The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think - We Are The Mighty
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The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
Wikipedia


Early Tuesday morning, Obama announced a four-part plan to ensure the closing of Guantanamo Bay, a goal that has eluded the president since he promised to shutter the facility during his 2008 campaign.

The plan would bring some of the 91 remaining detainees to maximum security prisons in the United States, while others would be transferred to foreigns countries. Although Obama called on Congress to lift a ban barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S., the White House has also left open the possibility of unilateral action should Republican lawmakers refuse to cooperate.

“The plan we’re putting forward today isn’t just about closing the facility at Guantanamo,” Obama said to the nation from the Roosevelt Room. “This is about closing a chapter in our history.”

With history in mind, it seems significant that the speech was given on this day, in this venue. Exactly 113 years ago, following the Spanish-American War, Teddy Roosevelt signed an agreement with Cuba to lease parts of Guantanamo Bay to the United States for use as a naval station.

This agreement was actually a follow-up to the Platt Amendment, a 1901 resolution that dictated seven conditions for the withdrawal of United States troops from Cuba, along with an eighth condition stipulating that Cuba include these terms in their new constitution. The amendment gave the United States full control over a 45 square-mile portion of Guantanamo Bay, in order to “enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba.” The deal was officiated on behalf of the Cubans by Tomás Estrada Palma, an American citizen who would become the first president of Cuba.

A cartoon protesting the Platt Amendment | Wikipedia A cartoon protesting the Platt Amendment | Wikipedia

Three decades later, the 1934 Cuban–American Treaty of Relations repealed most provisions of the Platt Amendment as part of FDR’s “good neighbor policy.” The effort, ostensibly intended to give the Cuban government greater sovereignty, made the lease on Guantanamo permanent unless the United States abandoned the base or both countries agreed to terminate the agreement. The new treaty also updated the yearly lease payment from $2000 in U.S. gold coins to $4035 in U.S. dollars. This amount has remained unchanged in the 82 years since.

Since the Cuban revolution of 1959, the Castro government has cashed only one of these checks (this one supposedly by accident), keeping the rest untouched as a means of protest against what they consider an “illegal” occupation. According to the U.S., cashing even one check renders the treaty valid.

The use of Guantanamo as a prison began in 1991, following the overthrow of Haiti’s first democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. While the CIA secretly leant support to death squads killing Aristide’s supporters, the White House announced that it would be using Guantanamo as a “tent shelter” for those fleeing violence in Haiti. Of the 30,000 refugees interned at Guantanamo, those who presented discipline problems were held on a site that would later become Camp Xray, also known as the Guantanamo detention camp.

Following Bush Sr.’s disputed decision to send the exiles back to war-torn Haiti, the Supreme Court ruled that the Haitians were not entitled to U.S. rights because Guantanamo Bay fell under the sovereignty of Cuba. Interestingly, this rationale for the United States not technically having sovereignty over the land would come up again, twelve years later, as George W. Bush’s administration argued that Guantanamo prisoners should not be constitutionally entitled to habeas review.

This is all to say that, even before it became an international symbol for the War on Terror, the policies leading to and enforcing the U.S. ownership of Guantanamo Bay have been extremely controversial. As renewed attention is focused on the use of Guantanamo as a terrorist detention center, it’s well worth considering how this small Cuban harbor became a U.S.-run prison in the first place.

Articles

The Air Force created an army of online trolls

Everyone gets Facebook friend requests from strangers. We used to worry about them being identity thieves. Nowadays, those strangers might be spooks.


The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think

Many experts agree cyberspace is the battleground of the future, and for good reason. We see that future playing out in many ways, even now. There are real cybersecurity threats out there, as the recent hacking of the Office of Personnel Management demonstrates. Experts estimate the cost of information lost to hackers could be as high as $4.6 billion.

This isn’t The Pirate Bay sharing films and music via free torrent downloads. This is actual damage from ideological foes like ISIS and North Korea. China alone accounts for 70% of intellectual property theft. One Air Force counter strategy took a play from Russia’s playbook: create an online army of trolls.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think

Russian trolls pump out 135 comments, 50 news article posts, and maintain 6-10 Facebook and Twitter accounts per 12-hour shift. But Russia uses actual humans to do this work, while the Air Force commissioned software to allow one service member to control the same number of online identities, accounts known as “sock puppets,” toward purposes not specified.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
Unlike the Air Force’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts, which rightfully celebrate National Waffle Day.

In 2010, Air Force contractors took bids for developing this software on FedBizOps (which is a real government website, despite sounding like a subsidiary of Cash4Gold) as legally required for potential contractor opportunities. According to the contract synopsis the Air Force wanted:

“50 User Licenses, 10 Personas per user. Software will allow 10 personas per user, replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a user friendly application environment to maximize the user’s situational awareness by displaying real-time local information.”

That’s 500 people spreading disinformation and propaganda, much more than the mass emails your parents send to all their friends.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think

The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has the same technology. It might even be better than the Air Force’s request, as CENTCOM’s can fool geolocating services, allowing for misinformation and propaganda (or anything else the software could provide) from anywhere in the world.

“This contract supports classified social media activities outside the U.S., intended to counter violent extremist ideology and enemy propaganda,” said Commander Bill Speaks, the chief media officer of CENTCOM’s digital engagement team.

In contrast, the Air Force’s guidelines for actual humans posting on blogs and social media is actually pretty well constructed.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think

One of the original bidders for the software was the now-defunct HBGary, whose CEO infamously bragged he was able to take down hacker collective Anonymous, the same collective who subsequently dumped HBGary’s secret documents onto the Internet, where it was found HBGary had developed similar software as a part of the U.S. government’s ongoing not-so-secret supervillain plan to destroy the Wikileaks website.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
Supervillainy is another area dominated by the Russians

Whatever the persona technology was for, it was launched in March 2011, presumably in support of Operation Earnest Voice. For the record, it would be illegal for the Air Force or CENTCOM to use “sock puppet” accounts against American citizens.

NOW: Russia has a ‘troll farm’ of people posting crazy internet comments all day long

Articles

Russia’s aircraft carrier has started launching sorties over Syria

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo


The US Naval Institute NewsSam LaGrone reports that armed fighters have flown from Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean.

As of yet, no strikes have been carried out. Only scouting missions involving the Su-33s and MiG-29Ks have gone forward, according to Lagrone.

Also read: Russia has a ‘pipe dream’ of replacing the US as the world’s dominant naval power

While the Kuznetsov and attack planes on board add little to Russia’s capabilities in the region, the US has nonetheless condemned Russia escalating a conflict where humanitarian catastrophes and possibly war crimes go on with some regularity.

“We are aware of reports that the Russian Federation is preparing to escalate their military campaign in Syria. The United States, time and again, has worked to try and de-escalate the violence in Syria and provide humanitarian aid to civilians suffering under siege,” a Pentagon statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday read.

Russia’s deployment of the troubled, Soveit-era Kuznetsov to Syria serves little military purpose, and likely deployed for propaganda purposes.

Articles

Video: This is why Germany and Japan are starting to arm up

More than seven decades after the start of World War II, Germany and Japan have begun to rearm.


These days, the countries are two of America’s closest allies. But they can’t singlehandedly project military power outside of their own borders.

In fact, the building of an offensive army is prohibited by the post-WWII constitutions of both Germany and Japan. And when the Cold War ended, it took a lot of the emphasis on building a strong military away from those vanquished nations.

Related: Japan’s aircraft carrier comeback has been quiet and impressive

There just wasn’t an enemy to fight that rivaled the threat posed by the Soviet Union.

Until now.

The rise of transnational terrorism sparked renewed efforts in developing Germany and Japan’s defense capabilities. The two countries’ defensive posture was designed around limited self-defense capabilities.

The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 after the terror attacks on Sept. 11 was the first time NATO allies rallied and mobilized for mutual offensive action. Now, the threat of ISIS has made the need for an expanded military capacity even more pressing.

Learn more in the video below.

From Seeker Daily

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time the US and Iran teamed up to fight the Taliban

The days following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States were strange days for many of us. Not only here at home, where the American worldview changed literally overnight, but also in Afghanistan. For obvious reasons.


The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
We don’t scramble B-52s for just anyone.

What might not be so obvious are the many ways which the United States systematically struck back against al-Qaeda and the Taliban who protected its members in Afghanistan. By now, many have heard of the U.S. Army Special Forces who assisted the Northern Alliance on horseback. The new movie 12 Strong depicts their mission.

Related: The Special Forces who avenged 9/11 on horseback 

But three days after the Green Berets and Northern Alliance leader Abdul Rashid Dostum teamed up for the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, another joint American-Northern Alliance team was fighting to capture – and keep – the Afghan city of Herat.

Army Rangers and Special Forces teamed up with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards special ops unit, the Pazdaran. The operation was reportedly planned in Tehran between General Tommy Franks and Iranian General and commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Yahya Safavi.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Yahya Safavi.

According to reports from the open-source U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, American air power had been conducting air strikes on the city since October 2001, destroying armored columns, tunnel complexes, and other support facilities. The city was ready by the time the joint assault took place.

The Revolutionary Guards moved in first, setting up a forward post for the assault on Herat. They were joined shortly after by U.S. Special Forces, with an army of 5,000 Northern Alliance fighters led by Ismail Khan. The Americans directed air support while the Shia militias led an insurrection in the city.

American Special Forces, Northern Alliance fighters, and Shia militias moved on the city as the populace took arms against the Taliban with anything they could find. Defeated Taliban fighters fled the city within the same day.

The whole operation was overseen in Tehran by agents of the CIA working with Iranian intelligence officers.  Shortly after the city fell, a Northern Alliance spokesperson said it was the first time Khan set foot in the city since it fell to the Taliban in 1995.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
The Afghan city of Herat in 2001.

“The people are celebrating on the rooftops of their houses. Car drivers are honking their horns,” according to the spokesperson.

In 2005, an Iranian Presidential candidate alluded to the story via an interview with USA Today’s Barbara Slavin, who was able to confirm some parts of the story, while some sources alluded to further collaboration and denied other parts.

Articles

This is how the remains of a WWII hero made it home after 75 years

A New York military aviation researcher got more than she bargained for on a dream trip to a battle-scarred South Pacific island — the chance to help solve the mystery of an American soldier listed as missing in action from World War II.


Donna Esposito, who works at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in upstate Glenville, visited Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands this spring and was approached by a local man who knew of WWII dog tags and bones found along a nearby jungle trail. The man asked if Esposito could help find relatives of the man named on the tags: Pfc. Dale W. Ross.

After she returned home, Esposito found that Ross had nieces and nephews still living in Ashland, Oregon. A niece and a nephew accompanied Esposito on her late July return to Guadalcanal, where they were given his dog tags and a bag containing the skeletal remains.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
Marines rest in this field during the Guadalcanal campaign. (Photo under Public Domain.)

Although it’s not certain yet the remains are the missing soldier’s, the nephew who made the Guadalcanal trip is confident they will be a match.

“It’s Uncle Dale. I have no doubt,” said Dale W. Ross, who was named after his relative.

The elder Ross, a North Dakota native whose family moved to southern Oregon, was the third of four brothers who fought in WWII. Assigned to the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, he was listed as MIA in January 1943, during the final weeks of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was last seen in an area that saw heavy fighting around a Japanese-held hilltop.

When the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal three weeks later, it was the first major land victory in the Allies’ island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
Members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency transfer a case of unidentified remains believed to be military personnel onto a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane to be transferred to Oahu from the Solomon Islands, Aug. 9, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle.)

Ross’ relatives handed the remains — about four dozen bones, including rib bones — to a team from the Pentagon agency that identifies American MIAs found on foreign battlefields. On August 7, the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Guadalcanal, an American honor guard carried a flag-draped coffin containing the bones onto a US Coast Guard aircraft.

The Pentagon said the remains were taken to Hawaii for DNA testing.

“Until a complete and thorough analysis of the remains is done by our lab, we are unable to comment on the specific case associated to the turnover,” said Maj. Jessie Romero of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

The other three Ross brothers made it back home, including the oldest, Charles, who served aboard a Navy PT boat in the Solomons and visited Guadalcanal in the vain attempt to learn about his brother Dale’s fate.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
Gen. Robert B. Neller lays a wreath during the 75th Anniversary of the Battle for Guadalcanal ceremony. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.)

Ross’ niece and nephew made their trip last month with Esposito and Justin Taylan, founder of Pacific Wrecks, a New York-based nonprofit involved in the search for American MIAs from WWII. They met the family whose 8-year-old son found the dog tags and remains. They also were taken to the spot on a slope in the jungle where the discovery was made.

“I never met this man, but I was a little emotional,” Ross, 71, said of the experience.

For Esposito, 45, finding evidence that could solve a lingering mystery in an American family’s military history is the most meaningful thing she’s ever done in her life.

“I can’t believe this has all happened,” she said. “It has been an amazing journey.”

Articles

The 9 greatest military-themed pop songs in modern history

A lot of popular music artists have attempted to capture the military experience over the years, but only a small percentage of them have gotten it right in the eyes of the community. Here are the 9 that did it best:


1. “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Of Company B,” The Andrews Sisters (1941)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qafnJ6mRbgk

A fast-living jazz musician from Chicago gets drafted and winds up in the heat of the action with Bravo Company. But his CO is a music fan who uses his power and influence to get the rest of the guy’s band drafted and assigned to the same unit. They all wind up hated by their fellow soldiers because they’re the ones who play reveille every morning, never mind whether or not it’s a hip version of it. As classic a military tale as there is.

2. “Billy, Don’t be a Hero,” Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods (1974)

A young patriot goes to war against his fiancees’ wishes and gets killed because he didn’t follow her sage guidance. And in the end she tears up the letter that documents his heroism because she feels like his service and sacrifice were a waste.  This classic by these one-hit wonders may qualify as “bubblegum pop,” but its subject matter is super intense.

3. “Ballad of the Green Beret,” Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, U.S. Army (1966)

“Silver wings, upon his chest . . .” This song was written by author Robin Moore and SSgt. Sadler while Sadler was recovering from wounds he sustained while serving as a medic in Vietnam, a fact that kept him from getting grief from fellow soldiers for going on TV in full uniform and singing with kind of a high voice. “Ballad of the Green Beret” became a no. 1 hit — amazing considering how the American public was rapidly going south about the war in Vietnam and pro-military sentiments were already hard to find.

4. I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag, Country Joe McDonald (1968)

Country Joe was a counterculture crooner from the Bay Area who walked on stage at Woodstock after Richie Havens’ opening set basically to kill some time. He played two songs with little response from the massive crowd and walked off. He thought better of it and walked back on and did what was commonly known as “the FISH cheer” (that actually spells something else). The crowd came alive, so he launched into “Fixin’ to Die Rag,” a satire of the military-industrial complex and the impact of the war on suburbia, which was included in the “Woodstock” movie and, as a result, became a classic hit of the Vietnam era.

5. “Fortunate Son,” Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tClM00n0fhY

Perhaps John Fogarty’s best recorded vocal performance, “Fortunate Son” hit the airwaves at a time when the Vietnam-era draft was starting to feel like class warfare and the hypocrisy of the ruling elite was revealing itself. With a driving beat, a searing guitar riff, and Forgarty singing lyrics like “I ain’t no senator’s son, no no,” the song resonated with those doing their duty while their richer and better-placed peers didn’t. “Fortunate Son” made it to no. 3 on the charts.

6. “The Star Spangled Banner (live at Woodstock),” Jimi Hendrix (1969)

Jimi Hendrix was not that well known in America when he took the stage at Woodstock on the morning of August 18, 1969. It was a Monday morning and all but several thousand of the nearly 1 million attendees had left the festival. Hendrix, an Army vet, surprised the audience (and his band) by launching into his rendition of the National Anthem, a version that many conservatives at the time criticized as unpatriotic. But history has shown it to be perhaps the most accurate musical portrayal of the state of America at the time and, beyond that, a timeless reading of the chaos of war. In 2011, the editors of Guitar World placed his rendition at number one in their list of his 100 greatest performances.

7. “War Pigs,” Black Sabbath (1970)

With an ominous air raid siren opening and lyrics like “generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses,” this track from Sabbath’s classic second album “Paranoid” was heavy metal before anyone even knew there was such a thing. And in Ozzy’s shallow metaphor lives the sentiments of millions who have gone in harm’s way since man first took up arms.

8. “99 Luftballoons,” Nena (1983)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=La4Dcd1aUcE

The oldest military story ever told: 99 balloons are mistaken for UFOs, causing a general to send pilots to investigate. Finding nothing but child’s balloons, the pilots decide to put on a show and shoot them down. The display of force worries the nations along the borders and the war ministers on each side bang the drums of conflict to grab power for themselves. In the end, a 99-year war results from the otherwise harmless flight of balloons, causing devastation on all sides without a victor. (Wikipedia)

9. “Bodies,” Drowning Pool (2001)

The song that launched thousands of patrols out of the FOBs and into the dirty streets of Iraq and Afghanistan. “Bodies” may not have been written with the military in mind, but it’s urgent beat and overall atmosphere of brutality worked for those who answered the call after 9-11, and they adopted it as their own. Also of note is that the song was used by interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in 2003, including over a 10-day period during the “questioning” of terror suspect Mohamedou Ould Slahi.

Now: Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia trashes J-15 fighter, a plane based on its design

Although Beijing and Moscow recently forged a military partnership, there still appears to be some animosity over their checkered past.

Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik recently ripped China’s J-15 fighter jet for its many failings.

In 2001, China purchased a T-10K-3 (a Su-33 prototype) from Ukraine and later reversed engineered it into the J-15 fighter jet.

And Moscow, apparently, is still a little sour about it.

The J-15 is too heavy to operate efficiently from carriers, has problems with its flight control systems, which has led to several crashes, and more, Sputnik reported, adding that Beijing doesn’t even have enough J-15s to outfit both of its carriers.

The Sputnik report was first spotted in the West by The National Interest.


“The J-15’s engines and heavy weight severely limit its ability to operate effectively: at 17.5 tons empty weight, it tops the scales for carrier-based fighters,” Sputnik reported, adding that “The US Navy’s F-18 workhorse, by comparison, is only 14.5 tons.”

The Su-33 is about as heavy as the J-15, and Moscow is currently upgrading it’s troubled Admiral Kuznetsov carrier to launch the Su-33.

“The Asia Times noted that Chinese media has disparaged the plane in numerous ways,” Sputnik added, “including referring to it as a ‘flopping fish’ for its inability to operate effectively from the Chinese carriers, which launch fixed-wing aircraft under their own power from an inclined ramp on the bow of the ship.”

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think

Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.

China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, is a Kuznetsov-class carrier like the Admiral Kuznetsov, and both use short-take off but arrested recovery launch systems.

Sputnik then piled on by interviewing Russian military analyst Vasily Kashin.

“Years ago the Chinese decided to save some money and, instead of buying several Su-33s from Russia for their subsequent license production in China, they opted for a Su-33 prototype in Ukraine,” Sputnik quoted Kashin.

“As a result, the development of the J-15 took more time and more money than expected, and the first planes proved less than reliable,” Kashin added.

But as The National Interest pointed out, the former Soviet Union regularly copied Western military concepts and products.

“Considering that China has the same habit, there is a poetic justice here,” The National Interest’s Michael Peck wrote.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The spectacular naval origin of the phrase, ‘son of a gun’

These days, Americans are less likely to exclaim “son of a gun” than the more-explicit “son of a b*tch,” but there was a time when “son of a gun” itself was not used in mixed company — and that time was more than 200 years after the age of sail.


It seems the Royal Navy, while not keen on having women aboard its ships, sometimes overlooked the practice. Different times throughout its history saw sailors of the Royal Navy either bring either their wives or lovers aboard ships that might be out at sea for a while. While it wasn’t officially tolerated, there are instances of a ship’s company turning a blind eye to it.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think

At this point, it’s important that everyone knows I’m talking about prostitutes.

Everyone aboard a ship was counted in the ship’s log back in those days. The log was a detailed account of who was working, who came aboard, who left, who died, etc. It also kept track of who was born aboard one of the King or Queen’s ships. It was uncommon, but it did happen. Women had to get around the world just like anyone else. The Royal Navy kept this count, just like any other ship.

But say there was one of the aforementioned female guests aboard a ship. If that woman just happened to give birth aboard ship, that child would have to be kept in the log. If a child was born with uncertain paternity — that is to say, there were too many possibilities as to who the father could be — the newborn still had to be counted in the log.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think

Like an old-timey recording of the Maury Show.

If this was the case, the child’s name was recorded as the “son of a gun” — the son of a seaman below decks. Eventually, the common use of the phrase began to refer to any child born aboard a ship, even those of officers accompanied by their wives. Then, it began to refer to any child of a military man, not just the bastard children of sailors.

Some 200-plus years later, it’s used to lovingly refer to a mischievous person or as an expression of awe or esteem. To use an expletive or insult in the same vein, we’ve moved on as a society. Who knows where language will go next?

Articles

How a kid from Baghdad became an Army paratrooper

In Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad during the 1980s, a family of six brothers and one sister — all very close in age — played in the streets and parks of their hometown, enjoying the simple things in life they had at the time. Through the decades, the times and the city had changed, and the streets and parks were not as simple.


Alsaeedy, the son of an Iraqi army reserve officer, said Iraq was a joyous place to grow up. “We played basketball, walked to school — all the children in the neighborhood were close,” he added. “There were negatives in politics, but we believed in our father, and everything was fine.”

Alsaeedy’s dream was to travel. “Everybody’s goal [in high school] was to travel the world, places like [the United Kingdom], U.S., and Europe,” Alsaeedy said. He kept that dream with him before pursuing a degree in biochemical engineering at the University of Baghdad.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
Capt. Robert Duchaine, B Company Commander, 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, visits with children Oct. 31 at a Kindergarten school in the Khadamiyah area of western Baghdad. He took this opportunity when his unit conducted a joint mission with Iraqi Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division to hand out toys and school supplies. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Bob Miller).

“I was in my second year of college when everything happened — the troops arrived,” he said. “It was a year later when it seemed things began to settle down. We all were trying to educate ourselves on the matter, because we believed — and still do — that the U.S. forces and allies were there to transform the country and help. We felt there was not going to be any more tyranny system or sects of families taking over the country, doing whatever they felt they wanted … so we believed in the change and welcomed it.”

Trouble Finding Work

After graduating from college, Alsaeedy needed to find work, preferably in the engineering field. But it was extremely hard to come by, he said, due to the nature of the country and the fact that most employers hired only within their sects.

“I did not know exactly what to do or what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to work for and with the service members,” he said. “It was not just about money or security. It was about being a part of something important to me.”

Unable to break into the U.S. contractor market, Alsaeedy’s education and skill set eventually gravitated employers to him within the private sector. In 2005, he found stability in the information technology field as a networking specialist for satellite communications.

“Then one day a man came into the shop and it changed my life forever,” he said. “He inquired about an internet network to be installed on a military base in Baghdad. I took the job. After the work was complete, they were very satisfied and needed more, so they hired me full-time. My English was very fluent, and I became a translator for them, too.”

While the years passed, Alsaeedy’s experiences and relationships grew through the ranks, and by 2007, he was a popular name among higher-ranking officials with the U.S. Air Force and the Marines in Qaim, Iraq.

Integrated Into Brotherhood

“I saw in the soldiers what very few of us [natives] see,” Alsaeedy said. “They were trustful, pleasant and respectful; they integrated me into their brotherhood.”

Insurgency propaganda said the Americans were in Iraq to destroy everything, Alsaeedy said.” But they were not,” he added. “They were building. They built infrastructure for the population and barracks for the Iraqi army. They supplied resources increasing our livelihood [and] creating jobs for husbands and fathers.”

At the end of 2007, Alsaeedy received some big news. Then-President George W. Bush allowed vetted contractors who had worked for the U.S. government for at least five years to be granted special immigrant visas for them and their families. The visa allowed them to live and work in the United States. At the end of 2009, Alsaeedy said, things started to change as U.S. troops began to withdraw.

“The protection was decreasing and so was the structure,” he said. “I knew if I stayed, my family and I were going to die soon.” In 2010, Alsaeedy met his five-year requirement to qualify for the special visa for him and his family to move to the United States.

Settling in Virginia

He settled in Norfolk, Virginia, where a new country and culture surrounded him. What he once knew as a world of war was now a life of peace and the pursuit of happiness, he said. He was immediately hired, and he worked for an oil and gas company from 2011 to 2012.

Alsaeedy said he felt grateful to the United States for the opportunities he’d received.

However, Alsaeedy said he “wanted to give them more.”

He enlisted into the U.S. Army in August 2013 as a combat engineer. Shortly thereafter, he attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Alsaeedy demonstrated his potential and quick-learning abilities, as well as outstanding physical fitness. He was afforded the opportunity to attend airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, upon graduation.

“I found out that I was going to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division,” he said. “I knew it was an honor and a prestigious unit. I remember seeing the ‘Double-A’ patch in Iraq. And to realize that I am now one of those paratroopers along with my family — I was beyond excited and humbled. However, it truly did not hit me until I came to Fort Bragg and walked through the division’s museum. That’s when I realized I was a part of something special.”

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
Paratroopers assigned to Charlie Company, 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division operate a satellite transmission terminal during a joint training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C., June 22, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hewitt/Released)

In 2014, Alsaeedy arrived full of energy to Alpha Company, 307th BEB. He was a new Panther Engineer, and he integrated just fine among his leaders and peers.

“We did a lot of training,” he said. “We went to every kind of weapons range you could think of. I learned demolitions, steel cutting, [went on] too many ruck marches, and was just very happy.”

Returning to Iraq

But Alsaeedy’s heart was holding a deep secret: there was something missing.

“My real dream was to return to Iraq,” he said. “I wanted to be an asset to the unit. I had the language, the background and culture. I knew if I ever went back, I would put myself out there to be as valuable as I could for the 307th.”

In early 2015, the 3rd BCT deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. At the time, it was the newest campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There, paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division provided advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.

In a twist of fate, Alsaeedy’s unit operated in the neighborhood where he was raised. His dream finally came true.

“It wasn’t easy at first,” Alsaeedy said while looking up with teary eyes. “But it was my leadership. They understood my situation. They supported me. It made my job and task much easier.”

Alsaeedy’s background and capabilities soon became an asset for his battalion commander all the way up to division command sergeant major and higher-ranking officials in tactical operations centers around the area of operations.

With his hard work and commitment to his leadership and the unit’s mission, Alsaeedy received the first battlefield promotion for a noncommissioned officer during the OIR campaign. He was pinned with the rank of sergeant during the fall of 2015 upon the unit’s redeployment to Fort Bragg.

Great Things

His accomplishments and accolades did not stop there. “When I became an NCO, great things began to happen for me and my family,” Alsaeedy said. He attended the Warrior Leader’s Course soon after becoming a sergeant, learning technical skills and correspondence in the craft of an NCO.

Alsaeedy’s motivation and physical fitness separated him from his peers. He wanted to go to Sapper School and master his craft as an engineer. “I may have had a more advanced role during deployment, but I am still an engineer in the 307th,” he said.

Early 2016 came around, and he began training with the division’s Best Sapper Team as it prepared to compete in the U.S. Army Best Sapper competition.

To keep himself busy and find new challenges, Alsaeedy attended the two-week Fort Bragg Pre-Ranger Course, which evaluates and prepares future candidates for the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning.

He never went to Sapper School, though. Immediately upon graduating the Pre-Ranger Course, he was put on a bus to Ranger School. Alsaeedy went straight through the 62-day course, a course that normally has a high attrition rate.

“I have been busy, that’s for sure,” he said. “But I felt the more I accomplish as an NCO and a paratrooper, the more I am giving back to the Army.

“I am just so grateful. I cannot put into words how I feel, landing the opportunity during the mid-2000s to becoming a citizen, a soldier deployed to my hometown and a Ranger,” he continued. “My wife and child love the installation, the people, and my daughter is receiving a great education from the schools on Fort Bragg. The Army adopted me, and I am forever in debt to the most professional and perfect organization: the 82nd Airborne [Division].”

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US intel chief issues grim warning on Afghanistan

The U.S. must “do something very different” in Afghanistan, such as placing American military advisers closer to the front lines of battle, or risk squandering all that has been invested there in recent years, the head of the Pentagon’s military intelligence agency said Thursday.


The grim assessment by Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, comes as the Trump administration considers Pentagon recommendations to add more U.S. and NATO troops and to deepen support for Afghan forces. The timing of a White House decision is unclear but is not expected this week.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Stewart said he visited Afghanistan about six weeks ago to see for himself what others have called a stalemate with the Taliban, the insurgent group that was removed from power in 2001 by invading U.S. forces.

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think
U.S. troops are going to have to get closer to the fight or risk losing hard won gains, DIA chief says. (DoD photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

“Left unchecked, that stalemate will deteriorate in the favor of the belligerents,” Stewart said, referring to the Taliban. “So, we have to do something very different than what we have been doing in the past.” He mentioned increasing the number of U.S. and NATO advisers and possibly allowing them to advise Afghan forces who are more directly involved in the fighting. Currently the advisers work with upper-echelon Afghan units far removed from the front lines.

If such changes are not made, Stewart said, “the situation will continue to deteriorate and we’ll lose all the gains we’ve invested in over the last several years.”

Testifying alongside Stewart, the nation’s top intelligence official, Dan Coats, said the Taliban is likely to continue making battlefield gains.

“Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018 even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners,” Coats said, adding, “Afghan security forces performance will probably worsen due to a combination of Taliban operations, combat casualties, desertion, poor logistics support and weak leadership.”

The Pentagon says it currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, about one-quarter of whom are special operations forces targeting extremist groups such as an Islamic State affiliate. Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Kabul, has said he needs about 3,000 more U.S. and NATO troops to fill a gap in training and advising roles.

More than 2,200 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion in October 2001.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A UFC superstar choked out a US troop in a USO show

UFC superstar Paige VanZant appears to have choked out a US soldier on May 2, 2018 — but it was all in good fun.

VanZant, 24, was showing a crowd of soldiers at a USO event how to perform a rear naked chokehold before the soldier passed out and went limp, a new video from TMZ shows.


When VanZant let go, the soldier collapsed and was caught and dragged backwards by Max Holloway, another UFC fighter, as the crowd erupted in cheers.

Although dazed, the soldier then stood up and smiled. Hopefully he didn’t lose too many brain cells.

It’s unclear where the video was shot, but VanZant and Holloway were visiting bases in Spain, Afghanistan, Iraq, and South Korea this week as part of a USO tour. Watch the video below:

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Metal Giants ‘Queensryche’ Take On War

There has been a major split between lead singer Geoff Tate and the rest of the band in recent months, but a few years ago, legendary metal band Queensryche was tightly focused on “American Soldier,” the band’s take on the modern experience of war.


Here’s the first video they produced for the album:

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