There’s an old saying within the writer’s world. “Write what you know.” Meaning that every artist should always put a bit of their own life experiences into their creations to help create the feeling that the world they’re creating is real enough – regardless of its fictional setting. This is especially important when it comes to analyzing works created by war veterans when they tell stories dealing with war.
This leads us to literature’s biggest question about authorial intent: Is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien an allegory for WWI? From the mouth of Tolkien himself, it’s not. Yet scholars still debate this.
The honest answer is that it’s much deeper than a surface level “the orcs are really these guys” and “the ring actually means this thing.”
If you’re still not convinced… If the One Ring was about the bomb, then the eagles would have definitely been the ones to drop the Ring in Mt. Doom and not about the struggles of two hobbits going in on foot.
(United States Department of Energy)
The novel was released in 1954, and, as people do, there was speculation that it was about either World War I or World War II. The straight-forward nature of Sauron being purely evil and the works of the Fellowship purely good puzzled Tolkien’s life-long friend and Jesuit priest, Father Robert Murray, who also questioned if it was a message about Christianity – since Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic.
His response to both was included into the forward to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, which Tolkien has this to say:
As for any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical…. I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.
Later on in life, many questioned if the One Ring was also symbolic of atomic weapons. This is easily debunked by the simple fact that he began writing The Lord of the Rings in 1934 – many years before the Manhattan Project was even known.
Need to come up with a war-torn hellscape that’s riddled with death and decay? Tolkien’s mind went to the worst hell he could imagine: the swamped trenches of the Battle of the Somme.
In Tolkien’s eyes, his work were, and always should be viewed as, a fairy tale. This is why the chapters of The Hobbit feel slightly disconnected from each other – because they’re meant to be bedtime story-sized chunks to read to children at night.
When it came time for his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, it was intended as a more mature follow-up to that world while still holding true to its fairy tale spirit. Sauron is the unequivocal embodiment of evil. Frodo Baggins, though flawed and unlikely to be the hero, was a nuanced embodiment of good. The core of the series is always that good, no matter where it comes from, will always triumph over evil.
The debate lies in the unexpected journey of how that happens, which brings us back to writing what you know.
To be fair, this place would be what Tolkien’s friend Father Murray may have called an allegory for Heaven.
As every combat veteran can tell you, war is a hell that you can never really get out of your mind. Tolkien himself saw his two best friends die within the first day of combat, a first aid station he was at destroyed with many inside, and he would be sent back to the rear for health reasons. He would eventually learn his battalion, and everyone he knew would be destroyed by the end of the war.
Tolkien’s survivor’s guilt would haunt him throughout the rest of his life. This is reflected in the most powerful moment of The Lord of the Rings – Frodo’s return to the Shire. Frodo lost many of his friends along the way. What was once a happy, cheery little town felt alien to him. He couldn’t just slip back in like nothing had happened because, it did. His scars healed but still hurt while his mind wandered. This is not unlike what happened to Tolkien, but it’s not unique to him.
But this isn’t where Frodo’s story ends. Neither is it for every returning veteran. For all of his good deeds, Frodo is allowed passage into the Undying Lands. He can be free of his pain and know that he fought the good fight. His battles with his trauma were over. This pained and injured hero can finally have his happy ending.
There is no allegory for the pure good and pure evil of The Lord of the Rings. The Orcs weren’t the Germans (from either war), and the Hobbits weren’t the peaceful Welsh. The story is meant to be interpreted by anyone who sees themselves in Frodo’s shoes (well, in the metaphorical sense. Hobbits never wear shoes.)
Tolkien wrote the fairy tale he’d have wanted to hear as a returning veteran. To be told that no matter where you’re from, no matter how big or small, no matter the pain you endure, no matter the friends you lose along the way, your story will eventually have a happy ending.
This is the basis for the Fox Searchlight film Tolkien about how his life experiences influenced his writing. Check it out in theaters May 19th.
A former Miss America winner announced on June 12, 2018, that she enlisted in the US Air Force.
Teresa Scanlan, who won the Miss America pageant in 2011, is now an Airman First Class in the Air National Guard, according to The Press of Atlantic City.
“I am beyond honored and humbled to announce that I am now officially an A1C in the Air National Guard and graduated Air Force Basic Training as an Honor Graduate (top 10%) last weekend,” Scanlan wrote on Instagram.
“The title of “airman” is one I proudly hold and I hope to represent the Air Force well,” Scanlan wrote.
Scanlan, who is also a law student at UC Berkley, is no stranger to the military.
Since winning the pageant, she has done several USO tours, visited Walter Reed and Bethesda military hospitals and several military installations.
Scanlan isn’t the only Miss America to also be a service member. Deshauna Barber, the 2016 winner, was an Army Reserve officer during the competition.
Here’s some of what Scanlan did with the military before joining:
Scanlan signs autographs for sailors aboard the USS Cape St. George in 2012.
Scanlan speaks with a sailor in the USS Cape St. George’s general store in 2012.
Scanlan performs for the USS Abraham Lincoln crew in 2011.
Scanlan on the USS Abraham Lincoln’s flight deck in 2011.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
So you used to be a lean, mean fighting machine and now? Well, now you kind of have a dad bod. The good news is, you’re far from the only one. It’s extremely common for veterans to put on weight after leaving the military, so it’s nothing to feel embarrassed about. Here’s why it’s so common to fall out of shape after resuming civilian life, and how to use the skills you learned in service to get back on track.
Warriors are athletes
When most people imagine a soldier, they picture broad shoulders and a near-perfect physique. That stereotypical image isn’t so far off, but it’s not just for looks. To undergo missions safely, physical fitness is a must. Strong muscles and low body fat are required to move quickly and keep yourself (and your team) safe. Whether you were in the army or the Marines, you had to be in great shape just to get in- and the training you took on in-service likely took your fitness levels to even greater heights. You became a true athlete, and staying that way was enforced on a daily basis.
In the military, you don’t choose what you eat
It seems obvious, but there is no all you can eat buffet in combat. While soldiers are supposed to get three solid meals per day, with at least one hot meal prepared consistently, there are no guarantees on the battlefield. At times, days may pass before soldiers can get their hands on a hearty meal.
Just as they don’t choose how often (or how much) they eat, a soldier doesn’t get to dictate how often or how hard they work out. Sure, plenty of soldiers opt to lift weights on their own, but in many military disciplines, more focus is placed on endurance and speed. They learn to move quickly and stay on their feet as long as necessary. It’s not easy, but a non-stop routine like that can whip almost anyone into amazing shape. Stay in the military, and it will keep you that way. Once you leave, it’s a totally different story.
Why athletes put on weight when they retire
Take a look at the average Olympian a couple of years after they call it quits. A quick Google search will turn up plenty of examples; a pudgy gymnast is like tabloid paradise! People loooove to point and stare at once-ripped athletes who are now rocking baggy sweats and a few extra pounds, but let’s get real: ANYONE who is going from an intense training program and rigid eating regimen to an average lifestyle will lose tone and put on weight.
It’s not shameful. It’s science.
Seriously, even if you’ve put on 15 pounds (or 50), there’s nothing to feel bad about. When you get off a strict diet and exercise less, it’s NORMAL to gain weight. Athletes also are accustomed to consuming more calories at once to fuel their intense workouts. When the pace of the workouts slow down, and calorie intake doesn’t, weight gain is the result- and developing new eating habits takes time!
That said, whether you’re uncomfortable with your new shape or just want to feel like the warrior you still are inside, getting back on track is 100% doable, with a small dose of realism.
Train (and Eat) for your new lifestyle
Before you revamp (or restart) a fitness and nutrition program, reassess your goals. Expecting to hit the gym multiple times per day and return to the level of fitness you hit while on active duty isn’t realistic for most people. Moreover, it’s unnecessary. Unless you need to be able to run tens of miles in a single day and do it again the next on a single hour of sleep, trying to reach your peak level of fitness is probably overkill.
Instead, consider your current lifestyle and choose goals to match. Hitting the gym or track four-six times per week and eating a diet low in refined sugar and unhealthy fats will probably be enough to get you back in your favorite jeans and feeling strong. That said, your personal path to success is unique. Start by setting reasonable goals, and build a fitness and nutrition plan to match.
Already working out with no results? Check for three common mistakes
Eating Empty Calories
When your activity levels are through the roof, worrying about counting every calorie is the last thing on your mind. When you’re adapting to a lifestyle that has room for more than fitness, pay attention to eating habits that pile on unnecessary calories. A daily soft drink, sugary coffee, or even a sports drink can add calories that aren’t doing much for you. Save those indulgences for once-in-awhile treats, not daily snacks.
Overblown Portion Size
Remember, you were a serious athlete when you were on active duty, and serious athletes need serious calories! You can still be an athlete, but if you’re not training as heavily as you were, your portions do not need to be as large. Even if you’re choosing healthy foods, make sure your portion sizes are balanced. Go easy on things like meat, cheese, nuts, avocado, and fruit. They’re super healthy for you, but they’re also high in calories. Keep eating them, by all means! Just not too much.
Last but not least, don’t overtrain. Veterans are used to pushing themselves to the limits, but it’s better to think of a new training program as a marathon rather than a sprint. Pushing yourself too hard, too fast will lead to burnout, so listen to your body. It’s normal to be sore, but if you’re going down the stairs sideways for weeks, take it easy!
You are still a warrior, but now you’re a warrior who’s repertoire includes doing laundry, taking the kids camping, and being home for a family dinner. The new battlefield to conquer is balance. Find that, and you’ll be on your way to hitting fitness goals you can maintain for life.
The battle for ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq has kicked off this week.
But if it’s not handled well, the long-term consequences could be severe.
“If handled successfully, Mosul could mark the beginning of the end of the Islamic State; if handled poorly, it could be yet another pause before an inevitable resurgence of terror,” said an online intelligence briefing from The Soufan Group, a strategic security firm.
The Iraqi Security Forces don’t have enough troops to retake and hold Mosul and the surrounding area without help. So other factions — including Kurdish forces and Shia militias (known as Popular Mobilization Units) backed by Iran. If left unchecked, these other factions could use the battle for Mosul to further their own agendas.
Shia militias have been accused of reprisal killings, torture, and kidnappings when they have assisted in liberating other areas from ISIS. And Kurdish forces have been known to displace Sunni Arabs from their homes as they take control of areas they help liberate from ISIS. Turkey is also participating in Mosul operations.
“The military challenges of removing an entrenched foe in an urban warfare environment, while simultaneously protecting as many as one million civilians caught in the cross fire would be daunting in the best of circumstances,” said The Soufan Group intelligence briefing. “But lacking unified combatants and commands, Iraqi military considerations must always include every level of sectarian and ethnic concerns that could turn a military victory into a strategic defeat.”
In short, even if Iraqi forces manage to win the battle against ISIS in Mosul, they’re in danger of losing the war if there isn’t a solid plan in place to govern effectively and inclusively after ISIS leaves.
“Given the sheer size of Mosul — and its experience of savage rule at the hands of the Islamic State—revenge killing will likely be an issue in the days and months ahead,” said The Soufan Group intelligence briefing.
“The level of atrocities and outrages perpetrated against minority communities such as the Yazidi and Christians, as well as to the population at large, rank among the worst war crimes in recent history. A massive effort will be required to begin to heal what is a truly fractured city and society.”
A local Mosul historian who blogs about life in the city under the pseudonym Mosul Eye explained the stakes of the ongoing battle in a statement posted to Twitter on Thursday.
“The people of Mosul cannot trust what will happen during and after the liberation, and our concerns grow bigger every day,” the historian wrote. “The upcoming dangers are no less than ISIL. There are many factions who are trying to divide and to tear down our city, and turning it into parts where each part would be given to an ethnicity group, separating it from the rest.”
He continued: “History tells [us] that Mosul has always built its civilization upon an ethnically and religiously diversified population. It is impossible to imagine Mosul without its rich and diversified heritage, culture, history, and ethnicity.”
Mosul Eye recommended that the city be placed under international trusteeship with joint supervision from the Iraqi government and the US.
“We, the civilized people of Mosul, don’t want to hand our city over, after liberation, to the tribes or to the Kurds, or the Popular Mobilization Units, or any other faction that is out of the Iraqi government,” he wrote on Twitter. “We also believe that the Iraqi government alone is not capable of managing Mosul after liberation.”
The Pentagon is injecting $440 million more into missile defense, including yet another expansion of its fleet of missile interceptors, to counter North Korea’s accelerating push for a nuclear-armed missile capable of hitting the United States.
As a reflection of its urgency, the Pentagon asked Congress to let it shift funds from the current budget rather than wait for the next defense budget. The Pentagon already had $8.2 billion in its missile defense budget prior to the add-ons.
The Pentagon on Oct. 4 spelled out $367 million of the shifted money, with the rest expected to be announced later. The spending has come under increased scrutiny as North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have progressed and critics have questioned whether the Pentagon has developed missile defenses that would work in combat.
Some of the additional $440 million is for projects that are classified secret, including $48 million more for development of technology for cyber “operations,” according to a breakdown of the spending by the Pentagon’s budget office.
The Pentagon has never acknowledged that it has engaged in cyber operations against North Korea’s nuclear or missile programs. The New York Times earlier this year reported that in 2014, then-President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches.
The more conventional approach to countering North Korea’s missiles is what the Pentagon calls ground-based interceptors, which are anti-missile missiles that would be launched from underground silos at Fort Greely in Alaska in the event the US decided to try to shoot down a North Korean missile aimed at the United States. The interceptors are designed to slam into an incoming enemy missile outside the Earth’s atmosphere, obliterating it by the force of impact.
The $440 million in extra funds for missile defense include $128 million to begin a new expansion of the missile interceptor force in Alaska. That includes $81 million to begin increasing the number of interceptors from 44 to 64, and $47 million to begin buying parts for 10 of the additional 20 underground silos in which the interceptors are installed.
The Pentagon had not publicly announced that it plans to increase the interceptor force by 20. The decision reflects concern that the current force is inadequate to face a North Korean nuclear and missile threat that is growing faster than anticipated.
A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.
The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.
The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.
Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.
“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.
Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.
Japan’s recently appointed cybersecurity and Olympics minister has told parliament he has never used a computer in his life, though it’s his job to oversee cybersecurity for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Yoshitaka Sakurada, is the deputy chief of Japan’s vaunted cybersecurity strategy office and is also the minister in charge of the Olympic Games that Tokyo will host in 2020.
Depite these responsibilities, Sakurada has admitted that he has never used a computer, and is more or less baffled by the very idea of a USB drive and what it might do, according to a report the Guardian published on Nov. 14, 2018.
It all began October 2018.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promoted Sakurada, 68, to the joint posts in October 2018, despite his left-field selection having never held a Cabinet position before during his 18 years in Japan’s Diet or parliament.
It was in the Diet, on Wednesday however, Sakurada came clean and admitted he is not a big computer person.
According to local media, the newly appointed minister made the admission at a parliamentary committee meeting when an opposition politician asked Sakurada a fairly routine are-you-computer-literate question.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
His response catches in a nutshell concerns that some Japanese lawmakers are growing desperately out of touch in a rapidly aging nation.
“I’ve been independent since I was 25 and have always directed my staff and secretaries to do that kind of thing,” Sakurada replied.
“I’ve never used a computer.”
Sakurada was answering questions from Masato Imai, an independent Lower House lawmaker.
When pursued by the concerned lawmaker about how a man lacking computer skills could be in charge of cybersecurity, Sakurada said he was confident there would be no problems.
“It’s shocking to me that someone who hasn’t even touched computers is responsible for dealing with cybersecurity policies,” Imai said.
He also appeared confused by the question when asked about whether USB drives were in use at Japanese nuclear facilities.
Sakurada also said “he doesn’t know the details” when a member of the Democratic Party for the People, asked him about what measures he had in place against cyberattacks on Japan’s nuclear power plants.
The countdown may already be on for Sakurada in his official role.
At a Lower House Budget Committee meeting Sakurada stumbled and obfuscated when answering simple questions about his organizing committee’s three policy pillars for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and also the games’ budget.
The debate was punctuated with lengthy interruptions as the luckless minister turned to and relied almost entirely on his aides to answer the basic questions.
Sakurada apologized for his performance and the indignity to the Diet four days later.
He may not have gotten the email.
Featured image: toolstotal.com
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Hundreds of defectors from Islamic State have massed in Syria’s Idlib province, with many planning to cross the nearby Turkish border and find ways back to the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
Several dozen former fighters have already made it across the heavily patrolled frontier to towns and cities in Turkey’s south in recent weeks, the Guardian has confirmed. Four Saudi Arabian extremists arrived in a southern Turkish community in early September after paying smugglers $2,000 each for the perilous journey past border guards who have shot dead scores of infiltrators this year alone.
The exodus of fighters from areas controlled by ISIS to other parts of Syria and Iraq has continued throughout the past year, as the terror group has lost much of its former heartland to a concerted assault by Iraqi troops, forces allied to the Syrian regime and a US-led air coalition in both countries.
However, large numbers of militants and their families are now trying to leave the war-battered states altogether – posing significant challenges to a global intelligence community that, for the most part, views them as a hostile and unmanageable threat, and sees limited scope for their reintegration.
A Saudi national who fled Syria in late August told the Guardian that as many as 300 former ISIS members, many of them Saudis, had established a community north of Idlib city, which is now dominated by the al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.
“Most want to leave, like me,” said the 26-year-old, who called himself Abu Saad. “A lot of them realise that the group they were with tricked them. Others don’t trust Nusra. There are not many who believe that the people that they were with were on the right path.”
Abu Saad said the Saudi nationals, as well some Europeans, Moroccans, and Egyptians, had gathered together as a buffer against al-Nusra, which has exerted its influence across Idlib and the surrounding countryside by toppling its rivals. ISIS has not had an organised presence in the area since early 2014 when it was ousted by a rebel assault that saw its members flee east to the town of al-Bab in the Aleppo hinterland and further into Minbij, Tabqa, Raqqa, and Deir Azzour.
Former members of the group, however, have steadily been returning to Idlib and seeking refuge since late 2015. “That was when I left,” said Abu Saad, speaking days after he arrived in southern Turkey. “Others joined me later, and more are coming now.”
The full scale of the extremist exodus from ISIS-held parts of Iraq and Syria remains unclear, with most of the land it conquered having been recaptured, leaving a divided and demoralized rump with next to nowhere to hide. One of ISIS’s two main centers of power – Mosul in Iraq – fell in February, and the other – Raqqa in Syria – is slipping further into the hands of US-backed Kurdish forces who had already hounded the group from most of Syria’s northeast.
Tens of thousands of ISIS fighters are believed to have been killed in the battle to retain territory it seized from mid-2014, and thousands more homegrown extremists are believed to have returned to their communities.
But the numbers of foreign fighters who have survived and are looking to return to their homes have been more difficult to gauge. So too have the true intentions of men who had allied themselves to the world’s most feared terror group during its ascendancy, but claim no further part of it as its reach and influence dwindles.
French officials have said privately that they would rather that nationals who traveled to join ISIS died on battlefields and have no plans to support those who now want to return. Other European states have expressed similar sentiments.
ISIS defectors had at one point been of high interest to intelligence agencies who had made little ground in penetrating the group as it consolidated a hold on swaths of Syria and Iraq and plotted attacks in Europe and beyond.
As the group has capitulated, MI6, the CIA, and France’s DGSE have had increasing access to informants whom they have met within Kurdish controlled areas of Syria’s northeast and in northern Iraq. The increased access to informants with real-time information has left those who fled earlier with less leverage over governments who might otherwise have agreed to talk with them.
“It’s a lot better than it used to be,” said one intelligence official. “We have a more complete picture than we did.”
Abu Saad said he would not return to Saudi Arabia if doing so meant a prison sentence. “A rehabilitation program? Maybe,” he said. “I went to Syria some time in 2012. I went to support the Syrian people and in the first few months I was with the Muhajirin.”
“It wasn’t until early the next year that my unit swore allegiance to ISIS. It was a poisoned flower. It wasn’t what I expected.”
As the group’s fate worsened, tensions increased within its ranks, Abu Saad claimed. Summary executions were carried out on increasingly flimsy pretexts, such as insubordination, or making contact with Syrian opposition groups, he said. Over time, arguments about the ideology and theology also intensified.
“They don’t understand the Tawheed (the oneness of God). They are always arguing about it. I saw no justice with them. I saw cruelty. But how could I disagree? It had such a hierarchy. Everyone has a boss who they are afraid of. And above them all was [ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.] He was the ultimate authority and no one could argue with him about religious law. If you tried to defy them about anything, you put yourself in danger.”
“My job was to inspect prisons. If there were abuses then I would report on them. One time in Minbij, there was a lady in a cell for 13 days with no toilet and no water for cleaning. She was there because she threatened to kill a man who had killed her husband. There was worse than that though. There were people in prison who had done nothing wrong at all.
“In Idlib, there are around 300 people trying to escape. Many of them are Saudis. Some want to see their families one last time and they say they will accept what’s coming to them. I don’t know any of them who believe in the [Islamic] State. They all ran away for a reason.”
US Marines arrived in Syria in March to support the effort to retake Raqqa with artillery fire.
The Marines, from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, came with M-777 Howitzers that can fire powerful 155 mm shells. The 11th MEU returned to the US in May, turning the operations over to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said they recaptured the city in mid-October, and, according to Army Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, the Marine fire supporting them was so intense that the barrels on two of the Howitzers burned out, making them unsafe to use.
Troxell, who is senior enlisted adviser to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, said last week that US-led coalition forces were firing on ISIS in Raqqa “every minute of every hour” in order to keep pressure on the terrorist group.
A U.S. Marine artillery unit in Syria. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)
“What we have seen is the minute we take the pressure off of ISIS they regenerate and come back in a hurry,” Troxell said, according to Military Times. “They are a very resilient enemy.”
The M-777 Howitzer is 7,500 pounds — 9,000 pounds lighter than its predecessor. It is highly maneuverable, and can be towed by 7-ton trucks or carried by MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft or by CH-53E Super Stallion or CH-47 Chinook helicopters. It can be put in place and readied to fire in less than three minutes.
Its sustained rate of fire is two rounds a minute, but it can fire four rounds a minute for up to two minutes, according to its manufacturer, BAE Systems. While it’s not clear how many rounds the Marine M-777s fired or the period over which they fired them, burning out two barrels underscores the intensity of the bombardment used against ISIS in and around Raqqa.
“I’ve never heard of it ― normally your gun goes back to depot for full reset well before that happens,” a former Army artillery officer told Military Times. “That’s a s—load of rounds though.”
A US Marine fires an M-777A2 Howitzer in Syria, June 1, 2017.Sgt. Matthew Callahan/US Marine Corps
The M-777’s maximum range is 18.6 miles (though it can fire Excalibur rounds accurately up to 25 miles, according to Military.com). Video that emerged this summer showed Marines firing 155 mm artillery shells with XM1156 Precision Guidance Kits, according to The Washington Post.
The kit is a type of fuse that turns the shell in to a semi-precision-guided munition that, on average, will hit within 100 feet of the target when fired from the M-777’s maximum range. The XM1156 has only appeared in combat a few times.
The number of rounds it takes to burn out a howitzer barrel depends on the range to the target as well as the level of charge used, which can vary based on weight of the shell and the distance it needs to be fired.
If the howitzers were being fired closer to their target, “the tube life might actually be extended some,” the former Army officer told Military Times. Open-source imagery reviewed this summer indicated that Marines were at one point within 10 miles of Raqqa.
Astryx_x asks: Do suppressed memories actually exist?
We’ve all seen it in movies — a character will be going along in their lives blissfully unaware of some extremely traumatic event in their long distant past… that is, until a bit of syrup dribbles onto their cheek and they are transported back in their mind to that time they were abducted by aliens. Suddenly, they remember everything. But do such repressed memories actually exist?
It turns out that while only a few decades ago the idea of repressed memories was an extremely popular notion among psychologists, including many a person being thrown in prison when someone would randomly recover such a traumatic memory from their childhood after undergoing psychotherapy to retrieve it, the issue is a fair bit more controversial today.
According to a study conducted at the University of California, Irvine, published in the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science in 2013, approximately 60%-90% of psychologists (varying based on therapist type) who are clinicians still believe that repressed memories exist in some cases, though generally considered to be rare. Further, 43%-75% think these repressed memories can be retrieved with proper methods. In stark contrast, approximately 70% of research psychologist believe there is no such thing as repressed memories. So what’s going on here?
(Photo by Hal Gatewood)
To begin with, on the research psychologist side, their stance is largely backed by the fact that, as noted by famed psychologist Chris French of the University of London, “There is no convincing evidence to support the existence of the psychoanalytic concept of repression, despite it being a widely accepted concept.”
Despite this, many clinicians still believe it is. As to why, Lawrence Patihis of the aforementioned study illustrating the divide between clinicians and researchers speculates:
clinicians are more apt to trust clinical experience, while researchers tend to trust experimental research… there are many anecdotal reports of cures coming from retrieving repressed memories, but at the same time, credible experimental evidence of it does not exist…
Further stacking the evidence on the side of the researchers, it turns out that traumatic events that induce a strong emotional response, which are so often the subject of supposed repressed memories, tend to be the ones we remember the best.
That said, traumatic events can, and often are, ultimately forgotten, particularly when said events don’t actually induce a significant emotional response — for instance, if a child and not really understanding the event was of what would normally be categorized as the traumatic variety and thus there isn’t an associated strong emotional response. These tend to be forgotten at much higher rates, similar to what you’d expect from any given memory.
In fact, in one study Recall of Childhood Trauma: A Prospective Study of Women’s Memories of Child Sexual Abuse, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, it’s noted that 38% of the adults studied who had a high probability of being abused as children based on documented evidence had forgotten about it as adults.
In one case, one of the participants who was adamant she was never sexually abused, was asked a follow up question if she knew anyone that had been “in trouble for his or her sexual behavior”. Eventually the woman did remember her uncle had. She stated: “I never met my uncle, he died before I was born. You see, he molested a little boy. When the little boy’s mother found out that her son was molested, she took a butcher knife and stabbed my uncle in the heart, killing him.”
In fact, that is exactly what happened, except in this case, the woman being interviewed was one of three children the uncle had allegedly done this to, resulting in the mother of one of the children murdering him with a knife. The now adult woman in the study had only been four years old then — a time when few remember anything of their lives, traumatic or not.
Similarly, in a case study reported by The Recovered Memory Project, a woman named Claudia was involved in a group therapy session to help with weight loss when for whatever reason she began remembering being sexually abused by her older brother when she was little. Her brother had died in Vietnam approximately 15 years before, and their parents had essentially left his room and belongings alone. When she returned home, Claudia searched the room and found not only a set of handcuffs in his closet, but a diary in which he supposedly recorded his, to quote, “sexual experiments with his sister.”
From many such cases as these, as should come as no surprise to anyone — humans forget things all the time, and later sometimes remember them. It’s just that studies to date don’t really demonstrate that the brain is actively repressing these memories as is so widely believed among the general public, and to a lesser extent clinical psychologists.
While this might otherwise be a mundane issue only worth psychologists arguing over, it turns out it’s actually a pretty pernicious one thanks to the way clinicians classically tried to recover these memories, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s when the idea of recovering repressed memories was en vogue. This was often done in cases when forgotten traumatic events were thought by the therapists as the cause of things like depression and anxiety in a given client.
It turns out, many of the methods used by psychologists came to be discovered as textbook ways to get people to create false memories.
To begin with, to illustrate how easy it is to plant a false memory, in one early study, now famed memory researcher Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and co. decided to see if they could implant a false memory into people of having been lost at a shopping mall when five years old. Their method here, as explained by Dr. Loftus was,
We prepared a booklet for each participant containing one-paragraph stories about three events that had actually happened to him or her and one that had not. We constructed the false event using information about a plausible shopping trip provided by a relative, who also verified that the participant had not in fact been lost at about the age of five. The lost-in-the-mall scenario included the following elements: lost for an extended period, crying, aid and comfort by an elderly woman and, finally, reunion with the family.
What they ultimately found was after asking people to recall the events with as much detail as possible (a question many a clinical psychologist would ask, among other methods), almost 1/3 of the people involved remembered this experience.
In yet another similar study at Western Washington University, parents of students reported various events that had happened to their children. The researchers then asked the students if they could give their version of the story to illustrate how people remember things differently. They also planted a false story within these real ones about either being hospitalized as a child or having had a birthday party with a clown and pizza at the age of 5. It was also confirmed with the parents that neither of those things had ever happened.
Illustrating the power of suggestion, not a single student remembered the false event the first time they were interviewed about it. Yet in the second interview 1/5th of them remembered it after thinking about it for a while. Some even eventually remembered the event in incredible detail, including specific people visiting them in the hospital, for instance.
In yet another study by that same research group, this time they went with the subjects having to evacuate a store as a child when the sprinkler system went off, drenching everyone, or having spilled a giant bowl of punch at a wedding directly on the parent’s of the bride. Once again, nobody remembered the false memory the first time. But the second time almost 1/5th did, including, again, with some remembering remarkably vivid and small details.
Going yet more traumatic and somewhat controversial, there have been studies where researchers implanted false memories of everything from people almost drowning as children to being demon possessed — all with similar results.
Of course, in many of these cases, the idea was fed to the subjects and some of them then created the detailed false memories based on that suggestion. So how did this correlate to methods used by clinical psychologists in the late 20th century and to a lesser extent now?
As one example, we have imagination therapy, where patients are asked to imagine an often traumatic event and not worry about whether it happened or not — a once very popular method for trying to draw out repressed or forgotten memories.
For example, as famed sex therapist Wendy Matlz once stated, she would tell her patients to “Spend time imaging that you were sexually abused, without worrying about accuracy proving anything, or having your ideas make sense …. Ask yourself … these questions: What time of day is it? Where are you? Indoors or outdoors? What kind of things are happening? Is there one or more person with you?… Who would have been likely perpetrators? When were you most vulnerable to sexual abuse in your life?”
In studies looking at whether this type of imagination therapy increases the likelihood of implanting a false memory, one study’s subjects were asked a series of questions about a made up event of running toward a window as a child then tripping and breaking the window with their hand as they fell. It turns out the act of imagining that it happened increased about 1 in 4 of the participant’s confidence that the event had actually happened, vs. only about 1 in 10 reporting an increase in confidence when not asked to imagine the event had occurred.
Other studies have shown that the more frequently subjects were made to imagine a made up event, the more and more likely they are to later state that the event actually happened.
(Photo by Robina Weermeijer)
In yet another study, using these type of guided methods as well as hypnosis, participants were made to supposedly recover memories from directly after they were first born. Of course, the researchers at Carleton University actually simply implanted specific memories. Incredibly, 95% of the people being studied using guided mnemonic restructuring came to remember some memories from directly after birth and on the other hand, 70% who were subjected to hypnosis also recovered these so-called “impossible memories”. Also important to note was that about half of both groups also remembered the specific memory from shortly after being born that the researchers had completely made up.
Dr. Loftus states of all this,
Research is beginning to give us an understanding of how false memories of complete, emotional and self-participatory experiences are created in adults. First, there are social demands on individuals to remember; for instance, researchers exert some pressure on participants in a study to come up with memories. Second, memory construction by imagining events can be explicitly encouraged when people are having trouble remembering. And, finally, individuals can be encouraged not to think about whether their constructions are real or not. Creation of false memories is most likely to occur when these external factors are present, whether in an experimental setting, in a therapeutic setting or during everyday activities.
This very unfortunately resulted in cases like Nadean Cool. In 1986, she went to see a psychiatrist who in turn used a variety of popular techniques including hypnosis to try to see if she had any repressed memories about being abused as a child. In the end, what surfaced were memories of being raped, being forced into bestiality, eating babies, watching her friend get murdered, being forced to be involved in a satanic cult, etc. At one point the psychiatrist in question even decided she had at least 120 distinct personalities, one of which was somehow that of a duck. And then to add to the bizarreness of the whole thing, the psychiatrist had an exorcism performed on her to get Satan out of her body…
Of course, after years of this, it ultimately became clear none of these things had actually happened to her and they were simply false memories inadvertently implanted by her psychiatrist over time using these various methods.
In another famous case, one Beth Rutherford’s therapists used similar methods to try to recover repressed memories in 1992, only to have her vividly remember her mother holding her down while her father, a minister, raped her countless times over the course of seven years, starting when she was just seven years old. This included twice getting her pregnant and then painfully aborting the pregnancies using a coat hangar…
Naturally, the whole thing ruined her father’s career and reputation, among other devastating effects on all involved. But it turns out none of that actually happened either, which Beth ultimately discovered, among other evidence, when she went in for an examination and it turns out not only was it very clear she’d never been pregnant, but it was also the opinion of her doctors that she was clearly still a virgin.
Naturally, in both the cases of Beth and Nadean, neither were too pleased at having been put through all that mental trauma, plus having put others they loved through similar stress and hardship, when it was eventually demonstrated that none of these recovered memories ever happened.
Perhaps the most famous case of all of these was that of Eileen Franklin, who would later go on to author a book called Sins of the Father documenting the saga as she saw it. In her case, when she was a child one of her friends, eight year old Susan Nason, was raped and murdered. Nason’s body was discovered two months later, but the killer never identified. That is, until Eileen was an adult and her own daughter allegedly turned to look at her one day and reminded her so much of her friend, that suddenly she remembered witnessing her own father, George Franklin, raping and murdering Nason right in front of her.
Soon enough, Franklin was arrested, tried and convicted, despite there being no real evidence other than this recovered memory.
Finally, six years after being imprisoned, the ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court who, among other things, noted that the prosecutors’ entire case depended on the accuracy of repressed memories which were unreliable. Yet, in this case were taken as absolute fact, despite the lack of corroborating evidence. The appeals court also criticized the judge involved for not allowing the defense to introduce evidence that all of the pertinent facts of the case Eileen supposedly remembered had actually appeared in news accounts of the crime which Eileen was privy too.
This was particularly important as much of the confidence that Eileen’s memories were real came from the fact that many of the details she recalled did indeed match up with the evidence in the case.
Not long after Franklin was released after six years in prison, prosecutors were initially going to forge ahead to attempt to get Franklin thrown back behind bars. But then a few pertinent pieces of information came out that resulted in them moving to dismiss the charges.
First, Eileen had alleged that she had recovered another memory of her father raping and murdering someone else, this time an 18 year old woman whose murder at that point was also unsolved. However, when a DNA test was done on the semen recovered in the case it didn’t match George Franklin’s DNA. Further, minutes from a meeting at his work at the time this particular murder took place showed Franklin had been at that meeting at the fire station he had worked at. Thus, unless he had discovered a way to be two places at once, he couldn’t have done it.
The nail in the coffin on the origin case was when Eileen’s sister, Janice, told the prosecutors that Eileen allegedly told her that she’d remembered the events of the case in question while being hypnotized, contrary to what Eileen and Janice had stated during the trial. If true, this made those memories unreliable in the eyes of the court thanks to a Supreme Court ruling on a similar case, and thus the prosecution finally decided to have the charges dismissed.
Eileen still, however, at least at that point, firmly maintained she remembered these things happening and was still convinced her father was guilty of this and other alleged crimes from later recovered memories she had of him raping her as well. But as the aforementioned psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, who was called to testify in this particular case, noted during the whole ordeal,
I have little doubt that Eileen Franklin believes with every cell of her being that her father murdered Susan Nason. But I believe there is a very real possibility that the whole concoction was spun not from solid facts but from the vaporous breezes of wishes, dreams, fears, desires. Eileen’s mind, operating independently of reality, went about its business of collecting ambiguities and inconsistencies and wrapping them up into a sensible package, revealing to her in one blinding moment of insight a coherent picture of the past that was nevertheless completely and utterly false. Eileen’s story is her truth, but I believe it is a truth that never happened.
Illustrating the potential scope of the problem of false memories and court cases, Dr. Loftus would later state in her TED talk,
In one project in the United States, information has been gathered on 300 innocent people, 300 defendants who were convicted of crimes they didn’t do. They spent 10, 20, 30 years in prison for these crimes, and now DNA testing has proven that they are actually innocent. And when those cases have been analyzed, three quarters of them are due to… faulty eyewitness memory.
Of course, moving back to recovered memories, there really are people who were abused or witnessed or endured traumatic things as children and then later completely forgot about it, so few are willing to reject the memories of everyone who has such recollections later in life, even when “recovered” through therapy. It’s just that, as Dr. Loftus states,
The one take home message… is this: Just because someone tells you something with a lot of confidence and detail and emotion, it doesn’t mean it actually happened. You need independent corroboration to know whether you’re dealing with an authentic memory, or something that is a product of some other process.
She goes on, “…many people believe that memory works like a recording device. You just record the information, then you call it up and play it back when you want to answer questions or identify images. But decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn’t true. Our memories are constructive. They’re reconstructive. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people.”
So to sum up — while some psychologists still think repressed memories are a thing, there really isn’t presently much data backing up the notion vs the simpler explanation that people have just forgotten things like they forget most of what happens in their lives. Further, given that it’s absurdly easy to get people to remember things, even of the extremely traumatic variety, that never actually happened, trying to distinguish between real and false memories is something of an effort in futility without outside hard evidence.
In the end, it turns out human memory is incredibly fallible, but few of us want to accept that so much of what we remember in life didn’t happen quite, or in some cases at all, like we remember it. This, unfortunately, occasionally leads to people being convicted of sometimes even extreme crimes that they didn’t actually commit.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Police on Dec. 12, 2018, identified the suspect as Cherif Chekatt, a 29-year-old man born in Strasbourg. They released a photo of him on Dec. 12, 2018 in a call for witnesses.
They said that Chekatt is a “dangerous individual, do not engage with him.”
Benjamin Griveaux, a spokesman for the French government, told the CNews channel that “it doesn’t matter” whether police catch the suspect dead or alive, and that “the best thing would be to find him as quickly as possible.”
A wanted poster published online by France’s Police Nationale.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a front-runner for defense secretary in a Trump administration, could face stormy Senate confirmation hearings over his views on women in combat, post-traumatic stress, Iran, and other issues.
Mattis also would bring with him a bottom-up leadership style honed in command positions from the rifle platoon level to U.S. Central Command that seemingly would be at odds with President-elect Donald Trump’s top-down management philosophy and the by-the-book bureaucracy of the Pentagon.
In his writings, speeches and think-tank comments since retiring in 2013 as a revered figure in the Marine Corps, Mattis has been characteristically blunt on a range of issues from the role of women in the military and post-traumatic stress to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran.
Mattis also has praised the Mideast diplomacy efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry, who was often mocked by Trump during the campaign, but Trump has kept Mattis at the top of his short list for the Pentagon post.
The general has apparently cleared his calendar in anticipation of a Trump decision.
Mattis canceled a Dec. 14 speaking engagement at a Jamestown Foundation conference on terrorism, according to The Hill newspaper’s Kristina Wong. He has discussed the possibility of his selection as defense secretary with the leadership of the Center for a New American Security, where he is a board member, the Hill said.
Others believed to be under consideration for the defense post are Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and former Army captain; Stephen Hadley, the National Security Adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush; and former Sen. Jim Talent, a Missouri Republican.
Trump met with Mattis before Thanksgiving and later called him the “real deal” and a “generals’ general” who rated ample consideration for the defense nomination. Trump also said he was “surprised” when Mattis told him he could get more out of a terrorism suspect’s interrogation with a few beers and a pack of cigarettes than he could with waterboarding and torture.
Trump later spoke at length with The New York Times about the potential choice of Mattis and other matters, but did not touch on the roles of women in the military or Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s historic decision last March to open up all military occupational specialties to women who qualify.
Women in Combat
Mattis, now a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution in California, has questioned whether women are suited for what he called the “intimate killing” of close combat, and whether male commanders would balk at sending women into such situations.
Mattis also said he was concerned about “Eros” in the trenches when young men and women live in close quarters in the “atavistic” atmosphere of combat. “I don’t care if you go anywhere in history where you would find that this has worked,” he said of putting “healthy young men and women together and we expect them to act like little saints.”
In periodic speeches to the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco, Mattis said that the U.S. military is a “national treasure,” and it is inevitable that women would want to serve in every MOS.
“The problem is that in the atavistic primate world” of close-quarters combat, “the idea of putting women in there is not setting them up for success,” Mattis said. He stressed that he was not talking about whether women could perform the required amounts of pushups, pullups and other physical requirements — “that’s not the point.”
Commanders must consider “what makes us most combat effective when you jump into that room and you’re doing what we call intimate killing,” he said. “It would only be someone who never crossed the line of departure into close encounters fighting that would ever even promote such an idea” as putting women into close combat.
If nominated, Mattis would almost certainly be challenged on women in combat in confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has six women on the panel.
One of them is Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years in the Army Reserves and Iowa National Guard. Ernst, who served a deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is the first female veteran in the Senate, has applauded the opportunity for women who meet the standards to serve in the combat arms.
Opponents of women in combat have said that the next defense secretary could easily reverse the current rules opening up all billets to women.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told Military Times, “Those policies have to be rolled back. Right now, the policy is that women can and will be assigned to ground combat units. That pronouncement can indeed be changed by a future secretary of defense.”
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield,” said the argument is misguided since women have already proven their worth in combat.
The rules could be changed by the next administration, but “the record of service speaks for itself,” Lemmon said. Even when regulations banned women from combat, “They were there. They were there because special ops needed them there,” she said.
“I have never thought this was about political correctness or a feminist agenda,” Lemmon said of the issue of women in combat, “but rather about military readiness and having the right people in the right jobs. In some ways, it is remarkable to me that we have Americans who want to say that even if you meet the standard, you cannot be there.”
Mattis has also differed with current thinking on post-traumatic stress and its treatment in the military and in the Department of Veterans Affairs, where the leadership has labored to remove the “stigma” against seeking help.
“We have such a fixation on disease and disorder that troops coming home have to be told, actually have to be told, ‘You don’t have to be messed up,’ ” Mattis said. “What’s the message we’re sending them?”
“My concern is we’ve got so many people who think they’re messed up now, or think they should be, that the ones who really need help are being submerged in the broader population and so the ones who need the help the most aren’t getting the attention they need to be getting,” he said.
“There’s no room for woe-is-me, for self-pity, or for cynicism” in the military, Mattis said. “Further, there is no room for military people, including our veterans, to see themselves as victims even if so many of our countrymen are prone to relish that role. In the military, we make choices. We’re not victims.”
The misperception about war and its aftermath is that “somehow we’re damaged by this. I’m on record that it didn’t traumatize me to do away with some people slapping women around,” Mattis said, but there was a growing acceptance that “we’re all post-traumatic stressed out” and that veterans were “somehow damaged goods. I don’t buy it.”
Mattis stepped down as commander of U.S. Central Command in 2013, reportedly after clashing with the White House on Iran. Now, his views on the threat posed by Iran appear to line up with those of Trump.
“Among the many challenges the Mideast faces, I think Iran is foremost,” Mattis said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last April.
“The Iranian regime, in my mind, is the single most enduring threat to peace and stability in the Mideast,” and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action worked out by Secretary Kerry and others to rein in Iran’s nuclear programs has not altered the threat, he said.
During the campaign, Trump called the Iran pact a “terrible deal” and suggested he would renegotiate it or possibly scrap it, but Mattis is against that course of action.
“It was not a mistake to engage on the nuclear issue” with Iran, he said, adding that the deal “was not without some merit” and “there’s no going back, absent a clear violation” of the agreement.
Kerry has been pilloried by Trump on his overall performance as secretary of state, but Mattis lauded his efforts in the Mideast, particularly on his thus-far fruitless attempts to bring about a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, the two sides must want peace “as bad as the secretary of state. I admire and salute Secretary Kerry’s efforts,” he said.
Should Mattis get the nomination, he would take to the Pentagon a unique leadership style that relies on feedback from the ranks. “Generals get a lot of credit but very little of it is earned by their own blood, sweat and tears,” he has said, adding that the credit should go to the front-line troops.
“There are two kinds of generals — one gets briefed, the other briefs his staff,” and Mattis made clear that he was the second type of general. “I found it faster if I would go out and spend most of my time with the lead elements” in an effort “to get a sense if the lads thought we were winning. We didn’t use command and control, we used command and feedback.”
“Wandering around like that really unleashed a lot of combat power,” said Mattis, whose nickname was “Mad Dog” and who had the radio call sign “Chaos.”
When asked about the most important trait for a leader, he said, “It comes down to building trust.”
Leaders must be able to make those in their command “feel your passion for excellence. If they believe you care about them, you can speak to them bluntly and they’re ready to go back into the brawl,” he said.
If he were to be confirmed by the Senate, Mattis would be the first recently retired general to hold the defense secretary’s post since Gen. George C. Marshall, the Army chief of staff during World War II. Marshall was named secretary of defense by President Harry Truman in 1950.
The choice of Mattis would for the first time put two Marines in the top uniformed and civilian posts at the Pentagon. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford served under Mattis as a colonel in command of the 5th Marine Regiment during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Senate confirmation would be the second hurdle for Mattis. He first would need a waiver from Congress to get around the rule barring military officers from accepting posts requiring Senate confirmation for seven years after retirement. Mattis left the military in 2013.