Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quests for Facts & Fiction – US Investigations

The USA spends billions of dollars on intelligence collection, dissemination and analysis. Yet it is blinded, claiming of no warning, in incidents such as 9/11 and most recently, the murders at Ft. Hood. To make it even more scandalous, there are a multitude of intelligence committees or task forces spread through nearly every agency of the US government. Why do they fail the American people when it really counts?

In a sick bureaucratic ploy, each disaster is met with investigations, and a new intelligence task force or another layer of supervision is created as a palliative. Remember, for example, when the Home Land Security cabinet post and agency was concocted for defense against future national security terrorist disasters. Net effect of this redundancy is to destroy and complicate serious cooperation. If anything, it creates competition as each organization tries to defend its existence. The counter intelligence community's tragic failure to disseminate information on the Jihad army major at Ft. Hood bears witness to this stunning incapacity.

Who was fired over 9/11 or the intelligence debacles involving the run-up to the Iraq war? On the contrary, GW Bush gave General Tommy Franks and CIA Director George Tenet medals. Failure and incompetence was rewarded. Or did the two sell out over duty or loyalty. In any case GW Bush succeeded in his cover-up as the band played on as a prelude for more on coming disasters.

At this writing the old game is being replayed in the danse macabre investigations of the Ft. Hood slaughter. There are separate investigations, by Department of Defense, US Army, national US intelligence organizations and grand-standing fruitcakes in congress. Unlike the 9/11 commission, there does not seem to be a central coordination commission.

Nearly every organization bears culpability so do not be surprised if some other organization suddenly bears the guilt or more likely, collective guilt is the finding and no one person is responsible for dereliction of duty. No one will be fired or relieved of command or asked to resign; the band will play on.

My experience is that the failure in intelligence seldom is attributable the the national technical means of collection or from human intelligence resources. The system always falls apart between analysis and the policy maker. In most cases the analysis, though hedged, is correct. The policy maker is a political animal and this most certainly includes generals, so doing what is right gives way to short term political expediency. And in many cases this blows up in their faces as it did at Ft. Hood. Intelligence becomes the scape goat.

There is also the obsession of Team Player that makes many fear dissent from group-think of the herd. I have witnessed general offices fold nervously over dissent. Had one declare to me when asked to approve a footnote on a national estimate: I AM NOT THE CONSCIENCE OF THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY.

The biggest sweat by the Administration appears to center on whether the alleged Ft. Hood killer was a terrorist or not, and the murders have repercussions on the US Islamic community. The man was a terrorist and Obama will have the act recorded on his watch. No bobbing and weaving can avoid it. The Muslim community bears some responsibility for nurturing Hasan without raising red flags.

The army, apart from intelligence, let the killer fester and explode under its nose with plenty of warning. The intelligence community had over 13 e-mail intercepts even with offers by the killer to contribute money to Arab radical causes. Yet, it stood by and it did nothing to put Major Hasan out business. Where was Home Land Security on the incident? Who knows?

Usually when a policy maker receives a hot piece of surprising intelligence, he ignores it, because he does not have solution. In the Hasan case the solution was easy: arrest him. Our trusted Intelligence leadership made a mistake and it should removed from authority; that is, if the investigators have the fortitude to perceive a responsible authority. Colonel Robert E Bartos US Ret.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Division in the Ranks

The way it is to work amidst general officers in the US Army is that discord among flag ranks is a discreet thing, never to surface publicly outside army circles. So, apart from outside inter-service rivalry chasing defense appropriation dollars or competition for role or missions, clash of generals is rare; it is seldom observed, especially internally within a single service.

So when retired US Army General Karl Eikenberry, now US ambassador to Afghanistan, undermines the recommendations of the top US commander of NATO and American forces, US Army General Stanley McChrystal, it is a seminal moment – it happened last week when Ambassador General Eikenberry cabled the President to hold off on General McChrystal's request for more troops to be deployed to Afghanistan.

General Eikenberry as a serious soldier diplomat is not common in the US government. The last one I recollect was General Maxwell Taylor under JFK. Eikenberry, a West Point cadet of the class of 1973, has had a different career pattern than the usual academy graduate. He had the predictable command and staff ticket-punching assignments, carefully monitored throughout his career, but there was a deviation when he took the risk of stepping out of pattern to learn Chinese Mandarin - he became fluent enough to be certified as an interpreter and is also known to be an expert on Chinese history. He is an Orientalist and unlike General Petraeus, not out of his depth understanding corrosive war-lord culture of corruption. And Eikenberry knows the military situation as he was a US/NATO Commander in Afghanistan.

It was no accident that he blew the whistle on the McChrystal troop surge in Afghanistan and not CENTCOM Commander General Petraeus. The success of Patraeus's counter-insurgency strategy is still in balance in Iraq, especially since the insurgents recently destroyed the large Iraq Ministry of Justice and Baghdad municipal headquarters in the heart of Baghdad; hundreds were killed. The installation’s protection was controlled by Petraeus trained Iraq security that has now since been purged. So perhaps Eikenberry is much less sanguine on the counter insurgency strategy than its proponents, Petraeus and McChrystal, whose reputations ride on its success.

Eikenberry understands that because a US Army field manual was written on counterinsurgency, it does not insure its contents are a reliable guide to action. He also knows that while McChrystal says he can win with 40,000 more troops or less, the general who was relieved by Obama and replaced by McChrystal, General McKiernen, said he needed 400,000 troops realistically to do the job. Obama, like GW Bush, believes he can win on the cheap – doubt Eikenberry believes it.

At least in the short term Eikenberry's challenge to more troop deployments forced the Administration to delay its decision. The president called for a rewrite of the final four options to include an exit strategy. I considered President Obama clearly warned on the perils of escalation in Afghanistan.

There are indications that the US may attempt to rid the Afghan government of corruption and crime ... good luck. Our clueless Hillary has announced setting up a crimes tribunal and corruption commission in Afghanistan. She might try-out pilot projects in Chicago, Detroit, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, places where you might not have your head blown off while trying to make changes in the corrupt political culture. Our Secretary of State must decide the boundaries of US corruption and Afghan corruption before she begins her doomed crusade in Afghanistan.

In the long term, Obama most likely foolishly will deploy more troops to Afghanistan. Even though by now it has dawned on him that extending the military adventure brings little chance of victory; and, that he is in the midst of a civil war and that he is supporting a secular side against the religious elements. As he does this, he dooms the side he supports as it is viewed as a puppet of the infidels by most of the fervid Islamic population.

Costs of extending the war are enormous. It costs over a million dollars per soldier per year to maintain him in theater. Cost of fuel is estimated at 400 dollars a gallon by the time it is in the tanks of vehicles and aircraft. This cost does not include infrastructure projects, replacement of military equipment and equipping Afghan security forces. Any savings the US has from draw-down in Iraq is already devoured by more deployments, up-grading of bomb-proof armored vehicles and the expansion of the drone/Hellfire capability.

The Afghan GNP is estimated at about 23 billion. The US expenditures over there are about 50 billion or more; the whole thing is absurd as well as bloodier and bloodier, as insurgent explosives become more powerful and suicide bombers multiply.

As we know, US deficits are already out of control, so more war increases them and destroys domestic programs. A majority of Americans already do not support the war, but recently on Obama's way to Asia on a stop at Elemendorf AFB in Alaska, he promised an assembled military audience that he would not force them to fight a war not supported by the American people; but at this stage and based on his shaky record, who expects the President to deliver on his promises? Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Death in the Afternoon
Ft. Hood Texas, 2009

Twelve soldiers shot dead in cold blood with about 29 others wounded. It happened on a US military base at Ft. Hood Texas at approximately 1330 hrs. The alleged killer was an American Army officer, Major Nidal Malik Hasan. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is an Arab American Muslim with two brothers, one still living in Palestine. Reportedly, standing on a table in an Army reception center, he shouted the Jihadist battle cry, Allahu Akbar as he mercilessly gunned downed his victims until he was taken down with four bullets by police – he still is alive but in serious condition. For this to happen there had to be massive dereliction of duty by the Army command.

Despite the fact there is evidence that Hasan attempted to contact al Qaeda, the mainstream media, the Administration and the Army have cautioned the public not to jump to conclusions on the tragic affair.

Who are they trying to kid? The only major question that remains is whether Hasan in fact did plot and carry out the terrorist attack alone or with assistance from the Jihadist network. At a press conference at Ft. Hood, Army Chief of Staff General Casey told us that the incident will be carefully investigated, results studied, lessons learned and corrective action taken. This is of course bureaucratic bullshit while the Army figures out how to cover its ass and protect the command as best it can.

The much larger national security question that Hasan's murderous rampage brings into focus is whether the Jihadists, due to US wars in Islamic countries and US pro Israeli policies, succeed in the recruitment of terrorists in the US. If this is the case, the GW Bush anti terrorist policy appears even more misguided than previously acknowledged.

This investigation scenario has played out before in the criminally bad planning for the invasion of Iraq, the Abu Ghraib torture club, the Jessica Lynch propaganda farce, the failure to get bin Laden at Tora Bora, the escape of Mullah Omar at Kandahar and of course, the cover-up of football player Tillman's friendly-fire death by the General McCrystal investigation. Name one US general officer relieved over these serial fiascos; some have been promoted. The West Point Protective Society appears alive and well.

That the massacre occurred a Ft. Hood is particularly vexing and ironic as it is filled with combat veterans from the wars against the Jihadists in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unless the command was comatose, it should have smelled the Hasan danger from afar. Why did it not act?

Based on nearly all reports, Major Hasan was a walking billboard with flashing lights for Jihad: he talked the game to his comrades, his Islamic friends, and even his superiors; there are indications that he used the internet to justify martyrdom through Jihad taking down infidels; he sometimes dressed in Arab clothing; and, he was obstreperous in has anti war sentiment and cautioned by command over his politicization.

Why he was was not relieved, taken into custody and boarded out are unexplained. He could have been fined for his failure to keep his medical school agreement or allowed to pay back the contract which cost roughly one-half million dollars. As it ended up, the Army suffered more than financial loss for keeping the Jihadist major around. No command investigation can justify the horror caused by the bad judgement of the military leadership. No excuse is acceptable for the terrible consequences that unfolded at Ft. Hood in that fall afternoon.

No amount of investigation, compensation or mea culpas can change the fact that the dead are dead and the wounded are damaged; but, measures can be taken to punish those in the military who were responsible for the welfare of the troops under their command. The adage that the commander is responsible for what his men do or failed to do has been operational throughout the Army's history except in the 21st century. It is about time this ethos is restored with the integrity of command. At a minimum, the Chief of Staff of the Army should be encouraged to retire; the chain of command, starting with the LTG in command at Ft. Hood, should be relieved of command and the relief action taken down to the medical commander of Hasan.

There is no point in directing blame toward the US military Islamic community regarding the incident; as a matter of fact, this community should be protected. There are about 3,000 serving Muslims in the Army who are patriotic and have shed blood for the country. Military security has to solve the conundrum that all Jihadists are Muslims but not all Muslims are Jihadists.

You can expect more dereliction of duty by those in command unless commanders are disciplined for their failures; if this is not done, we might as well privatize the force and accept a Wall Street mercantile morality as a code of conduct. Half of the forces (188,000) deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq are already private and this may explain the overall diminishing of military ethics and command responsibility. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Obama & His Sweet Lemons

You always expect US administrations to rebut bad news one way or another. Normally they just lie in their response, find an ambiguity in the report, or most commonly, change the subject and compare it to a historical problem made by the opposition. Obama's administration, in the main, has been different. It prefers to use the SWEET LEMON approach: a behavior that accepts the sour lemon, but tries to to convince you their lemon is really sweet.

Take the economic situation. Small business is still on the ropes, but the sweet lemon is that the stock market recently hit 10,000. Nearly all the US auto industry is still in deep trouble is a lemon, but the fact that Ford cut a profit makes the lemon sweeter. Or the best one is that unemployment rose to nearly 10% is a lemon, but the fact that the rate of unemployment is slowing is sweetness. Perhaps you like the lemon of a dollar worth 50 cents against the EURO, but it is sweet because it encourages US foreign trade.

This concept is also applied to foreign policy. Hillary Clinton, our Secretary of State, is a bonafide liar since her fabrication of the Bosnian sniper affair during her primary campaign for US presidency. So why anyone takes her seriously escapes me. She has now told the US that since the Israeli refuse to curtail their construction on the West Bank and in Jerusalem at the US request is a lemon, it is sweet because the Jews are limiting themselves to 3000 units in the West Bank; a few commercial buildings in Jerusalem makes the lemon sweeter. Oh by the way, we just caught another spy working for the Israeli Mossad.

After a herculean diplomatic effort by the US to convince Afghan president to rerun his election flawed by massive corruption, the US finds now that his opponent Abdullah Abdullah refuses to run because the whole Karzai election process is corrupt – there will be no rerun. No rerun is big sour lemon, but the US announced that it is now prepared to work with Karzai who has promised to have opponents in his government and clean up his corruption; the measures to clean up corruption remain unspecified. Those promises ironically make the process sweeter lemon... This sweet taste is apparent to only opportunists or dopes.

The US policy in Afghanistan has been shattered by the corruption – the US has no reliable partner in an anarchical narco Afghanistan. Obama has a perfect mandate to pull out US forces, yet it appears that he is attempting to continue the occupation to play to the 20% Republicans and the military industrial congressional lobby. No matter whether he sends 40,000 more troops or none, the Republican war mongers will squeal for more. The war remains an economic stimulus package. It is no accident nearly 50% of the members of the House subcommittee on Pentagon affairs are under ethical investigation by their peers.

At this stage it appears regrettably, that Obama is the light that failed... The pathetic part is there are no viable alternatives – the screwball Republicans with their bibles and teabags are not it by a long shot. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.