Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Today is a big day for Iraq, for the United States, and for the Coalition. Our troops have moved out of the cities, and Iraqi security forces are now in charge.
This is a good thing because it's time for the Iraqis to assume more control over their own destinies. While the role of Coalition soldiers will move to more of an advisory role, our quick reaction forces can assist Iraqi units if necessary.
The following article is from the Associated Press:
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Fireworks over Baghdad as Iraqis take over cities
By Associated Press Writers Kim Gamel And Patrick Quinn
BAGHDAD – Iraqi forces assumed formal control of Baghdad and other cities Tuesday after American troops handed over security in urban areas in a defining step toward ending the U.S. combat role in the country. A countdown clock broadcast on Iraqi TV ticked to zero as the midnight deadline passed for U.S. combat troops to finish their pullback to bases outside cities.
"The withdrawal of American troops is completed now from all cities after everything they sacrificed for the sake of security," said Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "We are now celebrating the restoration of sovereignty."
The Pentagon did not offer any comment to mark the passing of the deadline.
Fireworks, not bombings, colored the Baghdad skyline late Monday, and thousands attended a party in a park where singers performed patriotic songs. Loudspeakers at police stations and military checkpoints played recordings of similar tunes throughout the day, as Iraqi military vehicles decorated with flowers and national flags patrolled the capital.
"All of us are happy — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds on this day," Waleed al-Bahadili said as he celebrated at the park. "The Americans harmed and insulted us too much."
Al-Maliki declared a public holiday and proclaimed June 30 as "National Sovereignty Day."
Midnight's handover to Iraqi forces filled many citizens with pride but also trepidation that government forces are not ready and that violence will rise. Shiites fear more bombings by Sunni militants; Sunnis fear that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces will give them little protection.
If the Iraqis can hold down violence in the coming months, it will show the country is finally on the road to stability. If they fail, it will pose a challenge to President Barack Obama's pledge to end an unpopular war that has claimed the lives of more than 4,300 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
The gathering at the Baghdad park was unprecedented in size for such a postwar event in a city where people tend to avoid large gatherings for fear of suicide bombers. They ignored an appeal by Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi to stay away from crowded places during the U.S. pullback, which has seen more than 250 people killed in bombings over the past 10 days.
Security at the party was stifling, as it was throughout much of Baghdad where increased checkpoints dotted the streets and identity checks were methodical. Police using bomb sniffers searched every man, woman and child who attended the party.
In a ceremony rich with symbolism, the top U.S. military commander in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Daniel Bolger, gave his Iraqi counterpart the keys to the former defense ministry building, which had served as a joint base.
"On the eve of the 30th of June 2009 in accord with a security agreement between Iraq and America, Iraqis take the lead in Baghdad," Bolger said.
The withdrawal, required under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact, marks the first major step toward withdrawing all American forces from the country by Dec. 31, 2011. Obama has said all combat troops will be gone by the end of August 2010.
Despite Tuesday's formal pullback, some U.S. troops will remain in the cities to train and advise Iraqi forces. U.S. troops will return to the cities only if asked. The U.S. military will continue combat operations in rural areas and near the border, but only with the Iraqi government's permission.
The U.S. has not said how many troops will be in the cities in advisory roles, but the vast majority of the more than 130,000 U.S. forces remaining in the country will be in large bases scattered outside cities.
There have been some worries that the 650,000-member Iraqi military is not ready to maintain stability and deal with a stubborn insurgency.
Privately, many U.S. officers worry the Iraqis will be overwhelmed if violence surges, having relied for years on the Americans for nearly everything.
"We think they are ready," U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. He said his main concern was that a lack of progress in efforts to reconcile Shiite, Sunnis and Kurds was feeding the violence that still marks the daily lives of many Iraqis.
"Frankly they need to pick up the pace," Hill said of the national reconciliation effort.
The commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East, Gen. David Petraeus, expressed concern about the spate of high-profile bombings but said the average daily number of attacks remained low at 10 to 15 compared with 160 in June 2007.
"While certainly there will be challenges — there are many difficult political issues, social issues, governmental development issues — we feel confident in the Iraqi security forces continuing the process of taking over the security tasks in their own country," said Petraeus after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.
Despite some concerns, al-Maliki appears eager to see the Americans leave and has urged Iraqis to hold steady against any rise in violence. Ahead of national elections next year, al-Maliki is portraying himself as the leader who defeated terrorism and ended the U.S. occupation.
Iraqi officials said they are expecting some violence but would not allow it to trigger the sectarianism that nearly sparked a civil war in 2006-2007.
At that time, death squads roamed the streets, slaughtering members of the rival Muslim sect. Bombs rocked Baghdad daily — until thousands of U.S. troops poured in, establishing neighborhood bases and taking control of the Iraqi capital and other cities.
While the U.S. troop surge strategy was successful in stemming the bloodshed, many Iraqis also saw it as an affront to their national pride.
On a visit to Ramadi, a Sunni city 70 miles west of the capital, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, a Shiite, told the AP that when the sun rises on Tuesday "Iraqi citizens will see no U.S. soldiers in their cities. They will see only Iraqi troops protecting them."
Associated Press Writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Ramadi contributed to this report.
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Those of us who served in Iraq made many friends among the Iraqi people. We hope they continue to strengthen their democracy. They must also do whatever is necessary to resolve the differences between their various factions.
Charles M. Grist
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Darrell "Shifty" Powers, one of the legendary soldiers from World War II's famous "Easy Company" of the "Band of Brothers", recently died at the age of 86. The following is from the Roanoke Times:
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Veteran a part of 'Band of Brothers'
Darrell "Shifty" Powers, who died at age 86, was a hero on the battlefield and to his family.
By Neil Harvey
In a 2001 interview with The Roanoke Times, Darrell "Shifty" Powers talked about some of his experiences during World War II.
Powers, a United States Army paratrooper and sharpshooter, belonged to Easy Company, part of the legendary 101st Airborne Division. He recalled a bitterly cold day in the Ardennes when he was able to draw down on a German sniper, sighting his target by the misty cloud of the man's breath. He killed him with one shot.
"Right there," he said, touching his forehead. "Between the eyes."
But Powers, of Dickenson County, who died Wednesday of natural causes at age 86, was also reflective about such matters.
In the second-to-last episode of "Band of Brothers," an HBO miniseries that documented Easy Company's wartime exploits, Powers spoke on camera about the soldiers he fought and also hinted at the intrinsic tragedy of combat.
"We might have had a lot in common. He might've liked to fish, you know, he might've liked to hunt," Powers said. "Of course, they were doing what they were supposed to do, and I was doing what I was supposed to do.
"But under different circumstances, we might have been good friends."
Powers, who got the nickname "Shifty" playing basketball as a youngster, served three years in the Army during World War II and later worked as a machinist for Clinchfield Coal Corp. He found renewed notoriety when his military experiences were depicted on film and in the Stephen Ambrose book of the same name.
"He actually hadn't talked about it, his war years, until the book came out," said his daughter-in-law, Sandy Powers. "He gets fan mail from all over the world, and calls."
"For me and my kids, it's just amazing that our regular, sweet uncle was such a hero," said his niece, Cheryl Gilliland of Roanoke. "It sure changed his life in later years. He went places and met people he never would have otherwise."
Darrell Powers met a German soldier in 2005 who had fought against him at the notoriously brutal siege of Bastogne during the winter of 1944.
According to his son, Wayne, he had in September been scheduled to travel to Iraq to meet with U.S. soldiers, but health problems prevented it.
"He was so disappointed. He wanted to meet with the soldiers so badly," Sandy Powers said.
One of his closest friends, Earl McClung, of Colorado, in 2001 called Darrell Powers "a heck of a good soldier and a heck of a good shot."
"And he was there every time I looked up," he added.
"Our family had four boys and one girl, and I'm the only one left," said Powers' sister, Gaynell Sykes of Roanoke, on Wednesday. "He was a great brother. I know he was great at a lot of other things, too -- great father, great son, great husband."
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Our condolences to the family of this great American soldier.
Charles M. Grist
Friday, June 19, 2009
The following story was sent to me by a military historian:
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The Wedding Gown That Made History
Lilly Friedman doesn't remember the last name of the woman who designed and sewed the wedding gown she wore when she walked down the aisle over 60 years ago. But the grandmother of seven does recall that when she first told her fiancé Ludwig that she had always dreamed of being married in a white gown he realized he had his work cut out for him.
For the tall, lanky 21-year-old who had survived hunger, disease and torture this was a different kind of challenge. How was he ever going to find such a dress in the Bergen Belsen Displaced Person's camp where they felt grateful for the clothes on their backs?
Fate would intervene in the guise of a former German pilot who walked into the food distribution center where Ludwig worked, eager to make a trade for his worthless parachute. In exchange for two pounds of coffee beans and a couple of packs of cigarettes Lilly would have her wedding gown.
For two weeks Miriam the seamstress worked under the curious eyes of her fellow DPs, carefully fashioning the six parachute panels into a simple, long sleeved gown with a rolled collar and a fitted waist that tied in the back with a bow. When the dress was completed she sewed the leftover material into a matching shirt for the groom.
A white wedding gown may have seemed like a frivolous request in the surreal environment of the camps, but for Lilly the dress symbolized the innocent, normal life she and her family had once led before the world descended into madness. Lilly and her siblings were raised in a Torah observant home in the small town of Zarica, Czechoslovakia where her father was a melamed, respected and well liked by the young yeshiva students he taught in nearby Irsheva.
He and his two sons were marked for extermination immediately upon arriving at Auschwitz . For Lilly and her sisters it was only their first stop on their long journey of persecution, which included Plashof, Neustadt, Gross Rosen and finally Bergen Belsen.
Lilly Friedman and her parachute dress on display in the Bergen Belsen Museum (below).
Four hundred people marched 15 miles in the snow to the town of Celle on January 27, 1946 to attend Lilly and Ludwig's wedding. The town synagogue, damaged and desecrated, had been lovingly renovated by the DPs with the meager materials available to them. When a Sefer Torah arrived from England they converted an old kitchen cabinet into a makeshift Aron Kodesh.
"My sisters and I lost everything - our parents, our two brothers, our homes. The most important thing was to build a new home." Six months later, Lilly's sister Ilona wore the dress when she married Max Traeger. After that came Cousin Rosie. How many brides wore Lilly's dress? "I stopped counting after 17." With the camps experiencing the highest marriage rate in the world, Lilly's gown was in great demand.
In 1948 when President Harry Truman finally permitted the 100,000 Jews who had been languishing in DP camps since the end of the war to emigrate, the gown accompanied Lilly across the ocean to America. Unable to part with her dress, it lay at the bottom of her bedroom closet for the next 50 years, "not even good enough for a garage sale. I was happy when it found such a good home."
Home was the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington , D.C. When Lily's niece, a volunteer, told museum officials about her aunt's dress, they immediately recognized its historical significance and displayed the gown in a specially designed showcase, guaranteed to preserve it for 500 years.
But Lilly Friedman's dress had one more journey to make. Bergen Belsen, the museum, opened its doors on October 28, 2007. The German government invited Lilly and her sisters to be their guests for the grand opening. They initially declined, but finally traveled to Hanover the following year with their children, their grandchildren and extended families to view the extraordinary exhibit created for the wedding dress made from a parachute.
Lilly's family, who were all familiar with the stories about the wedding in Celle , were eager to visit the synagogue. They found the building had been completely renovated and modernized. But when they pulled aside the handsome curtain they were astounded to find that the Aron Kodesh, made from a kitchen cabinet, had remained untouched as a testament to the profound faith of the survivors. As Lilly stood on the bimah once again she beckoned to her granddaughter, Jackie, to stand beside her where she was once a kallah. "It was an emotional trip. We cried a lot."
Two weeks later, the woman who had once stood trembling before the selective eyes of the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele returned home and witnessed the marriage of her granddaughter.
The three Lax sisters - Lilly, Ilona and Eva, who together survived Auschwitz, a forced labor camp, a death march and Bergen Belsen - have remained close and today live within walking distance of each other in Brooklyn. As mere teenagers, they managed to outwit and outlive a monstrous killing machine, then went on to marry, have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and were ultimately honored by the country that had earmarked them for extinction.
As young brides, they had stood underneath the chuppah and recited the blessings that their ancestors had been saying for thousands of years. In doing so, they chose to honor the legacy of those who had perished by choosing life.
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No matter what that lunatic in Iran says, the world must never forget the Holocaust or the extraordinary individuals who suffered, died, or survived in the Nazi death camps.
Charles M. Grist
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
A lesson in "torture" from Colonel Bud Day. This was sent to me by a fellow Vietnam veteran:
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The prelude to the comments below, from Colonel Bud Day, Medal of Honor recipient - prisoner of war survivor:
"I didn't expect to be reminded of my treatment some 36 years ago on this holiday weekend but our politicians find it worthy to ignore what some have tried to recount to them, who have actually been there."
I was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967...a squadron commander.
After I returned in 1973, I published two books that dealt a lot with "real torture" in Hanoi. Our make believe president is branding our country as a bunch of torturers when he has no idea what torture is.
As for me..put thru a mock execution because I would not respond...pistol whipped on the head...same event. Couple of days later...hung by my feet all day. I escaped and got recaptured a couple of weeks later...I got shot and recaptured. Shot was okay...what happened after was not.
They marched me to Vinh...put me in the rope trick, trick...almost pulled my arms out of the sockets. Beat me on the head with a little wooden rod until my eyes were swelled shut, and my unshot, unbroken hand a pulp.
Next day hung me by the arms...rebroke my right wrist...wiped out the nerves in my arms that control the hands..rolled my fingers up into a ball. Only left the slightest movement of my left forefinger. So I started answering with some incredible lies.
Sent me to Hanoi strapped to a barrel of gas in the back of a truck.
Hanoi...on my knees...rope trick again. Beaten by a big fool.
Into leg irons on a bed in Heartbreak Hotel.
Much kneeling--hands up at Zoo.
Really bad beating for refusing to condemn Lyndon Johnson.
Several more kneeling events. I could see my knee bone thru kneeling holes.
There was an escape from the annex to the Zoo. I was the Senior Officer of a large building because of escape...they started a mass torture of all commanders.
I think it was July 7, 1969...they started beating me with a car fan belt. In first two days I took over 300 strokes...then stopped counting because I never thought I would live thru it.
They continued day-night torture to get me to confess to a non-existent part in the escape. This went on for at least 3 days. On my knees...fan belting...cut open my scrotum with fan belt stroke...opened up both knee holes again. My fanny looked like hamburger...I could not lie on my back.
They tortured me into admitting that I was in on the escape...and that my two room-mates knew about it.
The next day I denied the lie.
They commenced torturing me again with 3, 6, or 9 strokes of the fan belt every day from about July 11 or 12th...to 14 October 1969. I continued to refuse to lie about my roommates again.
Now, the point of this is that our make-believe president has declared to the world that we ( U.S. ) are a bunch of torturers. Thus it will be okay to torture us next time when they catch us...because that is what the U.S. does.
Our make-believe president is a know nothing fool who thinks that pouring a little water on some one's face, or hanging a pair of womens pants over an Arabs head is TORTURE. He is a meathead.
I just talked to MOH holder Leo Thorsness who was also in my squad in jail...as was John McCain...and we agree that McCain does not speak for the POW group when he claims that Al Gharib was torture...or that "water boarding" is torture.
Our president and those fools around him who keep bad mouthing our great country are a disgrace to the United States. Please pass this info on to Sean Hannity. He is free to use it to point out the stupidity of the claims that water boarding...which has no after effect...is torture. If it got the Arab to cough up the story about how he planned the attack on the twin towers in NYC...hurrah for the guy who poured the water.
BUD DAY, MOH
George Everett "Bud" Day (born February 24, 1925) is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and Command Pilot who served during the Vietnam War. He is often cited as being the most decorated U.S. service member since General Douglas MacArthur, having received some seventy decorations, a majority for actions in combat. Day is a recipient of the Medal of Honor.
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It's always nice to hear someone tell it like it is; especially when that person has "been there, done that".
By the way, the same people who did this to Bud Day are still in charge in Hanoi, Vietnam. Yet there are those who want to be "pals" with these animals. I still can't understand why any war veteran would want to visit Vietnam and break bread with such scumbags.
Charles M. Grist
Monday, June 15, 2009
It will be interesting to see what happens when all American and Coalition combat troops are out of Iraqi cities:
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Odierno: U.S. committed to June 30 pullback
The Associated Press
Monday Jun 15, 2009 17:31:29 EDT
BAGHDAD — The top U.S. commander in Iraq said Monday that he remains "absolutely committed" to pulling back all combat troops from urban areas by the end of the month, as provided for in a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.
Gen. Ray Odierno said a limited number of advisers and trainers will remain in the cities to work with Iraqi security forces, leaving unanswered questions about how many U.S. troops would remain and where they would be located.
"We will not get into any specific numbers, but it is a very small number," Odierno told a joint news conference with key Iraqi officials.
Odierno said the pull back of combat troops would also extend to the northern city of Mosul, where Sunni insurgents still pose a threat.
Earlier this year, he said Mosul might be one of the cities where combat troops might remain. Odierno said violence and tensions in Mosul have declined.
"I feel much more comfortable with the situation in Mosul now," Odierno said.
Under the Iraqi-U.S. security pact, American combat troops must withdraw by June 30 with all U.S. forces out of the country by the end of 2011. President Barack Obama has said all combat troops will leave Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, leaving up to 50,000 troops in training and advising roles.
The withdrawal from the cities will be a major test for Iraq's army and police, which failed to stem a wave of Shiite-Sunni slaughter in 2006. That prompted the U.S. troop surge of 2007 which is widely credited with quelling the violence.
Many Iraqis are happy to see foreign soldiers off their streets but fear their own security forces may not be up to the challenge.
Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh called June 30 a historic day that "will be written in Iraqi history."
"The American troops will complete withdrawal by leaving some technical limited members for training purposes of Iraqi government," al-Dabbagh said.
He also said the U.S. role in Iraq would be limited.
"There will be no combat missions unless by the invitation of the Iraqi government," al-Dabbagh said.
Violence has declined dramatically in Iraq, though sporadic attacks with high body counts continue to plague the country.
During the press conference, Odierno also said the number of foreign fighters coming into Iraq has dropped in the past 10 months to "just a trickle."
Odierno credited the decline to better security along Iraq's borders and efforts by Iraq's neighbors including Syria to curb illegal traffic.
The security agreement also requires the U.S. to release all detainees or transfer them to Iraqi custody by the end of the year.
Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi said the U.S. has released more than 3,000 detainees and handed over 750 more to Iraqi authorities.
Detainees loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have begun a hunger strike to protest alleged abuse in Iraqi prisons, according to the spokesman of the Sadrist movement, Salah al-Obeidi, who is unrelated to the defense minister.
More than 300 detainees from al-Sadr's movement began a hunger strike Sunday at the Rusafa prison in eastern Baghdad, he said.
Complaints about mistreatment of inmates in Iraqi prisons gained widespread attention last week when a Sunni lawmaker who was a champion of prisoner rights was killed after delivering a sermon at a Baghdad mosque.
They're hoping to draw attention to their plight and force Iraqi officials "to find solutions for their suffering inside the prison," al-Obeidi said.
Al-Obeidi said most of the detainees have been held without charge for at least a year.
"Their cases are still unsettled," he said. "Some officers demand bribes to complete their cases and release them."
Government officials could not immediately be reached to comment on the hunger strike or the allegations.
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It is the hard work and dedication of American warriors and their Coalition partners that have made it possible for the Iraqi people to have the opportunity to govern and defend themselves.
Now it's up to the Iraqis to make it work...
Charles M. Grist
Friday, June 5, 2009
I once comforted a man in his 80's who became emotional when he talked about his brother who died at Normandy. The surviving brother also served in combat in World War II, and he came ashore at Anzio.
Please take time to remember the warriors from America's "greatest generation" who courageously stormed beaches that were fiercely defended by German soldiers. Say a prayer today for those who survived and for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
The following article from the Army Times talks about tomorrow's ceremonies in France:
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D-Day ceremonies to honor 65th anniversary
Posted : Friday Jun 5, 2009 15:49:27 EDT
Ceremonies commemorating the 65th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of occupied France during World War II, will kick off in Normandy tomorrow.
Task Force 65, a group of about 800 U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen from 20 Europe- and stateside-based commands, will participate in ceremonies throughout the Normandy coastal region of France, including events at Mont Saint Michel on Thursday, Utah Beach on Friday, Point du Hoc and Omaha Beach on Saturday — June 6, the actual anniversary of D—Day — and St. Mere Eglise on Sunday.
U.S. Army units participating in the ceremony include elements of the 18th Military Police Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the 82d Airborne Division.
A French-sponsored airborne operation involving the French Army and paratroopers with the 101st and 82nd and more than 50 Army Reserve soldiers from numerous units will be held June 7 at Amfreville, a drop-zone site used by Allied forces on D-Day.
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God bless the veterans of D-Day and their comrades who gave their lives to begin the final destruction of the Nazi menace.
Charles M. Grist
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Here is another great article from Stratfor:
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LONE WOLF LESSONS
By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton
At approximately 10:30 a.m. on June 1, as two young U.S. soldiers stood in front of the Army Navy Career Center in west Little Rock, Ark., a black pickup pulled in front of the office and the driver opened fire on the two, killing one and critically wounding the other.
Eyewitnesses to the shooting immediately reported it to police, and authorities quickly located and arrested the suspect as he fled the scene. According to police, the suspect told the arresting officers that he had a bomb in his vehicle, but after an inspection by the police bomb squad, the only weapons police recovered from the vehicle were an SKS rifle and two pistols.
At a press conference, Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas identified the suspect as Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a 21-year-old African-American man who had changed his name from Carlos Leon Bledsoe after converting to Islam. In Arabic, the word mujahid is the singular form of mujahideen, and it literally means one who engages in jihad. Although Mujahid is not an uncommon Muslim name, it is quite telling that a convert to Islam would choose such a name -- one who engages in jihad -- to define his new identity. Muhammad was originally from Memphis, Tenn., but according to news reports was living and working in Little Rock.
Chief Thomas said Muhammad admitted to the shootings and told police that he specifically targeted soldiers. During an interrogation with a Little Rock homicide detective, Muhammad reportedly said that he was angry at the U.S. Army because of their attacks against Muslims overseas, that he opened fire intending to kill the two soldiers and that he would have killed more if they had been in the parking lot. These statements are likely what Chief Thomas was referring to when he noted in his press conference that Muhammad appears to have had political and religious motives for the attack and that it was conducted in response to U.S. military operations.
Chief Thomas also stated that the initial police investigation has determined that Muhammad acted alone and was not part of a wider conspiracy, but given that the shooting was an act of domestic terrorism directed against U.S military personnel, a thorough investigation has been launched by the FBI to ensure that Muhammad was not part of a larger group planning other attacks.
ABC News has reported that Muhammad had traveled to Yemen after his conversion, though the date of that travel and its duration were not provided in those reports. ABC also reported that while in Yemen, Muhammad was apparently arrested for carrying a fraudulent Somali passport and that upon his return from Yemen, the FBI opened a preliminary investigation targeting him.
The fact that the FBI was investigating Muhammad but was unable to stop this attack illustrates the difficulties that lone wolf militants present to law enforcement and security personnel, and also highlights some of the vulnerabilities associated with using law enforcement as the primary counterterrorism tool.
Challenges of the Lone Wolf
STRATFOR has long discussed the threat posed by lone wolf militants and the unique challenges they pose to law enforcement and security personnel. Of course, the primary challenge is that, by definition, lone wolves are solitary actors and it can be very difficult to determine their intentions before they act because they do not work with others. When militants are operating in a cell consisting of more than one person, there is a larger chance that one of them will get cold feet and reveal the plot to authorities, that law enforcement and intelligence personnel will intercept a communication between conspirators, or that law enforcement authorities will be able to introduce an informant into the group, as was the case in the recently foiled plot to bomb two Jewish targets in the Bronx and shoot down a military aircraft at a Newburgh, N.Y., Air National Guard base.
Obviously, lone wolves do not need to communicate with others or include them in the planning or execution of their plots. This ability to fly solo and under the radar of law enforcement has meant that some lone wolf militants such as Joseph Paul Franklin, Theodore Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph were able to operate for years before being identified and captured.
Lone wolves also pose problems because they can come from a variety of backgrounds with a wide range of motivations. While some lone wolves are politically motivated, others are religiously motivated and some are mentally unstable. Even among the religiously motivated there is variety. In addition to Muslim lone wolves like Muhammad, Mir Amal Kansi, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet and John Allen Muhammad, we have also seen anti-Semitic/Christian-identity adherents like Buford Furrow and Eric
Rudolph, radical Roman Catholics like James Kopp and radical Protestants like Paul Hill. Indeed, the day before the Little Rock attack, Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion lone wolf gunman, killed prominent abortion doctor George Tiller in Wichita, Kan.
In addition to the wide spectrum of ideologies and motivations among lone wolves, there is also the issue of geographic dispersal. As we've seen from the lone wolf cases listed above, they have occurred in many different locations and are not just confined to attacks in Manhattan or Washington, D.C. They can occur anywhere.
Moreover, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between those extremists who intend to commit attacks from those who simply preach hate or hold radical beliefs (things that are not in themselves illegal due to First Amendment protections in the United States). Therefore, to single out likely lone wolves before they strike, authorities must spend a great deal of time and resources looking at individuals who might be moving from radical beliefs to radical actions. With such a large universe of potential suspects, this is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Limitations on Both Sides
Due to the challenges lone wolf militants present, the concept of leaderless resistance has been publicly and widely embraced in both the domestic terrorism and jihadist realms. However, despite this advocacy and the ease with which terrorist attacks can be conducted against soft targets, surprisingly few terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by lone wolf operatives. In fact, historically, we have seen more mentally disturbed lone gunmen than politically motivated lone wolf terrorists. A main reason for this is that it can be somewhat difficult to translate theory into action, and as STRATFOR has frequently noted, there is often a disconnect between
intent and capability.
Because of the difficulty in obtaining the skills required to conduct a terrorist attack, many lone wolves do not totally operate in a vacuum, and many of them (like Muhammad) will usually come to somebody's attention before they conduct an attack. Many times this occurs as they seek the skills or materials required to conduct a terrorist attack, which Muhammad appears to have been doing in Yemen.
However, in this case, it is important to remember that even though Muhammad had been brought to the FBI's attention (probably through information obtained from the Yemeni authorities by the CIA in Yemen), he was only one of the thousands of such people the FBI opens a preliminary inquiry on each year. A preliminary inquiry is the basic level of investigation the FBI conducts, and it is usually opened for a limited period of time (though it can be extended with a supervisor's approval). Unless the agents assigned to the inquiry turn up sufficient indication that a law has been violated, the inquiry will be closed.
If the inquiry indicates that there is the likelihood that a U.S. law has been violated, the FBI will open a full-field investigation into the matter. This will allow the bureau to exert significantly more investigative effort on the case and devote more investigative resources toward solving it. Out of the many preliminary inquiries opened on suspected militants, the FBI opens full-field investigations only on a handful of them. So, if the information reported by ABC News is correct, the FBI was not conducting surveillance on Muhammad because to do so it would have had to have opened a full-field investigation.
Of course, now that Muhammad has attacked, it is easy to say that the FBI should have paid more attention to him. Prior to an attack, however, intelligence is seldom, if ever, so black and white. Sorting out the individuals who intend to conduct attacks from the larger universe of people who hold radical thoughts and beliefs and assigning law enforcement and intelligence resources to monitor the activities of the really dangerous people has long been one of the very difficult tasks faced by counterterrorism authorities.
This difficulty is magnified when the FBI is looking at a lone wolf target because there is no organization, chain of command or specific communications channel on which to focus intelligence resources and gather information. Lacking information that would have tied Muhammad to other militant individuals or cells, or that would have indicated he was inclined to commit a crime, the FBI had little basis for opening a full-field investigation into his activities. These limitations, and the FBI's notorious bureaucracy (as seen in its investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui and the 9/11 hijackers), are the longstanding shortfalls of the law-enforcement element of counterterrorism policy (the other elements are diplomacy, financial sanctions, intelligence and military).
However, politics have proved obstructive to all facets of counterterrorism policy. And politics may have been at play in the Muhammad case as well as in other cases involving Black Muslim converts. Several weeks ago, STRATFOR heard from sources that the FBI and other law enforcement organizations had been ordered to "back off" of counterterrorism investigations into the activities of Black Muslim converts. At this point, it is unclear to us if that guidance was given by the White House or the Department of Justice, or if it was promulgated by the agencies themselves, anticipating the wishes of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.
As STRATFOR has previously noted, the FBI has a culture that is very conservative and risk-averse. Many FBI supervisors are reluctant to authorize investigations that they believe may have negative blow-back on their career advancement. In light of this institutional culture, and the order to be careful in investigations relating to Black Muslim converts, it would not be at all surprising to us if a supervisor refused to authorize a full-field investigation of Muhammad that would have included surveillance of his activities. Though in practical terms, even if a full-field investigation had been authorized, due to the caution being exercised in cases related to Black Muslim converts, the case would most likely have been micromanaged to the point of inaction by the special agent in charge of the office involved or by FBI headquarters.
Even though lone wolves operate alone, they are still constrained by the terrorist attack cycle, and because they are working alone, they have to conduct each step of the cycle by themselves. This means that they are vulnerable to detection at several different junctures as they plan their attacks, the most critical of which is the surveillance stage of the operation. Muhammad did not just select that recruiting center at random and attack on the spot. He had cased it prior to the attack just as he had been taught in the militant training camps he attended in Yemen. Law nforcement officials have reported that Muhammad may also have researched potential
government and Jewish targets in Little Rock, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Louisville and Memphis.
Had the FBI opened a full-field investigation on Muhammad, and had it conducted surveillance on him, it would have been able to watch him participate in preoperational activities such as conducting surveillance of potential targets and obtaining weapons.
There is certainly going to be an internal inquiry at the FBI and Department of Justice -- and perhaps even in Congress -- to determine where the points of failure were in this case. We will be watching with interest to see what really transpired. The details will be extremely interesting, especially coming at a time when the Obama administration appears to be following the Clinton-era policy of stressing the primacy of the FBI and the law enforcement aspect of counterterrorism policy at the expense of intelligence and other elements.
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Copyright 2009 Stratfor.
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One of the biggest dangers facing Americans in the years to come will be the homegrown, lone wolf terrorist. This is the guy who was born in America, but who embraces radical Islam and who is willing to kill innocent men, women, and children.
Radical Islam IS the new fascism....
Charles M. Grist