been fanning the ISIS flame. Ultimately, we frame the wrong question when we debate the mechanics of the nuclear deal.

Make no mistake, Iran is going to get the bomb. Whether it’s in five years because they cheat, or in ten or fifteen years because they followed the framework to the letter, they are going to be a nuclear power. Given this – and it is a given, no matter what anyone says about this agreement – the question should be reframed:

Is it better to keep Iran as an outlier, pariah state, forcing whatever sanctions we are able to maintain, realizing they may get a nuclear weapon in 3-5 years  (without the means to deliver it)?


Is it better to provide relief from sanctions, allowing Iran to gain legitimacy and hopefully becoming a less hardline country, realizing they may get a nuclear weapon in 13-15 years (with the means to deliver it)?

Obama has defended the deal by stating that it was about nuclear weapons alone, and not about Iran’s other transgressions, but that’s an oxymoron. Iran’s other transgressions are precisely why we’re afraid of them getting the bomb. Iran’s activities and intentions are precisely what we should be focused on, not the nuts and bolts of a specific weapon system.

There is a school of thought that believes through this deal Iran will soften its tone, and that we will negotiate with them in earnest on other things from Syria to Israel. I honestly hope this land of rainbows and unicorns appears, but the best indicator of future performance is past performance. Two days after the deal was signed, the president of Iran held a rally, stating – amongst chants of “death to America” – that his hardline stance with the United States would in no way be affected by this deal. In essence, no change in ideology. What will change is Iran’s ability to implement that ideology through the enormous influx of cash provided by the lifting of sanctions. Even if they use 90% of sanctions relief for “butter”, and 10% for “guns”, with a windfall of an estimated 150 billion dollars, that leaves 15 billion dollars for Iran to reinforce or impose its will around the world. An enormous enhancement of capability. Couple this with a break in the arms embargo and ballistic missile relaxation, and you have the makings of serious mischief.

At his press conference, Obama stated that, while many decried the deal, none had offered an alternative – specifically meaning an alternative to Iran getting the bomb. That’s the wrong question. What should have been asked was, “What does Iran want, and how can they best achieve it?” I will submit that it wants to continue doing exactly what it has in the past: To impose its will in the Middle East. While a nuclear weapon is great for deterrence, it isn’t something the Qod’s force can use when training the Houthis in Yemen. Iran is adept at fomenting internal divisions and fracturing stable state systems, from leveraging Hamas to creating Hezbollah, and executing that task requires conventional weapons and money, not a bomb.

The world is markedly different from what it was when Iran began its quest for a nuclear weapon, and this difference has caused Iran to reevaluate its goals. The sanctions, imposed because of that quest, were preventing them from capitalizing on the turmoil created by the Arab Spring. In effect, they made a choice: delay the bomb for an influx of money that was sorely needed for the implementation of their ideology – from propping up Assad in Syria, to countering Saudi Arabia in Yemen. They focused on their overall goals, while we narrowly focused on a weapon.

In patting itself on the back about delaying a nuclear weapon, the administration may have engendered something much worse. Obama stated that the only alternative to this deal was war – but he may be creating ideal conditions for that very outcome – and Iran will still get the bomb. Focusing narrowly on the weapon might be missing the forest for the trees.

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I AM Jade Helm Wed, 29 Apr 2015 23:44:27 +0000 I grew up in East Texas, running around the woods, camping, hunting and generally getting into trouble. I haven’t been home in a while due to twenty-plus years in the military and now living in South Carolina, but I still have family there. From what they’re telling me, something has clearly changed from my childhood […]

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I grew up in East Texas, running around the woods, camping, hunting and generally getting into trouble. I haven’t been home in a while due to twenty-plus years in the military and now living in South Carolina, but I still have family there. From what they’re telling me, something has clearly changed from my childhood days. Jade Helm, a USASOC Realistic Military Training event, is coming to certain Texas locales, and the population is losing its mind over “sinister” implications. FEMA concentration camps, UN gun-grabbers, and anything else that can be extrapolated, has been. Why? I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out why this exercise has generated such controversy, as it’s truly confusing. How can a state that breaks its arm trying to congratulate veterans, that declared a Chris Kyle day, assume that those same service members they’ve been cheering in the Dallas Airport are now out to enslave the entire state? Truthfully, that’s what really burns me. The men who planned the exercise, and the men who will execute the exercise, are me. Texas, the land I grew up in, is basically saying I – and the men I served with – are willingly planning to round them up and put them into concentration camps. Why? How has the Internet been able to leverage such unfounded paranoia? When did we go from supporting the troops to denigrating them as oppressors?

I think it’s systemic of the divide between the 1% who serve and the 99% who never have, coupled with the Internet revolution. There are so few veterans in the population, it’s easy to convince a non-veteran that something nefarious is afoot – especially when one loony vet begins a tirade. All of the sudden, he’s the voice of reason. And with the Internet, everything becomes true.

Recently, I wrote a blog about how it was misguided for a Texas congressman to push for the MOH for Chris Kyle, and how a non-veteran doesn’t understand the implications. I think the same thing is occurring here with the civilian population, fed by a bunch of Internet trolls who claim expertise. One of the biggest is Alex Jones from InfoWars, and it’s not the first time he’s blathered on about martial law. In 1999, Special Operations Forces conducted training in Corpus Christi and Kingsville, Texas. Hot on the scene was Alex Jones, peddling his paranoia about the Army ignoring Posse Comitatus and preparing to enslave the masses. Back then, nobody outside of a small radius in Texas listened. Now, with the internet, Jones gets a megaphone, and gets away with his outlandish proclamations precisely because there aren’t enough veterans in the local population to dispute it, while he finds a couple of loony vets to peddle his propaganda.

He’s been at it for decades (in case you didn’t know it, the Boston bombing was a “false flag attack” to allow martial law, and the Asymmetric Warfare Group’s battle lab is actually a government concentration camp just waiting on the execute order – I do a lot of work with the AWG, and that theory is so laughable I have a hard time typing it.). 1999 was a long time ago, and the mass roundups predicted by Jones in Kingsville still haven’t happened. What DID happen was that two short years later those same warriors were putting into action everything they’d learned in Texas, taking it to the enemy after 9/11. Every one of them were on my left and right, and I’m damn glad Texas allowed them to train, despite Alex Jones’ raving paranoia. And I’m glad its allowed now with Jade Helm.

For anyone who’s served a day in the military, Jade Helm is just an exercise. It’s not about martial law and rounding up firearms. It’s about training for combat. Honestly, I don’t understand how Texas can scream for the MOH for Chris Kyle, and then turn around and declare that the participants of Jade Helm are practicing to confiscate all of their guns or pattern areas for roundup. Do they think for a minute that Chris Kyle would have participated in such a training event? No? Then why do they think his teammates would? That’s who’s coming to Texas. Navy SEALs, among other Special Operations Forces. How can Marcus Luttrell – who lives in Texas – be treated with such adulation, and yet the men he fought and trained alongside now be derided as evil? It’s schizophrenic, and the theories are absolutely crazy.

One of the worst is that WalMart has closed five stores in Jade Helm areas in preparation for practicing re-education camps. Just think of that for a moment. WalMart, the very symbol of capitalism, a company that has been fighting the present administration since day one, has now decided to CLOSE five stores in an administration conspiracy to allow them to be used for fascist purposes? It’s insane. (As a side note, on the “only poor kids fight our nation’s wars” fallacy, John Walton – the son of the founder Sam Walton – fought in Vietnam with MACVSOG on a Special Forces recon team).

Jade Helm type training events have been going on for a long, long time – way before the Internet had a global audience. At a Bastrop “town hall”, USASOC gave a briefing to quell all of the fears. One man said, “It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany…”

Ridiculous. I promise that man isn’t a vet, but he does bring up an interesting connection to Jade Helm: In 1943, when Nazi Germany was actually a threat, the first mass tactical parachute operation was conducted near the town of Camden, South Carolina, in preparation for D-Day. The townsfolk came out and cheered on the paratroopers as they practiced invading the Fatherland. Lucky for them, they were in South Carolina. If they had jumped in Texas, with Alex Jones and an Internet bullhorn, they’d have been shot coming down under canopy.

The divide between the lack of veterans’ experiences in the local population has popped up in other areas. CNN breathlessly reported that the National Guard, in official orders, had called the Ferguson protestors “enemy forces”, which spun the left up into a tizzy much like is happening in Texas. If anyone at CNN had served a day in the military, they would have recognized that the term came from the 5 paragraph Operations Order, which is standard throughout the Army. The first paragraph is Situation, which is broken down into two parts: 1. Friendly Forces – what assets you have to complete the mission, who’s on your left and right, etc. 2. Enemy Forces – who is opposing you. The threat. It wasn’t a nefarious decision made by the National Guard because they were out to attack the protestors. It was simply the Operations Order format that has been around since WW II. In fact, when deployed for hurricane relief, the National Guard puts the weather itself into the Enemy Forces paragraph. No word yet whether the Almighty has shit a brick over that.

The military has routinely conducted training outside military reservations precisely because such training is more realistic, especially for Special Operations Forces. You can only assault the same broken-down concrete building on post before it loses its training value. Trust me, we’d much rather train in Yemen, but that’s a little bit problematic. For this reason, Robin Sage, the culmination exercise for the Special Forces Qualification Course, is conducted almost entirely off Fort Bragg, in the surrounding towns. The activities in that exercise could definitely be misconstrued as some UN roundup, but the townspeople don’t seem to freak out over it. Why? Because they’re mostly veterans. Jade Helm put out an official powerpoint – which has since been construed in all manner of ways as the spawn of the devil – and some have asked why they “advertised” it at all. The reason is that the local authorities have to be involved, read on, and willing. Otherwise terrible things can happen, as Robin Sage found out. In 2002 (yes, a RMT event from over a decade ago) a sheriff’s deputy pulled over a couple of Special Forces students participating in the exercise, dressed in civilian clothes. He found their military issued weapons and became suspicious. The students thought it was part of the exercise, as several role players are in fact the police. Long story short, things escalated until both students were shot, with one being killed, all because of a lack of communication.

One of the sticking points is that Texas has been labeled “hostile” for the exercise, which has led many a conspiracy buff to believe that the military did that because that’s what they believe. It’s not. Somone’s got to be hostile, I mean it’s a war-game after all. “Pineland”, the fictional country for Robin Sage, is also “hostile”, but nobody in North Carolina seems to get their panties in a knot over it. Camden, South Carolina took great pride in being the “hostile” town the 82nd Airborne parachuted into – holding a ceremony to commemorate the jump seventy years later. Trust me, nobody in the military thinks Texas is hostile. It’s just an exercise.

What’s ironic is that Texas was chosen precisely because the population is supportive of the military. I have had exercises canceled in other areas because the population was – to put it bluntly – military haters. In the words of the official PowerPoint, “The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has conducted numerous exercises in Texas, because Texans are historically supportive of efforts to prepare our soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors to fight the enemies of the United States.” (Emphasis mine)

Which brings up the final truth: Marcus Luttrell endured a hellish ordeal, and the lessons he brought home are being incorporated into training events today. Chris Kyle lamented that the only thing he regretted was the men he couldn’t save. On both counts, exercises such as this help hone our Special Operations Forces for battle, and Jade Helm may be the one that prevents someone’s death.

In World War II people gave up the necessities of life to allow the men to fight, rationing butter and meat, and allowing their towns to serve as vital training grounds for the assault on Fortress Europe against the greatest threat known to man. In the Global War on Terror, it’s the opposite. Even though the threat is just as bad, the ideology just as extreme, people don’t care. Screw that “sacrifice” thing. You guys go fight. I’ll drink my latte and tune in to Alex Jones, railing about how you’re really trying to enslave me.

Sacrifice is a lost virtue known only to the very veterans training for the fight. We don’t give anything but a flippant “thank you for your service”, meeting our obligation while storming Bastrop, Texas to accuse those same veterans of evil intentions. Far from sacrificing anything of value, we don’t even want the military to train in private lands we don’t own.

In the end, the exercise will be conducted, and no civilians will be rounded up. The Walmarts will remain closed (or reopen tomorrow – who knows?), and the UN convoys will never be seen. Alex Jones will move on to another conspiracy, more than likely involving the military like he’s been doing since at least 1999. All that will truly happen is that the lessons learned from the experiences of Texas heroes Luttrell, Kyle, and others will be passed on to a new generation of fighters. Hard fought lessons that might be needed to prevent the very fears being promulgated by an over-zealous Internet rumor pipeline.

For me, I thank God that the Internet wasn’t as prominent in Texas in 1999.  And I know for a fact that bad guys in Afghanistan and Iraq feel the exact opposite.

Update 2 May

1. A lot of the comments I have received revolve around a lack of trust in the current administration, and I can completely understand this, but the feeling is misguided when applied to Jade Helm.  For one, USASOC is a small subset of the United States Army, and an even smaller subset of the overall Department of Defense.  The administration had nothing to do with the conception, planning or execution of Jade Helm.  That is done by people like me.  Speaking of that, a lot of folks seem to think that when you join the military you trade in every value you’ve ever known and now blindly kill whatever you’re told to point your weapon at, as if the SOF Operators are all taking blue pills like Jason Bourne. That was a movie.  This is reality.  Texas is the number one producer of recruits for the Armed Services.  Do we really think that all of those recruits tossed aside everything they learned about duty and honor, and are now prepared to do something nefarious in their own hometown? I served under three presidents, and to suggest that my moral compass shifted after each election is morally repugnant to me and incorrect.

2. On social media and emails I was asked why the exercise has to happen off post anyway.  Up front, I’ll say I haven’t had a detailed briefing on Jade Helm.  I haven’t seen the OpOrders or synch matrices, but from what little I have seen, and having planned and executed a plethora of exercises like Jade Helm, here’s what I think: They are training for low visibility operations in foreign urban terrain, thus the intermingling with the civilian population. Doing it on a military post defeats the purpose, as the Operators are in their comfort zone. Putting them in an unfamiliar city full of strangers allows them to learn behaviors that will save their life when they’re being hunted in an urban environment overseas. It also enhances their problem solving. Believe it or not, this sort of thing happens all the time.  While teaching at The Citadel, I designed and executed an adaptive leadership exercise for Cadets where I placed them – in civilian clothes – inside the city of Charleston for a week, executing tasks, meeting timelines, and solving problems. The unfamiliar environment – away from what they knew of The Citadel – enhanced the learning. And yes, I had to brief law enforcement, the mayor, and the city council on the plan. Far from stating it was nefarious, LE actually participated, giving the Cadets a “problem” with arrest.

For people who still refuse to believe those two points, I’ll just throw out two more tidbits:

1.  Every LE organization, town council, and city hall in every state planned for Jade Helm approved it.  Are they also in on a grand conspiracy, or did they see that it was exactly what it professed to be: A SOF exercise.

2. Texas has the largest military base in the United States (Fort Hood).  If the military was truly planning something nefarious, why would they bother telegraphing that by briefing Jade Helm all over the state?  Why not use a military post located in the center of the state, not saying a word about it?  A post where people are used to seeing soldiers on a daily basis?  Logically, it makes no sense unless Jade Helm is exactly what it professes:  An exercise.

Finally, some have taken offense and claimed I was “disgusted” with Texas, reading in some personal insult.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s precisely because I’m from Texas that I wrote the blog.  If it had been another state, I would have shrugged and said, “Wow, are they off base.  Glad I don’t live there.”  Because I DO know the state and its historical support for the military, I was surprised and chagrined to see the uprising about Jade Helm.  It confused me.  My wife is from Fort Worth.  My inlaws live in Dallas and Austin.  My mother and sister still live in East Texas.  I could no more be disgusted with Texas than I could be disgusted with them.  Actually, I’ll give you a dirty little secret: Growing up in Texas, I hated being asked where I was born, because native Texans take that to heart.  I was born on Okinawa, Japan, while my dad was fighting in Vietnam.  I should have been proud of that, but instead, it was drilled into me that I was not a “native” Texan.  Because of it, I became more staunchly Texan than anyone else. That sounds stupid, but try being a child in grade school in a small Texas town.  Others reading this will scoff, but you Texans know what I mean.  My first memory of life was from Texas, so if you want to accuse me of no longer understanding – as one radio show host did in Texas – that’s your right.  But it’s simply not true.  Actually, I’ve wasted words here.  Just go tell my sister I’m not a Texan.  Then pick your ass up off the pavement when she clocks you.  If you still have some fight left, you’ll see her husband.  He’ll be the guy in the beard with the Harley.  Whose son is in the U.S. Army.

Update 3 May

Here’s a great example of the lack of understanding of the military. As I answered in a comment below, the name Jade Helm is just a random association of words spit out by a computer.  It’s done on every exercise and actually, even on real world missions – unless the real world mission is going to get national attention.  Operation Just Cause in Panama was known as Blue Spoon before the bullets started flying.  I’m sure someone could laboriously create what B.L.U.E. S.P.O.O.N. stood for, but they’d be making it up out of whole cloth.  It stood for two things spit out of a computer:  BLUE.  SPOON.  I used to conduct exercises in Thailand that were called Baker Tepid and Balance Torch.  Now, some idiot on the internet has “deciphered” the secret of what Jade Helm “means”.  Trust me, this is incorrect and just another example of how the internet can fan the flames.  The name Jade Helm is just as innocuous as the exercise itself.  It’s just two randomly picked words.

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