A settlement has been reached in a landmark lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union brought against two psychologists involved in designing the CIA’s harsh interrogation program used in the war on terror.
The deal announced August 17 marked the first time the CIA or its private contractors have been held accountable for the torture program, which began as a result of the attacks on September 11, said professor Deborah Pearlstein of the Cardozo Law School in New York.
“This sends a signal to those who might consider doing this in the future,” Pearlstein said. “There are consequences for torture.”
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed August 17. The deal avoided a civil jury trial that had been set for September 5 in federal court in Spokane, Washington.
Pearlstein said the settlement also makes it unlikely the CIA will pursue torture again in the war on terror. “This puts an exclamation mark at the end of torture,” she said.
“We certainly hope this opens the door for further lawsuits,” said Sarah Dougherty, an anti-torture activist for Physicians for Human Rights.
The ACLU sued James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen on behalf of three former detainees, including one who died in custody, who contended they were tortured at secret CIA prisons overseas. Mitchell and Jessen were under contract with the federal government following the September 11 terror attacks.
The lawsuit claimed they designed, implemented, and personally administered an experimental torture program. The techniques they developed included waterboarding, slamming the three men into walls, stuffing them inside coffin-like boxes, exposing them to extreme temperatures, starving them, and keeping them awake for days, the ACLU said.
“This outcome shows that there are consequences for torture and that survivors can and will hold those responsible for torture accountable,” said Dror Ladin, an attorney for the ACLU. “It is a clear warning for anyone who thinks they can torture with impunity.”
James T. Smith, lead defense attorney, said the psychologists were public servants whose interrogation methods were authorized by the government.
“The facts would have borne out that while the plaintiffs suffered mistreatment by some of their captors, none of that mistreatment was conducted, condoned, or caused by Drs. Mitchell and Jessen,” Smith said.
Jessen said in a statement that he and Mitchell “served our country at a time when freedom and safety hung in the balance.”
The torture program began as a result of the attacks on September 11. USCG photo by PA3 Tom Sperduto.
Mitchell also defended their work, saying, “I am confident that our efforts were necessary, legal, and helped save countless lives.”
But the group Physicians for Human Rights said the case shows that health professionals who participate in torture will be held accountable.
“These two psychologists had a fundamental ethical obligation to do no harm, which they perverted to inflict severe pain and suffering on human beings in captivity,” said Donna McKay, executive director of the group.
The lawsuit sought unspecified monetary damages from the psychologists on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the estate of Gul Rahman.
Rahman, an Afghan, was taken from his home in Pakistan in 2002 to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. He died of hypothermia several weeks later after being shackled to a floor in near-freezing conditions.
According to the lawsuit, Salim and Ben Soud both were subjected to waterboarding, daily beatings, and sleep deprivation in secret CIA sites. Salim, a Tanzanian, and Ben Soud, a Libyan, were later released after officials determined they posed no threat.
A US Senate investigation in 2014 found that Mitchell and Jessen’s techniques produced no useful intelligence. They were paid $81 million for their work. President Barack Obama terminated the contract in 2009.
Mitchell and Jessen previously worked at the Air Force survival school at Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane, where they trained pilots to avoid capture and resist interrogation and torture. The CIA hired them to reverse-engineer their methods to break terrorism suspects.
The ACLU said it was the first civil lawsuit involving the CIA’s torture program that was not dismissed at the initial stages. The Justice Department got involved to keep classified information secret but did not try to block it.
Though there was no trial, the psychologists and several CIA officials underwent lengthy questioning in video depositions. Some documents that had been secret were declassified.
The ACLU issued a joint statement from the surviving plaintiffs, who said they achieved their goals.
“We were able to tell the world about horrific torture, the CIA had to release secret records, and the psychologists and high-level CIA officials were forced to answer our lawyer’s questions,” the statement said.
The lawsuit was brought under a law allowing foreign citizens to have access to US courts to seek justice for violations of their rights.
The F-35 Lightning II, Lockheed Martin’s fifth-generation fighter jet, is expected to miss a crucial deadline for successfully deploying its sixth and final software release, referred to as Block 3F.
Block 3F is part of the 8 million lines of sophisticated software code that underpin the F-35.
In short, if the code fails, the F-35 fails.
The latest setback for the F-35 stems from a 48-page December 11 report from Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.
According to Gilmore, the stealth fighter won’t be ready by its July 2017 deadline.
As first reported by Aviation Week, the DoD report says “the rate of deficiency correction has not kept pace with the discovery rate,” meaning more problems than solutions are arising from the F-35 program.
“Examples of well-known significant problems include the immaturity of the Autonomic Logistics Information System (aka the IT backbone of the F-35), Block 3F avionics instability, and several reliability and maintainability problems with the aircraft and engine.”
One recommendation Gilmore gives for the F-35’s latest woes is to triple the frequency of weapons-delivery-accuracy tests, which are executed once a month.
Adding more tests to the troubled warplane will most likely add to the cost overruns and schedule delays, but Gilmore says decreasing testing to meet deadlines will put “readiness for operational testing and employment in combat at significant risk.”
According to the DoD report, the Block 3F software testing began in March, 11 months later than the planned date.
The nearly $400 billion weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16,and F-18 aircraft.
Lockheed Martin’s “jack-of-all-trades” F-35s were developed to dogfight, provide close air support, execute long-range bombing attacks, and take off from and land on aircraft carriers — all the while using the most advanced stealth capabilities available.
Adding to the complexity, Lockheed Martin agreed to design and manufacture three variant F-35s for different sister service branches.
The Air Force has the agile F-35A; the F-35B can take off and land without a runway, ideal for the amphibious Marine Corps; and the F-35C is meant to serve on the Navy’s aircraft carriers.
Despite the Block 3F software setback, the Marine Corps last year declared an initial squadron of F-35s ready for combat, making it the first service branch to do so.
The standard for readiness the Marines used, referred to as initial operational capability, is determined separately by each service branch when the aircraft has successfully demonstrated various capabilities.
IOCs are announced prematurely, however, in that all tests and upgrades to the aircraft, such as the Block 3F software update, have not necessarily been completed.
Still, Gen. Joseph Dunford, then the commandant of the Marine Corps, in July declared initial operational capability for 10 F-35B fighter jets.
The Air Force is expected to declare IOC for its F-35As later this year, and the Navy plans to announce IOC for the F-35Cs in 2018.
Even so, America’s most expensive warplane’s turbulent march to combat readiness is far from over.
“If we want an environment in which Airmen feel valued, we need to create transformative opportunities to foster a culture of innovation and then listen to their ideas,” Lisa Truesdale, Air Force military force policy deputy director, said in a release. “Additionally, wearing the uniform and having pride in your personal appearance enhances esprit de corps.”
Personnel can make recommendations in the following categories, according to the release:
Grooming and appearance: such as hairstyles, beards, shaving, etc.
Dress uniforms: service dress, mess dress and accessories (e.g. hat, shoes, shirt, belt, tie, ribbons, medals, insignia, etc.)
Badges and specialty insignia: organization badges, unit patches, duty identification patches, tabs, etc.
Maternity uniforms: service dress, utility, accessories, etc.
A uniform board will review submissions before presenting them to Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, who will then move to revise the Air Force Instruction 36-2903, Dress and Personal Appearance Policy. The service will notify those airmen whose ideas were rejected.
The Air Force did not provide a timeline to roll out uniform changes, but said the move is in line with an effort to create a more inclusive culture among the ranks. Criticisms have been recently raised within multiple military services that some uniform and grooming standards, such as hair length and style regulations, unfairly tax or inconvenience non-white troops.
“We want our dress and appearance guidance to be inclusive,” Truesdale said. “We are committed to considering the views of all members. Individuals contribute their highest levels of creativity when they are cared for and feel a sense of belonging.”
The service recently announced it was considering allowing additional hairstyles for women in the service.
During a QA segment during the Air Force Sergeants’ virtual symposium last week, Brown teased the possibility of allowing women to wear ponytails in uniform.
“I just got a package [proposal] yesterday about ponytails for women,” Brown said Aug. 26. “So we’re looking at a number of different things that we’ve got to work through, [where there are] second-order impacts associated,” he said.
That review is part of an ongoing effort to “improve dress and appearance policies,” where applicable, Capt. Leah Brading, a service spokeswoman, told Military.com. “We are looking at hairstyle and grooming policies, including the possibility of various new options for women,” Brading said in an email.
It was not immediately clear if the IdeaScale crowdsourcing project will overshadow the ongoing hairstyle review. The Air Force could not provide additional details by press time.
At the end of 2019, BMC Toys responded to 6-year-old Vivian Lord’s inquiry as to why there are only green Army men by designing some green Army women with 15 different poses. Now the toy designer is expanding the set to include military working dogs and their handlers, as well.
“[Please] can you make army girls that look like women,” Vivian wrote. “I would play with them every day and my [friends] would [too]!”
Jeff Imel, the owner of the Pennsylvania toy company, launched a Kickstarter campaign with a simple premise: “Customers asked for Plastic Army Women. The story went viral. So, now I’m making them.”
The campaign was such a success that BMC Toys unlocked stretch goals that upgraded the set to 36 figures in with six additional poses:
Light Machine Gunner
By Dec. 17, 2019, even more stretch goals had been unlocked, which added the Medical Team and the K9 Team to the set.
“Why do you not make Girl army men[?] My [friend’s] mom is in the army [too]!” wrote Vivian, voicing the concerns that many veterans have asked over the years. Introducing young girls to military toys that include them will help shape their ideas of what they can achieve in their lives.
BMC Toys recognized this fact and set to work, hiring a sculptor for their first prototype.
The BMC Female Combat Soldiers, which are marketed as “real American Made plastic heroes, meant to be set up, knocked down, picked up and played with for years to come” are in development for production and will become available in October 2020.
Several American servicemen have been killed and injured June 10 after coming under fire in a ‘green-on-blue’ attack in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon has announced.
“Three US soldiers were killed in eastern Afghanistan today,” the Pentagon said in a statement, adding, that another serviceman was wounded and is now receiving medical treatment.
The three serviceman were identified as Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland; Sgt. William M. Bays, 29 of Barstow, California; and Corporal Dillon C. Baldridge, 22 of Youngsville, North Carolina. The soldiers were assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Company D, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, KY.
Earlier on June 10, Attahullah Khogyani, a provincial spokesman in Nangarhar province, said that two other soldiers were also injured in the attack, which was carried out by an Afghan soldier in the Achin district, where US and Afghan forces are carrying out joint operations against Taliban and Islamic State militants.
“Today at around noon an Afghan commando opened fire on US troops in Achin district, killing two American soldiers. The soldier was also killed in the return fire,” Khogyani told AFP.
A Taliban spokesman claimed the shooter was a part of the militant group and had killed four Americans and injured several more, but this has yet to be confirmed by government sources. The Achin district in eastern Nangarhar province, where the attack took place, is also thought to be a stronghold of IS.
“The cause of the shooting is not clear. An investigation has already begun,” Khogyani said, according to Reuters.
This type of incident, known as a ‘green-on-blue’ attack, is not uncommon in Afghanistan. In March, three American soldiers were wounded by an Afghan soldier at a base in Helmand province.
Members of the Afghan security forces, including the army and police, are often undisciplined, corrupt and/or have conflicting loyalties, which leaves these institutions vulnerable to infiltration by the Taliban and other militant groups. In the past, the Afghan government has been heavily criticized for its poor vetting process to weed out unsuitable or dangerous candidates.
The attack comes soon after a case of friendly fire against Afghan forces. On June 10, Afghan officials also confirmed that three policemen had been killed and two others wounded when a US aircraft opened fire during an operation in Helmand Province.
“We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families of the ABP [ Afghan Border Police] members affected by this unfortunate incident,” read a statement from the US military, as quoted by Reuters.
Afghan and American officials are investigating the incident.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Airman Natalie Gaston, a 374th Medical Support Squadron bioenvironmental technician, simulates using an ADM 300, an instrument that measures radiation in the air, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 1, 2016. Bioenvironmental engineering first responders use an ADM 300 to protect them from possible contamination while taking samples.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron takes off from the flightline at Souda Bay, Greece, Feb. 1, 2016, during a flying training deployment. The training included more than 15 aircraft launches a day as part of the training between the U.S. and Hellenic air forces.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade, conduct sling load operations with UH-60 helicopters from 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry division, part of an artillery raid during Exercise Allied Spirit IV at 7th Army JMTC’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 26, 2016.
A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, provides security using his M240B machine gun during a unit reconnaissance patrol, part of Allied Spirit IV, at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 20, 2016.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 82nd Airborne Division Artillery, 82nd Airborne Division, attach a M119A3 howitzer to a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade during sling load operations, part of a division artillery readiness test at Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 20, 2016.
TOKYO BAY, Japan (Feb. 05, 2015) Sailors, aboard the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Texas (SSN 775), moor the boat to the pier. Texas is visiting Yokosuka for a port visit. U.S. Navy port visits represent an important opportunity to promote stability and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, demonstrate commitment to regional partners and foster growing relationships.
NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan 30, 2016) –Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Timothy Dunkel directs a landing craft air cushion (LCAC) fire drill in the well deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard is the lead ship of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and is forward-deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operation.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 26, 2016) Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Maxell Reynolds, from Palm Springs, California, takes part in a command swim call aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53). Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, Mobile Bay, assigned to the Stennis strike group, is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.
Marines with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, radio in a CH-53E Super Stallion as part of their avalanche scenario at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California Jan. 20, 2016. Marines across II MEF and 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade took part in the scenario as part of Mountain Exercise 1-16 in preparation for Exercise Cold Response 16.1 in Norway this March. The exercise will feature military training including maritime, land and air operations that underscore NATO’s ability to defend against any threat in any environment.
A Light Armored Vehicle with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, take part in a mechanized assault course (MAC) during Integrated Training Exercise 2-16 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Jan. 28, 2016. The training was conducted to strengthen unit coordination and maneuvers during mechanized assaults.
Coast Guard crews routinely train to respond to emergency situations they may encounter while underway. Fire aboard a cutter can cause mass casualties or total loss of the vessel, but proper training can help crewmembers to quickly and safely save lives and the ship.
Roughly four years ago, ISIS shocked the world when it took over a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria, declaring the establishment of a new Islamic caliphate in the process.
Fast forward to 2018 and the terrorist group is a shadow of what it was even a year ago. It has lost the vast majority of the territory it previously held and the number of fighters it counted among its ranks has dwindled exponentially to below 3,000.
Nevertheless, ISIS remains a threat in the Middle East, and a new report from the Soufan Center warns it’s attempting to make a comeback by resorting to a tactic it employed back in 2013 when it was still known as Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) — the targeted assassinations of Iraqi security personnel.
“To get back to its heyday of 2014, the Islamic State first needs to get back to 2013, a year in which the terrorist group concluded one very successful campaign to free thousands of its detained members from Iraqi jails and started another campaign to assassinate and intimidate Iraqi security personnel, particularly local police officers,” the report stated.
In late June 2018, Iraq executed 12 ISIS members, which the Soufan Center says was in response to the “high-profile assassination” of eight Iraqi security personnel.
‘A weakened Islamic State is now trying to recreate that past’
With fewer numbers, ISIS will be less inclined to focus on regaining territory and more likely to ramp up attacks on Iraqi police to sow the same brand of chaos it did back in 2013, according to the Soufan Center.
A masked man in a video that Islamic State militants released in September 2014.
“A weakened Islamic State is now trying to recreate that past,” the report noted.”Targeted attacks on police and government officials have risen in several provinces as the group has stopped its military collapse and refocused on what is possible for the group now.”
The report added, “Assassinations require few people and are perfectly suited as a force multiplier for a group that has seen its forces decimated.”
‘The social fabric of Iraq remains severely frayed’
Peter Mandaville, a professor of international affairs at George Mason University who previously served as a top adviser to the State Department on ISIS, backed up the Soufan Center report.
“I think it would be difficult for ISIS to retake significant territory given the ongoing presence and vigilance of [US-led] coalition forces,” Mandaville told Business Insider, adding, “They certainly have the capacity to engage in an extended insurgency campaign using the kinds of tactics highlighted in the Soufan Center report.”
Mandaville said the situation on the ground in Iraq — that led to the rise of ISIS in the first place — has not changed significantly even though ISIS has more or less been defeated militarily.
“The social fabric of Iraq remains severely frayed, with high levels of political polarization,” Mandaville said. “Until the central government succeeds in advancing key political and security reforms, many areas of Iraq will continue to provide a permissive environment for low intensity ISIS operations.”
David Sterman of the New America Foundation, an expert on terrorism and violent extremism, expressed similar sentiments.
David Sterman, Senior Policy Analyst, New America International Security Program; Co-Author, All Jihad is Local, Volume II: ISIS in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula
Sterman told Business Insider that the threat of ISIS returning to the strategy of breeding chaos on the local level by targeting Iraq security personal is “very serious.”
“ISIS continues to show capability to conduct attacks in liberated areas, an issue seen also during the surge,” Sterman added. “Bombings in Baghdad in January 2018 illustrate this as well as the assassinations and smaller attacks discussed” in the Soufan Center report.
In short, ISIS is still in a position to create havoc, albeit in a more limited capacity, in an already troubled country that really hasn’t even begun to recover from years of conflict.
ISIS continues to operate underground across the world
From a broader standpoint, this does not necessarily mean ISIS poses a significant threat to the US.
“Even at its height, ISIS did not demonstrate a capability to direct a strike on the US homeland (as opposed to Europe),” Sterman said. “So the threat [in the US] predominantly remains homegrown and inspired. Of course that doesn’t mean the US should take its eye off of what is happening in Iraq and Syria. ISIS’s bursting onto the global scene is proof of that.”
Moreover, ISIS is also turning to Bitcoin and encrypted communications as a means of rallying its followers worldwide.
“If you look across the globe, the cohesive nature of the enterprise for ISIS has been maintained,” Russell Travers, the acting head of the National Counterterrorism Center, recently told The New York Times. “The message continues to resonate with way too many people.”
The Trump administration says there’s ‘still hard fighting ahead’ against ISIS
Speaking with reporters in late June 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis lauded the success the US-led coalition has had against ISIS in Iraq and Syria but added that “there’s still hard fighting ahead.”
“Bear with us; there’s still hard fighting ahead,” Mattis said. “It’s been hard fighting, and again, we win every time our forces go up against them. We’ve lost no terrain to them once it’s been taken.”
Meanwhile, US troops stationed near the Iraq-Syria border have been hammering ISIS in Syria with artillery in recent weeks.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
But the GMD has a bad track record. It recently had a successful test that may have calmed the fears of some in the U.S. amid nuclear tensions with North Korea, but a recent paper on the test shows it was unrealistically generous.
Laura Grego and David Wright, leading experts in the field of ballistic missiles, writing for the Union of Concerned Scientists, found that the so-called intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the GMD knocked down was flown on a favorable trajectory, slower than the real thing, and without any of the tricks or savvy North Korea might use in an actual attack. The paper concludes the U.S. has no reliable ballistic missile defense capability for the homeland.
To be clear, the U.S. can defend against some, shorter-range missiles. Aegis-equipped ballistic missile destroyers at sea have a good track record of defending themselves, but they’re not meant to go after ICBMs. Patriot missiles have saved some lives from short-range missile attacks on the battlefield, though that has been historically over-hyped or just lied about.
BMD kind of works on a theoretical level, but is that worth $40B?
Missile defense plays into the complicated and highly theoretical world of nuclear deterrence. For an adversary like North Korea, maybe even the single-digit percent chance a missile would be intercepted by the U.S. would dissuade them from attacking.
But much more likely, North Korea wouldn’t attack the U.S. because of the U.S.’s ability to return the favor tenfold.
It’s entirely unclear, and no expert can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that BMD has ever deterred anyone, or done anything beside line pockets of defense contractors.
For the U.S. taxpayer, who has contributed billions to the cause of missile defenses while enriching the world’s biggest defense contractors, a fair question might be: Where is the capability? Why don’t these systems work?
While this is everyday life for active-duty sailors, veterans will get a prideful sense of nostalgia — especially after watching the second one, “Chapter 2: Meet the Patriots.”
It’s the type of intimate footage you’d expect from a family gathering. It’s why some veterans consider their shipmates their second family.
Like family, these sailors do everything together, from washing the birds, to relaxing, to preparing for war. But unlike family, this is every day, not just during a family picnic or reunion.
Life on a carrier is not the same as life on a cruise liner. Sailors don’t get the awesome hotel-style living quarters. Instead, they live in berthings with up to 100 other sailors — sometimes even more. But that’s okay because the friendships forged on deployment are way deeper than any cruise liner could ever deliver.
When years of world war come to an end, the troops who fought are going to party hard. From New York to Moscow to Paris, the Allied cities celebrated their victories with abandon.
1. The end of World War II in Europe saw Moscow run out of booze.
Russia suffered some of the worst devastation of any of the Allies during World War II, possibly even worse than France. So, when the German surrender was announced in Moscow at 1:10 in the morning, the Soviets sure as hell weren’t waiting for the sun to start partying.
Russian soldiers and citizens spilled into the streets in their pajamas and started drinking the town dry. And that’s not an exaggeration, the party got so boisterous that people reported that vodka just didn’t exist in the city by the time the partying ended.
2. Canadian authorities tried to limit drinking at the surrender of Germany and sailors rioted.
3. Paris celebrations started slow and then built to a crescendo.
France tried to hold off the celebrations until noon on May 8 after Germany surrendered, but her people were having none of it. People closed their shops and milled towards the building where Gen. Charles de Gaulle announced the official surrender of Germany and Paris really got the party going.
Aviators from all the allied countries started flying around the city at treetop level as a group of men fired celebratory cannon shots nonstop. Soldiers lined up to receive kisses from French girls. Crowds gathered around Allied flags and sang the anthems of each nation as soldiers stood nearby and joined in.
5. Liquor flowed through Paris after the World War I armistice was signed.
Paris is apparently the place to be when a world war ends. After the first one, Allied soldiers found themselves plied with liquor, celebrated as heroes, and in some cases, surrounded by mobs singing their praise.
A U.S. attack on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed more than 100 in the country’s north on Feb. 8, and the regime came roaring back with airstrikes of its own on rebel forces near Damascus.
The airstrikes from Assad killed 21 and injured 125, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Feb. 8.
The U.S. responded with artillery, tanks, and rocket fire.
In the exchange, no U.S. forces were reported hurt or killed, but 500 of Assad’s were said to be engaged, many wounded, and 100 dead.
“We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from Daesh in September 2017,” a U.S. military official told Reuters.
The pro-Assad forces were “likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for [ISIS] from 2014 to 2017.”
But Syrian state media characterized the event differently, saying the U.S. had bombed “popular local forces fighting” ISIS, and that it was a U.S. “attempt to support terrorism.” The Assad regime and its Russian backers have an established history of calling anyone who doesn’t support the regime a terrorist.
Though some of the anti-Assad resistance has become entwined with Islamist groups like al-Qaeda, the U.S. vets the groups it works with and maintains that the SDF are moderate rebels who were instrumental in the defeat of ISIS.
Syria wants the U.S. out, but it won’t go without a fight
Syria’s air offensive on rebel-held areas near Damascus has been going on for days, with local reports claiming that airstrikes from the Syrian government and Russia killed scores of civilians.
Activists and first responders said that at least 55 people were killed after the airstrikes on Feb. 6.
Though Russia announced its forces would withdraw from Syria in December 2017, the recent rash of renewed strikes shows they have stayed put, and are likely responding to an increased need to support the Assad regime.
In January 2018, Syria vowed that it would eject U.S. troops from the country, but since then the U.S. announced plans to stay there long enough to counter Iran’s growing influence.
Meanwhile, the U.S. began a more vocal campaign of accusing Syria and Russia of using chemical weapons in the conflict.
GatGatCat asks: Is cooking grenades and pulling the pins with your teeth something people really do or just something in games?
We’ve all seen it — the protagonist of a film whips out a hand grenade, dashingly yanks the pin with his teeth as his hair flows in the wind, counts one-potato, two-potato, three and hucks it at nearby teeming hoards of enemy swarming on his location. But is this actually a thing in real life?
First thing’s first, yes, if you have hair, it is possible for it to flow in the wind… As for the grenade part, the generally recommended proper technique is — “proper grip, thumb to clip, twist pull pin, strike a pose, yell frag out, hit the dirt”.
On the first step of “proper grip” it is particularly important to make sure to NEVER adjust your grip on the lever (called “milking”) once the pin is pulled. Doing so may let up enough on said lever to allow the striker to do its thing to the percussion cap, which in turn creates a spark, thereby causing a slow burn of the fuse materials lasting approximately 2-6 seconds for most types of grenade, after which the main charge will ignite, sending shrapnel in all directions. So should you adjust your grip, you could potentially have a really bad time, even should you re-squeeze the lever after. Such a thing has caused the deaths of many a soldier, for example thought to have been the cause of the death of Specialist David G Rubic who had an M67 grenade explode in his hand as he was about to throw it during a training exercise.
As you can see from these steps, at no point is taking your sweet time getting rid of the grenade after you release the lever, called “cooking”, mentioned. Nevertheless, cooking the grenade is not without its virtues, with the general idea to minimise the window of opportunity the enemy has to react to said grenade — potentially throwing it back or diving for cover.
That said, while in film throwing the grenade back is a common trope, this is an incredibly difficult thing to pull off in real life. Consider that when the grenade is thrown, it is likely going to be in the air or bouncing around on the ground for a couple seconds in most scenarios, and thus about the only chance of someone actually picking it up and throwing it back successfully is if they Omar Vizquel’d it and caught it in the air and immediately hucked it back. But even then, whether it would get back to the thrower before exploding is anybody’s guess — quite literally given, if you were paying attention, that rather variable estimate of 2-6 seconds from lever release to explosion, depending on model of grenade.
For example, the US Army’s own field manual on the use of grenades and pyrotechnic signals states the fuse time tends to vary by as much as 2 whole seconds with, for example, the M67 grenade then having an estimated “3-5 second delay fuze”. So counting one-potato, two-potato potentially only gives you one potato to go through the throwing motion, then take cover. And if you happen to be on the 3 potato end of things to boom, that grenade is going to be extremely close to your position when it sings the song of its people.
It’s at this point we should point out that in many common grenade designs the potential lethal area is approximately 15-30 metres (50-100 feet), with the risk of injury from shrapnel extending to a couple hundred metres with some types of grenades. As you can imagine from this, potentially under one-potato just isn’t a good enough safety margin in most scenarios.
For this reason, both the US Army and the Marines Corp strongly advise against cooking grenades with the latter referring to it as the “least preferred technique” to throw a grenade. As for the most preferred technique, to quote the Marine Corps manual on Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain:
The preferred technique involves throwing the grenade hard enough that it bounces or skips around, making it difficult to pick up. The hard-throw, skip/bounce technique may be used by Marines in training and combat.
That said, there are edge cases where cooking a grenade may be beneficial where the reward outweighs the risks and potentially environmental factors make it a safer prospect. As such, the same manual notes that cooking a grenade is a technique that can be used “as appropriate” based on the discretion of an individual Marine, but should never be used during training. Likewise, the US Army notes in its field manual on the use of grenades that the act of cooking off grenades should be reserved for a combat environment only.
As for situations where cooking a grenade is deemed potentially appropriate, the most common are clearing rooms and bunkers where there are nice thick barriers between you and the impending blast. (Although, it’s always worth pointing out that while many a Hollywood hero has taken cover on one side of a drywall wall, this isn’t exactly an awesome barrier and shrapnel and bullets easily go through the gypsum and paper. Likewise as a brief aside, any such hero ever trapped in a room in many homes and buildings can quite easily just smash a hole in the drywall to escape if they so chose. It’s not that difficult. Just make sure not to try to punch or kick through the part with a 2×4 behind it…)
In any event, beyond urban environments, hitting very close enemies behind heavy cover is another common scenario cited in field manuals we consulted for cooking a grenade.
As for the amount of time it is advised to cook a grenade before throwing it, every official source we consulted notes that 2 seconds is the absolute maximum amount of time a soldier is advised to hold onto a live grenade before throwing it, with emphasis on MAXIMUM.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
All this said, technology has improved this situation in some newer designs of grenades that use electronic timer components, rather than unpredictable burning fuses. In these grenades, you can be absolutely sure that from the moment you release the lever, you have exactly the amount of time the designers intended, making cooking these grenades a much safer prospect in the right circumstances. Further, there are also new grenade designs coming out with position sensors as an added safety mechanism, via ensuring they cannot detonate unless the sensor detects the grenade has been thrown first.
But to sum up on the matter of cooking grenades, soldiers can and do, though rarely, “cook” grenades to minimise the time an enemy has to react to them, although doing so isn’t advised and requires, to quote a book literally titled Grenades, “great confidence in the manufacturer’s quality control”. And, of course, similarly a soldier with balls or ovaries of solid steel and compatriots who are extremely trusting of their ability to count potatoes accurately — when literally a one second margin of error may be the difference between you dying or not, a sloppy seconds counter is not to be trusted.
Now on to the matter of pulling a pin with your teeth… While designs of grenades differ, from accounts of various soldiers familiar with a variety of grenades, as well as looking at the manufacturers’ stated pull power needed — it would seem trying to pull a grenade pin with your teeth is a great way to put your dentist’s kids through college.
For example, the relatively common M67 grenade takes about 3-5 kg (about 7 to 11 pounds) of force to pull free stock. The Russian F1 grenade takes about 8 kg (17 pounds) of pull power to get the pin out. Or as one soldier, referring to the Singapore SFG87 grenade, notes, “The pin was actually partially wrapped around the spoon(handle) of the grenade and was extremely stiff. You had to literally twist and yank the pin out, which made your fingers red and hurt a little.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller)
Even without bent pins, to illustrate just how hard it can be to pull these pins in some cases, we have this account from Eleven Charlie One Papa by James Mallen. In it, he states,
[The] new guy had entered the hooch and hung up his gear, apparently from the canvas web gearing of his LBG but actually hanging on the pull pin of an HE fragmentation grenade, and then decided to go off somewhere. Worse still, the guy had not bent the cotter pin of the grenade over, so that at any moment…the gear would fall, the pin would be pulled out, the grenades’ primer would ignite, and give seconds later everyone in the hooch at the time would be killed or horribly wounded.I had a mini heart attack and turned immediately to jump out but a soldier behind me was blocking my way, whereupon I mostly violently pushed him out of the way, up the stairs and outside, to escape a quick and violent end… I learned that the guy who was responsible for it would return soon. I decided that he would have to take care of it… After about ten minutes that soldier … returned…He went back down, seemingly unconcerned, and rearranged his LBG so that it was hanging by the suspender strap instead of the pull-pin of a hand grenade….
Going back to bent pins, while many grenades don’t come stock with the pins bent, this is a common practice done by soldiers the world over anyway, making it even more difficult to pull the pin. The primary purpose behind this is to ensure that the pin doesn’t accidentally get pulled when you’d rather it not, like catching on a stray tree branch as you’re trotting through the jungle, or even in combat when you might be hitting the deck or scrambling around haphazardly with little thought to your grenade pins.
Illustrating this, in Eleven Charlie One Papa, Mallen states, “I pointed out to him that the grenade cotter pin wasn’t even bent over and he said that he was completely unaware that he should have them bent over. So for the last week or so we had been humping the bush with this guy whose grenades could have easily been set off by having the pin catch in a big thorn or spike. I guess it was our fault for not telling the guy things like that, things that were never taught in basic or advanced infantry training back in the states.”
This practice, although widely utilised by soldiers is sometimes discouraged by some in the military precisely because it makes it extremely difficult to pull the pin if one doesn’t first take the time to bend the metal back. This not only makes the grenade potentially take a little longer to be deployed in a pinch, but is also thought to contribute to soldiers unintentionally milking the grenade directly after the pin has finally been pulled with extreme force. This is what is speculated to have happened in the aforementioned death of Specialist David G Rubic, as noted by Colonel Raymond Mason who was in charge of figuring out what went wrong. In the investigation, it was discovered that Rubic had, according to witnesses, both previously bent the pin and been holding the lever down at the time it exploded in his hand.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Dengrier Baez)
Of course, if one throws the grenade immediately upon pin removal, whether you milk the grenade or not makes little difference — with it only being extra risky if you choose to hold onto it for some number of potatos. On top of this, regardless of what superiors say, many soldiers are unwilling to entrust their and their compatriots’ lives to a mere 3-8 kg worth of pull force, which a tree branch or the like while jogging can potentially exert.
That said, a tree branch is not your teeth and whether bending the pins or not, as Sergeant Osman Sipahi of the Turkish Armed forces states, you can pull the pin this way, “but there is a high probability of you fucking up your teeth. It’s the same as biting the top of a beer bottle off; it’s doable but not recommended.”
Or as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Quigley, author of Passage Through A Hell of Fire And Ice, sums up: “The business in the movies of the guy grabbing the grenade ring in his teeth and pulling out the pin is a load; it does not happen unless he is prepared to throw out a few teeth with it as well. We have all commented how we would like to get some of those Hollywood grenades that allow you to bite off the pin, throw the grenade a few hundred yards, and never miss your target, going off with the blast effect of a 500-pound bomb…”
Any article on the discussion of grenade usage would be remiss in not answering the additional question often posed of whether you can put the pin back in after you’ve pulled it and still have it be safe to let go of the lever — the answer is yes, but this must be done VERY carefully, as letting up even a little on the lever before the pin is fully-re-inserted can cause the striker to do its thing, potentially without you knowing it, as illustrated in the death of one Alexander Chechik of Russia. Mr. Chechik decided it would be a good idea to pull the pin on a grenade he had, take a picture, then send it to his friends. The last text he ever received was from a friend stating, “Listen, don’t f*** around… Where are you?” Not responding, reportedly Chechik attempted to put the pin back in, but unsuccessfully. The grenade ultimately exploded in his hand, killing him instantly, while also no doubt making him a strong candidate for a Darwin award.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski)
Next up, as occasionally happens to all of us, if you happen to find a grenade thrown at you or drop the one you’re holding with the pin already pulled, if no readily available cover is nearby the general recommendation is to lay flat on the ground with, assuming you remembered to wear your Kevlar helmet like a good soldier, your head towards the grenade. These helmets are designed to be an effective barrier against such shrapnel. This position also ensures minimal odds of any shrapnel hitting you in the first place via reducing the cross section of you exposed to the grenade’s blast.
Now, you might at this point be thinking as you have your shrapnel proof Kevlar helmet, why not just put it on the the grenade? Genius, right? Well, no. While these helmets can take a barrage of quite a bit of high speed shrapnel, they cannot contain the full force of the blast of a typical grenade, as was tragically proven by Medal of Honor winner, Jason Dunham. In his case, not trusting his helmet to contain the blast, he also put his body on top of the helmet to make sure nobody else would be hurt by the dropped grenade. He did not survive, but those around him did.
In yet another case of a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, but this time with a reasonably happy ending, we have the case of Lance Corporal William Kyle Carpenter. On November 21, 2010 while in Afghanistan, a grenade was thrown into his sandbagged position. Rather than run, he used his own body to shield the other soldier with him from the blast. Miraculously, though severely injured, Carpenter lived and was awarded the Medal of Honor in June of 2014.
In a similar case, during a battle on Feb. 20, 1945, one Jack H Lewis and his comrades were advancing toward a Japanese airstrip near Mount Suribachi. Taking cover in a trench under heavy fire, Jack realized they were only feet away from enemy soldiers in a neighboring trench. He managed to shoot two of the soldiers before two live grenades landed in his trench. Thinking quickly, Jack threw himself on the first grenade, shoving it into volcanic ash and used his body and rifle to shield the others with him from the pending blast. When another grenade appeared directly after the first, he reached out and pulled it under himself as well. His body took the brunt of the two blasts and the massive amount of shrapnel. His companions were all saved, but his injuries were so serious they thought he had died. Only after a second company moved through did anyone realize he was somehow still alive. Jack endured nearly two dozen surgeries and extensive therapy and convalescence. Despite the surgeries, over 200 pieces of shrapnel remained in his body for the rest of his life which lasted an additional six decades. He died at the ripe old age of 80, on June 5, 2008 from leukemia.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
During World War II, sitting in aircraft hangars at Birmingham, England, were millions of undelivered pieces of mail and packages. Those U.S. service members in Europe took notice that no mail was being delivered and Army officials reported that a lack of reliable mail was hurting morale. It was predicted that it would take six months to clear the backlog in England, but who was up for the task?
In November 1944, African-American women — 824 enlisted and thirty-one officers — were recruited from the Women’s Army Corps, the Army Service Forces, and the Army Air Forces to form the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, or the “Six Triple Eight.” The first and only all-female African-American battalion to be deployed overseas during World War II was organized into a Headquarters Company, for administrative and service support, and four postal directory companies — A, B, C, and D — commanded by either a captain or a first lieutenant. The battalion would be commanded by Maj. Charity Edna Adams Earley, the first African American woman to achieve the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.
Retired Master Sgt. Elizabeth Helm-Frazier touches the bust made in the likeness of battalion commander Lt. Col. Charity Adams on the monument honoring the all-female, all-African-American 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion Nov. 29, 2018 in the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Helm-Frazier, of Md., said she knows how important mail is to service members, and she joined the project team to help get the monument funded so that future generations will know that women in uniform also helped guarantee freedom.
(Prudence Siebert, Fort Leavenworth Lamp)
Upon arriving in Birmingham after their initial training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, the 6888th’s mission seemed simple: clear the backlog of mail bags that filled hangars from floor to ceiling. However, many of the letters and packages were addressed simply to “Junior,” “Buster,” or to soldiers who shared common names such as “Robert Smith.” Also, the hangars themselves were poorly lit, unheated, and cold and damp, with rats making their homes in packages of stale cookies and cakes. The women wore long underwear and extra layers of clothing underneath their uniforms in order to stay warm. The lighting was poor due to the windows being blacked out to prevent light from escaping and alerting enemy aircraft of their location during nighttime air raids. The late Staff Sgt. Millie L. Dunn Veasey stated that there were buzz bombs that came down. “You could see them, and then you didn’t know where they were going to land,” she said. “You had to go get into a shelter. Just drop everything, and just run.”
Members of the 6888th sorting mail.
(The National Archives)
With World War II raging on, the soldiers of the 6888th were given six months to sort and deliver the mail — they did it in three months. The women divided into three eight-hour shifts and worked seven days a week to sort and redirect an average of sixty-five thousand pieces of mail per day, totaling nearly seven million pieces in Birmingham alone. The mail clerks used special locator cards that contained soldiers’ names, unit numbers, and serial numbers to help ensure proper delivery; they also had the duty of returning mail addressed to those service members who had died. The women developed the motto “No mail, low morale,” as they were providing the support of linking service members with their loved ones back home.
Following their three months in Birmingham, the members of the 6888th were deployed to Rouen, France, to clear two to three years of backed up mail. And again, the women completed the task in just three months. While deployed to Paris, they faced new challenges: the theft of packages and items from packages to supply the populace.
French civilians and soldiers from the 6888th sort mail in the spring of 1945.
(U.S. Army Womens Museum)
The battalion was transferred home and disbanded at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in 1946. There was no ceremony, no parades, no public appreciation, and no official recognition for all their accomplishments.
Though there have been exhibits and educational programs about the 6888th, public events honoring the women of the battalion have been few. One of the most prominent events was a ceremony by the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Ceremony. Veterans received certificates, letters of appreciation from the secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff, lapel pins, and decals. The most recent event to honor the 6888th was the Nov. 30, 2018 dedication of a monument located at the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Five surviving members of the battalion attended: Pvt. Maybelle Rutland Tanner Campbell, Pfc. Elizabeth Barker Johnson, Cpl. Lena Derriecott Bell King, Pvt. Anna Mae Wilson Robertson, and Pfc. Deloris Ruddock.
Veterans who served during World War II with the 6888th, (left to right) Pvt. Anna Mae Wilson Robertson, Pfc. Elizabeth Barker Johnson, Pfc. Deloris Ruddock, Pvt. Maybelle Rutland Tanner Campbell, and Cpl. Lena Derriecott Bell King gather around the monument honoring the battalion Nov. 29, 2018 the day before a ceremony dedicating the monument at the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The women, all in their nineties, are five of seven known surviving members.
(Prudence Siebert, Fort Leavenworth Lamp)
Carlton Philpot, Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee chair and project director, said that the goal of this monument is to “make it unique enough that no one will have to look for it when they come into the park.” With the names of five hundred battalion members and a 25-inch bronze bust of its leader, Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley, the monument is truly unique. It joins monuments dedicated to Gen. Colin Powell, 2nd Lt. Henry Flipper, the 555th Parachute Infantry Division, the Buffalo Soldier, and others in the Circle of Firsts and the Walkway of Units at the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area. As Earley’s son, Stanley, said, “My mother was always enormously proud of the Six Triple Eight. This monument is a statement of the responsibility, determination, and honor, and it is a gift from the recent past addressed to the future.”
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said, “When we unveil this monument, what we are really saying is this: Thank you for your service. We respect you and we love you.”