Monday, November 12, 2007


Last week my wife called me to tell me about all the trouble she’s having with the various federal agencies she has to deal with to sign up for all the programs you’re entitled to after 20 years of service in the military. You know the deal, leave a message and we’ll call back, go to our website and send us an email…great ways of saying bugger off as nobody gets back to you.

After I did my husbandly duty and listened to her vent I began to think about our last 18 months of bad luck. It all began with a fender bender as my wife was driving home after picking up her custom made 10th Anniversary diamond band (only a few years late). Without thinking she looked up, saw the light was green and began to go…right into the rear bumper of the car that hadn’t noticed the green light in front of her. As it was clearly her fault and not wanting to involve the insurance company we paid for the repairs to both vehicles to the tune of $7000. Thinking hey this is the first accident in years so what, but no this just uncorked the evil Jeannie’s bottle. Shortly after getting the front end of our Durango repaired I had the first accident of my life on a snowy night sliding into a guard rail, 2 weeks later my wife spun out on the highway and did more damage, after repairing the Durango AGAIN to the tune of another $8000, I promptly slide into the back bumper of a mini van once again tearing up the bumper of the poor Durango for the final time as we still haven’t fixed it yet thinking the only way to stop the accidents is either sell our beloved truck or just stop fixing the front end. It’s embarrassing when the auto body shop sends you Christmas cards.

We’ve also had to go through our parents getting older, my wife’s mother getting skin cancer and my mother dieing in the summer, along with the normal troubles that go along with raising two teenage kids, having a career that keeps me away from home for to long, which leaves a wife trying to juggle too many things by herself.

I began to wonder what we’d done to cheese off the luck gods? Was it because we’d had a pretty good couple of years financially and had taken too many nice vacations? Bought too fancy of a ring for my wife, the new Mustang convertible for her birthday or the summerhouse on the lake that we just had to have? We both came from working class families, my wife’s father was in the military for 30 years, her mother worked as an assistant at a nursing home, while my mother raised me solo but managed to work her way up the chain within the federal government to become a regional manager before taking an early retirement package. My wife and I each spent 20 yrs in the military but after my service the private sector was booming and this has giving us our leg up, hopefully allowing our kids to start out a little higher on life’s ladder than we did but somehow recently it would seem that we’re facing more challenges with each day.

After thinking about all this for 15 minutes or so I decided that we in a rut, the luck gods had turned against us and we just had to grind it out and hope the tables turned for us soon.

The next morning as I often do, I began my day by reading the news on line. I went from site to site reading International news to Domestic news, this morning it was on the CNN site that a story caught my eye. The headline read “Soldier loses 3rd child” which just didn’t jive so I decided since I had time that I’d open it up and see what it was about.

The story was about a soldier who had been injured in Iraq towards the end of his 2nd tour of duty. The vehicle he was riding in had been hit with an IED and he like more and more soldiers these days had survived but had suffered a traumatic brain injury. Once stabilized, he was shipped back to the states for long-term treatment, which would last probably a lifetime. Unfortunately he was from a small town in Texas, which just didn’t have the medical facilities required so his wife and 3 children would have to travel to see him.

During a trip to see him his wife, tired and while driving the speed limit was driving too fast for the windy weather conditions at the time and probably more focused on the horror of what she was driving towards and still coming to grips with how suddenly and dramatically her life had changed went off the road or was blown off and flipped the family SUV. It rolled several times and left two of their children dead at the scene and the third child on life support.

Now the story’s headline made sense to me…the third child had been removed from life support once the remaining family members had gathered and had almost immediately died just a few short days after the accident.

As I read the story, which is one of the most tragic I’ve read in many years I began to realize how foolish I’d been the night before, for you see, my wife is healthy, my children are healthy, we have a good life…my wife’s mother is recovering nicely from her skin cancer and my mother had been sick and in pain for many years and is now finally without the pain that had plagued her for several years. Life’s daily struggles are just that, they are struggles, everybody has them and a few fender benders without any injuries is not bad luck at all, in fact it’s good luck as a truck can be fixed or replaced.

When you put your own situation into the proper perspective you’ll often find as I did when I read about another family’s pain, that you don’t have it as bad as you think and now I’m thanking the luck gods for all the good they’ve brought me over the past 18 months and over my life time of not having to endure the type of pain that this soldier, wife and so many others have had to do.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Today is November the 6th and the headline on CNN’s website shouted “07 deadliest year for US troops in Iraq”, which immediately reminded me of an earlier piece I wrote about the use of casualty figures to determine either success or failure of the war in Iraq. I went back and looked at great battles during WW I and II to support the theory that if you simply looked at the number of casualties incurred many of the West’s greatest victories would have been instead it’s greatest failures.

As a Canadian today’s headline for me was Canadian Corps take Passchendaele. This WW I battle began in July 1917 with British, Australian, New Zealand and French troops attempting to break out of the Ypres salient in Western Belgium. After several months of small gains the Commonwealth troops were an exhausted shell of an Army so to continue the battle the Canadian Corps fresh off it’s great victory at Vimy Ridge was moved into the line in mid October 1917. The Canadian Commander predicted high casualties but at this point the British High Command was determined to take the town and the high ground it sat on so the Canadians went over the top. In fact they went over the top several times before the town was finally secured on 06 November 1917, some 90 years ago today.

When all the dead were counted the Allies had lost 300,000 men of which 16,000 were Canadians and the German Empire had lost 260,000 soldiers. The total distance gained 6 miles!

As the Allied Army had little left in reserve the German Army counter-attacked on 21 March 1918 and took back all the ground gained in just 3 days.

It’s time to stop counting the dead to justify success or failure. Fantastic gains are often made with little loss of life while other great battles such as the Battle of Iwo Jima (7000 US dead in just five weeks of combat) come at a huge price. Every individual death is a horrible event and must be remembered and revered but a low monthly death toll is no more an indication of success than a high yearly toll is an indication of failure.

If you look back at any war it has it’s very low points and it’s successes often mixed with some of each coming right up to the final few days of the conflict and while it’s easy to dissect a battle 90 years after the fact knowing the outcome could you imagine today’s newspapers and politicians had we held the same mentality after the battle of Iwo Jima? We would have pulled out of the conflict, fired Gen Mac Arthur and impeached President Roosevelt. Funny how 52 years after this bloody five week battle history sees the men who planned that battle a little differently and is willing to tolerate the high losses of men. Why is that you ask? Simple…WE WON.

Monday, November 05, 2007


It would appear the Congressional Democrats have finally realized like the Taliban, that it is foolhardy to go head to head with the US military and have resorted to a new form of warfare on the administration. This is similar in nature to the efforts of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, small attacks with seemingly spectacular results that drive the MSM to produce ridiculous headlines.

The liberal democrats are currently being lead in this effort by many but a few stand out and their actions should be looked at:

Let me introduce the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Rep Henry Waxman of the 30th district of California. Here’s a congressman who has got the art of the spectacular CNN splash attack down to a science having taken lessons from Rep John Murtha his fellow Democrat who’s as equally loose with the facts. He loves to put out information papers just before he holds his hearings that often have nothing to do with the particular subject at hand but help rev up the media for the coming event.

Take the recent testimony of Eric Prince, the CEO of Blackwater USA. Just prior to the hearing Mr. Waxman’s office put out a 13-page press release outlining a plane crash involving Blackwater pilots that occurred in Afghanistan some years ago which was full of innuendo and supposition but lacking in any new information or facts. Now the point of the hearing was to look at Private Security Company’s providing services to the DoD and DoS in Iraq and was called in response although not specifically after the recent incident involving Blackwater contractors and Iraqi citizens.

Rep Waxman also recently put out another 13-page (he must love the number) press release again dealing with Blackwater in which a contractor had tried to sue Blackwater for not making him an employee after speaking to his local IRS field office. While every contractor I know working in the industry is in fact on a personal services contract meaning you are responsible for reporting and paying your taxes and other than life support services while working, and insurance under the BDA should you be injured or killed there is no residual support. The local field office of the IRA without contacting Blackwater supported the fired worker’s complaint and agreed to open a case file. Based on that the good Congressman put out his press release alleging that Blackwater may not have followed IRS rules and may own millions of dollars to the IRS in uncollected and unpaid withholding taxes. They won’t but who cares the name Blackwater is in the press in a negative way again.

Why is representative Waxman doing this? Well as you will see as this piece goes along it is part of a gorilla campaign by the Democrats to end the Iraq war and embarrass the administration while playing to the left wing base of the party. If Chairman Waxman can gather enough innuendo to have Blackwater kicked out of Iraq, the DoS cannot do its job, USAID cannot provide oversight to the many reconstruction contracts ongoing which means their quality and quantity will dramatically drop. Blackwater and every other PSC will not be able to recruit top quality men if the benefits of personal services contracts are changed to employee status contracts and the value to the USG will disappear as the added costs of taxes and benefits will be factored in to proposals.

Another piece to this guerrilla campaign is being lead by Speaker Pelosi herself. She’s out front on the Armenian Genocide vote saying, the committee passed it and therefore it should come to the floor. As we all know this will only further isolate our Turkish allies and cause them to retaliate in some equally public way such as restricting the number of flight allowed into their airspace per month which will limit the amount of supplies that can be moved into Iraq. Yes there are other ways to move supplies into Iraq but it would cost more money, meaning another appropriations bill fight, and would involve longer ground based supply lines being protected by you guessed it PSC personnel. Funny how when President Clinton needed this bill to disappear in 2000 after being passed by the Foreign Affairs committee, Republican Speaker Hastert did just that, he made it go away. What you ask was President Clintons reason for not wanting to provoke Turkey in 2000? He didn’t want to make enforcing the critical no fly zone in Northern Iraq more difficult.

Like Al Qaeda, the democrats have taken the fight to the street and are using the MSM to win the war of American hearts and minds since they lost the big battles with the administration like cutting funding, setting a date certain oh and the big one, the surge isn’t working.

It’s sad to watch the democrats stoop this low but when I read about Operation Pink activities and those of Westboro Baptist Church I realize what pressure they must be under from their base to reverse their failures in their battle to lose the Iraq war.

Whether it’s the exposure of interrogation techniques, wiretap techniques or bank transaction monitoring, the liberals and the MSM have done everything possible to ensure the GWOT goes on for much longer than it needs too. When Congress changed hands the Democrats began to see what happens to those in power, if they continue their efforts a Democratic president just may have to learn what really has be to done to win against the most fanatical enemy this country has faced since the Japanese of WW II. If that happens I can bet my pension that Chairman Waxman’s 13-page press releases will disappear in a heartbeat.

Until that day comes (and hopefully it never does) the Democrats will continue this death by a thousand cuts routine at every opportunity to continue to restrict and hinder the administrations efforts to win both in Iraq and the more general GWOT. Sadly they might just pull this effort off although I wouldn’t count this President and the US Military out just yet.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Is it OK to use a technique commonly known as waterboarding to extract information from our enemies? Is it torture, which the President has said is illegal?

Before you can answer the question is it OK to use waterboarding you really should have a sense of what it is. Having undergone the procedure during a very realistic training session I can speak from the point of view of having been on the receiving end. I have never been in a position to inflict it on others but was able to watch the videotape of myself being waterboarded, which also allowed me to study the trainers conducting the session.

After being asked several questions regarding my unit and about operational information my interrogators told me exactly what they were going to do to me and then proceeded to do it. Very simply, you are strapped to a chair or long board and reclined to a point where your lower body is elevated above your upper body. A cloth is put across your nose and mouth area but your eyes aren’t covered so you can see what’s coming. My interrogators (whose faces were covered and remain anonymous to me) gave me a final chance to agree to talk and then began to pour a large amount of water over my face. Initially I tried to tell myself to hold my breath, relax and think through it. That worked for about 20 seconds or so when my mind began to question this logic and started to say this is out of hand, the exercise is out of hand, this is real and then my brain began to complain that I needed air while gallons of water seemed to be poring into my lungs through my nose which caused my gag reflex to be overwhelmed, which in turn cause me to gulp hoping for air but only getting more water. The first session lasted about 60 seconds according to the tape but it certainly felt like a lot longer to me.

After the first session as I was gasping and spitting up water and feeling dizzy the questions rained down on me and the threats to repeat the procedure until I drowned began. I resisted fully twice more but after the third session and question period I broke and began to talk about everything I knew. I had lasted until the chair I was in began to tilt back for the forth time. I was sure I couldn’t survive another session (each session was progressively longer) with the amount of water I’d already taken in and decided I wasn’t going to die like this.

What I didn’t know was three sessions are the limit for training and there’s a doctor monitoring the event judging your level of hypoxia and your reaction to the training session so when I broke I was at the end of the pain but just didn’t know it. A CIA interrogator does the individual debriefing (nobody in our training class knew who broke or when and under what circumstances to avoid any long term mental effects on the trainees) and told me that my reaction had been normal. Most people last two to three sessions and then sing for all they’re worth. It’s a combination of fear of what might happen, known as fear of impending doom and the hypoxia that causes you to believe you’re in more eminent danger than you really are. In fact he told me one very hard member of Al Qaeda lasted seven sessions before breaking and even then he only partially broke but after a two day break to allow his body to recover it only took being strapped onto the board to completely break him. During those two days his mind had begun to fear the process now that he knew what was coming more than he feared what would happen to him if his fellow Al Qaeda members knew he’d passed along vital information.

So know that you know what waterboarding is, hopefully you can decide if it’s torture or just an extreme technique using physical discomfort and fear of impending doom to quickly trick a victim into telling his interrogators what they need to know to help take down other terrorist cells and leaders.

I don’t believe it falls under the definition of to torture (verb), which is according to Webster’s Dictionary: to cause intense suffering to//to punish or coerce by inflicting excruciating pain//to twist or wrench out of shape but Malcolm Nance (a SERE school instructor) who wrote a very good article on the subject and has both undergone and inflicted waterboarding on trainees believes it is, although I think his decision is based not on having been waterboarded but because he’s inflicted it. During the first review of my sessions I focused mainly on myself trying to piece together what I’d felt and what I was seeing, but during the second review I was able to also observe my interrogators who seemed to be almost in as much discomfort as I was. They certainly weren’t enjoying what they were doing and I noticed that different people had conducted the third session.

My de-briefer said one of the biggest problems they were having was finding people who could mentally handle doing this during training to their fellow citizens and they had to be changed out frequently to avoid becoming ineffective thus ruining the training goals. With this in mind, I believe it’s very possible that Mr. Nance simply sees this from the perspective of the pain he’s caused his fellow countrymen and not from the perspective of using the technique operationally against our enemies.

Mr. Nance also contends that by conducting this type of interrogation we validate our enemy’s torture of our own soldiers. Senator John McCain who was tortured during his imprisonment during the Vietnam War also believes waterboarding is torture. These are two impressive individuals and the reader should carefully weigh their words along with mine.

I believe that regardless of what techniques we use or don’t use to assist our interrogators in gathering information, our enemies, especially Al Queda or the Taliban will continue to use physical torture not as a means to just gather information meaning that once you break the pain ends, a la Gitmo, but as a means simply to humiliate, cause extreme pain, permanently disfigure and for personal amusement prior to killing. We only lose the moral high ground if torture becomes the norm and is used for pleasure and continues after the prisoner has provided the information sought. US interrogators use a technique that doesn’t do any permanent physical harm on a very few high-end prisoners for a brief period of time with a specific goal in mind. They have a doctor standing by monitoring all interrogations to ensure nothing gets out of hand and sufficient breaks are built into the interrogation plan to allow not only physical recovery but to assist with mental breakdown. Once the information sought has been garnered the technique ends and rewards are provided, which begins the milking phase so commonly talked about in the MSM by pundits who say this is the only true way to gather reliable information.

While I agree that a long-term strategy based on developing a relationship with the detainee is required to gather information and cross check the information gathered from others there is also a requirement in emergency situations whereby information is required as quickly as possible. I can tell you from my perspective that when I broke I did so with the truth, before my brain realized what I was doing the truth poured out of me almost as quickly as the water had poured in, for you see the hypoxia had also done its job in breaking down the barriers to resisting similar to intoxication. Later as the oxygen levels in my brain returned to normal I tried to back track and confuse my interrogators but it was too late. It should also be noted that there is no permanent damage associated with the lowering of oxygen levels in the brain for brief periods of time, similar to that experienced by mountain climbers who, when they return to lower levels completely recover.

While all this may seem repugnant as the nominated AG, Michael Mukasey's said yesterday it is a critical technique for interrogators as it works every time, causes no permanent damage if used correctly by professionals and works quickly which is critical in gathering information before other operational cells realize the senior Al Qaeda member has been captured.

When I asked my de-briefer how often this has been used operationally he initially refused to say exactly how many, when I asked for a general assessment I was told, more than once less than two dozen times. He also noted that the technique had never failed to be successful. You should know this man certainly wasn’t trying to impress, scare or deceive me he was deadpan and genuine. It would appear that more American citizens are waterboarded each month than enemy combatants ever.

War in itself is a horrible event but if we demand a safe homeland from a brutal and fanatical enemy then waterboarding is certainly not the hill of principles you want to die on but it appears our high and mighty Congress just may do so by taking another valuable tool away from those who are desperately trying to ensure that another 9/11 type attack never occurs again.