Tag: Afghanistan war

2016 Documentary, Citizen Soldier, Freshly Relevant with News


45th Infantry Patch ThunderbirdCitizen Soldier is an excellent documentary, from soldiers’ perspectives, made freshly relevant by the infuriating revelations that top Department of Defense officials were blatantly violating their oaths of office and actively lying to the civilian elected leadership, President Trump and the Congress, about troops these excrement heaps in suits were keeping in harm’s way. President Eisenhower was entirely right to warn of the deeply corrupting congruence of profit and career in the name of our national security. To understand on whom the Department of Defense are really imposing costs, watch Citizen Soldier.

I finally viewed Citizen Soldier this past Friday with a group of friends who are not veterans. We were all a little skeptical when we popped the DVD in the player, worried that it would be amateurish and not the subject matter that lends itself to being so bad it is good. Everyone gave the movie a thumbs up. We had briefly talked about the forsworn, lawless leadership at the Department of Defense. This movie captured deployment at the height of the Obama Afghanistan surge. The comments after the lights came up were not entirely printable about the top Pentagon leadership then and now.

Citizen Soldier feels like a multiplayer first-person shooter, always from the perspective of one of the soldiers. The view over gun barrels will look very familiar if you ever played or saw a bit of a game being played on a computer screen. This is because the footage comes from small, light video cameras, like GoPro, mounted on the soldiers’ helmets. So, this was an intentional project, from before their deployment, to tell the story of a company company of “citizen soldiers,” the Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, known since World War II as the “Thunderbirds.” A thunderbird is on their diamond-shaped unit patch.

Vice President Pence Thanks Millennial Military

Jordan 2019, AZANG and Army Reserve TOA

Photo by Sgt. 1st Class SHAIYLA HAKEEM Area Support Group Jordan, July 2019

This weekend, Candice Owens uploaded her latest podcast, an interview with Vice President Mike Pence. As he brought the interview to a close, he made a comment that prompted reflection. Vice President Pence grounded his optimism about our nation’s future in the fact of 5.5 million young people have signed up for military service, since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Indeed, the latest cohort of recruits was born after that date, and for at least the past four years, recruits have had no living, personal, memory of that day.

Salena Zito talks to Sean Parnell: Army Ranger, combat infantryman with the elite 10th Mountain Division, and veteran of 485 days of fierce fighting along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Parnell’s unique leadership skills welded his platoon into one of the most fierce and effective American fighting units in modern military history. What is life like for active-duty military and young veterans in Trump’s America?

Salena Zito’s “Main Street Meets The Beltway” comes to you every Thursday on the Examining Politics podcast, and is a joint production of the Washington Examiner and SiriusXM Radio.

Evaluating Bowe Bergdahl


USA_PFC_BoweBergdahl_ACU_CroppedThe second season of Serial — the NPR podcast that investigated the murder of Hae Min Lee last year and turned its attention to the circumstances following Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s abandonment of his post in rural Afghanistan — ended last week.

And while this season may have lacked the suspense and mystery of the first, it made up for it through some impressive reporting regarding a matter of genuine public interest. We’ll undoubtedly learn more through Bergdahl’s court-martial this summer, but Serial’s investigation makes a strong case for the following:

  • Bergdahl was poorly suited to service in the US Army, a fact that should have been apparent to none more than Bergdahl himself. Besides being distrustful of authority, aloof, and prideful, Bergdahl had been kicked out of Coast Guard training years earlier, apparently after intentionally injuring himself during a panic attack. This doesn’t make him a bad guy — and his desire to try again is actually rather commendable in a naive sort of way — but it likely made him an unsuitable soldier. Some of his close friends saw that and tried to warn him off.
  • Even under the most generous interpretation of events — i.e., that he intended to showcase his commanders’ disregard for their soldiers’ safety by exposing security weaknesses — Bergdhal’s decision to leave his post was extraordinarily reckless and stupid.
  • There is, however, very little evidence to suggest that Bergdahl intended to harm his comrades, let alone that he is the “dirty rotten traitor” Donald Trump describes at nearly every rally. The SERE team that debriefed Bergdahl after his release has spoken highly of his conduct while caged by the Taliban and maintains that he’s been extremely helpful since.
  • While there’s little evidence to support the oft-stated claim that anyone was killed as a direct consequence of Bergdahl’s disappearance, several soldiers were seriously injured while searching for him. Moreover, Bergdahl is almost certainly indirectly responsible for a number of casualties — including fatalities — due to how resources and units were re-deployed in the effort to find him.
  • The Obama Administration utterly botched how to play the prisoner exchange, failed to vet whether Bergdahl’s parents were ready for prime time (they were a disaster), and ignored the mountains of evidence that Bergdahl was held in contempt by many of his former comrades. Susan Rice deserves particular scorn for doubling-down on these problems on subsequent Sunday talk shows.(Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so, too.)

Bergdahl was severely punished for his decision to walk off that night in 2009; five years in a Taliban cage isn’t anything I’d wish on anyone. The question of whether — and to what degree — he should be held accountable for his actions is quite another matter. Serial has done a commendable job in bringing light to the case for the public; let’s hope the court-martial does an equally good investigation and applies the law with the justice that both Bergdahl and his comrades deserve.

Moments of Silence, Near and Far


151003-F-QU482-010On Saturday past I attended the second-to-last game of the season for the Minnesota Twins. They lost the game and their chance at a wild-card post season berth.

Before the game began, there was an announcement for a moment of silence for the victims of the Umpqua Community College shootings. It was a traditional public gesture, and as is right and proper the attendees stood and were dutifully silent as the moment passed. I stood with the crowd, but I admit my mind was not with that tragedy.

About two hours after the Umpqua shootings, a United States Air Force C-130 transport aircraft crashed in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. All on board the aircraft were killed: four aircrew members, two security force Airmen, and five military contractors. Two Afghans were killed on the ground. The aircraft was destroyed at a property loss of approximately 68 million dollars. Preliminary statements from the Air Force indicate that the aircraft crashed during a night take-off from the Jalalabad Airfield. The crew were members of the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron operating out of Bagram, Afghanistan.

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Disclaimer – I’ve not seen the movie.  I likely won’t see it.  The article linked and quoted herein was written by a blogger who is himself an Iraq War veteran (in this case a medical corpsman) a firearms enthusiast, and a sometime firearms journalist. Any discussion of Chris Kyle, American Sniper (the book), or American Sniper (the […]

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Closure In Afghanistan


256px-Flag_of_Afghanistan.svgThere are a lot of people in Afghanistan who have volunteered to return here, looking for closure.

There are those who have experienced their own direct trauma; I am fortunate to not be counted in that number. I am not stalked as some are. Some have their indirect trauma to work through, such as seeing friends and comrades dead or dying, grievously wounded, or pushed beyond limits. I call this indirect as — no matter how close you are — it could have been you, and there’s a healthy gratitude that coexists in a corrosive cycle with survivor’s guilt. I have some of this.

There’s also a cohort who were true believers in the earlier mission set. The mission changed over time, for all the right reasons, no matter how doomed or how poorly executed the misson may have been. The problem here arose when the mission stopped changing while the goal kept creeping away. The mismatch between words and deeds is an unfair and dishonest approach to a task which takes some lives by design, and takes others by misfortune.