“Do you think the Americans will fail to take action as a result of the National Intelligence Estimate?”
New York Times
January 26, 2008
Japan: U.S. Base Must Weigh Effect On Revered Creature
By Associated Press
Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of Federal District Court in San Francisco has ruled that the United States Defense Department violated the National Historic Preservation Act by failing to evaluate the potential effect of a planned United States air base in Okinawa on a recognized Japanese national treasure — a big, slow-moving aquatic mammal called the dugong — and ordered it to do so. The dugong, associated with traditional creation myths, is listed on Japan’s register of protected cultural properties. In the case, Okinawa Dugong v. Gates, No. 03-4350, the judge sided with environmentalists who said plans to relocate the Futenma Air Station, a Marine Corps base, to a site off the northeast coast of Okinawa would threaten the dwindling number of dugong that live in the seagrass beds. The decision, made Thursday, is the first time the Historic Preservation Act has been applied to an overseas project, Judge Patel said.
TIME FOR A LITTLE IRRELEVANCE
by Dr. W.R. Marshall, Ph.D
January 26, 2008
Hillary beats Barack. Barack beats Hillary—then Bill gets all snippy. McCain jumps in front of Romney. Romney jumps back in front of McCain—then Honest John takes money from the Swift Boat pukes he vilified in 2004. Huckabee’s still nipping at everybody’s heels—then pounding out a Noel Redding riff. Edwards still isn’t taking money from anyone—not that anyone is offering. Thompson is still napping. Rudy’s watch is still stopped on 9/11. There may actually be other people running for president who we don’t hear from anymore—hopefully Ralph Nader isn’t one of them. Speaking of not being heard from, anyone seen Cheney lately? And Dubya, fresh on the heels of his most recent failure in the Middle East (it’s a long list) is back trying to screw-up the economy just a little bit more…yeah, I didn’t think it was possible either, but Bush is a guy who went broke in the oil business.
So, this week I thought I’d ignore all that and write about the time I tried to become a caddy—you know, one of those guys who carries golf bags.
It’s simple really. I like golf. I like slinging my bag on my back and walking eighteen. I like all the cool stuff you can buy on EBay. I like plaid.
The problem is, I’m a working writer, and not a Carl Hiaasen or Tony Kornheiser working writer. I don’t have the cash to play Pebble or the connections to play Winged Foot—and apparently, neither do my editors. So you’ll usually find me in line at the local Muni waiting for the cheap rates to kick in.
Then something set a plan in motion that would get me on a course just a half an hour from my house, which just happens to be one of the best golf courses in America—an ad that read: “Caddies Wanted. Call CaddieMaster at…”
I made the call. The voice at the other end of the line was robotic but friendly. We chatted, the words “service industry” and “independent contractor” came up several times. I understood the first phrase meant I had to be polite, and the latter meant there were no benefits. He also asked if I would mind wearing a white jumpsuit.
Then I asked a question, “Do caddies get to play?”
“Any day after 3:00pm,” came the reply.
“I’d love to wear a white jumpsuit.”
I would get to play a track where the driving range was nicer then the course I play, and all I had to do was wear white prison issue and lug a few bags around this little piece of heaven a couple a days a week—they were even going to pay me a few bucks.
Now, you’d think the next step would be to head to the course, let the folks in charge see you’re not a degenerate or a congressman, do a few push-ups, and start looping.
The next step is a rather lengthy online test, somewhere around seventy-five questions, which, outside of one question asking if you’re Native American, concerns itself almost exclusively with finding different ways to ask the same two questions:
1) Are you a violent psychopath?
2) Are you a drug addict?
Good news; I’m neither.
Now I get the face to face. After going through security and having my shoes scanned for gelignite, I was directed to the caddy shack where I sat on plush leather furniture along with half a dozen other guys who, like me, were neither psychotic nor junkies.
After a while, a guy who looked like Scooter Libby came out. He told us, if hired, we would be working for an independent corporation hired by the golf courses to hire caddies, and business was booming. The company had caddies all over the nation and they were spreading overseas. Soon all caddies around the world would be wearing the white jumpsuit of the CaddieMaster Corporation.
Then he thanked us for coming and said we’d be getting one more phone call the following day.
Granted, all this seemed a bit much to just schlep some hedge fund hack’s golf bag, but it was a Top Ten Course according to Golf Digest.
The next day the call came. Not a single question about golf. Lots of questions dreamt up by humorless HR types about being a “team player” and the best ways to bow and scrape before the wealthy. Less than an hour later, I got a second call telling me I simply “wasn’t qualified” to be a caddie.
No closely mown fairways, no perfect greens?
“There must be some mistake. I have a PhD, I’ve trained with the ancient masters, I can cut back on red meat!”
“Yes,” he replied with his robot voice. “Yes…we’ll be watching you.”
And he hung up.
So now I’m back in line at the Muni, waiting for the Twilight Rates, hoping I don’t twist an ankle in one of the gopher holes on number 8, wondering how things went so wrong…and just the other day I was watching CNN from Iraq, and in the background I could have sworn I saw a Halliburton truck being unloaded by men in white jumpsuits.
© 2008 – W.R. Marshall – All Rights Reserved
E-Mails are used strictly for NWVs alerts, not for sale
WR Marshall is a syndicated columnist and novelist. His column, ‘A Dull Ache’(tm) is read in over one hundred markets around the world. He also has a PhD, which he’s still paying for-in more ways than one…
January 26, 2008
Academy Meal Spurs Debate
Lunch honoring civil rights leader raises questions about race
By Josh Mitchell, Sun reporter
An attempt by the Naval Academy to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. this week by serving fried chicken, greens and cornbread in the midshipmen’s dining hall sparked a debate on the Annapolis campus about racial sensitivity.
On Tuesday, the academy served those items along with mashed potatoes, pie and lemonade as clips of King speeches were broadcast in King Hall, named after an academy graduate. The meal was served Tuesday because classes were not held during the holiday honoring the civil rights leader.
An academy spokesman said the meal followed events at the academy and other Navy institutions that honored Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month and St. Patrick’s Day by serving cultural foods.
“The idea behind it is that it’s a traditional Southern meal,” said the spokesman, Cmdr. Ed Austin, adding, “It’s a fairly common thing throughout the fleet to do special meals on special occasions.”
But postings on GoMids.com, which includes a message board used by midshipmen and others affiliated with the academy, indicate some were offended by the attempt to honor King.
“I thought we were well past these stereotypes!!” one contributor wrote. The posting was part of a string of comments on Tuesday’s lunch. By yesterday, the string had been removed from the site.
Austin said the meal was planned by the academy’s director of food services, who is African-American, and her staff.
In September, midshipmen were served beef fajitas, flour tortillas and Spanish rice for Hispanic Heritage Month, he said.
Austin said he knew of no complaints made to officers at the academy about the menu, adding that the academy’s food staff has received nothing but positive feedback about the lunch event.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Jim Jackson, an academy graduate who is black, cautioned against being overly sensitive. He recalled starting a soul band with fellow Mids in the early 1970s.
“We were having to take tiny steps forward to introduce things that were going to reflect African-American culture,” said Jackson, a guidance counselor at Anne Arundel Community College. “What now may seem as trivial or insensitive a thing to have as soul food would have been much welcomed.”
Carl O. Snowden, who heads the Office for Civil Rights in the Maryland attorney general’s office, said he found nothing offensive about the academy’s actions, adding that it appeared to be a genuine attempt to honor King. He noted that the academy’s new superintendent, Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler, has made it a goal to increase minority recruiting and reach out to the African-American community.
But Snowden added that he could see why some might find the lunch honoring King offensive.
“It seems to me they might want to rethink that as a means of honoring him, simply because it would be open to misinterpretation,” he said.
Sun reporters Bradley Olson and Laura Vozzella contributed to this article.
San Diego Union-Tribune
January 26, 2008
Report: Osprey’s Assault Vehicles Can’t Carry Ammo
Jeeplike Growler is said to tip over
By Joseph Neff, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
RALEIGH, N.C. – When the Marines shipped their V-22 Osprey aircraft to Iraq last year, they had to leave behind the assault vehicles and mobile mortar system that fit inside the planes.
It turns out that the new mortar system can’t safely carry its ammunition.
That conclusion, from a government audit, is the most recent bad news for the Marines’ attempt to ferry firepower inside the Osprey. The Defense Department inspector general is investigating the program, which is two years behind schedule and $15 million over budget.
The system consists of a jeeplike vehicle called the Growler that pulls trailers carrying mortars and ammunition.
Each Growler costs $127,000 and is made in Robbins, N.C.
It can’t safely pull its ammunition trailer, according to interviews and the Government Accountability Office report. The trailer has a tendency to bounce or tip over, which could crush a Marine riding in the back of the Growler. A Growler without a trailer was reported to have tipped over last summer when it swerved to avoid a turtle in the road.
The Marines won’t discuss the program, known as the Expeditionary Fire Support System, because of the Defense Department’s investigation.
The Osprey is a rotorcraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter and tilts its huge rotors forward to fly like an airplane.
The aircraft, which costs $119 million, has suffered cost overruns, a string of crashes that left 30 dead and repeated watering down of specifications during its two decades of development.
The Pentagon has declared that most of the Osprey’s problems have been fixed, and the first squadron of 12 Ospreys went to Iraq in October.
In 1999, the Marines decided the Osprey program needed assault vehicles to carry men and mortars to the battlefield.
Some Growlers will pull the mortar systems on trailers. Others will be outfitted with a machine gun.
The Ospreys are designed to take off from ships and go inland faster than helicopters. Once they land, the Growlers would provide assault firepower or machine-gun cover for Marines on foot.
In November 2004, the Marines awarded the contract to General Dynamics, which produced the mortar system. The defense giant uses a company in Robbins, N.C., called Carolina Growler to build a modified dune buggy whose design recalls Vietnam-era jeeps.
Gov. Mike Easley awarded Carolina Growler a $25,000 grant, and U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., helped the company get a $300,000 grant and a $112,000 loan from the U.S. Agriculture Department.
The contract award was disputed because the founder of Carolina Growler, Terry Crews, is a retired Marine colonel with strong connections at Marine headquarters in Quantico, Va.
A selection committee had recommended that Rae-Beck Automotive of Michigan get the contract rather than Carolina Growler. But the committee was overruled.
A complaint filed in the case says Rae-Beck built a cheaper and technically superior vehicle that did not need to use a trailer to transport the ammunition.
In September, as the Marines were poised to give final approval to the full order of 66 mortar systems and 600 Growler assault vehicles, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked the Marines to postpone the decision so the Government Accountability Office could investigate. Levin wrote the letter after complaints came from a Michigan company and after a Detroit TV station reported that a Growler traveling at 22 mph, without a trailer, had rolled over at Camp Lejeune, N.C., when it swerved to avoid a turtle.
Carolina Growler President Bill Crisp wouldn’t discuss the turtle report, saying the accident report was classified: “That may or may not have been true.”
Los Angeles Times
January 26, 2008
Marines Were Shot At, Army Expert Testifies
A Humvee in their convoy bore evidence of small-arms fire, an explosives specialist says. Up to 19 Afghan civilians died in the March incident under investigation.
By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — An Army explosives expert testified Friday that a Humvee was hit by small-arms fire after a suicide car bomb attack last March on a Marine convoy whose gunners have been accused of killing as many as 19 Afghan civilians. Sgt. 1st Class Jason Mero offered the first definitive support for testimony by Marines on the convoy, who said their gunners fired because the Marines believed enemies were shooting at them. Attorneys for the Marines have said they fired on gunmen, not civilians.
Mero told a court of inquiry he was “100% certain” that small-arms fire struck the gunner’s turret shield on the convoy’s second Humvee, which was targeted by the car bomber. He said he was 90% certain that the Humvee’s windshield and headlight were hit by small-arms fire.
An Afghan human rights group has accused the Marines from a special operations unit of firing indiscriminately at civilian vehicles and pedestrians after the suicide attack. An Army colonel in charge of the area, saying he was “deeply ashamed,” told reporters and Afghans in May that the Marines had killed 19 Afghan civilians and wounded 50.
Mero, who examined the Humvee within two days of the March 4 incident, said he was pressured by the Air Force colonel in charge of the investigation to alter his conclusions. He said Col. Patrick Pihana first agreed that bullets had struck the Humvee, but changed his mind after talking to Afghan civilians near the bomb site.
“He was wanting me to change my opinion . . . to buck up his opinion” that the convoy was not fired on, Mero said. Though Pihana’s pressure made him uncomfortable, Mero said, he did not change his conclusions.
Pihana has testified during the three-week inquiry, but only in classified sessions closed to the press and public.
Mero said he based his conclusions on an examination of several “divots” in the windshield and a hole in the headlight. A hard plastic coating on the turret shield was bent inward by the impact of a bullet fired from outside the Humvee, “just missing the gunner,” he testified.
Mero also provided the inquiry’s first description of the car bomb, which slightly wounded the Humvee gunner but did not cause extensive damage to convoy vehicles. He said the bomb — made of fuel oil, ammonium nitrate fertilizer and mortars — detonated prematurely about 15 feet from the second of the convoy’s six Humvees.
Under cross-examination by a government attorney, Mero conceded that his investigation would have been more thorough if he had inspected the bomb site. But he said the Afghan government asked him not to travel there because local Afghans were “very, very angry.”
Earlier Friday, a retired Marine master sergeant testified that the Marine company was resented and undermined when it arrived in Afghanistan last winter — and wasn’t provided such basics as bunks and fuel.
The special operations command “really didn’t want us to do well” and placed “obstacles in our path,” said Master Sgt. Jim Elder, the company’s operations chief.
Elder’s testimony, for the defense, was the first to suggest rivalries within the Marine command in addition to tensions between Marine Special Operations Company F and U.S. Army commanders.
Such conflicts could be useful to the defense if they leave the impression that the Marine unit is being made a scapegoat by rivals.
The actions of two of the company’s top commanders are being investigated by the court of inquiry, which is a fact-finding body, not a criminal court.
The three Marine officers on the inquiry panel will report their findings to the head of the Marine Corps central command. No one has been charged in the case.
Attorneys for Maj. Fred C. Galvin, the company commander, and Capt. Vincent J. Noble, the convoy commander, questioned Elder about the unit’s reception as the first Marine special operations company deployed in combat.
Even before deploying, Elder said, Galvin had a “terrible” and “adversarial” working relationship with his battalion commander because the commander had not selected Galvin to lead the unit.
And a Marine liaison major in Afghanistan who was supposed to provide equipment for the company “did not deliver,” Elder testified.
The company was assigned to a run-down camp that lacked bunks, fuel, guards and food, and had fecal matter in the drinking water.
Though the liaison major was a Marine, Elder said, he developed “Stockholm syndrome” — identifying with Army commanders who dominated the joint special operations command.
“He Army’d up,” Elder said with disdain. Elder, now retired, was among the most outspoken of the three dozen witnesses who have testified in public at the inquiry, the first for the Marine Corps in half a century.
The special operations command ordered the Marine company out of Afghanistan after the shootings.
“No Better Friend–No Greater Enemy”
February 1, 2008
U.S. Special Forces Target Hearts And Minds
By Stew Magnuson
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — The convoy was about to depart a free medical clinic when two pre-teen boys who spent their days picking through garbage ran up and told authorities about the suspicious looking rice sacks with wires sticking out that lay nearby.
In the convoy of Filipino soldiers, doctors and nurses were about 30 Americans who were participating in a civil affairs mission to spread goodwill in an area that had traditionally supported Muslim separatists.
The boys had seen a poster describing roadside bombs and remembered that there were rewards for those who tipped off authorities to their whereabouts.
The convoy was halted, the bombs rendered harmless, and the boys would receive about $4,000 each and a scholarship to finish school.
The poster the boys had seen were part of an information campaign designed by a U.S. special forces military information support team, better known as psychological operations. Civil affairs teams had organized the free clinic.
These two lesser known missions — designed to win the “hearts and minds” of local populations — are being increasingly recognized as an important tool for combating terrorism.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates expounded on the use of so-called “soft power” to achieve U.S. objectives. “One of the most important lessons from our experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere has been the decisive role reconstruction, development, and governance plays in any meaningful, long-term success,” Gates said.
“It is just plain embarrassing that al Qaida is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America,” he added.
Some have touted the operation in the southern Philippines as a model of an effective civil affairs and psy-ops campaign. Shortly after Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001, U.S. special operations forces came to the area to advise and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Officials here said the operation is needed in order to counter terrorist organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah, which have targeted westerners — Americans and friendly national governments.
Stabilizing the Philippines is critical to maintaining a safe and secure Southeast Asia, which is one of the United States’ strategic security objectives, officials said.
“This is a different mission than any other I’ve been on,” said Maj. Chris Polites, commander of F-company 97th civil affairs battalion, 95th brigade, based at Ft. Bragg, N.C. There is a “long-standing relationship with the Philippines, and that’s different from any other theater.”
Despite the recognition that bullets and bombs alone aren’t going to win the so-called global war on terrorism, some experts have said the Defense Department has been slow to recognize the importance of these “indirect” effects.
Authors David Tucker and Christopher J. Lamb in a recent book, “United States Special Operations Forces,” contended that civil affairs and psychological operations units are poorly understood, often underutilized, “less valued” and “neglected by Special Operations Command leadership.”
That is not the case in the Philippines where these two esoteric specialties are being given credit for much of the success.
The AFP is taking the cue and quickly beefing up its own capabilities. In October, it established the National Development Support Command, a non-combat, non-regional civil engineering operation. And mass communications graduates from Filipino universities are being recruited into the military to help the armed forces deliver its messages.
In the past, bullets were seen as the only way to battle an insurgency. Military operations simply aggravated the situation, created ill-will, and the cycle of violence continued for decades.
Capt. Abdurasad Sirajan, a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front separatist group, who joined the Philippine army after that organization entered a peace agreement in 1996, said the AFP now recognizes that it needs to engage in the battle of ideas.
Defeating extremist ideology “can’t be done by using force,” he said.
“The stigma of psy-ops is that it manipulates people, which is not true,” said Capt. Jose Taduran, who leads the military information support team, or MIST.
MIST is the kinder, gentler acronym now being used for psychological operations, which is a term senior leaders here now discourage.
“What we’re here to do is advise the AFP on how to do better information operations,” Taduran said as he displayed a table spread with posters, pamphlets, comic books, videos and school items such as book bags, pens and notebooks.
Inside a nondescript building on Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City, he leads a team hunched over computers in a windowless, air-conditioned room.
One member monitors open sources — the local media and websites. The Philippines has a lively and free press, and separatist groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have their own websites.
A group of specialists develops surveys and questionnaires. AFP personnel and others conduct surveys in villages to gauge attitudes.
The U.S. operation is spread out over several islands and the main island of Mindanao. Messages must be tailored to each community, Taduran said.
The product development team creates the posters and printed matter that are disseminated throughout the islands.
Television and radio are used as well, although these media do not always reach some impoverished communities, Taduran said. The most common forms of communication on the islands are word of mouth, radio, and text messaging.
On the radio side, the MIST team has hired a well-known radio host, Salvation Acerat, better known to local listeners as “Miss Bingo.”
She hosts about six one-hour programs each week broadcast on a government-owned and a private station.
The overall messages are these: that the armed forces of the Philippines and the national government are here to assist the local population; the extremists are hindering economic development; and unless the people help the military rid the area of terrorists, prosperity will not follow.
“Their mission is to destroy humanity. Their mission is to destroy peace and order,” she tells listeners.
There are currently three targeted groups. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is in long-standing peace negotiations with the government. However, there are militants inside the movement who are opposed to the negotiations and continue to fight.
More notorious is the Abu Sayyaf Group, which has conducted a series of kidnappings, beheadings and bombings. Also in the mix are members of the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah, who are alleged to have transferred their bomb-making skills and terror tactics to the Philippines.
The MIST team is waging an aggressive operation to capture the bomb makers.
Wanted posters offering awards in the millions of dollars are hung throughout the islands. The extremist groups are also the targets of a series of television commercials.
MIST has hired a Manila-based marketing firm to produce the TV spots.
One script targets the alleged mastermind of the Bali, Indonesia bombing in 2002.
Last March 2003, the JI bombmaker Dulmatin brought the terror to our shores. Nineteen lives were lost when he bombed the Davao airport. Another bomb ripped through the wharf in Davao; 16 more lives perished. An award awaits people with information leading to Dulmatin’s arrest. Don’t let this monster destroy our beautiful Mindanao.
Another ad features a 12-year-old Muslim boy whose father died in a 2005 bombing. Tears roll down his cheeks as he grieves. A similar ad shows the picture of a girl who was killed in a bombing.
“Enough is enough. Help stop terrorism. Answer the call for peace,” a child’s voice says.
Taduran said it’s important that all the information used in the campaigns is factual. Photos on posters are not manipulated. The facts in TV and radio ads and stories of the victimized children are real, he said.
There are varying degrees of messages, from “soft” to “hard,” he explained. The hard messages are those directed toward supporters of terrorists or members of the groups themselves. These come in pamphlets and posters left behind by the Philippine forces.
Word of mouth campaigns are softer. The AFP conducts town hall meetings in villages where officials show videos touting the economic progress and development that follows once peace and security are restored.
Bumper stickers, matchbooks, backpacks and other school supplies are given out as presents with a “Helping Hands” logo.
Taduran said the campaign is dynamic, so there are always adjustments to be made and messages must be updated frequently.
The MIST team will conduct a pilot program using text messaging, which is an increasingly common form of communication.
Inside the U.S. compound at Camp Navarro, a civil affairs soldier used mapping technology to help win hearts and minds in the southern Philippines. Geospatial software was employed to analyze where to best conduct free medical clinics.
Free medical, dental and veterinary clinics — called civil action programs — are used to support the AFP in gaining access to communities. Filipino doctors, dentists and veterinarians come in to provide free care. Of utmost importance, Taduran said, is putting a Filipino face on all these operations.
Other civil action programs include school and clinic renovations, wells and water projects, and road construction.
Polites has a small team of about 32 spread throughout the region. One of the basic services it provides is civil reconnaissance.
By populating maps with people, places and things, or “nodes” in CA lingo, it gives commanders the choice of where best to apply reconstruction projects or clinics he said.
“We don’t have the capacity to fix governance problems, and that’s not really our job … But what we’re good at doing though is recognizing what the problems are,” Polites said. His team works closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has a larger budget and can pay for big ticket development projects.
Measuring success in civil affairs and psychological operations isn’t always easy.
Col. Jim Mishina, operations planner, said one indication of progress is when the extremists attempt to mimic U.S. tactics. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is now conducting its own free medical clinics. And that’s okay with him.
“Instead of buying weapons and explosive materials, they’re willing to commit dollars to providing medical aid,” Mishina said from Special Operations Command Pacific headquarters in Hawaii.
The battle of ideas goes both ways, he noted. At the beginning of operations in the island of Jolo, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front spread images of the U.S. army dating back to the colonial era when Gen. John Pershing fought a bloody campaign against the local Tausug ethnic group.
Ultimately, it is about matching words with deeds, Mishina said. Improved infrastructure and better security provided by AFP troops are some tangible benefits that please the populace. “Otherwise we’re just putting out messages,” he said.
Despite the success, Taduran echoed the complaint that psy-ops and civil affairs teams don’t receive the respect and recognition as the more glamorous commando, or “direct action” teams.
“Nobody understands us,” he said. “We get no respect because it’s complicated. Nobody wants to sit down and listen to an explanation as to why we shouldn’t just go in and kick doors.”
Polites said that attitudes are changing. “I think people are recognizing more of the necessity [that] when you’re not engaged in high intensity conflicts, that you need resources like civil affairs and MIST.”