Writing yesterday in the Daily Beast, Lt. Col. Daniel Davis provides a moving tribute to the late Michael Hastings. In the piece, we learn that Hastings didn’t merely help Davis by publishing Davis’ long-form unclassified report detailing how “progress” in Afghanistan as reported by the military has no basis in reality, but Hastings actually provided some of the inspiration for Davis to enter into his process of exposing military lies:
I first met Michael in early May 2011, while I was in Washington on leave from the combat zone in Afghanistan. I agreed to meet him at the behest of a mutual friend, though I was hesitant. Prior to that meeting the only thing I knew about Hastings was that he had authored the Rolling Stone piece that led to the firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Most people I knew in the military believed Hastings to be a raging liberal who hated the military. Yet because our mutual friend held him in such high esteem, I agreed to meet. I am so thankful I did so.
Within 10 minutes of meeting him my opinion had changed dramatically. I found him to be a very rational, honest, and respectful guy. He also showed real interest in and concern for the regular combat troop and was definitely not some “military hater.” Over the course of lunch that day I shared with him my frustration at what I believed to be a significant chasm between what some of our senior military leaders were saying in public and what I knew to be true behind the scenes. Michael told me that didn’t surprise him, because he’d seen it in his own experience over the years and had many soldiers tell him the same thing.
Note what fuels the relationship between Davis and Hastings. Both care deeply about regular combat soldiers and see that high-ranking officers are lying about what is taking place in Afghanistan. It is clear from Davis’ piece that this meeting with Hastings, and the understanding of Hastings’ motivations that the meeting provided, served as inspiration for Davis: Continue reading →
It is time for the Formula 1 Grosser Preis Santander Von Deutschland 2012. There is that.
Then there is the fact Jon Lord has died. If you do not know Jon Lord, he was a founding member of, and keyboard player for, Deep Purple. One of the more underrated keyboard players, and bands, of all time (by my book anyway). RIP
And, indescribably, twelve more souls died in Aurora, with scores more injured gravely. I would love to say something pithy, profound and appropriate. However, I have no clue what that would be.
A lot of other stuff has also transpired demanding extreme talking of the trash. The video embedded to the upper right is custom made by my daughter, Jenna, and I, from CGI runs of the Hockenheimring set to the sounds of the timeless Deep Purple classic Highway Star. All for this F1 Trash and wake for the Lord thread. Okay, mostly her work, but she swears even I can be taught the necessary skills. We’ll see about that. With no further adieu…..
We are in the summer doldrums. No football. No basketball. Do they even play hockey in the States? I forget. I understand there is some kind of athletic contest coming up across teh pond. In a move that may well INCREASE the safety of one and all, in Olympic Village and the world over, actual stiff British upper lip troops will be filling in for corrupt, fraudulent and incompetent G4 Mercenary Contractors.
Other than that, there is the start of the second half of the baseball season and……Formula One! This week is the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
Uh, BREAKING NEWS: My TeeVee just told me:
“For years people have been working to perfect the margarita. At last, the wait is over. Introducing Bud Light Lime Margaritas. The ready to drink margarita. With the refreshing twist of Bud Light Lime.”
At any rate, qualifying is about to go off at the German Grand Prix. Hockenheimring is a relatively flat, and traditionally very fast circuit. The video really gives a good feel for it. Although shorter than originally laid out to be, it is still nearly three miles long and presents numerous opportunities for overtaking.
At practice, the rain spoiled the fun, and especially so for the German favorite, Michael Schumacher. The Mercedes team may be further plagued by a five place penalty on the grid due to a gearbox change in Nico Rosberg’s equipment. Things were brighter, however, for McLaren, who saw Jenson Button be fast with Lewis Hamilton close behind.
The skies do not look to clear for Saturday’s qualifying, but the rain may hold off. [Quick addendum: watching Q3 now and the track is soaking wet. Both Alonso and Schumacher are radioing that it needs to be stopped, but the stewards do not appear so inclined. The ability of these drivers to keep their cars on the track in these conditions is simply stunning] Race day will be a crapshoot though. Updates after qualifying will be in comments below.
Which brings us to Aurora. I was still up early Friday morning when the first word of the tragedy started coming in. I thought about posting something, but was so numb there was just nothing to say. Not sure much has changed in that regard. The root facts are on the usual relentless babble stream of cable news etc. and I have not even checked in in a bit to see the latest. The one take that really stuck out to me was by David Sirota, who lives literally right by the scene in suburban Denver:
Confronting that question, of course, is mind-bending and painful — in the age of “War on Terror” agitprop that purposely defines terrorism in one specific, narrow and politically convenient way, it’s akin to the cognitive difficulty of pondering the size of the universe … or, perhaps, death itself. It takes us out of our comfort zone and forces us to consider the causes of all kinds of extremism and violence — not just the foreign Islamic kind that we so flippantly write off as alien. Indeed, at a time when so many bloodlusting Americans cheer on our government proudly assassinating the imams who allegedly inspire Muslim terrorism, a shooting like this (if, indeed, it had nothing to do with Islamic extremism) begs us to wonder why we don’t feel similarly bellicose or enraged at the inspirations fueling so many other forms of terrorism — whatever those inspirations may be.
These contradictions and omissions, of course, are why such a question will almost certainly be ignored in the now-practiced kabuki theater of horror porn — the kind where vote-seeking politicians issue meaningless platitudes, ratings-stalking reporters breathlessly recount the gory details and attention-starved pundits preen in front of cameras to prognosticate about the electoral implications of mass murder in a presidential swing state. Carefully avoiding the T-word, it is a conspiracy of distraction and reduction, playing to our reflexive desire for soothing diversions and simple answers. The conspirators expect that when the cameras eventually pan away from the cataclysm, we will slip back into hyper-sleep for another few weeks, until the next massacre hits, and then the cycle will begin anew.
Yep. About right.
There may not be much front line sports on this weekend, but there is certainly a lot to talk about. What have you all been up to? What is on your mind? Let’s talk.
One of the hottest, and most important, stories of the last week has been that broken by Scott Shane in the New York Times, on February 5th, of Army Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis’ stunning report on the unmitigated duplicity and disaster that characterizes the American war in Afghanistan. It painted the story of a man, Davis, committed to his country, to his service and to the truth but internally tortured by the futility and waste he saw in Afghanistan, and the deception of the American public and their Congressional representatives by the Pentagon and White House.
And then, late last month, Colonel Davis, 48, began an unusual one-man campaign of military truth-telling. He wrote two reports, one unclassified and the other classified, summarizing his observations on the candor gap with respect to Afghanistan. He briefed four members of Congress and a dozen staff members, spoke with a reporter for The New York Times, sent his reports to the Defense Department’s inspector general — and only then informed his chain of command that he had done so.
Concurrent with Shane’s NYT article, Davis himself published an essay overview of what he knew and saw in the Armed Forces Journal.
The report is every bit as detailed, factually supported and damning as the articles by Shane and Davis portrayed. It is a must, but disturbing, read. If the American people care about economic waste and efficacy and morality of their foreign military projection, both the Obama Administration and the Pentagon will be browbeat with the picture and moment of sunlight Daniel Davis has provided. Jim White has penned an excellent discussion of the details of the Davis report.
My instant point here, however, is how Davis conducted himself in bringing his sunlight, and blowing the whistle, on wrongful US governmental and military conduct. Davis appears to have attempted to carefully marshal his evidence, separated the classified from the unclassified, released only unclassified reportage himself and to the press, taken the classified reportage to appropriate members of Congress and the DOD Inspector General, and notified his chain of command. Davis insured that, while the classified information and facts were protected from inappropriate and reckless release, they could not be buried by leveraging his unclassified press publication. In short, Daniel Davis is the epitome of a true military whistleblower, both in fact, and Continue reading →
Speaking truth to power is a brave act wherever it is carried out. But when that power is the strongest military force on earth and the one speaking truth is coming from within the ranks of that force to point out blatant lies promulgated at the very top of the organization, then it is indeed a rare form of bravery.
Earlier this week, Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis published a short report in the Armed Forces Journal and coupled that with discussions with the New York Times’ Scott Shane for an article hitting on the same subject area. In those reports, we learned that Davis had prepared much longer reports, both a classified one which he shared with several members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and a non-classified one which he intended to publish. In the Armed Forces Journal piece, Davis noted that he intended to publish the longer report at his afghanreport.com website, and in an editor’s note, it was pointed out that “At press time, Army public affairs had not yet ruled on whether Davis could post this longer version.” In a very interesting twist, Davis’ long report now has been published, but not at his website. Instead, Michael Hastings, whose The Runaway General article at Rolling Stone eventually resulted in the firing of Stanley McChrystal, has posted Davis’ report (pdf) at the Rolling Stone website, along with a brief introduction from Hastings. There will be a post soon from bmaz addressing Davis’ approach to whistle-blowing and his treatment of classified information.
The ANSO figure on which Davis based his final point. Link to original ANSO (pdf) report: http://www.ngosafety.org/store/files/ANSO%20Q1%202011.pdf
Davis’ thesis in the longer report remains unchanged from the original. He maintains that despite persistent claims by top military brass that progress is being made in Afghanistan, there is in fact no progress. Violence continues on a steady increase and Afghan forces are nowhere near a point where they can maintain security in the absence of ISAF forces. On the final page, he has this to say about his “final take-away” from the report. He prepared a graphic based on the one reproduced above:
If there were only one thing I could ask you to take away from this rather lengthy brief, it would be this one page. Below you see charted over time, the rising violence from the end of 2005 through the first quarter 2011 (chart source: ANSO, 2011). All spin aside, you see regardless of who was in command, what strategy they used, or what claims they made, nothing impacted the rising arc of violence from 2005 through today. The one thing, however, that has never changed: the upward arc of violence, which continues its rise and is expected to continue at least through this summer. Continue reading →
Just a month before parading drunkenly through the streets of Paris, McChrystal drew a fail whale to describe his COIN strategy. (detail from an ISAFMedia photo)
The answer to that question is actually early on the morning of April 17, 2010, at least if you read chapter 11 of Michael Hastings’ “The Operators” (the chapter is titled “Totally Shit-faced”).
Well, it was Stanley McChrystal and his entourage who were shit-faced drunk on the streets of Paris, but one of McChrystal’s many nicknames is The Pope. It comes from Dalton Fury’s fawning profile (pdf): “Later on, about the time he started to wear shiny silver stars, we started to refer to him as The Pope.” To drive his point home, Fury’s profile was also titled “The Pope”.
A much different version of Stanley McChrystal is found in Hastings’ book. He paints a vivid picture of McChrystal and his closest aides, where the group can be viewed as “operators” whose primary role was to manage public profiles while putting the best possible spin on what happened, rather than really achieving the objectives of the war which they commanded.
As part of the briefing that McChrystal is shown delivering in the photo on the left, from March of 2010, you can see his “protect the people” message. This was but one aspect of the overall strategy of his COIN (counterinsurgency) approach that was aimed at the proverbial battle for “hearts and minds”.
Early in Hastings’ book, we see Hastings visiting McChyrstal and his aides in Paris. After Hastings sits in on a meeting in which McChrystal is preparing to deliver a speech at the Ecole Militaire later that evening, Hastings steps outside with an aide:
After the meeting, I waited outside the hotel for Duncan. I noticed an Arab guy, around five-feet-five, walking by in shorts and sneakers. I continued to smoke my cigarette. Duncan and I walked to the Metro to catch a train to the Ecole Militaire. At the top of the Metro steps, I saw the same Arab guy again.
“Hey, man, do people really spy on you guys?”
“Yes, they try,” Duncan said.
“I think I just saw a guy I’d seen earlier walking by the hotel.”
“He’s not doing a very good job then, is he?”
So here we have the leader of NATO’s military effort in Afghanistan visiting Paris to promote cooperation within the coalition. McChrystal is also using his operators to push the aspects of his “new” COIN strategy that will protect the people of Afghanistan and to put the coalition into a better relationship with the people of Afghanistan who practice a conservative version of Islam. The group knows it is under scrutiny by Arab spies.
Despite all those important background points, and despite the fact that the entourage rented a significant portion of a large hotel and undoubtedly could have socialized in a reserved meeting room there, after the lecture and after dinner, the group went to Kitty O’Shea’s Irish pub, which Hastings described as “right around the corner from the hotel”.`They weren’t exactly discreet: Continue reading →
In preparing for the short passage from Hastings that I want to highlight, it is important to keep in mind that McChrystal’s mode of operation when heading JSOC was to bypass both the normal chain of command and Congressional oversight by working directly for Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. From Jeremy Scahill:
While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain of command and in direct coordination with the White House. Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran JSOC.
Next, we need to consider the figure of Michael Flynn, whom Hastings quotes. Flynn served under McChrystal in a number of positions related to intelligence gathering. From his biography:
Major General Michael T. Flynn assumed duties as the Chief, CJ2, International Security Assistance Force, with the additional appointment as the CJ2, US Forces – Afghanistan on 15 June 2009. Prior to serving in this capacity, he served as the Director of Intelligence, Joint Staff from 11 July 2008 to 14 June 2009. He also served as the Director of Intelligence, United States Central Command from June 2007 to July 2008 and the Director of Intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command from July 2004 to June 2007, with service in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) and IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). Major General Flynn commanded the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade from June 2002 to June 2004. Major General Flynn served as the Assistant Chief of Staff, G2, XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina from June 2001 and the Director of Intelligence, Joint Task Force 180 in Afghanistan until July, 2002.
Both the New York Times and Esquire articles linked above on torture at Camp Nama discuss events primarily from early 2004. From Flynn’s biography, that coincides with his duty as heading the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade and being promoted to Director of Intelligence for all of JSOC. Given those roles, it seems impossible that Flynn could have been unaware of what took place at Camp Nama, as he would have been assessing the information gleaned from interrogations there at the very least. It’s likely he spent a lot of time there. From the Esquire article: Continue reading →
Tuesday, Philip Shenon reported that Wikileaks wanted the Defense Department’s help reviewing the next batch of documents it will release for names that should be redacted.
Julian Assange wants the Pentagon’s help.
His secretive WikiLeaks website tells The Daily Beast it is making an urgent request to the Defense Department for help reviewing 15,000 still-secret American military reports to remove the names of Afghan civilians and others who might be endangered when the website makes the reports public.
[snip]In a phone interview Tuesday with The Daily Beast, Schmitt said the site wanted to open a line of communication with the Defense Department in order to review an additional 15,000 classified reports in an effort to “make redactions so they can be safely published.” Schmitt said that these reports also relate to American military operations in Afghanistan.
It was a good play from Wikileaks, as it would place Wikileaks in the same position as newspapers like NYT and WaPo which occasionally spike information the government says is particularly sensitive. However, the government chose to pretend it doesn’t have this kind of conversation all the time, and also to pretend that it doesn’t regularly do FOIA reviews for this kind of information.
Instead, DOD spokesperson Geoff Morrell, doing his best Agent Smith imitation, “demand[ed]” that Wikilieaks return all the documents it has received, repeating “do the right thing” over and over.
Of course, no other journalistic outlet would do what Morrell called “doing the right thing.” (To the credit of some of the journalists covering Morrell’s Agent Smith show, they seem somewhat dubious of the claims logic.)
Meanwhile, DOD has also revoked Michael Hastings’ permission embed in Afghanistan, claiming the unit in question does not trust Hastings (though the move appears to be retaliation for Hastings’ refusal to cooperate in a DOD IG probe of Hastings’ article).
The government is not supposed to license favored press in this country. But what DOD is doing is choosing only to play ball with those outlets with which it is chummy enough to largely influence the coverage of.
Which I suppose makes it different than a license. It’s like a membership in a secret tree house that you’ve got to know the secret password to belong to.