US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea - We Are The Mighty
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US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

The US Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 1 recently arrived in the South China Sea to promote freedom of travel on the high seas, as China tightens its grip on the region with its increasingly potent navy.


The strike group includes the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, an entire destroyer squadron, and an additional Arleigh Burke class destroyer.

A US Navy carrier strike group represents one of the most powerful naval units in the world, and China has taken notice.

Related: What it might look like if an American and Chinese carrier went toe-to-toe

“China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which countries enjoy under international law, but firmly opposes any country’s attempt to undermine China’s sovereignty and security in the name of the freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman China’s Foreign Ministry, according to CNN.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
An SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 15 flies past the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during an air power demonstration. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans

Indeed, China’s military doctrine even goes as far as permitting a first strike against threats to China’s sovereignty, but the USS Carl Vinson has been operating in the South China Sea for decades.

But the move to promote freedom of navigation in the South China Sea comes as China has all but nailed down the region as firmly within its control. China owns a series of artificial islands, which satellite images show it has militarized with missile launchers and radar outposts.

The US takes no side in the dispute between China and six other nations over who owns what in the region but has repeatedly expressed interest in preserving freedom of navigation in an area with vast oil reserves and about $5 trillion in annual shipping.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
USS Ronald Reagan steams in formation with ships from Carrier Strike Group Five and the Republic of Korea Navy during exercise Invincible Spirit, October 2016. | US Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke

At an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit on Sunday, leaders from the region tried to develop a framework for a code of conduct in the heavily contested South China Sea, but found the process “has become virtually moot and academic,” former Philippines National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ABS-CBN news

“I expect China to still resist the finalization and approval (of a code of conduct) so that China can further militarize the artificial islands with the placement of offensive medium-range and long-range missiles,” said Golez.

The US deployment to the South China Sea comes just days after Chinese warships withdrew from military drills in the region.

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This is how the rest of the world sees the threat from the US — and it isn’t good

A recent poll from the Pew Research Center shows some pretty surprising statistics when it comes to how countries see the threats around them.


Pew says that most of the world thinks terrorism from the ISIS is the biggest threat to security, followed closely by climate change.

But when researchers dug deeper and asked major countries — including longtime U.S. allies — how they saw the influence of the United States, China and Russia, the results were a major bummer for Uncle Sam.

The country most fearful of the United States is Turkey, with 72 percent of those surveyed seeing the U.S. as a major threat.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Don’t believe ’em for a second. (U.S. Army photo)

By a large margin, NATO ally Greece sees the U.S. as a “major threat” to their country, with 44 percent of those surveyed worried about too much U.S. influence as opposed to 22 percent who see the U.S. as a minor threat. And that’s 5 percentage points lower than a similar survey three years ago.

In a true head scratcher, 59 percent of Spaniards see the U.S. as a major threat — a 42 percent swing over the 2013 survey. Are there some plans lurking around to lure Lionel Messi to the U.S. we don’t know about?

“The proportion of the public that views American power as a major threat to their country grew in 21 of the 30 nations between 2013 and 2017,” Pew says.

Ouch.

But hey, at least we got Poland and India who each swung 8 percentage points more in favor of the U.S. than three years ago — with 15 and 19 percent seeing the U.S. as a major threat respectively.

Shockingly, fewer Russians see the U.S. as a major threat than do Canadians, with 39 percent of our northern brothers seeing the U.S. as a major threat as opposed to 37 percent of Russians.

“Just in the past year, perceptions of the U.S. as a major threat have increased by at least 8 percentage points among several long-standing American allies, including Australia (13 points) and the UK (11 points),” Pew said. “Concern about U.S. power is up 10 points in Canada, Germany and Sweden, and 8 points in France and the Netherlands.”

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Guarding the perimeter against a Chinese attack … or from the Yanks? (U.S. Army photo)

Japan? Don’t get us started on Japan. The Pew survey finds about the same amount of Japanese think the U.S. is a major threat at 62 percent as they see China as a major threat, with 64 percent saying Beijing worries the heck out of them.

Ugh.

But, hey, we’ve always got Israel, right? Just 17 percent of Israelis see the U.S. as a major threat with neighbor Jordan coming in at 24 percent. So at least we got that going for us.

Articles

This is the fastest American bomber that ever took to the skies

While Russia has deployed a number of Mach 2 bombers — like the Tu-22 Blinder and Tu-22M Backfire — these were not the fastest bombers that ever flew.


That title goes to the the North American XB-70 Valkyrie.

You haven’t heard much about the Valkyrie – and part of that is because it never got past the prototype stage. According to various fact sheets from the National Museum of the Air Force, the plane was to be able to cruise at Mach 3, have a top speed of Mach 3.1, and it had a range of 4,288 miles. All that despite being almost 200 feet long with a wingspan of 105 feet, and having a maximum takeoff weight of over 534,000 pounds.

That performance was gained by six J93 engines from General Electric, providing 180,000 pounds of thrust.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
The XB-70’s immense size is apparent in this photo of the plane on display at the National Museum of the Air Force. (USAF photo)

The XB-70s had no provision for armament, but the production version of this bomber was slated to be able to haul 50,000 pounds of bombs – either conventional or nuclear. Imagine that plane being around today, delivering JDAMs or other smart weapons.

With the performance and a weapons load like that, buying this plane to supplement the B-52 should have been a no-brainer, right? Well, not quite.

The fact was that the Valkyrie was caught by the development of two new technologies — the surface-to-air missile and the intercontinental ballistic missile. The former made high-speed, high-altitude runs much more dangerous (although it should be noted that the SR-71 Blackbird operated very well in that profile). The latter offered a more rapid strike capability than the XB-70 and was cheaper.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
The cockpit of the XB-70. Despite the plane’s immense size, it was still pretty cramped inside. (USAF photo)

Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that as a result of the new technologies, the XB-70 was reduced by the Eisenhower Administration to a research and development project in December 1959. The B-70 was reinstated for production during the 1960 presidential campaign in an attempt to deflect criticism from John F. Kennedy. But Kennedy eventually threw it back to the lab.

Despite a public-relations effort by top Air Force brass, the B-70 remained an RD program with only two airframes built. A 1966 collision during a flight intended to generate photos to promote General Electric’s engines destroyed one of them. The surviving airframe is displayed at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
This photo of the XB-70 gives another glimpse of its immense size when compared to the X-15, the fastest manned aircraft that ever took to the skies. (USAF photo)

Take a look at this video from Curious Droid on the XB-70.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 6th

Did you guys hear the story of the staff sergeant in Afghanistan who raised $8k to bring a stray cat he took care of back to America? Literally everything about that story is great. He rescued an innocent kitten, took it to an animal rescue shelter on base, gave it all the shots and whatnot, and even had more money left over to help out other animals at the shelter.

I don’t care who you are. That’s a heart-warming story. Good sh*t, Staff Sgt. Brissey. If you ever decide to start taking a million photos and upload them to Instagram in an attempt to turn your new kitten into a meme… I’ll be behind you 110% of the way on that one.


Anyways, here are some memes.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via Call for Fire)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Once you’ve done sh*t, everything else is a cake walk. There’s nothing that can be so bad that you can’t look back on and say “well, it was much sh*ttier then and I didn’t give up. Why stop now?” 

Then again… Pot is really good for PTSD and that might also have something to do with it.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via Not CID)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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It’s not the Beretta M9 that sucks, it’s the ammo

There’s a decades-old argument about which pistol round is better that stems from a more basic argument about terminal ballistics – which is just a fancy term for what happens when bullets hit living things.


The two sides of the argument are between those who believe fast, lightweight rounds do more damage, and those who believe heavy, lower-moving rounds impart more energy and “stopping power” on the target.

Listen to the WATM podcast to hear our veteran hosts and a weapons expert discuss the M9 and why ammo matters: 

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | More Subscribe Options

Given its history of weapon adoption, it seems the Army is a proponent of the fast, lightweight department. First it swapped out the 7.62mm M14 for the 5.56mm M16, then the .45 1911 for the 9mm M9. While many agree with the first change (sorry M14 lovers) some still think the M9 should never have been adopted without changing the ammunition recipe beforehand.

Here’s why.

Full metal jacket ammo is really great for sending rounds through paper, but its aerodynamic and hydrodynamic design makes it zip through tissue without dumping most of the energy behind it into the target. Shot placement can compensate for this by hitting harder stuff like bones or vital organs, but under the stress of returning fire, that’s damn tough for even the seasoned Delta operator to land perfect hits with a sidearm.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
An M9 service pistol’s magazine rests on the firing line next to a scoring sheet during a pistol qualification course aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 7, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo taken by Cpl. Alexander Mitchell/released)

Ideally, a round will dump all of its energy into a target, which reduces the need for shot placement at the cost of reduced penetration. On a rifle, this is a big drawback. It means if Johnny-Jihad is hiding behind a plywood shack, the rounds will expand in the wooden walls and lose most of their power. With a sidearm, most shooters aren’t trying to blast bad guys through walls – it’s a weapon of last resort.

So when a trooper needs to draw his M9, he shouldn’t have to worry about the bullets failing to stop his attacker.

If the military wants to put the M9 on even-footing with the M1911’s fight-stopping power, it might only need to swap out the M882 round with the good stuff being issued to American law enforcement officers.

Heck, Rangers have been running heavier, jacketed hollow-points for years. This isn’t news to the brass.

A little more than a year ago, the Army declared its Modular Handgun System should be able to operate with special ammunition like jacketed, hollow-point rounds.  The so-called XM17 is slated to replace the M9.

In fact, one recommendation is to replace the lightweight 112gr M882 FMJ cartridges with heavier 147gr expanding hollow-point rounds like those employed by Ranger elements during combat operations. These heavier rounds don’t just expand better in their targets, they’re also subsonic.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jesse Paquin, assigned to Expeditionary Combat Camera reloads an M9 pistol during practical weapons course training at Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex, July 28. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Eric Dietrich)

This has two major advantageous. First, it makes them better suited to pistols and submachine guns equipped with sound suppressors. And second, it provides a more consistent flight path since the bullet doesn’t go transonic.

That all said, many agree the M9 does have some serious mechanical shortcomings. Slides cracking, junk magazines in the early days of the G-WOT, and the gun’s open-slide gobbling up sand all contribute to a pistol clearly not at home in desert warfare.

But with new magazines that work much better, reinforced slides and a proper maintenance schedule, many experts say the M9 beats the hell out of the 1911 it replaced — but only with proper ammo. Hague convention be damned, expanding ammunition isn’t designed to cruelly maim soldiers but to drop them more reliability. Plus, these same rounds are nearly always stopped by walls, putting fewer civilians at risk in adjacent rooms.

Lastly, if you’re worried about our guys getting hit with these types of rounds, don’t be. Expanding ammunition amplifies the effectiveness of body armor, since both are designed to dissipate force. So as long as Joe has his body armor on, hollow points won’t do any more than a standard pistol round.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS’ last town in Iraq falls to Iraqi security forces

On Nov. 17, Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition retook the last town in the country that was held by the Islamic State group, more than three years after the militants stormed nearly a third of Iraq’s territory, the Defense Ministry said.


At dawn, military units and local tribal fighters pushed into the western neighborhoods of Rawah in western Anbar province, and after just five hours of fighting, they retook the town, according to Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, the ministry’s spokesman.

Related: Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated his forces on retaking Rawah. In a statement released on the afternoon of Nov. 17, Al-Abadi said Iraqi forces liberated Rawah in record time and were continuing operations to retake control of Iraq’s western desert and the border area with Syria.

Rawah, 175 miles (275 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, lies along the Euphrates River Valley near the border town of Qaim that Iraqi forces retook from IS earlier this month.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
The city of Rawah, Iraq. (Photo from Flickr user Jayel Aheram)

U.S.-led coalition forces supported the operations to retake Rawah and Qaim with intelligence, airstrikes, and advisers, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said.

IS blitzed across Iraq’s north and west in the summer of 2014, capturing Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and advancing to the edges of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Later that year, the United States began a campaign of airstrikes against the militants that fueled Iraqi territorial gains, allowing the military to retake Mosul in July this year.

Also Read: Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

All that now remains of IS-held Iraq are patches of rural territory in the country’s vast western desert along the border with Syria.

IS has steadily been losing ground across the border in Syria as well where its so-called “caliphate” has basically crumbled with the loss of the city of Raqqa, the former Islamic State group’s capital, which fell to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October.

Both the U.S. and Russia have embedded special forces with their respective partners and are supporting their advances with airstrikes. Russia backs Syrian government forces of President Bashar Assad.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Syrian President Assad. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin)

The last urban areas controlled by the militants in Syria are parts of the border town of Boukamal and a patch of territory near the capital, Damascus, and in central Hama province.

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian troops and Iranian-backed militias, originally pushed IS out of Boukamal earlier this month, but the militants retook a large part of the town, mostly its northern neighborhoods days later. Since then, IS has repelled government forces trying to push back into the town.

Meanwhile, U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces are also approaching Boukamal from the eastern side of the Euphrates.

Despite IS’ significant territorial losses, the group’s media arm remains intact, allowing it to still recruit supporters and inspire new attacks. Iraqi and American officials say IS militants are expected to continue carrying out insurgent-style attacks in Syria, Iraq, and beyond.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Flags are now at half-mast to honor First Lady Barbara Bush

At outposts in Afghanistan and Iraq, on all the ships at sea, and wherever troops serve worldwide, flags are being flown at half-staff to honor the passing of former First Lady and military spouse Barbara Bush.

President Donald Trump called Mrs. Bush a “woman of character” in issuing the order that flags be flown at half-staff at all military installations.


“On this solemn day, we mourn the loss of Barbara Bush, an outstanding and memorable woman of character,” Trump said. “As a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, military spouse, and former First Lady, Mrs. Bush was an advocate of the American family.”

Bush, wife of the former President George H.W. Bush and mother of former President George W. Bush, died April 17, 2018, at age 92 at the family home in Houston, Texas. She was a Navy wife in World War II as her husband served in the Pacific.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Former First Lady Barbara Bush.

Mrs. Bush was only the second woman in American history to have a son follow his father to the White House. Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams, was the first.

In his statement, Trump said he was ordering flags flown at half-staff “at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations,” and “throughout the United States and its territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment.”

“I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations,” he said.

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Released Gitmo detainees implicated in terror attacks on Americans

According to the Washington Post, at least twelve detainees released from the U.S. Navy’s prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba attacked Americans in Afghanistan. The Post claims at least six are dead from these attacks. The attacks were primarily directed at U.S. military personnel, but at least one American aid worker is also dead. Many of the more than 600 detainees released since the U.S. began housing prisoners in Cuba have returned to or entered militancy — the twelve are just a portion of the total who were able to attack American citizens abroad.


US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of Military Police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility on Jan. 11, 2002. The detainees will be given a basic physical exam by a doctor, to include a chest x-ray and blood samples drawn to assess their health. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy)

A Pentagon report from May 2009 suggested that one in seven of the 534 prisoners transferred out of the camp by that time turned (or returned) to terrorism or some other kind of radicalism. At that time, President Obama had plans to close the prison facility at Guantanamo, but strong opposition in the U.S. Senate voted 90-6 to cut the $80 million Obama needed to implement the shutdown.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay during prayer (DoD photo)

The same Pentagon report released by the New York Times in 2009 found that fourteen percent of released Gitmo detainees return to terrorism or homegrown radicalism. By 2014, CNN found that number had grown to 17 percent. The rates of recidivism among these detainees is far, far lower than the average U.S. prisoner. In the U.S. prison system, parolees lapse back into criminal behavior at much higher rates, as high as sixty percent.

Then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller stated that moving the prisoners to U.S. soil comes with an increased terror threat. Michele A. Flournoy, who was then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and is now Hillary Clinton’s presumptive nominee for Secretary of Defense, believes some of the detainees may need to end up in the United States. The closing of the prison in Cuba is likely shelved for the foreseeable future, given that no one knows what to do with the prisoners still housed there.

The 2016 report from the Director of National Intelligence estimates 17.5 percent of the total 676 released detainees since 2002 returned to the battlefield. Half of the total returning militants are now dead or in custody with foreign governments. The 2016 DNI Report does not include the numbers of Americans or American troops killed in action against former detainees.

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The Army Air Corps once bombed Oklahoma

In 1943, although B-17s had been used regularly in daylight bombing raids over Europe, nighttime bombing was still a relatively new concept to the U.S. Army Air Corps. Tactics were being developed in a hurry to satisfy the increasing demands of the war, and pilots were being trained at a rapid clip.


It was against that intense backdrop that four B-17s took off one night from Dalhart Army Airfield in Texas. The target was in Conlen, Texas, a mere 20 miles from Dalhart Airfield. It was supposed to be marked with four lights at each corner, creating an “X-marks-the-spot” for the student aircrews to hit. Instead, a young navigator led the bomber formation 40 miles in the other direction, to Boise City, Oklahoma.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

At zero-dark-thirty, the bombers approached their target, not realizing it had taken them twice as long as it should have to get there. The townspeople were asleep by this time, and the town’s lights were out — except for the four lights around the Cimmaron County Courthouse.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
You can probably imagine what happened next.

The crew in the lead bomber, thinking they reached their target, let fly a couple of sand-filled training bombs over the population of 1,200. They hit the town butcher’s garage, taking out its roof. The next plane’s drop fell just short of a Baptist Church. The third and fourth bombers’ bombs narrowly missed hitting some of the town’s fuel stores.

The sheriff immediately called the base at Dalhart. Dalhart radioed the wayward planes to ask them to ensure they were on target. The crews ensured Dalhart that they were over the training target and were not bombing civilians, which led to an argument between the bomber crews and Dalhart’s tower. That’s when an electric company engineer shut down the town’s electricity, hiding it from the bombers. In all the bombers dropped six training bombs on Boise City.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
As if a town of 1,200 didn’t already know they were bombed by the Air Force.

The crews returned to Dalhart immediately. The navigator was (understandably) fired, while the rest of the crew were faced with a choice: go right into combat as soon as possible or face a court martial. It was a big decision: The Eighth Air Force casualty rate for all of World War II in Europe was a whopping 41 percent, with 26,000 killed in action. These crews would later fly in formations over Berlin.

Fifty years after the bombing, the citizens of Boise City erected a memorial to the event, complete with concrete crater and WWII-era training bomb.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

 

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This Italian king went all ‘Game of Thrones’ on his enemies

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Showtime | The Borgias


The Italian Renaissance had a pretty cutthroat political climate, but King Ferrante I of Naples carved out his own niche of crazy. Born the illegitimate son of Alfonso V of Aragon in 1423, Ferrante (“Ferdinand” in Italian) spent most of his life wrangling his Neapolitan realm into submission. The experience turned him into a real brute.

Ferrante didn’t let most of his enemies go free. Instead, he killed and mummified them—keeping their preserved corpses in the castle of Castelnuovo for his own enjoyment. He loved having them close by, according to nineteenth-century historian Jacob Burckhardt, “either in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in the costume which they wore in their lifetime.” A contemporary chronicler described them as “a frightful sight,” having been “pickled with herbs,” as a warning to future royal enemies.

Ferrante I as a bust, not a mummy Ferrante I as a bust, not a mummy

How did Ferrante get so twisted? King Alfonso didn’t have any legitimate male heirs of his own at the time, and he really wanted his not-so-secret love child to rule over at least part of his burgeoning empire. Thus, he gave Ferdinand the best education he could afford: tutoring by Rodrigo Borgia (later Ferrante’s mortal enemy when he became a cardinal, then Pope Alexander VI). Despite his legitimization, Ferrante struggled to hold on to his territory, facing opposition from numerous popes and the French candidate to his throne, Duke Jean II of Anjou.

Needless to say, Ferrante hated Jean and his French pals, even after he beat them, so he devised his own morbid revenge. After he dominated the French in 1465, Ferrante invited a bunch of his rebellious nobles and their families over to his castle for dinner. He ostensibly was showing his benevolence, and who wouldn’t want to make up over a meal? Unfortunately for his guests, Ferrante wasn’t in a forgiving mood. He fed some of them to the crocodiles in his moat and threw the rest in prison—keeping some of them there for the next thirty years. The King threw another enemy out the window (the Neapolitans loved defenestration). Some of these guys probably wound up in his mummy collection.

Interestingly, Ferrante didn’t just believing in mummifying his enemies. He had himself preserved as an artificial mummy after his own death in 1494. Modern scholars have autopsied his body and determined that he died of large bowel cancer.

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Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked militants are quickly moving to drum up outrage over a sharp spike in civilian casualties said to have been caused by U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, posting photos online of a destroyed medical center and homes reduced to rubble. “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants,” the caption reads.


The propaganda points to the risk that rising death tolls and destruction could undermine the American-led campaign against the militants.

During the past two years of fighting to push back the Islamic State group, the U.S.-led coalition has faced little backlash over casualties, in part because civilian deaths have been seen as relatively low and there have been few cases of single strikes killing large numbers of people.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In Iraq — even though sensitivities run deep over past American abuses of civilians — the country’s prime minister and many Iraqis support the U.S. role in fighting the militants.

But for the first time, anger over lives lost is becoming a significant issue as Iraqi troops backed by U.S. special forces and coalition airstrikes wade into more densely populated districts of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and U.S. -backed Syrian fighters battle closer to the Islamic State group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

That has the potential to undercut victories against the militants and stoke resentments that play into their hands.

At least 300 civilians have been killed in the offensive against IS in the western half of Mosul since mid-February, according to the U.N. human rights office — including 140 killed in a single March 17 airstrike on a building. Dozens more are claimed to have been killed in another strike late March, according to Amnesty International, and by similar airstrikes in neighboring Syria since Trump took office.

In Syria, as fighting around Raqqa intensified, civilian fatalities from coalition airstrikes rose to 198 in March — including 32 children and 31 women — compared to 56 in February, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which documents Syria’s war. Over the course of the air campaign, from September 2014 through February, an average of 30 civilians were killed a month, according to the Observatory.

The U.S. military is investigating what role the U.S. played in the March 17 airstrike in Mosul, and American and Iraqi officials have said militants may have deliberately gathered civilians there and planted explosives in the building. The blast left an entire residential block flattened, reducing buildings to mangled concrete.

Among those who lost loved ones, resentment appears to be building toward the U.S.-led coalition and the ground forces it supports.

“How could they have used this much artillery on civilian locations?” asked Bashar Abdullah, a resident of the neighborhood known as New Mosul, who lost more than a dozen family members in the March 17 attack. “Iraqi and American forces both assured us that it will be an easy battle, that’s why people didn’t leave their houses. They felt safe.”

U.S. officials have said they are investigating other claims of casualties in Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State group fighters have overtly used civilians as human shields, including firing from homes where people are sheltering or forcing people to move alongside them as they withdraw. The group has imposed a reign of terror across territories it holds in Syria and Iraq, taking women as sex slaves, decapitating or shooting suspected opponents, and destroying archaeological sites.

Mass graves are unearthed nearly every day in former IS territory.

Now, the group is using the civilian deaths purportedly as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes in its propaganda machine.

Photos recently posted online on militant websites showed the destruction at the Mosul Medical College with a caption describing the Americans as the “Mongols of the modern era” who kill and destroy under the pretext of liberation. A series of pictures showing destroyed homes carried the comment: “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants under the rubble of houses bombed by American warplanes to claim victory. Who would dare say this is a war crime?”

In Syria, IS and other extremist factions have pushed the line that the U.S. and Russia, which is backing President Bashar Assad’s regime, are equal in their disregard for civilian lives.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs)

U.S. “crimes are clear evidence of the ‘murderous friendship’ that America claims to have with the Syrian people, along with its claimed concern for their future and interests,” said the Levant Liberation Committee, an al-Qaida-led insurgent alliance.

Some Syrian opposition factions allied with the U.S. have also criticized the strikes, describing them as potential war crimes.

An analysis by the Soufan Group consultancy warned that rumors and accusations of coalition atrocities “will certainly help shape popular opinion once Mosul and Raqqa are retaken, thus serving a purpose for the next phase of the Islamic State’s existence.”

Criticism has also come from Russian officials, whose military has been accused of killing civilians on a large scale in its air campaign in Syria, particularly during the offensive that recaptured eastern Aleppo from rebels late last year.

“I’m greatly surprised with such action of the U.S. military, which has all the necessary equipment and yet were unable to figure out for several hours that they weren’t striking the designated targets,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, speaking at the U.N. Security Council about the March 17 strike.

Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, acknowledged the spike in civilian casualty reports could change the way the coalition is conducting the war. He said it was a “very valid” concern that loss of life and destruction could play into the hands of IS or cause some coalition members to waver.

“But the coalition is not going to back down when (the fight) gets hard or there’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “That’s what ISIS wants.”

In Syria, the deadliest recent strike occurred earlier this month in a rebel-held area in the north. Opposition activists said a mosque was hit during evening prayers, killing around 40 people, mostly civilians, and wounding dozens of others. The U.S. said it struck an al-Qaida gathering across the street from the mosque, killing dozens of militants, adding they found no basis for reports that civilians were killed.

In Mosul, the scale of destruction wrought by increased artillery and airstrikes is immense in some areas.

Abdullah, the resident of New Mosul, buried 13 members of his family in a single day.

Standing in a field now being used as a graveyard, he said: “This was not a liberation. It was destruction.”

Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Mstyslav Chernov in Mosul, Iraq, contributed to this report.

Articles

House panel seeks to increase Army ranks by 45,000 soldiers

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea


The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has introduced a defense bill that would increase the U.S. Army by 45,000 soldiers.

Rep. Mac Thornberry’s version of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Bill would provide money to add 20,000 soldiers to the active Army’s end-strength, bringing it to 480,000.

The bill would also add 15,000 to the National Guard and 10,000 to the Reserves, resulting in a Guard strength of 350,000 and a Reserve strength of 205,000. The panel was expected to approve the measure on Wednesday.

Under the President Barack Obama’s current proposed defense budget, the Army projects its end-strength to be at a total of 980,000 soldiers by fiscal 2018, including 450,000 for the active force, 335,000 for the Army National Guard and 195,000 for the Army Reserve.

“The Chairman’s Mark halts and begins to reverse the drawdown of military end strength, preserving the active duty Army at 480,000,” according to summary of the proposed bill.

The size of the Army has been a major concern among lawmakers, many of whom have stated that the active force is too small to deal with the growing number of threats facing the U.S.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has testified that there is a “high-military risk” if the service continues to operate at its current size, but also told lawmakers that growing end-strength without additional funding would lead to a hollow force.

Thornberry’s revised budget earmarks just over $2 billion in additional funding for the troop increase, according to language in the bill. That’s about $2.5 billion short of what the Army would need, according to Army senior leaders that have testified it will cost about $1 billion for every 10,000 soldiers.

“Where possible, Chairman Thornberry’s proposal cuts excessive or wasteful expenditures and rededicates those resources to urgent needs,” according to the bill’s summary. “Even with a vigorous re-prioritization of programs, the Committee was unable to make up essential shortages in the President’s budget and simultaneously provide a full year of contingency funding.

“The proposal is designed to restore strength to the force through readiness investments and agility through much needed reforms, while providing a more solid foundation for the next President to address actual national security needs,” it states

The proposal also would increase the strength of the Marine Corps by 3,000 and the Air Force by 4,000.

“Perhaps it is also true every year, that when it comes to overall spending levels for defense, we are presented with only difficult, imperfect options,” Thornberry said in his opening remarks at Wednesday’s committee-wide markup session within the House Armed Services Committee.

“But, the bottom line for me this year is that it is fundamentally wrong to send service members out on missions for which they are not fully prepared or fully supported,” he added. “For that reason, I think that it is essential that we begin to correct the funding shortfalls that have led to a lack of readiness and to a heightened level of risk that we have heard about in testimony and that some of us have also seen for ourselves.”

The bill, currently in its draft form, will have to be passed by both the House and the Senate. Obama could also choose to veto the bill after passage.

Articles

Watch out for these 9 vets rocking the Mixed Martial Arts world

The military and Mixed Martial Arts go hand-in-hand. Both cultures are bloody, sweaty, and violent.


So it’s no wonder that MMA is rife with military veterans fighting in anything from the Ultimate Fighting Championship to little MMA promotions around the country.

Former UFC light heavyweight champion and all around MMA legend, Randy Couture, is an Army veteran and former middleweight contender. Brian Stann is a former Marine officer who enjoyed a great deal of success in the sport.

Other veterans include UFC stand outs Brandon Vera, Tim Credeur, and Jorge Rivera.

With Army veteran Neil Magny fighting at UFC 207 on Dec. 30th, we decided it was time to take a look at the best veterans actively fighting in MMA.

1. Tim Kennedy.

Though he lost his last two fights (one under controversial circumstances), Tim Kennedy is the most successful veteran in the sport today. Kennedy spent 10 years on active duty with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and continues to serve his country in the Texas National Guard as a Special Forces sniper.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Kennedy is having a good day. (Photos courtesy of the author)

Kennedy challenged for the Strikeforce middleweight championship and has enjoyed several years in the biggest MMA promotion, The UFC.

2. Liz Carmouche.

Former Marine helicopter mechanic Liz Carmouche once challenged Ronda Rousey for the women’s bantamweight championship and nearly submitted her in the first round.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Don’t pick a fight with Carmouche.

A tenacious bantamweight with bags of cardio endurance, Carmouche could make another run at a title fight. She’s currently 15-6 and recently defeated Kaitlyn Chookagian at UFC 206.

3. Neil Magny.

An Army veteran with an 18-6 record, Magny is the #8 ranked welterweight in the world and will fight former lightweight champion Johnny Hendricks at UFC 207 on Dec 30.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

Magny recently had an impressive 7-fight win streak and has won 10 of his last 12 with big wins over well-known fighters Hector Lombard and Kelvin Gastelum.

Still, he’ll have his hands full with the heavy handed knockout artist Hendricks on Dec 30.

4. Andrew Todhunter.

Undefeated fighter and former Green Beret, Andrew “The Sniper” Todhunter has only fought twice in the last two years, but at 8-0 (all by submission) it’s hard to deny the potential and success he’s had in MMA. When it comes to ground fighting, he’s a prodigy.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Looking sharp, Smith.

5. Colton Smith.

The sky was the limit for Army Staff Sergeant (and Iraq veteran) Colton Smith in December 2012 when he won The Ultimate Fighter season 16. But three loses in a row in the octagon forced him back down to the minor leagues where he rattled off four wins in a row. Smith could be poised to make another run at the UFC and realize some of that potential that got everyone excited about him a few years ago.

6. Caros Fodor.

A Marine veteran of six years, Fodor has fought for just about every major MMA promotion from the UFC to Strikeforce to One FC and now the World Series of Fighting.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
Fodor’s about to bring the pain.

In May, 2016, Fodor fought and defeated his adopted brother, Ben Fodor in 3 emotionally charged rounds.

7. Matt Frevola.

He’s only 4-0, but Army Reservist Matt Frevola is turning heads and is about to make his debut in Titan Fighting Championships where the management team is excited to see what he can do.

US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea
The look on Frevola’s face is enough knock someone out.

8. Robert Turnquest.

With a record of 6-3 after only two and a half years in MMA, 14-year Navy veteran Rob Turnquest has a bright future ahead. He recently lost a decision to MMA legend, JZ Cavalcante, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

9. Sharon Jacobson.

She’s only 4-1 and didn’t fight in 2016, but Jacobson, an Army veteran, ran off 3 impressive wins in a row in 2015 and made a name for herself in the strawweight division.  

Will we ever see a military veteran wearing a UFC championship belt around his or her waist in the octagon? Odds are yes. With some determination and a little window of opportunity, it could be one of these nine.

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