Though former national security adviser Michael Flynn was rather controversial — the retired general peddled conspiracy theories and ultimately resigned because of his ties to Russia — I don’t suspect anything other than professionalism and solid advice being given to the president by McMaster.
He commands a great deal of respect among his troops.
Much like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was revered by his troops while serving as a general in the Marine Corps, McMaster has earned a great deal of respect from soldiers. That’s because his career has been marked by personal heroism, excellent leadership, and his tendency to buck traditional ways of thinking.
As a captain during the Gulf War in 1991, McMaster made a name for himself during the Battle of 73 Easting. Though his tank unit was vastly outnumbered by the Iraqi Republican Guard, he didn’t lose a single tank in the engagement, while the Iraqis lost nearly 80. His valor and leadership that day earned him the Silver Star, the third-highest award for bravery.
Then there was his leadership during the Iraq War, during which he was one of the first commanders to use counterinsurgency tactics. Before President George W. Bush authorized a troop “surge” that pushed US forces to protect the population and win over Iraqi civilians, it was McMaster who demonstrated it could work in the city of Tal Afar.
He’s far from a being a ‘yes’ man.
McMaster is the kind of guy who says what’s on his mind and will call out a wrongheaded approach when he sees one. That tendency is something that junior officers love, but those maverick ways are not well-received by some of his fellow generals. Put simply: McMaster isn’t a political guy, unlike other officers who are trying to jockey for position and move up in their careers.
In 2003, for example, McMaster criticized then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s Iraq War plan that placed too much of an emphasis on technology. McMaster also pushed back on his boss’ refusal to admit an insurgency was starting to take hold in 2004.
He’s been held back in his career because of it — he was passed over two times for his first star — but it wasn’t due to incompetence. Instead, his fight to be promoted from colonel to brigadier general was seen as pure politics, and McMaster doesn’t like to play. He was eventually promoted in 2008, but that hasn’t made him any less outspoken.
He’s a strategic thinker with a Ph.D.
McMaster has a lot in common with another famous general: David Petraeus.
In fact, he was one a select few officers that were in the Petraeus “brain trust” during the Iraq War.
McMaster is an expert on military strategy, counterinsurgency, and history. And he, like Petraeus, stands out among military officers, since both earned advanced degrees. McMaster holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina, where his dissertation went far beyond the readership of just a few professors.
Titled “Dereliction of Duty,” McMaster’s dissertation became an authoritative book on how the United States became involved in the Vietnam War. Much of the book’s focus is on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were heaped with criticism for failing to push back against President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“McMaster stresses two elements in his discussion of America’s failure in Vietnam: the hubris of Johnson and his advisors and the weakness of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” reads a review on Amazon.
Whether McMaster can transition well from the Army to the White House is the big question now, but he’s one of the best people Trump could have picked. And like Mattis, he’s not afraid to challenge the president’s views.
“He’s not just a great fighter, and not just a conscientious leader,” one Army officer told me of McMaster. “He’s also an intellectual, a historian and a forward-thinking planner who can see future trends without getting caught up in bandwagon strategic fads.”
Often dubbed the “Second Pearl Harbor,” the West Loch disaster in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, saw six large landing ships explode, burn, and sink on May 21, 1944, after their cargoes of ammunition and fuel caught fire. The LSTs were moored in a large formation of 34 ships preparing to take part in the invasion of Saipan in the Marianas Islands. LSTs were designed to deliver 10 fully combat-ready tanks onto beaches during amphibious landings and could carry hundreds of tons of supplies.
At Pearl Harbor, the ships were carrying mostly fuel and ammunition, including mortar rounds from a failed test to employ LSTs and their smaller cousins, landing craft tanks, as mortar platforms to support beach assaults.
Soldiers were unloading mortar shells from LCT-963 and onto trucks on LST-353 on May 21 when a fireball suddenly erupted from LST-353.
The Navy was never able to identify a definite cause, but an accident with a cigarette or a mortar round going off and igniting the gasoline fumes have been advanced as probable causes.
Regardless of how the first fire started, its progress through LST-353 was fierce, and the rising heat triggered a second, larger explosion that filled nearby ships with hot shrapnel and spread flaming debris through the docking area.
The other ships, also filled with fuel, ammunition, and other supplies, began trying to get clear while rescue vehicles rushed in to try to save sailors, Marines, and soldiers and put out the flames.
The military also lost three LCTs, 17 tracked vehicles, and eight artillery pieces.
The Navy rallied after the incident, finding new ships and men to take over the mission. The LST fleet for the invasion of Saipan launched only one day late and made it to the Marianas quickly enough to invade on schedule on June 15, 1944.
A media blackout kept most of America from hearing about the incident until it was declassified in 1960. Even today, it remains relatively unknown.
The US military shot an incoming missile out of the sky in a successful intercept test Aug. 30.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones launched an SM-6 interceptor to bring down a medium-range ballistic missile off the coast of Hawaii, according to the Missile Defense Agency.
The missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. Using the on-board AN/SPY-1 radar, the destroyer detected and tracked the missile.
“We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase,” MDA Director Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves said in a statement. “We will continue developing ballistic missile defense technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves.”
The Aug. 30 test marked the second time an SM-6 interceptor has been used to intercept an MRBM. The military has conducted three tests in total, but during a test in June, the interceptor failed as a result of human error. A sailor on the USS John Paul Jones triggered a self-destruct sequence by mistake.
The US military’s latest intercept test comes just two days after North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan in an unusually-provocative missile test. The North warned that it will continue firing missiles into the Pacific Ocean, adding that the recent test was a “prelude” to possible strikes on or around Guam.
The US has lost a few Aegis destroyers in recent months, hindering missile defense in a volatile region. Both the USS Fitzgerald and USS John McCain were damaged severely after collisions with merchant vessels in June and August. The two accidents killed seventeen American sailors. The US military still has numerous missile defense assets — from Patriot interceptors to Terminal High Altitude Area Defense systems — in the area though.
The Syrian government has asked Iran to take over the supervision and payroll of thousands of Shi’ite militiamen fighting alongside Russian and Syrian troops in support of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a government source and a news report.
The pro-opposition Syrian news website Zaman Al Wasel reported that it obtained a Syrian defense ministry document saying the Assad regime has approved a plan to give Iran responsibility for paying foreign fighters – mostly Shi’ites of varying nationalities. Shi’ite fighters mostly are paid in cash from Iran, the Syrian government and coffers of the Lebanese-based, pro-Iranian Hezbollah, according to analysts.
Iran would foot the bill alone in the future, a Syrian official told VOA on the condition of anonymity, confirming the Al Wasel report.
“The number of Shia militia has increased dramatically during the last two months,” the official said. “While a big part of these militia were recruited by Iran, a relatively big part was recruited by the Syrian government directly. We are speaking about more than 50,000 militants from different nationalities. The Syrian government requested that Iran provide for all of the mentioned militias.”
The document from Al Wasel put the number of fighters to be paid at 88,733 — a figure analysts say is exaggerated. They estimate that about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria fighting alongside thousands of fighters from Lebanon’s Tehran-affiliated Shiite militia Hezbollah and assorted Shiite militia made up of renegade Pakistanis, central Asians and other nationalities. Since January 2013, more than 1,000 members of Iran’s elite Quds Force or other elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) units have been killed fighting in Syria.
Tehran says its forces are in Syria to protect the Zeinab Shrine in Damascus, a Shi’ite holy site. But since 2011, Iran has been a major backer of the Syrian regime in its war with rebel groups across the country, at first sending advisers, then forces from the IRGC and expanding far beyond the shrine area.
Iran has long expressed a desire to command a unified army in the region, particularly in Syria, and its growing power in Syria and Iraq is causing unease in Western capitals. In an interview with the Mashregh news agency last August, Mohammad Ali Falaki, an IRGC leader, announced formation of a unified army in Syria which appears to have come to loose fruition.
“It would hardly be abnormal for Iran’s IRGC to be controlling yet more Shia jihadists,” said Talha Abdulrazaq, a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute.
In the long run, the formation of a unified army in Syria under Tehran supervision appears very practical, analysts say.
“It seems plausible that the Syrian government shift the responsibility for management and organization of the militias, especially where financial burden is concerned,” said Rasool Nafisi, a Middle East affairs expert in Washington.
Asserting its military prowess would help Iran push its political agenda in the region, some analysts believe.
“The bigger and more advanced army you control, the stronger voice you have,” said Daryoush Babak, a Washington-based retired Iranian military adviser.
But unifying Assad supporters under Tehran’s umbrella could worsen sectarian conflict in the region between Shi’ites and Sunni, analysts say.
Iran is looking for any chance to increase its influence and gain an upper hand against Saudi Arabia, its strongest rival in the war of minds and hearts, analysts say. Saudi Arabia and Iran support rival groups in Syria’s civil war. And In a speech in Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump accused Tehran of contributing to instability in the region.
“Tehran and Riyadh … keep contradicting each other to prove whose ideology leads the region,” said Nafisi.
While Syria has relied on Iran militarily in the fight against rebels and Islamic State, it’s unlikely to grant Tehran a controlling foothold in the country, analysts say.
“In Syria, it is not likely to happen as long as the Assad regime harbors ambitions of regaining sovereignty rather than being reduced to an Iranian protectorate,” said Alfoneh.
Should every American Citizen serve in the military? Should women be required to register for the selective service (draft)? What should the future of the Selective Service look like?
Navy veteran Shawn Skelly and Marine Corps veteran Ed Allard are commissioners for the Commission on National, Military and Public Service. Their mission is to recommend answers to these and many more questions to Congress by March 2020. Shawn and Ed visited Borne the Battle to discuss the two years of data that the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has gathered to answer those and many other questions.
Some of the goals of the National Commission are:
Reviewing the military selective service process.
Listening to the public to learn from those who serve.
Igniting a national conversation about service.
Developing recommendations that will encourage every American to be inspired and eager to serve.
According to their interim report, the Commission has learned:
Americans value service.
Americans are willing to consider a wide variety of options to encourage or require service.
Some Americans are aware of the details of the Selective Service System while many are not.
Some Barriers to Service include:
Military Service is a responsibility borne by few.
National Service is America’s best-kept secret.
Public Service personnel practices need an overhaul.
Civic knowledge is critical for our democracy, but too few Americans receive high quality education.
Finally, the commissioners came on Borne the Battle to let listeners know that they can provide input.
Click here to learn how – deadline is Dec. 31, 2019.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
As China and the US continue to spar over trade and the South China Sea, a Chinese admiral made a bold threat to eliminate one of the US’s primary military advantages, its aircraft carriers — a gaping vulnerability that has concerned US officials as China’s military power grows.
“What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Rear Adm. Lou Yuan reportedly said in a speech at the 2018 Military Industry List summit on Dec. 20, 2018, adding that sinking one carrier could kill 5,000 US service members.
“We’ll see how frightened America is,” he said.
Lou, the deputy head of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, has academic military rank and does not command troops, but he has gained attention for his hawkish views on the US, as have other officials who’ve called on Beijing to take a more confrontational approach.
Lou said current US-China tensions were “definitely not simply friction over economics and trade” but rather over a “prime strategic issue,” according to Australia’s News.com.au, which cited Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
The US has “five cornerstones” that can be exploited, he said: its military, its money, its talent, its voting system, and its fear of adversaries.
China should “use its strength to attack the enemy’s shortcomings,” he said, according to News.com.au, continuing: “Attack wherever the enemy is afraid of being hit. Wherever the enemy is weak.”
Lou said China’s new anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles were able to hit US carriers despite the “bubble” of defensive measures surrounding them. The US Navy has 11 aircraft carriers.
The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, aircraft, and warships.
(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)
Not indestructible but certainly defensible
China has clashed with its neighbors over its expansive claims in the East and South China seas.
The US has undertaken freedom-of-navigation exercises in the area to assert the right under international law to operate there — moves that have provoked close encounters with Chinese ships.
Reducing or blocking the US’s ability to operate in those areas is a key part of China’s efforts to shift the regional balance of power in its favor by undermining confidence in US assurances about security to its partners. (Russia has pursued similar efforts.)
Beijing’s development of ballistic missiles — like the DF-21, which can reach Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea, and the longer-range DF-26, which can reach most US bases in the Pacific — along with air-defense systems and a more active navy have led to discussions about what the US Navy needs to do to operate in a contested environment, where even its all-powerful aircraft carriers could be vulnerable to attack.
The amphibious assault ship Boxer firing a Sea Sparrow missile during a missile-firing exercise in the Pacific Ocean in 2013.
(US Navy photo by Kenan O’Connor)
In analyses by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, “we determined that if the Navy pursues a lot of the air-defense capabilities that they’ve been talking about, and some of which have been in development or fielded, they should be able to dramatically improve the carrier strike group’s air-defense capacity,” Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at CSBA who previously worked on Navy strategy as special assistant to the chief of naval operations, said in December 2018 during a presentation at the Heritage Foundation.
At present, Clark said, carrier strike groups operating about 1,000 nautical miles from the Chinese coast using air-defenses assets like interceptor missiles, electromagnetic jamming, directed-energy weapons, and patrol aircraft could expect to hit about 450 incoming weapons, fewer than the at least 600 weapons the CSBA estimated China could fire to that distance.
“So if you shift instead to what the Navy’s talking about doing with its air-defense capacity by shifting to shorter-range interceptors like the [Evolved Sea Sparrow missile] instead of the SM-2 in terms of loadout, adopting directed-energy weapons, using the hypervelocity projectile … you could increase the air-defense capacity of your [carrier strike group] to the point where now you can deal with maybe 800 weapons or so in a particular salvo,” Clark said.
The USS Ronald Reagan conducting a live-fire exercise of its Phalanx Close-in Weapons System in the Philippine Sea in 2016.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke)
These estimates make numerous assumptions about the effectiveness of Navy air defenses and about how China deploys its weaponry. Moreover, the above scenarios end with the carrier strike group’s interceptor weapons expended.
To compensate for that and allow carriers to operate longer in contested areas, the Navy could use electromagnetic warfare to make enemy targeting harder or by attacking enemy bombers and missile launchers before they can fire, according to the CSBA report.
It wouldn’t be enough to eliminate China’s coastal missile batteries. With China’s and Russia’s improving ability to fire sub-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, changes are needed to the carrier air wing’s composition and operations to work at longer ranges and in contested environments, the report notes.
“There is approach that could yield a carrier strike group that is, if not indestructible, but certainly defensible in an area where it could be relevant to a warfight with a country like China,” Clark said at the Heritage Foundation. “This is the approach that the Navy’s moving down the track toward.”
Sailors on the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier Carl Vinson as it departed Naval Air Station North Island for a deployment in the western Pacific.
(US Navy photo)
‘Americans have gone soft’
Lou is in the hawkish wing of the Chinese foreign-policy commentariat, but his remarks invoked what appears to be an increasingly common perception of the US in Chinese thinking: The US is powerful but lacks resolve to fight.
“A far larger number of Chinese believe it than I think is healthy,” Brad Glosserman, a China expert and visiting professor at Tokyo’s Tama University, told Stars and Stripes in January 2019 in regard to Lou’s comments.
Many Chinese believe “Americans have gone soft” and “no longer have an appetite for sacrifice and at the first sign of genuine trouble they will cut and run,” Glosserman said.
Many in the US would dispute that notion. But this was part of the discussion of the aircraft carrier’s future in American power at the Heritage Foundation event on Dec. 11, 2018.
There is a “heightened national aversion to risk,” especially when comes aircraft carriers, according to Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain who now serves as vice president at the consultant Telemus Group.
Carriers have grown in cost and become regarded as a symbol of “national prestige,” Hendrix said at the Heritage Foundation event. He added that in light of the importance with which carriers have been imbued, political leaders may be averse to sending them into battle.
“There is, unfortunately, the heavy potential for conflict coming, but the nation is not ready for heavy battle damage to its navy and specifically not to its aircraft carriers,” Hendrix said. “We need to move these assets back into the realm of being weapons and not being perceived as mystical unicorns.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Three nurses and a physician’s assistant have resigned from an Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs facility after maggots were discovered in a veteran’s wound.
The center in Talihina, Oklahoma, has reportedly had staffing issues.
According to a report by the Tulsa World, the veteran, Owen Reese Peterson, 73, who served during the Vietnam War, arrived at the center with an infection prior to his Oct. 3 death.
Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs Myles Deering, a retired major general in the Oklahoma National Guard, claimed that Peterson “did not succumb as a result of the parasites” but instead died from sepsis.
According to WebMD.com, sepsis is a “serious medical condition” that is triggered when chemicals released to fight an infection in the body instead cause inflammation. It can lead to organ failure and death. As many as half of those with severe cases of sepsis end up dead.
“During the 21 days I was there, … I pleaded with the medical staff, the senior medical staff, to increase his meds so his bandages could be changed,” Raymie Parker, Peterson’s son, told the Tulsa World. Parker claimed that his requests were “met with a stonewall” by senior medical personnel and administrators.
“The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs is required to maintain certain staffing levels and currently is unable to meet them,” Oklahoma State Sen. Frank Simpson, Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs chairman, said. “At Talihina, they had to reduce the population of veterans there due to the inability to staff the facility.”
The four personnel resigned prior to the commencement of termination proceedings. In 2012, the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs was rocked when two veterans — 86-year-old Louis Arterberry and 85-year-old Jay Minter — died in the Claremore Veterans Center. Minter died after he was scalded in a whirlpool, and Arterberry died of a stroke.
A physician’s assistant was indicted on two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of caretaker neglect. He ultimately served a 90-day jail sentence.
Every generation has their war. And every war has its story.
Battle Cry of Freedom.
All Quiet on the Western Front.
Band of Brothers.
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.
We Were Soldiers Once… and Young.
Black Hawk Down.
Now, thanks to Steve Miska, Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.), the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan finally have their “required reading,” in Miska’s new book, Baghdad Underground Railroad: Saving American Allies in Iraq.
Since September 11, 2001, a multi-generational war has raged in the Middle East. Countless memoirs have been written, thousands of accounts have been told. But never before have we heard this story: the one of our Iraqi interpreters.
Baghdad Underground Railroad is riveting. During his second of three combat tours in Iraq, Miska led a team that established an underground railroad from Baghdad to Amman to the United States for dozens of foreign military interpreters who supported U.S. troops in-country. Since then, he has written extensively about the need to protect soft networks, and has acted as an advisor to several non-profits that aim to support and protect foreign military interpreters, including No One Left Behind and the International Refugee Assistance Project.
Baghdad Underground Railroad takes a soul-wrenching look at the solemn promise our government makes – to our men and women who serve, to their families, to our fallen: No one left behind. This isn’t just a saying; it’s an ethos, a commitment, a vow. No one left behind.
Unless you’re an Iraqi.
With bureaucracy at the helm, our allies – our interpreters – our lifelines over there are not just being left behind, they’re being executed at an alarming rate. With the impending troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, Miska’s story is more important than ever. His firsthand account of establishing the Underground Railroad is equal parts inspiring and courageous, fraught with devastation and frustration. But more than a war story, it’s a gripping, beautiful, human story. You’ll feel such anger at reading about the interpreter gunned down outside his home, simply for helping us. You’ll wipe tears at tender, endearing moments like the interpreter who finally made it to Kansas and got a job. Filled with gratitude, he wanted to treat his host to dinner, and insisted he take her and her son to somewhere nice – so he picked McDonald’s. These aren’t just strangers who helped us – these men and women are family.
Thousands of interpreters are still awaiting their Special Immigrant Visa, and layers upon layers of red tape have made getting the SIV nearly impossible. The issue is gaining national attention; just yesterday legislation was passed in the House by a 366-46 vote.
Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO) and Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) introduced the Honoring Our Promises through Expedition [HOPE] for Afghan SIVs Act of 2021 in April. According to Crow’s website, this bipartisan legislation would waive the requirement for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants to undergo a medical examination while in Afghanistan.
The Afghan SIV Program was created in 2009 to provide safety for Afghan interpreters, contractors, and security personnel who worked with the U.S. government in Afghanistan, Crow said in a press release. The application process has been plagued by delays since the program was established and faces severe backlogs, with wait times routinely stretching for years.
Since the Biden Administration announced their plans to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, Crow has called on the Administration to expedite this visa process, as SIV applicants and their families are increasingly under threat by the Taliban.
Among the bureaucratic hurdles facing SIV applicants, many have cited the medical examination requirement, which can cost thousands of dollars, as a serious delay in the process. There is currently only one facility in Kabul that conducts all immigrant visa examinations for the entire country, forcing applicants from the outer provinces to travel to Kabul in often dangerous circumstances.
“When I served in Iraq and Afghanistan, I worked closely with local interpreters and contractors who were critical to our safety and success. Without their help, I may not be here today,” said Congressman Jason Crow. “The U.S. must honor our promises and protect our Afghan partners whose lives are now at risk by the Taliban. We can help expedite the SIV process by waiving the medical examination requirement in Afghanistan, which is cost prohibitive and difficult for many applicants to safely receive. The HOPE for Afghan SIVs Act is bipartisan, common-sense legislation that can help save lives.”
“When I deployed to Iraq, my unit was aided by local interpreters who knew their actions came at great cost to themselves and their families. Like them, our Afghan allies have been indispensable in our fight against terrorism. With the Administration’s deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan fast approaching, we cannot forget their sacrifices on our behalf. In many cases, it’s untenable for them to remain in their home country due to active death threats for helping America, and our interpreters and other local allies are in mortal danger,” said Congressman Brad Wenstrup. “I’m proud to join this legislation, which provides temporary flexibility to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program to make sure we don’t leave our friends behind.”
In addition to legislation passing, yesterday, Miska shared the stage with Washington Post Opinion Columnist David Ignatius and General David Petraeus (Ret.) to discuss U.S. airstrikes on Iranian-backed militia and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. When asked about what the U.S. owes Afghan interpreters who helped Americans, Gen. Petraeus shared,
“We have a moral obligation to individuals who shared risk and hardship alongside our soldiers on the battlefield…With our forces leaving, and with the embassy already having drawn down its forces, and now in a covid lockdown, needless to say, there has not been much progress on the processing of the special immigrant visas in recent months….At that time (when he and former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker sent a letter to Sec. Blinken asking the Biden administration to accelerate issuing visas for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters and others who assisted US service members), I didn’t necessarily support a big airlift, but it is looking as if to meet the policy decision the president has announced now, which is that we will not leave them behind, it’s not going to be business as usual. I don’t think normal process will accelerate sufficiently in the course of the next month or two so that we can get them to the United States with the visa that they have earned.”
Miska shared, “The plight of Iraqi and Afghan interpreters left behind by the United States remains one of the most significant human rights issues of the Global War on Terrorism, America’s longest, and ongoing, military conflicts.”
“Baghdad Underground Railroad is a sober reminder of the far-reaching human and national security consequences of abandoning U.S. allies in countries of conflict,” Miska explained. “Above all, it is an exploration of universal questions about hope, brotherhood, and belonging—questions that strike at the heart of who we are as a people and as a nation.”
The global death toll from the coronavirus has neared 27,000 with more than 591,000 infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.
Ukraine says it has confirmed 92 new coronavirus cases as the country begins to impose new restrictions at its borders in the battle to contain the effects of the global pandemic.
The Kremlin says a member of President Vladimir Putin’s administration has been infected with the coronavirus, but the person had not been in direct contact with Russia’s leader.
The announcement came as the government widened restrictions aimed at fighting the disease, ordering all restaurants and cafes to close, beginning March 28.
As of March 27, the country’s total number of confirmed cases was 1,036, up 196 from a day earlier. Another reported death on March 27 increased the total to four.
According to Moscow’s coronavirus-response headquarters, the 56-year-old woman who died on March 27 was also suffering from cancer and had one lung removed during an earlier operation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that a man working in the presidential administration had been infected with the coronavirus.
“Indeed, a coronavirus case has been identified in the presidential administration,” Peskov was quoted as saying.
“All necessary sanitary and epidemiological measures are being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further. The sick man did not come into contact with the president,” he added, saying this was the only known case at the Kremlin.
He gave no further details.
As Russia’s confirmed cases have climbed, the government has steadily increased the restrictions and other measures seeking to curtail the disease’s spread.
Putin has called for a weeklong work holiday, ordering all nonessential businesses to close down for a week, beginning March 28.
In the order released by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s government on March 27, regional authorities across the country were instructed to “halt the activities of public food service organizations.” The restrictions will take effect on March 28.
The government has also ordered all vacation and health resorts closed until June. Other restrictions included the cancellation of all international flights.
In Russia’s capital and largest city, Moscow, city authorities have encouraged people to stay home and placed restrictions on public transit.
The majority of confirmed cases are in Moscow.
The Russian media regulator, meanwhile, said the social messaging network Twitter has deleted a post that it said contained false information about a pending curfew.
According to the regulator, the post made mention of a pending order by the Defense Ministry that a curfew was to be imposed in Moscow. That information is false, Roskomnadzor said in a statement on March 27.
Twitter had no immediate comment on the statement by Roskomnadzor.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office, meanwhile, said officials had made similar requests about allegedly false information circulating on other social media outlets, including Facebook and VK.
Facebook “removed the incorrect, socially significant information concerning the number of coronavirus cases,” Roskomnadzor said.
Iran reported 144 new coronavirus deaths as authorities continued to struggle to contain the outbreak, with the number of confirmed cases jumping by nearly 2,400.
The new tally, announced on March 27 by Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, pushed Iran’s total confirmed cases to at least 32,332.
Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the world, along with China, Italy, Spain, and now the United States.
Earlier this week, authorities enacted a new travel ban after fears that many Iranians had ignored previous advice to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.
On March 25, government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned about the danger of ignoring the travel guidelines.
“This could cause a second wave of the coronavirus,” Rabiei said.
State TV, meanwhile, reported that the military has set up a 2,000-bed hospital in an exhibition center in the capital, Tehran, to shore up the local health-care system.
President Hassan Rohani has pledged that authorities will contain the spread of the coronavirus within two weeks. However, the continued rise in numbers, along with fears that the country’s health-care system is incapable of dealing with the surge of infections, have raised doubts about meeting that goal.
Earlier this week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refused U.S. aid and seized on a conspiracy theory that the United States had created the virus, something for which there is no scientific evidence.
Om March 27, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the United States to release Iranians held in U.S. jails on sanctions-related issues due to fears about the coronavirus epidemic.
The minister referred to a report by the Guardian newspaper about an Iranian science professor who it said remained jailed by U.S. immigration authorities after being acquitted in November 2019 on charges of stealing trade secrets related to his academic work.
The professor, Sirous Asgari, complained that conditions in detention were “filthy and overcrowded” and that officials were “doing little” to prevent the coronavirus outbreak, according to The Guardian.
Rights activists have accused Iranian authorities of arresting them to try to win concessions from other countries — a charge dismissed by Tehran.
Three people in Serbia have been sentenced to jail for violating a self-isolation order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
The two- to three-year sentences were handed down during a video court session, a first in the Balkan country. The session was conducted remotely to protect employees and defendants from potential exposure to the coronavirus.
One of the defendants was sentenced to three years in prison — the maximum — in the eastern town Dimitrovgrad, a Serbian justice source confirmed to RFE/RL. The others were sentenced at a court in the city of Pozarevac to two and 2 1/2 years.
Dragana Jevremovic-Todorovic, a judge and spokeswoman for the court in Pozarevac, told RFE/RL that the two people convicted there had been charged with a criminal offense of noncompliance with health regulations.
“They violated the measure of self-isolation when they came from abroad. One arrived in Serbia on March 14, the other on March 17, both from the Hungarian border crossing,” she said.
“They were informed that they had been given a measure of self-isolation and a restraining order, which they did not respect. The measure was to last 14 days, and they violated it before the deadline,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.
“By violating self-isolation, they have created a danger to human health, as this can spread the infectious disease,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.
The Ministry of Justice on March 26 sent a memo to courts that conduct proceedings against people who violate self-isolation measures, allowing them to hold trials remotely using Internet-enabled computers, cameras, and microphones.
The judiciary noted that the first-time video judgments were not final, but the defendants remain in custody while they await trial.
According to the Justice Ministry’s Criminal Sanctions Directorate, 111 people are in custody at detention facilities in three Serbian cities – Pirot, Vrsac, and Pozarevac — on suspicion of violating the emergency public-health order.
Serbia has recorded 528 coronavirus cases and eight deaths. Restrictive measures introduced by Belgrade include a ban on people over age 65 leaving their homes and a 12-hour overnight curfew enforced by police.
Meanwhile, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic pledged on March 27 to donate 1 million euros (id=”listicle-2645588735″.1 million) to buy ventilators and other medical equipment for health workers in Serbia.
“Unfortunately, more and more people are getting infected every day,” Djokovic told Serbian media.
The world men’s No. 1 player, who was in top form before the pandemic interrupted the current season, thanked medical staff around the world for their efforts.
Georgia’s government has canceled a id=”listicle-2645588735″.2 million contract to buy thousands of rapid-result coronavirus tests from a Chinese company.
The cancellation is the latest controversy for Bioeasy, whose test kits have been deemed faulty in Spain and returned.
Georgia’s order for 215,000 rapid-result tests also will be returned to Bioeasy, based in the Shenzhen region, near Hong Kong.
Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze told reporters on March 27 that Bioeasy had agreed to take them back.
Rapid-result tests, which can be used for diseases like influenza as well as coronavirus, are known for providing quick results, though with less accuracy.
In Spain, which is one of the countries worst-hit by the coronavirus, health officials found the tests were far less accurate than needed, and ordered the tests returned.
Tikaradze said Georgians should not be afraid of being misdiagnosed.
She said new diagnostic tests were being examined at Tbilisi’s Lugar Center for Public Health Research, a medical research facility funded mostly by the U.S. government.
“I want to reassure our population,” she said. “Any new tests coming into the territory of Georgia are being tested at the Lugar Center and hence we are testing the reliability of the tests and then using them for widespread use.”
Georgia has 81 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and no deaths, as of March 27.
Azerbaijan has tightened its quarantine rules from March 29 in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The movement of vehicles between regions and cities across the country will be banned, with some exceptions, including ambulances, social services, and agricultural vehicles, the government said on March 27.
Baku’s subway system will operate only five hours a day.
Restaurants, cafes, tea houses, and shops — except supermarkets, grocery stores, and pharmacies — will remain closed.
Access to parks, boulevards, and other recreation areas will be restricted.
The South Caucasus country has reported 165 coronavirus cases, with three deaths. Officials say 15 patients have recovered.
In addition, more than 3,000 people remain in quarantine.
On March 26, Azerbaijani authorities extended holidays related to Persian New Year celebrations until April 4, from a previous end date of March 29.
Hungary’s prime minister has ordered new restrictions to try and curtail the spread of the coronavirus, calling for Hungarians to remain at home for two weeks.
In a March 27 announcement on state radio, Viktor Orban said people would only be allowed to travel to work and make essential trips to buy food or medicine or take children to daycare until April 11.
He also proposed special shopping hours at food stores for people 65 and over, and called on people to observe “social distancing” — staying about 2 meters away from other people to prevent the spread of infection.
Hungary currently has 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, though Orban has said the actual number of cases is likely much higher.
Ten infected people have died.
Orban has increasingly tightened his grip on power during his decade in office. Opposition leaders and critics have accused him of moving the country towards an autocracy.
Kazakhstan’s government has widened restrictions in the country’s two largest cities, ordering most companies to suspend operations next week as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
The restrictions, announced March 27, came as the number of confirmed cases announced by the government reached 120. Most of the cases are in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.
A day earlier, as the country reported its first death from COVID-19, the government barred residents of Nur-Sultan and Almaty from leaving their homes except for work or to buy food or medicines, starting from March 28.
The closure of most businesses in the two cities also takes effect March 28.
Authorities have also closed all intercity transport terminals and public spaces in Shymkent, Kazakhstan’s third-largest city, in order to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government said.
In neighboring Uzbekistan, officials announced the country’s first death from coronavirus: a 72-year-old man in the city of Namangan who had suffered from other ailments.
As of early March 27, Uzbekistan — Central Asia’s most populous nation — has confirmed 75 cases of infection.
Earlier, municipal authorities announced restrictions in Samarkand and the Ferghana valley cities Namangan and Andijon on March 26.
All vehicle traffic in and out of the cities has been restricted, with the exception of cargo transport, or security and government officials.
Tashkent has been closed to the entry and exit of all passenger transport since March 24.
Another Central Asian country, Kyrgyzstan, announced 14 new cases on March 27, bringing the country’s total to 58.
Earlier this week, authorities declared a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, and several other cities and regions.
Two other Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, have not reported any confirmed infections yet.
By 1967, the United States was firmly committed to the war in Vietnam. That year saw 485,600 American troops in country. That’s like arming the entire population of Kansas City and moving them into another country.
So yeah, they were invested.
But from the start, the Vietnam War was unlike the previous American wars. There was no real front, the enemy could be anywhere, and most importantly, they didn’t always fight like a conventional army in the mountains, jungles, or rice paddies.
Hackworth was tasked with creating an elite commando unit from the already elite Special Forces long range reconnaissance patrol units. The mission of what he would call Tiger Force was more than just intelligence gathering. As he put it, he wanted to “out-guerrilla the guerrillas.”
In 1967, Hackworth was out of the unit, and it was assigned to Vietnam’s Central Highlands, where it conducted a six-month long terror campaign in the Song Ve Valley and as part of Operation Wheeler. The mission was so brutal and so deep in enemy territory, members of the Tiger Force did not expect to survive.
In a war where the U.S. military relied on body counts as a measure of success, Tiger Force was ready to do its part. Hackworth once noted, “You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.”
Tiger Force went into villages the Viet Cong relied on for support and shelter in the Spring and Fall of 1967 and drove the villagers out of their homes using brute force. They allegedly used some disturbing methods to achieve those ends.
The Toledo Blade’s Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss, and Joe Mahr (right) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for their eight months of investigation and reporting on the alleged war crimes committed by Tiger Force.
“Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed — their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”
The three journalists say the Army commandos, far from friendly areas and left without support, routinely violated the laws of armed conflict, killed unarmed civilians, dropped grenades on women and children, and covered up the incidents during the official Army investigations.
Some members of the Tiger Force today aren’t even disputing the allegations. Doyle, along with others, claims to have lost count of how many people they killed.
”I’ve seen atrocities in Vietnam that make Tiger Force look like Sunday school,” Doyle told the New York Times. “Everybody I killed, I killed to survive. They make Tiger Force out to be an atrocity. Well, that’s almost a compliment. Because nobody will understand the evil I’ve seen.”
The Army investigated the allegations for four and a half years but no charges were ever filed and the men of tiger Force became some of the most decorated in the Vietnam War. They were even awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.
For its part, the Army told the Toledo Blade that, barring any new evidence coming to light, the investigations would remain closed, even after comparing the newspaper’s information with their official records.
BILOXI, Miss. — The airmen of Keesler Air Force Base were treated to a special screening of the upcoming film ‘Deepwater Horizon,’ as well as a visit from stars Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell and director Pete Berg (‘Lone Survivor’).
“Deepwater Horizon” tells the story of an explosion and oil spill on an offshore oil rig of the same name. The 2010 incident in the Gulf of Mexico was one of the world’s largest man-made disasters. Berg’s film honors the brave men and women whose heroism would save many on board. Along with Russell and Hudson, the film stars Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, and Dylan O’Brien.
In addition introducing the screening, Hudson, Russell, and Berg spent time touring the base, meeting troops and their families along top ranking military officials and got an up close view WC-130J aircraft.
‘Deepwater Horizon’ opens nationwide September 30. Watch the trailer below.
Historians always want to talk about how battles were won with a general’s brilliance or a unit’s bravery. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they are decided in somewhat less elegant ways. For instance, here are seven times alcohol played a major role in the outcomes:
1. A German officer loses key bridges on D-Day because he got drunk with his girlfriend
In his book, “Pegasus Bridge,” Stephen E. Ambrose of “Band of Brothers” fame details the night of drinking German Major Hans Schmidt had before his unit was attacked by British Paratroopers. His men were guarding two key bridges over the river Orne, and he was supposed to order their destruction if the allies came close to capturing them. The bridges were wired with explosives and could have been destroyed instantly with an order from Schmidt.
But, Schmidt was drinking the night of the attack and wasn’t there to give the order. When he sobered up, he tried to get to the battlefield and accidentally rode past the British lines. He was captured with his driver and the British held the bridges, protecting Allied paratroopers from a German counterattack.
2. A nearly crushed army survives because an enemy commander is too drunk to attack
On Dec. 31, 1862, the first day of the Battle of Stone River, the Confederate Army attacked the Union near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. General Braxton Bragg’s battle plan worked nearly as designed and thousands of Union soldiers were captured. The attack would’ve been more successful, but Maj. Gen Benjamin F. Cheatham’s brigades were severely late and disorganized after the drunk Cheatham fell from his horse while rallying his troops.
The Union Army nearly retreated, but the generals decided they had just enough troops left to hold the position, troops they likely wouldn’t have had if Cheatham had attacked as planned. The Federal soldiers held it together for two days before Union artillery wiped out 1,800 Confederates in less than an hour on Jan. 2, 1863. The Union gained the momentum and won the battle.
3. Ulysses S. Grant’s entire military career
Ulysses S. Grant had a well-documented alcohol problem, but historians think it may have actually made his career. James McPherson won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, “Battle Cry of Freedom.” In it, he says that Grant’s “predisposition to alcoholism may have made him a better general. His struggle for self-discipline enabled him to understand and discipline others; the humiliation of prewar failures gave him a quiet humility that was conspicuously absent from so many generals with a reputation to protect; because Grant had nowhere to go but up, he could act with more boldness and decision than commanders who dared not risk failure.”
Basically, Grant was already dealing with so much disdain because of his alcoholism that he didn’t care if he failed. This caused him to be more aggressive in battle than other generals were likely to be. Grant once cut himself off from everything but ammunition and medical supplies on purpose so he could attack Vicksburg. When the attack failed to take the city, Grant just turned the attack into a two-month siege (that ultimately succeeded). It should be noted, however, that Grant was absent for some of the siege since he was enjoying a two-day bender on the River Yazoo.
4. Samurai party so hard they don’t realize they’re under attack
Imagawa Yoshimoto, a powerful Japanese commander in 1560 with 35,000 soldiers, decided he wanted to try and take the capital of Japan at the time, Kyoto. On his way to Kyoto, Yoshimoto attempted to capture fortresses owned by Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga was only able to raise 2,500 samurai to face the opposing force.
Nobunaga marched with his forces to a fortress near Okehazama, Japan. When Nobunaga saw Yoshimoto’s forces drinking and partying, he ordered a small force to occupy the fortress and plant the flags of the army all around it. With the rest of his men, he slipped around the drunken samurai and approached from the rear.
Nobunaga’s fought against 12 to 1 odds, but the victory was complete. Yoshimoto reportedly left his tent to complain about the noise before he realized he was hearing an attack, not the party. Yoshimoto wounded a single enemy soldier before he was killed. Nobunaga and his forces killed all but two of the senior officers before the remaining samurai fled or surrendered.
5. Ottoman sultan loses his entire navy for some casks of wine
Ottoman Sultan Selim II drank so much his nickname was, “The Sot.” His love of wine is one of the most popular explanations for his invasion of Cyprus in 1570. Though the invasion went well at first, this play for the famed Cypriot wine would cost the sultan dearly.
As fortresses in Cyprus fell to Selim, Pope Pius V was trying to get European leaders to build a naval armada to attack the Ottomans. It took over a year for the countries to agree on the alliance’s terms, but Europe created a massive naval fleet that confronted the Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. When the naval battle began, 300 Ottoman ships faced off against 200 Christian ships of greater quality. Historians believe 90 percent of ships in the Mediterranean at the time were involved in the battle.
Despite having roughly equal forces, the Christians stomped Selim so hard they made a profit. 12 European galleys were sank, and 8,000 Christian fighters died. But, Christians liberated 15,000 slaves and captured 117 galleys. The Ottomans lost most of their Navy both in terms of ships and personnel. Selim II did still capture Cyprus with his armies and was able to drink its famed wines to his content, but it probably took a lot of drinking for him to forget what he paid for it.
6. Russian troops get bored before a battle and drink too much to fight
In “A History of Vodka,” Vil’i͡am Vasil’evich Pokhlebkin details what Russian fighters drank while they waited for a small enemy force to arrive for a battle in 1377. It’s mostly mead, ale, and beer.
While the exact numbers of troops on each side are no longer known, the armies of five Russian warlords were assembled at the river. But, they were so drunk that the Mongols of the Blue Horde just showed up and started slaughtering them. The supreme commander of the forces, Ivan Dmitriyevich, drowned along with some of his staff before the horde even made it to him.
It’s definitely the best known of the entries on this list. The prince of Troy claimed a Greek king’s wife as a prize owed to him by Aphrodite. The wife, Helen, agreed and was married, kicking off a war between the Greeks and the Trojans.
After nine years of war, a Greek general came up with a plan of faking a retreat and leaving an offering of a giant wooden horse. Greek soldiers hid out in the horse. The horse was towed into the city and the Trojans began a night of epic celebrations.
They drank, sang, and feasted until they passed out. That’s when Greek soldiers crept from the horse. opened the gates, and slaughtered every Trojan they encountered.
USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) is going to be spending some time in the yards after a collision with USNS Eagleview (T AGSE 3) off the coast of Washington state. The two ships returned to their respective bases under their own power.
According to a report by the USNI blog, the Navy is assessing the damage to the Louisiana at her home port of Naval Base Bangor-Kitsap, while the Eagleview is being assessed at Port Angeles, also in Washington state. No injuries were reported in the collision, which took place on the evening of 18 August.
USS Louisiana is the last of 18 Ohio-class submarines, having been commissioned in 1997. She displaces 18,450 tons when submerged. She carries 24 UGM-133A Trident II missiles, capable of delivering up to 14 W88 warheads with a 475-kiloton yield. The Trident II has a range of about 7,500 miles. The submarine also has four torpedo tubes capable of firing Mk 48 torpedoes.
The Eagleview is one of a class of four offshore support vessels purchased by the Military Sealift Command in 2015 from Hornbeck Offshore Services. Eagleview weighs about 2400 tons, is almost 250 feet long, and 52 feet six inches wide.
The Louisiana’s incident is not the first time this has happened. In 2013, USS Jacksonville (SSN 699) lost a periscope in a collision with an unidentified vessel. USS Montpelier (SSN 765) collided with USS San Jacinto (CG 56) in 2012, wrecking the cruiser’s sonar dome. USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18) had a fender-bender in the Strait of Hormuz in 2009. Senior officers on the submarines received varying punishments, most involving relief from command and letters of reprimand.