A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban

The Breadwinner, a new, critically acclaimed animation film that depicts the heroic struggles of a young Afghan girl under hard-line Taliban rule, is a testament to the desire for storytelling “when our world tips upside-down,” says its award-winning Irish filmmaker.


Adapted from Canadian author Deborah Ellis’s bestselling children’s novel of the same name, it tells the story of 11-year-old Parvana, who disguises herself as a boy to support her family after her father is wrongfully imprisoned.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
The Breadwinner (Image from Cartoon Saloon YouTube)

Undaunted by oppression and the horrors of war around her, the heroine embarks on a quest to free her father. To console her younger siblings and find refuge from her struggles, Parvana invents a fable about a courageous boy who stands up to the so-called Elephant King.

“As the film is set around 2001, all of the characters in this film are a product of decades of war, each character deals with their challenges in different ways,” director Nora Twomey, whose other credits include the Academy Award-nominated The Secret Of Kells and Song Of The Sea, tells RFE/RL. “The film explores the idea of transformation, how small actions, or words, have the potential to become a catalyst for change.”

During its brutal rule of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, the fundamentalist Taliban banned women and girls from attending school, working outside the home, or even venturing outdoors unless accompanied by a male relative.

The Breadwinner has earned plaudits and been well received by audiences around the world since its November release, and has been nominated for the Best Motion Picture, Animated, at the Golden Globes.

Oscar-winning actor-director Angelina Jolie is an executive producer.

 

(Cartoon Saloon | YouTube) 

Historical Affinity

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland when Northern Ireland was engulfed in war and sectarianism, Twomey says she feels an affinity for Afghans who have endured nearly four decades of almost uninterrupted bloodshed.

“As an Irish woman, having grown up as Northern Ireland experienced conflict and reconciliation, I have some small understanding of a few of the issues facing Afghan people,” she says.

“Afghans, much like the Irish, are a nation of storytellers,” she adds. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The Irish experienced occupation, famine, and war yet the storyteller was a welcome visitor to any house they came to. When our world tips upside-down, we all look to stories to try to make sense of what is going on inside of us.”

Twomey says her film is not just an appeal for women’s rights or a critique of misogyny in Afghanistan.

“By telling a story like this through animation, there is the potential to create empathy,” says Twomey, “whether that be empathy between the genders or between different parts of the world.”

Also Read: Watch This Iraq War Veteran’s Tragic Story Told Through The Lens Of A Cartoon

Twomey has said she hopes the film will prompt discussions about the West’s involvement in wars in the Muslim world and evoke compassion for immigrants and refugees amid growing anti-Islam and anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe and the United States.

Twomey and her Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon studios gained international fame with The Secret Of Kells, which she co-directed.

The Breadwinner marks her solo directing debut with a feature-length film.

“I believe animation can allow an audience to identify more closely with a character,” she says. “If you express a character with a few drawn lines, that character could be you or me. The more detail you add, the more ‘other’ it becomes. There is a language created between the characters, their environment, reality, and the animator which says something new.”

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
The Breadwinner (Image from Cartoon Saloon YouTube)

Red Flags

The Breadwinner might have raised some red flags for international audiences increasingly aware of cultural appropriation. It is set in Afghanistan but made mostly by Westerners and based largely on the accounts of Ellis, the book’s activist author, who interviewed Afghan refugees in Pakistan in the 1990s.

But Twomey, who has not visited Afghanistan, says that at every stage Afghans were involved in crafting the sensibility of the film. She says it is based on the interviews conducted by Ellis for her novel and the testimonies of Afghan members of her cast.

“We found moments that ring true, like the dread of a knock at the door, the smell of fresh bread, [or] the VHS tapes strung up on electricity poles as a warning against media of any kind,” Twomey says. “These moments in the film come from Afghan memory, and it seems fitting that these moments are translated through the hands of artists and animators to reflect back these words in an empathetic way.”

The Breadwinner is not the first film to delve into the issue of bacha posh — literally “dressed like a boy” in Dari, the form of Persian spoken in Afghanistan. The device of a girl dressing as a boy was central to the award-winning film Osama (2003), directed by Siddiq Barmak; the Disney animated film Mulan (1998); and even Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

“Parvana and Osama are very different characters, who undergo different journeys, with different relationships,” says Twomey.” With The Breadwinner, I wanted to make a film that was accessible to young adults and also one that leaves our audience with hope. Hope in the form of Parvana herself.”

Articles

Iran wants to join the ‘carrier club’

Iran has decided it wants to join the aircraft carrier club, with Tehran’s Deputy Navy Commander for Coordination making a statement to Iran’s Fars News Agency.


According to a report by the Times of Israel, Adm. Peiman Jafari Tehrani reportedly said, “Building an aircraft carrier is also among the goals pursued by the navy and we hope to attain this objective.”

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Noble

Currently, the United States, India, China, Russia, Brazil, and France operate conventional aircraft carriers. Spain, Japan, Italy, and Thailand operate aircraft carriers for short take-off, vertical landing aircraft — with the United Kingdom in the midst of building two. India also operates an old V/STOL carrier.

Iran has a substantial domestic arms industry and has built its own warships, including the Peykan-class missile boats and the Jamaran-class frigates.

Iran also claims to have deployed the Bavar 373, a knock-off of the SA-10 anti-aircraft missile, and to have copied the RQ-170, an example of which was captured in 2011. Iran also has built modified versions of the Northrop F-5, known as the Saeqeh.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the Iranian navy to look into constructing nuclear-powered military vessels, according to a report by the Daily Caller. Currently, only the United States, India, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France have such vessels in service.

2016 was notable for a number of incidents where Iranian forces harassed or threatened United States Navy personnel.

In January, Iran held a number of U.S. sailors for 15 hours after one of the boats there were on had engine trouble. This past summer, Iranian harassment reached the point where USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots.

United States Navy aircraft received threatening messages from Iran in September. The following month, Iranian-backed rebels damaged HSV 2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel, then carried out multiple attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, prompting retaliation from the Mason’s sister ship, USS Nitze (DDG 94).

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army soldier learns it takes two to earn coveted badge

“I walked over to the NCO of my starting lane for land navigation and I asked him, ‘Hey sergeant, do you want me to line up behind you?'” said DeMarsico as he recalled the first time he participated in Expert Field Medical Badge qualification testing. “He said, ‘I need your name and roster number.’ I did not think anything of it at the time so I went out and found all four of my points. When I came back he told me I was going to be an administrative ‘no-go’ for the lane because I spoke to him.”

Recently promoted U.S. Army Spc. Thomas DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Polk, first attempted to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge at Fort Bliss, Texas. The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division hosted the special qualification testing in September 2019.

“I attempted to rebut the decision with the board because AR 350-10 says you cannot talk to other candidates during land nav, not the cadre,” DeMarsico said. “The board denied my rebuttal. That was it; they just dropped me. I was super crushed after that. I decided at that moment I was done with EFMB and the Army.”


Similar to the expert infantry badge, the EFMB is not an easy badge to earn. Combat medics wanting to earn the coveted badge must be physically and mentally prepared to undergo rigorous testing after being recommended by their unit commanders.

Fort Polk’s 3rd BCT, 10th Mtn Div medics on temporary duty in the Fort Bliss area were invited to participate in EFMB qualification testing. When DeMarsico found out he had the opportunity to attend the testing he immediately volunteered.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban

U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to headquarters and headquarters company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divsion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, poses with his new expert field medical badge in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 6, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Ashley Morris)

“I always take every opportunity that comes my way,” DeMarsico said. “I know that EFMB really sets you apart from your peers.”

EFMB candidates must successfully receive a “go” on all five sections of EFMB testing: The Army Physical Fitness Test, a written test, land navigation, combat testing lanes and a 12-mile forced march.

Candidates must receive a score of 80% or higher in each event of the APFT and be in compliance with Army height and weight standards. The only re-testable section is the written test in which candidates must successfully answer 60 out of 80 questions.

On the second day of testing soldiers must receive a “go” for both day and night land navigation. During the combat testing lanes medics must complete 43 tasks correctly: 10 tactical combat casualty care tasks, 10 evacuation tasks, 13 warrior skills tasks and five communication tasks.

After learning that his leadership tried to get him readmitted to the Fort Bliss qualification, DeMarsico realized that accepting defeat was not an option.

“I felt so much better knowing that they had my back,” Demarisco said. “They were willing to send us again so I was willing to try again.”

DeMarsico was afforded the opportunity to test again, this time at Fort Hood, Texas. DeMarsico, along with three other medics from 2nd Bn, 4th Inf Reg,were sent to Fort Hood to attend EFMB qualification hosted by 1st Medical Brigade. Standardization of the combat testing lanes began Sept. 23, 2019, with testing beginning Sept. 28, 2019, and ending with the forced march on Oct. 4, 2019.

One hundred and fifty-five soldiers started the event. DeMarsico was one of six medics that successfully earned the EFMB. He was the only junior enlisted to successfully complete the qualification.

DeMarsico attributed his success to lane standardization he received at Fort Bliss.

“We tried to train up for the Bliss EFMB but it was hard to tell exactly how the lanes would be run,” DeMarsico said. “After seeing the lanes at Bliss we knew how to study. I knew what I needed to work on. It helped me a lot.”

Although DeMarsico said he felt confident about the combat testing lanes, there was another area where he did not feel as confident. A self-proclaimed land navigation expert, DeMarsico admitted the night land navigation course was tough.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban

U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class Thomas F. DeMarsico, a combat medic assigned to headquarters and headquarters company, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Divsion at Fort Polk, Louisiana, checks to make sure his compass is calibrated prior to the start of land navigation testing for the expert field medical badge on Fort Bliss, Texas, Sep. 6, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Ashley Morris)

The first time DeMarsico went through EFMB testing he was only able to complete day land navigation. With limited experience in navigating in the dark and a difference in terrain, DeMarsico was only able to find three out of the four points. Even though it was not a perfect score, it was enough for him to advance to the combat testing lanes. Out of the 155 that begin EFMB testing, only 19 medics passed land navigation testing.

During the final event of EFMB, nine soldiers started the forced march but only six finished within the required three hour time limit. DeMarsico came in first place. For most soldiers, coming in first during a timed 12-mile ruck march would feel like the crowning achievement. For DeMarsico, he felt frustration.

“My time was two hours and 56 seconds!” DeMarsico said. “Me and this major were in the lead the entire time, far ahead of everyone else. At the 11th mile marker point, the private giving directions told us to go down the wrong road. The major went a mile down that road with me trailing behind him. Luckily he had a GPS watch that told him he had hit 12 miles. He turned around, grabbed me and we went back to the 11-mile point. The private could not tell us the correct way to go. I walked into traffic and flagged down a car and asked him for directions to Cooper Field. The car drove slowly in front of us with the hazard lights and we followed him. Once I saw the finish line I sprinted to the end and came in first.”

Although he was unhappy with his finish time for the 12-mile ruck march, DeMarsico said he was thankful he was able to pass all five events of EFMB testing. He said becoming a part of the 3% of medics who earn the EFMB is just the beginning. He hopes to attend Airborne and Ranger schools in the near future. Ultimately he would like to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point and become a commissioned officer.

“West Point is my main goal,” DeMarsico said. “I want to become an officer. I feel like if I can earn my EFMB then nothing is impossible. I devote my spare time to achieving my professional goals so I am always looking for ways to improve myself.”

Hungry for more training, DeMarsico is preparing to attend the advanced combat life saver course on Fort Bliss.

“You have to want it,” said DeMarsico when asked if he had any advice for soldiers attending future EFMB testing. “Many of the people that I saw did not have the drive that is required to pass. You have to be physically and mentally prepared. The EFMB website has so much information to help you study so you have to develop a way that will help you memorize information the easiest.”

DeMarsico encourages all soldiers to keep trying no matter how many times they have to retest.

“I was proud to represent the brigade, 10th Mountain, 2-4 Infantry and my recon platoon,” DeMarsico said. “I showed that it is not impossible for a junior enlisted to have a shot an EFMB. It does not matter who you are; you can do it. At the end of the day it all comes down to how hard you are willing to fight for it.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Hue City Marine is getting the Medal of Honor

A retired sergeant major credited with saving scores of Marines during one of the Vietnam War’s deadliest battles will receive the Medal of Honor, Military.com has confirmed.

Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley, 80, of Oxnard, California, learned he’ll receive the nation’s highest award for valor during a July 9 phone call from President Donald Trump. It was first reported Thursday by the Ventura County Star.

“He told me that it was OK to let my Marines know that I would be receiving the Medal of Honor,” Canley told Military.com. “He thanked me for my service and also wanted to thank my Marines for their service.”


The fight to see Canley’s Navy Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor has been a years-long effort. The former company gunnery sergeant with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, is recognized with leading more than 140 men through an intense week-long battle to retake Hue City from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968.

Canley, who’s from El Dorado, Arkansas, repeatedly braved heavy enemy fire to bring several wounded Marines to safety. When his company commander was seriously injured, Canley sprang into action, reorganizing his Marines by moving from one group to another to advise and encourage them, his Navy Cross citation states.

Former Pfc. John Ligato was one of those men. Ligato has spent the last 15 years making calls, taking Marines’ statements and writing letters to see his gunny get the recognition he deserved.

“The Medal of Honor was rejected 10 times — never on the merits of what he did, it was always procedural,” Ligato said. “There were times I gave up. … But the irony is he’s one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country.”
A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban

John Canley’s Navy Cross citation.

(Presented by Home of Heroes)

Canley said his Marines were his only concern during the brutal battle. The average age of those fighting in the Vietnam War was just 19, he said, and they were looking for leadership.

“I’m just happy that I could provide that,” he said. “It was an honor.”

Ligato said Canley’s actions far exceeded expectations. There were 147 Marines facing off against about 10,000 North Vietnamese troops. Canley not only led them from the front, but also with love, he said.

“I know this sounds strange, but he wasn’t one of these gruff, screaming guys. You did stuff for him because you didn’t want to disappoint him,” he said. “You followed him because he was a true leader — something you need in life-and-death situations.

“He was totally fearless,” Ligato added. “He loved his Marines, and we loved him back.”

Also read: The real ‘G.I. Joe’ is one of four living WW2 Medal of Honor recipients

A date has not yet been set for the White House ceremony, but Ligato said Canley has asked him to speak about his company’s Marines. Many of them went back to their communities one-by-one, he said, speaking little about the horrors they saw in Vietnam.

When they did talk about it, though, there was always one common thread.

“We all had a Gunny Canley story,” Ligato said. “They were all different, but they all involved tremendous acts of valor.”

That’s why Ligato and some of his comrades have fought doggedly to have this honor bestowed, something Canley said has humbled him. From talking to members of Congress to Pentagon officials, they were determined to see this day come.

Canley’s Medal of Honor citation will be read by Marines for generations. The retired sergeant major, who’s battled prostate cancer since leaving Vietnam, said he hopes that those who go on to become staff noncommissioned officers or officers take away one simple message.

“That leadership is all about taking care of your people,” he said. “If you do that, then you basically don’t have to worry about the mission.”

This Medal of Honor will help fill in the blanks of one of the most important Marine Corps battles in history, Ligato said. The actions Canley showed on the battlefield 50 years ago epitomize what it means to be a Marine, he added.

“Marines have been doing this since 1775,” Ligato said. “Every once in a while, you have a Chesty Puller, a John Basilone or a John Canley. I think Marines reading his citation can take away that the Marine Corps is timeless.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter. Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Marines’ Toys for Tots helped spread holiday cheer

‘Twas several days after Christmas when the retired Marine marched box after box of new toys into the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office.


He was soon joined by two deputies who helped him unload — not a sleigh, but a station wagon — that was piled end-to-end with donated toys.

Inside were Star Wars and Avengers action figures, science projects, remote control toys, a fossil excavation kit, and three boxes of popular Hess toy trucks, among other visible items.

The toys had been collected as part of the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots campaign and were being delivered by Jack Sparling, a representative of the Marine Corps Coordinating Council of Rochester, who was playing the role of Santa Claus.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Christopher Green)

“We’re here to help out wherever we can, whether before or after the holidays. It doesn’t matter,” Sparling said.

And while the holidays may have passed, the Jan. 4 delivery to the Sheriff’s Office will help make any season bright for area children.

“If there’s a house fire, a death, something tragic or unfortunate, we can provide something for the child,” said Deputy Mike Didas, who oversees the Sheriff’s Office community policing initiatives. “It’s not just at Christmas; unfortunately, kids and families can face a crisis at any time.”

The donated toys will help with the Sheriff’s Office’s own Operation Christmas and officials will also alert other fire, ambulance, and emergency services that toys are available. Beyond Christmas season efforts, the toys help reassure children and give them hope that even in a crisis or other difficult situation things can improve.

Shelly Read, a Department of Social Services school-based preventative caseworker at Livonia Central School for the Department of Social Services, was picking up several toys for a family that had suffered a devastating home fire right after Christmas.

The Toys for Tots program, in conjunction with other school organizations and many volunteers, had also collaborated on a Santa’s Workshop-style event at Livonia before the holidays.

“It’s set up so nicely with cookies, hot chocolate, and decorations so it’s a really fun experience for the whole family,” Read said.

Also Read: This is why Toys for Tots is so important to the Corps

This year, the program served 66 families and 111 children just in Livonia.

The school-based program works closely with Toys for Tots and shares names and ages to pull together a positive experience.

It’s similar to the effort of Operation Christmas in which school resource officers and other school officials provide names to the program, which Deputy Kerry Ann Wood from the corrections division helps coordinate.

Some names are also provided directly to the Sheriff’s Office.

“For some people, they may not be able to afford toys for the children,” said Didas.

The Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots program is coordinated nationwide by the Marines Toys for Tots Foundation based in Quantico, Va. Some 800 campaigns take place nationally.

Sparling’s group serves nine counties — distributing 35,000 toys to 17,000 families in its most recent Toys for Tots effort — and has been active in Livingston County for the past four years.

They would like to do more, he said.

The Toys for Tots boxes begin appearing in September but it is really a year-round effort, said Sparling.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
A U.S. Marine takes donations for Toys for Tots in the days following Hurricane Katrina (Photo from FEMA)

“A lot of companies are very generous. We get great numbers of donations,” he said, noting that warehouse space for the toys is donated.

The Coordinating Council itself serves a region that runs from Syracuse to Buffalo and Erie, Pa. The organization helps active and reserve Marines who encounter financial difficulties, such as missing car payments or rent. Those that may need mental or physical assistance are directed to the agencies that can best serve them. The Council often gets referrals from law enforcement agencies and veterans outreach organizations.

The Coordinating Council also hosts family days offering food and fun for reservists, family and friends; scholarships and the Marine Corps birthday ball.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force test pilot dies in crash of top secret plane in Nevada desert

An Air Force pilot from Annapolis, Maryland, died Sept. 6 when his plane crashed during a training flight in Nevada.


Lt. Col. Eric Schultz was flying an unspecified aircraft at about 6 p.m. over the Nevada Test and Training Range, approximately 100 miles northwest of Nellis Air Force Base, a spokeswoman at the air base said Friday.

The aircraft was assigned to Air Force Materiel Command, which leads development of new combat technologies for the service.

Maj. Christina Sukach, a spokeswoman for the 99th Air Base Wing, said Schultz died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident. The crash remains under investigation, and additional details were not immediately available.

“Our immediate concern is for the family of Lt. Col. Schultz,” she wrote in an email.

Schultz is a 1991 Annapolis High School graduate, and the son of Linda and Larry Schultz, of Annapolis. They traveled to Nevada on Wednesday to be with their son’s wife and other members of the family.

A former civilian test pilot, Eric Schultz held multiple graduate degrees when he joined the Air Force in 2001. He went on to be an experienced flight training officer who was the 29th pilot to qualify to fly the F-35 fighter jet in 2011.

His crash was one of two Air Force crashes near Nellis on Wednesday. Two A-10C Thunderbolt II jets assigned to the 57th Wing crashed on the test range at approximately 8 p.m.

An Air Force spokeswoman at Nellis said the pilots ejected safely. The aircraft were on a routine training mission at the time of the crash.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel’s attack on a Syrian reactor prevented a nuclear ISIS

Israel’s military admitted on March 20, 2018, what intelligence communities around the world had long known — that Israeli airstrikes had taken out a would-be nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007.


In reporting the strike, Israel said it had done so in part to warn its adversaries in the region, like Iran. But surely Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries with spy services already knew the action Israel had taken.

Also read: For first time in 70 years, Saudi Arabia may grant Israel access to airspace

It’s unlikely Iran or Syria needed a current reminder that Israel would fight in the skies over Syria to protect its interests after a massive Israeli air offensive downed an Iranian drone and reportedly took out half of Syria’s air defenses in February 2018.

But one element of Israel’s 2007 strike on a nuclear reactor near Deir Ezzor that bears repeating and reexamination is the fact that the terror group ISIS held control of that area for three full years.

If Syria had nukes, then ISIS might have, too

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
Two ISIS recruits operate their weapons, a RPG (right) and a PKM (left). (ISIS photo)

“Look at nukes as an insurance policy — at the end of the day, if you’ve got a nuke, it’s an umbrella for all of the other activity that could potentially spark conflict with your enemies,” Jonathan Schanzer, a Syria expert and the senior vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “If your enemies want to respond to you, they’re going to feel inhibited.”

This may have been Syria’s calculus in 2007 when it set about a clandestine nuclear weapons program, reportedly with the help of embedded North Koreans.

Related: ISIS reappeared in Syria to fight Asad troops in the capital

But in 2011, a popular, pro-democratic uprising in Syria sparked what would become a civil war that has dragged on to this day. During the conflict, Syrian President Bashar Assad has lost control of the majority of his country, with some parts under the control of rebel forces, some parts under the control of Kurdish forces, and from 2014 to 2017, much of the country under ISIS’ control.

ISIS held Deir Ezzor and the surrounding regions for three solid years, during which time they looted and pillaged whatever resources were available and ready for sale, including oil from the country’s rich oilfields.

If Israel had not taken out the reactor in 2007, it’s entirely possible ISIS could have taken custody of it. With access to radioactive materials, it’s possible ISIS could have cooked up a dirty bomb for use in terrorism, or even detonated a full-on nuclear device.

It’s reasonable to expect that a nuclear-capable ISIS would have more leverage, and could possibly force concessions from its opponents or prompt other nuclear states to strike first.

Instability makes Middle Eastern nuclear programs extra dangerous

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
A woman protests the Iranian government’s policy requiring all women to wear headscarves. (Photo by My Stealthy Freedom/Facebook)

“The Middle East is unstable,” Schanzer said. “One never knows when the next popular uprising or the next moment of intense instability might hit.”

Even states like Iran, where the current government has been in power since 1979, could fall prey to a popular uprising that could collapse the regime “overnight,” according to Schanzer.

More: 6 most stubborn world conflicts happening right now

“Imagine if in Syria today we were trying to track loose nukes,” Schanzer said. “Imagine if a country like Yemen had nuclear weapons.”

While nuclear weapons may deter state actors from invading a country or pushing it too far, they do not protect against domestic upheaval, like the 2011 Syrian uprising that became overrun with Islamist hardliners like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US could take down North Korea without firing a shot

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, on Jan. 30, defined what he called North Korea’s “kryptonite,” saying it could collapse Kim Jong Un’s government without firing a shot.


While President Donald Trump’s inner circle reportedly weighs the use of military force against North Korea, Blair, a former U.S. Navy Admiral, has suggested another method of attack that wields information, not weapons.

“The kryptonite that can weaken North Korea is information from beyond its borders,” Blair said in a written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

North Koreans have no idea how bad things are in their country, Blair said, because they’re subject to an “unrelenting barrage of government propaganda.”

North Korean citizens caught with South Korean media can be sentenced to death or sent to horrific prison camps, as control of the media and intolerance for different narratives are pillars of North Korea’s government.

But Blair said the U.S. could leverage a recent trend in North Korea: cellphones.

About one in five North Koreans own a cellphone, many of which can connect to Chinese cell towers across the Yalu River along the countries’ border, he said.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

“Texts to these cellphones can provide subversive truth,” Blair said. “Cell towers can be extended; CDs and thumb drives can be smuggled in; radio and TV stations can be beamed there.”

Blair added: “The objective is to separate the Kim family from its primary support — the secret police, the army, and the propaganda ministry.”

Though outside media does get into North Korea and reaches the country’s elites, the U.S. could expand efforts to flood it with outside news. The U.S. used a similar tactic during the Cold War in setting up Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to combat the Soviet Union and its state-controlled media.

Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider last year that a similar idea floated by a former U.S. Navy SEAL had legs.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun said.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
Kim Jong Un waves at North Korean soldiers. (Image KCNA)

Sun said that in the past when South Korea flew balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, Kim’s government responded militarily, sensing its frailty relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

Blair pointed to other totalitarian states where popular uprisings have become informed and sought to take down a media-controlling dictator, concluding his testimony by saying that “once that process starts, it is hard to stop.”

“Such will be North Korea’s fate,” he said.

Articles

It will make you angry to learn how a veteran lost $100k in benefits

Before you read any further, the lesson here is don’t listen to anyone with an opinion about your VA benefits. Even when the Department of Veterans Affairs makes a “final” decision on your case, you can still appeal. So, don’t listen to your Staff Sergeant. Anyone still wearing a uniform is not an expert on your personal VA claim.


Unfortunately, this happens a lot more frequently than you might think. That’s where Moses Maddox comes in. Maddox is more than just a veteran who advocates for his fellow vets. For almost a decade, the former Marine has built a career in helping other veterans with personal, academic, financial, and success counseling through various organizations.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

Maddox talked to us about finding your veteran community, managing our veteran ego, and how to thrive in your post-military life. He talked to David Letterman about his experience, so we’re grateful he took a moment to sit down with us on the Mandatory Fun podcast.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
Yeah, we’re totally on the same level.
(Worldwide Pants)

Maddox believes we’ve come a long way and the military is getting better at preparing us for our post-military lives. The problem in his mind is that the military is designed to weed out the weak among us and the weakness in ourselves, a necessary process to prepare military members for what they may have to do. But once you’re out, that process proves detrimental – the perception that mental issues are weaknesses is what keeps us from addressing those problems.

The greatest challenges he faced when transitioning out of the Marine Corps stemmed from his admitted lack of planning. He set a countdown to his EAS date and was excited as the day approached. When it came, he felt nothing. He was so fixated on getting out that he didn’t have a plan for what he was going to actually do when the day came.

Over the course of two months, he went from handing out millions in humanitarian aid to handing out gym memberships at an LA Fitness.

“The nothingness and monotony of civilian life has just as much potential to beat you down as war did,” Maddox says. It’s a refrain he tells to many transitioning veterans. When the military is gone, the silence is the biggest hurdle.

But all that changed. One day, Maddox drove to the VA to see if they could help him. When he was there, a Vietnam veteran saw the despair in his eyes — and told him that the feeling was normal. No one had ever told him that his struggles were normal and treatable. So, armed with this knowledge, Maddox took care of it.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
IAVA Member Veterans Moses Maddox (L) and Dave Smith attend IAVA’s Sixth Annual Heroes Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on November 13, 2012 in New York City.

Now he advocates for veterans in many areas of post-military life. He looks back on his service fondly, but acknowledges that the Marine Corps was not the only thing he had going for him. Helping people is his passion, helping veterans is now his life’s work.

Learn more about Moses Maddox and how he discovered his “new why” on this episode of Mandatory Fun.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force warns that space war is a very real possibility

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson spoke about the importance of modernization and innovation in space during a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5, 2017.


“Our mission is to organize, train and equip air and space forces,” said Wilson. “We are the ones, since 1954, who are responsible for everything from 100 feet below the earth in missile silos all the way up to the stars…that’s our responsibility and we own it.”

The Air Force faces significant challenges in space because America’s adversaries know how important space is to the U.S., Wilson said.

She added the Air Force is responsible for providing the world’s first utility, which is the GPS system. This global system which the U.S. military uses is the same system that industry relies on. Whether it’s the local ATM or the stock exchange, the GPS is at the center, Wilson said.

“A huge part of our economy is dependent on what’s done in space,” she said.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane

The Air Force must deter a conflict in space, and has an obligation to be prepared to fight and win if deterrence fails.

To that end, the 2018 presidential budget proposed a 20 percent increase for space, which Wilson said is the next frontier of global innovation. The Air Force remains committed to gaining and maintaining space superiority across the spectrum of conflict in defense of the nation, she added.

“We need to normalize space from a national security perspective,” said Wilson. “We have to have all of our officers who are wearing blue uniforms more knowledgeable about space capabilities and how it connects to the other domains.”

Wilson added in the future, space will no longer be a benign environment, soon it will be a common domain for human endeavor. Accessibility to space is growing rapidly as launch technology evolves, the cost of launches will drop from thousands of dollars per pound of fuel to hundreds, the technology will get faster and smaller, and more nation-states and individuals will have greater access to space.

“Our most recent launch out of Cape Canaveral was a Space X rocket that launched, and then recovered using GPS guidance technology back on the pad from which that stage launched,” said Wilson. “That wasn’t possible 10 years ago, but it’s being done by American innovation. It’s an exciting time to be part of this enterprise.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told a group of veteran advocates that he was cutting funding to a program that addresses veteran homelessness, according to a Dec. 6 report from Politico.


The conversation reportedly happened over the phone, with “advocates for veterans, state officials, and even officials from HUD” reacting to the news from Shulkin in outright anger.

The program, co-sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allocates $460 million a year to housing homeless veterans. It seems to have been working, too, as veteran homelessness is down 46 percent from 2010.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo from Tomah VA Medical Center)

Nevertheless, Shulkin determined that nearly $1 billion should be moved from “specific purpose” funds to “general purpose” funds. This means moving all of the funding used specifically to ameliorate veterans homelessness.

According to a Sept. 2 memo, the VA believes that money designated to specific programs, like addressing veteran homelessness, transplant programs, amputation care, and women’s health, would be better used in a general fund, leaving veterans hospitals to decide for themselves how to use the money. The memo states that the move is designed to support “the Secretary’s five priorities” and could be used for administrative things, like hiring more VA employees.

The memo does not state how each individual hospital must use its newfound funds. Rather, it simply notes that network directors will have control over how much (if any) to give to specific programs.

Also Read: This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The Senate Committee on Appropriations responded to Shulkin’s plans to move the funds with a bipartisan, strongly worded letter signed by every member. In it, the committee reminded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that his department had previously been extended the privilege of flexibility to move money without review because of its willingness to be transparent. That transparency, the letter argued, would all but disappear should Shulkin divert the specific purpose funds.

The letter closed with what seemed like a warning in the form of a suggestion: Stop, think, and before you do anything, submit to us a detailed “funding allocation plan” in the future.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

It didn’t take long for Shulkin to shift gears and reverse his earlier statements. “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” Shulkin wrote in a statement released Dec. 6.

However, Shulkin added, “we will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.” It is not immediately clear whether the Choice program is where Shulkin suggested the funds would go in his Dec. 1 phone call.

Upon further review of the VA’s budget brief, the department does, in fact, plan to cut funding from “certain Veterans’ benefit programs” to offset the cost of money borrowed from the nearly bankrupt Veterans Choice Program, a program designed to offer veterans medical care closer to where they reside.

The brief does not specify which programs will be cut.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Heroic military working dogs receive prestigious medals for courage

The bad guys and their improvised explosive devices couldn’t hide from Marine Sgt. Yeager, a Purple Heart veteran of three tours in Afghanistan.

His specialty was route clearance, and he was credited with sniffing out dozens of roadside bombs in more than 100 combat patrols for his Marine buddies.

On April 12, 2012, Yeager and his handler, Lance Cpl. Abraham Tarwoe, were hit by one of those roadside bombs while on patrol in southwestern Helmand province with a unit from the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.

Tarwoe, originally from Liberia, perished in the blast and Yeager was hit with shrapnel and lost part of an ear.


Yeager was one of four working dogs who received American Humane’s K-9 Medal of Courage in a ceremony Sept. 10, 2019, at the Rayburn House Office Building.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban

(Robin Ganzert, American Humane / Twitter)

After the 2012 IED blast, Yeager received the Purple Heart from the Marines and was retired to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where the now 13-year-old black Lab was adopted by a Marine family.

Caroline Zuendel, of Cary, North Carolina, Yeager’s new best friend, called him “just a sweet dog” who dotes on her three kids. “He’s like my fourth,” she said.

Yeager hasn’t lost his devotion to service. He’s now a roving goodwill ambassador for the Project K-9 Foundation that seeks to improve the quality of life for retired military and police working dogs.

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Marine Sgt. Yeager.

(Rep. David E. Price / Twitter)

Another recipient, a 12-year-old Dutch Shepherd named “Troll,” had no designated rank in the Air Force, said his long-time handler, Air Force Master Sgt. Rob Wilson.

Unlike the Marines, who give their working dogs a rank above that of their handlers, Troll went through his working career without a rank.

“But you can call him general,” Wilson said.

Wilson, who was assigned to Troll while serving in Europe in 2011, said he wasn’t quite sure how Troll got his name but speculated that it was because “he’s always in control. He found a lot of IEDs out there [in Afghanistan] and some high-value [targets].”

In 2012, they deployed to Afghanistan, where they went on 89 combat missions in support of Army and Special Operations units, according to the biographies of the four working dogs from American Humane, the animal welfare organization founded in 1877.

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Military Working Dog Troll.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

On a four-day mission against an enemy compound, Troll sniffed out three IEDs enroute to the target and then went on a sweep of the area, finding a well-concealed tunnel where two enemy combatants known to have conducted attacks against the coalition were hiding.

Troll also found nine pressure plates, 20 pounds of explosives and six AK-47 rifles.

The patrol came under fire as they exited the area and an Afghan National Army soldier was wounded.

“Troll and I kinda pulled back for cover,” Wilson said, and he began returning fire.

Troll and Wilson were then told to clear a landing area for a medevac helicopter as Wilson and others from the patrol continued to return fire. Once Troll had checked out an area that was safe to land, the helicopter safely evacuated the wounded soldier.

“By helping locate enemy positions, engage the enemy, sniff out deadly IEDs and hidden weapons, military dogs have saved countless lives in the fight for freedom,” Rep. Gus Bilarakis, R-Florida, co-chairman of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, said at the ceremony.

American Humane President Robin Ganzert said that 20 working dogs have been honored with the K-9 Medal of Courage over the past four years.

“These dogs do amazing work and give unconditional love,” she said.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban

Marine Sgt. Yeager.

(Photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

The awards were named for philanthropist Lois Pope, who said “there are heroes on both ends of the leash.”

“Niko,” a 10-year-old Dutch Shepherd, spent four years in Afghanistan working for the Defense and State Departments, the CIA, the U.S. Agency for International Development and NATO partner nations, participating in countless patrols and house-to-house sweeps, and protecting personnel at high-level meetings.

American Humane said Niko has now been adopted by a family in Alaska.

Military working dog “Emmie,” a 12-year-old black Lab, was on three tours in Afghanistan from 2009-2012, and worked mainly off-leash, assisting with route clearance. She had three different handlers in Afghanistan, and the last one described her as a “high-drive dog, stubborn at times, who never stopped working,” American Humane said.

After her last tour in Afghanistan, Emmie came to work at the Pentagon, where she easily adapted to working on leash in searching cars, buildings and parking lots, American Humane said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Whoops — the US Army owns potentially hundreds of thousands of faulty pistols

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
An M-9 pistol. U.S. Air Force photo


It’s an inescapable reality that in big institutions, people will sometimes overlook memos and misplace equipment.

But that’s cold comfort to the U.S. Army, which is struggling to select a new handgun while also dealing with the fallout from its last, controversial pistol choice.

That’s right — overlooked memos and misplaced equipment.

In August 2015, the ground combat branch inspected its Beretta M-9 pistols to make sure the guns had key safety fixes. The Army was supposed to have finished upgrading all the guns … more than two decades ago.

“During a training exercise, a soldier was injured when a slide failure resulted in the rear portion of the slide separating from the receiver and struck him in the face,” an official warning explained.

“‘WARNING’: DEATH OR SERIOUS INJURY TO SOLDIERS, OR DAMAGE TO ARMY EQUIPMENT WILL OCCUR IF THE INSTRUCTIONS IN THIS MESSAGE ARE NOT FOLLOWED.”

War Is Boring obtained the startling message via the Freedom of Information Act. Censors inked out the number of guns the Army believed were missing the updates, including a number of weapons in “SWA.”

This is a common Pentagon acronym for the Southwest Asia region, which includes Iraq. The warning applied to all M-9s in the inventory of the Army, its sister branches and Special Operations Command.

The redacted portion of the document suggests the total could be as high as six figures. Since Beretta delivered around 160,000 pistols to the military before adding the modifications at the factory, the Army may simply have ordered troops to check every one of the old weapons still in service.

Issues with the Beretta’s slide are hardly new. The broken parts were a key part of the controversy surrounding the Army’s first decision to buy the Italian-made guns more than three decades ago.

Between 1985 and 1988, the Army and Navy documented no fewer than 14 incidents where the slide failed. In four cases, the shooter suffered an injury.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
Soldiers train with M-9s. U.S. Army photo

“What is of particular concern is the safety hazard encountered when failure does occur,” the Government Accountability Office explained in a 1988 report. “Injuries resulting from four slide failures included face lacerations requiring stitches, a broken tooth and a chest bruise.”

The GAO had already forced the Army to hold a new competition after complaints of collusion in the original testing. Ultimately, the Beretta won out again and became the standard handgun across the U.S. armed forces.

With the winner settled for good, the Army issued an order to modify all the existing pistols with a set of safety features. The modification kit included a new slide, a reinforced hammer pin and and a left grip panel.

The Army reportedly concluded that brittle metal in the original slides was the source of the gun’s failures. However, Beretta and its allies implied that the military’s overly-powerful ammunition was actually at the root of the problems.

Whatever the cause, in March 1989 troops began installing the new parts on around 160,000 potentially defective pistols. On June 30, 1993, the Army declared that all the guns complied with the so-called “modification work order,” or MWO.

Or so it apparently thought.

“Recently, a soldier found out the hard way that the MWO hadn’t been applied to all M-9s when a slide broke and hit him in the face,” was how the Army’s P.S. Magazine described the matter on Facebook on Oct. 28, 2015. ” All armorers need to immediately check their M-9s.”

Billed as “the preventive maintenance monthly,” the magazine in question publishes notices and tips on defects, recalls, common problems and other issues for troops. In continuous publication since June 1951, each issue features comic book-style art to help these important message stick.

A new animated film details Afghan life under the Taliban
An angry M-9 asks the obvious question. U.S. Army art

“Are you kidding me?!” an anthropomorphized pistol asks the shooter in a version of the message in the January 2016 edition. “That MWO was supposed to be done 20 years ago!”

The issue is so old that the order isn’t even available online — and the Army doesn’t have any modification kits on hand. Anyone who finds a problematic gun is supposed to send it back by registered mail to the Defense Logistics Agency. We don’t know what will happen to the guns after they go back to the warehouse.

All of this comes at at time when the Army finds itself embroiled in another controversial attempt to buy new pistols. Eight years ago, the services canceled their previous handgun projects.

Around the same time the slide flew off the old Beretta, the ground combat branch asked pistol-makers to offer up new options. If this program goes according to plan, troops should start getting their new weapons sometime around 2018.

Under the proposal, the Army will buy no fewer than 280,000 guns for itself. Other services would have the option of signing up to get their hands on another 212,000 pistols.

With the previous experience of the Beretta decision, the Army itselfquestioned how realistic this timeline might be when it explained the need to buy Glock pistols now for commandos and allied troops in 2015. The contract document pointed out that the service had already spent two years trying to get its latest project off the ground.

“We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol,” the Army’s chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley told a gathering at New America’s Future of War Conference on March 10. “Two years to test? At $17 million?”

“You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million,” the Army’s top officer added, referring to the Nebraska-based outdoor goods chain, which sells firearms.

But Milley’s obvious frustration notwithstanding, the Army knows full well how complicated the project might turn out to be due to budgets, politics, competing priorities and the sheer size of the American military. Replacing hundreds of thousands of pistols is no easy task.

In February 2015, the Army also formally rejected Beretta’s offer to update the existing pistols. The Italian company’s American branch subsequently decided to sell these M9A3 guns on the commercial market.

It took seven years for the Army to settle on the M-9, more than a decade for everyone to get them and about as long to get important fixes installed — and people are still getting hit in the face by faulty slides.

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