Friday, March 27, 2009

Royal Marines Working Hard

The Daily Telegraph: Taliban lose 130 in three day battle with Royal Marines

A force of 700 troops from 42 Commando along with Danish and Afghan troops swooped on the Taliban base of Marjah in a helicopter air assault that took three waves to offload the men.


Only two commandos were injured during Operation Blue Sword compared to an estimated 200 to 300 Taliban wounded. It is believed that the enemy dead included a Mullah regarded as a “high value target” by the military.

The Taliban were said to have been so determined to hold onto the stronghold that reinforcements were called for from the Pakistan border 160 miles away.

130 Taliban dead, 2 British wounded.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Combat Casualties at Record Lows Iraq. Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level since they invaded in 2003, the spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq said on Wednesday.

In the first two months of this year 19 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, down from 148 in the same period two years ago, Major-General David Perkins told a joint news conference with Baghdad security spokesman Major-General Qassim Moussawi.


"U.S. combat deaths (in Iraq) are at the lowest level since the war began six years ago today, a decrease of over 90 percent,"

The United States can now draw down in Iraq with honor. Many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines paid the price to stay and achieve victory. All gave some, some gave all.

Darpa Tries to Re-grow Limbs


The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) just got a one-year, $570,000 grant from Darpa, the Pentagon's blue-sky research arm, to grow the new tissues. "The goal is to genuinely replace a muscle that's lost," biotechnology professor Raymond Page tells Danger Room. "I appreciate that's a very aggressive goal."  And it's only one part in a larger, even more ambitious Darpa program, Restorative Injury Repair, that aims to "fully restore the function of complex tissue (muscle, nerves, skin, etc.) after traumatic injury on the battlefield."

Monday, March 23, 2009

More reasons to keep the F-22

United Press International Reports:

WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) -- Two Russian planes flew within 500 feet of U.S. Navy ships participating in military drills with South Korea, military officials said.

A few hundred more 5th generation F-22 stealth fighters to patrol our skies for these lumbering Russian bombers would be a good thing. Why stop at 183? Whether Russia is just trying to effusively flex its aging muscles or not, the reality of the threat is obvious for the world to see.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mountain Warfare Training

Marines at Bridgeport:

The 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment from Twentynine Palms is training to deploy later this year, probably to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan. Winter. Mountain hiding spots for insurgents. Snow. High winds.

So the Marines just finished 25 days at the mountain warfare training center at Bridgeport, Calif.

From talking to friends who have been to Bridgeport, the training is difficult enough even without the winter conditions.

Train like you fight.

"Finally we took off the gloves"

Al Qaeda militants are turning on one another in Pakistan in an attempt to find the 'traitors' who are enabling American UAVs to systematically wipe out their leadership ranks. The LA Times writes:

"An intense, six-month campaign of Predator strikes in Pakistan has taken such a toll on Al Qaeda that militants have begun turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust, U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials say."


"The stepped-up Predator campaign has killed at least nine senior Al Qaeda leaders and dozens of lower-ranking operatives, in what U.S. officials described as the most serious disruption of the terrorist network since 2001.

"Among those killed since August are Rashid Rauf, the suspected mastermind of an alleged 2006 transatlantic airliner plot; Abu Khabab Masri, who was described as the leader of Al Qaeda's chemical and biological weapons efforts; Khalid Habib, an operations chief allegedly involved in plots against the West; and Usama al-Kini, who allegedly helped orchestrate the September bombing of the Marriott Hotel in the capital, Islamabad."


"The success of the Predator campaign has prompted some counter-terrorism officials to speak of a post-Al Qaeda era in which its regional affiliates -- in North Africa and elsewhere -- are all that remain after the center collapses.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The F-22 for a Bold, New, Dangerous World

Vice President Joe Biden was right; the new administration is being tested. This week alone brings a number of ominous signs of conflict the world will expect the United States to deal with. These are issues that will have to be handled fastidiously.

Wired reports that U.S. MNF-Iraq shot down an Iranian UAV last month. This opens yet a new front on the Iraq war.

Further east, Japan has threatened to shoot down North Korea's "satellite launch." If Japan follows through on its word, the action may cause North Korea to begin matching its rhetoric with deeds.

Lastly, Russia's interfax news agency is reporting the possibility that Russian strategic bombers could be flown out of Cuban and Venezuelan air fields. This obviously smacks of a second Cuban missile crisis.

These aerial crises stand apart from current wars being fought on the ground by the U.S. and its allies in the middle east. Military strategists, such as Thomas P.M. Barnett, have rightly argued the need for a robust American ground force which can provide not only security, but also civil affairs and humanitarian aid.

However, these increased threats to American air dominance among its adversaries may give the strategists pause. For example, Secretary of Defense Gates halted further production of the new fifth generation F-22 fighter at 185. The school of thought questioned the need for so many stealth, agile, supersonic dog-fighters in an age when insurgencies are fought in the cities and villages of third world countries. Others added the yet-to-be-fielded F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as another argument to kill the F-22 and thereby cut Defense spending.

The F-22 program was put on hold because opponents argued the fighter was built to help wage obsolete Cold War battle. Yet, as recent bellicosity from Russia, Cuba, Iran and North Korea demonstrate, many of our old adversaries are still in a Cold War mindset.

The United States should re-think a growing need for the F-22, especially considering the price tag of the F-35.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A model prison

All detainees have space in their cell for a Koran and personal prayer items. A Belgian prison official, Alain Grignard, deputy head of Brussels's federal police antiterrorism unit, said, "At the level of the detention facilities, it is a model prison." At Guantanamo, "prisoners' rights to practice their religion, food, clothes and medical care were better than in Belgian prisons. 'I know of no Belgian prison where each prisoner receives its [sic] Muslim kit.' Grignard said." He had "noticed dramatic improvements each time he visited the facility over the past two years." He was roundly castigated by certain European activist groups after making that statement. ~ Inside Gitmo Pg 123

Inside Gitmo was written by retired Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Cucullu

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Watchmen Review

Like any comic book junkie past or present, I had to see "Watchmen" on opening night. As a bonus, I was able to watch it in IMAX, thanks to my wife's forethought. There has been a lot of hype surrounding the movie, not least because of the huge marketing push, or the "visionary" label bestowed upon the film's director, Zack Snyder.

For this reason, "Watchmen" quickly became a target of many film critics. However, the film was probably a target long before the hype and the marketing campaign due to Snyder's second film,"300," which drew a great deal of controversy. Not only critics, but Iranian politicians halfway across the world condemned the movie on the basis that it negatively represented the Persian hordes as merciless invading monsters. I chronicled some of the controversy here.

As for "Watchmen," I have little doubt many critics were salivating at the prospect of tearing Snyder's third film to shreds. "300" offended their politically correct sensibilities, so "Watchmen" was condemned from the start. Critics have incessantly jabbed the film, arguing the movie was too faithful to the graphic novel.  Never mind the perennial refrain we hear from film aficionados that films are completely unfaithful to the book.

Now the offense is just the opposite.

We hear that there were too many "flashbacks," and there were no allusions to 9/11 and terrorism (?). Malin Akerman was either Jar Jar Binks, or gave a solid performance, depending upon whether you read Newsweek or the New York Times.

Most puzzling of all, NPR's Kenneth Turan boldly declared that "Watchmen" would not make much money at the box office. The film grossed $55 million dollars its opening weekend. Based on this prediction, I question the efficacy of an egregious proclamation in place of sober reflection.

Leaving the critics aside - and their agenda, there are plenty of things to love about "Watchmen," and there are things the film could have done without. Visually, few could argue the cinematic heights achieved by Snyder; the costumes were impeccably crafted, the landscape was grand but beautiful, and there were no awkward, convoluted camera angles. Furthermore, one could argue the film produced some of the finest acting performances of any superhero movie to date. Jackie Earle Haley effortlessly depicted Rorschach's brooding condemnation of humanity's vices, and his own fatalism. Patrick Wilson was utterly believable as the meek Nite Owl II; unsure of himself, but trying to break out of his shell. Billy Crudup's aloof monotone leaves the viewer piteous for Dr. Manhattan's inability to feel, but convinced of his seeming omniscience. Similarly, Matthew Goode's stoic, geeky idealism reflects Ozymandias' ethos - misguided as it may be.

I am no impartial observer, but a long time fan of the graphic novel. Then again, so are most of reviewers, self-proclaimed as they are. There is much more to like about this film than to dislike, but not everything worked. Dr. Manhattan's full-frontal nudity was just unnecessary, and in no way contributed to the plot. Neither did the sex scene between Nite Owl and Silk Spectre. Adding a bit of intimacy and romanticism to a film may add depth and complexity, but the sexual yearning and frustration was present without the gratuitous depiction aboard "Archie," 5,000 feet above the city.

The brutal and choreographed fight scenes were similarly representative of Snyder's excess. Despite the fast-paced brutality, each second of hand to hand combat seemed like an eternity drained from the more important goal of establishing a complicated story line.

Lastly, I cannot comprehend the need to change the denouement. The reason to replace alien corpses with Dr. Manhattan as the cause for the worldwide holocaust escapes me. As a movie goer, I'm un-phased, as a "Watchmen" fan, I'm annoyed. Knowing that the final act is essentially unchanged, what is the point of swearing such fealty for the entire film, only to change its ending? That, perhaps, might be Synder's biggest sin.

So who watches the Watchmen? Apparently, a lot more people than critics would have you believe.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Getting into GITMO

This quote from Lt Colonel Gordon Cucullu's "Inside GITMO" helps temper the rhetoric and explain the conditions which set an individual up for confinement to Guantanamo Bay:

"...evacuation for a terrorist is not automatically assumed by American field force commanders; just the opposite. Evacuation is a needs-driven process.

"It must be strongly demonstrated that a particular individual merits in-depth interrogation, extra-secure confinement, or both. Hard questions are asked: Is there good and sufficient reason to think tha tby his possible position, access, or relationships he has high-value intelligence information? Do we consider him a high-level security threat? Has he confessed to being a bomb-maker, financier, ideologue, or possible martyr? Any of these reasons could be sufficient to get him a ride to Guantanamo." ~ Inside GITMO, pg 54

Not all terrorists, and certainly not all suspected terrorists, make it to Guantanamo Bay. In fact, of the thousands who have been screened, only a small percentage are moved to the isolated facility on the far eastern-edge of Cuba. Righteous, but well-meaning constitutional and human rights activists should bear this in mind, when advocating the release of these hardened radicals.