27 July 2010

Media misrepresents substance of Wikileaks documents

CNN is running a story on TF 373, what is apparently a Special Operations Force (SOF) unit in Afghanistan.  CNN cites to one of the Wikileaks documents to imply that during an aborted operation, TF 373 killed seven Afghan National Police officers.

I'll let you read it for yourself here.  The way that paragraph is written, you come away from it thinking there was foul play -- that maybe this SOF unit maliciously killed Afghan police officers.

But if you click through to the document itself, the data paints a completely different picture.  I'm not going to dissect it and explain every single acronymn, because I still believe that the OPSEC violation committed by Wikileaks is outrageous, and although the data is out and the damage is done, I refuse to exacerbate it by helping the layman decipher some of the cryptic terms and verbage.

Here is the bottom line as to what happened in this particular instance: SOF was conducting a night-time  operation.  They were accidentally engaged by Afghan police forces.  SOF conducted a battle drill along with air support, which resulted in the deaths of some of the Afghan police officers who accidentally attacked the SOF unit.

The remainder of the rollup goes into the fallout and second- and third-order effects of the incident.  That's the bottom line: it was an accident.  Does this kind of shit happen in combat?  Absolutely.  You've got a special ops unit (which obviously does not coordinate with everyone for security reasons -- even regular U.S. military forces are not privy to what these guys do for a multitude of legitimate reasons), operating at night, that gets engaged by an Afghan unit that can't communicate directly with the American unit (again for security reasons).  Both elements did what they thought was the right thing: the Afghans thought they were shooting at bad guys.  The Americans thought they were shooting at bad guys.

Once again, I will not dissect the rollup, and I don't have to prove my credentials to read these reports by doing so.  I am a United States Army officer with a secret-level security clearance, and I know how to read these documents because I dealt with this kind of information on a daily basis for an entire year.

I realize I am rambling.  What I'm trying to get at is that it is not fair for the media to imply (by omission or mischaracterization of data through ignorance) things that are simply not true or cannot be corroborated  without additional evidence or information.  This is only the tip of the iceberg: media outlets and pundits are going to read what they want to read, and will feed a willing audience what both parties (media and information consumer) want to read/watch/hear.  It's ridiculous, because we're talking about CNN: a reputable news source.  If it was just some guy's random blog (like this one), it would be a different story.  But CNN and any other major news outlet all possess a unique ability to tangibly and substantially shape and effect public opinion.  Opinion informed by knowledge or information that isn't quite 100% does not equate to informed opinion: it equates to being hoodwinked.  Congrats: you got spun.

I only ask that when you get bombarded with some of the sensational stuff, take it with a grain of salt.  Wait for it to be vetted by people with experience and knowledge before swallowing it completely.

25 July 2010

Wikileaks madness

This Wikileaks drama is fucking bullshit: there is a difference between lobbying for government transparency and just irresponsibly dumping info on the web.  We still have thousands of soldiers over there: they don't deserve to have fucking grid coordinates and BDAs and goddamn unit callsigns published on the goddamn internet.  A sophisticated enemy can cull plenty of data from this shit and use it against coalition forces.  And believe me, the enemy is sophisticated -- we are not talking about some kind of primitive monsters running around with towels on their heads.  We are talking about an agile, adaptive, tech-savvy enemy that has managed to avoid destruction at our hands for the past decade.

Unfortunately, it's too late: the damage is done.  Every single fucking byte of data has no doubt been burned onto CDs or DVDs for study.  The guys at Wikileaks need to be put in jail: OPSEC violation of this magnitude should be criminal.

20 July 2010

More of a reminder

This is more a reminder to myself, and not really a proper post.  Lots of ideas and fragments; can't guarantee all of them will see fruition as fully-developed posts...

Global Assessment Tool and the Soldier Fitness Test: the U.S. Army's online mental health survey -- quantify your psychic well-being with a number between 1 and 10...your answers will determine how fucked up you are (based on some kind of algorithm), and you will be required to view some online PowerPoints and videos.  Upon completion, you will be all better.

Fort Sill historian attempts to teach us how to think by telling us what to think: when academia violently collides with a room full of reality.

FACCC Chaplain: PTSD; moral and ethical decision-making; how do leaders give their soldiers the context they need within which to frame the death of a comrade?

Mission first, people always: hard rights, easy wrongs and the Twilight Zone in between.

Taking on the Ivy League: an intellectual joust and why I hate answering the same damned questions every time I meet people at a party

U.S. Army officer/leader development: why is the system broken and WTF do we do about it?  Also: the coming leadership gap -- today's company-grade officer exodus is fucking over tomorrow's field grade leaders.

Semi-fiction: fucked up dream (9 bullets)

Book Review: The Strongest Tribe by Bing West.

New York Times: rise of the warrior class? (and hazing in today's military)

Full Spectrum Operations, Stability, Counterinsurgency and Core Competencies: when Redlegs turn blue

Killing the Myth: recent Army doctrinal/training reform did not arise from 9/11.  As evidenced by a question posed to my FACCC class, "Did 9/11 change the Army for better or for worse?"  I was shocked at how many hands went up in an attempt to link the Army's adoption of counterinsurgency as a strategy in Iraq to the events of September 11, 2001.  Same for the sudden push for the development of smart, agile and adaptive leaders at the company level.  I was shocked because the premise that these changes or reforms arose directly out of 9/11 or even the beginning of the GWOT is wrong.  The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was strictly a conventional affair.  By the fall of 2001, the Army was already in the midst of "Transformation," a key Defense buzzword.  Starting with Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki in the 1990s, the Army was moving towards a more rapidly-deployable, expeditionary force: away from the gargantuan, monolithic Army that enabled us to win the Gulf War back in 1991.  The division-centric Army trained to fight AirLand Battle (fight the Soviets at the Fulda Gap!) was transforming into the modular brigade-centric Army trained to fight across the full spectrum of operations...

12 July 2010

Back on the net

Apologize for the long hiatus.  To sum up the previous six months (during which time my posting was rather sporadic): wrapped up a tour as a headquarters battery XO at Fort Hood, TX.  I will refrain from delving into the details at this time, but suffice to say the culture and environment in the battalion changed dramatically after certain personnel were changed out.  What used to be a collaborative environment, dedicated to supporting the line batteries and ensuring that our soldiers each received quality training and a legitimate chance to survive in combat...was transformed into a hot mess.  Again: I'll spare you the details, because I don't want to bore you with my bitching.  I'll just say that my timing in leaving Fort Hood was fairly excellent.

So what now?  Took some PCS leave (permanent change of station: when you get transferred from one base to another for whatever the Army considers to be a long(ish) period of time, then it is classified as a PCS move vice a TDY, or temporary duty assignment, move) and went back to NYC.  As opposed to every other time I go home to the East Coast, this time I spent most of my time relaxing and NOT trying to visit every person I knew out there.  Spent a solid week growing my hair out, not shaving, putting a dent in the book I'm reading (An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson), eating non-chain-restaurant food, and remembering why I miss living in the borough of Brooklyn so damned much.

Outside of my little vacation, I have completed moving myself and all of my belongings back to Lawton, Oklahoma, where I am scheduled to attend the Field Artillery Captain's Career Course (FACCC) here at Fort Sill.  For the non-Army audience: the title FACCC sounds a lot fancier than what it really is -- standardized PME (professional military education) at the put-forth-by-doctrine time of the career.  The utopian goal is to educate junior officers and prepare them to serve on battalion staffs and ultimately as battery commanders.  In reality, it will likely be another Big Army lowest-common-denominator everyone-is-a-go course.  Of course, I will let you know where reality lies as I lean forward in the foxhole during the coming weeks and months.

Although I haven't posted anything substantive in a while, I wasn't on complete hiatus: I've amassed a list of articles and interwebs snippets that I told myself to comment on.  I'll be reviewing the list, seeing what might still be timely or interesting (even if we are weeks or months removed from initial headline publishing).  Hopefully I can get back on the saddle and start pumping out entries again.