Disappointment. That is a very good word to use. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey applied it recently. It seems the General, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior Officer in our Armed Forces, is “disappointed” that former service members have strongly expressed opinions regarding the conduct of Administration officials, including the President.
“If someone uses the uniform, whatever uniform, for partisan politics, I am disappointed because I think it does erode that bond of trust we have with the American people,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said in an interview with Fox News while flying back from a trip to Afghanistan and Iraq. “Is it useful? No, it’s not useful. It’s not useful to me.”
He further commented:
“People don’t want us to be another special interest group.”
Those are curious words coming from General Dempsey. For several reasons. The events of the last three-plus years, including the words and actions of senior Officers in the Armed Forces, have put paid to the idea of a non-political military. The incessant pushing of “diversity” and identity politics, the immediate and unconditional collapsing to the desires of special interest groups, public proclamations of personally-held beliefs as directive moral standards, all have eroded the concept of detached and apolitical military leadership.
- The massacre at Fort Hood, perpetrated by a known radical Muslim jihadist whom the US Army managed to promote to field grade (for fear of not doing so?) who shouted “Allahu Akbar!” time and again as he murdered 13 and wounded 45, was followed immediately by the statement from Army Chief of Staff Casey that it would be tragic if “diversity was a casualty” of the murders.
- Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen offering his unsolicited personal views, and then declaring anyone in disagreement to lack “integrity”. Followed by his severe criticism for LtGen Mixon for encouraging Soldiers to express their own opinions, albeit privately, to their elected officials, which is their right to do. Further assertion was that anyone who disagreed with the policy should “vote with their feet” and leave the service.
- General Stanley McChrystal’s revelation as to which political candidate he voted for in 2008, among comments that led to his relief, went largely uncriticized, though the impropriety of such a remark was serious enough to elicit comment, and likely would have, had his political choice been otherwise.
- The recent active push for women in the infantry, as Marine Captain Kate Petronio so accurately observed, not because of any remote belief that such a policy will increase war fighting capability, but is instead “being pushed by several groups, one of which is a small committee of civilians appointed by the Secretary of Defense called the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service (DACOWITS)”. Political special interests, nothing more, to which the senior leadership has largely answered “three bags full”.
- The recent appearance of uniformed military personnel at Gay Pride parades was authorized and encouraged by the Office of Secretary of Defense, with the preposterous (that is to say, knowingly untrue) assertions that the Gay Pride parade was not a political event, and the exception would somehow be “one time only”. DASD Bardorf’s statements are an out-and-out fabrication and in direct violation of the DoD Directive on the wearing of the uniform (1334.1).
Now, we have General Martin Dempsey expressing his “disappointment” with a group of Veterans who have served their country honorably and with distinction, exercising their First Amendment rights through expressing views of political opposition.
Perhaps General Dempsey can show us the legal precedent which limits the First Amendment rights of Veterans once they have left the Armed Forces to expressing only those views and opinions and those occasions that General Dempsey finds “useful”.
While he is at it, he can provide the citation in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or ANY Federal statute in US Code, that prohibits Veterans from entering and participating in the political process.
The exercising of the rights safeguarded by our Constitution should NEVER, EVER be a cause for criticism from an active duty service member, let alone the senior Officer in our Armed Forces, who has done so in his official capacity, in that very uniform he calls so strongly to be “apolitical”.
That Constitution is the very document and safeguard which Veterans have all sworn their lives to support and defend. General Dempsey’s “disappointment” is nothing compared with the disappointment and disgust of many thousands who read his egregiously misguided comments. He is also sworn to support and defend that Constitution, not to help load it into the shredder, starting with the Bill of Rights.
No, the Armed Forces should not be a special interest group. But neither should they be willing toys of those special interest groups. There is little chance that they will be the former, but abundant evidence that they have become the latter. Senior Officers have been quite complicit in that. You want to look somewhere to end the “politics in uniform”, General Dempsey? Put your own house in order, and keep your mouth shut regarding Veterans exercising their First Amendment rights.
It is your job. Get it done. Or get gone.
Red Sox elder statesman Johnny Pesky, the line-drive hitting shortstop of the great Boston teams of the late 1940s, died this afternoon at age 92. Born John Michael Paveskovich, Pesky set a rookie record with 205 hits in 1942, even while beginning his Navy aviation training in Turner’s Falls, Massachusetts. Following his rookie season, Pesky spent three years in the United States Navy as a Naval Aviator during World War II. He returned to the Red Sox to play shortstop on the 1946 Pennant winning team.
Like so many athletes of his era, including the most famous of them, Pesky served his country during wartime. Among his classmates in his Turner’s Falls training was teammate Ted Williams, (Philadelphia) A’s legend Joe Coleman, and Braves right-hander Johnny Sain.
While neither Pesky nor Williams would see combat in World War II, Teddy Ballgame would be recalled to active duty and would fly F9F Panthers for the Marine Corps in Korea, alongside John Glenn, and belly-landed once due to damage from Chinese ground fire.
Johnny Pesky hit .307 for his major league career, which lasted an abbreviated ten seasons. 1942, 1946-1954. He served as a coach, manager, broadcaster, and ambassador for the Boston Red Sox in his 73-year baseball career. However, he was as proud of his time in the United States Navy as of any other career accomplishment. In an era where athletes peddle their wares ostentatiously to the highest bidder and complain about the “humiliation” of a $12.5 million salary, Johnny Pesky will be missed. As will Feller, Williams, Spahn, Musial, Doby, and all those who are leaving us along with their less-famous comrades who served our country and our cause.
We have lost a truly great one. Military Historian and analyst Sir John Keegan, OBE, has died at the age of 78.
The Telegraph announced the death of this nonpareil author and military historian. No serious student of the Profession of Arms should fail to read Keegan’s seminal work, The Face of Battle, nor many of his other numerous and superlative works, including The First World War, The Second World War, Six Armies at Normandy, and The Price of Admiralty.
Keegan’s genius in explaining the incomprehensible, warfare, at all its levels, was simply remarkable. His was a once-in-a-century intellect, and he shall be missed.
Russia has been increasing the reach of its navy in recent years, sending warships further afield as part of an effort to restore pride project power in a world dominated by the U.S. military.
That throws a wrench in our Maritime Strategy, it would seem. Or does it? What should our reaction be, militarily? And what, diplomatically? Should there be any?
James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence in the Obama Administration, thought so.
From the Daily Beast:
Whether or not sensitive weapons technology was moved to Syria is a hotly disputed question in the intelligence community. James Clapper, now the Director of National Intelligence and formerly the director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, said in 2003 that he believed materials had been moved out of Iraq in the months before the war and cited satellite imagery.
If the Bashar al-Assad regime falls, and should the securing of the chemical and biological stockpiles of Syria be necessary, what would be the effect if some of those materials and munitions bear Iraqi markings?
Former Iraqi General Sada asserted that Saddam’s chemical stockpile was lifted, in his book “Saddam’s Secrets” and summarized by Investor’s Business Daily:
As Sada told the New York Sun, two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, and special Republican Guard units loaded the planes with chemical weapons materials.
There were 56 flights disguised as a relief effort after a 2002 Syrian dam collapse.
The IBD article also mentions Israeli General Yaalon’s assertions, and those of John Shaw regarding Russian assistance in the form of former KGB General Primakov:
There were also truck convoys into Syria. Sada’s comments came more than a month after Israel’s top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam “transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria.”
Both Israeli and U.S. intelligence observed large truck convoys leaving Iraq and entering Syria in the weeks and months before Operation Iraqi Freedom, John Shaw, former deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, told a private conference of former weapons inspectors and intelligence experts held in Arlington, Va., in 2006.
According to Shaw, ex-Russian intelligence chief Yevgeni Primakov, a KGB general with long-standing ties to Saddam, went to Iraq in December 2002 and stayed until just before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.
Anticipating the invasion, his job was to supervise the removal of such weapons and erase as much evidence of Russian involvement as possible.
An interesting statement from Brian Sayers, the director of government relations for the Syria Support Group:
We believe that if the United States does not act urgently, there is a real risk of a political vacuum in Syria, including the possibility of a dispersion of chemical weapons to rogue groups such as Hezbollah.”
What of a regime such as Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq that was suspected of actively attempting to peddle such weapons?
Should these suspicions surrounding Iraq’s possible pre-invasion transfer of its remaining chemical stockpile be confirmed, the silence being heard in the media regarding them will have been deafening.
Just in case folks still wanted to debate the existence of Syria’s stockpile, I think we might have our answer. How many carry Iraqi markings? How many, Russian?
It seems that USNS Rappahannock has fired on a small craft that ignored warnings and closed with her in the Persian Gulf. From the NBC News article:
The crew aboard the Navy ship sent out repeated warnings, including radio calls, flashing lights, lasers and ultimately warning shots from a 50-caliber machine gun. When the boat failed to heed the warnings, the crew was ordered to open fire with the 50-caliber gun.
It will be critically important that US civilian and military leadership emphasizes the above, and plasters images and accounts of USS Cole all over the news immediately and persistently for the next several weeks. We should be very proactive in letting the world know that there is a terror threat to US warships and auxiliaries posed by small craft, and any such vessel that ignores the warnings as were summarized above will be fired upon and destroyed.
We mustn’t begin the oh-so familiar course of meekly apologizing for having to kill those who threaten us. If we do, we will see many more actions such as this, likely designed to cause us to fit ourselves for ever-tighter handcuffs and more restrictive rules of engagement in combat on land and sea, which the enemy will use to increasing advantage to exploit his strengths and our weaknesses. On the contrary, we must be firm and aggressive with our reaction to the incident. Actions without strong narrative are subject to interpretation.
If the United States, and in particular the United States Navy, has any sense of true ‘strategic messaging”, we will let the rest of the world know that, should another small craft ignore similar warnings, it, too, will be fired upon. And any death or injury that results from such incidents is the responsibility of those who willfully ignore the warnings, and on those who likely have sent them.
The sad news has just broken of the death of iconic character actor Ernest Borgnine. Known to anyone in the Baby-Boomer generation who did not live in a cave as the skipper of PT-73, Commander Quinton McHale of McHale’s Navy, Borgnine was in actuality a Navy Veteran who enlisted in 1935 and served throughout World War II.
Borgnine, a native of Connecticut, got his first big break in film as the self-consciously homely Marty in the film by the same name, which earned him an Oscar. He was also the villainous and brutal jailer Sergeant of the Guard Fatso Judson in From Here to Eternity, who beats Frank Sinatra’s character Maggio to death. Borgnine starred in, or appeared in, a great many other movies, including The Wild Bunch, with Bill Holden, The Dirty Dozen, and Bad Day at Black Rock.
He will be best known, however, as the screwball Commander McHale, whose crew of Ensign Parker, and Gruber, and Virg, and Tinker, and Happy, and the unlikely Japanese “prisoner” Fuji, was always trying to get over on Captain Wally “Lead Bottom” Binghamton (the late Joe Flynn) and his toady LT Carpenter.
Somewhere up there, you can hear Lead Bottom standing at the Pearly Gates, asking impatiently; “What, what, what, McHale? What, what, what?”
Ernest Borgnine was 95.
Some years ago, I was engaging in a conversation with my niece, a lovely and talented high school junior at the time (now about to be a college senior), who informed me that her English teacher had made the rather unequivocal statement that with perhaps the exception of Melville, no American authors had produced much of any real value. My dismay at hearing this was tempered by the opportunity to disabuse my niece of such a rather uninformed and narrow notion. I told her that, among the most powerful and beautiful words ever uttered or written by mankind was the greatest of all political treatises. And it was a mere two sentences long.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Those 182 words, spoken plainly and firmly, eclipse the thousands of pages Hobbes, and Locke, and of Rousseau and Montesquieu. And the nascent works of Chinese and Greco-Roman antiquity. Our politicians of every ilk, present and future, would do well to understand those words at the levels of both the intellect and the soul.
(The paragraph here was in error, and has been removed. Pointed out by a reader.)
Today as we celebrate our independence, let us remember to give thanks to the courage, character, wisdom, and brilliant foresight of our Founding Fathers, and for the good providence of God for having shed His grace on us. And to all those who have stood and suffered that we may still count ourselves among the world’s free peoples.
It would seem that the word “solidarity” doesn’t mean what it used to.
Turkey, a long-time member of NATO, invoked Article 4 of the Charter, which calls for emergency consultation of all 28 member states, in response to the Syrian downing of an RF-4E reconnaissance aircraft. While not as serious as Article 5, which is invoked in the defense of a NATO ally that has been attacked, Article 4 has generally been seen as a preliminary to discuss options short of armed response. Turkey had threatened to invoke Article 4 back in April, when a cross-border incident in a refugee camp left five people, including two Turkish officials, dead.
From the meeting in Brussels, all Turkey got was the expected condemnation and the assurances of NATO togetherness. Turkey may have been expecting little else. Which is a good thing. In the case of Turkey and Syria, NATO is contemplating no such thing as armed intervention, or intervention of any kind. Not least of which because of Russia’s stance and Putin’s support for Syria’s embattled Assad, combined with the general and embarrassing lack of credible capability demonstrated by NATO in Libya last year.
Despite a WAPO article with some speculation that NATO would consider sidestepping the UN and a certain Russian veto for real action against Syria, the chances of such a sidestep are virtually nil. Turkey knows that, Russia and Syria (and Iran) do, too. Making invocation of Article 4 a symbolic gesture by Turkey toward an increasingly impotent NATO, whose only action was to “condemn in the strongest terms”. I am reminded of one of my favorite Daffy Duck lines. “I will do everything in my power to help you. Which will be nothing!” The rather unimpressive response to Turkey’s Article 4 declaration bodes ill for any NATO member that might possibly wish to invoke Article 5, particularly if Putin and Russia wait in the wings.
Visegrad Group, anyone?
Those were Adolf Hitler’s words in December of 1940, as he revealed to his senior Wehrmacht Field Marshals and Generals his plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union.
At a few minutes past 0300 on the morning of 22 June 1941, the rumble of 8,000 artillery pieces shook the western positions of the Red Army, all along the new borders of the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, more than 3,300 aircraft roared overhead on their way to attack Soviet airfields, troop concentrations, command posts, and artillery positions. The most fateful day of the Twentieth Century had begun.
In the west, the Wehrmacht of Hitler’s Third Reich consisted of 2.5 million men and more than 4,000 tanks comprising 180 divisions, organized into three massive Army Groups, which were poised to smash their ideological and political enemies, the Bolshevik dictatorship of Stalin’s Soviet Russia.
Opposing the German onslaught was more than 3 million soldiers of Stalin’s Red Army. Numerically superior to its German opponent in men, aircraft (4,000), and tanks (more than 7,000), the armies on the Soviet western boundary were nonetheless abysmally led and poorly trained. Still reeling from Stalin’s 1937-39 purges of most of its officer corps, and from the bloody humiliation of the disastrous “Winter War” with Finland in the winter of 1939-40, the Red Army was ill-prepared for war against a modern western foe.
The Wehrmacht, on the other hand, was a finely tuned weapon of mechanized warfare, having conquered Poland two years earlier, and overrun France in less than six weeks in 1940. Superbly trained and equipped with modern armor and the most advanced combat aircraft, the three German Army Groups shattered the Soviet forces opposite them. The Luftwaffe swept the Red Air Force, the VVS, from the skies and smashed it on the ground. By the end of the second day, more than 2,300 Soviet aircraft had been destroyed. The Red Army was already being shattered and destroyed piecemeal, in what would be the “great battles of encirclement” of that summer and autumn of 1941, from which few escaped death or captivity. The eradication of the VVS was nearly complete. Nearly. The Red Army almost bled to death. Almost. Yet, somehow, they held on.
Operation BARBAROSSA, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, more than any other, was Hitler’s war. It was the war of Mein Kampf, the war for Lebensraum in the East, whose purpose was to open the great steppes for colonization by the Aryan race. It was a war not just of conquest but of subjugation and annihilation, fought with a brutality that had not been seen in Europe since the Tatar conquests of seven centuries before. It was a war of unspeakable horror and unimaginable suffering, by soldier and civilian alike. Prisoners on both sides died by the millions, worked to death as slave labor, starved, or simply shot or hanged out of hand. But it was also a war of grim and fatalistic heroism on both sides. The German-Soviet conflict, when it ended in the rubble of Berlin nearly four years later, would take the lives of almost twenty-three million souls.
Some of the most enduring images of the Eastern Front, and for the Soviets the Great Patriotic War, are of columns of Russian and German prisoners forlornly marching to their fates (the Russians seemingly always in the dust of the summer, the Germans in the bitter cold of winter). And of grainy images of executions and hangings by the German SS Einsatzgruppen, and far less publicized, of the execution of suspected Russian collaborators by field units of the NKVD, the terror apparatus of Stalin’s brutal regime.
There are lessons and cautions abundant in examining this titanic struggle. Cautions about underestimating one’s enemy, his will to fight for family and homeland. The Russian soldier, deemed racially inferior and incapable of waging modern war, proved individually tough, able to endure hardship and privation in startling measure. He was also fanatical in the defense, fierce in the attack, and bore a hatred of the “blue-eyed oaf” that would be carried across the borders of Prussia with terrible effect.
The Russian was also capable of producing simple but highly effective weaponry, and of mastering its employment. The T-34 and KV-1 tanks that began to appear in the autumn of 1941 were superior to any German design. Soviet aircraft began to close the technology gap with the Luftwaffe far faster than anticipated. Soviet artillery, superior to the Germans even in June of 1941, would dominate the battlefield as the Red Army’s “God of War”. All these would surprise and confound the German commanders who were told to expect an enemy of limited intellect and poor character.
There are also many myths and misconceptions surrounding the struggle between these oppressive dictatorships. Here are two:
- The Wehrmacht was not capable of winning a short (ten-week) war against the Soviet Union.
Because the Germans did not win does not mean they were not capable of winning, or the Soviets capable of losing. Had the Ostheer kept its focus on Moscow as the main objective (the plan was to surround, not enter the city), and had Hoth’s Panzers been unleashed in the first week of August, rather than frittered away in other operations until October, the capture of the European capital of the Soviet Union was within its capabilities. Perhaps even more important than the purely political prize was the massive Soviet war industry that occupied the so-called “Moscow-Gorky Space”. Siberian forces did not begin to arrive to defend the city and its immediate area in significant numbers until late September, 1941. The capture of the Soviet war industry, which included the massive tank works at Gorky itself, and the aircraft engine factory at Kuibyshev, would have deprived the Soviet Union of its most valuable asset, the ability to replace the massive combat losses with more modern and capable equipment. Had those factories been destroyed or fallen into German hands, there would have been no MiG or Yak fighters, no Il-2 Sturmoviks, no PE-2s, or any of the other increasingly modern aircraft that would eventually sweep the Luftwaffe from the sky. There would have been no replacement divisions of T-34/76 and /85 tanks, no self-propelled guns, no artillery pieces to replace those lost in the massive battles or worn out in extensive combat. Without those factories and the hardware they produced, there would have been no rehabilitation of the VVS or of the Red Army into the juggernaut that crushed Army Group Vistula into bits and eventually subsume eastern Germany.
- The Soviet Union was capable of defeating Nazi Germany without Allied assistance.
While it is true that the Soviet Union bore the unquestioned preponderance of the weight of German arms (at various times, 80% of German combat power was employed in the East, and nearly 80% of all German losses were inflicted by the Soviets), and the suffering and casualties of the Soviet military and civilian population exceeded the rest of the Allies combined by a wide margin, Stalin’s Russia could not have won the war without Allied, and particularly American, assistance. While many are familiar with pictures of some of the 9,000 US and British tanks shipped to the Soviets under Lend-Lease, these represented only about 20% of Soviet tank production during the war. There is little question upon any examination, however, that there were two absolutely critical areas of direct assistance were the linchpins of the survival of the Soviet Union in the dark days of 1941-43, and their drive to ultimate victory in 1944-45. The first of these areas was in food production. The United States shipped more than seventeen MILLION tons of food, wheat and canned goods, to the Soviet Union whose agricultural bread basket was under German occupation. That food sustained the Red Army and Russian war industry workers when none other was available. Without it, the prospects for Soviet victory would have been slim indeed. The second item so critical to the Soviet war effort was the supply of more than half a million American trucks. Tough, six-wheel drive vehicles which carried logistical supplies from the rear areas to the front, and which mounted the famous 122mm Katyusha rocket launchers by the tens of thousands, allowed the Red Army to supply itself on the battlefield in the defensive struggles of 1942 and carried that Army to the great offensive drives that eventually smashed the German Ostheer. Those trucks represent more than 70% of total Soviet vehicle production, freeing their industries to produce the war weapons, tanks, artillery pieces, and armored vehicles that equipped the Red Army.
The final victory of the Soviet Union is, however, a testament to the tough, fierce, and brave Russian soldier. His image, the hardened veteran soldier sitting atop a T-34 with PPSh in hand, scanning for a glimpse of the hated enemy, his mustard-colored quilt uniform covered with dust and snow, will endure for centuries in the collective consciousness of the Russian people.
The German invasion of the Soviet Union has never been comprehensively treated. The subject is far too large. It is too complex and incapable of being understood, except gradually, within the context of its salient events, and those of the rest of the world during and since. A thousand volume work on the subject would still require an explanation and a qualification that such a work was by no means all-inclusive. Yet, it remains one of the most compelling subjects for historians, social and military, because of the world-altering impact of the events themselves and their decades-long aftermath. The magnitude of the struggle defies modern understanding. As does the agony of the armies and the peoples locked in the grips of that mortal struggle.
And so it is likely to remain. And it began with the flash of cannon and the roar of engines, in the morning darkness, seventy-one years ago today.
(Cr0ss-posted at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid)