“He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn’t seen,” said Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., a Marine Corps veteran of two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, who was in the meeting with the king. “He mentioned ‘Unforgiven’ and he mentioned Clint Eastwood, and he actually quoted a part of the movie.”
Hunter would not say which part of “Unforgiven” the King quoted, but noted it was where Eastwood’s character describes how he is going to deliver his retribution. There is a scene in the picture in which Eastwood’s character, William Munny, says, “Any man I see out there, I’m gonna kill him. Any son of a bitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only going to kill him, I’m going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down.”
Beyond airstrikes, Jordan could further contribute to the fight against ISIS through the use of its extremely effective special forces units.
This fall, Air Force fighter pilots taking to the skies to train might find themselves going up against a ghost.
Pilots chasing “enemy” jets in air-to-air dog-fighting exercises or avoiding them during training targeting runs will see the familiar sign of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Air Force is converting older-generation, retired F-16 fighters that were wrapped and stored at the military’s aircraft boneyard in the Arizona desert into the latest unmanned drone called the “QF-16.”
A QF-16 full scale aerial target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron takes off on its first unmanned flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Sept. 19, 2013. The 82nd ATRS operates the Department of Defense’s only full-scale aerial target program. The QF-16 will provide a fourth generation fighter representation of real world threats . (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Javier Cruz)
The QF-16 is a “full scale aerial target” and for all intents and purposes it looks like the sleek, single-engine jet that was built by General Dynamics (now part of Lockheed Martin) and first flown during the height of the Cold War — with the same body, same size, same profile, same maneuverability as the manned Fighting Falcon. The target drone is converted so it has similar radar signatures and capabilities as potential adversary aircraft – including the latest generation of the multi-role F-16 flying today – that U.S. pilots might encounter in the not-so-friendly skies.
The Air Force’s F-16 drone program became fully operational in September when the Air Combat Command declared it had reached initial operational capability.
“This leap forward in airframe capabilities, combined with advanced electronic pods, will allow us to properly test and evaluate our 5th generation aircraft and weapons,” Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, who commands the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, said in a Sept. 26 news release. The squadron belongs to the 53th Wing, which serves as the Air Force’s only operational test unit.
The orange-tipped jet drones can break the sound barrier in supersonic flight, sans pilot – and even reach 9Gs. That’s as tough as the latest high-tech jets out there — U.S.-built or otherwise. The “pilot,” though, is on the ground, controlling the drone just as other unmanned aircraft .
Various onboard sensors and instruments in the drone jet collect data and information that can be used by whoever’s got the finger on a missile (or other ordnance and weaponry) directed at it from the ground control station. During a 2014 ground missile test fired at the drone that registered a “kill” hit, an engineer described its role as a target to help in weapons training.
“The QF-16’s mission is really to act as a target and validate weapons systems. So, we do have a scoring system on the airplane and its job is to tell us basically how close the missile came and its trajectory,” Paul Cejas, a chief engineer, said in a Boeing news release.
Maintainers begin post-flight checks on the first Lot 1 production model QF-16 after it arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., March 11. The aircraft is the first of 13 deliveries to the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base. The QF-16 will replace the QF-4 as the next generation aerial target. (Courtesy photo)
St. Louis-based Boeing Defense, Space Security got the first contract in 2010 to create as many as 126 of the drones. It flew the first unmanned flight – with an empty cockpit – over Tyndall AFB in Florida’s Panhandle in 2013.
As of March, Boeing had delivered 11 QF-16s to the Air Force, and the most-recent contract called for the conversion of another 30 target drones, according to the company. Several dozen retired jets are undergoing conversion. The F-16s are pulled from the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where several hundred of the mothballed jets are parked in the sun outside of Tucson, Arizona. Crews with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group help prepare for the trek to Florida, where the bulk of the conversion work is done.
The first QF-16 arrives at Tyndall escorted by a QF-4 Nov. 19. The QF-16 will undergo developmental testing by Boeing and eventually become part of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group. The QF-16 is a supersonic reusable full-scale aerial target drone modified from an F-16 Fighting Falcon. At this time, the group uses QF-4s, made from 1960s F-4 Phantom, to conduct their full-scale aerial target missions. The targets allow the Air Force and allied nations to have a realistic understanding of what they could face on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Cokeing)
The QF-16 isn’t the first unmanned fighter-like drone. But it is the latest generation, replacing the QF-4, an aerial target created from the previous generation of F-4 Phantom jets, which saw their glory during the Vietnam War.
There’s simply not enough of them left, and time has aged them toward obsolescence. The Air Force flew its final QF-4 mission on Aug. 17 at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, and the service plans to officially retire it in December.
Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee didn’t want to fight the Civil War. He thought the dissolution of the Union would bring about the end of the American experiment.
Yet he led the Confederate Army through all four years of the American Civil War.
For many, Lee’s decision to resign from the U.S. Army and fight for his home state of Virginia demonstrated a flaw in his character.
Some see him trading the principles of American freedom to fight to uphold the institution of slavery. But where Lee saw secession as an act of democracy, the North saw it differently, and Lee chose to fight for that reason alone.
“If Virginia stands by the old Union,” said Lee, quoted in Smithsonian Magazine, “so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution), then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.”
No matter how one may feel about Lee’s service or legacy, he was a towering figure, a hero of the Mexican war, and one of the best leaders to come from West Point.
There are many books that provide key lessons in leadership from his life that we can apply every day.
1. The importance of ambition.
“It is for you to decide your destiny, freely and without constraint.”
2. Know what you’re up against.
“It behooves us to be on the alert, or we will be deceived. You know that is part of Grant’s tactics.”
3. Your confidence in yourself and the confidence others have in you are both key to success.
“No matter what may be the ability of the officer, if he loses the confidence of his troops, disaster must sooner or later ensue.”
4. Courage is remembered.
“I recollect the distance [Lee traveled] amid darkness and storm… traversed entirely unaccompanied. Scarcely a step could have been taken without danger of death; but that to him, a true soldier, was the willing risk of duty in a good cause.”
– Gen. Winfield Scott, remarking on Lee’s action in the Mexican War
5. Always finish what is expected of you.
“Duty… is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things, you cannot do more – you should never wish to do less.”
6. Plan for the long term.
“The life of humanity is so long, that of the individual is so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”
7. Expect to fail at times.
“We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to prevent our falling into greater disasters.”
8. Integrity above all else.
“I think it better to do right, even if we suffer in so doing, than to incur the reproach of our consciences and posterity.”
9. Hire the right people, then inspire them to greatness.
“You must inspire and lead your brave division that it may accomplish the work of a corps… our army would be invincible if it could be properly organized and officered. They will go anywhere and do anything if properly led.”
10. Be magnanimous in competition. Anything less breeds contempt.
“Madame, don’t bring your sons up to detest the United States. Recollect that we form one country, now. Abandon all these local animosities and make your sons Americans.”
– Lee in a letter to a Confederate widow after the war
11. Loyalty begets loyalty.
“Lee was a phenomenon… the only man I would follow blindfolded.”
– Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
12. Reward discipline in subordinates.
“In recommending officers and men for promotion you will always, where other qualifications are equal, give preference to those who show the highest appreciation of the importance of discipline and evince the greatest attention to its requirements.”
The Air Force’s stealthy long-range bomber will have the endurance and next-generation stealth capability to elude the most advanced existing air defenses and attack anywhere in the world, if needed, senior service officials said.
When the Air Force recently revealed its first artist rendering of what its new Long Range Strike – Bomber looks like, service Secretary Deborah James made reference to plans to engineer a bomber able elude detection from even the best, most cutting-edge enemy air defenses.
“Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen,” James said when revealing the image.
James added that the new bomber will be able to “play against the real threats.”
The new bomber, called the B-21, will soon be named through a formal naming competition involving members of the Air Force, their families and other participants.
The Air Force has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer and its new bomber. The LRS-B will be a next-generation stealth aircraft designed to introduce new stealth technology and fly alongside – and ultimately replace – the service’s existing B-2 bomber.
“With LRS-B, I can take off from the continental United States and fly for a very long way. I don’t have to worry about getting permission to land at another base and worry about having somebody try to target the aircraft. It will provide a long-reach capability,” Lt. Gen. Bunch, Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
The service plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars, Air Force leaders have said.
Although there is not much publically available information when it comes to stealth technology, industry sources have explained that the LRS-B is being designed to elude the world’s most advanced radar systems.
For instance, lower-frequency surveillance radar allows enemy air defenses to know that an aircraft is in the vicinity, and higher-frequency engagement radar allows integrated air defenses to target a fast-moving aircraft. The concept with the new bomber is to engineer a next-generation stealth configuration able to evade both surveillance and engagement radar technologies.
The idea is to design a bomber able to fly, operate and strike anywhere in the world without an enemy even knowing an aircraft is there. This was the intention of the original B-2 bomber, which functioned in that capacity for many years, until technological advances in air defense made it harder for it to avoid detection completely.
The new aircraft is being engineered to evade increasingly sophisticated air defenses, which now use faster processors, digital networking and sensors to track even stealthy aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at longer ranges.
Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems.
At the same time, advanced in air defense technologies are also leading developers to look at stealth configurations as merely one arrow in the quiver of techniques which can be employed to elude enemy defenses, particulalry in the case of future fighter aircraft. New stealthy aircraft will also likely use speed, long-range sensors and manueverability as additional tactics intended to evade enemy air defenses – in addition to stealth because stealth configurations alone will increasingly be more challenged as technology continues to advance.
However, stealth technology is itself advancing – and it is being applied to the B-21 stealth bomber, according to senior Air Force leaders who naturally did not wish to elaborate on the subject.
“As the threat evolves we will be able to evolve the airplane and we will still be able to hold any target at risk” Bunch said.
Although the new image of LRS-B does look somewhat like the existing B-2, Air Force officials maintain the new bomber’s stealth technology will far exceed the capabilities of the B-2.
A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean. The B-2, from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is part of a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III
At the same time, the B-2 is being upgraded with a new technology called Defensive Management System, a system which better enables the B-2 to know the location of enemy air defenses.
Prior to awarding the contract to Northrop, the Air Force worked closely with a number of defense companies as part of a classified research and technology phase. So far, the service has made a $1 billion technology investment in the bomber.
“We’ve set the requirements, and we’ve locked them down. We set those requirements (for the LRS-B) so that we could meet them to execute the mission with mature technologies,” Bunch said.
The Long Range Strike-Bomber will be built upon what the Air Force calls an “open systems architecture,” an engineering technique which designs the platform in a way that allows it to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge.
“We’re building this with an open mission systems architecture. As technology advances and the threat changes, we can build upon the structure. I can take one component out and put another component in that addresses the threat. I have the ability to grow the platform,” Bunch explained.
Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned missions as well as manned missions.
The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The LRS-B is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained.
“We’re going to have a system that will be able to evolve for the future. It will give national decision authorities a resource that they will be able to use if needed to hold any target that we need to prosecute at risk,” Bunch said.
At the time of its launch, the German battleship Bismarck, the namesake of the 19th century German chancellor responsible for German unification, was easily the most powerful warship in World War II Europe, displacing over 50,000 tons when fully loaded and crewed by over 2,200 men. She had a fearsome armament of 8 15-inch guns alongside 56 smaller cannons, and her main armor belt was over a foot of rolled steel. Her top speed of over 30 knots made her one of the fastest battleships afloat.
The German Kriegsmarine was never going to have the numbers to confront Great Britain’s vast surface fleet, but the German strategy of attacking merchant shipping using U-boats, fast attack cruisers and light battleships had been bearing fruit. A ship as fast and powerful as the Bismarck raiding convoys could do horrendous damage and make a bad supply situation for Great Britain even worse.
The Bismarck was launched with great fanfare on on March 14, 1939, with Otto von Bismarck’s granddaughter in attendance and Adolf Hitler himself giving the christening speech. Extensive trials confirmed that the Bismarck was fast and an excellent gunnery platform, but that it’s ability to turn using only it’s propellers was minimal at best. This design flaw was to have disastrous consequences later.
The German plan was to team the Bismarck with its sister ship Tirpitz alongside the two light battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. This fast attack force would be able to outgun anything it could not outrun, and outrun anything it could not outgun. Pursuing convoys across the North Atlantic, the task force might finally push the beleaguered merchant marine traffic to Great Britain over the edge.
But as usually happens in war, events put a crimp in plans. Construction of the Tirpitz faced serious delays, while the Scharnhorst was torpedoed and bombed in port and the Gneisenau needed serious boiler overhauls. The heavy cruisers Admiral Scheer and Admiral Hipper that might have served in their place also needed extensive repairs that were continually delayed by British bombing. In the end, the Bismarck sortied with only the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen and a few destroyers and minesweepers on May 19, 1941, with the mission termed Operation Rheinübung.
Great Britain had ample intelligence on the Bismark through its contacts in the supposedly neutral Swedish Navy, and Swedish aerial reconnaissance quickly spotted the sortie and passed on the news. The British swiftly put together a task force to confront the threat. After docking in Norway, the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen headed towards towards the North Atlantic and the convoy traffic between North America and Great Britain.
They swiftly found themselves shadowed by British cruisers, and in the Denmark Strait were confronted by the famed battle cruiser Hood and the heavy battleship Prince of Wales. After a short, furious exchange of fire a round from the Bismarck hit one of Hood’s main powder magazines, blowing the ship in half and sinking it in a matter of moments. Only three of 1,419 crew members survived. This was followed by a direct hit to the bridge of the Prince of Wales that left only the captain and one other of the command crew alive, and after further damage it was forced to withdrawal.
The handy defeat of two of its most prized warships stunned the British navy, but the Bismarck did not emerge unscathed. A hit from the Prince of Wales had blown a large hole in one of it’s fuel bunkers, contaminating much of its fuel with seawater and rendering it useless. The British scrambled every ship it had in the area in pursuit, and the Bismarck continued to be shadowed by cruisers and aircraft. The Prinz Eugen was detached for commerce raiding while the Bismarck headed to port in occupied France for repairs, trading distant fire with British cruisers.
Even damaged, the Bismarck was faster than any heavy British ship, and it took bombers from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal to bring it to heel. A torpedo hit on the Bismarck’s stern left her port rudder jammed, leaving the Bismarck to loop helplessly, and a large British surface task force closed in. Adm. Günther Lütjens, the Bismarck’s senior officer, sent a radio message to headquarters stating that they would fight to the last shell.
Unable to maneuver for accurate targeting, the Bismarck’s guns were largely useless, and British ships pounded it mercilessly, inflicting hundreds of hits and killing Lütjens alongside most of the command staff. After the Bismarck was left a shattered wreck, it’s senior surviving officer ordered it’s scuttling charges detonated to avoid its capture, but damaged communications meant much of the crew did not get the word. When it finally capsized and slipped beneath the waves, only 114 of a crew of more than 2,200 made it off alive.
The Bismarck was one of the most powerful machines of war produced in World War II, and it generated real panic in a Great Britain that possessed a far more powerful surface fleet than Germany. But in the end, the Bismarck fell prey to the same weapon that doomed the concept of battleships: Aircraft.
The “Nuclear Club” is a term used informally in geopolitics for the group of nations who possess nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and limit the Nuclear Club to five members. A few countries declined to sign the treaty and have since joined the club.
Though the NPT restricts weapons tech, it does reserve the right of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology for any country, for things like energy production and medical and scientific advancements.
Here are 11 more interesting facts about the world’s most exclusive (and potentially destructive) club.
1. There are eight, maybe nine, members controlling at least 15,600 warheads.
The list of confirmed countries with nuclear weapons includes the United States, Russia, France, China, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. Israel may or may not have nukes, as they have a policy of making their weapons capabilities purposely ambiguous to the rest of the world.
The first five are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The NPT treaty recognizes these states as weapons states. The latter four aren’t signatories to the NPT.
2. Five other countries host foreign nuclear weapons.
Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey host American nukes under NATO agreements. 30 other states use nuclear technology to generate energy under the terms of the NPT.
3. South Africa is the only country to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
From the 1960s through the 1980’s, apartheid South Africa pursued nuclear weapons. It was able to assemble six weapons with (alleged) help from Israel. Soviet spies discovered their capabilities, which the South Africans denied. When the apartheid government fell and the African National Congress (led by Nelson Mandela) was set to take power, South Africa dismantled its stockpile. It remains the only country ever to destroy its entire WMD program.
4. 59 other nations have the ability to construct nuclear weapons.
Apart from those already in the Nuclear Club, South Africa, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Japan, Uzbekistan, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Ukraine all have the technology and material needed for a weapon. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan have all had weapons programs in the past but openly shelved their efforts.
5. Maintaining the worldwide arsenal is a trillion-dollar business.
Even twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the thousands of nuclear weapons cost the world more than $1 trillion per decade in upkeep costs.
6. By 2020, Pakistan will have the world’s third largest stockpile.
An August 2015 report from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center revealing Pakistan was ramping up production, with numbers as high as 20 per year. The report estimated that by 2020, Pakistan would have 350 warheads. The Pakistanis also tested a ballistic missile in December 2015 with a 560 mile range.
7. Nuclear nonproliferation success far outnumber failures.
India and Pakistan developed nuclear warheads in 1998. In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT and has since tested a number of weapons. At the time of the NPT signing, it was estimated that 20-30 countries would have nuclear weapons by 1985. Despite some proliferation setbacks, only three (maybe four) developed them.
8. Only two countries possess worldwide nuclear capabilities.
Only the United States and Russia have the ability to strike anywhere in the world, either through Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or from submarine-based weapons. India and Pakistan have regional strike capabilities. The range of Israel’s and North Korea’s weapons are unknown.
9. Three countries actually inherited nuclear weapons.
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine inherited stockpiles following the fall of the Soviet Union. They returned the weapons to Russia and signed on to the NPT.
North Korea has launched what appears to be a missile headed towards the northern end of Japan at around 5:58 a.m. local time, according to Japanese government officials.
Japan’s NHK News reported that the missile passed over Japan and warned people in northern Japan to take necessary precautions.
Although three missiles were fired, according to Japanese officials, it was not entirely clear if all of them were headed towards the same trajectory. NHK also reported that a missile broke off into three pieces before splashing down into the Pacific Ocean.
South Korean military officials have also confirmed reports of the missile launch and said that it flew for about 1677 miles.
During the tense moment, multiple prefectures in Japan were reportedly put on alert.
“We’ll take utmost efforts to protect the public,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said, shortly following the launch.
The latest act of provocation from North Korea comes amid a spate of questionable moves, despite regional leaders, including Russia, denouncing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently called for his county to prepare to “immediately switch to offensive operations” if the North makes a “provocation that crosses the line,” NK News reported.
On September 1, 1998, North Korea fired a missile towards Japan’s airspace, offering no explanation for the incident.
The Badger is officially the smallest passenger tank on Earth, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s a one-man, all-terrain vehicle designed to breach buildings and other fortified positions. It’s powerful enough to break down doors yet small enough to fit in a lift.
Make no mistake, this tank is not a novelty. Howe Howe Technologies, the makers of this little beast, have experience making vehicles for the military. Howe Howe specializes in the fabrication and design of armored and military-grade vehicles. The Badger, however, is currently being used by SWAT teams.
The world knows little of the Islamic State terror group’s brutal leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but a new article from counterterrorism expert Will McCants provides one of the most extensive accounts yet of his background.
McCants, director of the Project on US Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution, wrote an upcoming book on the Islamic State — aka ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh — and researched Baghdadi’s life to explain his rise to become one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.
Since Baghdadi became the self-proclaimed “caliph” of ISIS in 2014, he has only appeared in public once, at a mosque in Mosul, Iraq. He was rumored to have died in an air strike earlier this year, but ISIS subsequently released a statement from him along with proof that he was still alive.
Even with new information about his life tricking out in the press, Baghdadi — aka Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Al-Badri — remains a mysterious and reclusive figure.
Here’s what we know now about his background, as laid out by McCants in his Brookings essay:
Baghdadi was raised in a lower-middle-class family in Iraq. His relatives claimed to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
His father taught at a mosque. When Baghdadi was a teenager, he led neighborhood children in Quran recitations.
Baghdadi’s family had ties to late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Two of his uncles were involved with Saddam’s security services, and two of his brothers served in the military under Saddam. One died during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Members of Baghdadi’s family were also thought to be Salafis, who follow a strict form of Islam that has been associated with ISIS’ extreme interpretation.
Baghdadi was thought of as a quiet type, but when he read the Quran, his “quiet voice would come to life” and he would pronounce “the letters in firm, reverberating tones,” according to McCants.
He was also known for having a temper. Once, when he saw women and men dancing together at a wedding, he got upset and forced them to stop.
Even in his youth, Baghdadi developed a reputation for being pious and following a strict interpretation of Islam. His nickname was “The Believer,” and one of his brothers told McCants that Baghdadi “was quick to admonish anyone who strayed from the strictures of Islamic law.”
Baghdadi wasn’t a strong student in high school, but he went on to earn a doctorate degree in Quranic studies. He reportedly wanted to study law for his undergraduate degree, but his grades weren’t good enough, so he studied the Quran instead.
He became a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that seeks to establish Islamic states across the Middle East, but his views were more extreme than those of many of the others in the group. Baghdadi was reportedly drawn to the extremists, including his older brother, who wanted to overthrow un-Islamic rulers.
Outside his religious studies, Baghdadi was fond of soccer. He was the star of a soccer club at a mosque at which he taught, and people compared him to the famous Argentinian player Lionel Messi. (This fits with an interview published earlier this year with a man who said he knew Baghdadi before he became ISIS’ “caliph.”)
Baghdadi is thought to have two wives and six children. McCants reports that the caliph’s first wife, Asma, was the daughter of Baghdadi’s maternal uncle.
He was initially involved with al-Qaida, which sent him to Syria after he was released from his detainment at the US-run Camp Bucca in Iraq in the early 2000s. There, he was tasked with “ensuring that AQI’s online propaganda was in line with its brand of ultraconservative Islam,” according to McCants. Today, ISIS is known for its online propaganda that’s highly effective at recruiting young people to join the terror group.
After ISIS broke away from al-Qaida, he was put in charge of religious affairs in some areas of Iraq. He became valuable to ISIS because the group needed religious scholars to establish legitimacy.
This telling of Baghdadi’s background suggests that his radicalization began long before he was imprisoned at Camp Bucca in the early 2000s. Although he was captured as a “civilian detainee” while he was visiting a friend who was wanted by American authorities, it’s clear Baghdadi had already begun forming his extremist ideology by this point.
These details water down the notion that Baghdadi was radicalized while in American detention.
And Baghdadi likely knew what he was doing.
“For the ten months he remained in custody, Baghdadi hid his militancy and devoted himself to religious instruction,” McCants wrote.
He was also able to meet and befriend ex-Baathists who would later join him in ISIS. The group’s leadership is now thought to be made up largely of former Saddam loyalists, but that doesn’t mean Baghdadi isn’t devout or that he’s just a religious figurehead for the organization.
McCants concluded: “The bare facts of Baghdadi’s biography show an unusually capable man. … Although the New York Times recently reported that he himself is making arrangements for a succession in the event of his demise by devolving many of his military powers to subordinates, his blend of religious scholarship and political cunning won’t be easily replaced.”
A hilarious incident report involving a Navy sailor using a raccoon to pass a breathalyzer test so he could drive his car home was passed around on the internet like wildfire this week, but … it was too good to be true: It’s all a hoax.
A few days ago, WATM noticed an image being passed around, purportedly from an incident report from Camp Pendleton police, telling the full story of what happened after a sailor left the bar in San Diego. Here it is:
We were skeptical, though we read it and basically went all Ron Burgundy afterward (“I’m not even mad, that’s amazing”). It sounded quite unbelievable, and it also had a suspicious watermark in the background. The watermark reads, “Always Watching, JTTOTS,” the tagline and acronym for a Marine-focused Facebook page called Just The Tip, of the Spear.
Since it picked up steam and has hit quite a few websites — including making international news — journalists reached out to the military for comment on the incident (We’d love to know how these calls went). Here’s what they said:
“While humorous, it’s not real,” Eric Durie, spokesman for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, told the New York Daily News.
“I called police records, and while they were highly entertained, they confirmed (the story) is absolutely a hoax,” 1st. Lt. Savannah Frank, a public affairs officer at Camp Pendleton, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
So this story may not be true, but we have a strong feeling a drunk sailor will someday be inspired to try this.
Federal authorities are investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at Veterans Affairs hospitals, a sign the problem isn’t going away as more prescriptions disappear.
Data obtained by The Associated Press show 36 criminal investigations opened by the VA inspector general’s office from Oct. 1 through May 19. It brings the total number of open criminal cases to 108 involving theft or unauthorized drug use. Most of those probes typically lead to criminal charges.
The numbers are an increase from a similar period in the previous year. The VA has pledged “zero tolerance” in drug thefts following an AP story in February about a sharp rise in reported cases of stolen or missing drugs at the VA since 2009. Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff in the VA’s network of more than 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics are suspected of siphoning away controlled substances for their own use or street sale — sometimes to the harm of patients — or drugs simply vanished without explanation.
Drug thefts are a growing problem at private hospitals as well as the government-run VA as the illegal use of opioids has increased in the United States. But separate data from the Drug Enforcement Administration obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act show the rate of reported missing drugs at VA health facilities was more than double that of the private sector. DEA investigators cited in part a larger quantity of drugs kept in stock at the bigger VA medical centers to treat a higher volume of patients, both outpatient and inpatient, and for distribution of prescriptions by mail.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., said AP’s findings were “troubling.” He urged Congress to pass bipartisan accountability legislation he was co-sponsoring that would give the agency “the tools needed to dismiss employees engaged in misconduct.” The Senate is set to vote on the bill June 6.
“The theft and misuse of prescription drugs, including opioids, by some VA employees is a good example of why we need greater accountability at the VA,” Rubio said.
In February, the VA announced efforts to combat drug thefts, including employee drug tests and added inspections. Top VA officials in Washington led by VA Secretary David Shulkin pledged to be more active, holding conference calls with health facilities to develop plans and reviewing data to flag problems. The department said it would consider more internal audits.
Criminal investigators said it was hard to say whether new safeguards are helping.
“Prescription drug diversion is a multifaceted, egregious health care issue,” said Jeffrey Hughes, the acting VA assistant inspector general for investigations. “Veterans may be denied necessary medications or their proper dosage and medical records may contain false information to hide the diversion, further putting veterans’ health at risk.”
Responding, the VA said it was working to develop additional policies “to improve drug safety and reduce drug theft and diversion across the entire health care system.”
“We have security protocols in place and will continue to work hard to improve it,” Poonam Alaigh, VA’s acting undersecretary for health, told the AP.
In one case, a registered nurse in the Spinal Cord Injury Ward at the VA medical center in Richmond, Virginia, was recently sentenced after admitting to stealing oxycodone tablets and fentanyl patches from VA medication dispensers. The nurse said she would sometimes shortchange the amount of pain medication prescribed to patients, taking the remainder to satisfy her addiction.
Hughes cited in particular the risk of patient harm. “Health care providers who divert for personal use may be providing care while under the influence of narcotics,” he said.
AP’s story in February had figures documenting the sharp rise in drug thefts at federal hospitals, most of them VA facilities. Subsequently released DEA data provide more specific details of the problem at the VA. Drug losses or theft increased from 237 in 2009 to 2,844 in 2015, before dipping to 2,397 last year. In only about 3 percent of those cases have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined, according to VA data.
At private hospitals, reported drug losses or theft also rose — from 2,023 in 2009 to 3,185 in 2015, before falling slightly to 3,154 last year. There is a bigger pool of private U.S. hospitals, at least 4,369, according to the American Hospital Association. That means the rate of drug loss or theft is lower than VA’s.
The VA inspector general’s office said it had opened 25 cases in the first half of the budget year that began Oct. 1. That is up from 21 in the same period in 2016.
The IG’s office said the number of newly opened criminal probes had previously been declining since 2014.
Michael Glavin, an IT specialist at the VA, says he’s heard numerous employee complaints of faulty VA technical systems that track drug inventories, leading to errors and months of delays in identifying when drugs go missing. Prescription drug shipments aren’t always fully inventoried when they arrive at a VAfacility, he said, making it difficult to determine if a drug was missing upon arrival or stolen later.
“It’s still the same process,” said Glavin, who heads the local union at the VA medical center in Columbia, Missouri. The union’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, says whistleblowers at other VA hospitals have made similar complaints.
Criminal investigators stressed the need for a continuing drug prevention effort. The VA points to inventory checks every 72 hours and “double lock and key access” to drugs. It attributes many drug loss cases to reasons other than employee theft, such as drugs lost in transit. But the DEA says some of those cases may be wrongly classified.
“Inventories are always an issue as to who’s watching or checking it,” said Tom Prevoznik, a DEA deputy chief of pharmaceutical investigations. “What are the employees doing, and who’s watching them?”