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US to arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters despite Turkish protests

The Trump administration announced May 9 it will arm Syria’s Kurdish fighters “as necessary” to recapture the key Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, despite intense opposition from NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Kurds as terrorists.


The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government’s view that the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey. Washington is eager to retake Raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for IS operatives to plan attacks on the West.

ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump authorized the arms May 8. His approval gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to “equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS” in Raqqa, said White, who was traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Europe.

The U.S. sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria. White said they’re “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

Also read: Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

While White did not mention the kinds of arms to be provided to the Kurds, other officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition, and light armored vehicles were possibilities. They said the U.S. would not provide artillery or surface-to-air missiles.

The officials weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and demanded anonymity. They described no firm timeline, with the American intention to provide the new weapons to the Syrian Kurds as soon as possible. A congressional aide said officials informed relevant members of Congress of the decision the evening of May 8.

The Obama administration had been leaning toward arming the Syrian Kurds but struggled with how that could be done without torpedoing relations with Turkey, which is a U.S. ally in NATO and a key political actor in the greater Middle East.

The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. trains Kurdish forces in the Middle East to help with the fight against terrorist groups in the area.

The issue has come to a head now because battlefield progress this year has put the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces nearly in position attack IS in Raqqa, although they are still attempting to isolate the city.

Even with the extra U.S. weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a difficult and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists’ state-building project. Raqqa is far smaller than Mosul, which is still not fully returned to Iraqi control after months of combat.

Related: Mattis warns that Syria still has chemical weapons

Senior U.S. officials including Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have met repeatedly with Turkish officials to try to work out an arrangement for the Raqqa assault that would be acceptable to Ankara. The Turks have insisted that the Syrian Kurds be excluded from that operation, but U.S. officials insisted there was no real alternative.

In her statement, White said the U.S. prioritizes its support for the Arab elements of the SDF.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” she said. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the U.S. is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

Other officials said Trump’s authorization includes safeguards intended to reassure the Turks that the additional U.S. weaponry and equipment will not be used by the Kurds in Turkey. The intent is to restrict the distribution and use of the weaponry by permitting its use for specific battlefield missions and then requiring the Kurds to return it to U.S. control.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit President Donald Trump in Washington in the third week of May. An Erdogan adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, met on May 9 with Thomas Shannon, the State Department No. 2 official.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

And in Denmark earlier May 9, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he had useful discussions with Turkey and described the two countries as working out differences over a U.S. alliance with Syrian Kurds in fighting Islamic State militants.

“That’s not to say we all walk into the room with exactly the same appreciation of the problem or the path forward,” Mattis told reporters after meeting with officials from more than a dozen nations also fighting IS. Basat Ozturk, a senior Turkish defense official, participated.

“We’re going to sort it out,” Mattis said. “We’ll figure out how we’re going to do it.”

Tensions escalated in April when Turkey conducted airstrikes on Kurdish bases in Syria and Iraq. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 militants and wounded scores. The Kurdish group in Syria said 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes.

The instability has concerned Washington, which fears it will slow the effort to retake Raqqa.

“We’ve been conducting military and diplomatic dialogue with the Turks and it was a very, very useful discussion today,” Mattis said at a press conference with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.

Articles

Behold, the largest plane in the US Air Force

At 222 feet across, almost 300 feet long, and 65 feet tall at its tail, Lockheed Martin’s C-5 Galaxy is the largest transport aircraft in the US Air Force. With a cargo hull 121 feet long and 19 feet across, the C-5 is a flying warehouse that can carry a combat-ready military unit or deliver necessary supplies anywhere in the world.


The C-5 has a cargo capacity of 142 tons, the equivalent of carrying two M1A1 Abrams tanks, six greyhound buses, or 25,844,746 ping-pong balls. Below, see just how awesome the C-5’s carrying capacity is.

The C-5 Galaxy absolutely dwarfs humans.

People in line to enter the 445th Airlift Wing’s first C-5A Galaxy in 2005. | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Charlie Miller

The engine alone is more than 7 feet across.

Staff Sgt. Randall Ard, 730th Air Mobility Squadron crew chief, clears the runway for a C-5 Galaxy at Yokota Air Base, Japan, August 31, 2015. | US Air Force photo

Even large helicopters are tiny compared to the C-5.

US Marine Corps Bell AH-1 Sea Cobra helicopters and a Bell UH-1N Twin Huey helicopter are parked on the flight line as a US Air Force C-5A Galaxy aircraft stands by after unloading supplies during Operation Desert Shield on January 23, 1991. | US Army

To ease loading and unloading, the C-5 opens from the nose and the tail end.

ILA-boy via Wikimedia Commons

With four massive engines that each produce the force of 800 cars, the C-5 sounds amazing. (Sound starts about 0:30 mark.)

Chinook helicopters fit with ease.

US Air Force photo

Hauling an A-10 is no problem.

US Air Force

Fighter jets fit too!

Members of the 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial port flight and 22nd Airlift Squadron prepare to load a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft onto a US Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, August 18, 2011. | US Air Force photo

Here comes the M1 Abrams.

US Air Force photo

Over 266,000 pounds of cargo and armored vehicles are loaded into a C-5 in Afghanistan.

Airmen from the 9th Airlift Squadron and 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron work with Marines from the Marine Expeditionary Brigade to load vehicles into a C-5 Super Galaxy October 6, 2014, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. | US Air Force photo

Here the C-5 unloads an 81-foot boat for the Navy.

A C-5 Galaxy offloads an 81-foot boat for the US Navy at Coronado Naval Base, California. | Photo by SSgt. Angel Gallardo

The C-130 is a big plane in its own right, but its fuselage fits easily inside the galaxy.

A C-130 Hercules training fuselage is loaded into a C-5 Galaxy for transport to Stratton Air National Guard Base, New York. This was the first time a C-5 transported a C-130 fuselage. | US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ty Moore

In times of trouble, when aid is needed on a huge scale, the C-5 is a welcome sight.

A C-5 Galaxy from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 433rd Airlift Wing is ready to depart a deployed location on another mission supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. | US Air Force photo by Capt. Jeremy Angel

Articles

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

The teams that have completed some of America’s most stunning special operations included a few airmen who are often overlooked when it comes time to glorify the heroes: Combat Controller Teams.


Combat Controllers are Air Force special operators trained to support all other special operators and to conduct their missions behind enemy lines. Here’s what makes them so effective under such challenging conditions.

Air Force special operators aren’t well known, but they have a reputation as both intellectuals and brawlers. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

First, Combat Controllers are certified as air traffic controllers and are also often certified as joint terminal attack controllers. These dual-certifications mean that they can direct friendly air traffic and request attacks against ground targets from the aircraft overhead.

Obviously, the guy who tells the A-10s where to shoot, the AC-130s where to fly, and the attack helicopters where they should enter and leave the battlespace is packing some serious firepower.

The Air Force’s AC-130s are literally airborne artillery. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

To do this mission, Combat Controller Teams move forward with Navy SEALs, Green Berets, or other Tier 1 operators and use a radio to keep in touch with air assets assigned to the mission. In fact, CCTs were originally formed to pair with Delta Force squadrons on their super-secret missions.

When they near an objective or get close to enemy forces, the CCTs call up their big brothers in the sky.

The controller tells the pilot what target needs to be taken out, where it’s at, and sometimes even what weapons and flight path the pilot should take.

As the combat controller is doing all that, he’s still in ground combat. While he’ll usually prefer to use his radio rather than his rifle — 30mm cannon fire from the sky is more lethal than 5.56mm rounds from the ground — he’s perfectly capable of going toe-to-toe with enemy soldiers when necessary.

Photographed: guys who are not afraid to fight you. (Photo: U.S Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

This connection with air assets also gives the CCTs a coveted battlefield asset: real-time surveillance. Pilots can describe what they see on the ground to the controller who keeps mission commanders in the loop. In some cases, pilots and drones can even send data streams to devices carried by the controller so the airman can watch the enemy in real time.

All these capabilities are valuable for joint operations, but they also allow combat controllers to conduct their own missions — which they do.

(Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

One such mission is covert airfield seizure. The Army will send Rangers or paratroopers to seize airfields from enemy forces, but dropping a few hundred infantrymen can draw a lot of attention.

So, sometimes the Air Force sends small teams of combat controllers and other Air Force special operators on their own if the base isn’t too heavily guarded.

The controllers will seize the airfield and then certify it for operations. Once they give their blessing to an airfield, reinforcements can land on the runway and support aircraft can come in for refueling and rearmament.

Controllers can also go into combat on their own to help allied forces or to direct airstrikes that will delay an enemy or break up an attack.

To get to the battlefield, the controllers can swim in with SCUBA and diving gear, parachute, ruck, drive, or even ride motorcycles.

Air Force special tactics officer Maj. Charlie Hodges described “bike chasers,” controllers who throw a motorcycle out of a plane, parachute after it, and then ride the bike to their objective when they reach the ground.

Wasn’t kidding about those bikes. (Photo: U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Gabe Johnson)

“All of our guys are trained to ride motorcycles,” Hodges told CNN. Getting to the fight sometimes “involves jumping out of an airplane, or sliding out a helicopter down a fast rope, or riding some sort of all-terrain vehicle, or going on a mountain path on foot.”

While Combat Controllers don’t always get the headlines and movies like SEAL Team Six, Delta Force, and others, they’ve proven themselves to be professional, courageous, and deadly in combat.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the cop who inspired ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘Bullitt’

Few cinematic crime fighters are more revered than Inspector Harry Callahan, from Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film, Dirty Harry. Before that, it might have been Frank Bullitt, as portrayed by Steve McQueen in 1968’s Bullitt. Both movies are centered around a hard-boiled police detective working the streets of San Francisco. Frank Bullitt was fighting mafia hitmen while Harry Callahan was trying to bring down an insane serial killer.

Both of these fictional detectives are based on one man: real-life San Francisco detective, Dave Toschi.


Behind that glorious bow tie is a force of nature.

At his desk in San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, one might not have picked out the man in a bow tie as someone who served in the 24th Infantry Division in Korea. It was the unit that took the brunt of a full-scale North Korean invasion with no reinforcements in sight, the unit that held the Pusan Perimeter for months on end, and the unit that pushed the Chinese back to the 38th Parallel the very next year. David Toschi was that guy, but he truly made his name as a police detective, cleaning the streets of San Francisco for 32 years.

He joined the force right after leaving the military, in 1953. His ties, signature suits, and “exaggerated” trench coats earned him the attention of the San Fran news media, but his work was his enduring legacy – and what ended up translated to the silver screen.

Actor Steve McQueen, upon meeting Toschi, demanded his character, Frank Bullitt, wear a similar shoulder holster.

Even though Toschi’s flair won him attention from the media, it was his biggest case that earned him the most acclaim – and would later be his downfall. He began working homicide in 1966. Just three years in, he was assigned to work the murder investigation of cab driver Paul Stine. Stine picked up a passenger who wanted to be taken from Geary Street to Maple Street in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood. Just one block North of Maple, the passenger shot Stine in the head, then took his keys, wallet, and a portion of his bloody shirt.

No one knew why until three days later, when the Zodiac sent a threatening letter to the San Francisco Chronicle with a piece of Stine’s shirt, to prove the cabbie was a victim of the Zodiac; the only time Zodiac killed inside the city.

In 1971’s ‘Dirty Harry’ the Toschi-inspired inspector hunted the killer calling himself ‘Scorpio,’ a figure ripped from the Zodiac headlines at the time.

Toschi estimated that he investigated 2,000-5,000 people while looking for Zodiac but the killer was never found. Toschi left homicide in 1978 and retired in 1985. Toschi was reassigned from the Zodiac case in 1977 after it was revealed that the detective sent so-called fake “fan letters” about his own performance in the case to the San Francisco Chronicle. Zodiac was active from 1969 through the early 1970s but sent letters to the paper for years.

Zodiac had a confirmed seven victims but claimed as many as 37. His last confirmed victim was Stine, and his last letter to the paper came in 1978. The prime suspect in the Zodiac case – and the man Toschi always suspected – was U.S. Navy veteran and schoolteacher, Arthur Leigh Allen.

Why didn’t we get this guy?” Toschi once asked the Chronicle. “I ended up with a bleeding ulcer over this case. It still haunts me. It always will.

Allen (left) in 1969, compared to the composite sketch of Zodiac from a 1969 attack in Napa County, Calif.

Toschi could never find enough evidence to bring Allen to trial, despite spending nine years on the case. Toschi’s other cases include bringing down a gang of murderers calling themselves the “Death Angels.” The group committed racially-motivated killings against white victims. They are known to have killed at least 15 but may be responsible for as many as 73 murders in San Francisco in 1974.

Dubbed the “Zebra Murders,” they caused widespread panic in the city of San Francisco at a time when the city was still reeling from the exploits of the Zodiac. Toschi was part of the team that helped bring the gang down and put them away for life.

It was Zodiac that kept his attention, but he never managed to pin the killer down.

I’m not a vengeful type, but when a life is taken, there must be justice,” he said.

Mark Ruffalo as Toschi in the 2007 film, ‘Zodiac.’

In the years following his service on the SFPD, he took a job doing private security and even as a technical advisor on the 2007 David Fincher film, Zodiac, watching actor Mark Ruffalo portray him on screen.

Every October 11, from 1970 until 2017, Toschi sat in his car at the same Presidio Heights location where Paul Stine was murdered by the Zodiac, wondering what he missed. Toschi died in January 2018 at the age of 86.

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After 100 years World War I battlefields are poisoned and uninhabitable

No war in recent memory can compare to the meat grinder of World War I. Europe still bears the scars of the war, even almost a century later. The gruesome and terrifying type of warfare typical of the Great War had a lasting impact on those who witnessed and experienced it. It also created such carnage on the land where it was fought that some of those areas are still uninhabitable to this day.


The Battlefield at The Somme (Imperial War Museum photo)

The uninhabitable areas are known as the Zone Rouge (French for “Red Zone”). They remain pock-marked and scarred by the intense fighting at places like Verdun and the Somme, the two bloodiest battles of the conflict.

During the Battle of Verdun, which lasted over 300 days in 1916, more than 60 million artillery shells were fired by both sides – many containing poisonous gases. These massive bombardments and the brutal fighting inflicted horrifying casualties, over 600,000 at Verdun and over 1 million at the Somme. But the most dangerous remnants of these battles are the unexploded ordnance littering the battlefield.

The Battlefield of Verdun in 2016 (French Government photo)

Immediately after the war, the French government quarantined much of the land subjected to the worst of the battles. Those areas that were completely devastated and destroyed, unsafe to farm, and impossible for human habitation became the Zone Rouge. The people of this area were forced to relocate elsewhere while entire villages were wiped off the map.

Nine villages deemed unfit to be rebuilt are known today as the “villages that died for France.” Inside the Zone Rouge signs marking the locations of streets and important buildings are the only reminders those villages ever existed.

Photo by Olivier Saint Hilaire

Areas not completely devastated but heavily impacted by the war fell into other zones, Yellow and Blue. In these areas, people were allowed to return and rebuild their lives. This does not mean that the areas are completely safe, however. Every year, all along the old Western Front in France and Belgium, the population endures the “Iron Harvest” – the yearly collection of hundreds of tons of unexploded ordnance and other war materiel still buried in the ground.

Occasionally, the Iron Harvest claims casualties of its own, usually in the form of a dazed farmer and a destroyed tractor. Not all are so lucky to escape unscathed and so the French and Belgian governments still pay reparations to the “mutilée dans la guerre“– the victims of the war nearly 100 years after it ended.

Photo by Olivier Saint Hilaire

To deal with the massive cleanup and unexploded ordnance issues, the French government created the Département du Déminage (Department of Demining) after World War II. To date, 630 minesweepers died while demining the zones.

An estimated 720 million shells were fired during the Great War, with approximately 12 million failing to detonate. At places like Verdun, the artillery barrages were so overwhelming, 150 shells hit every square meter of the battlefield. Concentrated barrages and driving rains turned the battlefield into a quagmire that swallowed soldiers and shells alike.

Photo by Olivier Saint Hilaire

Further complicating the cleanup is the soil contamination caused by the remains of humans and animals. The grounds are also saturated with lead, mercury, and zinc from millions of rounds of ammunition from small arms and artillery fired in combat. In some places, the soil contains such high levels of arsenic that nothing can grow there, leaving haunting, desolate spaces.

Photo by Olivier Saint Hilaire

Though the Zone Rouge started at some 460 square miles in size, cleanup efforts reduced it to around 65 square miles. With such massive amounts of explosives left in the ground, the French government estimates the current rate of removal will clear the battlefields between 300 and 900 years from now.

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11 crazy facts about Saddam Hussein

Dictators are colorful people, to put it mildly. It must be something about being constantly alone, maybe being a little paranoid all the time, or maybe they just get on a non-stop high from absolute power.


Hitler thought eating meat was abhorrent, but had no qualms about methamphetamine. Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier sent someone to collect the air around JFK’s grave so he could control the dead president’s soul. Muammar Qaddafi had a crush on Condoleezza Rice that rivals the one I have on Nicki Minaj.

Call me.

It seems like every dictator has some bizarre personality quirks or aspirations that may seem out of character. And Saddam Hussein was no different.

He penned a best-selling romance novel.

The book, “Zabiba and the King,” was originally published anonymously in 2000.  In the decade between its publishing and the Gulf War, the Iraqi dictator encouraged Iraqi artists to tell stories that surrounded the idyllic life in Iraq and to “bring the feats of the ‘Mother of All Battles’ home to the people.”

The author stated his humble desire to remain anonymous, but Iraqi newspapers started to report that Hussein might be the author. The book became an immediate bestseller, then was turned into a musical spectacular.

The CIA believes the book was at least supervised by the dictator.

Hussein thought the U.S. gave him the green light to invade Kuwait.

President Bush 41’s Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, told Hussein the U.S. did not want a trade war with Iraq. Saddam committed to peace, so long as the Kuwaitis agreed to meet OPEC production standards. Glaspie replied:

“We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait… The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America.”

The Kuwaitis did not meet OPEC’s standards so Iraqi tanks rolled across the border. The Iraqi leader was surprised when President Bush condemned the invasion.

He received a UNESCO award for raising Iraq’s quality of life.

Hussein served as the Ba’ath Party vice-chairman from 1968 to 1979. In that time, he created a nationwide literacy program, setting up reading circles in Iraq’s cities. Missing these classes was punishable by three years imprisonment.

He built roads, schools, and hospitals and carved out a public health system that was tops in the region. The UN’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization honored his achievement in helping to eradicate illiteracy in his country.

(Iraqi News Agency)

Then, in 1979, he seized power. His actions in the coming years would make his development work look like a planned deception.

A Saddam-like character was featured in a Justice League comic.

In a 1999 comic book, the Justice League of America – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Arrow, and others – watched as UN weapons inspectors were ejected from the rogue Middle East nation of Kirai. Meanwhile a well-meaning but naive new member of the League name Antaeus kills the dictator (who looks a lot like Saddam) of the country rather than do things the JLA way.

Antaeus shoots from the hip.

The country descends into a multi-faction civil war, ethnic conflict, regional powers exerting military influence, and a battlefield for the ongoing fight between Sunni and Shia Islam.

This was in 1999. If only President Bush read DC Comics.

He wiped out an entire civilization.

Saddam accused Iraq’s Marsh Arabs of colluding with the Iranians during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. In order to kill them all easier, he drained the legendary marshes – once thought to be the biblical garden of eden. The 9,000-square kilometer area was slowly dwindling to 760 by the time of the 2003 American invasion.

(Photo by Salim Virji, used by permission)

The people inhabiting those wetlands were either killed or forced to flee Saddam’s paranoid wrath. After the dictator’s ouster, the Iraqis destroyed the dams preventing water from flowing back into the wetlands and its ancient inhabitants started to return.

In 2016, UNESCO named the wetlands a World Heritage Site.

Hussein pledged $94 million to help America’s poor.

Well before September 11, 2001 changed the future of American foreign policy and the day before President George W. Bush took office, Saddam Hussein sought to send $94 million to the United States. The reason: “humanitarian aid for the “homeless and wretched Americans living in poverty.”

He received the key to the city of Detroit.

The year he took power in Iraq, Hussein received a congratulatory note from a Reverend Jacob Yasso in Detroit. The dictator sent Yasso and his congregation of Chaldean Christians $250,000. Chaldeans are a sect of Christianity with roots in modern-day Iraq.

Yasso (right) presents the Key to Detroit to Saddam Hussein. (Iraqi State Media)

Yasso was invited to come to Baghdad and meet Saddam. While there, he presented the Iraqi dictator with the key to the city of Detroit, courtesy of then-Mayor Coleman Young. Hussein then gave the church another $200,000.

He hated Froot Loops.

U.S. Army Spc. Sean O’Shea, a Pennsylvania National Guardsman, was charged with being the personal jailer for Saddam while the toppled dictator was a prisoner of the Americans in Baghdad. O’Shea mopped the floors, served him meals, and was essentially a sort of valet for Saddam Hussein.

The old man gave him advice on everything from women to home remedies. One of the few times O’Shea ever “saw him look defeated” was when the jail ran out of Raisin Bran Crunch and had to serve the guy Froot Loops. The dictator hated them.

(Read more about Spc. O’Shea’s life with Saddam over at GQ)

He offered to debate George W. Bush on live TV.

In an effort to prevent the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the dictator offered to debate U.S. President George W. Bush on live TV. In a three-hour interview with CBS News, he offered a satellite link up to debate the U.S. President.

“I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue – a debate – with your president,” CBS quoted Saddam as saying. “I will say what I want and he will say what he wants.”

The White House said the offer wasn’t a serious one but Hussein reiterated his stance.

“This is something proposed in earnest out of my respect for the people of the United States and the people of Iraq and the people of the world. I call for this because war is not a joke.”

He commissioned a Qur’an written in his own blood.

Despite the fact that using blood to write a Qur’an is considered haram – forbidden – in every sect, branch, and offshoot of Islam, that never stopped Saddam Hussein. He commissioned one on his 60th birthday. Calligrapher Abbas Shakir Joudi wrote 6,000 verses and 336,000 words of the Qur’an using 50 pints of blood over the course of two years.

If you’re a blood expert who questions if it’s possible to give that much blood over two years, you aren’t alone. A blood donation expert once estimated it would have taken at least nine years to safely donate that much blood. That sort of thing never stopped Saddam Hussein either.

Young Saddam was raised by a single mother and wanted to be a lawyer.

The young Saddam was raised by his mother after his father, a shepherd, disappeared one day. The main male influence in his life was his uncle, who was a member of the Ba’ath Party. After his brother died of cancer, Hussein’s mother was no longer able to take care of Saddam and he lived with his Arab nationalist uncle in Baghdad.

Beware Iraqi Presidents bearing swords.

After a failed assassination attempt on the sitting Iraqi president, Abd al-Karim Qasim, Saddam fled to Syria, then Egypt, where he studied law.

When Qasim was ousted for good in 1963, Saddam the educated lawyer returned to Iraq and the Ba’ath party.

Articles

This song will give you a flashback to your time in the service

From the time the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, infantry Marines are out on the range or catching some much-needed shut-eye — usually in an uncomfortable place.


While on active duty, they’ll lament their decision-making history while hauling heavy combat loads across the rough and unforgiving terrain or missing important events back home or, you know, taking fire from terrorists.

But at the end of the day, ask any Marine and they’ll tell you: all that blood and sweat they shed was worth it. Not only that, their shared hardships become the foundation of some epic memories.

Related: This Marine rapper spits lyrics that veterans know all too well

Life after the military can be a challenging and confusing time as many veterans attempt to find themselves. For the Marine-turned-rapper known as Fitzy Mess, using his passion for music to help tell the stories of his unique experiences is a way of easing the transition.

Fitzy Mess performs on stage wearing the legendary silkies. (Source: Fitzy Mess’ Facebook)

“To tell the truth its fun as hell for me, puking up booze while my platoon sergeant yells at me,” Fitzy Mess raps.

We’ve all been there, Fitzy Mess. We’ve all been there…

Also Read: 9 things you should know before becoming a Marine infantry officer

Check out Fitzy Mess‘ video below to hear the lyrics that reflect on his time serving in the Marine Corps — we bet the veterans out there will find themselves relating:

(Fitzy Mess, YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the responses to Trump’s DC military parade

President Donald Trump has directed the Pentagon to prepare a grand military parade in Washington, DC, and the initial response has been largely negative.


Democratic lawmakers quickly came out against it Feb. 6, with Rep. Jackie Speier of California telling CNN, “we have a Napoleon in the making here” and saying, “everyone should be offended” by the idea.

“Oh my god… he wants to be Kim Jong Un,” the MSNBC personality Joy Reid remarked on Twitter in response to the news.

The Pentagon is said to be exploring dates for such a parade. But if it does happen, Trump wouldn’t be the first U.S. president, or even the first modern one, to hold a military parade in Washington, DC.

There’s a long history of military parades in the U.S., but its recent history is anchored in the Cold War when the U.S. showed off nuclear missiles long before North Korea’s Kim dynasty even had the capability.

Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Recent history of U.S. military parades — and their nukes

In 1953 and 1957, Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugurations included nuclear-capable missiles rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy’s inaugural parade included four types of nuclear missiles, the nuclear historian Stephen Schwartz pointed out on Twitter.

Both Kennedy and Eisenhower presided over some of the tensest days of the Cold War-era nuclear-arms race with the Soviet Union.

In Kennedy’s case, a frightened U.S. had just watched the Soviets’ Sputnik satellite, mankind’s first, passing through the skies. American schoolchildren were drilled on how to hide under desks in the event of a nuclear attack. After all, if the Soviets could put a satellite in space and fly it around the world, they could also put up the bomb.

On the other end of the Cold War, when the U.S. emerged victorious from the Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush brought back the military for another parade.

The U.S. victory had been decisive, with Saddam Hussein’s army, the world’s third-largest at the time, decimated by superior U.S. military power. Though 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. casualties were forecast in the conflict, where chemical weapons had killed scores of civilians, fewer than 300 U.S. troops died.

Also Read: North Korea wants to scare the US with a huge military parade

The U.S. brought its troops home for a parade in June 1991, when Bush’s approval rating was soaring.

Later that year, the Kremlin lowered the Communist hammer-and-sickle flag for the last time. The Soviet Union imploded, and the Cold War ended.

The Cold War is back on, parades and all

Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has withdrawn troops from Europe and taken measures to reduce its military footprint and nuclear stockpiles. The Obama administration increasingly treated Russia like a partner and less like a competitor.

But late in Obama’s presidency, the tide started to turn. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 to a muted U.S. and NATO response.

Russia intervened in Syria’s civil war the next year and immediately started bombing U.S.-backed forces. Additionally, Russia stands accused of violating arms-control agreements with the U.S. and placing nuclear weapons in Europe, much as it did in the Cold War.

China, over the same period, embarked on a massive, ambitious campaign to rebuild its military and dominate the South China Sea, a shipping lane where annual commerce worth trillions of dollars passes through, and where China has ignored international law in building artificial islands in contested territory.

The return to Cold War footing for Eastern powers isn’t Trump’s doing and didn’t happen on his watch, but the U.S.’s embrace of a new Cold War definitely is.

China and North Korea used to be friends. Now, China won’t even take their calls.

Trump takes aim at China and Russia, looking to fight fire with fire

The Trump administration recently released a series of documents outlining the U.S.’s foreign policy and military bearings. In the National Defense Strategy, the National Security Strategy, and the Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration has consistently named its biggest challenges as taming the rises of Russia and China.

Trump’s new nuclear posture looks past arms control and toward an arms race.

Russia regularly holds military parades. So does North Korea. So do many U.S. allies, including many democracies.

Trump’s military parade may be costly, and it may tax an already stretched military, but in context, it marks a return to Cold War-era great-power competition.

Articles

World’s most-advanced aircraft carrier one step closer to completion

The massive USS Gerald R. Ford will head out to sea for builders’ trials next month in a critical test before the US Navy intends to commission the ship later this year, USNI News reports.


The Ford will improve on the Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers with a rearranged flight deck, improved launching and landing systems, and a nuclear power plant with outsized capabilities that can integrate future technologies such as railguns and lasers.

Also read: The F-35 may be ready for prime time

The Ford’s commissioning will bring the count of full-sized carriers to a whopping 11 for the United States — more than the rest of the world combined.

Tugboats maneuver the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) into the James River. | US Navy

The ship will sail out for a test of its most basic functions like navigation and communications, as well as a test of its nuclear-powered propulsion plant.

Its most advanced features, like its electromagnetic catapults for launching bomb- and fuel-laden jets from the deck, will not undergo testing.

Newport News Shipbuilding floods Dry Dock 12 to float the first in class aircraft carrier, Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua J. Wahl

The Ford, like almost any large first-in-class defense project, has encountered substantial setbacks and challenges as the Navy and contractors attempt to bring next-generation capabilities to the US’s aircraft carriers. Notably, the Navy has expressed doubts about the advanced arresting gear, which helps speeding planes land quickly and gently, saying it may scrap the program in favor of the older system used on Nimitz-class carriers.

But the Navy is determined to commission the Ford sometime this year, as calls for increasing the Navy’s size and strength come from the Trump administration and outside assessments.

MIGHTY MONEY

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

It’s time for taxes! Whether you are a single service member living in the barracks, a retired four star spending your days fishing in Hawaii, or a veteran with a family working your way through college, taxes have to be done.


I used to have this elementary school teacher, Mrs. West.

I remember Mrs. West standing in front of our class and telling us with extreme seriousness that only two things in America were guaranteed: eventual death and taxes.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Holden Smith, 633rd Air Base Wing Judge Advocate paralegal, assists Senior Airman Terrence Eaton, logistics readiness squadron vehicle maintenance journeymen, in filling out a form at the Langley Air Force Base, Va., tax center Feb. 5, 2013. Joint Base Langley-Eustis tax centers are set to open Feb. 2 for the 2015 income tax season. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Aubrey White/ Released)

I remember that half of my class got super interested in science in hopes of figuring out how to one day live forever, and the rest of us just kind of groaned and decided that our parents were going to do our taxes forever if the other kids figured out that whole science thing.

And so far those damn science kids still haven’t come through for us, and we still have to pay taxes.

Adulting is hard AF, amiright?

Don’t have a heart attack yet, because there is hope — not for science, they still haven’t come through — but for taxes.

There are a lot of ways and places to get your taxes done for free or almost free, and this is really great because math and I got a divorce in my freshmen year of college and we haven’t spoken since.

Army Spc. Coltin Jenkins, tax preparer, works with customers of the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Consolidated Tax center in Building 205 on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base March 17, 2015. (Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall PAO photo by Rachel Larue)

1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

VITA, is sponsored by the IRS. Most larger military installations have a VITA office on base during tax season. VITA isn’t military specific, but they generally help tax payers who make less than $54,000. Check out VITA, what you need to take with you on a visit, and where their offices are.

2. Military OneSource

This outfit prepares and files taxes for free for active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve, and their spouses; retirees who were honorably discharged and are within 180 days past their discharge date, eligible survivors of active duty, National Guard and Reserve deceased service members, and family members who are in charge of the affairs of eligible service members are also eligible.

3. IRS Free File

Get this, the IRS lets you do your own taxes. For free. Sweet deal? Or worst nightmare. You decide. Either way, the IRS will allow you to download software to do your taxes for free if you make below $64,000, and they’ll give you a free form if you make above $64,000. I guess the folks sitting right on $64,000 are just SOL.

4. TurboTax

Uber popular TurboTax has a sweet deal right now. You can download their 1040EZ or 1040A for free, and the rest of their products are fairly well discounted. E1 – E5 can get the Deluxe Edition from TurboTax for free (normally $54.99), and E6 and above get a discount on all products. The best thing about TurboTax is if for any reason the IRS comes back and says “You done effed up,” TurboTax will pay you for the IRS penalties.

5. TaxSlayer.com

This service has a great military discount. Currently, its website advertises 50 percent off classic or premium editions. They have free email and phone support, and boast about being 100 percent accurate. They do not, however, guarantee no penalties from the IRS if there is a mistake.

6. H&R Block

These guys have a cool thing for filing online for anywhere from free to $38.49. The program is called H&R Block More Zero (because “Taxes are Lame” and “You Think These Taxes are About You” was apparently taken). H&R Block does offer peace of mind. For a fee. And it really is called “Peace of Mind.”

Here’s how it works: You get your taxes done. You pay an additional fee, and they promise that if you’re audited, they’ll send one of their lawyers to court with you and pay up to $6,000 in fees if they lose. If you don’t pay the extra… no peace of mind for you.

Also, they don’t offer any kind of discount for military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22s will soon deploy anywhere in the world with 24 hours notice

The Air Force is strengthening its “Rapid Raptor” program designed to fast-track four F-22s to war — anywhere in the world — within 24 hours, on a moments notice, should there be an immediate need for attacks in today’s pressured, fast-moving global threat environment , service officials said.


The program, in existence for several years, prepares four F-22s with the requisite crew members, C-17 support, fuel, maintenance and weapons necessary to execute a fast-attack “first-strike” ability in remote or austere parts of the world, Air Force officials say.

First strike options are, according to military planners, of particular significance for the F-22 Raptor, given its technical focus on using stealth and air-to-air combat technology to attack heavily defended or “contested” enemy areas.

“If jets, no matter how technically advanced, tactically skilled and strategically sound in the air, can only leap from well-known base to well-known base, their first-strike threat is limited,” an Air Force statement said.

Most air attack contingencies, it seems almost self-evident, are likely to include F-22s as among the first to strike; the aircraft is designed to engage and destroy enemy air threats and also use stealth to destroy enemy air defenses – creating an “air corridor” for other fighters. Although not intended to function as a higher altitude stealth bomber, an F-22 is well suited to a mission objective aimed at destroying enemy aircraft, including fighters, as well as air defenses.

F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kayla Newman)

​The Raptor is, by design, engineered to fly in tandem with fourth-generation fighters such as an F-15 or F-18, to not only pave the way for further attacks but also to use its longer-range sensors to hand off targets to 4th gen planes for follow-on attacks.

Rapid Raptor was originally developed by Air Force Pacific Command and has since been expanded to a global sphere by Air Combat Command, service officials said.

“The ACC Rapid Raptor program’s aim is to take the concept, as developed in PACAF, and change it from a theater specific to a worldwide capability.” Staff. Sgt. Sarah Trachte, Air Combat Command spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a written statement.

Also read: This ‘Einstein Box’ helps F-22s secretly communicate with unstealthy planes

As part of the Rapid Raptor concept, ACC F-22s forward deployed to Europe in 2015 and 2016, she added. Using the Rapid Raptor program for Europe is, in many respects, entirely consistent with the Pentagon’s broader European posture; for many years now, DoD and NATO have been positioning deterrence-oriented forces throughout the European continent as well conducting numerous allied “solidarity” or “interoperability” exercises.

Apart from demonstrating force as a counterbalance to Russian posturing, these activities are also part of a decided strategic effort to demonstrate “mobility” and rapid deployability.

An F-22 Raptor intercepts Russian Bear In Alaska.

Therefore, so while Air Force officials are careful to say the Rapid Raptor, as a concept does, not “target” any specific nation, its utilization in Europe is indeed of great relevance given existing tensions with Russia.

Furthermore, multiple news reports cited F-22 participation in wargame exercises over the Korean peninsula last year – a fact which certainly lends evidence to the possibility that the Raptor would figure prominently in any attack on North Korea.

Related: Russian fighters and F-22s almost had a catastrophic midair crash

Also, apart from being prepared to conduct major-power, nation state warfare across the globe within 24-hours, the Rapid Raptor program is designed to enable ground attack options in unexpected, remote or “austere” target areas.

Accordingly, should the need to attack emerge suddenly in a particular part of the world, a small continent of F-22s will be able to get there. The point here, it seems clear, is that recent global combat circumstances have further reinforced the importance of the F-22s ground attack or close-air-support ability.

Of course, historically, many most immediately think of the F-22 in terms of its speed, maneuverability and dogfighting advantage as an air supremacy fighter, yet its recent air to ground attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan have fortified its role in an air-to-ground fight.

An F-22 deploys flares. (Photo by USAF.)

While the F-22 is by no means intended to function as an A-10 would in a close-in ground fight persay, it does have a 20mm cannon which has been used in ground attacks against ISIS, officials familiar with the war effort say.

As recently as this past November, the F-22 conducted a successful ground attack against a Taliban facility in Afghanistan, news reports and officials familiar with the attack said.

More: This is what the F-22 Raptor’s replacement will be like

To support these kinds of mission options, the F-22 weapons compliment includes ground-specific attack weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions – such as the GBU 32 and GBU 39 — and the Small Diameter Bomb.

“Since the jet first deployed in 2014, it has been capable of air-to-ground and air-to-air. We have the small diameter bomb and JDAMs in the AOR. its typical load out is eight SDBs and two AMRAAMS (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile),” Ken Merchant, Vice President, F-22 programs, Lockheed Martin, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

MIGHTY TRENDING

West backs up Ukraine as it tries to recover captured sailors

A Russian court has ordered several of the Ukrainian sailors who were captured by Russian coast-guard forces during a confrontation at sea off Crimea to be held in custody for two months.

The Nov. 27, 2018, rulings by the court in Simferopol, the capital of Russian-controlled Crimea, signaled the Kremlin’s defiance of calls by Kyiv and the West to release two dozen crew members who were seized along with three Ukrainian Navy vessels following hours of hostility at sea two days earlier.


Raising the stakes after tensions spiked when Russian coast-guard craft rammed and fired on the Ukrainian boats on Nov. 25, 2018, the court was holding custody hearings for 12 of the crewmen. A Russian official said nine others would face hearings on Nov. 28, 2018.

So far, four have been ordered held in pretrial detention — which usually means custody behind bars in a jail — until Jan. 25, 2019. Under Russian law, detention terms can be extended by courts at the request of prosecutors, and it was not immediately clear when the sailors might face trial.

Officials identified the Ukrainians as Volodymyr Varemez, the captain of a navy tugboat that was rammed by a Russian vessel, and sailors Serhiy Tsybizov, Andriy Oprysko, and Viktor Bespalchenko.

The Russian news agency Interfax reported that the Ukrainians were charged with “illegal border crossing by a group of individuals acting in collusion, or by an organized group, or with the use of or the threat to use violence.”

The court hearings came hours after Western leaders, speaking on Nov. 26, 2018, condemned what they called Russia’s “outrageous” violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty as well as international maritime treaties, and called on Moscow to immediately release the detainees.

Conflicting reports have put the number of Ukrainians detained at 23 and 24. The court rulings put them in a situation similar to that of several Ukrainians, including film director Oleh Sentsov, who are being held in Russian prisons and jails for what Kyiv and Western governments say are political reasons.

In the running confrontation off Crimea on Nov. 25, 2018, a Russian coast-guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian tugboat in an initial encounter, and a few hours later the Russian vessels opened fire before special forces stormed the three Ukrainian boats. Six Ukrainians were injured.

The hostilities injected yet more animus into the badly damaged relationship between Kyiv and Moscow, which seized Crimea in March 2014 and backs armed separatists in a simmering war that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since that April.

Those Russian actions, a response to the downfall of a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was pushed from power by the pro-European protest movement known as the Euromaidan, have also severely damaged its ties with the West.

The confrontation came days before Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hold talks with U.S. President Donald Trump ion the sidelines of a G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 2018.

It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait — the narrow body of water, now spanned by a bridge from Russia to Crimea, that is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, including Mariupol.

On Nov. 26, 2018, Ukraine declared martial law in 10 of its 27 regions — including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines — following what it called a Russian “act of aggression.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned “this aggressive Russian action,” and called on Moscow to return the vessels and crews, and abide by Ukraine’s “internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters.”

Pompeo said both sides should “exercise restraint and abide by their international obligations and commitments” and said Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, should “engage directly to resolve this situation.”

Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Nov. 26, 2018, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called the incident an “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory” and a “reckless Russian escalation” of its conflict with Ukraine.

Britain’s Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen said Russia “wants to consolidate its illegal annexation of Crimea and annex the Sea of Azov.”

The international community will not accept this, he said, insisting that Russia “must not be allowed to rewrite history by establishing new realities on the ground.”

Martial law will come into force on Nov. 28, 2018, in 10 Ukrainian regions that Poroshenko said are the most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia,” and will be in place for 30 days.

The measure includes a partial mobilization of forces, a strengthening of Ukraine’s air defenses, and other unspecified steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime.”

Putin expressed “serious concern” over the Ukrainian decision in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Kremlin said on Nov. 27, 2018.

The Russian leader also said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” a statement said.

“The imposition of martial law in various regions potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region, in the southeast” of Ukraine, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later told reporters.

Hours before the court hearings, Russian state-run TV channel Rossia-24 showed images of several of the detained Ukrainians that were apparently recorded during interrogations by Russia’s security services.

One of them parroted the version of events put forward by Russian authorities, saying, “The actions of the Ukrainian armed vessels in the Kerch Strait had a provocative character.”

One of the detained appeared to be reading his statement. Russian law enforcement agencies frequently provide state media with footage of suspects being questioned under duress.

In Kyiv, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) confirmed that a number of its officers were among those captured.

One of them was seriously wounded after a Russian aircraft fired two missiles at the Ukrainian boats, SBU head Vasyl Hrytsak said in a statement.

Calling Russia’s capture of Ukrainian crews “unacceptable,” the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, urged Russia to “immediately release” those detained and provide them with medical aid.

She also called on both sides to use “utmost restraint” to prevent the only live war in Europe from escalating.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia “has to understand that its actions have consequences. We will remain in contact with the Ukrainian government to underline our support.”

Unlike other U.S. officials, who vocally backed Ukraine and criticized Russia, President Trump did not name either country in a brief response to a reporter’s question about the confrontation.

“Either way, we don’t like what’s happening. And hopefully they’ll get straightened out. I know Europe is not — they are not thrilled. They are working on it, too. We are all working on it together,” Trump said.

Russia’s acting UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, accused the Ukrainian Navy of “staging an aggressive provocation,” which he claimed was aimed at drumming up public support for Poroshenko ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election in March.

“They have no hope to remain in power otherwise,” he said, while condemning Western leaders for condoning what he called their “puppets” in Kyiv.

“I want to warn you that the policy run by Kyiv in coordination with the EU and the U.S. of provoking conflict with Russia is fraught with most serious consequences,” Polyansky said.

At the outset of the UN Security Council meeting on the incident, Russia suffered a setback after it sought to discuss the clash under an agenda item that described the incident as a violation of Russia’s borders.

This was rejected in a procedural vote, with only China, Bolivia, and Kazakhstan siding with Russia. The Security Council then discussed the clash under terms laid out by Ukraine.

The naval confrontation took place as the Ukrainian vessels were approaching the Kerch Strait, the only access to the Sea of Azov.

A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.

But Moscow has been asserting greater control since its takeover of Crimea — particularly since May 2018, when it opened a bridge linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the eastern side of the Kerch Strait.

“I have to emphasize that, according to the international law, Crimea and respective territorial waters are the Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation,” Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko told the Security Council.

“Hence, there are no Russian borders in the area where the incident happened. I repeat — there are no Russian state borders around the Crimean Peninsula,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian military tells soldiers ‘no more smartphones on duty’

Russian lawmakers have approved a bill banning the armed forces from carrying smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets capable of recording and keeping information while on duty.

According to the bill, approved in its third and final reading in the lower house on Feb. 19, 2019, only regular phones with no cameras and without an Internet connection are now allowed in the Russian armed forces.


The bill also bans military personnel from sharing information online about their military units, missions, services, colleagues, former colleagues, and their relatives.

The bill says that “information placed on the Internet or mass media by military personnel is … in some cases used to shape a biased assessment of the Russian Federation’s state policies.”

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

The bill was approved by 408 lawmakers with no vote against.

The legislation was necessary because military personnel were of “particular interest for the intelligence services of foreign governments, for terrorists, and extremist organizations,” the Duma said.

In recent years, photos and video footage inadvertently posted online via smartphones by members of the Russian military have revealed information about the location and movements of its troops and equipment.

Human rights activists were also sometimes able to obtain from the Internet video and photographic proof of the hazing of young recruits in the Russian military.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.