As China’s naval power grows, the US military is stepping up its ability to sink enemy ships, firing missiles from land and at sea.
The Army and the Marines are both looking at striking ships from shore batteries at extended ranges, while the Navy is arming its submarines with ship-killer missiles for the first time in many years.
Determined to deploy these capabilities quickly, the Marines have launched a rapid program to develop long-range anti-ship missiles from mobile shore-based launchers.
“The Marine Corps has been looking for a shore-based capability to meet [US Indo-Pacific Command’s] demands,” a Lockheed Martin representative told Breaking Defense at the Surface Navy Association conference in Washington, DC.
“The Army is looking at this too but probably on a different timeline,” he added. “The Marine Corps wants to get after this pretty quickly.” He further commented that the Marines are looking at developing mobile launchers “that can shoot and move very rapidly.”
The Marines experimented with strikes against land targets using ship-based High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) aboard the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Essex in October 2017. At that time, military leaders were discussing bringing this capability to bear against enemy combatants at sea.
The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) transits the Pacific Ocean.
During the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in 2018, Army soldiers fired multiple rockets from the rocket artillery platform at the ex-USS Racine during a combined arms sinking exercise.
The Army is reportedly preparing to carry out another missile test, one in which MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System missiles will be fired from HIMARS launchers on Okinawa. The Chinese navy regularly sails ships, including its flagship aircraft carrier, through nearby waters.
During the sinking exercise in summer 2018, Gen. Robert Brown, the commander of US Army Pacific at Fort Shafter in Hawaii, suggested that ground forces could use these capabilities to establish “unsinkable aircraft carriers” to facilitate US Navy and Air Force operations.
China uses threatening, long-range missiles to keep US forces at arms length. Were a conflict to break out, the US would likely use long-range weapons like these at its military outposts along the first island chain — a defensive line that runs south from Japan to Taiwan and then the Philippines — to limit Chinese mobility.
The Navy is reportedly arming its attack submarines with upgraded versions of the Harpoon anti-ship missile, according to Breaking Defense.
The focus on anti-ship capabilities at sea and ashore advances a strategic concept outlined by the head of INDOPACOM.
“As naval forces drive our enemies into the littorals, army forces can strike them. Conversely, when the army drives our enemies out to sea, naval firepower can do the same,” Adm. Phil Davidson said after 2018’s sinking exercise.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The buzz of the crowd had Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro on edge. Then a loud bang made him look around nervously.
He knew the noise came from a Zamboni machine, yet its exhaust made him think of the aftermath of a roadside bomb.
All his stress melted away immediately, however, as soon as he stepped out onto the ice.
“When I’m on the ice, no matter what happened before, everything dissipates,” he said. “It’s like a fresh start.”
Former Army Spc. Matt Holben, Capital Beltway Warriors assistant team captain and defensive player, hits the puck up ice during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional Hockey Challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Vaccaro is one of the co-founders of the Capital Beltway Warriors, a hockey team of veterans with disabilities founded two years ago.
Veterans on the team open up to each other and talk about how they cope with injuries, stress and other issues, said retired Maj. David Dixon, another co-founder of the team.
“It’s like a giant support group,” he said, “or therapy on ice, as we like to call it.”
Many of the players have some level of post-traumatic stress disorder from service in Iraq, Afghanistan or other hot spots, Dixon said. He personally survived four deployments to Iraq, where he was shot in the back and shaken up by three different improvised explosive devices.
Retired Maj. David Dixon, president and executive director of the Capital Beltway Warriors, makes game notes while coaching players between periods during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Dixon and a number of the other veterans also coach youth hockey teams and a few of them help with a local blind hockey team, the Washington Wheelers.
“Giving back to the community often gives them a sense of purpose,” Dixon said of the veterans, adding that it helps minimize depression and PTSD.
Dixon puts in more than 20 volunteer hours a week managing the Capital Beltway Warriors as president and executive director of the team. He helps solicit sponsors, run meetings, apply for grants, recruit players and schedule games.
“In a sick kind of way, I enjoy all the hard work,” he said. “You go from commanding troops to working in a cubicle,” he said about retiring from the Army and beginning a civilian job.
He explained that managing the hockey team gives him a renewed sense of purpose.
“You find that niche in life that gives you purpose and whether it has a monetary award or not, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” he said.
He helps make the games special for the warriors with lights, music, an announcer and filling the stands with veterans. Local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion in northern Virginia help bring veterans from retirement homes to the games, Dixon said.
Vaccaro also spends several hours per week helping the Capital Beltway Warriors and other veteran hockey teams. He spends a week every year helping run the USA Hockey camp in Buffalo, New York, where they select the national sled hockey team.
He serves as a referee for blind hockey and sled hockey. He helps stand up other Warrior division hockey teams. In November, he spent a few days in Philadelphia helping the Flyers start a warrior team.
“This is my therapy,” he said of the volunteer work. “This is what keeps me going.”
Former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joey Martell, Capital Beltway Warriors team captain, takes a shot during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Spreading the word
Just over two years ago, Vaccaro met up with Dixon who was interested in starting a Warrior hockey team in Virginia.
They met in the Pentagon food court in December 2016. “We sat down and started sketching stuff out on napkins,” Dixon said.
They laid out plans for a team that would play in rinks across Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland.
They found players by word of mouth. They showed up at “stick and shoot” sessions and asked if anyone was a military veteran with a disability rating.
Now they have 76 veterans with disabilities on the team and they play other warrior clubs. A game in Ashburn Dec. 22, 2018, pitted the USA Warriors from Maryland against the Capital Beltway Warriors. The teams also play in annual tournaments.
There are now 16 warrior teams across the United States. The minimum requirement to play on one of the teams is a 10 percent VA disability. Some of the players are 100 percent disabled and play with prosthetics.
Some of the veterans, like Vaccaro, have been playing hockey since they were 3 years old. Dixon, however, did not pick up the sport until he was 40.
Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro serves as referee for the charity exhibition game between the Capital Beltway Warriors and a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
In 2006 and 2007, Vaccaro was an advisor to an Iraqi Army unit in Ramadi. He and two Marines were on patrol when they were pinned down by machine-gun fire. Then an insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade.
“It hit the wall in front of me and knocked me back. Next thing I remember, I heard this really loud ringing in my ears and there was a Marine dragging me back into the courtyard. They were calling for air support.
“We finished the patrol,” Vaccaro said, explaining aerial medical evacuation was not available. A doctor patched him up, and a couple of days later, he was back out on patrol.
After his tour in Iraq, he came back to Virginia, where he had been a reservist with the 80th Training Division. But he had PTSD issues. He decided to go to Liberia in western Africa as a contractor to help put about 2,000 Liberian soldiers through basic training.
“I thought that would help, but I just ended up coming back with the same issues,” he said. “That’s another thing: You can’t hide from this.
“Everybody handles PTSD in a different way. I tried the group therapy stuff and it just didn’t work.”
He received treatment and medication from Veterans Affairs, but the issues persisted. When he smelled fresh bread, for instance, it reminded him of the flatbread Iraqi soldiers baked every morning.
“That’s a good smell,” he said. But then his mind would continue to remember until he imagined the smell of an IED.
“You’ve got to face your fears. You’ve got to face your issues,” he said. “I was trying to hide from it and hockey has helped me open up and talk about it.”
About 10 years ago, he became involved in the first-of-its-kind USA Warrior hockey team stood up by a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
“When I’m on the ice, things slow down; things are different,” Vaccaro said.
Both he and his family noticed the difference in him after playing hockey.
“It really helped me,” he said. “The first thing I said to myself when I started realizing that is, ‘I’ve got to get other veterans involved in this.'”
So he became the national representative for USA Hockey in its Warrior division to help stand up teams. He does that in his spare time when he is not working as a civilian employee for the Army Corps of Engineers or on duty as an Army Reserve NCO.
David Dixon, coach of the Capital Beltway Warriors, provides tactical advice to players between periods during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Gary Sheftick, Army News Service)
Dixon was coaching little league baseball when he was approached by his son’s hockey coach, Bobby Hill.
“He said he really liked the way I worked with the kids and he could use my help on the ice coaching,” Dixon recalled.
Dixon told him he did not skate, but Hill said he could take care of that. He got Dixon out on the ice and taught him the basics of hockey.
Dixon went to adult learn-to-play sessions Wednesday evenings at Ashburn Ice House. He participated in adult pick-up games after helping coach his son’s youth team.
He eventually took over as head coach of the Ashburn “Honey Badgers” peewee hockey team.
In the meantime, however, he heard of the USA Warriors hockey team and the effects it was having on disabled veterans in Maryland. He thought it would be great to bring the same benefits to veterans in northern Virginia.
Matt Holben (No. 19) of the Capital Beltway Warriors, and Joey Martell (No. 21) take the puck down ice with three members of a Congressional hockey challenge team not far behind, during an exhibition game Dec. 16, 2018 at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
(Gary Sheftick, Army News Service)
The warrior hockey program aims to provide purpose, education and camaraderie that veterans miss after they separate from the service, Dixon said.
The team creates an environment that in some ways simulates being back around a military unit, said Matt Holben, alternate team captain for the Capital Beltway Warriors.
“It feels good, because you’re back with the guys, you’re back with the unit,” he said.
“We’ve got members with both physical and mental disability,” he added. “It’s hard for them to share their story, but when you talk to them, it’s just that little bit of relief they get when they’re in the locker room and on the team.”
“We’re helping each other,” Vaccaro said. “And half of the guys don’t even realize we’re helping each other, but that’s what we’re doing.”
The help is not limited to the rink either, Dixon said.
There is another part to the program that informs veterans of benefits available to them and helps with issues.
Anything from service dogs to getting help building a house, to loans, and more is available, Dixon said.
“We don’t do it all ourselves. We reach out to other veteran service organizations to get the help and education these guys need,” he said. “We have a whole network of VSOs that we can tap into.”
Vaccaro summed it up: “It’s veterans helping veterans.”
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl received his sentence after pleading guilty to charges stemming from his 2009 capture by the Taliban. While he is receiving no prison time, he has been given a dishonorable discharge.
However, the dishonorable discharge is actually going to follow Bergdahl for the rest of his life. It is such a severe consequence that it can only be imposed by a general court martial, and even then, only after conviction for certain crimes.
According to Lawyers.com, this discharge wipes out any and all military and veteran benefits for Bergdahl. That means no access to the GI Bill for further education, no VA home loans, no VA medical benefits. Bergdahl gets none of these benefits.
In addition, according to 18 USC 922(g), Bergdahl is now prohibited from owning any sort of firearm or ammunition. Even one pistol round could land him 10 years in the federal slammer (see 18 USC 924).
In addition, GettingHired.com notes that a dishonorable discharge is entered into law-enforcement databases. Furthermore, that site pointed out that Bergdahl will probably face “significant problems securing employment in civilian society.”
In short, Bowe Bergdahl may be a free man in that he is serving no prison time, but he has lost out on a lot of benefits, has lost his Second Amendment rights, and will be facing strong public backlash for the rest of his life.
There’s ongoing debate among historians and military history buffs about which general was better, Grant or Lee? Or maybe the question should be Sherman or Jackson? The name you never hear in these debates is George H. Thomas, who is arguably better than all of them, because he would not publicize himself or allow history to give him the credit he richly deserves.
Thomas cut his teeth in the Mexican War under General Zachary Taylor. There, he learned the harsh lessons that come with poor planning and poor logistics. He also learned to trust the fundamentals of fielding an Army and keeping it secure — a lesson that would later earn him the nickname “The Soldier’s Soldier” from enlisted Union Men.
But when Civil War came, Gen. Thomas was not well-trusted by President Lincoln, seeing as Thomas was born a Virginian — and your home state really meant something at the time. Thomas remained a loyal Union man because his wife was born in the North and, considering his skill as a leader, we should be glad he was. Still, his family turned their backs on him, President Lincoln never accepted him, and other officers never trusted him, but that didn’t matter. He did whatever was asked of him with whatever tools his superiors gave him without complaint.
The main tool they gave him was the battered, bloodied, and often undisciplined rabble from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio, many of whom were basically thrown into the meat grinder at Shiloh by General Ulysses S. Grant (whose mismanagement of the battle nearly lost it for the Union). Conversely, Thomas, known by his fellow officers at the beginning of the war as “Slow Trot,” emphasized planning, preparation, and attention to detail — and how it made a difference when the bullets started to fly.
Thomas did not get an easy start in the Civil War, however. His first opponent was General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s cavalry shortly before the Battle of Bull Run. Though first Bull Run pitted even numbers of Northern troops against Southern, the North performed terribly. They broke and ran in a disastrous rout — all except Thomas’ cavalry. Thomas earned a promotion to brigadier for manhandling Jackson’s cavalry.
His next opponent was Albert Sidney Johnston, the Texan whom Confederate President Jefferson Davis considered the best officer before Robert E. Lee’s rise. The North needed a win — any win — to boost morale. Thomas gave it to them, plowing the Confederates at Mill Springs and pushing them into the Cumberland River. In doing so, he completely smashed Johnston’s hold on Kentucky.
By 1863, Thomas was moving into Tennessee as second to Gen. William Rosecrans, pushing Confederate General Braxton Bragg out of Chattanooga. Believing Bragg was in full retreat, Rosecrans marched the Army of the Cumberland into a trap. Bragg hit Rosecrans at a place called Chickamauga Creek — “the River of Death” according to the the Cherokee.
As James Longstreet committed his men, veterans returning from the fighting at Gettysburg, to the battle, the Union right flank began to fold. Rosecrans began riding for Chattanooga, some of his officers in tow — but Thomas wasn’t going anywhere. As fleeing men came into his sphere, he reorganized them along a ridge and implored them to hold the line at any cost. With the support and guidance of General Thomas’, or “Old Reliable,” as he was called by his men, they held off the Confederates long enough to save the Army of the Cumberland, along with the Union hold on Tennessee.
Grant wrote off Thomas’ army as used-up during the Battle for Chattanooga. Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland were to hold until all the attacking armies in position to advance on Chattanooga. But when Grant’s plan fell apart, Thomas had to move his army to support General Sherman’s troops, who were struggling. Not only did Thomas’ men relieve Sherman’s troops, they forced the Confederate Army from the field.
Despite his higher rank and superior ability, Grant instead chose William T. Sherman to lead the march on Atlanta. Still, Thomas commanded most of Sherman’s infantry and protected the column as it moved south into Georgia. After they took the city, Confederate General John B. Hood moved North, deftly avoiding the Union Army and moving into Nashville. Sherman reduced the Army of the Cumberland and ordered Thomas to take the remaining troops north in pursuit.
He destroyed Hood’s entire army, earning the nickname the “Hammer of Nashville.”
After the war, Thomas stayed in the military for the rest of his days. He was never celebrated like his contemporaries and he never bothered to publish memoirs of his time in combat. He even deliberately burned his notes to keep someone else from doing it in his stead. Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan would sometimes give him credit, but always with the caveat that he was slow.
“Time and history will do me justice,” Thomas said before his death in 1870.
You never really know what you’re in for when welcoming a new guy to the unit. Sometimes, you get handed a young, clueless private who has no idea what they’re in for. Sometimes, you get an apathetic specialist who’s been in for a minute and they’ll just wiggle right into the flow of things. Sometimes, you get a salty sergeant who’s dead set on making your unit just like their last.
Nobody, however, brings joy to everyone in the ranks quite like a new second lieutenant — and it’s not because everyone is just so excited to see them. It’s because they make for the greatest punching bags in the military.
Literally everyone has a go at the second lieutenant. They’re affectionately called “butter bars,” both because their rank insignia looks like one and because they have about the same value as a stick of butter.
Whether it’s done in good fun or out of spite, it’s your duty to give the new butter bar a hard time. Looking for a little inspiration? Try on these ways of letting your new platoon leader that they’re now one of you.
1. Smoke the hell out of them at PT
When new troops arrive at the unit, you’ll most often meet them for the first time on the PT field. Butter bars have a tendency to make long-winded, elaborate presentations that sound something like, “Hi! My name Lt. FNG and I’m honored to be your new platoon leader!”
By this point, you and the platoon have a certain, established rhythm for morning PT that the fresh-out-of-OCS lieutenant can’t keep up with. Show no mercy and go a few extra laps around the company area. Your guys will be cool with it as long as they understand the joke, and the new butter bar will be absolutely gassed.
2. Send them on a wild goose chase
The age-old tradition of sending the new guy to go find something that totally, 100%, absolutely exists isn’t just for privates. It’s open season for butter bars as well.
They probably won’t fall for the old “get me an exhaust sample” trick — plus, if they did, they’d probably just delegate it down to someone else who would ruin the joke. Try something more creative, like “ask the supply NCO about getting you assigned your new PRYK-E6” if their E-6 platoon sergeant is sitting right there. The NCO will gladly walk them through if it means the potential to pawn the Lt. onto someone else.
3. Introduce them to the actual chain of command
There’s no denying the rank structure. Despite how it plays out, the lowliest second lieutenant technically outranks even the Sergeant Major of the Army. However — and that’s with a huge “however” — that should never be confused with the structure of the chain of command.
If they ever mention that they outrank the battalion sergeant major, don’t interfere — just observe. This will go one of two ways: That Lt. is about to get a boot shoved so far up their ass that they’ll be tasting leather or (and personal experience has proven this to be hilarious) the sergeant major will stay calm and collected as they go and grab the battalion commander. The sgt. major then asks the commander what the f*ck, exactly, is wrong with their new guy. The commander then proceeds to chew their ass out.
Let them lead a land nav course
Lieutenants are generally trained to recite answers found in “the book” as they’re written and land navigation is a skill that entirely almost relies on winging it.
But instead of just letting them lead the platoon into danger, establish dominance over them by going to a land nav course that you know inside and out. Let them think that they’re holding the reins while you’re in the background tossing jokes their way and keeping an ever-watchful eye on where you guys are actually heading.
Toss all the paperwork onto their desk
No one wants loads of crap on their hand receipts and now everyone has some poor fool to pawn them off on. You don’t even have to feel guilty about doing this — it’s basically their job to handle all of the paperwork while the platoon sergeant worries about training the troops.
For added measure, gather up all of the paperwork in one giant stack and drop it on their desk at once in that way that’s typically reserved for comedy films. Enjoy watching the sorrow build in their eyes when they realize that it’s not a joke and all that paperwork really does need to be done by final formation.
Eventually welcome them in
The military is one big, dysfunctional, family. We joke around with each other all the time, but there’s a time and place for all of that — there’s never time for legitimate hate or cruelty towards another person who raised their right hand.
Once the butter bar has taken their lashings, they can finally be welcomed in as the new platoon leader. Sure, feel free to offer the occasional jab here and there — but keep it all in good fun. The troops genuinely respect the new Lt. if they take it all in stride (or throw even better insults back).
After hitting a low in 2012, Colombia’s cultivation of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, jumped 134% between 2013 and 2016, US officials said late 2017.
2016 alone saw a 52% increase in the area under coca cultivation, rising to 360,774 acres from 237,221 acres in 2015, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Potential cocaine production jumped 34%, from 712 tons in 2015 to 954 tons a year later.
The amount of cocaine seized in the country also rose by nearly half, the UNODC said, from 253,591 kilos in 2015 to 378,260 kilos in 2016. That was accompanied by a 26% increase in the number of illegal cocaine labs destroyed, from 3,827 in 2015 to 4,842 the following year. (The real amounts are likely much higher than official estimates.)
Colombia has faced pressure from the US to clamp down on that surge, but there were a variety of factors that drove it through 2016, when the government signed a peace accord with left-wing rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Under that deal, the government has pursued crop-substitution and alternative-development programs to pull farmers away from coca.
But a lack of resources has hindered implementation of those programs, and in lieu of an alternative, Colombian growers have forged ahead with the only one they can grow profitably.
“What really happened, I think, is that the government did stop fumigating, which was a factor,” said Adam Isacson, the director for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America. “It also cut way back on manual eradication, and it didn’t make a presence” in often-marginalized parts of the country where cultivation has been the most intense, Isacson told Business Insider.
Isacson, who spent a month on the ground in Colombia in February 2018, pointed to Putumayo, a department on Colombia’s southern border.
“That fringe area with Ecuador is no-man’s land, and nobody’s seen an eradicator or a development official, same for most of Catatumbo,” he told Business Insider, referring to a region in the northwest Colombian department of Norte de Santander, where cultivation is also intense.
“So if it’s no-man’s land and you see your neighbor’s now got waist-high coca bushes, and they’re two years old and nobody’s messed with him, it’s probably pretty tempting to grow it yourself,” Isacson said.
Efforts to get farmers to grow other crops have faltered because they aren’t economically viable — in part because getting those crops to market from rural, isolated areas eats away the profit margin.
“You probably often make more with almost any other crop, but it’s always a different crop. Sometimes it’s coca. Sometimes … something else might be getting a better price than coca, but coca never goes down,” Isacson told Business Insider. “It’s just this always above-average price. It’s like an insurance policy for them.”
“The government has tried alternate-crop development and what have you, but it’s never worked, because growing breadfruit, bananas, and other crops does not come close to fetching the prices that coca does,” said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The value of coca increases dramatically as it is refined and moves toward consumer markets.
The ton of fresh coca leaf needed to make a kilo of cocaine costs a few hundred dollars in Colombia. After its processed and turned into power, that kilo can fetch $30,000 or more in the US. On the street, once that kilo is “stepped on” by cutting it to grams and adding fillers, its total value can exceed $100,000. (Though not all that money filters back to the source.)
“Coca cultivation has always been the most marketable and the highest-priced commodity that the criminal groups have engaged in, because really there’s no other crop that brings the price that cocaine does,” Vigil, who worked on the ground in Colombia while in the DEA, told Business Insider.
That doesn’t necessarily translate into a boon for farmers, however. Traffickers and criminal groups, as the main buyers, have outsize control at the point of purchase, often dictating the price.
“The farmers really don’t have a say, because they have to be able to sell the cocaine that they produce,” Vigil said. “If they don’t acquiesce to the prices of the major drug-trafficking organizations, they’re going to move on, and there’s always somebody else that they can buy it from.”
Farmers have also been left vulnerable by the Colombian government, which has forged ahead with manual eradication, which has vastly outstripped the building of roads and infrastructure that would support alternative development and cultivation of other crops, in part because of an economic downturn that has lashed the government’s budget.
And while nearly 30,000 families are now receiving benefits from Colombia’s Comprehensive Program for Illicit Crop Substitution, that’s only about one-quarter of the families who have signed collective agreements, which is just the first step in a long process to get aid.
With a lack of state support, farmers interested in moving out of the coca trade are often exposed to FARC dissidents and other criminal groups, who have rushed to fill the vacuum left by demobilizing FARC units and want farmers to continue tending coca bushes.
“They don’t have the money to support us, and the pressure to continue [growing coca] is fierce,” a community leader in the isolated southwest municipality of Tumaco — a global hub for coca — said in late 2016, after a deadly clash between state security forces and farmers protesting efforts to destroy their coca.
In January 2018, the Colombian government sent 2,000 troops to Tumaco to contain violence there.
“What we have seen — in Norte de Santander it’s happened [and] in Putumayo to some extent — is people signing on to the crop-substitution programs [and] getting threatened or killed for … abandoning it.”
The United States wasn’t the most dominant country on Earth from the get-go. For most of our nearly 243-year history, in fact, we lived by the skin of our teeth. It’s a relatively recent development where some other country can call out for the blood of Americans to fill the streets, and we at home barely seem to notice. That’s the chief benefit of U.S. military. In the olden days, someone threatening the United States might have actually had a chance.
Those days are gone.
This list is about more than just how many Americans an enemy could kill. This is about being able to really take down the United States at a time when we weren’t able to topple the enemy government or wipe out their infrastructure without missing a single episode of The Bachelor.
Radical terrorism is nothing new. Just like insurgent groups, extremists, and jihadis attacking Americans in the name of their gods, other militants have been picking at the U.S. for centuries. ISIS and al-Qaeda are just the latest flash in the pan. Anarchists, organized labor, and other saboteurs were bombing American facilities well before Osama bin Laden thought of it. The U.S. Marine Corps even established its reputation by walking 500 miles through the North African desert just to rescue hostages and kill terrorists… in 1805.
What terrorists have been able to do is force tough changes in defense and foreign policy – but as an existential threat, the Macarena captured more Americans than global terrorism ever will.
The Soviet Union
The Cold War was a hot war, we all know that by now. It had the potential to kill millions of people worldwide and throw the American system into total disarray. It definitely had potential. Unfortunately, they were much better at killing their own people than killing Americans. In the end, their deadliest weapon was food shortages, which they used to great effect… on the Soviet Union.
But thanks for all the cool 1980s movie villains.
It may surprise you all to see Mexico ranked higher on this list than our primary Cold War adversary, but before the United States could take on pretty much the rest of the world in a war, a threat from Mexico carried some heft. Until James K. Polk came to office.
Even though the Mexican-American War was a pretty lopsided victory for the United States, it was hard-won. More than 16 percent of the Americans who joined to fight it never came home. And imagine if the U.S. had lost to Mexico – California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming could still be Mexican today.
The 19th Century and the first part of the 20th Century didn’t look good for China, but they sure managed to turn things around. While, like their Soviet counterparts, the Chinese were (and still are) better at killing Chinese people than Americans, they sure had their share of fun at our expense. The Chinese fueled the Korean War, the war in Vietnam, and the ongoing struggle with Taiwan and they continue their current military buildup to be able to face threats from the U.S.
While not an existential threat right now, China could very well be one day.
At a time when our nation’s growth and survival demanded it stretch from sea to shining sea, the principal stumbling block was that there were many, many other nations already taking that space between the U.S. east coast and west coast. Predictably, the Native American tribes fought back, making the American frontier manifest much more than destiny, it manifested death and destruction.
While the native tribes had very little chance of conquering the young United States, the Indians were key allies for those who could and for many decades, did keep the two parts of the U.S. separated by a massive, natural border.
The United States would be very, very difficult to invade, sure, but what if your armed forces were already on American soil and all you had to do was just keep those colonists from revolting while still paying their taxes? The only way anyone could ever have killed off the fledgling United States would be to kill it in its cradle and the British came very, very close. And just a few years later, they would have another opportunity.
In round two, British and Canadian forces burned down the White House and have been the envy of every American enemy ever since.
Japan had the might and the means to be able to take down the United States. Their only problem was poor planning and even worse execution. The problem started long before Pearl Harbor. Japanese hubris after beating Russia and China one after the other turned them into a monster – a slow, dumb monster that had trouble communicating. Japan’s head was so far up its own ass with its warrior culture that they became enamored with the process of being a warrior, rather than focusing on the prize: finishing the war it started.
There’s a reason the Nazis are America’s number one movie and TV-show enemy. The Germans were not only big and bad on paper; they were even worse in real life. Even though the World War I Germany was vastly different from the genocidal, meth-addled master race bent on world domination, in 1916, it sure didn’t seem that way. But the threat didn’t stop with the Treaty of Versailles.
The interwar years were just as dangerous for the United States. The Great Depression hit the U.S. as hard as anyone else. Pro-Hitler agitators and American Nazi groups weren’t just a product of German immigrants or Nazi intelligence agencies – some Americans really believed National Socialism was the way forward. Even after the end of World War II, East Germans were still trying to kill Americans.
After all, who fights harder or better than an American?
Like many countries before the United States and many countries since no one is better at killing us than ourselves. But this isn’t in the same way the governments of China, the Soviet Union, and countless others decide to systematically kill scores of their own citizens. No, the closest the United States ever came to departing this world was when Americans decided to start fighting Americans.
Federal officials plan to crackdown on what they view as predatory lending schemes — reminiscent of the toxic practices seen during the housing boom — targeted at thousands of veterans nationwide who have VA home loans.
The abuses involve serial refinancings that generate hefty fees for lenders and loan brokers but leave borrowers in worse financial shape than they were before the transaction. Lenders are dangling teaser interest rates, “cash out” windfalls, and lower monthly payments, sometimes using shady marketing materials that resemble official information from the Department of Defense. Not infrequently, officials say, borrowers end up in negative equity positions, owing more on their loan balance than their house is worth.
Officials at the Government National Mortgage Association, better known as Ginnie Mae, say some veterans are being flooded with misleading refi offers and are signing up without assessing the costs and benefits. Some properties are being refinanced multiple times a year, thanks to “poaching” by lenders who aggressively solicit competitors’ recent borrowers to refi them again and roll the fees into a new loan balance.
The costs to the veterans can far outweigh the relatively modest reductions in monthly payments. In an analysis of questionable refinancings, Ginnie Mae found “many” examples where the borrowers were persuaded to switch from a long-term fixed interest rate to a lower-rate, short-term adjustable, but saw the principal amount owed to the lender jump by thousands of dollars. In an average fixed-rate to adjustable-rate refi, according to data provided to me for this column, borrowers added $12,000 to their debt in order to reduce their monthly payment by $165. Just to break even on that deal would take more than six years, according to Ginnie Mae, and could push unsuspecting borrowers into negative equity.
A typical pitch for one of these loans was received recently by a veteran and his wife who live in Silver Spring, Md. Along with a fake “check” made out to the veteran in the amount of $30,000 — all he had to do to get the cash was sign up for a refi — were come-ons like this: a new 2.25 percent interest rate, no out-of-pocket expenses, a refund of his escrow money, and up to two months with zero mortgage payments.
“Call now and lock in your rate before rates go any higher,” urged the lender. In small print on the back of the check were a couple of key disclosures: Homeowners would have to switch from their current 3.75 percent fixed rate to a “3/1” adjustable rate that could increase 36 months after closing and rise to as high as 7.25 percent during the life of the loan. There was nothing about fees or the fact that opting for the refi could add to the family’s debt load.
VA home loans are backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and often have no down payment. Lenders who originate them receive guarantees of a portion of the loan amount against loss in the event of a default. Ginnie Mae bundles VA and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans into mortgage bonds, which are then purchased by investors who receive guarantees of timely payments.
In an interview, Michael R. Bright, acting Ginnie Mae president, said some of the abuses he is seeing hark back to 2005 and 2006 — heyday years of the boom before the bust. “We’re seeing borrowers refinance three times in less than six months and (their) loan balances going up.” Homeowners also are dumping fixed-rate loans for riskier adjustables.
“That was the play back then” during the boom, he said. Now it’s back.
Bright declined to name mortgage lenders who are most aggressively involved in abusive refis, but he said violators of agency rules face financial penalties and loss of eligibility to participate in bond offerings — essentially closing down their funding source.
Bottom line for VA borrowers: Look skeptically at all refi promotions. Run the numbers to see whether refinancing will leave you better off — or deeper in debt.
The pace is intense on day two at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, with veteran lawmakers, celebrities and GOP nominee Donald Trump’s family headlining the speaker’s roster.
While the Trump ticket undoubtedly brings star power on its own, several well-known combat vets, advocates and prior service lawmakers have played a key role in discussing a variety of issues that touch the military and veteran audience, including health care, benefits and military spending.
We Are The Mighty spoke with Military Times Capitol Hill bureau chief Leo Shane III to get his perspective on Trump’s plans to pump up defense spending, avoid incidents like the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and to generally put more emphasis on military issues.
Shane also gives a little bit of his insight into the entertainment lineup, worrying that he might have to miss Kid Rock in favor of Trump’s keynote speech.
In 2010, after a trip to South Sudan, George Clooney and Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast had a revelation: they could monitor warlord activity via satellite and take action to help save lives.
Within a year, they had launched the Satellite Sentinel Project, which “combines commercial satellite imagery, academic analysis, and advocacy to promote human rights in Sudan and South Sudan and serve as an early warning system for impending crisis.”
Since 1956, military regimes favoring Islamic-oriented governments have dominated war-torn Sudan. Two civil wars mark the country’s recent history, and though South Sudan became independent in July 2011, Sudan and South Sudan remain in a conflict resulting in a humanitarian crisis that affects more than one million people.
Though violence between government forces has lessened, inter-tribal violence continues — which is where Clooney and his partners step in.
George Clooney Witnesses War Crimes in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains
WARNING: This video contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.
The project works like this: DigitalGlobe satellites passing over Sudan and South Sudan capture imagery of possible threats to civilians, detect bombed and razed villages, or note other evidence of pending mass violence. Experts at DigitalGlobe work with the Enough Project to analyze imagery and information from sources on the ground to produce reports. The Enough Project then releases to the press and policymakers and sounds the alarm by notifying major news organizations and a mobile network of activists on Twitter and Facebook.
In 2012, Clooney returned to South Sudan to meet with survivors, policy-makers, and militants.
“The worst-case scenario is rapidly unfolding: political and personal disputes are escalating into an all-out civil war in which certain ethnic groups are increasingly targeted by the others’ forces and the rebels take over the oilfields,” wrote Clooney and Prendergast for The Daily Beast.
But Clooney maintains that there is an opportunity for the international community to help the South Sudanese leaders prevent Sudan from becoming the next Syria.
Which is where the Satellite Sentinel Project comes in. The Enough Project gathers HUMINT (Human Intelligence) on the ground, provides field reports and policy analysis, and coordinates the communications strategy to sound the alarm.
Meanwhile, DigitalGlobe’s constellation of satellites capture imagery of Sudan and South Sudan, allowing for analytic support, identification of mass graves, evidence of forced displacement, and early warning against attacks.
A top Pentagon official has said the only sure way of eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities would be by putting US boots on the ground — a move that some worry could prompt Pyongyang to use biological, chemical, and even nuclear weapons against Japan and South Korea.
“The only way to ‘locate and destroy — with complete certainty — all components of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs’ is through a ground invasion,” Rear Adm. Michael J. Dumont, vice director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in a blunt assessment to US lawmakers on the realities of reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
Dumont’s letter came in response to questions by US Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Ruben Gallego of Arizona in regards to military planning and casualty estimates in the event of conflict with the nuclear-armed North.
Rear Adm. Michael J. Dumont, pictured above, is convinced that the only way to completely disarm North Korea would be to put Troops in harm’s way. (Photo courtesy of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)
Dumont said that a detailed discussion of US capabilities “to counter North Korea’s ability to respond with a nuclear weapon and to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons located in deeply buried, underground facilities,” would be best suited for a classified briefing.
The military, Dumont wrote, “would be happy to join the Intelligence Community to address these issues in a classified briefing.”
His letter also noted that the North “may consider the use of biological weapons as an option, contrary to its obligations under the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention,” adding that it continues to bolster its research and development capabilities in this area.
North Korea, the letter went on, “has a long-standing chemical weapons program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents and it likely possesses a CW stockpile.”
The country “probably could employ CW agents by modifying a variety of conventional munitions, including artillery and ballistic missiles, though whether it would so employ CW agents remains an open question,” Dumont said, again noting that a detailed discussion would need to be held in a classified setting.
The Pentagon also said it was “challenging” to calculate “best- or worst-case casualty estimates” for any conventional or nuclear attack, citing the nature, intensity, and duration of any strike, as well as how much advance warning is given.
In a joint statement in response to the letter, 16 US lawmakers — all veterans — called the prospect of a ground invasion “deeply disturbing.”
“The Joint Chiefs of Staff has now confirmed that the only way to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is through a ground invasion,” they wrote. “That is deeply disturbing and could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting.”
These estimates echoed a report by the Congressional Research Service released late last month that said renewed conflict on the Korean Peninsula could kill hundreds of thousands of people in the first few days alone, a figure that excluded the potential use of nuclear weapons.
Even if North Korea “uses only its conventional munitions, estimates range from between 30,000 and 300,000 dead in the first days of fighting,” the report said, citing North Korea’s ability to fire 10,000 rounds per minute at Seoul.
More pressingly for Japan, the report noted is that “Pyongyang could also escalate to attacking Japan with ballistic missiles, including the greater Tokyo area and its roughly 38 million residents.
“The regime might see such an attack as justified by its historic hostility toward Japan based on Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, or it could launch missiles in an attempt to knock out US military assets stationed on the archipelago,” the report said. “A further planning consideration is that North Korea might also strike US bases in Japan (or South Korea) first, possibly with nuclear weapons, to deter military action by US/ROK forces.”
US President Donald Trump, who kicked off his first trip to Asia as president with a visit to Japan on Nov. 5, has regularly noted that all options, including military action, remain on the table.
The global community has been ramping up pressure on North Korea after it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test so far on Sept. 3. In September, the UN Security Council strengthened its sanctions, including export bans as well as asset freezes and travel bans on various officials.
For his part, Trump, together with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has taken an approach of “maximum pressure” in dealing with Pyongyang.
But Trump, known to derisively refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “rocket man,” has also variously threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” and to “totally destroy” the country of 25 million people if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, including Japan.
This possibility of military action has stoked alarm among allied nations and within the US Congress, including questions about planning and the aftermath of such a move.
“It is our intent to have a full public accounting of the potential cost of war, so the American people understand the commitment we would be making as a nation if we were to pursue military action,” the 16 lawmakers wrote in their statement.
The Trump administration, the lawmakers said, “has failed to articulate any plans to prevent the military conflict from expanding beyond the Korean Peninsula and to manage what happens after the conflict is over.”
“With that in mind, the thought of sending troops into harm’s way and expending resources on another potentially unwinnable war is chilling,” they said. “The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk.”
The United States has roughly 50,000 troops stationed in Japan and 28,500 based in South Korea.
“Invading North Korea could result in a catastrophic loss of lives for US troops and US civilians in South Korea,” the lawmakers said. “It could kill millions of South Koreans and put troops and civilians in Guam and Japan at risk.
“As Veterans, we have defended this nation in war and we remain committed to this country’s security. We also understand that entering into a protracted and massive ground war with North Korea would be disastrous for US troops and our allies,” they said. “The Joint Chiefs of Staff, it appears, agree. Their assessment underscores what we’ve known all along: There are no good military options for North Korea.”
An unmanned aerial vehicle being used by the terrorist group Hamas was shot down by an Israeli fighter today.
According to a report from ynetnews.com, the Israeli fighter shot down the drone as it was departing airspace over the Gaza Strip. Such actions are standard policy for the Israeli Defense Forces. A spokesman for the IDF told ynetnews.com that “the IDF will not allow any airspace violation and will act resolutely against any such attempt.”
An Israeli F-15 I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. (AFP photo by Jack Guez)
Six months ago, an IDF F-16 Fighting Falcon was scrambled to intercept a similar drone, and shot it down off the coast of Gaza.
The use of drones to deliver explosives has already been seen in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS. One attack on Oct. 2, 2016, killed two Kurdish troops and wounded French special operations personnel.
The halftime show of Super Bowl LI, in which pop superstar Lady Gaga used 300 drones for a light show, also has drawn attention from the deputy commander of United States Special Operations Command, according to a report by WeAreTheMighty.com from earlier this month. WATM’s report on those concerns also noted that ISIS was using small drones to drop hand grenades on Coalition forces.
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since June 15, 2007, following over a week of violent fighting with Fatah. The charter of the terrorist group, known as the Hamas Covenant, calls for the absolute destruction of Israel.
Relatives of Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, spoke out in an interview with The Guardian published Aug. 3, 2018, about their family’s dark legacy — and they suggested that the family’s involvement with terrorism hadn’t ended with bin Laden’s 2011 death.
Living sheltered lives as a prominent but controversial family in their native Saudi Arabia, several of the family members opened up about bin Laden’s childhood and his eventual transformation into one of the most notorious figures in recent history.
But while bin Laden’s career as a terrorist and head of Al Qaeda came to an end at the hands of US Navy SEALs in a midnight raid on his hideout in Pakistan, his militancy seems to have taken root in his youngest child.
Bin Laden’s family believes his youngest son, Hamza, has followed in his father’s footsteps by traveling to Afghanistan, where the US, Afghanistan’s national army, and NATO have been locked in a brutal war with Islamic militants since shortly after the Twin Towers were destroyed.
The scene just after United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001.
Hamza, officially designated a terrorist by the US, apparently took his family by surprise with an endorsement of militant Islam.
“We thought everyone was over this,” Hassan bin Laden, an uncle of Hamza, told The Guardian.
“Then the next thing I knew, Hamza was saying, ‘I am going to avenge my father.’ I don’t want to go through that again. If Hamza was in front of me now, I would tell him: ‘God guide you. Think twice about what you are doing. Don’t retake the steps of your father. You are entering horrible parts of your soul.'”
After the September 11 attacks, some members of bin Laden’s family remained in touch while others led a quiet life under the supervision of the Saudi government and international intelligence agencies.
Many of the bin Ladens have sought to put their history behind them by avoiding media and politics, but Hamza’s apparent support of his father’s ideas suggests Osama bin Laden’s embracing of terrorism may have come back to haunt them.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.