Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Monday, February 28, 2005


This is coolbert:

With regard to the comments of General Mattis, it seems that what he said is very mild indeed. Expressing his true and probably correct sentiments in what he felt was an open manner.

This seems to be a similar situation as the Army General [commanded the Army Ranger force during it's combat with the Somalia militia in the Mogadishu combat of 1992] who also recently spoke before a church gathering and commented about how the current anti-terrorist war is in his opinion a war between his GOD and the GOD of the enemy. And how his GOD [the general's GOD] would win because his was more powerful. A lot of hay was made about this too in the media. And it seems that both men got a dressing down from their military superiors, but were NOT removed from their positions.

[The Army general purports to have pictures taken over Mogadishu the day of the battle between the Army Rangers and the Somalia militia that shows the devil hovering over the battlefield. And when seeing this picture, you do see in the photo what appears to be a smudge of smoke that to me takes the form, somewhat, of a witch riding a broomstick [maybe someone sees something else, that is what it looks like to me]].

Neither of the comments made by either General seems at face value to violate Article 88 or Article 134 of the UCMJ [these would seem to be the most pertinent Articles that would apply in either situation]. So neither General would face courts martial consequences. Article 88 states that no military person may criticize a member of Congress or the President. And Article 134 states that any action or speech that has the effect of causing indiscipline within the ranks is punishable under UCMJ. Article 134 violations usually demand a palpable effect. The speech causes a lack of discipline. Nothing of the sort seems to have occurred in the case of these two officers.

Nonetheless discretion is the better part of valor, or so it seems when General officers speak in public. Especially in this time of recording devices and mass media communication. You have to be careful of what you say. It can be and will be taken out of context by the wrong crowd, or interpreted in the wrong manner by the wrong crowd, and a frenzy will be created. A good officer can be lost at the wrong time for innocuous and what turns out to be ill-timed statements.

It seems that U.S. Marine Corps General officers from time to time have made a habit of making comments that some would regard as intemperate.

Such as the remarks of H.M. Smith about Army troops on Saipan ["yellow gutless cowards that froze in their foxholes"], or "Chesty" Puller ["retreat Hell, we are just advancing in another direction"].

And of course the famous General Smedley Butler. Twice winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. A man who served with great distinction and courage. When running for the Senate in 1932 [after his retirement of course], Butler wrote an acerbic book that stated that his Marines had been badly abused over the many years and used mainly to further the interests of U.S. commercial enterprises and nothing more [Haiti, Nicaragua].

It was noted by observers that during his over thirty year career, Butler had himself led troops in many of these instances where Marines "were used to protect commercial interests". And yet not once did Butler even raise a peep of dissent. It seems that only upon retiring did General Butler's brain once regain it's senses and had the truth revealed to it. Butler did NOT win his Senatorial campaign.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005


This is coolbert:

Demining operations throughout the world have become a cause that is near and dear to many celebrities [Princess Diana was one of them].

The ubiquitous NGO's [non-governmental organizations] are also closely linked to demining operations all throughout the world. Having NGO's attempting to do something of this nature [demining] is to me somewhat self defeating. With the NGO's politics quite often interferes with realistic goals and solutions.

And when considering the problem of land mines throughout the world, the problem is staggering.

I think that the four worst places in the world for mines are Angola, Mozambique, Afghanistan, and Cambodia.

Within these four countries alone literally millions of land mines have been strewn in a reckless and wanton manner. Disparate places linked by the curse of indiscriminate and callous use of land mines by a host of combatants.

Land mine demining has become an industry unto itself in these lands.

And the rehabbing of land mine victims has also become a major venture for each nation. So many victims abound with missing limbs that need prosthesis and rehab. Almost all are civilians that stumbled upon a land mine that was placed not so much to kill or wound opposing combatants, but rather to intimidate civilians.

Normal mining operations carried out by military units calls for careful records to be kept [this may not always be the case, but nonetheless, it is a goal to be adhered to as closely as possible] of where mines have been placed.

When hostilities end, demining can proceed using these records.

In a place such as Angola, mining was carried out in the opposite manner, or so it seems. The more indiscriminate the mining, the better. And this went on for decades.

And demining is not cheap.

The mines of choice in most of these circumstances were almost exclusively either Soviet or Chinese Communist. Crude but effective. And CHEAP. Mines that cost about $2 each!! It is estimated that during demining operations, it costs about $1500 to find and deactivate each mine!! [this is the cost for employing human deminers].

Demining is also very dangerous for the human deminer.

The normal demining procedure is to crawl very slowly forward on one's belly, wearing what amounts to a suit of armor and a helmet with face shield, all the while probing gingerly on a say one meter front with a sharp wooden stick. You hope to find the land mine and uncover it without detonating the little bugger. You can then deactivate or blow the mine up with a small explosive charge of your own. And then start the process over again from the point where you left off. Obviously a laborious, time consuming, dangerous, and NOT 100 % effective method.

You may ask yourself, "well, why not employ those mine detectors that you see used in World War Two [WW2] movies?? Wouldn't that be easier than probing for the mines with a sharp wooden stick??"

Well NO!!

There now exists plastic land mines designed from the start with the goal of defeating the old-fashioned WW2 mine detectors.

And why use a WOODEN stick?

Well, some bright person [??] came up with the idea of placing a fuse activated by the proximity of a ferrous object on the land mines. Someone probing the ground in front of them with a metal object, such as as bayonet [again, you see this done in WW2 movies] will set the land mine off just by placing the steel bayonet in proximity to the specially fused land mine. BOOM!!

It is just as Will Rogers said. "You can't say that civilization don't advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way."


Gambian Rat.

This is coolbert:

I see that the giant Gambian rat is being trained and used in de-mining operations all throughout Africa.

This is a novel approach and is only one facet of what has been and will be a protracted campaign to demine parts of the world ravaged by war. And ravaged by the indiscriminate and callous of land mines by some combatants.

This Gambian rat can be trained from the age of six weeks to detect through the use of smell, mines. And can enter a mined area without the danger of setting the mines off. Attached to tethers, these de-miners can do a job that is ordinarily very dangerous for humans in the extreme.

And do the job at least as well as a dog, perhaps better [dogs, in my estimation, would want to dig up the mine when found. An overpowering urge for a dog. But disastrous for the dog. BOOM!].

Most importantly, perhaps, is that the rats are willing to WORK FOR PEANUTS. LITERALLY SO!!!

The rats have obvious advantages.

Skilled rats can be easily replaced if they are killed or die from natural causes.

The cost to maintain a rat is very low.

They can have a reproducing population that proliferates prodigiously, and attachment to handlers is very low.

Loss of a rat in demining operations or through a natural death means little to the handlers. The rats do NOT bond as a dog would. NO sentimentality between handler and charge.

The biggest problem with demining is more than anything else, the indiscriminate and callous way that the mines were sown.

Perpetrators on a number of continents and in a number of conflicts just strew these deadly devices in a manner that were intended not so much to kill or maim, but as to intimidate.

And no marking or record keeping was EVER done. Even if the perpetrators DID wish to demine their handiwork, they could not, they did NOT keep any records. A very sad situation.


Friday, February 11, 2005

Gen. Mattis.

From Colonel Craig USMC:

"Distinctions of War"

"General Mattis's mistake."
There is an old adage that says "never miss an opportunity to shut up." I'm guessing that Marine Lieutenant General James Mattis wishes he'd taken this advice last week. As everyone knows by now Gen. Mattis, speaking on February 1 in San Diego as a panel member at a meeting of Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, said:
Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling...You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.
According to a report in the Washington Times, "his comments evoked laughter and applause from the audience."
Of course his, comments also evoked criticism from many of the usual suspects. For instance the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on the Pentagon to discipline Gen. Mattis for the remarks. CAIR's council's executive director, Nihad Awad said, "We do not need generals who treat the grim business of war as a sporting event. These disturbing remarks are indicative of an apparent indifference to the value of human life."
Knowing Gen. Mattis's record, I disagree with such characterizations - but that's because I know his record. Unfortunately, the thrust of the criticism by CAIR and others is, alas, correct. The context of the comments makes clear that Gen. Mattis was having some fun and playing to his audience. My criticism of Gen. Mattis is that he forgot that he wasn't trying to inspire his Marines but was instead addressing a civilian group with press present. We wouldn't want the ladies of the press getting a case of the vapors, now, would we? In addition, anyone who doesn't know Gen. Mattis's record, or who doesn't care about it, can use his comments to paint the Marines as, in the infamous characterization of an assistant secretary of the Army during the Clinton administration, "extremists" out of step with liberal society.

But those who would use Gen. Mattis's words to defame him or - most especially - the Marine Corps owe it to themselves to examine his record as a combat leader in Afghanistan, where he served as a commander of the Naval Task Force that seized an advanced airbase at the opening of that campaign; and Iraq, where he commanded the storied 1st Marine Division during the march up to Baghdad. The fact is that Gen. Mattis is probably the finest Marine combat leader since the legendary Chesty Puller. I have never met a Marine who served with Gen. Mattis who had anything less than the highest regard for him. Anyone who has seen him knows he doesn't "look" like a Marine but he sure knows how to act like one. And acting like a Marine makes room for such principles of restraint in war as chivalry (defend the weak and the innocent) and proportionality (use only the force necessary to achieve the objective). For the most part, observers agree that the Marines of Gen. Mattis's division treated surrendering Iraqi humanely - the way they are supposed to be treated.

Here is the "message to all hands" that then-Major General Mattis issued to his troops as they prepared to enter Iraq in March 2003:

For decades, Saddam Hussein has tortured, imprisoned, raped and murdered the Iraqi people; invaded neighboring countries without provocation; and threatened the world with weapons of mass destruction. The time has come to end his reign of terror. On your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind.

When I give you the word, together we will cross the Line of Departure, close with those forces that choose to fight, and destroy them. Our fight is not with the Iraqi people, nor is it with members of the Iraqi army who choose to surrender. While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam's oppression. Chemical attacks, treachery, and the use of the innocent as human shields can be expected, as can unethical tactics. Take it all in stride. Be the hunter, not the hunted: never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down. Use good judgment and act in the best interest of our Nation. "You are part of the world's most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon. Share your courage with each other as we enter the uncertain terrain north of the Line of Departure. Keep faith with your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit.

For the mission's sake, our country's sake, and the sake of the men who carried the Division's colors in past battles - who fought for life and never lost their nerve - carry out you mission and keep your honor clean. Demonstrate to the world that there is 'No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy' than a U.S. Marine.

J.N. Mattis

Major General, US Marines


Note the admonition to "engage your brain before you engage your weapon." This is not the instruction of a man who looks forward to indiscriminate killing. For the most part, his young Marines responded admirably, despite the likelihood that the enemy would take advantage of the Marines' restraint.
But what does one make of his charge to "fight with a happy heart?" Doesn't this suggest, as CAIR claims, that Gen. Mattis and his Marines see the "grim business of war as a sporting event?" In fact, Gen. Mattis was seeking to stir the martial soul of his Marines by invoking the spirit of the St. Crispin's Day speech that Shakespeare's King Henry delivers to his soldiers before the battle of Agincourt:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition;

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed

Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

And like Henry V, Gen. Mattis always led from the front. During the march up to Baghdad, Mattis had prepared his command well and it responded to his style of leadership.
There is something about Gen. Mattis's remarks that most commentators have missed. He was not saying it is "a hoot" to kill everyone, but those kinds of people who, as they say in Texas, "needed killin'." Ask yourself this question: If you came face to face with Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, you might smile as you put a round though his head? Be honest. I would.
The Marines that Gen. Mattis led on the road to Baghdad made the sort of distinctions that their commanding general directed them to make. They encountered Iraqi soldiers of all kinds: soldiers of regular units, some of whom fought and some of whom didn't; militia, who preferred not to fight but sometimes did because they were intimidated by Saddam's fedayeen; and foreign jihadis.
The jihadis asked no quarter and the Marines gave them none. According to The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division by "Bing" West and Major General Ray "E-tool" Smith, USMC (ret), The Marines knew the difference between these jihad fighters and the militia. Consequently the Marines shot them in the ditches and in the field. They threw grenades into the bulrushes and shot the fighters when they ran out. They threw grenades into the drainage pipes running under the road... A few of the foreign fighters surrendered, but most did not - they had come to Iraq to die, and die they would. As one Marine put it, this was the perfect war. "They want to die, and we want to kill them."
This is a distinction we once made without compunction: between those who are entitled to the rights of legitimate combatants and those who are not. This distinction was first made by the Romans and subsequently incorporated into international law by way of medieval European jurisprudence. As the eminent military historian, Sir Michael Howard, wrote in right after 9/11, the Romans distinguished between bellum, war against legitimus hostis, a legitimate enemy, and guerra, war against latrunculi - pirates, robbers, brigands, and outlaws - "the common enemies of mankind."
The former, bellum, became the standard for interstate conflict. It is here for instance that the Geneva Conventions were meant to apply. They do not apply to the latter, Guerra - indeed, punishment for latrunculi traditionally has been summary execution. While not employing the term, many legal experts agree that al Qaeda fighters are latrunculi - hardly distinguishable by their actions from pirates and the like. Who knows what some silly judge might rule in the future, but at least so far, no terrorist organization has been deemed a combatant under the laws of armed conflict.

In retrospect, Gen. Mattis's publicized comments were imprudent. But in his soldier's way, he was making a necessary distinction that many in the press or the courts are not, e.g. those who hold that terrorist detainees are entitled to prisoner-of-war status and the rights put forth in the Geneva Conventions. Nonetheless, we must acknowledge that Gen. Mattis committed a "gaffe" - he blurted out something of the truth.

- Mackubin Thomas Owens is an associate dean of academics and professor of national-security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He led a Marine rifle platoon in Vietnam in 1968-69.

Colonel Craig USMC.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Cassius Clay!

This is coolbert:

Another very remarkable American from the Civil War era was the accomplished Cassius Marcellus Clay.

Little known to the average person today, but in his time was a man that played key roles in a variety of sectors.

[personal note: Some readers will instantly realize that the name Cassius Marcellus Clay is normally associated with the boxer who has become immortalized by the name of Muhammad Ali. Ali, when changing his name, told people that "he no longer wanted to be called by his slave name." I am quite sure Ali is not even in the most basic manner familiar with the person he was named after. If he was, he would not have said what he said!!].

Cassius Marcellus Clay was a man of strong opinions. And a man who did not shrink from vociferously expressing those opinions.

Was a man who was an anti-slave Southerner [from Kentucky]. This at a time when being outspoken in the south against slavery could place one's life in dread peril.

[it was not unusual for wealthy southern planters to hire thugs to intimidate and attack abolitionists. Garrison the Bostonian was beaten on many occasions [and nearly killed] by hired goons of the southern planters].

Cassius Marcellus Clay was a philosopher and a man of profound religious beliefs. Was instrumental in founding Berea College. Known affectionately to this day as "hillbilly" college. An institution of higher learning for poverty stricken but bright Appalachian youth. Students are educated to a very high level, all the while being given a good dose of Bible thumpin'. And all students, in accordance with the philosophies of Cassius Marcellus Clay, MUST work at a menial job to support themselves while attending school.

Cassius Marcellus Clay's finest hour came during the period of the American Civil War. Clay served on the Union side, as might be expected. He DID see this as a grand crusade to free the slaves. And all the time NOT harboring evil intentions toward his fellow southerners [Clay was a Christian man who BELIEVED in his faith!!].

Clay served in a variety of positions during the American Civil War.

Served as a General officer in the Union Army. [I am not sure if he saw combat. But he did hold the rank of General].

Was a personal confident to President Lincoln.

And lastly, at the behest of Lincoln, served as Ambassador to Imperial Russia.

It was in this latter position that he greatly aided the Federal cause.

Clay was able to win the trust and the ear of the Emperor of All The Russians, Alexander. And at a critical moment too. Alexander was a man that just emancipated the serfs of old Russia. [It should be noted that Imperial Russia practiced serfdom until 1861. Serfdom, as demonstrated by Solzhenitsyn, was in many ways even worse than the slavery as practiced in the U.S.]. Alexander had freed the serfs in a peaceful manner and was interested in the effort of abolitionists in the U.S. to end and free the slaves of the Old South.

Clay's outstanding diplomacy was able to persuade Alexander to adopt a sympathetic position toward the Federal forces in the American Civil War.

A sympathy not shared by other European powers. Other European powers that were in conflict [albeit peaceful at the time] with Imperial Russia.

Displaying solidarity with the Union cause was something that Alexander could use to "stick it in the eye" of his European rivals. And at the same time support something that Alexander felt was noble and worthwhile [free the slaves].

To demonstrate solidarity with the North, Alexander sent as a good will gesture a Russian flotilla that paid visits to Northern port cities. Again, as a good will gesture and as an expression of solidarity for the "cause".

I find it to be significant that Imperial Russia was the ONLY European power to make such a gesture to the Federal government during the period 1861-65.

This, through the efforts of diplomat/soldier/philosopher/educator/anti-slave Southerner, Cassius Marcellus Clay.

A remarkable man to say the least. We all should emulate him.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005


This is coolbert:

In his famous/infamous movie, Fahrenheit 911, the "documentarian" Michael Moore goes around Capitol Hill attempting to confront Congressmen who voted for the resolution authorizing the American President to wage the current war against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. And Moore, when confronting these Congressmen, always is of the habit of asking, "are any of your immediate family members or any relatives serving in the military fighting in the war in Iraq??"

And the implication here is quite clear. Moore's intent is to embarrass these Congressmen. The idea being that not too many Congressmen will have close relatives or immediate family members fighting in the Gulf war. This makes these Congressmen look really bad. Or so it seems. "You are willing to send someone else's son or daughter to fight, but no one from your family is going to have to go and fight!!"

[I believe there was one Congressman who did have two close family members involved in the current Gulf war fighting. As a matter of choice, Moore DID NOT show that confrontation in his documentary].

But, generally speaking, it can be safely assumed that NOT a whole lot of Congressmen or Senators DO have immediate family members of close relatives either serving in the military or involved in the fighting of the current war.

There is a precedent for the attitude of "willing to put your body where your mouth is!!". A precedent that in an inadvertent way, greatly assisted the Federal effort during the American Civil War.

It seems that early on during the Civil War conflict, Charles F. Adams Jr. enlisted in the Union forces.

Charles F. Adams Jr. was a descendant of the great John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Both Presidents of the U.S. John Adams in particular is considered along with Thomas Jefferson to be the two men that most influenced the movement for the American thirteen colonies to declare independence from England. John Quincy was renowned for his anti-slavery positions in the years prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, and was reviled throughout the South.

It should be noted that Charles F. Adams Jr. enlisted in a Federal combat unit [as an officer, befitting his station], and DID SO AGAINST the express wishes of his father, Charles F. Adams. The observation was made by Charles Jr. to his father that in of all the illustrious history of the Adams family, NONE of the Adams predecessors have ever deigned it proper to wear a military uniform.

In the fight against slavery, and the Adams family did see the war as being a war against slavery, Charles Jr. was an aspiring and willing military leader. [WILLING TO PUT HIS BODY WERE HIS MOUTH WAS [Jesse the Body Ventura!!]].

This enlistment of Charles Jr. was to pay unexpectedly great dividends when Charles F. Adams was appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James in England by President Lincoln.

Charles the father, as a diplomat during a crisis of the greatest magnitude to the Federal Union, had to apply extraordinary skill to prevent the major European powers, England and France, from entering the fray "between the states". And entering the fray on the side of South.

It seems the aristocracy of both England and France were WELL DISPOSED and sympathetic toward the Southern aristocracy, having a "natural affinity" for their "equals" in America. To counter this dangerous affinity, Adams, as Ambassador, DID employ considerable diplomatic talent and skill with aplomb. And is generally credited with having played a crucial role in keeping both England and France from "entering the fray".

And during conversations with European aristocrats, skeptical of Union intent, Adams WAS able to point to the actions of his son, Charles Jr., serving admirably in the Union cavalry, and participating in the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg both!!

The enlistment and subsequent combat service of Charles Jr. [final rank of General officer] turned out to be quite a BOON for the diplomatic career of Charles F. Adams, something the father had originally been dead set against from the start!!

An irony, but an irony with a decided positive outcome!!


Monday, February 07, 2005


This is coolbert:

I see that the 1930's boxing great Max Schmeling has died. At the age of ninety-nine.

Twice world's heavy-weight boxing champion. Was renowned for defeating Joe Louis when Louis was at the height of his powers [Louis knocked Schmeling out in the first round of their epic rematch].

But a man that should be known as well for his life outside of the ring.

There are many sides to the life of Max Schmeling.

* A boxer of ability.

* A Nazi hero who himself could more properly categorized as being anti-Nazi.

* A wealthy man who paid for the funeral of Joe Louis.

* And a soldier.

Schmeling, in 1940 was drafted into the German Army at the age of thirty five [this is a rather advanced age for a soldier.

This was of itself, most unusual. [Schmeling is reputed to be the only famous German athlete of the era that was drafted??!! It may be that the other athletes were employed as instructors at those Junker Schulen [leadership schools] I have previously blogged about]].

Schmeling not only was drafted into the Army, but served in the unit usually rated as the BEST German Army unit in World War Two [WW2], the Hermann Goering Parachute Division. NOT ONLY served in the best unit of the German Army, but as a combat commander, with the rank of Captain.

[it may also be true that Lutz Long, the only serious competitor to Jesse Owens in the long jump competition at the 1936 Olympics, was killed in combat in WW2].

And fought in one of the most desperate and intense battles of WW2, The Battle of Crete.

Was wounded. Ppresented to the world by the Nazi propaganda machine as being an Aryan hero of the highest order. The actual fact, much more prosaic, was that Schmeling was "wounded" from a non-combat related injury. He suffered stomach cramps and was captured by the New Zealand defenders of Crete [obviously later released from captivity when the battle went in favor of the German invader].

[These stomach cramps were in all probability the result of heat exhaustion. Temperatures on Crete during the fighting were daily around 105 degrees F. A whole lot of German paratroopers fell casualty to heat exhaustion, in part due to the thickness of the uniform that they wore. Suitable for more northerly climes, NOT for Crete in the heat of the Mediterranean summer].

Schmeling could be the archetype for the "jock warrior". An athlete of the highest order who is physically and mentally most prepared to serve in "elite" military units. Such as the Hermann Goering Division. [the entire topic of "jock" elite military unit has been touched upon in several previous blog entries].

To the extent that Max Schmeling saw fit to do what he saw as his patriotic duty, and do so in the fashion that he did, is to be considered admirable. Very few people are ever able or willing to comport themselves as Max Schmeling did in his life. A MAN that can be held in the highest esteem!!

[personal note: In the early 1980's the U.S. Army held Corps level exercises at Eglin AFB in Florida. The temperatures were very hot. And the new battle dress uniform [BDU] was found to be of too thick of a material for hot weather climes. A lot of troops became heat casualties. Sounds familiar, doesn't it??!!]