Pictures of off-duty soldiers capture the everyday, mundane moments of what life is really like on the front lines. Much of a soldier’s time in the field doesn’t involve combat or danger, but rather, ordinary tasks, down time, and simple boredom. No matter where the war is or what it’s about, troops in the field often have a lot of time on their hands, not much to do, and a lot of alcohol around. This leads to some great candid moments, and when cameras are around, great pictures.
Soldiers going on leave would often take photos to remember the good times they had, or to memorialize their comrades. There were also performances, bands, and card games to wile away the time, and this is true on all sides of every war. There are as many pictures of German soldiers smiling and goofing off as there are British and American. These photos humanize wars and the people who fought them.
Here are some of the best pictures of soldiers off-duty, taken all over the world.Vote up the best vintage photos of off-duty soldiers below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
Just over two weeks after the Commander-in-Chief Forum aired during prime time on NBC, IAVA chief Paul Rieckhoff is still recovering from the event, riding the high of having had a big hand in pulling it off but also weathering a substantial wave of social media criticism — much of it from fellow veterans — about how it fell short.
#IAVAforum if you want to truly represent service members and vet’s then why didn’t you include #GaryJohnson in the forum?
“What the critics don’t understand is events like this are a four-way negotiation,” Rieckhoff says over the phone while riding an Uber between Newark Airport and Manhattan after attending a “VetTogether” — a gathering of IAVA members — at comedienne Kathy Griffin’s home in Los Angeles. “It’s us, the network, and each of the candidates. Anybody can walk away at any time. Concessions are made on all sides to pull it off.”
Rieckhoff and his team started planning the forum about two years ago using Pastor Rick Warren’s “Conversation on Faith” as a model.
“He brought the candidates to his church one after another for a one-on-one conversation,” he says. “It was widely watched and really drove the issues front and center.”
The IAVA wishlist had a few key elements: It should take place around 9-11. It should take place in New York City “because of the media traction,” Rieckhoff says. And it should take place aboard the USS Intrepid, the retired aircraft carrier docked on the Hudson River at midtown.
They also knew it needed to happen before the final three debates.
“We’re politically savvy enough to know that’s it’s all about the art of the possible,” Rieckhoff says. “The idea that you’re going to get the candidates for three hours and get everything you want is not grounded in the reality of the landscape.
“The idea was straightforward,” he continues. “Bring together the candidates where vets could ask the questions on as big a stage as possible. Respect to the American Legion and VFW, but nobody watches their conventions but them.”
Two cable networks expressed interest in airing the event, but Rieckhoff held out for something bigger.
“It needed to be as big as possible in order to attract the candidates,” he says.
In early May NBC offered an hour in primetime. Another major network indicated interest but “dawdled,” as Rieckhoff puts it, so IAVA accepted NBC’s offer. Right before Memorial Day both candidates agreed to participate. But at that point, the work was only starting.
“It was a constant negotiation with the campaigns right up to the event itself,” Rieckhoff says. “They were always threatening to pull out if they didn’t get what they wanted.”
And among the negotiations was agreeing to who the host would be. IAVA made a few suggestions, NBC personalities with some experience in the defense and foreign policy realms. The network and campaigns came up with their own option.
“The campaigns preferred not to have hard-hitting questions, and NBC wanted somebody who’d resonate during primetime,” Rieckhoff says. “Suffice it to say Matt Lauer was not IAVA’s choice.”
But Matt Lauer got the nod, and for the first hour of the Commander-in-Chief Forum, he fumbled his way through the format, dedicating a disproportionate amount of time to issues other than those of critical importance to the military community. His poor performance in the eyes of viewers even spawned a hashtag: #LaueringTheBar.
Just caught up with @NBC‘s #CiCForum. What on earth was @MLauer thinking? All the mental acuity of a boiled potato…
“We would’ve like the opportunity to separate foreign policy from veteran’s policy,” Rieckhoff says. “Matt Lauer found that out the hard way.”
But beyond that Rieckhoff is pleased with the outcome of the forum.
“Plenty of folks may be criticizing the event or the host,” he says. “But the bottom line is every critic or whatever got an opportunity to talk about their perspective on the issues because this thing happened.”
The broadcast was viewed by 15 million people, and Rieckhoff believes that the overall impact needs to be framed in terms much bigger than that.
“The reach has to be considered beyond the ratings of the show itself,” he says. “It was the entire day prior, the day of, and at least one day afterward where every morning show, every newspaper, and every columnist was writing about vet issues.”
That sense is shared by IAVA board member Wayne Smith, an Army vet who served as a combat medic during the Vietnam War and went on to be one of the founders of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He was seated in the crowd during the forum.
“I come from a generation of war vets who had no voice for decades, who were rejected by vets from previous wars not to mention the nation at large,” Smith says. “I was blown away by the brilliance of this forum, this first time we had the undivided attention of both candidates. I hope this is the first of many.”
The commandant of the Marine Corps paid tribute to a staff sergeant killed by Islamic State rocket fire in Iraq last week, shedding new light on the circumstances surrounding the loss.
Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, 27, a member of Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was killed by indirect fire March 19 at a new artillery outpost near Makhmour, Iraq, shortly after he and a small element of Marines had detached from the MEU in order to support the small post.
Speaking at a Marine Corps Association awards dinner near Washington, D.C. Thursday night, Gen. Robert Neller said three other Marines wounded in that same rocket attack were due to arrive back in the United States that evening, headed for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Reflecting on Cardin’s loss, Neller did not prevaricate about a fight that US officials still refuse to describe as a combat operation.
“The loss of a Marine is sad, but I thought about it: He was leading his Marines in combat,” Neller said. “They were in indirect fire and he made sure everybody got in the bunker, and he just didn’t make it in time. Is that sad? That’s sad. But if you’re going to go, you want to go in the fight.”
During a briefing to reporters at the Pentagon on Friday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the circumstances of Cardin’s death, the second combat death since the coalition fight against Islamic State militants began, does not change the nature of the operation or indicate an increase in the Marines’ ground combat role.
“This is not a fundamental shift in our approach to support the Iraqi forces,” he said. “This happens to be what was the most appropriate tool that the commander assessed needed to be in that particular location.”
In his talk, Neller encouraged Marines to remain sharp, reminding them that the Corps was forward deployed all over the world to remain ready and train for future fights.
“[Cardin’s] death, and the things we see every day, from the attacks in Brussels by those murderous cowards that we’re fighting, that’s part of our world today,” he said. “So whether [The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] continues to use terror to intimidate us and kill innocents, at the same time other adversaries, as they have since we’ve been engaged in the Middle East, are developing their capabilities to challenge us on future battlefields.”
Neller also fired a shot across the bow at another geopolitical threat, hinting that Marine Corps leaders were eager to answer the saber-rattling of Russian president Vladimir Putin with a show of force.
About 1,800 Marines, he said, had recently wrapped up a massive cold-weather exercise in Norway, Operation Cold Response.
“It’s the biggest exercise we’ve done in Norway in some time,” he said. We were working to repopulate our [pre-positioning equipment] in the caves, and the Norwegians were happy to see us and I’m sure our Russian friends were paying attention. Mr. Putin has done us a great favor.”
There’s probably no greater argument in favor of issuing bottled beer to troops in combat than the story of William Speakman.
In 1951, the 24-year-old Speakman volunteered for service in the Korean War.
He initially joined the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment, but was attached to the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers during his time in Korea.
By 1951, the war had turned on the UN troops fighting in the peninsula. After near annihilation along the Korea-China border, Communist forces were bolstered when China entered the war for North Korea.
Later that year, William Speakman and his unit were somewhere along the 38th parallel – the new front – on a freezing cold, shell-pocked hill along the Imjin River. It was known as Hill 317.
On Nov. 4, 1951, Speakman’s unit was suddenly pummeled by intense Chinese artillery and a tide of overwhelming human wave attacks.
What happened next earned William Speakman the nickname “Beer Bottle VC.”
Speakman, a junior enlisted infantryman acting without orders, led a series of counter-charges to prevent his position from being overrun. He and six other men from the King’s Own fought an estimated 6,000 oncoming Chinese infantry troops. Speakman himself began to hurl as many grenades at the Chinese waves as he could, even after suffering multiple wounds.
He ran to and from a supply tent 10 times over the course of four continuous hours to replenish his grenade supply.
“It was hand-to-hand; there was no time to pull back the bolt of the rifle,” he told the Telegraph. “It was November, the ground was hard, so grenades bounced and did damage.”
His cache of grenades didn’t last forever, of course. When he exhausted his unit’s explosives supply, he turned to any other material he could find to throw at the enemy horde, which included rocks and a steady supply of empty beer bottles. He and his six buddies were able to hold off the Communist onslaught long enough for the KOSB to withdraw safely.
“I enjoyed it, actually, it’s what I joined up to do,” Speakman said in an interview with the Royal British Legion. I volunteered for Korea and joined the KOSB… we did what you’re trained to do as a soldier. We fought that night and did what we had to.”
“When I got it, the king was alive,” Speakman said. “But he was very ill. He awarded me the VC but he died. So I was the queen’s first VC… I think she was nervous. And I was very nervous.”
Only four VCs were awarded during the Korean War and Speakman is the only living Victoria Cross recipient from that war. Though Speakman went on to serve until 1967 and fought in other conflicts in places like Italy and Borneo, he wants his ashes to be scattered in the Korean DMZ.
To keep the many men and machines in fighting shape during the World War II invasion of France, logistics technicians sure had their work cut out for them. Bomb, bullets, planes and tanks were top priorities, so there was little room for luxury items that’d keep the troops in good spirits while fighting Nazis.
And when a British brewery donated gallons of beer for troops on the front, there was no way to get it to the men by conventional means.
Enter Britain’s Royal Air Force.
In the early days after the Normandy invasion of June 1944, British and American troops noticed an acute shortage of adult beverages — namely beer. Many British soldiers complained about watery cider being the only drink available in recently liberated French towns. Luckily for them, the Royal Air Force was on the tap (pun intended) to solve the problem.
With no room for cargo on their small fighter planes, RAF pilots arrived at a novel solution – using drop tanks to transport suds instead of fuel.
The drop tanks of a Spitfire each carried 45 gallons of gas, meaning a plane could transport 90 gallons of extra liquid. When carrying fuel, the tanks were used and then discarded.
For the purposes of ferrying beer, ground crews set about steam cleaning the tanks for their special deliveries. These flights became known as “flying pubs” by the troops they served. A few British breweries, such as Heneger and Constable, donated free beer for the RAF to take to the front. Other units had to pool their funds and buy the beer.
As the desire for refreshment increased in Normandy, the RAF began employing the Hawker Typhoon which could carry even more than the Spitfire. Unfortunately, the Typhoon was often mistaken by inexperienced American pilots as the German Focke-Wulf 190.
According to one British captain, the beer deliveries were attacked twice in one day by U.S. P-47 Thunderbolts. The Typhoon had to jettison its tanks into the English Channel to take evasive action, costing the troops on the ground dearly.
The drop tanks also had a serious disadvantage. While they could carry large amounts of beer, the initial runs still tasted of fuel. Even after the tanks had been used several times and lost their fuel taste, they still imparted a metallic flavor to the beer.
To counter this problem, ground crews developed Modification XXX, a change made to the wing pylons of Spitfire Mk. IXs that allowed them to carry actual kegs of beer.
These kegs, often called ‘beer bombs,’ were standard wooden kegs with a specially-designed nose cone and attachments for transport under the wing of the Spitfire. Though they carried less beer, it arrived tasting like it just came out of the tap at the pub, chilled by the altitude of the flight over the channel.
To ensure their compatriots remained satisfied, pilots would often return to England for rudimentary maintenance issues or other administrative needs in order to grab another round. As the need for beer increased, all replacement Spitfires and Typhoons being shipped to airfields in France carried ‘beer bombs’ in their bomb racks to the joy of the thirsty crews manning the airfields.
When the Americans learned of what the British were doing they joined in, even bringing over ice cream for the GIs as well.
As the practice gained popularity, Britain’s Custom and Excise Ministry caught wind and tried to shut it down. Thankfully by that time, there were more organized official shipments of beer making it to the troops. However, the enterprising pilots kept up their flights with semi-official permission from higher-ups, they just kept it a better secret.
Some aircraft carriers are legends – either from long service like that of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) or with an unmatched war record like that of another USS Enterprise (CV 6).
They have either heroic sacrifices, the way USS Yorktown (CV 5) did at Midway, or they simply take a ton of abuse as USS Franklin (CV 13) did.
But some carriers just stink. You wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy… or maybe you would, simply to make the war easier. There’s arguments on both sides of that. Here are the carriers that would prompt such an internal debate.
6. USS Ranger (CV 4)
When America was down to one carrier in the South Pacific in 1942, re-deploying America’s first purpose-built carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4) was not considered as an option.
That tells you something about the ship. Her combat career was relatively brief, and she eventually was relegated to training duties. Still, she had a decent air group (mostly fighters and dive-bombers), so she is the best of this bad lot.
5. Admiral Kuznetsov Class (Kuznetsov, Liaoning, and unnamed Type 001A)
If you’ve read a lot of WATM, then you know about the Kuznetsov Follies. The crappy engines (the Russians send tugs along with her in case of breakdown), the splash landings, and the fact the Russians ended up using her as a glorified ferry all speak to real problems. In her favor, though, is the presence of 12 long-range anti-ship missiles on the lead ship, and she can fly MiG-29K and Su-33 Flankers off her deck. China’s versions carry J-15 fighters, but not the missiles.
4. Kiev class (Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk)
The Russian Kiev and her sisters are on here for a crap air wing.
The Yak-38 Forger was one of the worst planes to ever operate from a carrier. The Kiev gets a higher ranking largely because she had a lot of firepower, including eight SS-N-12 Sandbox missiles as well as a lot of SA-N-3 Goblets and point-defense systems, which were arguably more of a threat to the enemy than the planes she carried.
Yeah… that kinda has the whole purpose backwards. Now, a modern version with F-35Bs or even AV-8B+ Harriers and the Aegis system could be interesting.
3. HTMS Chakri Naruebet
The Chakri Naruebet from the Thai navy is on the list not so much for inherent problems, but because of substantial air wing neglect during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aka Rana IX). Worse, the Thais officially call her an “offshore patrol helicopter carrier.”
They did buy some second-hand AV-8S Matadors from Spain. But most flunked the maintenance, and soon Thailand had one flyable jet. At least the Kievs had heavy firepower to make up for their crap air wing!
That said, his successor, King Vajiralongkorn, was a former fighter pilot, and hopefully will be able to turn things around.
2. Ise Class battleship/carrier hybrid conversions
Okay, in some ways, this is understandable. After the Battle of Midway, Japan needed carriers in the worst possible way. Ise and Hyuga are perfect examples of getting those “carriers” — in the worst possible way.
Initially built as battleships with a top speed of 23 knots, they got turned not into full carriers, which might have been useful. But a half-battleship/half-carrier holding 22 seaplanes (okay about 50 percent more than Hosho) that they could launch and recover wasn’t totally awful.
Remember that’s seaplanes, not Zeroes for fighter cover or strike planes. Granted Japan had the A6M-2 Rufe, a seaplane Zero, but this was a rush job, and it showed. At least they each had eight 14-inch guns.
1. HIJMS Hosho
This was the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier. But let’s be honest, the Japanese boat was a dog. It had a top speed of 25 knots, and it carried all of 15 planes. During the Battle of Midway, it had eight biplanes.
By comparison, USS Langley (CV 1), America’s first aircraft carrier, could carry 36 planes. Even with a top speed of 15 knots, she would have been useful escorting convoys in the Atlantic – if America hadn’t turned her into a seaplane tender to satisfy an arms-control treaty Japan violated anyhow.
Are there any bad carriers we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Deep in the Nevada desert — approximately 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas — sits a small town where the human population on a non-work day is zero. But this town wasn’t made for real people to inhabit. Rather, it was specially built just to test atomic blasts that would consume the area with its crushing power and unbelievable heat.
In the 1950s, nuclear testing began at the Nevada National Security Site as technicians mounted the Apple-2 bomb on top of a detonation tower.
The tower stood 1,500 feet above ground level so that when the colossal explosion occurred, the fireball blast wouldn’t effect or damage the monitoring equipment.
The testing facilities’ employees manufactured and assembled shops, gas stations, and homes made of brick and wood — dubbing these areas “Doom Towns.”
Inside these buildings, the workers staged the interiors with full-size mannequin families wearing various types clothing to witness how the different fabrics would hold up during the energy bursts and extreme heat. After denotation, the homes that were within 6,000 feet from ground zero lost rooftops, suffered broken windows and the several coats of paint blistered and scraped off in a matter of a few moments.
By contrast, the homes that were located near the initial blast zone were completely incinerated and their ashes sailed into the wind.
DARPA has found a single, hyper-efficient motor that they think could power large UAVs, electrical generators, and robots. The engines are so small and so efficient, that soldiers could carry powerful generators in their rucksacks.
DARPA signed a contract with LiquidPiston for nearly $1 million to develop an engine that is much lighter than current military generators and that could generate the same amount of electricity for half as much JP-8 fuel.
“Today’s diesel/JP-8 engines and generators are extremely heavy,” Dr. Nikolay Shkolnick, a co-founder of LiquidPiston, said in an press release. “For example, a typical 3kW heavy-fuel generator weighs over 300 pounds, requiring six people to move it around. LiquidPiston’s engine technology may enable a JP-8 generator of similar output weighing less than 30 pounds that could fit in a backpack.”
The engine would get its outstanding efficiency through a patented “High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle,” design that is a large departure from piston engines. LiquidPiston holds the patent for this type of engine. See how it works at 0:40 in the video below.
And, with only two moving parts, the engines are much quieter and stealthier than those they would replace.
“Our engine has no vibration at all and it’s a lot quieter,” Alexander Shkolnik, the president of LiquidPiston, told MIT News while discussing LiquidPiston’s smallest engine. “It should be a much nicer user experience all around.”
If everything works out, forward operating bases and UAVs would get much quieter, generators could be delivered to outposts more easily, and the need for convoys in theater would be reduced as fuel requirements dropped.
644461 20.10.1986 Возвращение советских воинов-интернационалистов из Демократической Республики Афганистан. Юрий Сомов/РИА Новости.
Afghanistan is sometimes referred to as “Russia’s Vietnam.” The decade-long occupation cost the Soviet Union a lot of men and money but wielded very little in return. In 1978, the Soviets backed a pro-communist coup lead by Nur Mohammad Taraki against the government in power in Afghanistan. However, in 1979, Hafizullah Amin, a Muslim leader who did not look at the Soviet influence with a good eye, staged a counter-coup, deposing Taraki. In retaliation, in December 1979, the Soviets sent troops and tanks into Afghanistan. They overthrew the government and killed Amin, replacing him with a KGB-trained man named Babrak Karmal.
After some early victories, the Soviets anticipated a quick triumph. However, they faced relentless resistance from some of the locals, particularly the Muslims. The Afghan rebels declared a jihad (a “holy war”), against the communist government and the Soviets supporting it. The mujahideen, “holy warriors” who lead the jihad began a guerilla-style campaign against the Soviets, harassing and sabotaging them at every turn. They were armed and financed by countries from the other side of the Iron Curtain, such as the United States and Britain, as well as Muslim countries sympathetic to a government closer to their own beliefs. China, despite being a communist country as well, also chose to side with the mujahideen.
The invaders struggled to contain the well-armed rebels. According to some estimations, the Soviets could have lost as many as 15,000 soldiers during the decade-long invasion. The cost of lives and resources brought important division in the Soviet Communist Party at the time. The invasion also brought the already tense relationship between the Soviet Union and the USA near breaking point.
After a decade of frustrating fighting, the Soviet Union, incapable of truly seizing power in Afghanistan, decided to recall its troops. The withdrawal started in April 1988 and spread over several months. The last Russian soldiers left in February 1989.
Although this was a notable win for the mujahideen, peace still eluded the country. The Soviet Union still supported the communist government through financial means, helping them resist the rebels. It led to a long and bloody civil war. The Soviets only withdrew their support in 1991, after internal political turmoil forced them to cut off the aids to their allies. By spring 1992, the Muslim fighters were able to overrun the weakened Afghan army, storm Kabul, and overthrown the government.
However, Afghanistan was unable to receive much-needed peace. Whether differences of beliefs or desire for personal power, the various mujahideen factions began turning one against the other. Without a common enemy, they perpetuated the ongoing civil war. The conflict gave rise to the Taliban in 1994, a military organization of radical Muslim students. They were unhappy that the Muslim law had not been established throughout the country after the fall of the communist government. The group, in possession of many weapons supplied by various Western and Middle-Eastern countries during the Soviet invasion, was able to progressively conquer territories. By 1996, they controlled about three-quarters of the country and established the Sharia law in all the territories they controlled, establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. By 1998, they controlled over 90% of the country.
Echoes of the past
In 2000, the United Nations Security Council denounced the strict application of Sharia Law that infringed on people’s basic human rights and accused the Taliban of radicalizing and training terrorists, issuing important sanctions against their government. Then, in October 2001, in retaliation for the 9/11 terror attacks, the USA joined forces with the Afghan resistance and invaded Afghanistan to try and root out terrorism. By the end of 2001, the Taliban government had been overthrown and most of the country was under the control of the coalition. After losing their last stronghold, Kalahar, the Taliban dispersed. However, they never surrendered.
Moving factions of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIL have since worked to harass and sabotage the Afghan government and the American troops supporting the anti-terrorist effort. Pakistan, accused of supporting the terrorist organizations, was also invaded.
However, guerrilla fighting presents many challenges, making it difficult to achieve a definite victory. The metamorphosing, secretive structure, and foreign financing of the various extremist organization make it difficult to eradicate them. When the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan, they inadvertently created the modern terrorist.
Feature image: Russia Informational news Agency via Wikimedia Commons
Guests and family members who flock to the Arlington Cemetery this Independence Day week will have to leave their America flags at home.
Current law does not permit people to bring American flags to grave sites after Congress passed legislation following protests from the Westboro Baptist Church at service members funerals, The Washington Post reported July 4.
Former Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers helped pass the Respect For America’s Fallen Heroes Act in 2006, making it illegal to protest funerals within 300 feet of a cemetery. The legislation had the unintended consequence of barring the bringing of “any placard, banner, flag, or similar device.”
Flags are permitted, however, if they are “part of a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony.”
Violating the law can bring penalties of up to a year in jail. While the bill received bipartisan support, the ACLU contended the law violated the First Amendment based on censorship.
“If someone is in there with the colors in a respectful way, or paying homage in a respectful way, then they should allow it,” Paul Rieckhoff founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
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On July 11, 2017, the Sri Lankan navy was conducting operations nine miles out to sea and spotted something surprising: an elephant swimming in the deep ocean.
Elephants are actually excellent swimmers for land animals, using their powerful legs to propel themselves forward and breathing through their trunk. But they aren’t true endurance swimmers or deepwater experts.
You’ve probably suspected it from WATM’s coverage of the “Kuznetsov Follies,” but let’s just go out and say it: Russia’s navy is a basket case. A floating disaster of aging, decrepit ships and not that many of them – which is a far cry from what the Soviet Navy was in the Cold War.
To get a sense of how far the Russian Navy has fallen, in 1991, the Soviet Union had seven carriers — two Moskva-class helicopter carriers, four Kiev-class vessels, and one Kuznetsov-class ship, with two more (another Kuznetsov and a nuclear-powered design) under construction.
Today, there’s just the Kuznetsov, with her then-under-construction sister now serving with China, and a highly-remodeled Kiev serving with India.
How did this happen? A big part was the fact that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the ship-building industry collapsed, and the projects that fueled it. Not only that, many of the Soviet Navy’s naval engines were built in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Now, the Ukraine is an independent country, and the two countries aren’t exactly on friendly terms. Russia is reportedly looking to import naval engines from China. Even if that happens, new ships are a long way off.
Rumors persist that plans to modernize two of the four Kirov-class nuclear-powered battle cruisers were scrapped, and the Admiral Ushakov, formerly the Kirov, has been idle for nearly two decades after an accident. Russia has been developing and building smaller vessels, including the Gorshkov and Grigorovoch classes of frigate and the Karakurt and Derzky classes of corvette. These ships are heavily armed and superior to the American littoral combat ships.
You can see a video below, further explaining how the Russian Navy sank so far from its status as a blue-water threat in the Cold War.
The FBI and the CIA had different approaches to interrogating terror suspects in the days after the 9/11 attacks. The FBI’s Ali Soufan was one of only a handful of agents who spoke Arabic at the time, but he had a method of developing a rapport with suspects to get information from them that proved itself time and again.
The CIA tortured suspects, often at a so-called black site in a third country, like Poland. One captured terror suspect, Abu Zubaydah, was the subject of both of these techniques, and a perfect experiment on just how effective torture was in gaining intelligence.
Zubaydah was captured in a raid in March 2002. The CIA, FBI and Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence raided a safehouse after the U.S. paid $10 million for a tip on his whereabouts. Ali Soufan was called in to interrogate the captive — the first real high-value jihadi arrested after Sept. 11.
Although not a member of al-Qaeda, Zubaydah planned a series of attacks in Jordan and some Israeli targets. He was also close to Osama bin Laden, and so was considered a high-value target.
Abu Zubaydah was wounded in the raid on the al-Qaeda safehouse. He was taken first to a Pakistani hospital and then to another country for a long debrief. It was FBI agent Ali Soufan who started interrogating the captured militant. Zubaydah, almost immediately, gave up information and details about a plot in a NATO country.
The terrorist ended up doing another stint in the hospital for wounds related to the initial raid. Soufan was there with Zubaydah during the entire period. With their rapport established, the militant continued cooperating with the FBI. It was Zubaydah who gave up Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. The FBI didn’t even know KSM was a member of al-Qaeda.
Then, the CIA took over interrogating Abu Zubaydah, using a contractor who didn’t agree with Agent Soufan’s methods. Soufan was incredulous, since the contractor had never interrogated a suspect and knew nothing about Islamic extremists or al-Qaeda.
Once in the hands of the CIA, Zubaydah was put into “stress positions” (where a great amount of weight is placed on one or two muscles, leading to pain and then muscle failure) and stressful situations. Extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation and other techniques were performed on the captive. Soufan argues that stress measures and torture will only force compliance, not cooperation.
One of Zubaydah’s peers, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, was captured by the United States in November 2001. After his capture in Afghanistan, the Libyan national was taken to another country, much like Abu Zubaydah was. Al-Libi was tortured for information. Eventually, he gave up serious “information” linking Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to Osama Bin Laden. He said the two were developing weapons of mass destruction to use on the United States and its western allies.
This information was included in then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 speech to the United Nations about the urgency of a war with Iraq. Powell remarked that Iraq was creating weaponized anthrax using mobile production centers on the backs of semi-trucks. No other intelligence agency believed this was true.
The CIA believed it because they had tortured Ibn Sheikh al-Libi to say it was true. The United States invaded Iraq anyway, and found no evidence of the weapons of mass destruction or that they had ever existed. When the CIA asked al-Libi why he told them about a link between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden, the militant told them he gave up that info because he was being tortured and that’s what he knew they wanted to hear.
For eight years, the United States struggled to build a parliamentary democracy in Iraq, and would have to return once that government was threatened by the Islamic State — all because of a lie based on torture.
As long as the CIA was torturing Abu Zubaydah, he revealed no useful information. As soon as Soufan and the FBI took over the interrogation once more, Zubaydah immediately gave up actionable information.
The history of the War on Terrorism might have been entirely different if the CIA had only hired people who knew what they were doing.