Category Archives: Media vs. Military

About that Movie that Caused the Benghazi Attack

Would you trust your diplomatic Mission to this guy?

Would you trust your diplomatic Mission to this guy?

Just about everybody who’s anybody in the foreign policy and national security establishment, or “the Blob,” as former campaign van driver and novelist manqué turned Presidential foreign-policy mind-meld Ben Rhodes calls it, has had something to say about the spectacularly revealing Ben Rhodes profile in the New York Times Magazine.

David Samuels of the Times seems to have conducted the interview the way Times journalists usually do with Administration grandees: on his knees, breathlessly counterposed to the his dehiscent slide fastener of his interviewee’s trousers.

Despite his claim to be outside it,  Rhodes is a card-carrying Beltway Blob made guy, by dint of his position (which he probably owes to having a brother who’s head of CBS “News”). He is a Deputy National Security Advisor on the National Security Council and has nothing but contempt for people who actually have studied, practiced, or (in the instant case) implemented foreign policy, especially not when it comes down to kinetics.

Conversely, nobody is asking, say, retired special operations sergeants and former defense contractors what they think, but why shouldn’t we stick our oar in? Everyone else is.

And right now, everybody is talking about how Rhodes admits that the Iran “deal” was built on myth and sold with lies.

Rhodes’s war room did its work on Capitol Hill and with reporters. In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.”

This is the first admission that groups like Ploughshares and the Iran Project are under de facto Administration control — or maybe it’s the other way around.

He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents. ….

In fact, Rhodes’s passion seems to derive … from his own sense of the urgency of radically reorienting American policy in the Middle East in order to make the prospect of American involvement in the region’s future wars a lot less likely. When I asked whether the prospect of this same kind of far-reaching spin campaign being run by a different administration is something that scares him, he admitted that it does.

But there was another glimpse behind Rhodes’s Beltway Blob kimono suggested by that article, aside from whatever Samuels glimpsed through that zipper while achieving his own mind meld with his special friend and interviewee. And it ties into past articles, like this one at, oddly enough, the New York Times: Rhodes describes in the recent, Samuels story how he makes a lie into news. Bear that in mind when you see who the author was of the Administration’s, and then-Secretary of State Clinton’s, pathetic and fabricated claim that the Benghazi attack was a reaction to a YouTube video. Yep, it was Rhodes. Here’s the Times’s Michael D. Shear (another Beltway Blob made guy?) in April, 2014:

The email from Mr. Rhodes includes goals for Ms. Rice’s appearances on the shows and advice on how to discuss the subject of the protests that were raging in Libya and at other American diplomatic posts in the Middle East.

Among the goals that Mr. Rhodes identified: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” In a section called “Top-lines,” Mr. Rhodes added: “Since we began to see protests in response to this Internet video, the president has directed the Administration to take a number of steps. His top priority has been the safety and security of all Americans serving abroad.”

(For the record, the attack was a deliberate attack the extremist al-Qaeda linked militia. The extremists themselves had been suppressed by Qaddhfi, but were turned loose by the quixotic and purposeless war the Administration launched in Libya for reasons that still lack an explanation, except for the general tilt of Obama, Jarrett, Donilon, Rice, Power, Rhodes et al. towards Islamist extremists, and against American interests).

In another point in Samuels’ fluff piece, Rhodes, the self-described Holden Caulfield of the NYU MFA program, is described as having no ego. In the midst of a post that is probably enough for any pshrink to diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder in both Rhodes and his interviewer.

Finally, this puts a new light on the various incompatible Hillary Clinton statements about the Benghazi disaster that somehow eventuated on her disinterested and mendacious watch. She herself may have been spun by Rhodes and his small army of suckling and spewing mouths, a group which may well include Clinton eminènce grise Simple Sid Blumenthal.

Yeah, the Army Personnel System is AFU. But…

Officer RanksThe Army personnel system is like the ancient Chinese mandarin system, except that it sucks even at producing mandarins. This should not be news to anybody. Certainly the best and the brightest — hell, even the dull and the dimmest — have been firing cannonades against DOPMA and “up-or-out” since Gabriel and Savage teed up Crisis in Command in the 1970s, and probably earlier. But along comes The Atlantic, commissioning retired general David Barno and some social (i.e., pseudo) scientist to write a jeremiad against the personnel system.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s like one of our VA or TSA stories. Expecting anything other than inept and counter-mission performance from any stumblebum government bureaucracy will end in tears.

Still, Barno and whatserface try.

Let’s start with a spoiled Millennial MI officer who’s all a-whine that the Army is not seeing to his emotional needs:

Jost arrived at West Point during the summer of 2004, nearly three years after the 9/11 attacks. The nation and the Army were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Jost took Chinese language classes to fulfill his single year of required language at the academy, and a summer program in China cemented his love of the Chinese language and culture. According to Jost, he gave up his vacation time nearly every summer to study in China, and graduated with a double major in Chinese and International Relations.
West Point cadets line up at their graduation ceremony in Michie Stadium. (Mike Groll / AP)
Jost excelled in his studies. He was academically ranked seventh out of 972 cadets in his graduating class, and was commissioned as a military intelligence officer. He won a Rotary scholarship for a graduate degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He became proficient in Mandarin, and earned a master’s degree in Chinese studies after a year of intense study. Now it was time to join the Army and use his education.

It would be the last time Jost used his Chinese until leaving the service five years later.

Awwwwww, someone call that (now former) officer a Waaahmbulance. The Army didn’t dispose itself for one millennial’s ultimate self-actualization. Quel horreur! 

turkish water pipe

Sometimes, the Army is like a Turkish water pipe. The more you suck, the higher you go.

These Officer Selfie stories make up a good part of the long thumbsucker. Along with Jost, we meet a woman whose life was ruined, ruined, because she could only serve in combat as an attack helicopter pilot, when she really wanted to be an infantry officer. The whole attack-helicopter thing was a sideline for her, and her ambition for higher rank quickly drove her out of the cockpit into pursuit of other avenues towards fame and promotion, all collapsing in a Hindenburg FOOM when she and her officer husband didn’t get matching His & Hers assignments.

The promotion system, Barno and whatserface note, holds back officers of superior ability. Its Industrial Age men-as-interchangeable-cogs ethos has long been abandoned by industry, which can be even more dynamic (and even more focused on superficial, short-term results than the military, which is already too focused on knob-polishing for ticket-punching transient leaders). But it is an ill wind that blows no good, and that same personnel friction also holds back the toxic leader. We all know the type: the narcissistic careerist for whom military service is a love sonnet to self, the one who inverts the officer code of “the mission, the men, and me” to “me, me, me, then the mission, and bleep the men if they can’t take a joke.”

An example of the article’s focus on careerist vs. competent officers is its concern for officers’ graduate-school opportunities. In fact, the Army at least has numerous pathways to grad school and one of their selected whiners went directly from West Point to grad school, as noted above, but he wanted more grad school and he didn’t want to wait for it.  We have very seldom seen an officer apply his grad school effectively to the only real reason we need officers, combat leadership. In fact, officers who have led sports teams seem to do much better, on average, than their more intelligent supposed “betters.” (We make fun of colonels who majored in football, here, but it’s probably a better preparation for leadership than any graduate degree, although history and anything highly quantitative — like an MBA — have their applications). In our experience, the paid grad-school thing is mostly just a benefit that accrues to the individual officer, and that he or she takes “up or out” with him and may used to plus up a post-military civilian salary.

As an aside: that Barno seemingly wants to elevate such officers makes us wonder what stripe of leader he was. A friend writes, in introducing this article to us:

The two authors are currently prominent participants in think tank events around town focusing on military and defense. LTG Barno has some actual basis for what he asserts, having actually carried a rifle and rucksack on behalf of America. Dr, Bensahel apparently learned what she knows by reading books and being a member of the chattering class.

Full disclosure: LTG Barno and I, when we were captains over 30 years ago, were classmates (which does NOT translate to friends) in an Army course. While I recall him, I doubt that he would recall me.

So, is there nothing of value in Barno and whatsername’s report? No. They do manage to get in a good condemnation of up-or-out, the Original Sin in DOPMA which drives much of the ticket-punching, short-term, superficial activity of toxic leasers.

Quoting the RAND Corp:

While breaking new ground (permanent grade tables, single promotion system, augmentation of reserve officers into regular status), DOPMA [of 1980] was basically evolutionary, extending the existing paradigm (grade controls, promotion opportunity and timing objectives, up-or-out, and uniformity across the services) that was established after World War II.

They also note that, unlike civilian businesses, there’s no way to military leadership except the DOPMA-dictated process of plodding apprenticeship:

This legacy system is woefully archaic in the 21st century—and far removed from the best talent-management practices of the private sector. It may well be the last untransformed segment of an otherwise modern, flexible, and adaptable U.S. military. Yet the personnel system touches every single person in the military every single day of their career—and determines how much they are paid, where they live, what kind of jobs they perform, and how often they move or get promoted. Neither officers nor enlisted troops have any substantial input in how they fit into this system—nor how to maximize their talents for the greater good.

The U.S. military is largely a closed-loop system for talent. Lateral entry is nearly nonexistent outside of unique specialties such as medicine. The four-star generals and admirals who will be the chairman and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in 2035 are serving in uniform today as majors or lieutenant commanders with somewhere between 10 and 16 years of service. Even the members of the JCS in 2045 are already serving in uniform, just starting out as ensigns and lieutenants, most with fewer than four years of service. Losing talented, experienced, and innovative leaders in the first 10 years of their military careers means that those leaders will not be available to serve in ever-more senior military leadership positions during the next the 20 or 30 years. This problem deserves rapt attention because getting the quality of the force wrong—unknowingly keeping in less capable leaders while losing the best and brightest talent—could have debilitating effects on fighting and winning the complex wars of the future.

It’s actually worse than they suggest, because it’s extremely hard for officers to choose and change branches. The signal or QM officer who burns to lead infantry units is practically a wachword, and there’s no way for him to do it, because we decided who was going to be an infantry officer when he was 17 or 21 years old, and that’s that. There’s little traffic  and few pathways between the officer and NCO ranks — given our educated enlisted corps these days, there should be more traffic on those paths, and it should be bidirectional. There are still restrictions on Reservists coming on to active duty, and there is no possibility for an officer to opt to take a few years in the reserves, perhaps to raise children or to bank some money for their future education. Sure, you can leave active duty and take a reserve or Guard commission, but you’re passing through one of the personnel system’s beloved one-way diodes on its busy wiring diagram: there is no return.

The personnel system’s drag isn’t just applied to the most ambitious officers (whom Barno and whatsername conflate with the best), either. The byzantine system is a huge brake on everything the Army does. Around the time of the Gulf War we were shocked to discover that the Army, admittedly larger then, had approximately 50,000 enlisted personnel clerks, almost 10% of its active duty strength. Companies with thousands of employees employ single digits of personnel in their HR departments: these clerks are 99.9% superfluous, and exist to serve the organization; while their assigments might be merely orthogonal to the mission, their practical effect is negative because they bear down so much on everything the service does.

Finally, one goal of DOPMA is not mentioned by Barno and whatsername, even though it is one of the few that the act actually met: removing partisanship from officer selection and promotion. This article does not exist in a vacuum, but is part of an organized campaign in support of an initiatiave by SecDef Ash Carter, whose objective is to remove these requirements from both DOD civilian and officer billets. This would allow free and unlimited hiring and firing — and it would allow the even more rapid advancement of the one kind of officer proven to beat the DOPMA system: the political suck-up.

Whatever new Frankensteinian abomination flows from this, they will call it progress.

Rick Pearlstein Hates Vietnam Vets, Unless They’re NVA

Rick Pearlstein likes a red flag, not this one.

Rick Pearlstein likes a red flag, not this one.

The first question you’re probably going to ask is, “Who is Rick Pearlstein, and why do we care?” And when we answer the first question, you might wonder why we bother with the second. Pearlstein is one more wealthy media Manhattanite, raised in a family that sent poor black city kids and white country boys to the coal faces of freedom, while they rode deferments and dodges and Wall Street duplicity to personal comfort and self-satisfaction far removed from a plot in Arlington and a line on a slab of black granite.

Like any well-heeled debtor who does not want to pay the debt, he loathes his creditors. He is a type, one that may be found in widest distribution across the newsrooms and faculty lounges of America, and not any place that physical or productive work is taking place, or that risk is borne.

Pearlstein, further, writes for Newsweek, the forgotten-but-not-entirely-gone news magazine that sold a few years ago at an absurdly high P/E ratio, which is to say, for $1. So hardly anybody reads his drivel, unless the dentist doesn’t have Sports Illustrated or Highlights for Children. We will spare Newsweek the link from our small (but, we suspect, less dentally-captive than theirs) readership, and requote a quote that David French of National Review, a Pearlstein detractor, picked from out of Pearlstein’s word goulash to illustrate Pearlstein’s latest argument. Ickle Rick’s position is that the POW/MIA flag is evil and should be taken down — because Rick Pearlstein hates it, as much as and for the same reasons as he hates the Stars and Stripes. (So, what flag does he fly? That of personal self-aggrandizement, cloaked as concern-trolling for the downtrodden workers and peasants: a red one).

During the Nixon years, the Pentagon moved [missing, downed pilots] into a newly invented “Missing in Action” column.

Um, Perlstein is simply making that up. Here, for instance, is a link to the American Battle Monuments Commission describing, among other things, how the names of roughly 4,400 Americans who were classified as Lost at Sea or Missing in Action in World War I are recorded on tablets at the Commission’s WWI cemeteries. For Rick Pearlstein, of course, this may just be a symptom of just how deep Tricky Dick Nixon’s tentacles reached, polluting the ABMC before Nixon was out of triangular pants.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary notes that the first use of the abbreviation MIA for Missing In Action dates to at least 1944. In Rick Pearlstein’s world, which began when some doctor delivered him and slapped his mother, that’s before the Original Event Horizon, so everything has to begin with Nixon somehow.

That proved convenient, for, after years of playing down the existence of American prisoners in Vietnam, in 1969, the new president suddenly decided to play them up.

Wile-E-Coyote-Genius-Business-CardYou may recall that the guy before Nixon, LBJ, whom Pearlstein here conflates with Tricky Dick his ownself, had no idea what he was doing in Vietnam, just that he didn’t want to lose, didn’t want to win, and didn’t want to make a decision. LBJ was abetted in this by a bunch of Harvard geniuses he’d inherited from the JFK administration. Most of them were geniuses in the Wile E. Coyote mold: Robert S. Macnamara, for instance, after screwing up Ford Motor Company, gave the DOD the colossal TFX program that needed 25 years and an electronics revolution to become a working airplane, then created the Vietnam quagmire, and then proceeded to drive much of the Third World into default by screwing up the World Bank. And he was the high achiever of the pack.

He declared their treatment, and the enemy’s refusal to provide a list of their names, violations of the Geneva Conventions—the better to paint the North Vietnamese as uniquely cruel and inhumane. He also demanded the release of American prisoners as a precondition to ending the war.

The tortures systematized by the People’s Army of Viet Nam are quite literally violations of the Geneva and Hague Conventions. Not because Tricky Dick said so, however much Pearlstein imagines that to be true.

It is worth noting that the thoroughly criminal Nazi government observed these conventions to a much greater extent than the Democratic Republic of Vietnam did.

This was bullshit four times over:

This is projection four times over, as we will see.

first, because in every other conflict in human history, the release of prisoners had been something settled at the close of a war;

It is something that is always discussed between civilized combatants, usually through neutral Powers, and is always covered in end-of-war agreements. So Pearlstein is lying about this, too.

second, because these prisoners only existed because of America’s antecedent violations of the Geneva Conventions in bombing civilians in an undeclared war;

Pearlstein’s attempt at barracks-room lawyering fails just as you would expect someone whose entire life has been dedicated to sending others to the barracks in his stead. “Bombing civilians” of the sort that happened in the Vietnam War (or that happens now, in drone attacks) is not unlawful, if the force is intended to strike military targets and not grossly disproportional to the target. And there is no requirement that a war be declared (or even, for both of the warring parties to be states, and how can you declare war if you are not a state?) for the Laws and Usages of War to attach.

Also, in his credentialed-but-ignorant view of history, he doesn’t even note that only some of the tortured prisoners were airmen. The longest-held POW, Floyd Thompson, was a Special Forces officer captured in South Vietnam in 1964.

third, because, as bad as their torture of prisoners was, rather than representing some species of Oriental despotism, the Vietnam Communists were only borrowing techniques practiced on them by their French colonists (and incidentally paid forward by us in places like Abu Ghraib): see this as-told-to memoir by POW and future senator Jeremiah Denton.

Got one of these? Got tortured? Rick Pearlstein an Newsweek say you had it coming, and is glad you were.

Got one of these? Got tortured? Rick Pearlstein and Newsweek say you had it coming, and they’re glad you were. They were never “anti-war”; they were just on the other side.

This is, of course, the tu quoque logical fallacy, used twice; typical of Pearlstein’s shallow, juvenile, poorly-educated reasoning skills. How torture by the French, if such existed, prior to 1954, justified torture by the Vietnamese in the 1970s as payback to a third party is unclear. Moreover, just because someone tortured you doesn’t get you a Commit War Crimes Free Card. (That is, in fact, what the Americans at My Lai 4 argued in their defense, a defense that failed. Note also that we put our war criminals on trial, however imperfectly; Pearlstein’s pals in the PAVN showered theirs with honors). Second, his second shot at tu quoque, the misconduct by a poorly led MP unit at Abu Ghraib (led, incidentally, by a female BG that the same Manhattan media scrum liked to hold up as a model for the New Amazon Warrior Woman) was not a systematic, top-down torture effort approved at the highest levels of the nation, but was the creation of one mouth-breathing staff sergeant and his guard shift of unthinking inbreds, who were tried, convicted, and imprisoned. It’s like, we dunno, blaming the New York Bar for Joel Steinberg murdering his daughter. Or blaming all reporters because Pearl Rickstein subscribes to Jayson Blair standards of integrity.

And finally, our South Vietnamese allies’ treatment of their prisoners, who lived manacled to the floors in crippling underground bamboo “tiger cages” in prison camps built by us, was far worse than the torture our personnel suffered.

via So Now the POW/MIA Flag Is Under Fire — as a Symbol of ‘Racist Hate’ | National Review Online.

Ah, it’s another tu quoque. And a false one. And one that has its basis in wartime enemy propaganda, for whom some reporters are still the willing Tannoy, fifty years later.

We get it. Rick Pearlstein hates the POWs, because they criticized his commie pals (the side he and his always wanted to win), and also criticized his candidate for president, the one that did the bidding of those commie pals in 1970-72.

Rick Pearlstein hates the POWs. Newsweek hates the POWs.

Rick Pearlstein hates American soldiers. Newsweek hates American soldiers.

Rick Pearlstein hates the POW-MIA flag. Newsweek hates the POW-MIA flag.

Rick Pearlstein hates the American flag and what it stands for. Newsweek hates the American flag and what it stands for.

And that’s about all you need to know about Rick Pearlstein and Newsweek.

Guess Who Turned Up in a Pot Raid?

mad-magazine-trading-private-bergdahlWho was it that turned up in a raid on an industrial pot facility? Everybody’s The President’s favorite deserter1, who’s supposed to be in the jug awaiting trial for desertion, turned up in a massive marijuana raid in California.

The cops looked to return the peripatetic accused to his military base, only to get a “don’t bother” from military officials.

The Unique and Special Snowflake™ whose desertion to the Taliban led to the loss of a half-dozen lives of loyal Americans looking for him, as he gave them aid and comfort, wan’t AWOL at all. Knowing how Special he is and how much people in High Places prefer him to the usual ruck and scrum of enlisted swine, he’d been basically told, in that favorite phrase of sergeants everywhere, “You’ve got nothing to do. Don’t do it here.” The authorities knew he was in California and were cool with it.

Bergdahl was visiting with “old family friends” who apparently just happened to be hemp-huffing hippies. We hope this doesn’t shake your faith in Taliban-Americans.

Meanwhile, the President finally got around to putting flags at half-staff for the Chattanooga jihad victims, although the Partisan Political Police that are the FBI still express utter bafflement at the shooter’s motivations. Several commentators have been very critical of the President’s reluctance to memorialize the deaths of service members, something he does not like very much, at the hands of an Islamic nutball, something he seems much more kindly disposed towards.

Who’s saying he lowered the flags for the victims? Maybe he did it for the shaheed, Mohammod Abdulazeez.


  1. Yeah, the court hasn’t convicted him yet. But we have.

We’re From the Government, Here to Help You

fingerprint-3That’s the most chilling phrase in the English language these days.

There’s the OPM’s carelessness with security clearance files. (Careless? One server’s password was “Password.” Another had the far more secure “Password1”. But those were just two servers and they didn’t even have an inventory listing how many servers they own). The IT managers were all compensated well into the six figures for this brain-dead performance, and none of them has lost a job, a paycheck or even a performance bonus, which are automatically awarded to anyone who can fog a mirror, or even, who once did sometime in the past year. The agency spends $82 million a year on IT, and they can’t account for it.

No, we’re not kidding. We wish. Who has clearances?

  1. Every officer in the Armed Forces.
  2. Every worker in the intelligence community, uniformed, civilian or contractor.
  3. Every service member in sensitive and special operations units, as Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) noted.
  4. A large quantity of law enforcement personnel.

Friday, they let it slip that they’d also lost the digital fingerprints of all applicants.

And then there’s Veterans Affairs

VA-veterans-affairsBut wait! At least they’re not the VA. The VA is not having a good week, and as usual when the VA has a crummy time, it’s their own damn fault.

What happens when you make a disability claim? Sometimes, it ends up in a shred bin. That was a problem seven years ago, and the Department made promises of new safeguards. It’s defense now? Hey, it was only 10 vets. Close enough for government work!

But the new word is that they’ve cut the backlog of vets waiting for appointments or other care by 30% — because 30% of the vets have died while waiting. That news story analyzed this VA analytical report (.pdf).

Speaking of dead vets, the agency is so bureaucratically inept that 2.7 million of them are still on VA rolls as beneficiaries. Some of them are getting medical treatment after death, which indicates that either The Walking Dead is a documentary, or there’s a whole lot of identity theft going on.

According to the internal VA report published April 1 by the department’s Date of Death Workgroup, the records of 10 percent of veterans in the VA system indicated “activity” — they received compensation payments, visited a doctor, made an appointment or had a prescription filled — after their actual date of death.

In one case…. such a miscommunication allowed 76 prescriptions to be filled at one pharmacy for controlled substances such as oxycodone, hydromorphone and Valium.

And, according to the report, some prescriptions have been filled years after the date of death — “on average, almost 12 years after the date of death.”

No wonder they’re missing buckets of money (which we’ll get to anon) and unable to catch up with registrations. But some of the vet registration backlog dates as far back as 1996.

Speaking of that backlog, some part of it was created deliberately by misrepresenting to vets what paperwork they needed to file, so as to give VA workers a break, and a justification for ignoring applications for benefits.

In a Dec. 2013 email exchange, Lynne Harbin, deputy chief business officer of member services, discussed her intention to dodge questions posed by the American Legion about how many veterans were waiting to learn of their eligibility for VA health care.

“Note that I am skirting the issue of the numbers of pending records and instead focusing on what it means and what we are doing about it,” Harbin wrote to colleagues.

In an earlier email, Harbin expressed the VA’s need to resist asking for veterans’ discharge forms.

“Interested in hearing what the data shows, but know that politically informing veterans to give us their DD214 would be unacceptable,” Harbin wrote in a June 2012 email exchange.

They’re getting the authority to fire bad actors on VA’s staff, whether they want it or not. Would you believe they don’t want it? The measure also removes the department’s authority to reward malefactors with extra unpaid vacation, and to lavish cash awards and bonuses on them while their dismissal is pending, both of which are standard VA (and really, Federal) practice.

It’s unlikely to change anything — VA Secretary Robert McDonald opposes it, because it’s something like accountability  — but it rocketed through the House Veterans Affairs Committee on a party-line vote. The committee chairman asked, “Are you going to stand with bureaucrats or veterans?” VA Secretary McDonald, the senior leaders, the employee’s unions and the minority of the committee have said that the employees have rights, unlike the vets. The measure, which the pro-union and anti-vet Washington Post spins as “limiting employees’ appeal rights,” will be on the House floor in two weeks at the outside.

One of the useless mouths to feed that a good manager, which is to say nobody at VA, would fire is probably Lina Giampa, HR manager at the cesspool Germantown, PA regional office who spent her time tweeting threats to whistleblowers.

In Oregon, the VA’s been shifting costs around the budget by moving Hepatitis C sufferers into the Veterans Choice program, which was meant for vets who live too far from a VA facility. We’re agnostic (without more information) on whether this was a rob-Peter-pay-Paul dodge, or a brilliant bit of bureaucratic legerdemain. It seems if they did not do this, they will run out of money because of new and expensive (but, fortunately, effective) Hep C treatments. The general population has about 1% prevalence of Hep C infection, but among VA patients it’s a staggering 6%, mostly in the Vietnam demographic. Hep C is considered presumptively service-connected in Vietnam vets, as we understand it. This one paragraph gives some idea of the challenges that the VA would still have even if they were any good at what they.

Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), threatened with losing a hospital in his state, ripped the department’s mismanagement, as managers told Congress that they’d somehow burned a $2.5 billion hole in their budget, and if they didn’t get more money they’d start closing hospitals, rather than rein in their own perks.

Priorities! We could see the day arrive that the entire Department of Veterans Affairs runs well and smoothly, without wasting any effort at all on the troublesome vets. That seems to be management’s objective, anyway.

Keelhauling Kate Germano, Part II

Lt. Col. Kate Germano. (Note: per her husband, she raised her own pistol qual since this official photo).

Lt. Col. Kate Germano. (Note: per her husband, she raised her own pistol qual since this official photo).

We expected to have a longer historical report — on glider troops in World War II — here in this slot today but the press of events, and new developments, suggested that we focus on what’s becoming a bigger story than it was when we wrote about it last week.

Sure, we wrote about the relief of Lt. Col. Germano, a third-generation military officer singled out for a figurative keelhauling across the barnacles of command politics and sex-linked expectations.

And the Marine Corps Times wrote about that relief (to our embarrassment, we quoted Hope Hodge Seck’s article in the MC Times extensively in our piece, without linking it. We regret the oversight; it’s our policy always to link the sources we quote from inasmuch as possible. The original article has been updated with the missing link).

Now the New York Times has written about this relief (as usual for the Times, half at least of the facts are left out in selfless service to The Narrative™). And the San Diego Union Tribune wrote about the case, in an article that seems, for its first 2/3 or so, ghostwritten by a party-line Marine PAO. Then the reporter drops this one very informative paragraph:

Although female Marines have been required to qualify with a service rifle such as the M-16 since 1985, Germano chafed against a “women can’t shoot” mentality among some in the Marine Corps. At the recruit depot, she worked with the head of Weapons and Field Training, Col. Jerry Leonard, to encourage marksmanship coaches to focus on mentoring female recruits, resulting in a bump in first-time rifle qualifications from 68 percent to 91 percent in a few months.

You can’t argue with results. Although some of Germano’s subordinates apparently did — successfully. Almost anyone can learn to shoot, and there’s nothing in the sexual dimorphism of homo sapiens that gives men an irreversible advantage. We’re astonished that any Marine unit would ever have accepted sub-70% qualification. That’s a D in our book! (Actually, in Kid’s high school, it’s an F. And a 90 is a B — they grade hard — unlike pre-Germano female Marine basic).

And there’s this:

An officer on the Parris Island depot who asked not to be named said Germano lost her job because of a difference in philosophy about the future of women in the Marine Corps. Germano is engaged, hard-driving and willing to hold her Marines accountable, the officer said: “She is the kind of strong-caliber leader the Marine Corps needs. Firm, with high expectations, fair and compassionate, willing to give second — even third — chances and the tools to get there. She doesn’t have a zero-defect mentality. She just expects her Marines to try to do the right thing,” the officer said.

Well, you can see how that might cause a conflict with some superiors. Oh, brother!

One more little detail that’s crept out since our last report — the “command climate survey” was conducted online, and word about it spread by word-of-mouth among the CO’s critics. They discovered that there was no barrier to taking the survey over, and over again. So 100 voices raised against Lt. Col. Germano may well have been one voice raised 100 times, all along; and the Marine personnel office that established the survey deliberately set it up like that; and the Marine commanders that relied on the survey knew, or should have known, its… limitations.

Now comes Aaron MacLean in the Washington Free Beacon. (It’s good; RTWT™). MacLean has some interesting parts of the back story that suggest commanders may have had their Mameluke swords out for Germano since she and the other members of a Board of Inquiry crossed them in a case where the command wanted To Make An Example Out of Somebody after he was acquitted (!) of sexual assault. Sexual assault in the military is one of the few things that the current administration’s appointees care about, and the rule of law in these cases, including such arcaic details as the rights of the accused, doesn’t enter into the picture. It’s supposed to go like this: accusation made; target identified; locked on; target destroyed. And Lt. Col. Germano (and other principled officers) stepped in front of that train and said, “No.”

Here’s MacLean’s conclusion (again, we urge you to Read The Whole Thing™). Emphasis ours:

So why was Germano fired? Was she too much of a progressive crusader? Or too conservative in her blunt opinions, especially about sexual assault? This story is more complicated than a simple morality play wherein sexist bosses grow tired of an abrasive female subordinate. It appears that Germano’s aggressiveness, not to say her political incorrectness, made her vulnerable to female subordinates who didn’t care for her style, and who then campaigned for Germano’s removal on the grounds that she insulted them over poor physical performance, and made them feel “less safe.” Germano’s bosses, already exasperated by her refusal to shut up and color on a wide array of issues, no doubt felt they were doing the Right Thing by relieving her.

Germano’s sin seems to be that she was pursuing actual respect for—and self-respect by—women in the Marine Corps, and not the fictitious appearance of equality that both her bosses, and some of her subordinates, appear to prefer.

It’s probably not possible to reinstate Lt. Col. Germano or save her career. That’s not how officer careers work under DOPMA and today’s military culture; like Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, “It can blow at any seam.”

But MacLean’s report confirms our suspicion that Lt. Col. Germano’s stand against “the soft bigotry of low expections” was instrumental in her downfall.

She can wear that with pride and honor. If there’s anybody we need to hear from about women in the services, it’s Lieutenant Colonel, soon to be, unfortunately, Retired, Kate Germano, United States Marine Corps. And by firing her, they’re setting her free to comment. They can’t back down now, but we suspect they will soon wish that they could have done.


To contrast with USMC womens’ basic, MacLean linked this example of kinder, gentler, female-values-centric Army mixed-sex basic. Lord love a duck; it’s pathetic. Read that and ask: if your daughter (or son, for crying out loud) is putting on a uniform and going in harm’s way, do you want her challenged by people like Germano, or coddled by the motherly, ineffectual types in the Army story?

The Bragg “Assault Rifle at a Mall” Arrest

SGT Bryan Wolfinger, a US airborne infantryman.

SGT Bryan Wolfinger, a US airborne infantryman. And, says the press, “mall gunman.”

There are three things happening here which have very few points of congruence:

  1. Media reports, which seem to be largely fabricated by the reporters;
  2. What actually happened, which has not been widely reported;
  3. The Fayetteville PD’s relationship with the employees of the town’s dominant business, the Army, which is never widely reported.

We’ll address each of these in turn. Along the way, you’ll get to play that game that’s so much fun that people bribe politicians for the opportunity to do it for a career: You Be The Judge!™.

Media Reports

Conspiracy theories thrive, in part, because the media sucks like a giant Shop Vac, and prioritizes speed over accuracy, and Narrative™ over either. First media reports are almost always wrong. Then, they really get to work. Reporters dig in and beat the facts to fit The Narrative™.

Here are some of the headlines the news media generated:

As you can see, they generally called the individual arrested “Man with assault rifle,” “Armed soldier,” “Soldier with rifle and ammunition,” and, in one egregious case (a TV station, naturally), “Fayetteville mall gunman.”  Sure, that was technically correct in the narrow denotational sense that he was a man, did have a gun, and did go to a mall, but “mall gunman” forms a mental picture other than a guy carrying an empty, never-fired, rifle to a photo shoot for his actor’s portfolio.

wolfingers gun and gearAs the media got further from Fayetteville and the facts they changed the facts to suit The Narrative™, as they always do. The “rifle and ammunition” became a counterfactual “loaded rifle.” Another counterfactual detail conjured out of thin air by fabricating reporters was “body armor.” The Charleston church shooting and white supremacism made an appearance, introduced by some of their last True Believers, reporters. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a long-running racket that has made a succession of Northern lawyers stankin’ rich, was called on to read the mind of the accused “gunman.”

Once these media stories, with their slant, exaggerations and outright fabrications, hit the news,  the two branches of the Army that are furthest from the gun culture and firearms knowledge, the oversized PR branch and the underbrained MP branch, sounded off, uttering an instant, blanket condemnation of the soldier in question and promising that he will be punished by the military justice system, which has no truck with such primitive concepts as rights of the accused or rules of evidence: as we have seen in many Iraq and Afghanistan courts-martial, it’s a means by which commanders work their will, irrespective of law or facts, and we had a string of commanders who had been embarrassed. This guy has absolutely no chance: the prosecutors will work to nail-him-to-a-cross, and the defense attorneys, in the fine tradition of military defense attorneys since the Dreyfus case and beyond, will hand ’em the nails.

What Actually Happened

While the media were running with the story, something else was happening in Fayetteville. The police and prosecutors were trying to square the arrest they’d made, and the press statements their spokesman was making, with North Carolina law. NC is an open carry state; even if Wolfinger’s gun had been loaded, what he was doing would have been perfectly legal.

They finally found a Reconstruction-era misdemeanor: “Going armed to the terror of the public,” that had been inserted in NC law for the Union occupation forces to use to suppress “night riders” and similar proto-Klan types. The dormant law had actually been eliminated from a popular NC law book before prosecutors rediscovered it as part of today’s kitchen-sink prosecution strategy. The crime has four elements, one of which is being armed with “an unusual and dangerous weapon,” which Reconstruction-era case law established as being any firearm at all, or even no firearm, if ant person was really scared. But another element, and one that appears fully absent in this case, is that the person have intent: he must have taken up his “unusual and dangerous weapon” (which may, in fact, be no weapon but physical intimidation), “for the purpose of terrifying others.” Did Wolfinger intend to terrify others? Let’s play You Be The Judge!

Wolfinger went to the mall for a very specific reason: he was taking a portfolio photo to submit to a casting call for the next Captain America movie. Specifically, for extras in “a battlefield setting.”

After looking at the websites of the many photography shops in the Fayetteville area, he chose Picture This! Portrait Studios, one of two commercial photography shops in the Cross Creek Mall. He picked them particularly because they were experienced with green screen photography, allowing digital backgrounds to be swapped in to his photo.

As he meant to apply as a military “type” extra, along with the usual three serious-expression pictures casting directors like to see for extras, he also meant to shoot the “in character” shot that’s optional but welcome. For that, he brought his legally-owned AR-15 and a plate carrier and some magazines. After all, Picture This! says, helpfully, “You may also want to consider bringing in personal items….” Just to be sure it was safe, Wolfinger removed the firing pin from the AR, rendering it, functionally, a stick.

Little did Wolfinger know that this would land him in durance vile, with every talking head on every TV and Mark Potok of the SPLC condemning him as a racist mass murderer wannabee.

Note that under NC law, carrying the AR loaded is perfectly legal (although, as he has learned, not exactly wise). This lack of wisdom is especially significant, given the proclivities of the Fayetteville PD, of which more anon.

Someone called 911, and the police responded, and two Fayetteville cops encountered him as he was coming out. They pointed their guns at him and he obeyed their instructions. They cuffed him and then roughed him up a little. He was cooperative and gave a statement. After they latched on to the “terror of the public”  misdemeanor, Detectives tried to get him to say he was trying to scare people, but to their irritation he stuck to the truth. They finally released him to his unit first sergeant.

Detectives then questioned the photographer at great length, trying to lead her into a statement that Wolfinger had frightened her. They got a very, very weak statement. She actually liked the kid, even though she knew nothing of guns and didn’t realize that that was the prop that he was bringing.

The Fayetteville PD spokesman issued several statements which played into the media’s desire to see an American soldier as a terrorist.

Fayetteville PD versus GIs In General

Puzzled fayetteville copFirst things first: Fayetteville cops, and especially Fayetteville PD leadership, hate the Army and hate the individual GI. Hate is a strong word, but it’s the only one that fits.  (“Use the word you mean, not its second cousin” — didn’t Mark Twain say that?)

In defense of the cops, the GIs make a lot of work for them. Drunk GIs in bars. Drunk GIs in cars. GI domestic violence, usually with drinking. (Now, there’s a real problem with female couple DV in the Fort Bragg area). Guys who got ripped off by some pawn shop, buy-here-pay-here crap car-dealer, or U-Can-Rent, and guys who think that they got ripped off, but actually outsmarted themselves, and are causing a disturbance anywayLiquored-up paratroopers convinced that they can take this pudgy cop, who then proceed to do so, at least until backup arrives. And then there’s the personal problems: the GIs who wind up with the cops’ girlfriends, wives and daughters.

It’s reached the point where the GIs figure they might as well go ahead and knock up the daughters of the town’s cops, prosecutors, and judges, because they’re gonna get thumped for it, anyway. This produces suboptimal behavior on the part of all parties.

Any given night, especially Thursday through Saturday, and doubly especially around the days the eagle drops the twice-monthly paycheck, a Fayetteville PD shift sergeant can show you a fine collection of paratroopers, support troops, and even an occasional SF guy: in his drunk tank. “Support the Troops” gets worn out pretty quick in an Army town, where tens of thousands of troops are not elite combat forces but less elite, and a few of them, even, marginal, support guys. Ask a Fayetteville cop to tell you about soldier misconduct and your only problem is going to be to get him to stop: some of the things our fellow vets have done are absolutely cringe-producing, and it’s hard to blame the fuzz for developing a ‘tude about it.

However… one thing the Fayetteville Observer does from time to time is post the mugshots of recent Cumberland County accused felons. And that set is notable by its lack of GIs, considering their prevalence in the community. GIs are far outnumbered among serious criminals by many other minorities: blacks, women, Lumbee Indians. The cops don’t hate those people; it’s just business (and fact is, most of the people in all those minorities never commit a crime, so they shouldn’t hate the whole groups). But they do hate the GIs with their booze and misdemeanors, who may not be especially criminal but who are especially identifiable.

For whatever reason, they are spring-loaded in the Nail The GI position. The Fayetteville PD also has a number of other big-city-PD pathologies, including the deep-seated belief that, their dismal ND record notwithstanding, they are the Only Ones who can be trusted with this here Glock firearm.

That’s how SGT Wolfinger got from going to take an innocent he-ro photo for a casting call, to slammed in the clink on a bogus charge: he’s paying the price for every drunk trooper who was ever a no-go at the Fayetteville PD’s Respect-My-Authoritah station.

And that’s why 20 Fayetteville cops swarmed Cross Creek Mall and locked it down for an hour, after they had taken Wolfinger into custody: their leaders hate non-cops with guns, and hate soldiers especially, and were hoping to find and arrest more.

SF guys who live in and around Fayetteville tend not to display hooah stickers on our wheels. Part of that is the whole Quiet Professional thing, in general, a cultural norm which leaders try from time to time to nurture and reinforce. (This leadership is especially successful from respected NCO leaders like team sergeants and company sergeants major). But part if it is also the desire not to be singled out for reindeer games by some sorehead with a badge.

More Insight into NY Times Reporters’ and Editors’ Characters

New York Times editors and newsroom staff, during a drunken (and drugged, probably) debauch, yukking it up about a mass murder:times-fake-massacre

The bottle-and-toy-AR-wielding dork with the beard and coke-bottle glasses is Bill Keller, who was the top editor at the time. (During which, the paper approved school policies which suspended students for possession of toy firearms).

Seeing Keller and his phalanx of fools acting out their repressed fantasies might explain why they are so strong for gun control.

During his reign, the single most frequently covered story on the Times’s front page was the rampant injustice at a private golf club in Georgia, which had no women members.

Here’s Keller again, and his toadies, channeling the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult.


These morally void and mentally disturbed people think they should make the final decision on whether you can defend yourself. Isn’t that special?

Foreign Policy: Why Are ISIL Leaders Better than Iraqis?

ISIL flagNow, if this were a courtroom drama, somebody would say, “Counsel asserts facts which are not in evidence.” Because the Iraqis, yes, their leadership (especially at political level) sucks. But so does ISIL’s. They’re winning not because their Joes Jamals are better, or because their leaders are better, but because they (1) know what they’re fighting for and (2) have support.

The Iraqis, conversely, are not fighting to win, but not to lose; and they have only half-hearted, grudging support from both of their external supporters, the USA and Iran. Both nations are willing to give the Iraqis a little boost, just enough so that they don’t lose; but neither really wants the Iraqis to win. That’s why ISIL is winning: in wars where only one side commits to victory, the outcome is foreordained.

Yet the clueless, who find their geographic centroid south of Philly and north of Richmond, are writing stuff like this, reporting on the statements of others with recklessly low levels of Vitamin Clue:

Furious American policymakers blasted the Iraqis for effectively abandoning the city. The Iraqi army “was not driven out of Ramadi,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters at a NATO summit in Brussels last week. “They drove out of Ramadi.”  Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, meanwhile, used an interview Sunday to publicly accuse the Iraqis of lacking the “will to fight,” The White House quickly tried to walk the comments back, but there is little doubt Carter was speaking for many inside the Pentagon.

“Walk the comments back.” That reminds us that there are two types of suits in national-security policy positions currently: academics with fashionable ideas about how America needs to decline, and former speechwriters and spin artists who think you can lie your way out of anything.

It takes some balls for a couple of palace eunuchs like Dempsey and Carter to talk about “lacking will to fight.” We have heard that the US “airstrikes” in support of the Ramadi defense were, seven, count ’em, 7, sorties. “Here’s your bombs, little brown guys. Make ’em count.”

We don’t know where Martin Dempsey and Ash Carter got the balls to say that stuff, but they ought to spit ’em out — any balls in the possession of either one of those geldings have to belong to someone else.

These two wizards of withdrawal have been the architects of ABED: abandonment, bugout, escape, and defeat.

And they’re preparing to do the same in Afghanistan. Top. Men.

So naturally Foreign Policy, which thinks Tom Ricks is smarter than anyone who ever put on a uniform (in part, because he never put on a uniform), thinks the US has been betrayed by the Iraqis here.

The Defense chief’s comments hinted at the biggest question hanging over both the Ramadi fight and the broader push against the Islamic State: can Baghdad win the war if its generals seem to be continually out-thought and out-maneuvered by their counterparts from the militant group?

via Why Are the Islamic State’s Commanders so Much Better than the Iraqi Army? | Foreign Policy.

I don’t know if that post was Ricks — perhaps not, it’s not bursting its banks with self-regard, the very Presidential-selfie of defense reporting — but it’s the sort of miscued nonsense he’s written his whole career, and naturally he’s now orbited by young, ambitious versions of his unaware-but-never-uncertain self.

Exercise for the reader: imagine Armchair Admiral General Ricks with his never-leaves-Acelaland attitude, transported in time to World War II.

“Why can’t the Poles stand up to the Germans? Is it Hitler’s leadership?”

“Which Admirals Should Hang for Pearl Harbor?”

“Ploesti Raid: Record Casualties, Production Uninterrupted. Time to Negotiate?”

“Allies Still Bogged Down in Italy. Mussolini Rescued. Are Our Generals Goldbricking?”

It’s a fun game: Beltway Defense Journalist. Anybody can play! Unless you know something about the military and defense.

But the shucking of responsibility in the Pentagon will have serious consequences. It took us fifteen years of recovery (and a couple of wars that would have been unnecessary) to overcome the damage to our reputation illustrated by that last chopper out of Saigon.

Everybody in Iraq who trusted us has been receiving the Delta House president’s answer: “You F’d up. You trusted us.”

One of Our Favorite “Memorial” (but should be “Veterans”) Day Shorts

This short, I Fought For You, has been around for over five years, so you might have seen it already. It was put together by three upstate New Yorkers, Andrew Marzano (director), Josh Pies (script) and Dave Bode (score). It’s a little over the top — we can just see Nick Palmisciano making fun of the salute — and it’s based on the usual confusion over Veterans’ Day (for us live ones) and Memorial Day (for the dead ones) but their hearts are in the right place.

Here’s an interesting video, with the three filmmakers describing how they did it. What are people’s big complaints? The salutes… and the lack of skin-deep “diversity” among the cast. Of course, no one seemed to catch the big one that gets up our delicate-albeit-porcine nose: Memorial Day is for the fallen, not for the living veterans. Still… who gives a rat’s what color they were? They were all red, white and blue as far as we’re concerned.

Country. Hell. Handbasket. Some assembly required, you know? But these young men are trying.  There is that.

Have a great Memorial Day. Grill something, grab a discount on something — we surely will. But we’ll also take a minute to remember those who celebrate with us only in spirit this year: the ones that were our friends, and the ones that would have been, if only they had lived. They fought for us, sure, but they also fell for us. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them. Perhaps you will be so kind as to do the same.

Meanwhile, everybody has their own way of remembering Memorial Day. The editors and writers at Salon, over the byline of one Sean McElwee, chose to get all wee-wee’d up for cutting the military to fund more social programs. (None of the people who attack our military spending compared to other nations ever note that our .mil spending is larded with earmarks, costly social experimentation, and union handouts. Having to do everything with low-quality, low-productivity, high-cost union labor — and therefore, do a lot of it over — really pads the bill).

Meanwhile, a less childish Philadelphia newsman remembers five pro athletes “fallen on the field of honor.”