What it's like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq - We Are The Mighty
Intel

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

The below is an excerpt from “Breaking Cover” by Michele Rigby Assad:

In the movies, secret agents face their adversaries with guns, weapons, and flashy cars. And they’re so proficient in hand-to-hand combat that they can bring enemies to their knees with the right choke hold or take them down with a well-placed aimed shot. As much as I’d like to think I was that cool, in reality, life in the CIA is much more pedantic.


What most people don’t know is that the CIA is really a massive sorting agency. Intelligence officers must sift through mountains of data in an effort to determine what is authentic and useful, versus what should be discarded. We must consider the subtleties of language and the nuance of the nonverbal. We must unwind a complicated stream of intelligence by questioning everything. In the counterterrorism realm, this process has to be quick; we have to weed out bad information with alacrity. We can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to the collection, processing, dissemination, and evaluation of terrorism intelligence. As we say in the CIA, “The terrorists only have to get it right once, but we have to be right every time.”

Contained in that massive flow is an incredible amount of useless, inaccurate, misleading, or fabricated information. The amount of bad reporting that is peddled, not only to the CIA but to intelligence agencies all over the world, is mind-boggling.

That’s precisely why one of the greatest challenges we faced as counterterrorism experts was figuring out who was giving us solid intelligence and who wasn’t. And when we were dealing with terrorists, getting it wrong could mean someone’s death.

In early 2007 when Iraq was awash with violence, many Iraqis who had formerly counted the United States as the Great Satan for occupying their country switched sides and were willing to work with Coalition Forces against Iraqi terrorists. Brave locals were rebelling against al-Qa’ida’s brutal tactics and were doing whatever they could to take back the streets from these thugs. This was a turning point in the war. Our counterterrorism efforts became wildly successful, fueled by accurate and highly actionable intelligence.

In one such case, we were contacted by one of our established sources, who was extremely agitated. Mahmud had come from his village claiming that he had seen something that sent chills down his spine. As Mahmud was driving not far from his home, he saw an unknown person exit a building that one of his cousins owned. The building was supposed to be empty and unoccupied. For reasons Mahmud could not explain, he thought that something bad was going on and that maybe the man he saw was a member of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI).

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)

Up until this point, Coalition Forces had found Mahmud’s information extremely reliable. Of course, they did not know his name or personal details, but they made sure we knew that his information had checked out. They contacted us on numerous occasions to praise us for the source’s reporting, explaining that it had allowed them to disarm IEDs and detain insurgents who were causing problems in his village.

Mahmud had a solid track record. But the bits he provided this time were sketchy and lacked sufficient detail. You can’t just disseminate intelligence reports saying that a location “feels wrong,” “seems wrong,” or that some random dude you just saw “looked like a bad guy.” That kind of information does not meet the threshold for dissemination by the CIA. In this case, however, the handling case officer and I went against protocol and put the report out.

Within the hour, we were contacted by one of the MNF-I (Multi-National Force-Iraq) units with responsibility for that AOR. They regularly executed counterterrorism operations in that village and wanted to know more about the sourcing. They were interested in taking a look at the abandoned building because they had been trying to locate terrorist safe houses they believed were somewhere in the vicinity of the building mentioned in our report. They had a feeling that nearby safe houses were being used to store large amounts of weaponry and a few had been turned into VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) factories. But there was one big problem: Military units had acted on similar intelligence reports before, but the reports had been setups—the alleged safe houses were wired to explode when the soldiers entered.

A spate of these types of explosions had occurred east of Baghdad in Diyala Governorate, and while we had not yet seen this happen out west in al-Anbar Governorate, one could never be too careful. Basically, the military wanted to know: How good is your source? Do you trust him? Do you think he could have turned on you? Could this be a setup?

This was one of the hardest parts of my job. While I had to protect the identity of our sources when passing on intelligence, I had to balance this with the need to share pertinent details that would allow the military to do their job. It was critical to give them appropriate context on the sources, their access, and their reporting records, and to give them a sense of how good the report may or may not be. Given our positive track record with these military units, I knew that they would trust my judgment, and therefore, I needed to get it right. Lives were at stake.

My mind was spinning.

What do I think? Is this a setup? He’s usually such a good reporter, but what if someone discovered he was the mole?

Even if Mahmud was “on our side,” the insurgents could turn him against us by threatening the lives of his wife and kids. Similar things had happened before. I prayed, “Please, Lord, give me wisdom.”

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
The author, Michele Rigby Assad, was an undercover CIA agent for 10 years.
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)

The bottom line was, I didn’t know anything for sure, and I told the military commander that. But I also remembered that just the week before, Mahmud had provided a report that MNF-I units said was amazingly accurate regarding the location of an IED in his village. They found the IED and dug it up before the Coalition Humvee rolled over it. So as of then, he was definitely good, and I told the commander that as well.

The next day, the case officer came to my desk and said, “Did you hear?”

“Hear what?”

“Mahmud’s information was spot on!”

“Really?” What a relief, I thought. “What happened?”

“When the soldiers entered the abandoned building, they found seven Iraqis tied up on the floor, barely clinging to life. It was more than a safe house. It was a torture house. There were piles of dead bodies in the next room.”

Mahmud’s intuition about the stranger he saw exiting that building had been correct. Something about the unidentified man’s behavior or appearance—the look on his face, the posture of his body, the way he walked or the way he dressed—had hit Mahmud as being “off” or “wrong.” It turned out that local AQI affiliates had commandeered the building and were using it as a base to terrorize the local population.

My colleague pulled out copies of the military’s photographs that captured the unbelievable scene. The first images showed the battered bodies of the young men who had just been saved from certain death. According to the soldiers, when they entered the building and found the prisoners on the floor, the young men were in shock. Emaciated and trembling, they kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” They could barely stand, so the soldiers steadied them as the young men lifted up their bloodstained shirts for the camera, revealing torsos covered in welts and bruises. If that unit hadn’t shown up when they did, those men would have been dead by the next day.

I swallowed hard as I flipped through the photographs of the horrors in the next room, and my eyes welled up with tears. The terrorists had discarded the mutilated bodies of other villagers in the adjacent room, leaving them to rot in a twisted mound. I could hardly accept what I was seeing. It reminded me of Holocaust photos that were so inhumane one could not process the depth of the depravity: men and women . . . battered and bruised . . . lives stolen . . . eyes frozen open in emptiness and horror.

My stomach began to churn, but I made myself look at the pictures. I had to understand what we were fighting for, what our soldiers faced every day. As much as I wanted to dig a hole and stick my head in the sand, I needed to see what was really happening outside our cozy encampment in the Green Zone.

They say war is hell; they don’t know the half of it.

Taken from “Breaking Cover” by Michele Rigby Assad. Copyright © 2018. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Michele Rigby Assad is a former undercover officer in the National Clandestine Service of the US Central Intelligence Agency. She served as a counterterrorism specialist for 10 years, working in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations. Upon retirement from active service, Michele and her husband began leading teams to aid Christian refugees.

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

Humor

11 memes that will remind you how boot you were

Newbies who first enter the military typically have a pretty tough time. They are continuously reminded that they suck by their superiors and are treated like children 99% of the time.

Now, fast forward in your military career a few years and, hopefully, you’re an NCO by now. You look upon the boots who’ve just joined and probably say to yourself, “I hope I was never that bad…”


The truth is, you probably were — if not way worse. Need a refresher? Scroll down the page and get transported back to your boot days.

Note: This article will make you feel f*cking old. Enjoy!

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(NavyMemes.com)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Master fitness trainers help soldiers prepare for combat

Master Fitness Training instructors work tirelessly to coach soldiers from across the Army in developing new ways to prepare them for combat, while in the process, helping increase readiness and lowering profiles up to 40%, says the fitness school NCOIC.

Wanting to better understand the effectiveness of the fitness program, Master Sgt. Joseph Komes, U.S. Army Physical Fitness School noncommissioned officer in charge, used a roster based on thousands of soldiers, all previously certified at the school, and sent a questionnaire to understand the school’s effectiveness.

Shortly after, the responses started pouring in.


“What I started seeing was that trainers were increasing their unit readiness,” he said. “The way I measured unit readiness was only by PT scores and profile rates, because, I’m just one guy in an office trying to figure out if what we’re doing is working.”

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael J. MacLeod)

Komes also determined individual units, armed with certified fitness trainers, decreased their profile rates by close to 40%. However, Komes added, “I don’t know if those individuals were on a two-week profile and they just ended up falling off during the training program or what.”

That said, the responses were useful and answered his question. In addition, it gave fitness instructors at the school a better understanding of how worthwhile their program is, and with the Army Combat Fitness Test in its second phase of implementation, the timing couldn’t be better, he said.

Scheduled to be the test of record in October 2020, the ACFT is the Army’s largest physical fitness overhaul in nearly four decades. Like physical readiness training, something the instructors are experts in, the ACFT is part of a larger “reset” to build a more combat-ready force.

To meet the demands of the six-event ACFT, instructors from the school have already certified thousands of soldiers from around the Army to develop physical programs to bring back to their units. In addition, the selected soldiers are trained on a variety of skills vital to the ACFT, including how to set up the testing field, as well as supervising and grading the test.

According to Komes, in the past, physical training programs “lost touch” with combat readiness. Regarding PT, soldiers were forced to “run four days out of the week and ruck on the fifth,” which led to injuries and an overall decrease in a soldier’s lethality.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

Georgia Army National Guard Soldiers conduct a sunrise run during annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga., Jan. 11, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. William Carraway)

He added, “That’s just the way PT was always done, and it’s our job is to help soldiers sit down and strategically assess their mission, and prevent injuries from happening. [They should think] Okay, I have a training event nine weeks from now — where we’re going to enter a building and clear room — how do we physically, and safely prepare for this?”

That’s where the master fitness trainer comes in, he said.

“These days, we have better knowledge to increase overall unit performance during a deployment,” he said. “[Master Fitness Training instructors] are doing their best to implement that [knowledge] and shape the future for the Army.”

When fitness instructors certify trainers, they’re thinking of each individual soldier and the unique needs required to be successful — even at that basic level, he said.

“We’re looking at them as individuals and not just as just a big mass,” Komes said. “I think with the ACFT around the corner, it seems like that’s the mindset that’s important, because every person has their own requirements.”

Komes added, it’s vital for trainers to know their soldiers and know what they need to be successful on the ACFT.

“Our trainers understand that we have to physically prepare individuals to complete the Army’s mission,” he added. “It’s very humbling for us to give soldiers, from all three components of the Army, the tools to succeed because the folks who leave here go back to those individual soldiers.”

“Everyone is different,” he said. “Some soldiers could be attached to National Guard units, and implementing a PT program once a month is challenging, or they could be military police and work odd shifts.”

Being able to “crack the code and see the challenges from different perspectives” is a daily task the trainers and instructors grapple with, he said, adding, that “having a fitness trainer all the way down to the platoon level” would be ideal. However, the trainers who leave the fitness school only reach the company level, for active duty.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Danny Gonzalez, Recruiting and Retention Command, New Jersey Army National Guard, carries two 40-pound kettlebells during the Army Combat Fitness Test

(New Jersey National Guard photo by Mark C. Olsen)

“We already know each individual is different, but each individual platoon is different, too,” he said. “Each platoon is training for a different goal.”

That’s also where certified master fitness trainers come in, he added. “Certified trainers are able to go to their units with a wealth of knowledge, and look at essential task list and identify the most daunting task and develop a physical fitness program based on those tasks to increase the overall performance.”

When Komes first arrived at the fitness school in 2012, the ACFT wasn’t a thought on anyone’s mind. Today, it seems to be everyone’s first thought, he said.

This change leaves the instructors with a large responsibility on their backs — to ensure the force is ready. But, it’s a responsibility they carry with pride, he said.

“When we conduct MFT training, we ensure each certified trainer has a plan for their unit,” he said, adding thousands of certified trainers are among the force already.

“They’re out there, they’re already in units, and hopefully commanders understand what they bring to the fight,” Komes said.

For soldiers uneasy with the ACFT, Komes recommends they reach out to their local master fitness trainer, or identify who it is through their chain of command.

The Master Fitness Training Course is broken into two phases — a self-paced, 60-hour online phase and a two-week, 76-hour in-residence phase. The curriculum covers everything from exercise science, PT program design, leadership, physical fitness assessment and unit physical readiness programs, aligned with current Army doctrine and regulations.

After graduating from the course, soldiers are equipped to advise units on physical readiness issues and monitor unit and individual physical readiness programs.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sought to raise his international standing, a figure seen by his side almost constantly during his meetings with world leaders is none other than his younger sister Kim Yo Jong.

Those frequent appearances have taken on a new significance in recent days, as rumors swirl that the dictator is gravely ill after a surgery. Kim Jong Un’s line of succession is hazy — he is believed to have three children, but they are too young to take control over the country, and his brother has reportedly been deemed unfit to lead.


That has prompted speculation that Kim Yo Jong is next in line, though the country has never had a female leader.

During the two summits between the US and North Korea, Kim Yo Jong was front and center during the historic show of diplomacy between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

She also traveled to South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics, becoming the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the south since the Korean War in the 1950s.

Like her brother, and much of the rest of their family, few details are known about Kim Yo Jong and the life she lived before reaching a prime leadership role in the North Korean government.

Here’s what we know about her so far.

Like many of Kim’s family members, Kim Yo Jong’s exact age is difficult to pin down. But she’s believed to be in her early 30s, likely born in 1989.

Kim Yo Jong as a girl: this is the earliest photo we have of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, taken while she was at school in Switzerland.pic.twitter.com/LrDFgGBzdt

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She’s the youngest child of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Yong Hui, a former dancer.

She was partly educated in Switzerland at the same school Kim Jong Un attended. But she returned to North Korea in 2000 after completing the US equivalent of the sixth grade.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5c76d86b2628981e0e185319%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=327&h=f892c8a2729aafffe7a2825c410497bf48761ebcad11d2871036e6f55e3653b1&size=980x&c=3282151137 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5c76d86b2628981e0e185319%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D327%26h%3Df892c8a2729aafffe7a2825c410497bf48761ebcad11d2871036e6f55e3653b1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3282151137%22%7D” expand=1]

The Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school in Köniz, Switzerland.

Sandstein/Wikimedia Commons

Kim Yo Jong appeared destined for a powerful career from a young age. Kim Jong Il once bragged to foreign interlocutors in 2002 that his youngest daughter was interested in politics and eager to work in North Korea’s government.

It’s completely unclear where she was or what she was up to between 2000 and 2007.

In the following years, she conducted a lot of behind-the-scenes work for her father, Kim Jong Il, and brother Kim Jong Un. She played a particularly significant role in helping Kim Jong Un take over instead of his older brothers.

Her first public appearance was in 2011 at Kim Jong Il’s funeral.

Kim Yo Jong’s first recorded public appearance: The North Korean princess appeared among the mourners at her father’s funeral at the end of 2011.pic.twitter.com/GWPw4dgbZU

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Kim Yo Jong made headlines in 2017 after she was promoted to a top position in her brother’s government: the head of the propaganda department of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

That’s not just a fancy title — Kim Yo Jong plays a crucial role in controlling her brother’s public image.

Kim Yo Jong’s role in the North Korean regime is not just ceremonial. She’s actually working, protecting the image of her brother Kim Jong Un and making sure that everything runs smoothly.pic.twitter.com/hWsQnPIZzr

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In public, Kim Yo Jong appears to have greater freedom than other top government officials in North Korea, occasionally appearing in photographs unaccompanied, rather than constantly being in the presence of Kim Jong Un.

Some have speculated that she was promoted partly in an effort to continue Kim Jong Un’s dynasty. While she’s out of the line of succession, some believe she could take over the country’s leadership if something happens to Kim Jong Un before his kids are old enough to rule.

It wouldn’t be an unprecedented role for her, either. Kim Yo Jong once briefly took control of the country’s affairs while her brother was ill in 2014, according to a South Korean think tank run by North Korean defectors.

She stepped onto the world stage in February 2018. In a rare show of diplomacy between the two Koreas, Kim Yo Jong traveled to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Everyone’s eyes were on Kim Yo Jong at the start of the games. She shared a historic handshake with South Korean President Moon Jae In, and both broke out in smiles.

During the opening ceremony, she sat right behind US Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Kim Yo Jong and Pence did not speak with each other.

Her interaction with South Korean leaders was a rare show of diplomacy and warmth. Given her experience in propaganda, she likely knew exactly what she was doing to try and curry favorable attention.

In April 2018, she played a crucial role in the peace talks between the two Koreas. Leaders from the two nations met at the Demilitarized Zone, and Kim Yo Jong was notably the only woman at the table.

Though she stayed well away from the spotlight, leaving that to her brother, it was clear Kim Yo Jong played a significant role in orchestrating the talks and ensuring the day ran smoothly.

She was her brother’s right-hand woman when he and Trump signed the agreement acknowledging North Korea’s intentions to denuclearize.

Kim Yo Jong sparked curiosity at one point, when she switched out the pen that was provided for the summit with her own ballpoint pen. It’s unclear why she swapped the pens, but some have speculated that it was for security reasons.

Anyone else spot this? There were two “Donald Trump” signing pens, NK official came in and shined up the one for Kim, then at the last minute Kim Yo Jong pulled out her own per to use instead of the one provided. Kim used that and back it went in her blazer. (Pool video)pic.twitter.com/dZWEK22IdF

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She made headlines in February 2019 when she was seen holding her brother’s ashtray while he smoked during their train journey to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Kim Jong Un takes smoking break on way to Summit

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Kim Yo Jong was featured prominently in the preparations for her brother’s talks with Trump, often rushing ahead to make sure everything was ready.

She even went viral at one point when she seemed to be hiding in the plants as Kim Jong Un met with the US president at the Metropole Hotel.

An incredible addition to annals of “Where’s Kim Yo Jong?” from @nknewsorg’s @chadocl.pic.twitter.com/9zZSUAnsL2

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It has become increasingly clear over the past several years that Kim Yo Jong was one of her brother’s most trusted officials, and her power in the regime was only growing.

But in the Hermit Kingdom, no one’s position is ever truly secure under the mercurial leadership of Kim Jong Un. He’s known for turning on family members quickly when they fall out of favor — and it remains to be seen whether Kim Yo Jong is an exception.

Kim Yo Jong was not listed as an alternate member of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea politburo — the party’s top decision-making body — and did not appear at any high-profile events during an important party gathering in April 2019.

She also missed a meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin later that month, fueling speculation that she had been demoted.

One theory is that Kim Jong Un ordered her to lie low after his failed summit with Trump in February 2019.

But in early June 2019, Kim Yo Jong was spotted for the first time in 52 days, suggesting she was back in her brother’s good graces.

In October 2019, North Korean media released strange photos of Kim Jong Un riding a white horse atop a mountain with historic and symbolic significance.

Experts told Business Insider that the photos are packed with political meaning — and could foreshadow a frightening military advancement.

Since then, her profile has only grown. In March 2020, Kim Yo Jong made her first-ever public statement, insulting South Korea as a “frightened dog barking” after the country condemned one of North Korea’s live-fire military drills.

“Such incoherent assertion and actions… only magnify our distrust, hatred and scorn for the South side as a whole,” Kim Yo Jong said in the statement.

The following month, Kim Yo Jong was reinstated as an alternate member of the Workers’ Party of Korea politburo, suggesting that all has been forgiven since the collapse of last year’s summit.

Given these recent developments, it’s clear that Kim Yo Jong’s power has grown tremendously in recent years, fueling speculation that no other family members besides her could take over.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 2nd

In a recent study conducted by the Department of Defense and the Sleep Research Society, it turns out that the insomnia rate within troops skyrocketed 650 percent since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In other news, water is wet.

No. But seriously. This should only be a shock to civilians who’re so far removed from what the troops are actually doing. If you’re wondering why we have sleep problems, take a look at our regular schedule: wake up at 0430, PT until 0700, work until 1700 (but more likely at 1800,) fill out paperwork or college courses that couldn’t have gotten done during work hours for another few hours, maybe some personal time, and eventually sleep around midnight.

That entire cycle is then propped up with copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks. And to no one’s surprise, it’s obviously the caffeine’s problem instead of systemically awful time management skills of most troops.


I’m just saying. Don’t get on the troops’ asses about drinking coffee. There are civilians who roll out of bed at 0845 and leave work at 1500 who can’t go a moment without their vanilla spiced grande chai latte whatever. Here are some memes for those of you who earned theirs!

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

​(Meme via Introverted Veteran)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

​(Meme via Army as F*ck)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via Call for Fire)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via Not CID)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Articles

Russia’s creaky, old aircraft carrier is up to something strange

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in dry dock in July 2015. | Christopher Michel/Flickr photo


The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the biggest ship in the Russian navy and the most visible symbol of the Kremlin’s military power. This October, she will travel to the Mediterranean and carry out air strikes in Syria, according to a report from the Moscow-based Tass news agency.

There is a general rule for news about Russian warships. Like most things in life — don’t believe it until you see it. The first problem is that the Tass report, which reverberated throughout the Russian and Western press, relied on a single anonymous “military-diplomatic source.”

Nor is this the first time rumors have spread about the Admiral Kuznetsovgoing to war in Syria. The Russian navy denied a 2015 report which claimed as much.

But this is not to say you should totally disbelieve it, either. Recent activity surrounding the Admiral Kuznetsov may indicate an upcoming combat deployment.

First, here are several reasons to doubt it.

Admiral Kuznetsov has never seen combat, nor would she be of much practical military use. The 55,000-ton carrier has a bow ramp, not steam catapults, requiring her aircraft to shed weight before taking off. This means her planes will go into combat with less fuel or bombs than the ground-based fighters Russia has already deployed to Syria.

This is on purpose. The Soviet Union designed Admiral Kuznetsov as a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser” to support a surface battle fleet, foreign policy writer Taylor Marvin pointed out.

This makes her less flexible than U.S. supercarriers, and it’s the reason she packs anti-ship missiles for sinking other vessels, but cannot launch fully gassed-up strike planes with heavy bomb loads suitable for attacking targets on land.

Worse, the conventionally-powered Admiral Kuznetsov has problems. Poor maintenance, defective steam turbines and shoddy boilers means she’s unreliable — which is why Russia sends an ocean-going tug with her, wherever she goes.

A video of one of these tugs hauling the carrier in bad weather during a 2012 voyage appeared last year. It has an utterly awesome and appropriately Russian soundtrack.

“Carrier operations, particularly high-tempo strike missions, are an extremely complex logistical and operational dance, with lethal consequences for mistakes,” Marvin wrote. “Since the USSR and Russia has had little opportunity to build these skills, and none to test them in combat, any strike missions from the Kuznetsov would be limited and mostly for show.”

Russia would take a big risk … for not much gain. This doesn’t mean the Kremlin wouldn’t take the risk. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest — although in a speculative fashion — that the Russians may be preparing to do just that.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
British destroyer HMS ‘York’ shadows ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in 2011. | U.K. Ministry of Defense photo

For one, Admiral Kuznetsov is planning a voyage to the Mediterranean this fall. “It is true. There is such a plan,” Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma defense committee, told Tass on June 28.

Su-33 and Su-25 jets recently landed on the flattop, last spotted sailing in the Barents Sea. MiG-29Ks — a carrier-launched version of the muscular, multi-role Fulcrum — will arrive “in the coming days,” according to a July 4 reportby Interfax.

The news agency reported that the arrivals are in preparation for a “long hike” planned “roughly in the middle of October.”

The MiG-29K and its two-seater KUB variant are Soviet-era designs revived for the Indian Navy after it purchased the Kiev-class flattop Admiral Gorshkov — renamed INS Vikramaditya — in 2004. However, the planes themselves are brand new, pack advanced avionics and can drop precision-guided bombs.

The Su-33 is an air-superiority fighter, and the Su-25 is a close air support plane. Tass’ source said the carrier will go to Syria with “about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than 10 helicopters Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31.”

But it gets weirder.

Russia went to war in Syria in September 2015. That month, Admiral Kuznetsov was completing a three-month maintenance stint near Murmansk.

Then in October, she appeared in the Barents Sea … for combat training.

That’s unusual, because the Russian aircraft carrier is a snowbird; she heads south late in the year. More specifically, she sails into the Mediterranean, which she did during her four previous deployments — all during winter.

October is not winter. But the Barents Sea and the carrier’s home port at Severomorsk are beyond the Arctic Circle, where flight operations are particularly dangerous beginning in mid-October due to the polar night, when there is little light.

Sergei Ishchenko, a military commentator and former navy captain, found that perplexing. “Only extraordinary circumstances could have forced training flights from the carrier during the least suitable time of the year,” he wrote for the website Svobodnaya Pressa.

“It’s obvious that the war in Syria is that circumstance.”

 Russia might not have a chance to deploy its carrier in combat again for awhile. In early 2017, Admiral Kuznetsov will head into dry dock for a two-year overhaul shortly after she returns from the Mediterranean. The war may be over by the time her repairs are done, giving the Kremlin a tiny window to signal military prowess with its flattop.

More curious is what’s happening with the MiG-29Ks.

These warplanes train at a runway with a ski-ramp in Yeysk, Russia, along the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin built this facility in 2012 as an alternative to a similar ramp runway in Nitka, Crimea — then part of Ukraine — which Russia leased. Russia captured Nitka during its February 2014 invasion, but the facility is apparently not suitable for MiG-29Ks.

And according to Ishchenko, the MiG-29K unit — the 100th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment — was not fully trained as of January 2016.Admiral Kuznetsov is useless without those multi-role fighters and their pilots. “Victory in that war demands actual, not potential, power,” Ischenko wrote. “And the Admiral Kuznetsov still lacks its full combat power.”

Hence the reason why the carrier is back in the Barents Sea for the second time since last October, now with MiG-29Ks on the way … on a crash course for an upcoming combat mission.

At least, that’s the theory. We’ll find out in a few months.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Mattis was obsessed with a certain day in history

Everyone who is a fan of veteran Marine Corps General and onetime Secretary of Defense James Mattis knows of his affinity for reading, for consuming as much knowledge on a subject as he can before giving his opinion. His lifestyle of eschewing a family in favor of a lifetime of learning and dedication to duty even earned him the moniker “The Warrior Monk.” This well-known devotion to knowledge makes it all the more interesting to discover Mattis was “obsessed” with the date August 1914.


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From the Iraq War to the Trump Administration, Mattis is always the man for the job.

In journalist Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in the White House” one Trump Administration official who spoke highly of then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Woodward that the former general was “obsessed with August 1914… the idea that you take actions, military actions, that are seen as prudent planning and the unintended consequences are that you can’t get off the war train.”

Specifically, Mattis was “obsessed” with historian Barbara Tuchman’s World War I history book, “The Guns of August,” which has a spot on every reading list he ever published for the troops.

In June 1914, as we should all know by now, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot by an assassin in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary issues an ultimatum to Serbia as European allies began to muster their troops throughout the continent during July of 1914. At the end of July, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia, shelling Belgrade just days later. As July turns to August, Serbia’s ally Russia begins to mobilize for war. That’s when Germany demanded Russia stop preparing for war, which Russia ignored.

On Aug. 1, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. Russia’s allies began preparing for war in response to their mutual defense treaties. Germany then declared war on France and invaded neutral Belgium, forcing Great Britain and its Empire to declare war on Germany. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia. By Aug. 7, 1914, much of the world was at war. By the end of August, the fighting had spread to Africa and the Chinese mainland. What started as a regional dispute that could have been mediated led to millions of lives lost in a brutal, industrialized war machine.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

German defenders of Tsingtao, China, who were fighting against the Japanese invaders because a Serbian shot an Austrian archduke in Bosnia.

In this context, Mattis was trying to keep the United States and NATO out of a war with Russia, which (according to Woodward’s book) seemed like a real possibility if the Trump Administration had enacted some of its more sweeping changes to American defense policy. Mattis was also trying to convince Trump that the U.S. needed to be in NATO, and if NATO didn’t already exist, it should be created – because Russia could not win a war against NATO, in Mattis’ opinion.

Russia had privately warned Mattis that if a war broke out in the Baltics, the Russians would use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO forces. Mattis and Gen. Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, began to think Russia as an existential threat to the United States. Even so, Mattis was determined to keep Russia and NATO from sliding into a similar war via a web of alliances.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Argentina releases first photos of sub lost 1 year ago

A little over a year after losing contact with the submarine ARA San Juan, Argentina’s navy said the wreckage of the sub had been found at the bottom of the southern Atlantic Ocean, where it sank with all 44 of its crew members.

The navy said early Nov. 17, 2018, that a “positive identification” had been made by a remote-operated submersible deployed by Ocean Infinity, a US firm commissioned by the Argentine government that began searching on Sept. 7, 2018.


On Nov. 18, 2018, Argentina’s navy released the first images of the sub on the seafloor under 2,975 feet of water nearly 400 miles east of the city of Comodoro Rivadavia in Argentina’s Patagonia region.

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The forward section of the ARA San Juan’s hull, with torpedo tubes visible.

(Argentina navy / Twitter)

One of the first images posted by the Argentina navy showed the forward section of the sub’s hull, made with special 33 mm steel, with torpedo tubes visible. The 82-foot-long and 23-foot-wide section was found in a single piece, though the water pressure appeared to have deformed and compressed it.

“It is the habitable sector where the batteries and all the systems and equipment that the submarine has are found,” the navy said.

Before the sub’s last contact on Nov. 15, 2017, the captain reported that water had entered through a snorkel and caused one of the batteries to short circuit, though he said it had been contained.

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The propeller from the ARA San Juan, discovered in the South Atlantic.

(Argentina navy / Twitter)

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

The mast of the submarine ARA San Juan.

(Argentina navy / Twitter)

‘A series of investigations to find the whole truth’

The sub was returning to its base at Mar de Plata on Argentina’s northeast coast when contact was lost. The German-built sub was commissioned in the mid-1980s and underwent a retrofit between 2008 and 2014.

There still is no information about the 44 crew members who were aboard the sub when it sank. Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who decreed three days of morning, said there would be “a series of investigations to find the whole truth.”

Argentine officials have said the sub could have imploded hours after its final contact, when the pressure in the water overcame the hull’s ability to resist.

The wreckage of the sub appeared to be scattered over a 262-foot-by-328-foot area — a sign it “could have imploded very close to the bottom,” Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said.

Argentina lacks ‘modern technology’ to recover the sub.

The sub was found near where the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization, an international monitoring agency, said on Nov. 15, 2017, that two of its hydroacoustic stations “detected an unusual signal” near the sub’s last known position.

Argentina’s navy said the signal, which sounded like an explosion, could have been caused by a “concentration of hydrogen” triggered by the battery problem reported by the captain.

On Nov. 17, 2018, hours after the discovery was confirmed, Defense Minister Oscar Aguad said Argentina lacks “modern technology” capable of “verifying the seabed” in order to recover the ARA San Juan.

‘If they sent him off, I want them to bring him back to me.’

Visibility in the water where the sub was found is very low, due to salinity and turbulence.

The depth, distance from the coast, and nature of the seabed would also make any recovery effort logistically challenging and expensive, likely requiring Argentina to commission another navy or private firm to carry out that work — complicating the Macri government’s economic austerity measures.

The navy’s statement that it was unable to recover the sub angered families of the crew, who demanded the government recover those lost.

“We do know they can get it out because Ocean Infinity told us they can, that they have equipment,” Luis Antonio Niz, father of crew member Luis Niz, told the Associated Press. “If they sent him off, I want them to bring him back to me.”

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Russia Reports Largest Daily Increase Of Cases; 10,000 Graves Dug In Tehran

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 110,000 with almost 1.8 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Russia

Russia on April 12 reported the largest daily increase of coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak, as the authorities announced restrictions on Easter church services in and around Moscow to contain the spread of the disease.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which will observe Easter this year on April 19, ordered churches to close their doors to large groups during the holy week leading up to the holiday.

Meanwhile, Russia’s coronavirus crisis task force reported 2,186 new coronavirus cases in the country, raising the total number to 15,770.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths rose by 24 to 130, it said.

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The official tally has been doubted by critics in Russia and abroad, who suspect the number is being undercounted by health authorities.

Moscow and many other regions have been in lockdown for nearly two weeks, but Russian officials on April 11 warned of a “huge influx” of new coronavirus infections and said that hospitals in the Moscow area were quickly nearing capacity.

“We are seeing hospitals in Moscow working extremely intensely, in heroic, emergency mode,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a television interview.

Peskov described the situation in both Moscow and St. Petersburg as “quite tense because the number of sick people is growing.”

Bulgaria

Authorities and doctors in Bulgaria are urging citizens to stay home and pray in their homes for traditional Palm Sunday and Easter services.

Churches have remained open in Bulgaria despite the coronavirus outbreak. Services at major churches are due to be broadcast live for worshippers.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said on April 11 that churches will remain open, saying many people were desperate and in low spirits. He, however, urged Bulgarians to stay home.

“A difficult decision but I am ready to bear the reproaches,” Borisov told reporters.

“The bishops told me that there are many people who are in low spirits, desperate. So I just cannot issue such an order [to close churches],” he added.

Thousands attend Easter church services in the Balkan country.

Bulgaria has been in a state of emergency since March 13. Schools and most shops are closed and there are restrictions on intercity travel and access to parks. All domestic and foreign vacation trips are banned.

The country has so far reported 669 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 28 deaths.

Iran

Iran’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen by 117 in the past day to 4,474, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on April 12.

The country has recorded 71,686 cases of the coronavirus that causes the disease, Jahanpur added. Some 1,657 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the past 24 hours, he said.

Iran has been the country hardest hit by the pandemic in the Middle East. Many Iranian and international experts think Iran’s government, which has been criticized for a slow initial response, is intentionally reducing its tally of the pandemic.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq

Ten thousand graves have been dug in a new section of the Behesht Zahra cemetery south of the Iranian capital to deal with coronavirus deaths, an official with Tehran’s municipality was quoted as saying by the official government news agency IRNA on April 12.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that restrictions on travel between cities within each province in the country have been lifted.

He said restrictions on travel between provinces will be lifted on April 20.

In the past days, Tehran has reopened some “low-risk” businesses in most parts of the country with the exception of the capital, Tehran, where they will reopen from April 18, official media have reported.

Iranian authorities have called on citizens to respect health protocols and social-distancing measures as the country struggles to curb the deadly outbreak.

The government is concerned that measures to shut down businesses and halt economic activities to contain the outbreak could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy.

The United States has offered humanitarian aid to Iran, but the country’s leaders have rejected it and demanded that sanctions be lifted.

Pakistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has appealed to international stakeholders for urgent debt relief for Pakistan and other developing countries to help them deal more effectively with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a video message released by the Foreign Ministry on April 12, Khan said that “highly indebted countries” lack “fiscal space” to spend both on the fight against the virus and on health and social support.

He said he appealed to world leaders, the heads of financial institutions, and the secretary-general of the United Nations to get together to announce a debt relief initiative for developing countries.

Pakistan has recorded 5,232 coronavirus cases, with 91 deaths.

The South Asian nation’s already struggling economy has been hit hard by nationwide lockdowns that have brought economic activity to a halt.

Pakistan is more than 0 billion in debt to foreign lenders and spends the largest chunk of its budget on servicing its debt.

Armenia

In his Easter sermon, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II, urged Armenians to display “national unity” in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Leading the Mass at an empty St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan on April 12, Garegin called on “the sons and daughters of our nation in the homeland and in the diaspora to give a helping hand to our government authorities in their efforts to overcome the difficult situation created by the pandemic.”

He also called for global solidarity to contain the spread of the virus and what he described as even greater “evils,” including “materialism,” poverty, and armed conflicts.

The Mass, broadcast live on national television, was attended by only two dozen clergymen and a smaller-than-usual choir.

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After the service, Garegin blessed a small group of believers who had gathered outside Armenia’s largest cathedral.

Sunday services in all churches across Armenia have been held behind closed doors since the government on March 16 declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, which has officially infected 1,013 people in the South Caucasus country and killed 13.

The Armenian Apostolic Church has restricted church attendance on weekdays and instructed parish churches to live-stream liturgies online, when possible.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Martin Luther King Jr.: Planting trees in whose shade he would never sit

On September 20, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. arrived at the Blumstein’s department store in Harlem, New York for a book signing. His new book “Stride Toward Freedom” chronicled the Montgomery bus boycott that began when Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. The boycott had come to a close in December of 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public buses was indeed unconstitutional. It was a watershed moment for both the Civil Rights movement and for America itself.

As a crowd formed in the shoe section of Blumstein’s, King took his seat behind a roped-off section of the store. Soon, eager readers were lining up to catch a moment of the influential figure’s time and his signature for their book. He exchanged brief pleasantries with each person as they approached the table, and as a 42-year-old woman in a stylish outfit and sequined cat’s eye-glasses took her turn, King’s demeanor was no different.

“Are you Martin Luther King?” The woman reportedly asked through a notable southern accent.

“Yes,” King replied, but before he could go on any further, the seemingly ordinary woman threw herself at the table and the man behind it, plunging a seven-inch pen knife into King’s chest.

Bystanders responded by pulling the woman away from King and pinning her on the floor as she shouted, “I’ve been after him for six years. I’m glad I done it!”

King, a man who was no stranger to threats, seemed somehow stoically calm, despite the serious bleeding from his chest. As his fans and supporters surrounded him, ushering him toward medical help, he was heard counseling them, soothing their collective anxieties as though he knew everything was going to be okay.

“That’s all right. Everything is going to be all right,” King was heard saying.

Of course, King couldn’t know it would be all right. Maybe it was just in his nature to ease the burden on others. With the knife still in his chest, King was lifted in his chair and carried out to an ambulance that would rush him to Harlem Hospital. Shortly thereafter, the police would march the same dangerous woman back into King’s company. This time there were no books to sign. The police wanted him to confirm that the women they had in custody was indeed his attacker. When they’d placed her under arrest, they also recovered a loaded .25 caliber pistol from her bra.

Related: THE STUNNING COMBAT HISTORY OF THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN

Despite the terrible attack, King was lucky. The seven-inch knife had punctured his chest just a fraction of an inch away from his aorta, or the main artery that carried blood from his heart to the rest of his body. King, who remained conscious and soothing throughout the ordeal, had only narrowly escaped death, but the risk hadn’t passed. He was rushed into surgery, where he had two ribs removed from his side to allow the knife to be pulled out without causing further damage.

“The X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery,” Dr. King later said in his famed ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop’ speech.

“And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.”

He would leave the hospital days later with a new scar in the shape of a cross over his heart. Despite the brutal attack, he was resolute when questioned by the press: He bore no ill will toward the woman who had stabbed him and reaffirmed his position that non-violence is the only way to manifest the type of positive change he sought for his country.

The attacker, whose name was Izola Curry, didn’t look like the sort of person most would expect to attack Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Curry was a fashionable middle-aged Black woman, but beneath her polished exterior laid a turbulent and troubled mind. Curry was a paranoid schizophrenic who had struggled with her mental health for years. In her confused state, she’d grown convinced that King and the NAACP were conspiring with communists against her. To King, however, the attack was a symptom of a greater illness than even Curry’s schizophrenia.

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“A climate of hatred and bitterness so permeates areas of our nation that inevitably deeds of extreme violence must erupt,” he said at the time.

“The experience of these last few days has deepened my faith in the relevance of the spirit of nonviolence, if necessary social change is peacefully to take place.”

King would continue to change the world for another decade, before yet another act of violence would rob him of the remainder of his life. It could be argued that, as of that fateful day in 1958, he was acutely aware of the risk his efforts posed to his safety. If he did feel fear somewhere beneath the obvious empathy he felt for the woman who attacked him, however, it never showed. King did not shy away from his work, nor his beliefs, no matter the risk.

Related: 3 BLACK SERVICE MEMBERS WHO HELPED SHAPE HISTORY

Now, as we prepare to honor the memory and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. some 63-years after his death, the story of the near fatal attack offers some uncomfortable parallels with today’s America. As rhetoric about race, mental illness, and the danger of radicalized beliefs permeate our national discourse today just as it did in 1958, we could all learn something from King’s ability to find a catalyst for positive change in even the darkest of places.

In King’s final public speech, he recalled the 1958 attack and how close he came to death… but even amid telling the story, King’s focus was not on his own mortality, but rather on the goodness he found in others as a result of the experience, and the progress he envisioned for America to come.

He told the story of a 9-year-old white girl who wrote to him to say that she’d read that if he had sneezed while the blade was in his chest, he almost certainly would have died.

“And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze,” King recounted.

King went on to echo the young girl’s sentiment, using it to remind the audience about the important steps the Civil Rights movement had made in the years that followed. King didn’t recount these events like he was listing his own victories, but there was an air of pride about his statements. King, like so many great Americans before him, saw each victory and failure as another part of the struggle that has defined America since its very inception. America, he knew, has always been defined by the aspiration for a better tomorrow, the drive to become a more perfect union.

What it’s like to be an undercover female CIA agent in Iraq
(Public Domain)

“If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.”

For all of his philosophical wisdom, King was, at his heart, a pragmatic man. He saw the complexity, the hate, the love, the anger, and the joy all woven into the fabric of his nation. He knew his goals were grander than one man, no matter his eloquence and empathy. He knew that the progress he helped usher in was delicate, and that the fight for our nation’s soul was far from over. King knew America would never be perfect… but importantly, he knew that it was in the effort, in the aspiration, that America’s true greatness had always, and will always, lie.

Related: GENERAL CHARLES “CQ” BROWN CONFIRMED AS AMERICA’S FIRST BLACK SERVICE CHIEF

In a way, it’s deeply tragic that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to look out over the crowd of supporters that had gathered on that April day in 1968 and know that he wouldn’t be there to see America embrace the equality he longed for… but King was a great American. Like our Founding Fathers, King knew that a society grows great when men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Progress, like a tree, needs time to take root.

Today, our nation continues to struggle with some of the same issues it faced during King’s days of fighting for equality, as well as daunting new ones that stretch beyond the horizon. America has always been imperfect, but our greatness doesn’t lie in what we are. The real America has always been found in what we, its people, strive to become.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY MOVIES

11 ‘Game of Thrones’ deaths you need to prepare yourself for

As the final season of Game of Thrones rapidly approaches, a lot of questions about the show remain: Will Dany and Jon be able to find a way to defeat the White Walkers? Is Cersei really pregnant? Will Jamie finally apologize to Bran for pushing him out a window so he could keep his incestuous love affair a secret? But one thing is abundantly clear: A lot of people are going to die in the last six episodes. And in anticipation of the onslaught of death that millions of us will be witnessing, we decided to create a list of 11 characters that need to be dead by the time the final credits roll.


To be clear, this isn’t just a list of the characters we hate the most (though there are a few of those). Instead, it’s a look at whose deaths make the most sense in the scope of the larger story. So we are offering our perspective on which character deaths are the most appropriate narratively. With that in mind, here is our Arya-esque list of 11 characters who need to join Ned, Joffrey, and Ygritte in the great orgy in the sky.

1. Cersei

This one is simple. From day one, Cersei has been nothing short of a monster and any hope she had of redeeming herself disappeared when she revealed she was going to leave Jon and Dany to fight the White Walkers without her help. It could be Jamie or Arya or literally anyone but for Game of Thrones to have an ending that feels satisfying, Cersei has to die.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFcXXP7NSV8
Game of Thrones S5 – Cersei Flashback

www.youtube.com

2. Varys

Westeros’ last remaining gossip (RIP Littlefinger) doesn’t really have a role to play now that the never-ending game of thrones has been temporarily tossed aside in favor of fighting the White Walkers. He seems to mainly just look concerned while other people make decisions. Plus, Melisandre has already predicted his death and so it would be kind of weird if he lived.

3. The Moutain

It could be argued at this point that, technically, Gregor Clegane isn’t even really alive, as he seems to be more of some kind of Frankenstein’s monster than a human. But regardless, viewers have been clamoring for the Cleganebowl since Season 1 and hopefully, we finally get to see Sandor complete his redemption tour by murdering the shit out of his brother.

4. Theon Greyjoy

The disgraced ruler formerly known as Reek has experienced a lot of grief over seven seasons (to be fair, a good portion of it was caused by his own selfishness and disloyalty) but he has made some steps towards cleaning his filthy conscience and is now leading a mission to rescue his sister Yara. At this point, the best ending for Theon would involve him sacrificing himself to save Yara and perhaps even kill off his dickhead uncle Euron for good measure. Bittersweet? Absolutely but that’s about as good as it’s going to get for the guy.

Game of Thrones 7×07 – Theon Greyjoy and Jon Snow

www.youtube.com

5. Euron Greyjoy

Game of Thrones is filled with iconic villains but Euron has been mostly disappointing as a wrongdoer who seems to have been tossed into the mix to stir up chaos, to underwhelming results. At this point, if he doesn’t die in some grotesque fashion, then what has all of this been about?

6. Bronn

This one hurts to write but hear me out. Our favorite quick-witted mercenary has always made a point of choosing survival over loyalty every time but it seems only fitting that at some point, he’s going to decide to turn on Cersei and join Jamie and Tyrion in the fight against the Whites. And knowing this show, he will probably be rewarded for this choice by getting viciously killed doing something heroic.

7. Bran Stark

One of the Starks has to die, right? Sansa and Jon seem like the most likely to live and while most people will put their money on Arya, I think Bran dying actually makes the most sense. As the new Three-Eyed Raven, Bran clearly still has a large role to play in the final season. But once the war is over, what does an emotionless prophet like Bran do? Looking at his awkward reunion with his sisters, it’s pretty clear a return to normalcy isn’t an option. So is he going to hang out in a tree like his mentor? Sounds depressing so I think the best send-off would be him kicking the bucket while putting a plan in motion that will allow the remaining Westerosians to take down the Night King and his crew.

Game of Thrones 7×04 – Arya reunites with Sansa and Bran

www.youtube.com

8. Dany or Jon

Right now, these kissing cousins are blissfully residing in Bonetown but the idea of them both somehow surviving and then ruling Westeros together seems too good to be true for Game of Thrones, right? This is a show that delights in subverting happy endings so it feels like the bittersweet ending would be for one of them to die heroically in battle, leaving the other to rule on their own. My money is on Dany but don’t be surprised if Jon becomes the first person since Lazarus to die twice.

9. Jorah Mormont

The traitor turned Dany devotee has managed to avoid death over and over again, which naturally means death is going to catch up with him to collect at the end. It will make me sad but it feels right that he goes out in a blaze of glory, perhaps even saving his unrequited love.

10. A Dragon

A major theme of the last season is going to be the sacrifice it takes to achieve victory and while it will break all of our hearts, that tells me that a second dragon is going to have to die. Which one? Most people have predicted Rhaegal but it wouldn’t surprise me if the show goes for the gut-punch and kills off Drogo, Dany’s favorite. Brutal? Absolutely but let’s not forget this is a show that turned a wedding into one of the most visceral bloodbaths in TV or movie history.

11. The Night King

Do I even need to explain this one? He’s the main villain and if he is alive at the end, that means every non-White Walker is probably dead. So this motherfucker’s gotta go.

Jon Snow vs The Night’s King – Game of Thrones 5×08 – Full HD

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how to register for a free, virtual event for veterans using telehealth, sponsored by VA and USAA

VA Office of Connected Care to share solutions to enable veterans to receive the care they need

SAN ANTONIO – USAA and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will host a free, Facebook Live event at 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Feb. 23 to discuss how VA telehealth technologies and initiatives are helping bring care to Veterans lacking necessary resources to connect with medical professionals. The use of telehealth services has risen significantly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but for many Veterans in rural areas, or with limited broadband connectivity, accessing these services can be challenging.

“Veterans should have access to high quality VA health care regardless of where they choose to live,” said Dr. Leonie Heyworth, VA’s National Synchronous Lead for Telehealth Services, and a participant in the virtual event. “We look forward to highlighting initiatives that have been created to increase access to care for Veterans everywhere.”

The use of VA telehealth has increased by 1,180% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Jan. 6, the VA provided more than 20,000 Digital Divide Consults enabling more than 12,000 Veterans to receive internet access or a video-enabled device for their care needs.

“Bridging the Digital Divide” will be hosted on USAA’s Facebook page for Veterans, their families and caretakers, and feature leaders from VA’s Office of Connected Care and Office of Rural Health. The discussion will highlight VA technologies that enable Veterans to receive care when they need it and regardless of where they live. The discussion also will cover what the VA is doing to address broadband connectivity issues and provide specific instructions on where Veterans and their families can go for assistance.

“USAA and the VA have worked together for years and believe it’s very important to make Veterans and their families aware of available resources and technology to receive the care they need in these challenging times,” said Mike Kelly, assistant vice president of Military Affairs at USAA and moderator for the virtual event.

To learn more and register for this free, online event, visit the Facebook event page. For more information about the digital divide and ways to connect veterans to resources, read VA’s Digital Divide Fact Sheet. For more information about VA telehealth, visit the Connected Care website.

VA’s partnership with USAA does not imply endorsement of USAA or its products.

USAA

Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to nearly 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 35,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Uhhh…the TSA wants to remind you not to bring grenades on board

The face of air security has changed a lot since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, but one thing has stayed constant: you’re not allowed to bring bombs on planes. No, not even fake ones.

A passenger apparently forgot that on Saturday when he packed a high-quality, realistic replica grenade in his checked luggage at Newark Liberty International Airport near New York City.


The right way to pack a grenade is not to pack it at all. Passenger at @EWRairport had this in his checked bag on Saturday. @TSA contacted police, who removed man from plane for questioning. Explosives experts determined that it was a realistic replica, also not allowed on planespic.twitter.com/LCtUtnnzFq

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The replica grenade was found by workers at a checked baggage-screening point at the airport’s Terminal A, according to Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for TSA.

The TSA reported the grenade to the Port Authority Police Department, which polices the New York City-area airports. As the passenger was removed from the plane and questioned, police officers examined the grenade and confirmed that it was not active.

The passenger was not charged, and there was no disruption to flights or security screening at the terminal. However, the passenger ended up short a fake grenade: prohibited items are not returned to passengers, according to Farbstein.

This was not the only episode of an explosive — real or replica — found at airport security in recent days.

.@TSA officers at @BWI_Airport detected this missile launcher in a checked bag early this morning. Man said he was bringing it back from Kuwait as a souvenir. Perhaps he should have picked up a keychain instead!pic.twitter.com/AQ4VBPtViG

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On Monday morning, TSA screeners at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport found a real missile launcher, minus missile, in a passenger’s checked bag. The passenger, who is an active-duty servicemember, said that it was a souvenir from Kuwait. After airport police confirmed that there was no live missile in the launcher, officers transferred the device to the state fire marshal for disposal.

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

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