Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

Twin suicide bombings rocked Baghdad on Jan. 14, killing 38 people in the deadliest attack since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group last month, and raising fears ahead of national elections planned for May.


The bombers targeted the bustling Tayran Square, in the heart of the capital, setting off their explosive vests among laborers and street vendors during the morning rush hour. More than 100 people were wounded, according to police and hospital officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

No one has claimed the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of IS.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
ISIS-produced propaganda portray the group as a highly organized military force. The suspect in the Oct. 31 New York truck attack claims he was influenced by such videos.

Iraqi forces have driven IS from all the territory the extremists once held, but the militant group has proven resilient in the past and is likely to continue carrying out insurgent-style attacks. That could undermine Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who hopes to extend the country’s newfound sense of pride and unity in order to lead a diverse coalition to power in May.

Ambulances rushed to the scene as security forces sealed off the area with yellow tape. Slippers could be seen scattered about on the blood-stained pavement as cleaners hurried to clear the debris.

“It was a tremendous, I felt the ground shaking under my feet,” said Munthir Falah, a secondhand clothes vendor whose chest and right leg were pierced by shrapnel. He said he fell to the ground and lost consciousness before later waking up in a hospital.

The father of three said government forces had failed to secure the capital. “They think that Daesh is done,” he said, referring to IS by an Arabic acronym. “They don’t bother themselves to exert efforts to secure Baghdad.”

Also Read: ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Einas Khalil, a Baghdad housewife, blamed the security breakdown on the country’s feuding politicians, many of whom are connected to different state-sanctioned militias or branches of the security forces.

We were expecting this because of the upcoming elections,” she said. “Every four years we have to live through this suffering because of political differences and disagreements.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri denounced the attack as a “cowardly act against innocent people” and called on the government to take all necessary security measures. Al-Abadi met security officials in charge of Baghdad, ordering them to root out militant sleeper cells, according to a brief statement issued by his office.

A deterioration in security could undermine al-Abadi’s claim to have vanquished IS and create an opening for his main rival, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to return to power.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider Al-Abadi. (Photo from UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Al-Maliki, who stepped down after IS swept across northern and central Iraq in 2014, was widely accused of pursuing sectarian policies that alienated the country’s Sunni minority during his eight years in power. Many of Iraq’s Sunnis, fed up with al-Maliki’s rule, initially welcomed IS as liberators from the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.

The government has proposed holding elections on May 12, but parliament must approve the date. Sunni leaders have called for the vote to be delayed until the 3 million people still displaced from the fighting can return to their homes.

Victory over IS has come at an almost incalculable cost in Iraq, where entire neighborhoods in several cities and towns were completely destroyed in the fighting.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Over 7,000 troops deployed or prepared for hurricane response

More than 7,000 service members — National Guard and active duty — are standing by ready to assist as Hurricane Florence hits the Carolina coast, DoD officials said here today.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan are monitoring the Category 2 hurricane and the department is “leaning forward” to help civilian agencies as the storm approaches.

“The secretary is also receiving reports throughout the day on actions the military services are taking to protect the safety and well-being of the military community, and ensure the readiness of DoD installations in the region affected by Hurricane Florence,” Kenneth P. Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, said at a Pentagon news conference.


‘Dangerous storm’

Both Rapuano and U.S. Northern Command commander Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy called Hurricane Florence a “dangerous storm” and urged Americans to listen to the warnings from state and local officials.

O’Shaughnessy also commands North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Outer bands of the storm have already started hitting the coast and officials said there are already winds exceeding 100 mph in some areas. The storm surge has hit in North and South Carolina and the storm is expected to slow down and deposit huge amounts of rain.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm


Kenneth P. Rapuano, left, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, and Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, brief reporters at the Pentagon, Sept. 13, 2018, on Defense Department preparations for Hurricane Florence.

(DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

DoD is already working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pre-position helicopters, vehicles, and supplies. The department is prepared to assist FEMA and our other federal partners in supporting the affected regions, Rapuano said.

O’Shaughnessy said DoD assets have virtually surrounded the area where the storm is expected to make landfall.

Positioning forces

“We are proactively positioning forces now to respond from the north, from the south, from the east, and from the west, across the full spectrum of DoD capabilities at every level — by air, by sea and by land,” the general said.

Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia; Joint Base Bragg, North Carolina; North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina; and Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama are staging areas for FEMA.

About 80 light/medium tactical vehicles are staged at Fort Stewart, Georgia, set to respond quickly once Florence passes through the area. These trucks are high-water-clearance vehicles which can carry supplies or first responders. These vehicles proved their worth in this type of situation last year during Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

At Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, there are 35 helicopters available for search-and-rescue operations. A similar unit is at Fort Bliss, Texas, ready to move forward.

At Fort Bragg, there are 40 high-wheel vehicles for rescue and transportation, as well as seven helicopters staged for use in search and rescue and recovery missions, the general said.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

Army Spc. Benjamin Holybee, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief assigned to Charlie Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, Oklahoma Army National Guard, conducts preflight checks in Lexington, Okla., Sept. 13, 2018.

(Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Schroeder)

The USS Kearsarge amphibious assault ship and the USS Arlington amphibious transport dock ship are following behind Florence. These vessels have Navy and Marine personnel, 16 helicopters, and six MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

At Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, the Air Force has six HH-60 helicopters, two HC-30 aircraft and four pararescue teams at the ready.

At Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, 1st Air Force will provide robust command-and-control, air operations support to the DoD effort. This will include airborne command-and-control assets.

‘Ready to respond’

“North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia are all home to well-known military bases and installations, and the secretary of defense is given authority for life-saving and life-sustaining actions in order to make DoD capabilities immediately available, and local commanders are proactively positioning forces and equipment to be ready,” O’Shaughnessy said. “At the state level, National Guard units, whether Army or Air, under the authority of their governors, are ready to respond to the individual and oftentimes neighboring states’ needs.”

Mattis has activated dual-status commanders in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia to provide seamless command and control over assigned active duty and National Guard forces.

Rapuano said U.S. Transportation Command is staging and prepositioning FEMA resources. “The Defense Logistics Agency is directly supporting FEMA logistics with the procurement and distribution of relief commodities, including food, fuel and water,” he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also directly supporting FEMA and is poised to support flood mitigation, temporary emergency power, temporary roofing, and debris removal, Rapuano said.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will provide imagery analysis and assessment, he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President George H.W. Bush’s service dog ‘enlists’ at Walter Reed

Sully, the celebrated yellow Labrador retriever that was the service dog of former President George H.W. Bush, has joined the ranks of working dogs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Inducted by way of a paw shake and through an oath of office given Feb. 27, 2019, by Walter Reed’s director, Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mark Kobelja, Sully enlisted in the medical center’s facility dogs program, in which he will work with disabled inpatients and outpatients.


During his enlistment ceremony at the center’s USO building, Sully was cited as “a true patriot” and was enlisted as a Navy hospital corpsman, 2nd class.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

Sully, President George H.W. Bush’s service dog.

Pinning on Sully’s devices were Evan Sisley, personal aide and senior medic to President Bush and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Samantha Murdock, the leading petty officer for Walter Reed’s Facility Dog Program.

Tremendous impact

The 2-year-old Labrador was by Bush’s side for six months, and it was the Bush family’s wish that after the former president’s death, Sully would join the service-dog program at Walter Reed. He joins a unit of six other dogs in Walter Reed’s Facility Dog Program.

“We appreciate the time he had with the president. Sully made a tremendous impact — not only for the president — but his caregivers and the entire [Bush] family,” said John Miller, president and chief executive officer for America’s VetDogs, where Sully was trained to be a service dog.

George H.W. Bush’s Service Dog Sully Gets A New Job Helping Veterans | NBC Nightly News

www.youtube.com

“Sully’s going to do a great job here at Walter Reed. He’s going to see a patient on average every hour,” leaving patients in more cheerful moods, he said.

“He’ll do a lot of things here, but mostly bring smiles to faces,” as a dog with the right demeanor, Miller added.

Patient visits

Sully and the other service dogs at Walter Reed typically visit patients on wards and in behavioral health, the brain fitness clinic, and occupational and physical therapy clinics.

The facility dogs at Walter Reed average 2,500 contacts with people and more than 200 working hours per month collectively, according to a Walter Reed press release. Many of the dog handlers are active-duty service members who are trained in a 6-week program. The dogs live with a custodian of the program.

Sully, like his six battle buddies, is trained in situational awareness, sitting politely for petting, accepting a friendly stranger, walking through a crowd, how to react to distractions, entering elevators, how to react to another dog, and various commands.

Articles

Army Sergeant wins gold at Rio Paralympics

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps


U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth Marks won the gold medal and set a new world record in the women’s SB7 100-meter breaststroke Saturday night at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

“I had no idea [I was winning],” exclaimed Marks. “I can’t see when I am swimming. About 25 meters in, I have no idea where anybody else is. As long as I feel pressure on my hands, I know it is going well. I was just hoping for the best and putting everything I had into it.”

Marks served as a combat medic in Iraq and suffered serious injuries to her hip while deployed in 2010. Determined to stay in the Army and be declared fit for duty, she turned to swimming during her rehab in San Antonio.

She showed so much promise that she was accepted into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program in 2012, which allowed her to be declared fit for duty.

Marks fell into a coma in September 2014 after flying to London to compete in the Invictus Games. Doctors at Papworth Hospital put her on an external lung machine, saving her life.

She shocked everyone by returning to the pool less than a month after coming out of the coma and won gold at the World Military Swimming and Para-Swimming Open in February 2015 by defeating a field composed almost entirely of men.

Earlier this year, Marks won gold at the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. She asked Prince Harry, founder of the organization that puts on the games, to personally award her the medal. After he presented it to her, she returned it to him and asked that he give it to the staff at Papworth Hospital.

In July, Marks was given the Pat Tillman Award, which honors an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the legacy of former NFL player and U.S. Army Ranger Tillman.

Marks will also compete in the S8 100m backstroke on Sept. 13 and the SM8 200m individual medley on Sept. 17.

Watch our interview with Elizabeth Marks at the 2016 Pat Tillman Award ceremony:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s new stealth planes will be nuclear strike aircraft

The Trump administration believes Russia’s Su-57 stealth fighter and Tupolev PAK-DA stealth bomber will be developmental nuclear strike aircrafts.


The administration listed the two aircrafts as developmental nuclear strike aircrafts in its Nuclear Posture Review, a 100-page report released the first week of February 2018 laying out the U.S.’s nuclear policies.

The report took a harsh stance against Russia, saying that it “will pose insurmountable difficulties to any Russian strategy of aggression against the United States, its allies, or partners and ensure the credible prospect of unacceptably dire costs to the Russian leadership if it were to choose aggression.”

The Su-57 first flew in 2010, but has yet to be mass produced.

Moscow announced on Feb. 7, 2018, that it would purchase about a dozen Su-57s this year, and receive two of those in 2019, according to TASS.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
Nuclear strike delivery systems. (Nuclear Posture Review)

“We are taking the Su-57 for experimental and combat operation, and the state tests for the first stage are over,” Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov told reporters, according to RIA Novosti.

The first batch of 12 will only be equipped with Saturn AL-41F1 engines — the same engines on the Su-35 — and not the new Izdelie-30 engines, which have only recently begun testing.

Also read: The Air Force is ready for Russia’s new stealth fighters

Russia’s newly upgraded long-range bomber, the Tu-160M2, first flew January 2018, but the PAK-DA stealth bomber has yet to be built.

As such, Russia’s main nuclear strike aircraft is currently the Su-34 Fullback, according to The National Interest.

“[Russia] has nuclear bombs for tactical aircraft and air launched tactical nuclear missiles as well. And there are ALCMs [air-launched cruise missiles] under development that will be used by tactical aircraft,” Vasily Kashin, a fellow at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, told The National Interest.

“But I do not remember Su-57 being specifically mentioned,” Kashin said, adding that it’s possible that X-50 cruise missiles could fit into the Su-57’s weapons bays. Russia, he said, has not confirmed anything.

Related: Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

The status of the PAK-DA is even more up in the air.

Assuming Moscow builds the PAK-DA, it won’t enter Russian service until the 2030s at the earliest, The National Interest reported.

The PAK-DA will probably be able to drop nuclear gravity bombs, according to The National Interest’s David Majumdar. The aircraft will likely be primarily used as a strategic missile carrier — much like the upgraded Tu-160M2.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy fooled the Russians before the US struck Syria

When President Donald Trump threatened to send missiles at Syria — despite Russia’s promises to counterattack— all eyes turned toward the US Navy’s sole destroyer in the region. But that may have been a trick.

Pundits openly scoffed at Trump’s announcement early April 2018, of the US’s intention to strike, especially considering his criticism of President Barack Obama for similarly telegraphing US military plans, but the actual strike appeared successful.


In April 2017, two US Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean steamed into the region, let off 59 cruise missiles in response to gas attacks by the Syrian government, and left unpunished and unpursued.

But this time, with the US considering its response to another attack against civilians blamed on the Syrian government, Russian officials threatened to shoot down US missiles, and potentially the ships that launched them, if they attacked Syria. A retired Russian admiral spoke candidly about sinking the USS Donald Cook, the only destroyer in the region.

When the strike happened April 14, 2018, local time, the Cook didn’t fire a shot, and a source told Bloomberg News it was a trick.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook transits the Black Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Edward Guttierrez III)

Instead, a US submarine, the USS John Warner, fired missiles while submerged in the eastern Mediterranean, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface. Elsewhere, a French frigate let off three missiles.

But the bulk of the firing came from somewhere else entirely: the Red Sea.

Near Egypt, the USS Monterey, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, shot seven, accounting for about a third of the 105 missiles the US said were fired.

Combined with an air assault from a US B-1B Lancer bomber and UK and French fighter jets, the attack ended up looking considerably different from 2017’s punitive strike.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Photos from the morning of the attack show Syrian air defenses firing missile interceptors on unguided trajectories, suggesting they did not target or intercept incoming missiles.

“No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters of the strike on April 14, 2018, calling the strike “precise, overwhelming, and effective.”

Syria said it shot down 71 missiles, but no evidence has surfaced to back up that claim. The US previously acknowledged that one of the Tomahawks used in last year’s attack failed to reach its target because of an error with the missile.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard is begging for a new icebreaker

The Homeland Security Department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 requests $2 billion to recapitalize the Coast Guard’s surface fleet — notably $750 million to design and build the US’s “first new heavy polar icebreaker in over 40 years,” according to details released on Feb. 12, 2018 as part of President Donald Trump’s budget request.


The Coast Guard’s total request for the next fiscal year is a little over $11.65 billion — an increase of 8.4%, or $979 million, over the amount requested for fiscal year 2018.

The budget request includes several big-ticket projects for the Coast Guard, including $15 million to support the Service Life Extension Project for the Polar Star, the service’s only operational heavy polar icebreaker.

Related: The Coast Guard wants heavy firepower on their new icebreakers

The Polar Star entered service in the mid-1970s and was refurbished in 2012 and is now well past its 30-year service life — “literally on life support,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said. Its sister ship, Polar Sea, is no longer in service and now provides parts to keep the Star running.

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The crew of the motor vessel Ocean Giant lines up with the US Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star to be escorted to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 25, 2017. (US Coast Guard/Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

Zukunft, who assumed command of the Coast Guard in 2014, has been a driving force behind efforts to acquire a new icebreaker and has said he eventually wants to add three heavy and three medium icebreakers. In fall 2017, the Coast Guard and the Navy issued a joint draft request for proposal to build the next heavy polar icebreaker with an option for two more.

“When I came into this job, we thought: ‘Well, hey, we can wait a while before we address icebreakers. Maybe we can wait another four or five years.’ Well, if we wait another four or five years, as difficult as it is to find an appropriation today, it’s not going to get easier any time in the future, at least when I look into my crystal ball,” Zukunft told Business Insider at the end of 2017.

The $750 million proposed in the 2019 budget “provides detail, design, long lead time materials, construction, program management office support, feasibility studies and maintaining the indicative design, cybersecurity planning, project resident office initiation, and Navy reimbursable technical support.” The money will support efforts to “maintain scheduled delivery … in 2023.”

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The Polar Star on McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, Jan. 7, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.)

In addition to money apportioned to icebreaker sustainment and development, the 2019 budget would direct $400 million to start construction of a second offshore patrol cutter and provide long-lead-time materials for a third.

The offshore patrol cutter is meant to replace the service’s medium-endurance cutters, which operate on the high seas and in coastal approaches.

Another $240 million is designated for four fast-response cutters. FRCs are meant to replace the service’s 110-foot patrol boats and improve the Coast Guard’s ability to carry out search-and-rescue, border-security, drug-interdiction, and disaster-response operations.

The four new FRCs will bring the service to 52 of the program’s planned 58 ships.

Also read: The Coast Guard warns that Russia is moving in on the Arctic

An additional $5 million is apportioned to support the service’s waterways-commerce cutter, a program that may replace the aging fleet of inland tenders and barges that operate on US inland waterways, assisting the movement of $4.6 trillion in economic activity that makes use of US ports and waterways every year, according to the budget document.

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The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice en route to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 15, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

While the budget requests highlight several programs involving the Coast Guard’s surface assets, the replacement of the icebreaker fleet has been a high-profile goal for some time. The aging Polar Star is the only ship the service has to support year-round access to Antarctic and Arctic regions — the latter of which has seen increasing activity as polar ice recedes, opening new channels for commerce and natural-resource exploration.

Operations by other countries in the region — particularly Russia, which already has a large icebreaker fleet — have been a particular point of concern for US policymakers.

“The Russians made it a strategic priority,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in late 2017. “Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers.”

Check out: The Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker took a frigid beating

Some experts have said the Russian icebreaker fleet is less of a concern than its resurgent navy, and Coast Guard officials, including Zukunft, have highlighted the service’s positive interactions with its Russian counterparts. But the commandant also sounded a note of caution about US policy toward the northern latitudes going forward.

“We do need to make an investment in terms of our surface capability to exert sovereignty in the Arctic,” Zukunft told Business Insider. “I think if you look across our entire military strategy, homage is paid to strength, and not so much if you are a nation of paper lions but you don’t have the teeth to back it up. And that’s an area where we’re lacking the teeth.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

With ISIS defeated, 400 Marines will come home from Syria

The U.S. military operation in Syria and Iraq says it is sending home more than 400 Marines and their artillery from Syria, after they accomplished their mission against the Islamic State group.


The press unit for Operation Inherent Resolve says the 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment was supporting local partner forces with artillery firepower to defeat Islamic State militants in their former capital city, Raqqa.

The city fell to a mix of Kurdish, Arab, and other local forces on Oct. 20 after a 4-month assault that was backed by U.S. and international coalition airpower and artillery.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
The United States Marine Corps provide fire support to the SDF during the Battle of Raqqa. (Photo from USMC)

The unit announced the draw down in a statement Nov. 30: “With the city liberated and ISIS on the run, the unit has been ordered home. Its replacements have been called off.”

The U.S. is estimated to have more than 1,500 troops posted to Syria, including special forces, forward air controllers, and at least one Marine artillery unit. They have more than a dozen bases in north Syria.

Articles

Northern Iraq looks to ‘dark tourism’ for cash

In an October 2013, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, then the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative to the United Kingdom, outlined sectors of the economy then being developed in Iraqi Kurdistan.


She discussed relevant prospects in the autonomous region’s oil and gas sector, as well as its tourism industry.

One particular area she outlined was referred to as “sites of conscience,” or “dark tourism.”

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Sgt. Nolan Heanu, a mechanic with HHS, TF 2-11 FA, stops to check out a display portraying the 1988 gas attack inside the memorial in Iraq. The casing of the bomb sticking out of the ground came from an actual bomb used in the attack 16 years ago. (Sgt. Sean Kimmons)

“I’m sure you know people visit Auschwitz as a way of discovering the history of the Nazis and what happened the Jewish community,” Rahman said. “This is apparently a sector of tourism worldwide that does very well.

“We want the world to know our story and what happened in Kurdistan, both positive and negative,” she added. “We want the world to know about the genocide, the chemical weapon bombardments, the torture, the executions.”

Rahman was referring to the Anfal, the genocidal campaign waged by the Saddam Hussein regime against Kurdistan in the late 1980s which killed 182,000 Kurds. One notably infamous incident of that period was the gassing and killing of 5,000 Kurdish civilians in a single day in the town of Halabja on the Iranian border.

The sites of these atrocities still exist. Amna Suraka, for example, was a headquarters of Iraqi intelligence during Saddam’s rule, where his regime applied the most brutal forms of torture against his Kurdish victims and “disappeared” many. It is now a museum.

Rather than destroy the site, which was known as Saddam’s ” House of Horrors,” the Kurdish authorities decided that preserving it as museum would commemorate those who were killed there, and as a stark reminder of the regime’s brutality against the Kurds.

A hall of mirrors in the complex consists of a staggering 182,000 shards of glass, one for each victim of the Anfal. Also in Halabja there is a memorial and museum to the gas attack.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II vets rebuilt an APC to drive through the Iron Curtain

On July 25, 1953, seven Czechoslovakians rolled across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world to freedom in the West. They rolled over three rows of barbed wire, land mines, and guard towers on their way into West Germany. The Czech border guards didn’t even try to stop them. No one fired a shot. They all just watched in stunned disbelief as the Nazi armored personnel vehicle just tore its way across the Iron Curtain.


The story of Vaclav Uhlik is a success story for American soft power, specifically the Cold War-era broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Uhlik was an engineer in the new, Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia following the end of World War II. He was a concentration camp survivor, a fighter for the Czech Underground, and mechanic who hid a big secret from the new Communist authorities in his country: there was an armored vehicle in his backyard – and he was rebuilding it.

For three years, he listened to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe as he gathered parts and materials needed to get the APC operational again. The broadcasts gave him hope. His progress gave him patience. He was assisted by former Czech soldiers Walter Hora and Vaclav Krejciri in his efforts, and they were rewarded by riding in the vehicle the night it was to drive to the West.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

The Czech-West German Border in 1980.

(Photo by Alan Denney)

Starting nearly from scratch, the men slowly reconstructed a battered Nazi Saurer RR-7 Artillery Tractor. Vaclav Uhlik, the engineer, rebuilt the vehicle as an armored personnel carrier. He made it large enough to carry himself, his wife and two children, the two veterans, Josef Pisarik, and Libuse Hrdonkova, a Czech woman who married an American after the war. Since he could only stay with her for three months, she decided to come to him in Iowa.

After years of tinkering and preparation, the modified RR-7, covered in the brush and foliage that hid it from Czechoslovakian authorities for so long, rumbled its way to the West German border. They drove through the Bavarian forest to the Wald-München (near Nuremberg) border crossing. And he did cross the border, except he didn’t go through the gates, instead opting to go right through the rows of barbed wire between guard towers and minefields.

The border guards just watched in awe, as they thought the APC was a friendly army vehicle. The Czechs inside had only what they wore with them, but they were on the right side of the Iron Curtain.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

The seven Czechs drove the APC for several miles into West Germany and away from the border until they were stopped by West German police, taken to an American installation to be interviewed by intelligence officers, and then welcomed to their new home in the West. They would eventually be resettled in Springfield, Mass. – all except Hrdonkova. She would move to Sioux City, Iowa, to be with her long-separated husband.

Articles

America says goodby to its first hispanic Navy admiral, Diego Hernandez

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Diego Hernandez, who was the first Hispanic-American to serve as vice commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has died at the age of 83.


According to a report by the Miami Herald, Hernandez, a Vietnam War veteran who was shot down twice and awarded the Silver Star among other decorations, passed away on July 7 after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Hernandez was best known as the Navy’s highest-ranking officer of Hispanic descent.

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A Navy F-4 Phantom drops bombs over Vietnam. Hernandez flew 147 missions in the Vietnam War, and was shot down twice. (US Navy photo)

Born in 1934, Hernandez came from a working-class family in Puerto Rico. In 1955, after graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology, he entered the Navy. In 1956, he was designated a Naval Aviator. After flying 147 combat missions over Vietnam, he attended the Naval War College and served on the faculty.

His later career included tours commanding VF-84 (the famous “Jolly Rogers”), Air Wing Six, the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), and the Third Fleet.

During his time at the Third Fleet, Hernandez played a major role in integrating Alaska into United States Pacific Command and turning that force into one that was ready to take on the Soviets around the Aleutian Islands and off the Kamchatka Peninsula.

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USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), one of the commands Vice Adm. Hernandez held during his 36-year military career. (US Navy photo)

“Duke’s task was to turn this ‘McHale’s Navy’-style lash-up into a proper combat-oriented staff. It fell to Duke to awaken the whole Pacific Fleet to this, shall we say, cold reality,” retired Navy Capt. Charles Connor told the Miami Herald.

After commanding the Third Fleet, Hernandez took the post as vice commander as NORAD, which also made him the deputy commander of Space Command.

“He had his hands on the red buttons with all our atomic warfare,” former Miami mayor Maurice Ferré told the Miami Herald.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
Adm. Hernandez was deputy commander of NORAD, which included the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

After his retirement, he served with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Minority Veterans as a member of the Advisory Committee. He also helped plan for the future transportation needs of Miami-Dade County, highlighted by the opening of the Port Miami Tunnel in 2014.

Admiral Hernandez’s funeral will be held Saturday at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Church in Miami Lakes.

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U.S. Navy vet and comedian Charlie Murphy has died

Charlie Murphy, a standup comedian and Navy vet known for his work on the “Chappelle’s Show,” died after a battle with leukemia. He was 57.


Murphy joined the Navy after being released from a stint in jail. His mother wanted him to get out of the neighborhood to prevent him relapsing into his old habits and he enlisted the same day. He had to lie to get in, but has told interviewers ever since that he doesn’t regret it.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
Charlie Murphy played himself in skits with Dave Chappelle dramatizing Murphy’s run-ins with Rick James. (Photo: YouTube/TV One)

“I became a man in the Navy,” he said in a PR.com release. “That’s where I got my first apartment, my first marriage, my first bank account, my first car… it all happened there. That was a good experience.”

Somehow, Murphy made it through his service without ever being issued dog tags.

“I’ll tell you something bizarre. I was never issued dog tags. It’s part of your uniform, but I never got them. I thought it was for ID. But it’s not to ID you. It’s to ID your corpse. That’s why they make them out of metal,” he was quoted as saying.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm
Comedian and Navy veteran Charlie Murphy performs standup. (Photo: YouTube/Leon Knoles)

After separating from the military, Murphy became the head of security for his little brother, Eddie Murphy, before launching his own career as a writer, actor, and standup comedian. The older Murphy helped write the movies “Vampire in Brooklyn” and “Norbit” which his younger brother starred in.

Charlie also played small parts in “Night at the Museum,” “The Boondocks,” and the 2012 reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s new submarine could one day be a threat

North Korea is widely believed to be developing a new ballistic missile submarine that could one day be trouble for US forces and allies in the region, but experts say it may take years to turn this boat into a serious threat.

In July 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a “newly built submarine.” North Korean media reported that its “operational deployment is near at hand.” Observers suspect this is a new ballistic missile submarine, a weapon North Korea has described as “an important component in [the] national defense of our country.”

If it eventually works, this kind of submarine would give North Korea and alternative sea-based strike option to attack countries like South Korea or Japan, as well as US bases.


Experts believe the work is underway at a shipyard in Sinpo, a major port city and defense industry hub located on the coast of the East Sea/Sea of Japan where an experimental ballistic missile submarine lives.

Rpt: North Korea Appears To Be Building New Ballistic Missile Submarine | The Last Word | MSNBC

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Joe Bermudez, one of the authors of a new CSIS Beyond the Parallel report on recent developments at Sinpo, told Insider that North Korea may be close to launching its new submarine, the development of which likely began a few years ago. North Korea already has a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and it has conducted several successful tests, although never aboard a submarine.

The development of this particular submarine has taken longer than some of the other boats in North Korea’s arsenal because a ballistic missile submarine is more complicated. But, given North Korea’s recent display, it may soon be ready for launch, experts say.

But simply launching a submarine doesn’t mean its ready for combat. “Even if launched today the submarine will have to undergo a period of fitting-out, then manufacturer’s acceptance trials, KPN acceptance trials, commissioning and finally KPN shake-down cruises before becoming truly operational,” Bermudez and Victor Cha, well-known Korea experts explained, in their new CSIS report.

Bermudez suggested that if North Korea launched with the Pukguksong-1, North Korea’s only submarine-launched ballistic missile, they might achieve operational capability in a year or two. “If it is with a new system, that could potentially take two to five years,” he added.

North Korea has been known to define operational capability a little differently than most countries do, sometimes putting “in service” systems that are actually still in development.

Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a submarine factory.

(KCNA)

“They could launch this submarine today and within the next six months conduct a test launch from it. That’s not operational,” Bermudez explained, adding that given North Korea’s recent weapons testing, it would not be surprising if they actually took such a step.

Bermudez and Cha characterized North Korea’s ballistic submarine program and ballistic missile program as an “emerging threat,” explaining in their report that North Korea appears to be “making real progress in developing a second leg of the nuclear triad, bringing them closer to a survivable nuclear force and lessening prospects for full denuclearization,” a Trump administration priority that it has struggled to achieve.

Left unchecked, the North Korean program could steadily become a greater challenge. “If they launch, that is a certain level of threat but not overly significant. If they test, that raises the threat. When they finally get to operational, that is a real significant threat,” Bermudez told Insider.

If they were to achieve operational capability and if there were an armed conflict, “they could launch at Japan, South Korea, or US bases in the Asia-Pacific region from a direction different from what we have been anticipating and planning for,” he explained. “If they were able to achieve a time-on-target for sea- and land-based ballistic missiles, that would further complicate defense.”

The new submarine appears crude and is likely noisy, making it easier to detect and eliminate. That being said, its existence raises the threat level as an alternative nuclear weapons delivery platform, and that is especially true if North Korea can find a way to build and field a more than one of them.

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

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