Thursday, February 6, 2003

One More Tea Leaf Saying War is Imminent

The LA Times and other papers report that Turkey has decided to allow U.S. troops on its soil, and to invade Iraq from Turkey, and to improve U.S. bases in Turkey towards that end. That's a pretty significant set of diplomatic permission, and I think it's one more critical piece of support the U.S. needs to start the ground campaign against Iraq.

The United States is planning to spend several hundred million dollars to modernize Turkish bases. The renovations could start quickly after today's vote.

Turkey fears that a war in Iraq could reverse its fragile economic recovery and has agreed with the United States on a package that would cushion the country from the effects of war. The package would range between $4 billion and $15 billion, depending on the length of the war and its economic impact.

The separate vote at the end of the holiday would allow U.S. soldiers to be based in Turkey and would allow Turkish soldiers to move into Iraq if there was a war.

Screaming Eagles Get Deployment Orders

The Pentagon announced today that it was deploying the Army's 101st Airborne Division. If the 4th Infantry Division represents the Army's high-tech fist, then the 101st represents its legs. The 101st division is airmobile; its infantry move by helicopter and are capable of hopping around the battlefield in lightning-quick strikes to secure key objectives. In the first Gulf War, the 101st leaped ahead of armored forces to secure critical intersections, terrain and Iraqi sites. Military officials today would not discuss specifics; they only hinted the 101st was headed to war.

"The president of the United States has made no decision about any future military operations," said Maj. Carl Purvis, reading from a prepared statement. "These deployments are prudent steps to increase military capabilities and enhance flexibility."

The 101st "will provide Central Command substantial operational flexibility and combat power, as well as the ability to conduct long-range helicopter attacks and air assault operations should those capabilities be required to successfully prosecute the global war on terrorism," the statement said.

I see the 101st being used in two major ways -- both of which are absolutely critical. The first 101st mission would be to secure critical/dangerous WMD (weapon of mass destruction) sites in Iraq, faster than any ground force could get there. The 101st could theoretically fly in from Turkey or Kuwait, seize such sites, and secure them until armored forces could arrive to reinforce them. If the U.S. intends to fight in a non-linear manner, without fighting its way deep into Iraq, this scenario becomes more likely. And since disarmament is our raison d'etre in Iraq, this mission makes a lot of sense.

The second major mission is to deal with 'civilians on the battlefield.' As light infantry, the 101st troops train at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana and they get extensive training in dealing with complex humanitarian situations. If there's a bunch of Iraqi refugees in the way of a major U.S. operation, the 101st could be airlifted quickly into the situation to isolate and safeguard the civilians. The 101st would then secure the civilians until ground forces caught up with humanitarian aid and transportation capability to move the civilians out of the way.
North Korean Spies in Santa Monica?

News broke yesterday that the FBI had arrested John Joungwoong Yai and his wife Susan Youngja Yai in Santa Monica on charges of spying for the North Korean government. The Justice Department's complaints have not spelled out the details yet -- largely to keep the North Koreans in the dark about what we know about their intelligence efforts. Indeed, one unnamed official said the Yai's were not successful in obtaining classified documents, for which they received $18,179 in cash from the North Koreans before contractual performance. Still, it's a disturbing turn of events -- especially since it's literally in my backyard.

One can speculate about what kinds of classified documents they could've been after. The RAND Corporation has its headquarters in Santa Monica. As a federally-funded research center for defense issues, RAND has a ton of classified stuff that a North Korean might want to see. Just south of Santa Monica in the area around Los Angeles International Airport, you have a high concentration of defense contractors such as Raytheon, TRW, and others. He might have been angling for a job with one of those contractors, to sell the North Koreans information on new U.S. satellite designs or something else in one of those firms.

Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Pop Quiz
-- Iraq and Terrorism

1. Does an American attack on Iraq make a major terrorist attack against the United States:
(A) Less likely than risk of an attack today.
(B) As likely as the risk of an attack today.
(C) More likely than the risk of an attack today.

There is compelling evidence (derived from analysis of intelligence reports) to suggest the answer is (C).
An American-led campaign against Iraq would significantly raise the probability of a terrorist attack on the U.S. It would also aid Al Qaeda in the logistical and infrastructural tasks (like recruiting and retention) it needs to do to rebound from the American campaign in Afghanistan. Desert Storm II would probably aggravate Islamists more than they are today, and broaden the anti-American sentiment that already lies dormant throughout the Middle East. CNN reports that the FBI is on guard for such a threat, ratching up its intelligence activities and ordering its agents to be prepared for rapid deployment.
Is Iraq hiding weapons of mass destruction?
See the evidence for yourself...

Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered a convincing case to the UN today on why America and the world must disarm Iraq. Unfortunately, I fear this evidence will not convince many recalcitrant members of the UN Security Council -- particular France and Germany. But you can decide for yourself. Sec. Powell's slides are available here on the Washington Post website.

Check out Stop the Bleating for an interesting discussion of the Line Of Sight Anti-Tank (LOSAT) missile. This would put an amazing capability into the hands of our infantrymen, and it's a project that absolutely must be funded. In simple bang-for-buck terms, it allows you to kill lots of enemy vehicles with a lot less money than Apache Helicopters or M1A2 tanks would require.
WSJ: American Prisons Provide Fertile Ground for Islamic Terrorists

Today's Wall Street Journal leads with an article about Imam Warith Deen Umar, who teaches and preaches Islam in New York's state-prison system. The article details how this practice, coupled with the natural inclination of prisoners towards criminal enterprise, has turned the American prison population into a fertile recruiting ground for Islamic terrorists like Al Qaeda. This isn't just conjecture -- it's actually happening. Alleged 'dirty bomber' Jose Padilla was such a case. He was a disenchanted American citizen, who through his experience in prison, converted to Islam and decided to become a terrorist.

Ordinarily, religious fervor in prison is no big deal. Indeed, prisons often co-opt religion as a means of social control, to help prisoners take responsibility for their actions and add order to their lives. However, the Islamic penetration of American prisons has tapped into something that could pose great danger to America's safety. Prisoners have natural advantages over terrorists from other countries:
1) They're American citizens, which confers legal advantages in dealing with America's legal system
2) They know the streets and the operational environment, and are less likely to be detected for making a stupid mistake that owes to cross-cultural difficulties (no Middle East accented English, for example)
3) They are already inclined towards dangerous, criminal activity, and likely have the means/tools/connections to conduct more of it.
4) They often have little to lose in the way of social standing or connections, and possibly stand to gain great stature through terrorism.

Imam Umar doesn't just accept terrorism as a distant cousin of the Islam he preaches; he embraces terrorism as a meaningful weapon against the West:
"Even Muslims who say they are against terrorism secretly admire and applaud" the hijackers, he wrote in an unpublished memoir. The Quran, he said, does not condemn terrorism against oppressors of Muslims, even if innocent people die. "This is the sort of teaching they don't want in prison," he said. "But this is what I'm doing."

The greatest irony of all is that New York -- a state terribly ravaged by terrorism -- is inviting this man into its prisons and paying him to spread the message of fundamentalist Islam. California and many other states are doing the same thing, co-opting Islam and other faiths as a way of promoting social control within their prisons' walls.

Prison officials in New York and many other states long have welcomed Muslim imams and clergy of other faiths. Religion provides structured activity that reduces security problems in prison, they say. It encourages inmates to accept responsibility for their actions and turn their backs on crime upon their release.

But there is another side to Islam behind bars. While Imam Umar says the focus of his preaching usually "is on work, family and getting an education," he also says that prison "is the perfect recruitment and training grounds for radicalism and the Islamic religion."

A prison chaplain since 1975, he has seen Islam grow among inmates, mirroring the vast increase in the incarceration of African-Americans, some of whom adopt the religion as inmates. As the most influential Muslim prison chaplain in New York, which has the fourth-largest state system in the nation, he and some of his trainees adopted the fundamentalist offshoot of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. Rooted in Saudi Arabia, it stresses a literal reading of the Quran and intolerance for people and sects that don't follow its absolutist teaching.

Ready for the kicker? The U.S. Constitution forbids prisons from exercising more than general oversight over Imam Umar's activities -- or those of any other religious fundamentalist (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or other) who preaches behind prison walls:

The chaplains have operated with little supervision from state prison officials, who say the constitutional protection of religious freedom prevents them from closely monitoring religious services.

Tuesday, February 4, 2003

We're going to Baghdad -- but when?

William Saletan's Slate column estimates that the probability of war with Iraq has jumped to 91 percent. Judge for yourself whether he's read the tea leaves right; I think he has. The only question now is when.

Today's Chance of Invasion: 91 percent

Turkish leader tells his party 1) Iraq "isn't taking the necessary steps" for peace; and 2) "The decisions we make for war are not because we want a war, but so we can contribute to peace" by taking part in and influencing "the operation" in Iraq. Translation: U.S. will get its northern front. Despite Blair's lobbying, Chirac reiterates inspectors should get to decide how long they need. Iraq says it will "explore" proposal by European Parliament members to let non-Iraqis (rather than Iraqi agents) serve as witnesses to scientists' interviews. Britain says Iraq has thoroughly bugged inspectors but gives no documentation.

Yesterday: 88 percent
DoD budget aims for careful balance between current operations and future transformation

The Pentagon unveiled its massive FY2004 budget yesterday with great fanfare. (Some have called this budget 'Reagan-esque'.) This budget attempts to deal with an extraordinarily complex world situation, apportioning resources between recapitalization of old facilities/equipment, personnel costs, current operations (buying ammo for the current fight), and investments in transformation. Achieving just the right mix between these funding priorities is very difficult. And for the Army, I think the mix may have dangerous consequences over the next several years. The Pentagon appears to be taking significant risk with certain fleets (M1 tanks and M2/M3 fighting vehicles) in order to fund transformation.

"The Army has terminated 24 systems including the Crusader artillery system, the Abrams tank and Bradley fighting vehicle upgrades, and multiple launch rocket system conversions. The service also restructured its medium tactical vehicle program, battle command systems and Javelin missile system."

If I'm reading this right, the Army has essentially scrapped the Interim Force concept of recapitalizing its current fleet of M1s and M2/M3s in order to fully fund transformation. We're accepting a significant near-term risk in order to do that. I think it's the right decision, but it will present problems for operational commanders now in the hotseat. As their fleets age, maintenance will become more of a distracter, and that may take money away from current operations.

Also, the decision to not recapitalize means that many parts of the Army will jump from Legacy to Objective Force without any interim step. The nice thing about interim steps is that they make transition easier and less turbulent. For instance, soldiers can get used to digitized vehicles with retrofitted M1s before they get the high-speed M1A2 or M1A1D. This makes it easier to train once the new vehicles show up down the road.
When the US tells you to leave, something's about to happen

Today's Washington Times reports that the State Department has quasi-ordered diplomats and citizens to leave the Persian Gulf region in preparation for a war with Iraq. This is one of the last steps before imminent miltiary action. In general, the pulling out of "NEOs" (short for non-combatant evacuation operations, but used as a noun in the military for civilians stuck in harm's way) signifies an escalation in the chances of war.

Foreign diplomats in Iraq have begun leaving the country, and the United States has urged its citizens in other Persian Gulf states to consider departing amid a war looming in the region.

The State Department issued travel warnings for Kuwait and Saudi Arabia late last week, cautioning about "increased security concerns" and authorizing "the departure of family members and non-emergency personnel" at the U.S. embassies "on a voluntary basis."

"Private American citizens ... should evaluate rigorously their own security situations and are strongly urged to consider departing," the department said.

Monday, February 3, 2003

U.S. plans deployment of additional forces to Korea

Today's Wall Street Journal broke the story that the Pentagon was making plans to redeploy an aircraft carrier battle group and US Air Force bomber forces to the vicinity of Korea within the next two weeks. This story was picked up by the Associated Press and will probably hit local news tomorrow.

WSJ: The Pentagon has decided to send additional forces to Asia as part of an effort to send a clear message to North Korea that even though the U.S. is focused on a pending war with Iraq it still can muster significant firepower in Asia.

The decision comes after U.S. aerial surveillance detected suspicious activity at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility. Some analysts fear the North is moving 8,000 spent but previously sealed fuel rods to a site where they can be reprocessed into weapons-grade plutonium, something the North has threatened to do. Whether the activity is aimed at removing the rods or merely alarming the U.S., it's the latest of several provocations by Pyongyang that analysts say could backfire on the communist regime by driving neighbors China and South Korea to adopt the U.S.'s hard-line stance toward the North.

It wasn't immediately clear how much firepower the U.S. is dispatching to the region. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's decision to send additional forces came after a request from Adm. Thomas Fargo, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, for two dozen bombers and fewer than 10 Air Force attack jets. Adm. Fargo also requested that the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier move into the region if the USS Kitty Hawk, which is based in Japan, moves to the Gulf.

This story is a big deal. First, it should be seen for what it is: an economy of force measure to hold North Korea in place with a visible and credible threat of force. But the "economy of force" part is critical. We're putting a big stop sign in front of North Korea, essentially freezing things in place in that part of the world with as much combat power as we can spare. In the meantime, our military will focus on the main tasks at hand: the 'hot' wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is significant that we have decided not to deploy more ground troops to Korea. But for Iraq, we might have sent a brigade of infantry to reinforce the Army's 2nd Infantry Division there, or a brigade of armor to fall in on prepositioned equipment sitting in Pusan. However, the reports say otherwise. The U.S. is sending just enough force to communicate the threat, while not taking away from the missions in Southwest Asia.

I'm no Korea expert; I only spent a year there as part of the 2nd Infantry Division. But knowing the little I do, I still think it's the most dangerous place on Earth. Saddam's trying to get weapons of mass destruction; North Korea already has them. Saddam is fortifying his units in hasty defensive position; North Korea is dug in harder than the Germans at Normandy. The situation is also infinitely more complex there, given the close proximity of China, Russia and Japan. This is a reasonably prudent measure to ensure things don't heat up anymore on the Korean peninsula.
One more reason to dislike the French --

Major French newspaper says the Columbia disaster should teach America humility

The International Papers roundup at Slate has this to report about our French "allies":

France's Libération provided a coda to Columbia's fate in an op-ed titled "Humility": The shuttle disaster, coupled with the Sept. 11 attacks, showed that the Bush years could not be considered happy ones. "While everywhere in the world public opinion worries about the consequences of war in Iraq, some think they see a bad omen in this latest drama." The disaster should be a lesson in humility and show the United States "that whatever its financial might, its scientific know-how, its technological prowess, its training of men, it cannot control all, dominate all, foresee all, parry all."
U.S. Govt Reneges on Promises to Combat Vets;

Vets now appealing to Supreme Court after lower court refuses claim

In the early days of the Korean War, things did not look good for the United States or United Nations forces. They were beaten back all the way south to Pusan, confined to a small footprint and almost forced to retreat to Japan. America's military had a draft, but it also looked to volunteers to rapidly build a force that would be capable of fighting the hardened North Korean (and later Chinese) armies. In doing so, military recruiters made a number of promises to new enlistees -- such as the promise of free lifetime medical care. Many years later, with the danger and exigency of war gone, the U.S. government reneged on its promise. The veterans sued, and were told last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals that their case was compelling -- but not good enough to win benefits from the government.

Until the mid-1950s, recruits were enticed to join the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force by recruiters' pitches that included oral and written promises of free lifetime medical care — promises that turned out to lack congressional approval. Government lawyers say repaying just out-of-pocket payments for the retirees would cost $15 billion.

Lower courts heard that and turned down the pleas, but said it was hard to reject aging officers laden with medals for valor, and represented by a national hero who wore his Medal of Honor while arguing that retirees deserved free military-hospital care.

"We cannot readily imagine more sympathetic plaintiffs than the retired officers of the World War II and Korean War era involved in this case. They served their country for at least 20 years with the understanding that when they retired they and their dependents would receive full free health care for life," said the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in ruling against them.

The trial court and the Federal Circuit both decided that Congress cannot be forced to pay for the military recruiting incentive it had not authorized in advance. Judges noted that the military did provide medical care for many years despite the absence of a law but cut back when military hospitals closed and resources grew tight. A three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit early last year ruled unanimously for the veterans but the full court overturned that decision Nov. 18.

"The government concedes such promises were made in good faith and relied upon," the Federal Circuit noted in an 8-4 refusal to order the back payments Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson estimated at $15 billion.

This is one of the worst instances of bureaucratic and legal doublespeak I've seen. These veterans served their nation in combat and they deserve to have those promises upheld, despite whatever legal or bureaucratic red tape stands in the way. Today's Washington Times reports that the vets are taking their case to the Supreme Court. I sincerely hope the Court will find the decency and justice to do the right thing in this case.

Not all 1.9 million current military retirees would be covered if the Supreme Court ordered the government to make good on the promise. By one theory, it would apply solely to the 23,435 now living who retired before 1956, when Congress clamped a "space available" caveat on military health care. More than 500,000 other current retirees joined the services before the limit was imposed and were among those included in the Justice Department estimate of up to 1.5 million.
* * *
The appeals court advised retirees to seek help from Congress, a recommendation seconded by major veterans organizations, which predict the courts won't fix the problem. As updated in 2002, federal law provides retirees a combined plan called Tricare, with an emphasis on Medicare. Retirees in the court case consider that less than equal to military hospital care.
* * *
It is not known if the Supreme Court will review what has come to be known as "the Day case," but in the meantime Col. Day and his nationwide troop will take to the streets and to three colorful billboards recently posted in the Maryland suburbs.

They plan to demonstrate at the Capitol on Feb. 12, and last week introduced the billboards at 6100 Central Ave. in Capitol Heights, on U.S. Route 1 a mile north of Beltsville, and on Kenilworth Avenue south of U.S. Route 50.

"This battle is not over," Col. Day said. "We were all aware that whichever way the Court of Appeals ruled, that the case would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Much to my surprise, it is G.I. Joe that is appealing."

Sunday, February 2, 2003

CNN: Advances in Battlefield Medicine

Military casualties -- like civilians unfortunate enough to be shot or wounded on America's streets -- have just minutes/hours to get medical attention in order to survive. Soldiers will go to extraordinary lengths to evacuate their buddies, and military medics/docs will do everything in their power to treat/save them. Often, field medics make the difference between life and death. Few who have seen (or read) Black Hawk Down can how SFC Kurt Schmid tried to suture CPL Jamie Smith's femoral artery in the middle of combat. (See Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down, p. 210-214) Indeed, this tradition of perseverance and innovation in military medicine has bled over into the civilian sector, leading to major improvements in American trauma care since WWII.

Combat medics do everything they can to save the lives of American soldiers wounded in combat; we can't give them enough when it comes to research & development funding. Recently, the Pentagon has developed new tools for combat medics to pack in their rucksacks as they go into combat in Iraq. These include:

- One new tool in medic's bag is a fast-working bandage. The new bandage contains the agent that makes blood clot. Laboratory animal tests show that when the bandage is applied for just two minutes, the clotting agent stops the bleeding.
- Another tool special forces will be bringing to Iraq is a one-handed tourniquet, enabling soldiers to quickly stop blood flow from a wound while still keeping one hand free.
- The military is also working on personal digital assistant which can help track medical information on soldiers in the field.

Saturday, February 1, 2003

America grieves for 7 fallen heroes

Few words can capture the tragedy of this morning. I am participating in my reserve unit's training in Central California and I was dumbstruck when I heard the news this morning on my radio. Our seven astronauts died serving all of us, striving for a better tomorrow. We owe it to them to discover the cause of their crash, and to persevere. Tragic events like this should give us pause, but they should not deter us from walking in the footsteps of those who have fallen.

President Bush's remarks struck me as particularly moving:
"My fellow Americans, this day has brought terrible news and great sadness to our country. At 9 o'clock this morning Mission Control in Houston lost contact with their space shuttle Columbia. A short time later, debris was seen falling from the skies above Texas.

The Columbia is lost. There are no survivors.

On board was a crew of seven: Colonel Rick Husband, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Anderson, Commander Laurel Clark, Captain David Brown, Commander William McCool, Dr. Kalpana Chawla and Ilan Ramon, a colonel in the Israeli Air Force.

These men and women assumed great risk in the service to all humanity. In an age when space flight has come to seem almost routine it is easy to overlook the dangers of travel by rocket and the difficulties of navigating the fierce outer atmosphere of the earth.

These astronauts knew the dangers and they faced them willingly, knowing they had a high and noble purpose in life. Because of their courage and daring and idealism, we will miss them all the more.

All Americans today are thinking, as well, of the families of these men and women who have been given this sudden shock and grief. You are not alone. Our entire nation grieves with you, and those you love will always have the respect and gratitude of this country.

The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.

In the skies today, we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see, there's comfort and hope.

In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength not one of them is missing.'

The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth, yet we can pray that all are safely home.

May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America."