On May 31, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he is open to expanding the use of medical marijuana to treat soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Shulkin said that although federal laws would limit the ability to use marijuana, he said it could be possible to take action in states where medicinal marijuana is legal.
“There may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful and we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that,” Shulkin said during a press conference. “Right now, federal law does not prevent us at VA to look at that as an option for veterans … I believe that everything that could help veterans should be debated by Congress and by medical experts and we will implement that law.”
The head of the VA also said the agency he oversees is in a “critical condition,” likening the veterans’ healthcare provider to a patient in bad health.
Shulkin, a doctor appointed by former President Barack Obama, said patients wait too long for services from VA hospitals and government bureaucracy prevents the agency from firing employees who perform poorly. The VA oversees the care for more than 9 million veterans.
“I’m a doctor and I like to diagnose things, assess them, and treat them,” Shulkin said. “Though we are taking immediate and decisive steps stabilizing the organization … we are still in critical condition and require intensive care.”
“As you know, many of these challenges have been decades in building,” Shulkin added.
In reference to the VA’s inability to fire employees quickly, Shulkin said “our accountability processes are clearly broken.”
In one example, it took the agency more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a veteran.
Shulkin said now is the time to face the VA’s challenges and address them “head on.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced a temporary cease-fire with the Taliban for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that caps off the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, though it was not immediately clear whether the militants had agreed.
The truce will last from June 12 until around June 20, 2018, Ghani said in a video message on June 7, 2018, as deadly militant attacks across Afghanistan showed no sign of easing during Ramadan.
Ghani said that Afghanistan’s security forces will “stop offensives” against Afghan Taliban militants but will continue to target the extremist group Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda, and “other international terrorist groups” and their affiliates.
The cease-fire is “an opportunity for Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not wining [sic] them hearts and minds but further alienating the Afghan people from their cause,” the president wrote on Twitter.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed declined to comment to RFE/RL on the matter.
Senior security officials said the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, a militant group affiliated to the Taliban, was also included in the unilateral cease-fire.
The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said that foreign forces will also honor the cease-fire.
“We will adhere to the wishes of Afghanistan for the country to enjoy a peaceful end to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and support the search for an end to the conflict,” General John Nicholson said in a statement.
Ghani’s announcement comes days after the country’s top religious body issued a religious order, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden, or “haram,” under the principles of Islam.
Meeting in Kabul on June 4, 2018, the Afghan Ulema Council also appealed on both Afghan government forces and the Taliban and other militants to agree on a cease-fire, and called for peace negotiations between the sides.
A suicide bombing outside the gathering, attended by around 2,000 Muslim clerics, scholars, and figures of authority in religion and law from across Afghanistan, killed at least seven people, including several clerics.
A local affiliate of IS claimed responsibility.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan welcomed Ghani’s announcement, saying on Twitter that “there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.”
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on the Taliban to join the cease-fire, saying that the militant group “will not win on the battlefield.”
“The only way for them to achieve a solution is to sit down at the negotiating table,” he told reporters.
The U.S. State Department said that “the Afghan government’s offer of a temporary cease-fire underscores its commitment to peace as both a national and religious responsibility.”
It said it will allow the Afghan people to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday without fear of violence.
However, a former Afghan army general, Atiqullah Amarkhel, expressed concerns that the cease-fire would give the Taliban a chance to regroup.
“From a military prospect, it is not a good move,” he told Reuters.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
The Taliban has stepped up its attacks against Afghan security forces as well as government officials across the country since the announcement of its spring offensive in April 2018.
In February 2018, Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.
In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law.
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging program to engineer a longer-range artillery cannon able to out range enemy ground forces by hitting targets at more than twice the distance of existing artillery.
The service is now prototyping an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer.
Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.
“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.
“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.
Marines fire an M777A2 155 mm howitzer.
(United States Marine Corps photo)
As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.
The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement.
The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.
ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires. This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-off range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.
A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago – its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets – such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.
In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet – all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.
An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round.
In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons. The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta – which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.
In early 2018 statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia. The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers, and satellite navigation systems, the report says.
Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.
While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control, and target technology.
“Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.
Multi-domain warfare is also integral to the strategic impetus for the new ERCA weapon; longer range land weapons can naturally better enable air attack options.
Operating within this concept, former Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes launched a new series of tabletop exercises several months ago — designed to to replicate and explore these kinds of future warfare scenarios. The project is oriented toward exploring the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.
In a previous Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”
Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.
Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenets informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.
Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.
After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions, and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.
In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.
Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.
“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”
Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
A new fighting robot called the Phantom might be deployed on the battlefield in eastern Ukraine next year, according to Defense One.
Ukroboronprom, the Ukrainian defense contractor developing the robot, displayed the robot at the Association of the US Army show in Washington DC on October 9th, Defense One reported.
The Phantom can be fitted with tracks or wheels, as well as a wide variety of weapons, including a coaxial 23 mm machine gun, antitank missiles, and grenade launchers, according to Ukroboronprom.
It runs on a 30 kilowatt hybrid engine that can hit speeds of up to 37 mph, and it can cover a maximum distance of about 81 miles, Ukroboronprom said. It is even capable of evacuating wounded soldiers from the field.
The Phantom also has a backup microwave-communication link that allows it to function even if its receiver is jammed or hacked, Defense One reported. This feature was specifically designed to counter Russian electronic-warfare attacks that have plagued Ukrainian forces, especially in the early days of the war.
The US is developing fighting robots as well, and Russia already “has a wide array of ground bots” but has not deployed them to the Donbas, according to Defense One.
Ukroboronprom is looking to sell the Phantom and form partnerships in general with other nations, especially the US, according to Foreign Policy.
“We came [to the AUSA in DC] to show our expertise and potential — to show that we can be partners,” Roksolana Sheiko, director of communications policy for UkrOboronProm, told Foreign Policy.
In recent months, the US and Ukraine have agreed to or discussed a number of weapons-and military-equipment sales and joint ventures.
In June, two deals were made to facilitate sale of military equipment and promote joint research and development between the two countries.
Janine Stange knew she wanted to be a singer at a very young age. Between going to school and working at her parents’ bagel shop, the Long Island native from a tight Italian-American family would spend hours in her room listening to albums by artists like Amy Grant, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion and trying to imitate them. She also received some classical training and sang arias.
The first time she ever performed in public was when she sang the National Anthem at her high school homecoming game. “I was nervous,” she said. “I was gripping the mike so tightly I had trouble unclenching my fist after I was done.”
Those nerves were what propelled her to keep trying to perform. “I forced myself to conquer it,” she said.
So she started performing wherever she could around the tri-state area — coffee shops, church youth group gatherings, and small-scale sporting and civic events. She wrote her own music and independently produced several albums.
“I had no life outside of trying to pursue a music career,” Janine said. “I blame my mother for my drive and for telling me I could be anything I wanted if I worked hard enough.”
She also credits her mother, who passed away from breast cancer four years ago, with instilling a sense of patriotism within her. “People would come into the bagel shop in uniform, and she would make them feel like a million bucks. She knew what it meant to sacrifice. Although she never used the word ‘patriot’ to describe herself, it’s who she was to the core.”
Janine worked odd jobs to fund more albums, including a stint as the PR director for Major League Lacrosse’s Long Island Lizards – a role she accepted with the proviso that she would sing the National Anthem whenever they didn’t have somebody else they were obligated to book.
Finally she ran out of patience with the plan of funding her music career by having a lucrative day job, so she took out a loan and moved to Los Angeles to work with a producer who promised to take her to the next level.
“My plan was to go out there and within three months be selling 30,000 albums and have a world tour booked,” Janine said. “That’s not what happened.”
Three months turned into six months, and when the album was done she wasn’t proud of it. “The producer didn’t do his part, basically. I couldn’t give the album to anyone in my network that I’d worked hard to create.”
She considers that experience her masters degree. “I learned that you have to check everyone out and do everything yourself,” she said.
At that point she started performing the National Anthem exclusively. “I would always say, ‘When I make it I’m going to give back,’ and then I started saying to myself, ‘when are you going to make it because you haven’t given anything back,'” she said. “It was aggravating me.”
Janine quoted Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can with what you have” as she explained the logic behind focusing solely on the National Anthem. “I resolved to sing it with everything I had. I really felt if I could do that song justice that would be a good thing.”
She started reaching out to organizations and offering to sing the National Anthem at any reputable event that would have her. After she’d sung it in eight states, she was struck with the idea of singing it in all fifty.
One day early on her homemade tour, she was late for a performance at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. She pushed past the line of people waiting to get in and went up to one of the gate personnel and said, “You have to let me in; I’m the National Anthem girl.”
As she was running toward the middle of the field that was set up for a Supercross event she had a brainstorm: Attach a good cause to the name ‘National Anthem Girl.’ To her surprise the domain name ‘nationalanthemgirl’ was available, so she took it and started marketing herself with that moniker.
She also realized the “Star Spangled Banner” was about to turn 200 years old, and that motivated her to hit all fifty states before it did. “It forced me to focus on the power of that song and how it unites us,” she said.
She appeared on NBC and Fox News and other national outlets, which gave her the publicity to get just enough funding to reach her goal. “Without those people I would have been known as ‘the girl who hitchhiked to get it done,'” she said.
The journey taught her a lot about the country. “America is beautiful, and Americans are beautiful,” she said. “I had to trust a lot of people along the way — that events were real events, that people would take me to the airport as they’d said they would — and I was never let down in all those months across all of those states. If you trust America’s spirit it will come alive.”
The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations, held July 11-12, 2019, brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.
The event honored those who served and gave veterans, families, and community members the opportunity to connect with one another and learn about veteran-related resources and programs.
Guest speaker Johnathan Courtney, Army combat veteran, shared his story of healing and how he struggled to find himself when he came home from the Iraq War. He said that if it wasn’t for the help of his wife Emily, he wouldn’t be where he is today. With her help and support he was able to connect with caring providers within VA and a support network with community organizations.
“It starts with vets helping vets and family care,” said Courtney, now Chairman of the Health and Wellness Committee for the State of Oregon Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. He hopes that by sharing his story of healing with fellow veterans that it will encourage them or someone they know to reach out for help if they need it and learn about resources available. “Many veterans don’t reach out for support and we are trying to change that here,” he said.
Veterans of all eras were recognized and honored for their service to the nation during the opening ceremony on July 11, 2019.
Other guest speakers, representing different tribes and organizations, shared their stories of healing over the two-day period, including Gold Star families who were given a special honor at the event. Gold Star families are relatives of service members who have fallen during a conflict.
VA staff members participated in a panel discussion to help answer questions and share information about VA services. VA Portland Health Care System panelist members included Sarah Suniga, Women Veterans Program Manager, Ph.D., and Valdez Bravo, Administrative Director for Primary Care Division. Other panelist members included Kurtis Harris, Assistant Coach Public Contact Team for the VA Portland Regional Office; Jeffrey Applegate, Assistant Director of Willamette National Cemetery; and Kelly Fitzpatrick, Oregon State Department of Veterans Affairs Director.
Additionally, VA Portland Health Care System staff from the My HealtheVet Program and Suicide Prevention team tabled at the event.
The seventh annual Gathering of Warriors Veterans Summit hosted by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Native Wellness Institute, and VA Office of Tribal Government Relations held July 11-12, 2019 brought together hundreds of individuals from different communities at the Uyxat Powwow Grounds in Grande Ronde, Oregon.
“It’s a great honor to connect with veterans in this community,” said Terry Bentley, Tribal Government Relations Specialist for VA Office of Tribal Relations and member of the Karuk Tribe of California. Bentley has participated in this event since it first started seven years ago. She said she feels privileged to partner with tribal and community organizations to make it all come together and encourages anyone who served in the military or who knows someone who served in the military to participate next year.
“This event is about helping our veterans and encouraging them to come forward to see what’s available,” said Reyn Leno, Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, member of Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and past chairman of the Oregon Department of Veteran’s Affairs Advisory Committee. “Even if we help just one veteran during this event I think that in itself is a success.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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!”
The US has stood on the brink of nuclear war with a totalitarian regime in Asia before, and in the end it was economics, not military might, that brought the Soviet Union down.
The US’s nuclear arsenal has failed to scare North Korea away from developing its own nukes, sanctions have failed to restrict its access to markets, and leveraging the US’s relationship with China has failed to starve the country into submission.
But the US’s greatest weapon, capitalism, might just do the trick.
Fitfield’s interviews with North Koreans paint a picture of a state economy which has come to a halt and a growing trend toward capitalism among common people. The market activity brings with it Western information, as North Koreans travel to China for work and come back enlightened to the realities of life outside the Kim regime.
Though North Korean authorities may punish possessing South Korean media with death, it has become a trend among North Korea’s elite to speak with a South Korean accent, indicating their power, independence from the state, and access to outside information, according to the New Yorker’s foreign correspondent Evan Osnos.
“North Korea technically has a centrally planned economy, but now people’s lives revolve around the market,” a university student who left the country in 2013 told Fitfield. “No one expects the government to provide things anymore. Everyone has to find their own way to survive.”
With state infrastructure no longer supporting people’s livelihoods, fissures between the actual lives of common people and the total loyalty demanded by the state could render the Kim regime out of touch and in danger of disposal.
“Among my closest friends, we were calling [Kim Jong Un] a piece of s—,” another student told Fitfield. “Everyone thinks this, but you can only say it to your closest friends or to your parents if you know that they agree.”
‘Impure’ attitudes among high-rank leaders
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reports that North Korea recently disciplined two of its highest ranking military officers for having “impure” attitudes, according to the Associated Press. The crackdown on the North Korean military’s second in command comes as international sanctions have weakened the state’s economy more than ever before.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based news website that purports to have a large network of informants within North Korea, reported that US-led sanctions have affected the economy in the country and now citizens may turn on the Kim government.
As a result, Daily NK reported that security has increased at monuments to the Kim dynasty for fear that citizens will vandalize the paintings and sculptures, which the state demands citizens give incredible reverence to.
Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean diplomat and the highest-level defector of the Kim regime, discussed North Korean youths sneaking in “nose cards,” or small SD cards loaded with South Korean media hidden inside their noses.
“The chasm between the Kim Jong Un regime and the general public is widening every year, and some day, the two sides will ultimately break like a rubber band,” Thae said in August. “I think that day will come within the next 10 years.”
Welcome to the free market, North Korea
Rodger Baker, the lead analyst of the Asia-Pacific region for Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, previously told Business Insider that North Korea’s government might be stronger than defectors are willing to admit.
“A lot of the West’s vision of North Korea is from defector testimony, which is going to have a political bent,” Baker said. He added that the idea that air-dropping South Korean DVDs and music into North Korea would eventually sway the population against Kim “overestimates the draw of material goods over nationalism and national identity.”
But history shines with examples of people refusing to be repressed and finding prosperity one way or another. North Korea cannot stand comparison to the prosperous, democratic South.
Much like how President Donald Trump calls Kim Jong Un’s reign a “cruel dictatorship” and threatens military action against the rogue nation, former President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” at the height of nuclear tensions between Washington and Moscow in 1983.
Though the US and the Soviet Union both held tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and enough troops to start World War III, no fighting came about. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the US enjoyed stellar economic growth while the Soviet Union imploded. In 1997, Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan’s former communist rival, starred in a commercial for Pizza Hut in Moscow.
The military did not defeat communism in the Cold War, capitalism did. Decades later with North Korea, it may be time for another victory for the free market.
Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who lives in constant fear of assassination, has reportedly hired Russian ex-KGB bodyguards to protect him in case of an attempt on his life.
Japan’s Asahi Shinbum reported that Kim hired about 10 former KGB counter-terrorism agents to train his bodyguards on how to detect and respond to terrorist attacks.
The KGB, the former Soviet Union’s main security and spy agency, had decades of practice in defending high-value targets against attempts at regime change.
The source told Asahi Shinbum that Kim was particularly scared of US advanced-weapons systems, like the Gray Eagle drone the US is set to operate in South Korea in 2018.
However, it’s unclear how counter-terrorism bodyguards could protect Kim against a drone high in the sky raining down bombs.
South Korean media has reported that the US and South Korea have been working together on a “decapitation force” to kill the North Korean leader in the event that Pyongyang becomes intolerably aggressive.
Kim has a history of going to extreme measures to shore up his reign over North Korea, with some reports saying he killed his half-brother Kim Jong Nam to thwart a Chinese-backed coup attempt.
If you somehow are on the internet and haven’t seen the viral BBC interview of an expert on South Korea being interrupted during a BBC interview by his children, then you can see it here.
The dad is impressively collected as his wife rushes in to grab the children and pull them out, but the internet had a field day with the interview.
Now, a U.S. Air Force crew has created a spoof video where a pilot is attempting to read her takeoff clearance back when the crew starts stumbling in. Another airman, probably the chief, has to rush in and grab the other crewmen out of the cabin.
The results are pretty great. You can check the video out below:
In war games simulating a high-end fight against Russia or China, the US often loses, two experienced military war-gamers have revealed.
“In our games, when we fight Russia and China, ‘blue’ gets its ass handed to it,” David Ochmanek, a RAND warfare analyst, explained at the Center for a New American Security on March 7, 2019, Breaking Defense first reported. US forces are typically color-coded blue in these simulations.
“We lose a lot of people. We lose a lot of equipment. We usually fail to achieve our objective of preventing aggression by the adversary,” he said.
US stealth fighters die on the runway
At the outset of these conflicts, all five battlefield domains — land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace — are contested, meaning the US could struggle to achieve the superiority it has enjoyed in the past.
An F-35A joint strike fighter crew chief watches his aircraft approach for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, July 14, 2011.
(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
In these simulated fights, the “red” aggressor force often obliterates US stealth fighters on the runway, sends US warships to the depths, destroys US bases, and takes out critical US military systems.
“In every case I know of, the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky,” Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense and an experienced war-gamer, said March 7, 2019. “But it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”
Neither China nor Russia has developed a fifth-generation fighter as capable as the F-35, but even the best aircraft have to land. That leaves them vulnerable to attack.
US warships are wiped off the board
“Things that sail on the surface of the sea are going to have a hard time,” Ochmanek said.
Aircraft carriers, traditional beacons of American military might, are becoming increasingly vulnerable. They may be hard to kill, but they are significantly less difficult to take out of the fight.
USS Enterprise is underway with its strike group in the Atlantic Ocean.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Harry Andrew D. Gordon)
Naval experts estimate that US aircraft carriers now need to operate at least 1,000 nautical miles from the Chinese mainland to keep out of range of China’s anti-ship missiles, according to USNI News.
US bases burn
“If we went to war in Europe, there would be one Patriot battery moving, and it would go to Ramstein [in Germany]. And that’s it,” Work explained, according to Breaking Defense. “We have 58 Brigade Combat Teams, but we don’t have anything to protect our bases. So what difference does it make?”
Simply put, the US military bases scattered across Europe and the Pacific don’t have the anti-air and missile-defense capabilities required to handle the overwhelming volume of fire they would face in a high-end conflict.
US networks and systems crumble
In a conflict against a near-peer threat, US communications satellites, command-and-control systems, and wireless networks would be crippled.
Marines participate in Hatch Mounted Satellite Communication Antenna System training on an MV-22B Osprey at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, Feb. 12, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Gumchol Cho)
“The brain and the nervous system that connects all of these pieces is suppressed, if not shattered,” Ochmanek said of this scenario. Work said the Chinese call this type of attack “system destruction warfare.”
The Chinese would “attack the American battle network at all levels, relentlessly, and they practice it all the time,” Work said. “On our side, whenever we have an exercise, when the red force really destroys our command and control, we stop the exercise and say, ‘let’s restart.'”
A sobering assessment
“These are the things that the war games show over and over and over, so we need a new American way of war without question,” Work stressed.
Six High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems conduct a live-fire exercise as part of pre-deployment training at Ft. Bliss, Texas.
(Wisconsin National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Baum)
Ochmanek and Work have both seen US war games play out undesirably, and their damning observations reflect the findings of an assessment done from fall 2018.
“If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat,” the National Defense Strategy Commission — a bipartisan panel of experts picked by Congress to evaluate the National Defense Strategy — said in a November 2018 report.
The report called attention to the erosion of the US’s military edge by rival powers, namely Russia and China, which have developed a “suite of advanced capabilities heretofore possessed only by the United States.”
The commission concluded the US is “at greater risk than at any time in decades.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was a big weekend for the Arizona Cardinals. The team has been struggling this season and they were looking to roll into Green Bay and hand the vaunted Packers their first loss at home. It was a special game for a number of reasons, but for Larry Fitzgerald, it allowed him to participate in the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign.
The star wideout is one of the greatest players in the NFL today, and his cleats bore the name and likeness of one of the NFL’s legends – Pat Tillman.
NFL uniform wear is incredibly strict, and the league is known to hand down steep fines to players who step onto the field out of regs. But during the “My Cause, My Cleats” weekend, 800 select players get to sport customized cleats that raise awareness and funds for their personal causes, from fighting colon cancer to ending sex trafficking. Larry Fitzgerald wanted to honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. military.
As an Arizona Cardinal, that meant honoring the legacy of Pat Tillman.
Fitzgerald’s cleats were custom-made by Miami, Florida-based Marcus Rivero of Soles by Sir. He incorporated an image of Pat Tillman himself, as well as the name of former Arizona Senator, John McCain, who died earlier in 2018. The designer also added the name of Fitzgerald’s grandfather, who served in the Korean War.
Beyond simply making and wearing the custom cleats, the Cardinals wide receiver gave a special experience to two U.S. Army veterans and Pat Tillman scholars, Joseph Wheaton and Jameson Lopez. Wheaton is a native of northern Maine who joined the military after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Lopez is member of the Quechan Tribe from Arizona’s Colorado River Valley.
The Cardinals wide receiver gave the two scholars a tour of the Cardinals facility, a chance to meet the trainers and staff, and presented them each with a Pat Tillman Cardinals jersey.
Fitzgerald’s custom “My Cause, My Cleats” wear, honoring Pat Tillman, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and his own grandfather, a Korean War veteran.
The mission of the Tillman Foundation is to empower military veterans and military spouses to become the next generation of great American leaders. More than 580 Tillman Scholars around the country are tackling the widespread issues surrounding national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights, and education.
“I’ve always just had so much respect for everything the organization and foundation has done,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald and the Cardinals improved to 3-9 with a win over Green Bay at home as Fitzgerald caught three passes for 48 yards wearing his custom Pat Tillman-inspired cleats.