Why experts think Kim Jong Un never actually attended an elite military academy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Why experts think Kim Jong Un never actually attended an elite military academy

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.

North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”

Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.


North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.

(KCNA)

According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.

Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.

Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater

Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.

“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.

(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)

Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.

“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.

Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.

“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”

‘A natural at military strategy’

While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.

NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.

(KCNA)

According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”

He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.

“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.

“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.

Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.

“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”

(KCNA)

Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.

“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”

In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”

NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.

In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

After capturing Ukrainian sailors, Russia threatens more missiles

Martial law came into force across a large swath of Ukraine on Nov. 28, following a clash at sea that Kyiv called an “act of aggression” by Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed was ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart’s popularity ahead of an election in March.

Ukraine introduced martial law in 10 of its 27 regions — including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines — after Russian coast-guard craft rammed and fired on three Ukrainian Navy vessels off the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea on Nov. 25 before seizing the boats and detaining 24 crew members, six of whom were wounded.


Ukraine imposes martial law as tensions with Russia escalate

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In two days of hearings, courts in Russian-controlled Crimea ordered all 24 to be held in custody for two months pending possible trial, defying calls from Kyiv and the West for their immediate release and also signaling that the Kremlin wants to cast the incident as a routine border violation rather than warfare at sea.

The detention period can be extended, and the Ukranians face up to six years in prison if convicted on charges of illegal border crossing.

https://twitter.com/NeilMacFarquhar/statuses/1067711905572229120
Seems #Russia will try to barrel through aftermath of the #KerchStrait confrontation by treating it as a court case. 15 of 24 #Ukraine sailors already sentenced to 2 months pretrial detention, including three in Kerch who must be the wounded. Other 9 expected today.

twitter.com

In his first public comments on the incident that increased already high tensions between Kyiv and Moscow and sparked concerns of a widening of the simmering war between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, Putin reiterated Russia’a accusation that the Ukrainian boats trespassed in Russian waters — a claim Kyiv has denied.

“It was without doubt a provocation,” Putin told a financial forum in Moscow.

He claimed that the confrontation was orchestrated by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who opinion polls indicate faces an uphill battle in his expected bid for a second term in an election now officially scheduled for March 31.

“It was organized by the president ahead of the elections,” Putin said, adding that Poroshenko “is in fifth place, ratings-wise, and therefore had to do something. It was used as a pretext to introduce martial law.”

Putin claimed that the Ukrainian “military vessels intruded into Russian territorial waters and did not answer” the Russian coast guard. “What were they supposed to do?”

“They would do the same in your country. This is absolutely obvious,” he said, responding to a question from a foreign investor at the forum.

While laying the blame squarely on Ukraine, Putin — whose country could face fresh Western sanctions over the clash — also sought to play it down, saying it was nothing more than a border incident and calling martial law an exaggerated response.

Opinion polls in Ukraine suggest that Poroshenko faces an uphill battle in his expected bid for a second term in a presidential election scheduled for March 31.

Some Kremlin critics suspect that it was Putin who orchestrated the clash, in an attempt to bolster his own approval rating amid anger in Russia over plans to raise the retirement age.

In earlier comments at the same conference, Putin said he hopes he will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of a G20 summit later this week in Argentina, as planned.

Trump cast doubt on the meeting on November 27, telling The Washington Post that he might not meet with Putin as a result of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, adding: “I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”

Ukraine Imposes Martial Law for 30 Days

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The Ukrainian parliament late on November 26 voted to impose martial law for 30 days in the provinces that Poroshenko said are the most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”

The 10 provinces all border Russia or Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester region, where Russian troops are stationed, or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov close to Crimea.

Among other things, martial law gives Ukrainian authorities the power to order a partial mobilization, strengthen air defenses, and take steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”

It is the first time Ukraine has imposed martial law since Russia seized Crimea in March 2014 and backed separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces in a war that erupted in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk the following month.

Those moves, which prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia, followed the downfall of a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was pushed from power by a pro-European protest movement known as the Maidan.

While Russian forces occupied Crimea before the takeover and are heavily involved in the war in eastern Ukraine, according to Kyiv and NATO, the clash in the Black Sea near Crimea was the first case in which Russia has acknowledged its military or law enforcement forces have fired on Ukrainians.

Vox Pop: What Ukrainians Think About Martial Law

www.rferl.org

Before Putin made his comments, the Kremlin called the introduction of martial law a “reckless” act that “potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region in the southeast” of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Russian military said it will bolster the defenses of Russian-controlled Crimea by add one S-400 surface-to-air missile system to the three already deployed there.”

The new air-defense missile system will soon be put on combat duty to guard Russian airspace,” Colonel Vadim Astafyev said. State-run news agency RIA Novosti said the system will be operational by the end of the year.

Moscow claims that Crimea is part of Russia, but the overwhelming majority of countries reject that and still consider it to be part of Ukraine.

Poroshenko said that Russia’s actions threatened to lead to a “full-scale war” and accused Moscow of mounting a major buildup of forces near Ukraine.

“The number of [Russian] units that have been stationed along our entire border has increased dramatically,” Poroshenko said in a television interview late on November 27, adding that the number of Russian tanks has tripled. Russia has not commented.

The clash in waters near Crimea was by far the biggest confrontation at sea after more than four years of war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,300 civilians and combatants have been killed.

It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait, where Russia opened a bridge leading to Crimea in May.

The strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports.

In comments to The Washington Post published on November 27, Trump said he was considering canceling his scheduled meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a Group of 20 (G20) summit in Buenos Aires on November 30-December 1.

Trump told The Washington Post he was waiting for a “full report” from his national-security team about the incident.

“That will be very determinative,” Trump told The Washington Post. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting…I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on November 28 that “preparations are continuing, the meeting was agreed.”

“We don’t have any other information from [U.S. officials],” he said when asked about Trump’s comments.

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged European states to do more to support Ukraine and said Washington wants to see tougher enforcement of sanctions against Russia.

European Union leaders said they were considering ratcheting up sanctions on Russia for illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov over the weekend and because of its defiance of calls to release the Ukrainian crew members.

On November 27, Russian courts in the Crimean cities of Simferopol and Kerch ordered 15 of the Ukrainians to be held in custody for two months. Hearings for the other nine on November 28 produced the same result.

The mother of detained sailor Andriy Eyder, Viktoria Eyder, told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in the Black Sea port city of Odesa that her son was “wounded and is hospitalized in Kerch.”

The court rulings put the sailors in a situation similar to that of several Ukrainians, including film director Oleh Sentsov, who are being held in Russian prisons and jails for what Kyiv and Western governments say are political reasons.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa, BBC, Interfax, and RIA

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA therapist helps dying veteran complete bucket list

Army Veteran Kenneth Augustus loved adventure. He loved to rock climb, and scuba dive, and always had a longing for falling hundreds of feet per second from an airplane.


VA Salt Lake City Recreation Therapist Lili Sotolong knew skydiving was a lofty goal considering his condition, but she was determined to make that dream come true.

With help from VA Recreation Therapist Lili Sotolong, left, Veteran Kenneth Augustus was able to scratch skydiving from his bucket list. (Photo from Jill Atwood, Veterans Affairs)

“I got a call out of the blue to come work with this Veteran,” Lili said. “I was told he only had a few months to live but when I got there he was beyond positive, and so easy to work with. He had made peace with what was happening to him and was really preparing himself for the inevitable; he just had some things he wanted to experience first.”

Lili made several calls and finally arranged the jump through two very generous community partners: Skydive Utah and the Elks Lodge. It was go-time!

“He got to jump with his brother and his son, and they wanted me to do it with them! We had a group hug and were all fist-pumping in the plane prior to the jump. It really was an extraordinary experience.”

On Veterans Day 2017 Kenny Augustus fulfilled his dying wish. Attached to a highly-experienced instructor and with a big smile on his face, he dove out of a prop plane at 13,500 feet. Imagine a free fall at 120 miles per hour for 60 seconds. Moments later, the jolt of a chute opening was followed by a peaceful glide to the ground. Lili remembers Kenny’s smile and a big thumbs-up.

Also Read: This Dying Vietnam Veteran Is Giving Away Everything He Owns To Charity

From one extreme to the next: scuba diving one last time (check)

Later that evening, Kenny went scuba diving with his son via virtual reality goggles at the Crater in Midvale, Utah. He was too sick to go in the water, but enjoyed the next best thing. Using a drone especially equipped for water, Kenny followed his son underwater and experienced everything his son was seeing. Kenny was hoping for the real thing, but just being there, surrounded by the love and support of his family, was thrill enough.

A week later, Kenny passed.

“I went to my supervisor and I just broke down,” Lili said. “I am touched and hurt all at the same time. I really got to know him and his family over a short time. I just never thought it would hurt this much.”

Lili agreed to tell this story because of this extraordinary Veteran she came to admire. His spirit and positivity in the face of such pain and uncertainty impacted her in ways she never imagined.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why the Supreme Court’s ruling on burn pits will have catastrophic effects

Burn pits are, without a shadow of a doubt, the post-9/11 veteran’s Agent Orange. Countless troops have been exposed to the toxic gases given off by the mishandling of dangerous substances, and twelve veterans have died as a direct result of this negligence. Everything from heart disease to lung cancer has been found in veterans who have been exposed to the fumes.

There were over sixty different lawsuits raised against KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton that oversees the waste “management,” and each was struck down in court. A final nail was added to the proverbial coffin recently when the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the decision of the Court of Appeals, stating KBR wasn’t liable for their actions because they were under military direction.


The ruling also goes for the Open Air Sewage pits that were constructed by KBR. In the simplest of terms, there were giant ponds of literal human sh*t next to troop housing and no one thought that it was a problem.

(U.S. Navy)

This means that the mishandling of waste, as conducted by KBR, that put the lives of troops and veterans at risk has been permitted by the highest court in the land. Any attempt to seek compensation by those affected will now be struck down using this ruling and Halliburton will remain protected.

Not only is this horrible news for the troops and veterans who’ve been affected by burn pits, but it sets a precedent that protects civilian negligence if done for the U.S. military in a war zone. According to MilitaryTimes, KBR argued that they cannot be sued because they, essentially, were operating as an extension of the military. They also claimed that the only way to control contractors’ actions was through military oversight.

While the burn pits are the subject of the majority of the lawsuits, there are more claims against KBR. One such claim revolves around the wrongful death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a Green Beret at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Baghdad, Iraq. In January, 2008, he was electrocuted to death while trying to take a shower in a facility constructed by KBR. The plaintiffs argue that KBR was well aware of the shoddy work, but it wasn’t fixed and the troops were not warned.

This case was also dismissed.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it…

It is true that, in the past, the U.S. military has instructed personnel to burn waste in the absence of an alternate method of disposal, but it’s never been done at the scale for which KBR is responsible. There is a massive difference between troops in an outlaying FOB burning an oil drum filled with human waste and the 147 tons of waste burned daily at Balad in 2008.

The U.S. military is by no means blameless in this situation. It did put a “stop” to burn pits in Iraq in 2009, but the Government Accountability Office found 251 such pits in Afghanistan and 22 in Iraq in August, 2010. Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking proper steps to right this wrong with the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. If enough people register, our military will be forced to look at the true scope of this problem and act accordingly.

The truth is, there was a better solution to handling the waste, but that was skipped in favor of the most expedient route. Now, countless veterans have terminal illnesses for their actions and the Supreme Court has just given future contractors in the ability to take shortcuts — even if it’s certain to put troops in harm’s way.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A veteran just protested the VA by setting himself on fire

An unidentified veteran walked up to the Georgia State Capitol on the morning of June 26, 2018 and casually set himself on fire using a combination of gasoline and fireworks. He was protesting his treatment by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

FOX’s Atlanta affiliate is reporting that the veteran was quickly extinguished by officers of the Georgia State Patrol and that no one else was injured in the protest or its aftermath. No, the man was not rushed to a VA medical center. Instead, an ambulance took the injured veteran to nearby Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

(Photo by FOX 5 Atlanta’s Aungelique Proctor via Twitter)

The explosion caused by the fireworks could be heard during press conferences happening elsewhere on the Capitol grounds, according to FOX 5 Atlanta, who was covering a discussion about Georgia’s new hands-free traffic safety law, taking effect on July 1st. State troopers at that conference made a beeline for the self-immolating veteran.

You can hear the explosions and the reactions of the Georgia Patrol starting around 4:10.

It’s a lucky thing a handful public safety officers from the Georgia State Patrol happened to be on hand for the hands-free law announcement.

Initially, the series of explosions was thought to be a series of actual bombs detonating around the Capitol area, and the Atlanta bomb squad was called on to the scene, according to FOX 5’s Aungelique Proctor.

Later, the bomb squad’s focus was on the white vehicle in which the still-unknown injured veteran arrived to the Georgia Capitol. The Georgia State Patrol and Georgia Bureau of Investigation is also on the scene as the story develops.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SOCOM is hunting for an advanced new sniper rifle

U.S. Special Operations Command has set the wheels in motion for a new Advanced Sniper Rifle to replace the organization’s current Precision Sniper Rifle setup.


It appears SOCOM will continue using a modular, bolt-action, multi-caliber rifle design; but will switch up calibers on the ASR. Though 7.62×51 NATO will remain in use, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum will replace SOCOM’s current .300 WinMag, and .338 Lapua cartridge selection.

Read Also: Special operators want a new sniper rifle in this rare caliber

Black Hills Ammunition is working closely with the government to lend “surrogate cartridges” to companies interested in developing an ASR contender. The rounds are not a spot-on representation of the final government approved ammo, instead serving as a starting point for gun makers to craft their ASR platforms.

SOCOM implied earlier this year that it was looking to switch up its rifle platforms, but held off on offering specific details. The ASR pre-solicitation came down the official pipeline last week. Still in its early stages, the formal solicitation with rifle requisites are expected to drop in February 2018.

SOCOM’s current Precision Sniper Rifle system took the government nearly two and a half years to award. The PSR was first announced in November 2011 and after extensive testing and fielding was eventually awarded to Remington’s Modular Sniper Rifle in March 2013. Remington took the top spot over Sako’s TRG M10. The 10-year contract with Remington, worth $79.7 million, called for 5,150 rifles and over 4 million rounds of ammunition.

This is the Remington Modular Sniper Rifle (MSR) (Image Remington)

The selection process for the ASR will likely mirror that of the PSR. Once selected, the ASR will serve SOCOM for five years with an initial order of 10 rifles to include ancillary equipment. The government alluded that more than one contract might be assigned, stating that it reserves the right to grant multiple awards.

SOCOM is currently prepping an industry day for manufacturers to gain insight on the ASR program. SOCOM says the event will cover the official timeline as well as addressing rifle specifications and test equipment. In addition, SOCOM is using the event to discuss future needs of Special Operations Forces. The ASR event is scheduled to run Dec. 5 through Dec. 7 at NSWC Crane.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the recent strike on Syria might have been illegal

President Donald Trump’s administration for the second time ordered a military strike on the Syrian government without asking for permission from Congress, and it could indicate the legislature has lost its ability to stop the US president from going to war.

The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, clearly states that the power to declare war lies with Congress, but since 2001 successive US presidents have used military force in conflicts around the world with increasingly tenuous legality.


Today, the US backs up most of its military activity using broad congressional legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The joint resolution, which Congress passed in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, allows the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

This has essentially become a carte blanche for the US president to fight terrorism wherever it rears its head.

But on April 13, 2018, the Trump administration attacked Syrian targets in retaliation for an attack on a Damascus suburb the US says involved chemical weapons. Trump ordered a similar punitive strike a year ago, in April 2017.

At Harvard’s Lawfare blog, the law professors Jack Goldsmith and Oona A. Hathaway summed up all of the Trump administration’s possible arguments for the legality of the Syria strikes in an article titled “Bad Legal Arguments for the Syria Airstrikes.”

The article concludes that the US’s stated legal justification, that Article II of the Constitution allows the US to protect itself from attacks, falls short and that other legal arguments are a stretch at best.

Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee who spoke with Secretary of Defense James Mattis hours before the strike, told Business Insider the strikes were probably illegal.

“The bottom line is I do not believe he has legal authority to conduct those strikes,” Garamendi said.

Congress ‘derelict in its duty’ as Trump doesn’t even try to get approval

The Laboon firing a Tomahawk land-attack missile.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)

Trump “could have and should have come to Congress and said these facilities and the use of poisonous gas is horrific, it is illegal based upon the international conventions, and I want to take military action,” Garamendi said, adding that he thought “a limited authorization to do that would have passed Congress in one day” if it had been written in a concise, limited way.

But Trump did not ask for permission, and it shows the incredible power of today’s US presidents to start wars.

“I think that Congress was derelict in its duty,” Garamendi said. “Congress clearly has abdicated one of its most crucial functions, and that is the power to take the US into a war. The Constitution is absolutely clear, and it’s for a very important reason.”

Fred Hof, a former US ambassador to Syria who is now at the Atlantic Council, said that while there was some reason for Congress to allow the president leverage in where and when he strikes, the two branches of government still needed to coordinate.

“Most, maybe all, in Congress would concede there are circumstances in which the commander-in-chief must act quickly and unilaterally,” Hof wrote to Business Insider. “But there are reasons why the Constitution enumerates the duties of the Congress in Article One, as opposed to subsequent Articles. I really do believe it’s incumbent on the executive branch to consult fully with the Congress and take the initiative in getting on the same page with the people’s representatives.”

Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain who is an expert on maritime law, told Business Insider “the last declaration of war was in the course of World War II,” adding that Congress had “absolutely” given the president increased powers to wage war unilaterally.

Possibly illegal strikes create a ‘window’ for the US’s adversaries

President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The US missile attack had questionable legality, but it wasn’t even Trump’s first time ordering strikes against Syria’s government, as a salvo of 59 cruise missiles targeted a Syrian air base in April 2017.

Before that, the US attacked Libya’s government forces in 2011. The US is also using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as justification for attacking Islamist militants in the Philippines, among other countries.

Garamendi said that by neglecting to request congressional approval, Trump had “given Syria, Russia, and Iran an argument that never should have happened.” He said by opening an internal US argument over whether the strike was legal, Trump had committed a “very serious error” and “opened a diplomatic attack that could easily have been avoided.”

Trump certainly did not start the trend of presidents ordering military action without congressional approval, and he has enjoyed wide support for his actions against chemical weapons use, but the move indicates a jarring reality — that the US president can go to war with thin legal justification and without even bothering to ask Congress.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate’s UFO inquiry highlights Washington’s worries about “Doomsday” weapons

In April, the Department of Defense released three videos taken by U.S. Navy pilots showing what the military defines as unexplainable aerial phenomena, or UAPs — more commonly known in civilian vernacular as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

The Pentagon videos clearly show the objects flying in unusual ways, and the audio includes the pilots’ puzzled and astounded reactions, including:


“What the [expletive] is that?”

“There’s a whole fleet of them…my gosh.”

“Look at that thing, dude.”

“That’s hauling ass, dude…look at that thing…it’s rotating.”

“Wow, what is that man?”

“Look at it fly [laughing].”

‘UFO’ videos captured by US Navy Jets Declassified

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Naturally, the revelation of these unexplained encounters sparked speculations in some quarters about the possibility of extraterrestrial life operating aerial vehicles in Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, when it comes to so-called UAPs, lawmakers in Washington have more earthbound concerns.

As China and Russia increasingly militarize space, and as Russia develops a new arsenal of high-tech “doomsday” weapons, there is mounting concern in Washington that these seemingly unexplainable aerial encounters could, in fact, be evidence of America’s adversaries putting their advanced new weapons into action — potentially over U.S. soil.

As a result, a group of U.S. senators has drafted an order for the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress about what UAP encounters have already been recorded and how that information is shared among U.S. agencies. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence made the request in a report, which was included in the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.

The report calls for a standardized method of collecting data on UAPs and “any links they have to adversarial governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”

The report also calls for the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI, to prepare a report for Congress on the sum total of reported UAPs. Based on information included in the report, the Office of Naval Intelligence maintains an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force. That naval task force appears to be the nexus for America’s collation of reports of UAP sightings — comprising data from military branches, intelligence agencies, and the FBI.

The full text of the Senate report on UAPs. Courtesy U.S. Senate.

The report instructs the DNI to report to Congress “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”

While the Senate report marks a major step in congressional oversight of America’s UAP sightings, the Pentagon and federal law enforcement have been alert to the threat for years.

In December 2017, the New York Times reported on the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which reportedly collected reports of UAPs from 2008 until 2012. And over the past two years, the FBI was reportedly tapped to help investigate a spate of UAP reports in Colorado and Nebraska. Some of those UAP sightings occurred near U.S. Air Force installations and were subsequently investigated by security forces at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

F.E. Warren is a strategic missile base and home to the 90th Missile Wing, which operates some 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are armed with nuclear warheads. Those missiles are on 24/7 alert, 365 days a year, according to the U.S. Air Force.

Following the breakdown of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the United States and Russia last year, and with Moscow and Washington increasingly at loggerheads over a broad gamut of geopolitical issues, Russian President Vladimir Putin has embarked his country’s military on a crash-course program to develop new so-called doomsday weapons.

An Atlas V AEHF-6 rocket successfully launches from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 26, 2020. The launch of the AEHF-6, a sophisticated communications relay satellite, is the first Department of Defense payload launched for the United States Space Force. Photo by Joshua Conti/U.S. Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.

The 9M730 Burevestnik — known as the “Skyfall” among NATO militaries — is a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile with virtually unlimited range.

Apart from the Burevestnik, in March 2018 Putin unveiled other new weapons that he touted would be able to defeat U.S. missile defense systems. Among those was the Avangard hypersonic vehicle, supposedly capable of flying at Mach 27. The Avangard reportedly went operational in December.

Russia is also reportedly developing a nuclear-powered underwater drone — the “Poseidon” — that will creep up to an adversary’s coast, detonate a nuclear weapon, and create a 500-meter, or 1,640-foot, tsunami.

According to some scientific journal reports, Russia may also be resurrecting some Soviet-era antisatellite missile programs, particularly one missile known as Kontakt, which was meant to be fired from a MiG-31D fighter.

Whereas the Soviet-era Kontakt system comprised a kinetic weapon intended to literally smash into U.S. satellites to destroy them, the contemporary Russian program will likely carry a payload of micro “interceptor” satellites that can effectively ambush enemy satellites.

The first #SpaceForce utility uniform nametapes have touched down in the Pentagon. Photo courtesy of United States Space Force/Twitter.

The recent creation of the U.S. Space Force reflects the novel threats the U.S. now faces from its adversaries in space.

On June 23, China successfully launched an unmanned probe bound for Mars, underscoring Beijing’s increased interest in its space program. That same day, the U.S. Space Force announced that on July 15 Russia had tested a new antisatellite weapon.

According to a Space Force statement, a Russian satellite released an object that moved “in proximity” to another Russian satellite. Based on the object’s trajectory, Space Force officials said it was likely a weapon rather than a so-called inspection satellite.

That test was “another example that the threats to U.S. and Allied space systems are real, serious and increasing,” the Space Force said in a release.

“This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold U.S. and allied space assets at risk,” said General John Raymond, commander of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, in the release.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY MOVIES

6 Star Wars blasters made from real-life guns

Despite the creation of the United States Space Force, we’re still a long way off from building blasters like ones in the Star Wars universe and defeating our enemies with intense bolts of plasma energy. That’s right, they’re not lasers. In the Star Wars universe, ranged weapons are primarily powered by an energy-rich gas that is converted to a glowing particle beam. A far cry from jacketed lead ammunition propelled by gunpowder, or slugthrowers as they’re known in Star Wars, many of the blasters used in a galaxy far, far away are actually built from real-life firearms that are more familiar to us.

With a very tight budget of $11 million, or just under $50 million today adjusted for inflation, George Lucas and his film crew elected to modify real-life surplus weapons rather than create futuristic weapons from scratch. Weaponry and prop supplier Bapty & Co was contracted to provide Star Wars with modified surplus firearms to serve as space-age blasters. However, because of the aforementioned budget, many of the props could only be rented for the film. As a result, modifications were light and we can easily recognize the base weapons today.

The left-side magazine, large breastplate, and restricted arm movement in their armor forced Stormtrooper actors to hold their E-11s left-handed (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

1. BlasTech E-11 blaster rifle

The standard issue weapon of Imperial stormtroopers, the E-11 was a light, handy, and lethal blaster. The debate about Stormtrooper accuracy aside, the blaster was very effective on the battlefield and even featured three power settings: lethal, stun, and sting. It also came equipped with a telescopic sight and a folding three-position stock, a carryover from the real-life weapon it is based on.

British soldiers of 2 PARA armed with Sterlings (Ministry of Defence)

The Sterling L2A3 submachine gun is a British firearm designed at the end of WWII to replace the famed Sten submachine gun. Firing the 9x19mm Parabellum round, the Sterling was a favorite of special forces units for its excellent reliability and good accuracy. The Star Wars conversions used a cut-down version of the Sterling’s stick magazine as their power cell.

2. BlasTech A280 blaster rifle

The favored small arm of the Rebel Alliance, the BlasTech A280 was highly effective at piercing armor and provided more power than other standard infantry blasters at long range. Two variants of the A280 existed. The A280C was the preferred weapon of Rebel commandos. The A280-CFE (Covert Field Edition) was a modular weapon system that could be converted from its core heavy pistol to an assault rifle or sniper rifle.

The standard A280 is an amalgamation of an AR-15 receiver with a cut-down magazine and the front of a German StG 44, again with a cut-down magazine. Original StG 44s are extremely rare and expensive, so the ones cut apart to make the A280 were rubber props previously used by Bapty Co. The A280C is based largely on the StG 44; the only notable changes being the alteration of the stock, removal of the magazine, and the addition of a scope and handguard. The A280-CFE is more akin to the base A280, featuring an AR-15 as its core heavy pistol. The assault rifle and sniper rifle conversions feature the addition of the StG 44 front end.

Did Han shoot first? (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

3. BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster pistol

Considered one of the most powerful blaster pistols in the galaxy, the DL-44 delivers massive close-range damage at the expense of overheating quickly under sustained fire. A carbine variation with an extended barrel and an attachable stock also exists. This version was used by Tobias Beckett on Mimban before he deconstructed it and gave it Han Solo. Solo further modified the weapon to make his iconic sidearm. After all, “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.”

The Waffen-SS soldier on the right shoulders an M712, an automatic variant of the C96 (Bundesarchiv)

The DL-44 is modified from the Mauser C96 pistol, easily identifiable by its rectangular internal magazine and broomhandle grip. Originally produced in Germany beginning in 1896, unlicensed copies were also produced in Spain and China throughout the first half of the 20th century. With the popularity of Han Solo’s DL-44, Star Wars enthusiasts have been known to purchase and modify increasingly rare original C96s to make replicas, much to the dismay of gun collectors.

Though small in stature, the Defender could still put down an Imperial trooper (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

4. DDC Defender sporting blaster pistol

On the other end of the spectrum, the Defender blaster pistol was a low-powered weapon meant for civilian defense and small-game hunting. It was also popular amongst the nobility of the Star Wars universe who used it in honor duels. The weapon was the sidearm of choice for Princess Leia Organa who wielded it against Imperial Stormtroopers during the boarding of the Tantive IV and the attack on the Endor shield generator bunker.

The Defender is based on the Margolin or MCM practice shooting pistol. The Soviet-made .22lr pistol is used primarily for competitive target shooting in the 25m Standard Pistol class. The weapon was chosen for its diminutive size to keep the prop gun from looking bulky and unwieldy in Carrie Fisher’s hands during filming.

Death troopers used vocal scramblers that could only be understood by other death troopers (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

5. BlasTech DLT-19 heavy blaster rifle

The DLT-19 was used heavily by Imperial forces as well as bounty hunters and even some Rebel heavy troopers. Although it was not a crew-served weapon, its high rate of fire meant that it could be used to suppress and cut down enemies at long range. The DLT-19D variant, which featured a scope and an under barrel glow rod (flashlight), was used by the elite Imperial death troopers. The DLT-19x targeting blaster was another variant. It featured a scope with greater magnification than the D variant and released all of its power in one shot, making it an extremely accurate and deadly long-range precision weapon.

Very little was changed on the MG 34 to make it into the DLT-19. Introduced in 1934, the German machine gun could be belt-fed or utilize a drum magazine; neither of which were used on the DLT-19. The MG 34 was designed under the new concept of a universal machine gun and is generally considered to be the world’s first general-purpose machine gun. It was the mainstay of German support weapons until it was replaced by the MG 42 in 1942. Even then, because the MG 34’s barrel could be changed out more easily inside of a vehicle than the MG 42, it remained the primary armored vehicle defensive weapon throughout the entirety of the war.

You can never have too much suppressive fire (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

6. BlasTech T-21 light repeating blaster

If you couldn’t tell, the nationalization of BlasTech industries meant that it was the premier military-grade arms manufacturer in the galaxy. The T-21 was a rarer sight than their more common E-11 or A280 blasters though. It was issued to more elite units like stormtroopers, magma troopers, and shadow troopers. However, its high rate of fire and long-range accuracy were limited by its power capacity of just 30 shots. To remedy this limitation, the T-21 could be hooked up to a power generator to provide sustained fire. The T-21B variant added an optic to increase its lethality at long range.

Australian soldiers drill with Lewis guns in France (Public Domain)

The Lewis light machine gun was designed in America, but built in Britain and fielded by the British Empire during WWI. It featured a distinctive barrel cooling shroud and a top-mounted pan magazine. Like the magazine of the MG 34, the Lewis gun’s magazine was omitted for its use in the Star Wars universe. It was often used as an aircraft machine gun and served to the end of the Korean War.


MIGHTY TRENDING

JP Morgan invests $4.2 million in veteran businesses

JPMorgan, the financial services giant, has invested $4.2 million into three organizations that will loan money to veteran-owned small businesses.


The company announced Monday the multi-million dollar contribution, which will benefit three community development financial institutions, including Carolina Small Business Development Fund, PeopleFund, and Main Street Launch. Such lenders seek to loan money to make a profit and fulfill mission-focused goals.

The investment is part of the company’s broader Small Business Forward initiative to invest $75 million over the next three years in businesses owned by folks from underserved backgrounds, according to a release on the news.

Like this except times FOUR MILLION. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Sheila deVera)

“Veterans make excellent business owners, so it makes perfect sense for us to help connect them with the access to capital they need to succeed,” said Andrew Kresse, CEO of business banking at the firm. “We’re pleased to work with outstanding partners who serve the veteran business community, and in turn, help strengthen the communities in which we all live and work.”

Also read: These entrepreneurs survived Shark Tank and share their secrets with vets

The bank recently found in its Chase Business Leaders Outlook study that veteran-owned businesses beat their peers on a number of metrics. For instance:

  • In the next 12 months, more veteran-owned businesses expect to increase: profits, capital expenditures, and credit needs compared to non-veteran peers;
  • Veteran-owned businesses also have stronger employment projections–more plan to increase employees/compensation compared to non-veteran peers;
  • Veteran-run small businesses reported plans to hire more employees and report stronger optimism.

The contribution is a “philanthropic investment,” according to a press representative. As such, JPMorgan will not directly benefit monetarily from the loans, but it expects a return from the broader impact the loans will have on society.

The company also said Monday it renewed its partnership with Bunker Labs, an organization that provides veteran entrepreneurs with education and financial resources.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Setting goals for the everyday athlete

Fitness. The word conjures mental images of tight lycra clothing, 5K finish lines, and overcrowded rooms filled with clanking weights and the pungent odor of sweat. Fitness, however, is much simpler than what is being sold to you. Fitness is health, plain and simple — the pursuit of which is a lifetime endeavor.

The concept of improving fitness almost always focuses directly on the improvement of the physical body. However, mental and spiritual health play equally important parts in the equation. Setting the proper intention — the purpose of one’s physical pursuit is as important, if not more so, than the physical movement itself.


When it comes to fitness, goals are paramount. There are three simple questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Where do I want to be?
  2. Where am I currently?
  3. What is the healthiest path from No. 2 to No. 1?

(Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee, or Die Magazine)

Your goals are your own. They should not exist for anyone else, and should be clearly identified so a path to achievement can be established. Let’s say your goal is to squat 200 pounds. Why? How does that number improve your quality of life? Numerical goals are not wrong so long as you can identify the reason. For example, if you aspire to be an EMT who will regularly need to hoist a 200-pound person, the goal serves you well.

Take an honest, comprehensive look at your current fitness level. Avoid self-criticism and identify the areas which can use the most improvement. Can you push and pull your body weight through various planes of movement repetitively and with ease? Does each of your joints flex and extend to an appropriate degree without pain? I know blood pressure and cholesterol levels aren’t as sexy to consider as what your abs look like, but they are undeniably factors that will sooner inhibit your quality of life than any aesthetic variance will.

Identify your weakness, then attack it with verve. Experienced triathletes know this concept well. For those with a strong swim and a weak run, it is much more enjoyable to practice swimming. This does little to improve race results or fitness in general though. That weakness may be flexibility, balance, or elevated levels of stress.

How To Workout Like An Operator

www.youtube.com

Knowing where you are and where you want to be doesn’t mean anything without establishing a reasonable path from one to the other. This is the angle of the ladder you will climb to your goal. Time plays a crucial factor in this. If your goal is to squat that 200 pounds but you currently have physical difficulty getting off the couch, the goal is still achievable when the proper number of rungs are implemented at appropriate intervals.

Does the pursuit of your goal require detriment to other aspects of your health? If your goal is to complete a marathon for the sake of doing so and your training plan omits components of strength, power, speed, or agility, you may get to the finish line a little faster — but you are ultimately working against your own fitness.

If you can identify where you currently are and where you want to be but are unsure how to get from one to the other, fear not. In the coming weeks and months, I will address pertinent aspects of fitness programming, equipment, and ideology. Wherever you may be, let’s improve our fitness — and our quality of life, together.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

The Army just went ballistic on a liquor store partly to ‘deglamorize’ booze

It is probably not a good idea to pick a fight with the Army, so changing your name to avoid battle with the US Military Academy at West Point can be a wise tactic.


The United States of America has sued Black Nights Wine Spirits to stop the Highland Falls liquor store from using a name confusingly similar to the Black Knights nickname used by the academy’s athletic teams as far back as the 1940s. After four cease-and-desist letters and the filing of the lawsuit on Aug. 8, the store has seemingly conceded.

“We’ve changed the name to Good Nights,” said a man who answered the phone at the store recently. He said Frank Carpentieri, the owner of Frasiekenjes, LLC, the company that runs the store, would not be available for a few days.

The lawsuit, filed by acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim, accuses the liquor merchant of tarnishing the academy’s brands.

The Department of the Army holds several trademarks for “Black Knights” and the West Point crest, so it did not escape its attention when Black Nights Wine and Spirits opened last September on Main Street in Highland Falls, just beyond the West Point gates. The store’s name, the Army says, falsely suggests that the enterprise is “associated with or endorsed and approved by the US Military Academy at West Point.”

The Army drew a line in the sand within weeks of the store opening, mailing a cease-and-desist letter that alleges trademark infringement.

Army Black Knight logos from Wikimedia Commons.

The store then installed a more permanent “Black Nights” sign and placed several items in and around the store that highlight West Point themes.

Besides the alleged abuse of West Point’s goodwill and brand reputation, the lawsuit states that the liquor store defies military policies.

“The Department of the Army is highly concerned with the use of alcohol among its soldiers and is committed to de-glamorizing its use,” the complaint states.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why submachine guns fell out of favor with the US military

Submachine guns were a staple of combat in the early 20th century. Their light weight and sleek profiles meant that they could be used in many close-quarters situations and their high rate of fire gave them a stopping power to be feared. By the 1980s, however, submachine guns were rarely seen in regular line units.


Now, this isn’t to say that the entire class of firearm is faulty or that there isn’t a use for them. In fact, many special operations units and police SWAT teams use submachine guns for their ease of control and for the very reason they’re discouraged by conventional units: a lesser stopping power compared to automatic rifles.

Back in the day, everyone from troops to gangsters to prime ministers loved submachine guns.
(National Archive)

Created as a mix between a machine pistol and a carbine, the Italian Beretta M1918 and the German MP 18 were game-changers in the trenches of WWI. The American Thompson M1921 (better known as the “Tommy Gun”) wasn’t ready in time for the war, but served as a basis for every SMG that came after it.

In WWII, the Tommy Gun gave American troops a lot of firepower in a small package. Paratroopers could easily carry them on planes, tankers could keep them handy in case anyone got too close, and infantrymen could maneuver through cities with them with ease. It was often copied but never outdone. It and its sister weapon, the M3/M3A1 “Grease Gun,” were mainstays throughout the Korean War and into the early parts of the Vietnam War.

Even the one of the most famous photos from the Battle of Okinawa is of two Marines rocking Tommy Guns.
(Photo by SSgt. Walter F. Kleine)

The submachine gun, however, wasn’t able to hold up long in the jungles of Vietnam when the M16’s durability, range, and 5.56mm ammunition outperformed it in nearly every way. This, however, wasn’t its death rattle.

The SMG’s maneuverability in close quarters didn’t go unnoticed by law enforcement — primarily by SWAT teams. Additionally, SMGs are often chambered in 9mm or .45 ACP, meaning that targets struck by rounds are more often incapacitated than killed. In the hands of law enforcement, an armed assailant could then be taken into custody.

Though modern rifles have made the SMG unpopular in warfare, it still serves a valuable purpose in the right hands.

Modern conventional troops will use them sparingly. But word has it that they might come back.
(USMC)