Friday, April 23, 2010

'Corroborate and "the truth will set you free"!'

Corroboration is a tool we all seek in determining validity. What follows shortly is a first-hand accounting of the cost of the failed policies of this administration and the last in Afghanistan. I want to give full credit to Herschel Smith at 'The Captain's Journal' for bringing this to light. The contacts he has fostered have led to this piece which I believe to be of particular significance and pivotal to the discussion.

For the past several months I have been making the case, in this Blog, for my fellow Warriors - especially for the actively employed but also the retired, that the current strategy in Afghanistan is doomed to failure. Doomed because the assessment of the enemy, the local government and civilian population has been skewed by wrong - if any, historical analysis. We are also back in the cycle of the socialist world view which precludes specific national interests and imperils our Warriors, a national asset, for the purposes of rebuilding a foreign nation. The lives of our Warriors have been trumped by the lives of a civilian population that has no understanding of the freedoms we now perilously take for granted. Because the concept of personal freedom is anathema to the Koranic principles the Afghans willingly apply to their lives, families and culture, they lack any motivation to fight for freedom or any change. Because they will not fight for it; they do not deserve it. 'They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.' Benjamin Franklin. In essence, we are wasting the lives of our precious national resource; our Sons and Daughters for the purposes of freedom for those who neither understand it, nor want it and who are not covered by the oaths sworn by our Warriors.

Our civilian 'servants' inside the DC beltway are equally culpable in this squandering of this most precious asset. What follows is the witness of an imbedded reporter and his experiences with our forces, on the ground, in Afghanistan, which corroborates everything I have been saying about the Commanders Intent, Vision, Strategy, Assessment of the Enemy, Human Terrain and ROE since I launched this Blog in October of last year. The negative feeling expressed by our Warriors in this piece is but one of the fruits of the failed vision of this and the past administrations in shifting focus in Afghanistan:

"From the comments section in An Open Letter to Milbloggers, journalist Ben Shaw gives us this very depressing perspective from Afghanistan.

As a journalist (and combat veteran) currently embedded with US forces in Afghanistan, I have found that roughly 95% of the troops on the ground in no way believe in their mission, have no confidence that their efforts will bring about lasting change to Afghan security, stability, governance, or a decreased influence of radicalism. In truth, they fight simply to stay alive and want nothing more than to go home. A recent quote:

“I joined to defend and fight for the United States, but now I feel like I’ve been tasked out to fight for Afghanistan. Yet the people don’t even care, and make no effort whatsoever to help us help them. They don’t WANT help.”

The nature of freedom is that those who are unwilling to fight for it personally will never realize it. As it stands, nothing is more important to Afghans than survival, even at the expense of all self-dignity, nationalism, tribalism, and whatever ideals may at one time surpassed the will to simply “get by.”

I have also discovered that if I publicize these findings (that literally 95% of troops don’t believe in their own mission), the Soldiers who I cite will be charged, potentially relieved of command, and I will be asked to disembed from these units.

As a recent example, I filmed approximately 75 minutes of combat footage, knowingly exposed myself to concentrated enemy fire, and learned two days ago that if I post this footage, the Soldiers on film will be charged and/or relieved for uniform violations, improper wear of personal protective equipment (ballistic glasses, fire-retardant gloves, etc), and that low-level commanders have already begun this process. In an attempt to preserve the careers of the Soldiers I am trying to advocate, I am unable to tell (or show) the US public what they’re experiencing and what they think of it. The military only wants good news to flow from embedded journalists – not facts.

The reality is this: the current tactical directive leaves US troops on the ground increasingly vulnerable, often unsupported by air assets or indirect fire, and as a consequence their personal mission is to keep each other alive and come home. Under this current “soft war” policy, the war cannot be won.

After all, Pashtun Islamic culture sees any sort of kindness and mercy as a weakness – and immediately exploit it. The Taliban, knowing the restrictive nature of the current ROE/Tactical directive, use it against US forces regularly.

US troops feel abandoned by their chains of command, bilked by military recruiters, and participants in a conflict that history will not treat kindly.

They will return to the US and to civilian life full of disappointment, bitterness at their commanders, and unwilling to serve again. And military commanders here are doing their very best to ensure that this never reaches the public. In their pursuit of mission accomplishment, they have altogether neglected their second purpose: troop welfare. The former, however, will never be realized without an equally dedicated concentration on the latter.

I invite comments and criticism at

Photos from my current embed can be found online at

My own website is

And then further:

As of today, my photos, videos, and writing have been so closely monitored by the command that I have elected to remove all imagery for fear of jeopardizing the troops on the ground. Commanders are using the images and footage to threaten Article 15s for Soldiers photographed out of uniform, and also threatening to relieve platoon sergeants and first sergeants for allowing such things to happen. Professionally, I have been bound and gagged – that is unless I’m willing to burn an entire troop (or squadron) of Soldiers in the process of telling the US public what’s happening – which would be counterproductive.

My next step will be to file a formal complaint with commanders who use media resources to incriminate their own subordinates. This command, I have determined, is far more concerned with looking pretty than accomplishing their mission. I also think that, somehow, the US public needs to know about it."

There will undoubtedly be those who will condemn this piece by the reporter as well as the troops and lower echelon officers for ‘failing’ to remain stoic in face of challenge. To those I say, strap on a 120 pound pack, 30 pounds of armor, grab an A4 or M4 and ship yourself to Marjah, Now Zad, Korengal, Khandahar, Farah or anywhere else where Marines and Soldiers have been told that their lives are meaningless and that the 'strategy' is now the goal instead of the method. Do this in 100 degree plus temperatures, in the midst of a people who don't want them there and their civilian leadership back home is more concerned about re-election than the lives of Warriors. Traverse IED littered streets, day in and day out, while being fired upon by rebel snipers whom you can't engage unless every dot and tittle of a directive bearing the most murderous ROE imaginable has been met. Do this for 7 months to a year straight, come home for a few months and then go back and do it again under even more stringent conditions and then - - - ONLY THEN; dare to tell me that my Son, his Brother Marines, the many thousands of Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, all of whom are someone's Sons and Daughters are acting in a way that doesn't meet your delicate sensibilities and understanding of professionalism. Ben Shaw hit-it-right-on-the-head; THEY DID NOT SIGN TO DEFEND THE INDEFENSIBLE. They signed to defend the 'Constitution of the United States, against all enemies foreign and domestic'; not to rebuild a country that has never known peace, has never sought peace, has never lived well with others, that bears an ideology of one of the most hateful religions known to the history of mankind and; oh yeah, doesn't want us or what we have.

What else can I say; LET THEM FIGHT OR BRING THEM HOME before you destroy, completely, the finest fighting force the world has ever known.

'Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' John 8:32

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard

Monday, April 19, 2010

'I'll make you an offer you can't refuse' - Michael Corleone (The GodFather)

It was just a few days ago that we learned of some of the frustrations and details surrounding the final egress from Korengal Valley. Diana West gave us a pretty solid view of the complexities involved in meeting the 'spirit' of the specifics of COIN as envisioned by General McChrystal and higher echelon. What we learned essentially was what we knew; that actual application on the ground can be a lot less tactical and lot more cultural than anyone in uniform signed on for. The 'heart-to-heart' Captain Mark Moretti is recorded as having with a tribal elder complete with the customary holding of hands exemplifies what every warm blooded American male will agree is 'uncomfortable' - at best. Tactically speaking; reasoning with a man who almost certainly cannot be trusted is tantamount to reasoning with a guard dog. You might be able to win him over with a treat in the short term, but he's going to bite you sooner or later.

To be sure, it isn’t so much the getting in ‘touch’ with the locals thing that is troubling as just understanding that COIN requires it because it's proponents believe there is an element in the AO who can be and wants to be, reached and helped. Remember; there are 3 elements to be reconciled by one method or another in COIN; the local government, the innocent population and the evil insurgency. One more time;

(1) This 'insurgency' by strict definition is not an insurgency; if anything they are a rebel force. The Taliban is an Afghan phenomenon. The fact that they 'cross the border' into Pakistan is, by Afghan/Pakistan measure incidental. The tribes living on either side of that border haven't recognized it since it's establishment by the British/Afghan/Indian governments in 1893.

(2) There are blood ties between all three factions in Afghanistan and we know there are Taliban sympathizers in the government (spelled treachery).

(3) All three factions are nearly 100% Islamic and bear the same familial bonds, lands, faith, hatreds and visions of the world. WE ARE THE INFIDEL TO ALL THERE; period.

As we have been saying; it is this present global vision of the world that is skewing rational strategy. This warrantless idea that all people are created equal and therefore have the same interests, peaceful intentions and desire to play fair is causing us to not believe we have any innate right to defend ourselves without some pre-emptive nation building penitentia. It also creates the belief that American Warriors, engaged in battle do not have any expectation of protection from their own leadership. The ROE in it's current form intentionally places our Warriors at a disadvantage while placing a premium on civilian lives - civilians who hate us ideologically. Convincing those who hate us (whose farms we are trampling during the course of the fight) that trampling the family farm is in their best interest is tough enough. If you're going to convince the unconvinced that you’re ‘good-to-go’, you had better appear extremely competent, capable and fearsome. ‘Reaching out’ to the local tribal elders while paying protection isn’t going to get that done.

The story is self explanatory. We stepped into a bee-hive with a can of raid we weren’t willing to use and then decided to extract ourselves by offering them honey to not sting us in the ass as we slipped out.

By the way; if the civilian population are just poor farmers being put upon by this rogue, unwanted element (the Taliban) as presumed under COIN; why did we have to pay them (remember the 6000 gallons of fuel) to hold the rogue element off while we ‘egressed’? For some reason, the logic required to answer that question can't be found.

While we're struggling with common sense issues, a friend to our north has written a piece in an effort to help us find the right path. Canada is not one of those places I instinctively look for the level of national pride and willingness to fight I believe every nation needs to survive but we are living in unusual times. What is refreshing is that this man Ron Ewart, a Canadian, does instinctively understand that there are things worth fighting for and if there are things worth fighting for, not only should we fight, we should fight as though our very survival depends on it. Short of that; stay home. This is a very good read and refreshing considering the tripe we have been exposed to in the last few years.


Given enough time, every experiment provides the answers you are looking for. In this case; I don't believe they do anything to help the argument for COIN. In a related, updated article today, Stratfor reported that the Taliban have descended on Korengal Valley and are now firmly in control of it. The 6000 gallons of fuel Captain Moretti left behind as a bartering chip with the local tribe is now in the hands of the Taliban... What a shock!


Afghanistan: Taliban Takes over Korengal Valley

April 19, 2010

Days after the U.S. withdrawal, Al Jazeera visited Korengal Valley and found the Taliban had control of the area and access to every part of the camp, Al Jazeera reported April 19. Taliban fighters said they intended to make use of the U.S. camp and launch attacks to capture more territory in the region. There is a lot of ammunition left behind, including mortars, rockets and missiles that will be used against U.S. forces, a local Taliban commander said.

(While fuel might have been left due to logistical constraints, all weapons, systems and munitions would have been removed or blown in place. jjb)

That warm and fuzzy hand holding exercise with the tribal Elder apparently didn't take hold...

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard

"If they mean to have war, let it begin here!" Captain John Parker, 19 April 1775

Today, April 19th, two states in the Union celebrate an event history records as the defining event that triggered the American Revolution. It's both curious and sad that an event as monumental as this would not be nationally recognized. Whatever our disagreements, failings or differences, the reality is that we would not be having any discussion about anything related to our founding, principles, pluralism, governance or religious ideology had not a few brave men faced a numerically superior and far better trained force that day. We would not be discussing current events as we see them had not these few men on a small patch of green in Lexington Massachusetts determined to stand against the tyranny of their government, 235 years ago today. We would never have become the beacon of hope for so many immigrants from so many diverse cultures. We would not have become one of the most powerful and most enduring cultural entities in modern history.

As is typically the case, the few provided for the many. They provided hope for their progeny, hope for a future in the midst of tyranny. It has been estimated that a meager three percent of the colonial population at the time actively participated in the armed struggle that eventually allowed us to stand as a nation and determine our own destiny. Three percent. Many things haven't changed. Approximately one percent of the population today, is actively engaged in the pursuit of our enemies. I truly believe a smaller percentage is fully engaged in the process of self-education on the specifics of the war we are currently engaged in. These men are unique in that in the willing carrying out of their oaths, they place their lives at risk. Willingly following the orders of the Officers appointed over them by the President of the United States and the Elected Representatives in federal office has the effect of relinquishing control of their lives and giving it to others. How many of you reading this can say you have ever done that?

There are 435 members of Congress and 100 Senators. One President and one Vice President. All others in federal offices serve 'at the pleasure of the President of the United States'; meaning they are appointees, or are appointed by Congress or hired. Effectively; the very survival of this nation, the vision and scope of it's wars, the stratagem employed to fight those wars, the conditions under which our fighting men must perform, the likelihood of success and the determination to succeed all emanates from the hearts of 537 men and women. If they are 'virtuous' and have the best for this country at heart as in keeping with our founding documents; our men and women in uniform have the best chance of success on the ground. If their hearts are corrupt in any way, it is our men and women in uniform and on the ground that pay the heavy cost of the shedding of their blood for a corruptly prosecuted cause.

The future of an entire nation and it's 300 million citizens rests on the hope that 537 men and women will act in the best interests of a nation and not their own corrupt self interests. It rests on the knowledge - or lack of knowledge these 537 men and women have and are willing to increase. It rests on the vigilance of the 300 million citizens who placed them there and their willingness to hold the 537 elected representatives accountable. It rests on the knowledge that there is right and wrong - not gray area or half-truths and that doing what is right is always correct and always costly. It rests in the knowledge that we have placed some in harm's way who are relying on our willingness to do what is right and not what is politically expedient. It rests on a nation recognizing it's divine genesis and it's willingness to turn back to that which gave it birth: 'If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.' 2 Chronicles 7:14

On April 19th, 1775, approximately 200 Massachusetts Militiamen took to a small town square and faced as many as 1000 highly trained sovereign British soldiers. Some died that day, others lived to fight and die later in the war. They paved the way for our founders to secure for their future generations that which they believed God had intended for all of his created men and women.

What have these sitting 537 (save 22 who have worn a uniform) done to further that cause? What personal price have they paid? What cost are they demanding of others that they were unwilling to pay themselves? When will they show a modicum of interest in the perils our men and women face every day? When will the lives of our men and women in harm's way trump the pursuit of misguided social programs? When will they care enough to ask if the strategy President Obama, Sec Def Gates, General Petraeus, and General McChrystal has any hope of success, provides our Warriors a prospect of victory, and is right for America; the America envisioned by those 77 (correction jjb) that day on Lexington Green:

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard