Military Truth https://militarytruth.org Dedicated to presenting the facts about military recruitment Mon, 21 Sep 2020 22:48:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://militarytruth.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-Military-Truth-site-ID-logo-32x32.jpg Military Truth https://militarytruth.org 32 32 140532974 F-35 A Trillion-Dollar Mistake https://militarytruth.org/f-35-a-trillion-dollar-mistake/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=f-35-a-trillion-dollar-mistake https://militarytruth.org/f-35-a-trillion-dollar-mistake/#respond Mon, 21 Sep 2020 22:48:43 +0000 https://militarytruth.org/?p=8044 The post F-35 A Trillion-Dollar Mistake appeared first on Military Truth.

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Is the F-35 a Trillion-Dollar Mistake?

Trump criticized the cost of America’s warplane of the future, but what he’s not saying is that it might be hackable and leave soldiers vulnerable. (Again, tRump is throwing B.S. ~ Don)
From Bloomberg Businessweek, Paul Barrett

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/is-the-f-35-a-trillion-dollar-mistake
(Personal perspective/experiences of Don Chapin: Like “MacNamara’s Folly,” not the book, but the aircraft at the time, the TFX, what evolved to be the F-111… that aircraft was also intended to be a tri-service fighter, but because of many disagreement between the branches, devolved to be a short- range tactical bomber for the Air Force only, instead. The Navy dropped out of its development after a $50M design change – in the early 70s – which was underway to change the cockpit from side-by-side to the Navy’s desire of tandem seating and the tailhook intended for Navy carrier landings remained on the Air Force version because of weight-and-balance considerations. However, that hook was a hazard that I observed ripping one aft fuselage apart when, in a short-field landing at Mountain Home AFB, it caught a landing strip safety cable.

From the very first development of the F-35, I personally observed the word to the manufacturing community was “geographically diversify” so that Congress would be less able to cancel the program with suppliers from every state involved. In fact, if a potential supplier in a desired state couldn’t manufacture the part he/she was bidding, one of the prime contractors would send a team to demonstrate how go about it. This diversification tactic has been successfully done on many largeDoD programs. Therefore, it’s highlighted in this piece.)

A pointy-beaked F-35B Lightning II idles noisily on a runway at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in southern Maryland. Suddenly the plane roars to life and sprints a mere 300 feet before abruptly lifting off and soaring into a cloudless, late-winter sky over Chesapeake Bay. A while later it zooms back into view, slows to a hover over the runway like a helicopter, then drops straight down to the concrete, where it lands with a gentle bounce.

A U.S. Marine Corps test pilot is manning the controls. If he were Air Force or Navy, his version of the military’s highly anticipated new fighter jet wouldn’t have this capacity to take off and land on a dimethough it would come with other custom features. This is why Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, who’s in charge of overseeing the acquisition of the F-35, brought three plastic models of the fighter jet to a December 2016 meeting with Donald Trump at his Florida residence.

Bogdan, a tall former test pilot who speaks in a raspy, authoritative voice, has been working with Lockheed Martin Corp., the plane’s manufacturer and the country’s largest defense contractor, since 2012. Nine days before their meeting, Trump had called Bogdan’s program “out of control” in a tweet, so the three-star general knew that at Mar-a-Lago, the president-elect would put him on the spot. But what he didn’t anticipate was Trump’s eagerness to demonstrate his own knowledge of aviation. Trump talked with pride about his personal Boeing 757, Bogdan says. “Anything about airplanes, he’s excited about, and he told me that the first time we met.”

Amid the gold-inlaid, high-ceilinged splendor of the Jazz Age château in Palm Beach, Bogdan explained the F-35’s advanced sensor system and stealth capability. Trump listened respectfully, but the next day he was back on Twitter, complaining about the plane’s “tremendous cost and cost overruns.” To Bogdan’s continued surprise, in the days before the inauguration, Trump twice telephoned the general at his office in an austere Pentagon annex in Arlington, Va. He wanted to discuss the allegations he’d heard that the F-35’s performance fell short of existing fighters. Bogdan hastened to reassure Trump that those claims were “myths,” “misinformation,” or “old information”—none of them worth believing.

On Jan. 30, his 10th day as president, Trump markedly changed his tone. He took credit for knocking $600 million off the price of the latest batch of 90 fighters and told reporters the F-35 was “a great plane.” Since then, he’s made the F-35 an emblem of his dealmaking prowess. During his Feb. 28 [2017], address to a joint session of Congress, the president boasted he’d “saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F- 35 jet fighter.”

In truth, thanks to Bogdan’s negotiations with Lockheed, prices were going to fall with or without Trump’s intervention. And the plane, discounts notwithstanding, is still on its way to becoming the priciest military procurement in U.S. history. Trump’s self– congratulation serves as a distraction from the larger issue troubling the fighter jet: its performance. While the Pentagon’s official line is that, after years of difficulties, the F-35 is meeting high expectations, skeptics both outside and within the military say it’s turning out to be a two-decades-in-the-making, trillion-dollar mistake.

The ambition to create the version of the F-35 that I watched on the tarmac at Patuxent Riverone that can make short takeoffs and vertical landings—was what got the fighter jet’s development under way in the 1980s. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the Pentagon’s tech arm, began working at the Marine Corps’ behest on an improved version of the Harrier, a crash-prone vertical-landing jet of British design. According to a Pentagon history of the F-35, Darpa quietly sought assistance from a research and development arm of Lockheed Martin known as the Skunk Works. By the early 1990s, the Darpa-Skunk Works collaboration had produced preliminary concepts, and the Marine Corps began pressing Congress for funding. The Air Force and Navy insisted that they, too, needed stealthy, supersonic fighters to replace aging Cold War-era models. Out of this clamoring grew a consensus that the only way to afford thousands of cutting-edge fighters was to build a basic model that could be customized for each service. “In terms of future tactical aircraft, this was the program,” says Frank Kendall, a senior Pentagon acquisition official during the Clinton and Obama administrations. “There was no other program.”

In 2001 the Pentagon declared Lockheed the winner of a five-year competition against Boeing Co. for the opportunity to build the F-35. At the time, the contract was estimated to be worth $200 billion over three decades. Lockheed, which is based in suburban Bethesda, Md., not far from the Capitol and Pentagon, would assemble the plane in Fort Worth, in a mile-long facility that’s produced military aircraft since 1942. In addition to the Marine Corps F-35B vertical- landing jet, Lockheed agreed to manufacture the Air Force F-35A, which would take off and land conventionally, and the Navy F-35C, designed for aircraft carriers, with larger, foldable wings, more durable landing gear, and a tailhook.

Not only was the F-35 going to offer a 3-in-1 cost savings for the U.S. military, the plane was supposed to help knit together the air forces of 11 American alliesincluding Britain, Israel, Japan, and South Koreathat have lined up to buy it.

But this one-size-fits-all promise quickly led to problems. For the F- 35B, the Marine Corps variant, Lockheed incorporated a novel propulsion system with a 50-inch-diameter “lift fan” positioned horizontally just behind the cockpit. When the plane goes into vertical mode, doors on the fuselage open, allowing the fan to draw in air from above and blow it toward the ground. Simultaneously, the plane’s main engine in the rear swivels 90 degrees to expel its exhaust downward. The combined force of fan and engine allows the plane to hover.

The lift fan made the common fuselage bulkier than it otherwise would have been. That, in turn, increased drag and decreased fuel efficiency and range. Lockheed engineers also discovered they had to slim the F-35B by thousands of pounds to make it light enough to hover. The degree of commonality among the three versions of the F- 35the shared featuresturned out to be not the anticipated 70 percent but a mere 25 percent, meaning that hoped-for economies of scale never materialized. A pattern of continual reengineering resulted in billions of dollars in cost overruns and yearslong delays.

Beginning in 2007, the Pentagon accepted delivery of scores of planes, even as Lockheed continued to make design changes and address myriad deficiencies. The military “didn’t follow the old rule of ‘fly before you buy,’ ” says Michael Sullivan, director of defense acquisition oversight for the Government Accountability Office, the auditing arm of Congress. Once new weapons are in the hands of the military services, says Kendall, the former Pentagon acquisition official, “there’s a lot of inertia to continue, no matter what.” Michael Rein, a Lockheed spokesman, declines to comment on what he calls the “ancient history” of this period.

The arrival of the Obama administration in 2009 brought new scrutiny to the F-35 program. Ashton Carter, a physicist and former Harvard professor of science and international affairs, took over as the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, known formally as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. (He went on to serve as secretary of defense in 2015 and 2016.) The dysfunction startled Carter. What was supposed to have been an economical plane at $50 million apiece had doubled in price, he recalled in a talk at Harvard in 2014.

Part of the problem stemmed from a policy instituted in the mid- 1990s aimed at reducing red tape. “This was a notion of trying to skinny down the acquisition bureaucracy,” says retired General Norton Schwartz, who served as Air Force chief of staff from 2008 to 2012. “In doing so, we regrettably lost much of the systems engineering ability that existed in-house.”

The “cost plus” contracts the Pentagon signed with Lockheed only exacerbated the situation. The company received all its costs and was eligible for a performance-based bonus on top of that. Despite the program’s disarray, the military consistently awarded Lockheed 85 percent of its potential fee. In his Harvard talk, Carter described confronting the Pentagon program manager, a Marine Corps major general named David Heinz: “He looked me in the eye—I’ll never forget it—and he said, ‘I like the program manager on the Lockheed Martin side that I work with, and he tells me if he gets less than 85 percent, he’s going to get fired.’

Instead, it was Heinz who was fired, in 2010. Carter switched the Lockheed contract to a fixed-price arrangement under which the government and contractor split the cost of overruns. Carter declines to comment for this article, but confirms his earlier account. (Heinz, now chief executive officer of IBC Advanced Alloys Corp., an Indiana-based company that supplies Lockheed with the housing for one of the F-35’s targeting systems, also declines to comment, as does Rein, the Lockheed spokesman.)

With the program about seven years behind schedule, the Pentagon estimates it will spend $379 billion over 40 years to develop and acquire more than 2,440 of the warplanes. Adjusting for inflation, that’s a 38 percent increase from the initial 2001 estimate. Add more than $600 billion for upkeep, and the total price tag approaches $1 trillion. But the aircraft has already paid off for Lockheed. Having delivered 210 F-35s so farmostly to the Pentagon, but also to Israel and other privileged U.S. friendsthe company is expected to derive more than 20 percent of its revenue in 2017 from the jet.

For all its stumbles, the plane’s geographic and political heft make it too big to fail. The three versions of the plane require a total of some 300,000 parts, and Lockheed has parceled out the subcontracting to all but five unlucky statesAlaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Lockheed says the F-35 directly or indirectly supports 146,000 jobs across the U.S., ranging from minimum-wage broom-pushers to engineers paid well into six figures.

Consider Arizona. In December 2011, Republican John McCain, the state’s senior U.S. senator and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, went to the Senate floor to declare that the F-35 program “has been both a scandal and a tragedy.” But less than a year later, the lawmaker, himself a former Navy pilot shot down over Vietnam, sounded mollified. The Marine Corps had decided to base a squadron of 16 early-production F-35Bs in Yuma, Ariz. Joining Lockheed executives and Marine Corps officers, McCain said at a dedication ceremony: “I am—after many years of frustration and setbacksencouraged that the overall program is moving in the right direction.” The F35, he added, “may be the greatest combat aircraft in the history of the world.” In addition to maintenance jobs at the Yuma base, the plane provides work for 24 subcontractors in Arizona, supporting a total of 4,620 jobs, according to Lockheed.

Across the country in Vermont, the independent Senator Bernie Sanders has disparaged the F-35 in the Burlington Free Press as an example of the Pentagon’s “long record of purchasing weapons systems from defense contractors with massive cost overruns that have wasted hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.” Nevertheless, Sanders has endorsed the idea of bringing 18 of the fighters to Burlington International Airport in 2019 to replace a squadron of aging F-16s flown by the Vermont Air National Guard. In the face of local opposition to noise and other environmental objections, Sanders said at a town hall meeting in 2014: “My view is that given the reality of the damn plane, I’d rather it come to Vermont than to South Carolina. And that’s what the Vermont National Guard wants, and that means hundreds of jobs in my city. That’s it.”

Lockheed says the jobs total in Vermont will exceed 1,400. South Carolina won’t lose out: There’s a squadron of F-35s stationed at the Marine Corps air base in Beaufort. There are also detachments in California, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, and Utah.

Bogdan at Nellis AFB in Nevada in 2015. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

Since Lieutenant General Bogdan took over the F- 35 acquisition program five years ago, by all accounts he’s kept it from going further off the rails. A blunt, informal officer who leads a 2,000-person bureaucracy devoted exclusively to the F-35, Bogdan wears an olive one-piece flight suit to his office in suburban Virginia. He explains that the F-35’s stealthy profile and matte finish are designed to allow it to succeed against foes with sophisticated radar and surface-to-air missilesthe Chinese or Russians, for example. “You’re the guy who’s going to knock down the door by going very deep into enemy territory, survive, and go against the very toughest threats,” Bogdan says. When in stealth mode, the F-35 carries only two bombs and two air-to-air missiles in an internal weapons bay. But once the opposition’s defenses are eliminated, the plane can be outfitted to carry six additional weapons, three beneath each wing. “I can go and wreak a lot of havoc,” Bogdan says.

He points to a three-week aerial exercise in February called Red Flag, which pitted dozens of U.S. warplanes against one another in mock battle over the Nevada desert. The F-35s, the stars of the show, recorded a 20-to-1 kill ratio, meaning they took out 20 opposing planes for each one they lost. And they dropped 51 practice bombs, with 49 direct hitsa level of accuracy Bogdan calls “incredible.” Other military leaders share his enthusiasm. “We can’t get into those aircraft fast enough,” Lieutenant General Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ aviation chief, told a House Armed Services subcommittee in mid-February. “We have a game changer, a war winner, on our hands.”

The F-35, in one of its most futuristic advancements, projects flight dataairspeed, altitude, heading, potential targets, and warnings— onto the curved visor of the pilot’s helmet. It’s almost a virtualreality experience, pushing the skills of even today’s Xbox-weaned twentysomethings. Six infrared cameras mounted on the exterior stream real-time imagery, allowing the pilot to “see through” the skin of the plane, including straight down. In a process called “sensor fusion,” the main onboard computer can meld data from the exterior cameras, the plane’s powerful radar, and an “electrooptical” targeting system. “It’s always looking in every direction,” says Major John Dirk, a Marine Corps test pilot. The visor’s profusion of images and information takes getting used to, he adds, but “I can see threats I wouldn’t have been able to see before.”

Some experts warn that test flights and mock battles are different from the real thing—and that the military’s enthusiasm should be viewed skeptically. “It’s groupthink,” says Pierre Sprey, who worked at the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. He belonged to a clique of aeronautical designers and engineers who called themselves the “fighter mafia” and helped design two respected aircraft: the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a maneuverable specialist at air-to-air duels, and the heavily armored A-10 Thunderbolt II, better known as the Warthog, which supports ground troops by flying low and slow, strafing the enemy with a seven-barrel 30-millimeter Gatling-type autocannon. “The F-16 and A-10 each do one thing well,” Sprey says.

The Marine Corps’ “obsession” with short takeoff and vertical landing, he says, led to F-35 attributes that limit the plane’s maneuverabilitythe stout fuselage, which increases drag, and small wings, which cut weight but reduce the amount of lift the plane can generate. If F-35s “face the best Chinese or Russian fighters, they will be lucky if they can turn and run,” he adds.

One could question Sprey’s objectivity, given that the F-35 is intended to put his creations, the F-16 and A-10, into retirement. Not so, J. Michael Gilmore, who served from 2009 to January 2017 as the Pentagon’s director for operational test and evaluation—the military’s chief weapons tester. Gilmore, who has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, warned in a memorandum to the Air Force in August 2016 that the F-35 will need support from other planes “to locate and avoid modern threats, acquire targets, and engage formations of enemy fighter aircraft due to outstanding performance deficiencies.” According to Gilmore, the sensor-fusion system fails to display some potential threats clearly, and the plane’s electronic warfare capabilitya reference to classified radar-jamming weaponsis weak.

In a separate 2016 annual report, Gilmore addressed the F-35’s protection of soldiers on the ground, saying the plane “does not yet demonstrate close air support capabilities equivalent to those of” the A-10 and other older aircraft. He cited the F-35’s limited weapons load while in stealth mode. The F-35 burns fuel fast, making it difficult for the jet to circle above a battlefield for long, Gilmore wrote. And he pointed out that test pilots aren’t unanimously enthusiastic about all aspects of the newfangled helmet. “Symbol clutter,” he wrote, obscures the visor representation of air-to-ground strafing, making that function unusable.

Perhaps most troubling are the complexities of the autonomic logistics information system (ALIS), which hooks up to the plane in the hangar and provides the information technology backbone for maintenance of each aircraft. ALIS requires 16 million lines of code, compared with 8 million for the F-35 itself. When ALIS malfunctions, which it does somewhat regularly, maintainers have “to use timeconsuming workarounds,” Gilmore said. (Interjection by Don Chapin: IT was exactly this problem with the F-11D model high maintainence costs that dictated that models early conversion to a more simple system, the F-111E) Last April the GAO pointed out that all F-35 data from across the U.S. fleet are “routed to a central point of entry and then to ALIS’s main operating unit with no backup system or redundancy. If either of these fail, it could take the entire F-35 fleet offline,” threatening to ground the planes.

Lockheed’s Rein declines to comment on Sprey’s assessment. As for Gilmore’s critique, the Lockheed spokesman refers to a Jan. 17, 2017, written statement by Bogdan. “The basic design of the F-35 is sound,” it said, but “we recognize there are known deficiencies that must be corrected.”

“This plane has a long way to go before it’s combatready,” says Dan Grazier, a defense analyst at the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight in Washington. “Given how long it’s been in development, you have to wonder whether it’ll ever be ready.”

In an interview, Bogdan responds to criticism of the F-35 with equanimity. He stands by the overall reassurance he offered President Trump but concedes the plane has kinks to be worked out. ALIS, he says, “is nowhere near as good as it should be,” and upgrades are under way, including building in the kind of redundancy the GAO noted is absent. Meanwhile, he acknowledges, F-35 maintenance personnel do have to “do a lot of workarounds.” Bogdan also worries that ALIS could be hacked. The planes themselves have been well-secured against cyberattack, he says, but ALIS connects to other government networks that are potentially vulnerable. This isn’t an abstract concern. A Chinese businessman pleaded guilty in 2016 in the U.S. to participating in a conspiracy with hackers from the Chinese military who prosecutors said stole plans for the F-35 and other American warplanes. Beyond ALIS, Bogdan says the other sensor and software glitches Gilmore and the GAO identified are being addressed and will soon be fixed.

The knock on the F-35 that it’s not maneuverable obscures a basic point about contemporary aerial warfare, Bogdan says: Up-close dogfighting is a thing of the past. “This airplane is very maneuverable,” he insists, “but it doesn’t have to be to kill another airplane air-to-air.” Its sensors can identify a foe long before the two pilots can see each otherand fire a missile with deadly accuracy at that distance, Bogdan says.

By contrast, close air support of ground troops presents “a tricky question,” he says. The F35 “doesn’t have all the capabilities it needs yet.” One feature that will be added to new planesand retrofitted on older onesis the equivalent of a laser pointer for tracking moving targets. Currently the F-35 has a surprising weakness in its inability to zero in on swift-moving enemy vehicles, Bogdan says. Only F-35As have internally mounted 25mm guns for ground strafing; in the future, similar weapons will be added in externally mounted belly pods on Bs and Cs. “When people are complaining about close air capability of the F-35,” he says, “they’re looking at what it can do today, and what it can do today is limited. What it can do tomorrow is going to be very, very good.” But not as good, he admits, as what the venerable A-10 already can do. “We designed the F-35 to be a decathlete,” he explains: versatile and adaptable, if not necessarily a medal winner in any one event.

Grazier frames this another way: “You have a plane that at best is a jack of all trades, master of none.”

On Feb. 3, 2017, the White House announced an $8.2 billion contract with Lockheed for 90 F-35s, the latest and largest batch yet. Based on a per-plane cost for the F-35A of less than $100 million, the deal trimmed $728 million from the last purchase. That savings exceeded the $600 million Trump took credit for after intervening with Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson.

Since late last year [2016], Hewson has met with Trump at Mar-a- Lago, Trump Tower in New York, and the White House. But long before Trump began tweeting about the plane, calling Bogdan, or meeting with Hewson, negotiations last year between the Pentagon and Lockheed were pointing to a significant volume discount. Bogdan told reporters in December that the contract would be valued at about $8 billion overall and that per-plane costs would decreaseboth of which happened.

The president has balanced his praise for the plane with the admonition that Lockheed shouldn’t get too comfortable. He’s warned that he’d consider substituting some F-35 purchases with Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets. During a Feb. 17 tour of a Boeing plant in South Carolina, he said, “We are seriously looking at a big order” of F/A18s. Lockheed’s rival as the second-biggest U.S. weapons contractor, Boeing has naturally tried to encourage Trump’s interest in the Super Hornet. “We’re excited to work with the new administration to bring the right capability to the war fighter,” says Dan Gillian, who heads the company’s fighter jet program. First flown in the 1990s, the twin-engine F/A-18 has seen action over Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s not really comparable to the F– 35. The Super Hornet, which is designed to fly off aircraft carriers, lacks the F-35’s stealth characteristics and its array of advanced sensors.

Still, the president wants Lockheed and the Pentagon to know he’s in touch with Boeing’s CEO, Dennis Muilenburg. When Trump telephoned Bogdan for the second time, on Jan. 17, 2017, Muilenburg was in Trump’s New York office listening in by speakerphone. Bogdan says he didn’t think Muilenburg’s presence was inappropriate: “The things I talked about in front of Mr. Muilenburg were clearly publicly releasable information. I understand the rules.” (In mid-March [2017], Trump selected a senior Boeing executive, Patrick Shanahan, to serve as the Pentagon’s second-ranking official. If confirmed by the Senate, Shanahan would have to recuse himself from Boeing-related matters for two years.)

Formalizing Trump’s fighter jet commentary, Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered a Pentagon “review” of the extent to which the F/A-18 could “provide a competitive, cost-effective fighter aircraft alternative.” But the review doesn’t constitute an existential threat to the F-35. Mattis limited the F/A-18 comparison to the Navy’s F– 35C carrier-based model. The Navy is scheduled to receive only 260 of its version of the fighter, with the majority of planes1,763slated for the Air Force.

Lockheed’s Hewson has become something of a Trump foil. At a Feb. 23, 2017, White House meeting with manufacturing CEOs, the president complimented her—and himself. “She’s tough, but it worked out well, I think, for everybody,” he said of the recently agreed-upon Lockheed contract. “She cut her price over $700 million, right? By over $700 million. Do you think Hillary would have asked for $700 million?”

Bogdan, who’s announced he will retire in coming months, is already negotiating the next order of 130 F-35s. He expects the total price to exceed $10 billion. Looking further into the future, beyond the F-35, Lockheed’s Skunk Works is again collaborating with Darpa on what the company’s website heralds as “nextgeneration” planes that will “maintain U.S. air dominance capabilities in the post-2035 world.”

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Military Sexual Trauma – It’s Not Just Women https://militarytruth.org/military-sexual-trauma-its-not-just-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=military-sexual-trauma-its-not-just-women https://militarytruth.org/military-sexual-trauma-its-not-just-women/#respond Mon, 27 Jul 2020 23:38:00 +0000 https://militarytruth.org/?p=7835 Finding Peace After Betrayal, from Military Sexual Trauma in Men: A Review of Reported Rates, by Tim Hoyt, Jennifer Klosterman Rielage and Lauren F. Williams, PhDs. "Military Sexual Trauma (MST) has historically been associated with female service members, but it is also experienced by male service members. There is significant variability in reported rates of men's MST. Averaging across studies covering the past 30 years, it was found that MST is reported by approximately .09% of male service members each year, with a range of .02% to 6%. MST is reported by 1.1% of male service members over the course of their military careers, with a range of .03% to 12.4%." (I remember that when Vietnam veterans began initiating such claims it caught the VA quite off guard. ~ Don Chapin)

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Military Sexual Trauma – It’s Not Just Women

Finding Peace After Betrayal

DAV helps Navy veteran, male sexual assault survivor access VA benefits

posted on

https://www.dav.org/learn-more/news/2020/finding-peace-after-betrayal/

In the years that followed his assault, Navy veteran Michael Stern’s endeavor to receive VA care seemed out of his grasp. After the Navy ultimately separated Stern, his mental health took a toll, which culminated in his suicide attempt.

It was supposed to be a celebratory weekend. Navy veteran Michael Stern had returned from an exhausting surge deployment to Somalia a few months prior and was looking forward to ringing in his 25th birthday on a three-day liberty pass.

What unfolded, however, changed Stern’s life forever. A man he had met that Friday night persuaded Stern to go to his house, a captivating home in an upscale neighborhood of Norfolk, Va. By the next morning, that man, a Navy ensign, had sexually assaulted Stern, setting in motion a cascade of events that ended his time in the military.

While military sexual trauma is often more commonly associated with women, up until 2018, more men reported experiencing MST than their female counterparts, according to advocates. Stern was just one of the nearly 81,000 male veterans who reported experiencing MST when seeking VA care last year.

The morning following the assault, Stern was unsure if he had been drugged—a question he has to this day—in addition to drinking. He said the attack was like having an out-of-body experience.

“I didn’t have any control, and it was almost like I was watching it on TV,” he said. “The last thing I remember is him telling me that if I told anyone about this, he would report me and have me kicked out.”

That was in 2008, when the military adhered to the now-ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which barred homosexuals and bisexuals from openly serving in the armed forces. Despite being a survivor, Stern was worried about potential punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

To help process the assault, he walked along the beach, wrestling with two possible paths forward—reporting it to his command or ending his own life.

Ultimately, Stern chose to report. After his chain of command was notified, he underwent a medical examination, but by then, any substances he may have unintentionally consumed had likely been flushed out of his body and any DNA left by his assailant had already been washed away.

Before receiving mental health care for the assault, according to Stern, he was required to enroll in a 30-day inpatient alcohol treatment program on base. To Stern’s outrage, the civilian staff facilitating the treatment program told him it was his fault since he had been drinking.

“Yeah, I was drinking, but it’s my fault because of that?” he said. “That’s not right.”

He plunged into a steep decline. To add insult to injury, the day he reported back to the USS Whidbey Island, a dock landing ship, Stern found gay pornography placed in his rack as a joke by other sailors. He sank even deeper into depression and anxiety, which wreaked havoc on his conduct.

Over the course of the next few months, he had fought a noncommissioned officer and was reassigned to another department. But the final blow to his military career was an arrest for driving under the influence. In 2009, after four years of service, including deployments to the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, the Navy separated Stern—officially—for failing alcohol rehabilitation.

Stern suspects, however, it was also retaliation for reporting his assault.

Such retribution is not uncommon, according to retired Col. Don Christensen, former chief prosecutor in the Air Force’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps and current president of Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit working to eradicate sexual assault in the military.

“There’s a culture of disbelief and culture of shaming in the military surrounding sexual assault,” said Christensen. “And they’re just not changing it.”

Christensen, who has experience prosecuting dozens of sexual assault cases in the Air Force, points to the Pentagon’s track record of providing justice. Despite a more than 20% increase in sexual assault reports since 2015, convictions have taken an almost 60% nosedive. According to the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, between 2016 and 2019, 64% of women survivors reported some retaliation after reporting an assault. When retribution was reported, two-thirds of alleged retaliators were in the affected service members’ chain of command.

Survivors of MST also tend to skew young. They are often lower in rank and feel powerless to battle against their chain of command, which is sacrosanct in the military. This leaves the most vulnerable exposed to some of the most significant flaws in the entire military justice system, according to some advocates.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, on the other hand, gets a passing grade from Christensen in its ability to provide resources for survivors.

“The services VA provides [for MST survivors] are getting better, but we definitely see, with male survivors especially, there’s a long way to go,” he added.

There are signs that the VA is improving. The grant rate for men claiming post-traumatic stress disorder from MST was just 27% in 2011, advocates told lawmakers earlier this year. The figure has risen to nearly 47% but is still trailing that of women, who receive a favorable claim about 58% of the time.

“We know as advocates that MST is not gender-specific, but it can be difficult to see that from the outside,” said National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “That’s why it’s so incredibly important to shed light on the facts so the people responsible for facilitating health care, making claims decisions, and allocating resources for treatment and programs can adequately meet the unique needs of those who have been affected.”

Stern began to seek VA benefits and care in recent years but found it difficult to join a male MST group at a nearby VA medical center, even with the assistance of a VA counselor. One program at the VA medical center in Palo Alto, Calif., only accepts patients who are enrolled at that specific facility. Another in Bay Pines, Fla., had a six-month waiting list, and Stern needed something more immediate.

He received treatment through a general PTSD program at the VA hospital in Cincinnati, completing treatment in January. He ultimately entered the Road Home Program at Rush University in Chicago. The intense 21-day group and individual program allows prospective veterans to self-refer, meaning a doctor’s recommendation isn’t necessary.

“If you’re not currently being seen or treated, it can be really hard to get into one of these programs without the chance to self-refer,” Stern added.

While Stern said he’s now on a much better track thanks to treatment, the 11 years since he left the Navy has been marred by chaos, isolation and struggles with mental health—including attempted suicide.

Years passed before he could utter a word about his assault, and Stern felt like a VA claim was out of the question. He had a common misconception within the veteran community that if he were to file for benefits he had earned in service, he would be taking them away from another, more deserving veteran. But that belief changed in 2017 when he moved to Utah and met DAV National Service Officer Derek Norman.

“A buddy said he had a friend out this way who was in a really dark place,” said Norman. “He was suffering from PTSD and needed somebody to reach out to him.”

The two met for the first time the next day and quickly became friends.

Stern finally thought the time was right to submit a VA claim for PTSD due to MST. The claim was approved, but not to the degree that reflected the level of his trauma. He turned to DAV, and now his friend and confidant, Norman, is seeking a rating increase.

“He’s still in a tough spot, but I’ll always be there for him,” added Norman, “not only as a friend but to guide him through his VA benefits and health care.”

Stern remains optimistic about the future. He currently lives in Ogden, Utah, and is looking forward to using the experience he gained as a Navy hull technician for a machinist job he plans to start soon.

“It’s not the end of your life; there are still good things to come,” explained Stern. “You can recover from MST. It’s work, and it’s difficult, but there are people out there who will help you.”

Read this article at your convenience! Download the PDF below:

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That’s an Illegal Order https://militarytruth.org/thats-an-illegal-order/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thats-an-illegal-order https://militarytruth.org/thats-an-illegal-order/#respond Mon, 27 Jul 2020 23:05:16 +0000 https://militarytruth.org/?p=7825 ‘That’s an Illegal Order’ – Veterans Challenge Trump’s Officers in Portland Two veterans asked federal agents if they understood their oath to defend the constitution and why they weren’t honoring their oath of office Hallie Golden, Sat 25 Jul 2020 01.00 EDT Last modified on Sat 25 Jul 2020 12.49 EDT https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/24/portland-trump-order-federal-officers-veterans-protests (Interjection- THIS SITUATION […]

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‘That’s an Illegal Order’ – Veterans Challenge Trump’s Officers in Portland

Two veterans asked federal agents if they understood their oath to defend the constitution and why they weren’t honoring their oath of office

Hallie Golden, Sat 25 Jul 2020 01.00 EDT Last modified on Sat 25 Jul 2020 12.49 EDT

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/24/portland-trump-order-federal-officers-veterans-protests

(Interjection- THIS SITUATION is exactly WHY we emphasize “THE CONTRACT” on this website: the contract that ALL military members sign, enlistees and officers. These ex-Navy officers understand WHAT an illegal order is, while the usual high school enlistee, which also constitutes the DHS troops conducting tRump’s “street clearing operation” DO NOT… any more than tRump, Cadet Bone Spurs, does… This situation can lead to MANY atrocities when ill-intentioned officers such as tRump give orders that the average high school enlistee, from basic training through military custom and lifestyle, is trained to obey without questioning. ~ Don Chapin)

That's an Illegal Order - Veterans Challenge Trump's Officers in PortlandFederal agents shoot teargas and pepper balls at protesters near the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, on 23 July. Photograph: Mike Logdson/

The Black Lives Matter protest in Portland looked to be winding down last Saturday night when US marine corps veteran Duston Obermeyer noticed a phalanx of federal officers emerge from the federal courthouse.

They shot teargas at the crowd and pushed a protester to the ground with such force that, Obermeyer said, she slid 6ft across the pavement.

The 42-year-old had driven about 40 minutes from his home in the Molalla area for his first protest after hearing the many recent reports of federal personnel in tactical gear emerging from unmarked cars with automatic weapons to pick up protesters. His plan was to observe first-hand what was happening.

But in that moment, he said, he realized he couldn’t stand by and simply watch.

In a Pokémon hat and Superman T-shirt, and with a cotton mask protecting his face, the 6ft 4in, 275lb man walked up to the officers and asked whether they understood their oath to defend the constitution.

 

Above should show a tweet with video from the protest the night US navy veterans Chris David  and Duston Obermeyer were attacked by anonymous Federal officers. Find it on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/LauraCranehill/status/1286375226247282688?s=20

“They are not supposed to be coming and attacking protesters,” Obermeyer told the Guardian. “They didn’t even give any warning, there was no ‘hey you need to move’, ‘hey back up’. There was basically them walking out and assaulting a protester just to prove that they could.”

Just a few feet away, Obermeyer was aware of another man, US navy veteran Chris David, asking virtually the same question.

 That is an illegal order - phot of US Navy veteran Duston Obermeyer in dress blues with medals
Duston Obermeyer. Photograph: Duston Obermeyer

Despite both being graduates of the naval academy, David is 11 years older and thus the pair had never met. But after more than 50 consecutive days of anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests in Portland, following the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, and the recent deployment of militarized federal agents by Donald Trump, both veterans had decided simultaneously now was the time to start asking questions.

“I’m not a big believer in coincidence,” said Obermeyer. “I believe that we both have similar feelings because we come from similar places and we truly believe in the constitution as it’s currently written and as it’s taught in grade school. And this is a violation of constitutional rights.” (my bolding ~ Don Chapin)

David, who came dressed in a Naval Academy sweatshirt and Navy wrestling hat, told the Guardian he believes they both came out that day because of their time at the naval academy, which instills “a deep level of integrity” in graduates. But also, he said, for perhaps an even simpler reason.

“We have the ability to see what is right and what is wrong. And what we both saw was wrong and we wanted to go out there and talk to those officers.”

Obermeyer also asked the officers whether they understand what an illegal order is, referencing the fact that military officers are required by law to disobey illegal or unconstitutional orders. (Negative, this is the responsibility of EVERY military member, per the universal CONTRACT, not just officers!! ~ Don Chapin)

“Assaulting an unarmed protester who is exercising their first amendment rights is illegal, that’s an illegal order,” he said.

That’s when teargas was fired on the two men. When that didn’t deter them, Obermeyer said an officer tried to hit him with a baton, but he caught it and quickly pushed him back. Another officer repeatedly beat David with a baton, breaking his hand in two places, an injury that will require surgery on Monday. He was also sprayed in the face with a white chemical irritant that he said “felt like flaming gasoline.”

Above should show a tweet from June 18, showing US navy veteran Chris David was beaten and pepper sprayed by anonymous Federal officers. Find it on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/dougbrown8/status/1284767148615692290?s=20

Obermeyer recalls an officer sticking an automatic weapon in his face, while another shot him at point-blank range with an orange chemical irritant.

After serving in the marine corps for over a decade, including as an officer, Obermeyer has experienced being gassed many times. In this case, he wasn’t sure what they had used because, he said: “I’ve never felt worse than I did that night after being sprayed in the face.”

His eyes and nose almost immediately closed up, and he started having a difficult time breathing. His clothes were drenched, and he said it felt like his skin was on fire. Others in the crowd guided him a block away and helped him flush out his eyes. It took him three days to recover.

Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, and Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, have repeatedly denounced the presence of agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the US Marshals Service and the border patrol.

Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, filed a lawsuit Friday in federal court against DHS, the Marshals Service, Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Protection Service, alleging their behavior violated state citizens’ right to peacefully protest.

Meanwhile, inspired by the events last Saturday, “Wall of Vets” groups have formed in Portland and at least five other cities across the country, similar to the walls of moms and dads, who stand in lines to protect the protesters.

The DHS said in a statement Wednesday that federal law enforcement officers are working “diligently and honorably to enforce federal law by defending federal property and the lives of their fellow officers” as “violent anarchists continue to riot on the streets of Portland”. The DHS and Portland police did not respond to a request for comment.

David said the officers’ response Saturday night to a largely peaceful crowd was completely disproportionate. But he said, it was also clear that they were not trained for this type of situation.

“They have no tactical cohesion to what they’re doing,” he said. “Duston and I are vets. We can tell what’s going on with these guys. There was no sort of command. They were running around and they were scared.”

As he watches the protests continue to balloon, Obermeyer believes the federal officers are actually “creating the situation that they are saying they have to be there for”. (my bolding ~ Don Chapin)

“There are more protesters as we move forward,” he said. “Things should be kind of winding down at this point and they’re not because federal officers are there antagonizing and creating the situation not dealing with it.”

Chad Wolf: who is the Trump official leading the crackdown in Portland? (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jul/24/chad-wolf-who-is-he-portland-protests-trump-official-homeland-security

Download the pdf file below to read at your convenience:

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20 Congress Members Who Understand What’s Needed https://militarytruth.org/20-congress-members-who-understand-whats-needed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=20-congress-members-who-understand-whats-needed https://militarytruth.org/20-congress-members-who-understand-whats-needed/#respond Tue, 21 Jul 2020 01:08:26 +0000 https://militarytruth.org/?p=7772 REPOST: 20 Congress Members Who Understand What’s Needed — a 50% reduction/reallocation of DoD funding, along the same lines as this article discusses, would result in a tremendous “Leap Forward” in redirecting America’s internal and global emphasis toward the ideals promulgated by our country’s founding fathers

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20 Congress Members Who Understand What’s Needed

(Interjection – The first DoD cost-cutting proposal I saw was for a 10% reduction in DoD funding, as mentioned below. However, having witnessed first hand, even before the failed DoD audit, the waste within the military-industrial complex, I STRONGLY felt a 50% reduction/reallocation of DoD funding was FAR more appropriate…Along the same lines as this article discusses. This would result in a tremendous “Leap Forward” in redirecting America’s internal and global emphasis toward the ideals promulgated by our country’s founding fathers. Ideals that resulted in refugees flocking to the U.S. during and after WWI and II. ~ Don Chapin, Capt. USAF, Ret’d)

By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, July 9, 2020

https://worldbeyondwar.org/20-congress-members-who-understand-whats-needed/

20 Congress Members Who Understand What’s Needed

The U.S. Congress has 100 Senators and 435 House Members. Out of the full 535, there are 20 thus far who have made themselves sponsor or cosponsor of a resolution to do what is most badly needed, move major amounts of money out of wars and war preparations and into human and environmental needs.

There are members of both houses who have arranged for there to be votes in the coming weeks on moving a mere 10% of the Pentagon budget to useful things. One way in which we can help them grasp how powerfully we demand yes votes on this is to start celebrating the 20 who have put a more serious proposal on the table. These are the 20 to thank and support and further encourage:

Barbara Lee, Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Raul Grijalva, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter DeFazio, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jared Huffman, Andy Levin, Rashida Tlaib, Jan Schakowsky, Ayanna Pressley, Earl Blumenauer, Ilhan Omar, Jim McGovern, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nydia Velasquez, Adriano Espaillat, Bobby Rush.

Here they are on Twitter: @BLeeForCongress @MarkPocan @PramilaJayapal @RepRaulGrijalva @RepBonnie @RepPeterDeFazio @ChuyForCongress @AOC @RepHuffman @Andy_Levin @RepRashida @RepSchakowsky @RepPressley @repblumenauer @Ilhan @RepMcGovern @EleanorNorton @NydiaVelazquez @RepEspaillat @RepBobbyRush.

You can promote this on Facebook here and Twitter here.

Here’s what else you can do (if you’re not from the U.S., share this with people who are):

1) Email your Representative and Senators.

2) Use the tools on the next page to share that action by email, Facebook, and/or Twitter. Or click these links: Facebook, Twitter.

3) Phone the U.S. Capitol at (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with your Representative and Senators. You just have to know your own address and that you want them to vote to move money out of the military. If you have more time, phone the local offices and ask for a meeting!

Some more information:

The U.S. government is expected to spend, in its discretionary budget in 2021, $740 billion on the military and $660 billion on absolutely everything else: environmental protections, energy, education, transportation, diplomacy, housing, agriculture, science, disease pandemics, parks, foreign (non-weapons) aid, etc., etc.

Moving $74 billion (10% of the Pentagon budget) would result in $666 billion on militarism and $734 billion on everything else.

Moving $350 billion would result in $390 billion on militarism and $1,010 billion on everything else.

Where would the money come from? According to Rep. Lee’s resolution:

(1) eliminating the Overseas Contingency Operations account and saving $68,800,000,000;
(2) closing 60 percent of foreign bases and saving $90,000,000,000;
(3) ending wars and war funding and saving $66,000,000,000;
(4) cutting unnecessary weapons that are obsolete, excessive, and dangerous and saving $57,900,000,000;
(5) cutting military overhead by 15 percent and saving $38,000,000,000;
(6) cutting private service contracting by 15 percent and saving $26,000,000,000;
(7) eliminating the proposal for the Space Force and saving $2,600,000,000;
(8) ending use-it-or-lose-it contract spending and saving $18,000,000,000;
(9) freezing operations and maintenance budget levels and saving $6,000,000,000; and
(10) reducing United States presence in Afghanistan by half and saving $23,150,000,000.

Where would the money go?

The priorities of the U.S. government have been wildly out of touch with both morality and public opinion for decades, and have been moving in the wrong direction even as awareness of the crises facing us has inched upward. It would cost about $30 billion per year, according to UN figures, to end starvation on earth, and about $11 billion to provide the world with clean drinking water. Less than $70 billion per year would wipe out poverty in the United States. Spent wisely, $350 billion could transform the United States and the world, and certainly save even more lives than are spared by taking it away from the military.

Whatever funding is needed to aid anyone in the transition from military to non-military employment will be a small fraction of the whole.

20 Congress Members Who Understand What’s Needed

 

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Making America Feared Again… https://militarytruth.org/making-america-feared-again/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-america-feared-again https://militarytruth.org/making-america-feared-again/#respond Tue, 21 Jul 2020 00:54:27 +0000 https://militarytruth.org/?p=7761 Making America Feared Again… The Trump Administration Considers Resuming (UNNECESSARY) Nuclear Weapons Testing By Lawrence Wittner, Global Research, July 20, 2020, Common Dreams 18 July 2020 https://www.globalresearch.ca/making-america-feared-again-trump-administration-considers-resuming-nuclear-weapons- testing/5718952 (Interjection – tRump’s child-like mind knows only fear and intimidation as means to control. I’m not a “Jesus-freak” but recognize Jesus’ main message was to change Moses’ […]

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Making America Feared Again… The Trump Administration Considers Resuming (UNNECESSARY) Nuclear Weapons Testing

By Lawrence Wittner, Global Research, July 20, 2020, Common Dreams 18 July 2020

https://www.globalresearch.ca/making-america-feared-again-trump-administration-considers-resuming-nuclear-weapons- testing/5718952

(Interjection – tRump’s child-like mind knows only fear and intimidation as means to control. I’m not a “Jesus-freak” but recognize Jesus’ main message was to change Moses’ fearsome god to a loving, supportive God.

As an ex-nuclear weapons electronics technician/team chief and involved with a weapons mishap that almost got myself and a large chuck of Puerto Rico vaporized – story noted elsewhere on this site – I’m VERY well aware of the role human error can play in the potential of nuclear disaster and self-annihilation. NO MORE TESTING AND DEVELOPMENT!!! The emboldened/italicized font in several sections of this article is my own. Some are also my added comments. ~ Don Chapin, Capt. USAF Ret’d)

(Here’s a rack of descendents of the Mk 28 nuclear weapon I worked on in the ‘50’s to ‘70’s... actually, that bomb rack appears to be exactly the same model I worked on then, too. ~ Don Chapin)

“The nuclear testing now being considered by the Trump administration is designed with the same purpose that weapons have traditionally had in world affairs: to intimidate other nations.”

Pictured above is a rack of descendants of the Mk 28 nuclear weapon I worked on in the ‘50’s to ‘70’s. Actually, that bomb rack appears to be exactly the same model I worked on then, too. ~ Don Chapin

***

Americans who grew up with nightmares of nuclear weapons explosions should get ready for some terrifying flashbacks, for the Trump administration appears to be preparing to resume U.S. nuclear weapons tests.

The U.S. government stopped its atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in 1962, shortly before signing the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963.  And it halted its underground nuclear tests in 1992, signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996.  Overall, it conducted 1,030 nuclear weapons test explosions, slightly more than half the global total.

Nuclear tests, of course, enabled the nine nuclear powers to develop bigger and more efficient nuclear weapons for the purpose of waging nuclear war.  Along the way, millions of people in the United States and other nations died or developed illnesses caused by the radioactive fallout from these tests.

The CTBT, which banned all nuclear weapons tests, has been signed by 184 nations, including the United States.  This century, only North Korea has flouted the treaty, triggering an avalanche of condemnation from other nations.

But the Trump administration now seems to be preparing to ignore treaty constraints and world opinion by reviving nuclear weapons explosions.  A Washington Post article reported that, in mid-May 2020, a meeting of senior U.S. officials from top national security agencies engaged in serious discussions about U.S. nuclear test resumption.  According to one official, the idea was that test renewal would help pressure Russia and China into making concessions during future negotiations over nuclear weapons.

In an apparent follow-up, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced an amendment to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would give the Trump administration “no less than $10 million” to conduct a nuclear weapons test, “if necessary.”  Taken up by the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 10, the amendment passed by a vote along strict party lines. (Which figures!!! ~ Don) Currently, Congress is debating the NDAA.

Meanwhile, during a press briefing in Brussels, the administration’s special envoy for arms control stated that the U.S. government “will maintain the ability to conduct nuclear tests if we see reason to do so.”  Although he said he was “not aware of any reason to test at this stage,” he added that he would not “shut the door on it,” either.  “Why would we?”

Actually, there are numerous reasons why the resumption of U.S. nuclear weapons explosions is a terrible idea.  If the U.S. government began atmospheric nuclear testing, it would violate the Partial Test Ban Treaty (which it ratified), as well as the CTBT (which it signed but, thanks to Republican Senate opposition, has not yet ratified).  Even if U.S. nuclear tests were conducted underground and, thus, violated only the CTBT, the result would be a dramatic loss of credibility for the United States and an escalation of the nuclear arms race.  As Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, has remarked:  “Other nuclear powers would undoubtedly seize the opportunity provided by a U.S. nuclear blast to engage in explosive tests of their own, which could help them perfect new and more dangerous types of warheads.”

In addition, a considerable numbers of non-nuclear nations might decide that, given the U.S. government’s failure to fulfill its treaty obligations, their adherence to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty no longer made sense.  Therefore, they would begin nuclear testing to facilitate developing their own nuclear weapons arsenals.

Unreported by the Media: America’s Nuclear Weapons Tests. The Truth is a “Bitter Pill”

Furthermore, U.S. nuclear weapons explosions, whether in the atmosphere or underground, would have serious health and environmental consequences.  Even underground U.S. tests have released large quantities of radioactive fallout, and the U.S. government is still dealing with the devastation they caused to communities near the testing sites.  Furthermore, no method has been found for cleaning up the plutonium and other radionuclides that the tests have left underground.

Remarkably, there is no military necessity for nuclear test resumption.  Not only does the U.S. government possess nearly half the world’s nuclear weapons, which are quite sufficient to eradicate life on earth, but the occasionally-cited justification for testing―that it is necessary to make sure U.S. weapons actually work—is deeply flawed.  The U.S. government has spent tens of billions of dollars on the Stockpile Stewardship Program, a wide range of diagnostic, non-explosive tests, to ensure that its nuclear weapons are reliable.  And every year the directors of the U.S. nuclear weapons labs report that they are.

In fact, the nuclear testing now being considered by the Trump administration is designed with the same purpose that weapons have traditionally had in world affairs:  to intimidate other nations.  Within this framework, it makes perfect sense to use U.S. military might to bully the Russian and Chinese governments into compliance with U.S. government demands.  The problem with that kind of thinking is that military intimidation is a very dangerous game, especially when it’s played with nuclear weapons.

Naturally, nuclear critics have assailed Trump’s new military gambit.  John Tierney, the executive director of the Council for a Livable World, declared that the administration’s reported consideration of nuclear tests “was as reckless as it was stupid.  The United States does not need to conduct explosive nuclear tests and we don’t want anyone else to, either.”  Congressional Democrats have been particularly outspoken in opposition.  In early June, Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), a long-time Congressional leader on nuclear arms control and disarmament issues—joined by 13 other Democratic Senators, including Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer—introduced the Preserving Leadership Against Nuclear Explosives Testing (PLANET) Act, which would prohibit funding for U.S. nuclear tests.

On July 16, Markey joined distinguished scientists and other nuclear experts at a virtual press conference to announce the publication of an Open Letter in Science calling upon the nation’s scientific community to support the PLANET Act and oppose nuclear test resumption.

Who knows?  Under fire, Trump might suddenly declare that he never heard of the idea!

From Common Dreams: Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Dr. Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY/Albany and the author of Confronting the Bomb (Stanford University Press). (https://www.lawrenceswittner.com/

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Trump ordered officials to find some reason to deny Vindman’s promotion—they found nothing https://militarytruth.org/trump-ordered-officials-to-find-some-reason-to-deny-vindmans-promotion-they-found-nothing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-ordered-officials-to-find-some-reason-to-deny-vindmans-promotion-they-found-nothing https://militarytruth.org/trump-ordered-officials-to-find-some-reason-to-deny-vindmans-promotion-they-found-nothing/#respond Fri, 10 Jul 2020 22:01:19 +0000 https://militarytruth.org/?p=7615 These quotes sum it up: “That’s not a unique situation. It’s exactly the kind of thing that happens to many in the military when they’ve done ‘something wrong’”...., “It’s a personal tragedy for a man who should have had another decade or more of contributing to the future of the nation he loved. It’s a national tragedy in that it clearly shows how Trump is willing to use his power to quash the lives of honorable people who have the temerity to believe that America is what America claims to be.”

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Mark Sumner , Daily Kos Staff , Friday July 10, 2020 · 6:09 AM PDT

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/7/10/1959642/-Trump- ordered-officials-to-find-some-reason-to-deny-Vindman-s-promotion-they-found-nothing

(Interjection – These quotes sum it up: “That’s not a unique situation. It’s exactly the kind of thing that happens to many in the military when they’ve done ‘something wrong’”…., “It’s a personal tragedy for a man who should have had another decade or more of contributing to the future of the nation he loved. It’s a national tragedy in that it clearly shows how Trump is willing to use his power to quash the lives of honorable people who have the temerity to believe that America is what America claims to be.” Underlining is mine ~Don Chapin)

Lt. Col. Vindman

The early retirement of Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman isn’t the largest story in a nation racked by a deadly pandemic, a fragmented economy, and an ongoing fight to restructure public safety in the face of racial violence by police. No one died in this story. No one was locked in a detention center. No one was pulled before a kangaroo court.

But as more details emerge on Vindman’s final months in the U. S. military, his story does seem to encapsulate so many themes of the last three years. In part that’s because Vindman’s story is the American story—an immigrant who demonstrated that, in America, he could be accepted right in the heart of the government for his expertise. In part that’s because Vindman so clearly placed his bet on honesty and patriotism, trusting in the story of America that America tells itself. And in part it’s because Vindman’s story is the story of Donald Trump’s America, where nothing is more important than vengeance.

Vindman wasn’t kicked out of the military and he wasn’t facing charges—it was just clear that he was facing a future of … no future. The promotion he was due to receive this summer was not going to happen. Worse still, it was made clear to him that his lifetime of experience in working on issues related to Ukraine, Russia, and Eastern Europe was now worthless, because he was not going to be allowed to work in this area. Instead, what Vindman faced was a future of make-work positions, deliberately structured to make it clear both to him, and everyone else, that he was just marking time without the potential for further achievements.

That’s not a unique situation. It’s exactly the kind of thing that happens to many in the military when they’ve done something wrong. Captains who lose a ship, commanders who make a huge tactical mistake, anyone suspected of a crime that can never be quite nailed down … they can end up with a few key words in their files, a “black spot” that’s obvious every time they’re up for promotion or assignment. Facing a lifetime of zero potential and unfulfilling assignments, resignation is the expected response. Those who don’t resign right away, soon realize just how cold it can be within the military when the chain of command turns its back.

The thing is that Vindman got such a black spot without doing anything wrong. As The New Yorker reports, Vindman’s colleagues and supervisors had nothing but praise.

When he went in front of the House to testify in Trump’s impeachment, Vindman began with an opening statement for the ages, one that underscored both his commitment to the nation, and his belief in the character of America. “Dad, my sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected officials, is proof that you made the right decision, forty years ago, to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America, in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry—I will be fine for telling the truth.”

In these faded times, it might have almost seemed as if Vindman was being ironic. However, his former boss Fiona Hill makes it clear that the moving statement was exactly as honest as it seemed. “Alex had no clue,” said Hill. “He’s a distinguished soldier and was not involved in politics. He was prepared to deal with the enemy outside, but not when the enemy was within. He was pretty shocked as it played out.”

After being escorted out of the White House, Vindman was slated to be promoted to full colonel, go to the National War College for a season, then return to a foreign posting. None of that happened. Because the White House made it clear that Trump opposed Vindman’s promotion.

Instead, White House officials informed Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy that they should “dig for misconduct” and find something in Vindman’s record that would justify blocking his promotion. Esper and McCarthy dug. They didn’t find anything.

It didn’t matter. Vindman was made aware that he would not be promoted, and “never be deployable overseas again.” He took the route that many have taken in the past and left under his own power.

It’s a personal tragedy for a man who should have had another decade or more of contributing to the future of the nation he loved. It’s a national tragedy in that it clearly shows how Trump is willing to use his power to quash the lives of honorable people who have the temerity to believe that America is what America claims to be.

 

To: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman

After enduring months of “bullying [and] intimidation,” Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — who courageously testified about President Trump and the Ukraine scandal in the House’s impeachment inquiry — is leaving the US Army.

Trump and his administration have stripped Vindman of his job, his career, and his privacy — all in childish retaliation for speaking the truth. The American people stand with Vindman and thank him for doing this country a great service.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman has been strong-armed out of the military after more than 21 years of service — and right now, he needs to know that he has the American people’s support.

Back in February, Trump fired Vindman from his role as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council — and had Vindman escorted from the White House, along with his twin brother.

Why? Because Vindman gave explosive testimony during the House’s impeachment inquiry — and revealed shocking details about Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president, where he tried to extort Ukraine into investigating the Bidens.

But Trump’s vengeful crusade didn’t stop there. Even after leaving the White House, Vindman has reportedly been subject to a “campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation” spearheaded by the president. And the White House even allegedly sought to block Vindman’s promotion to the rank of colonel.

Now, this Purple Heart recipient is leaving the US Army altogether – – because he believes his future in the armed forces “will forever be limited” by political retaliation from Trump and his allies.

Vindman is a patriot. He felt, in his words, a “sense of duty” to tell the truth — and no matter what Trump or his Senate enablers do, nothing can change the important truth that Vindman shared.

Right now, we need thousands of concerned Americans like you to send Lt. Col. Vindman your support — and thank him for standing up for what’s right, even when it cost him his livelihood.

=======================================================

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A Working Model to ‘Defund the Police’ https://militarytruth.org/a-working-model-to-defund-the-police/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-working-model-to-defund-the-police https://militarytruth.org/a-working-model-to-defund-the-police/#respond Wed, 08 Jul 2020 18:28:31 +0000 https://militarytruth.org/?p=7581 This town of 170,000 replaced some cops with medics and mental health workers. It's worked for over 30 years

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A Working Model to ‘Defund the Police’

This town of 170,000 replaced some cops with medics and mental health workers. It’s worked for over 30 years

By Scottie Andrew, CNN

Updated 10:10 PM ET, Sun July 5, 2020

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/05/us/cahoots-replace-police-mental-health-trnd/index.html

Eugene Police officer Bo Rankin, left, meets with Cahoots administrative coordinator Ben Brubaker and emergency crisis worker Matt Eads, right, after working a shift together as part of the Community Outreach

Eugene Police officer Bo Rankin, left, meets with Cahoots administrative coordinator Ben Brubaker and emergency crisis worker Matt Eads, right, after working a shift together as part of the Community Outreach Response Team in Eugene. Mandatory Credit: Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via USA TODAY NETWORK

 

(CNN) Around 30 years ago, a town in Oregon retrofitted an old van, staffed it with young medics and mental health counselors and sent them out to respond to the kinds of 911 calls that wouldn’t necessarily require police intervention.

In the town of 172,000, they were the first responders for mental health crises, homelessness, substance abuse, threats of suicide — the problems for which there are no easy fixes. The problems that, in the hands of police, have often turned violent.
Today, the program, called CAHOOTS, has three vans, more than double the number of staffers and the attention of a country in crisis.
CAHOOTS is already doing what police reform advocates say is necessary to fundamentally change the US criminal justice system — pass off some responsibilities to unarmed civilians.
Cities much larger and more diverse than Eugene have asked CAHOOTS staff to help them build their own version of the program. CAHOOTS wouldn’t work everywhere, at least not in the form it exists in in Eugene.
But it’s a template for what it’s like to live in a city with limited police.

It’s centered around a holistic approach

Nurse Celene Eldrich, a volunteer nurse for CAHOOTS, waits to screen guests for health concerns at the Egan Warming Center's Springfield location in March.

CAHOOTS comes from White Bird Clinic, a social services center that’s operated in Eugene since the late 1960s. It was the brainchild of some counterculture activists who’d felt the hole where a community health center should be. And in 1989, after 20 years of earning the community’s trust, CAHOOTS was created.
It stands for Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets and cheekily refers to the relationship between the community health center that started it and the Eugene Police Department.
Most of the clients White Bird assisted — unsheltered people or those with mental health issues — didn’t respond well to police. And for the many more people they hadn’t yet helped, they wanted to make their services mobile, said David Zeiss, the program’s co-founder.
“We knew that we were good at it,” he said. “And we knew it was something of value to a lot of people … we needed to be known and used by other agencies that commonly encounter crisis situation.”
It works this way: 911 dispatchers filter calls they receive — if they’re violent or criminal, they’re sent to police. If they’re within CAHOOTS’ purview, the van-bound staff will take the call. They prep what equipment they’ll need, drive to the scene and go from there.
The program started small, with a van Zeiss called a “junker,” some passionate paraprofessionals and just enough funding to staff CAHOOTS 40 hours a week.
It always paired one medic, usually a nurse or EMT, with a crisis responder trained in behavioral health. That holistic approach is core to its model.
Per self-reported data, CAHOOTS workers responded to 24,000 calls in 2019 — about 20% of total dispatches. About 150 of those required police backup.
CAHOOTS says the program saves the city about $8.5 million in public safety costs every year, plus another $14 million in ambulance trips and ER costs.

It had to overcome mutual mistrust with police

White Bird’s counterculture roots ran deep — the clinic used to fundraise at Grateful Dead concerts in the West, where volunteer medics would treat Deadheads — so the pairing between police and the clinic wasn’t an immediately fruitful one.
There was “mutual mistrust” between them, said Zeiss, who retired in 2014.
“It’s true there was a tendency to be mistrustful of the police in our agency and our culture,” he said. “It was an obstacle we had to overcome.”
And for the most part, both groups have: Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner called theirs a “symbiotic relationship” that better serves some residents of Eugene.
“When they show up, they have better success than police officers do,” he said. “We’re wearing a uniform, a gun, a badge — it feels very demonstrative for someone in crisis.”

It seeks to overturn a disturbing statistic

And there’s a great deal of people in Eugene in crisis.
Lane County, which encompasses Eugene and neighbor city Springfield, has staggering rates of homelessness.
The county’s per-capita homeless rate is among the nation’s highest. Recent data from the county also suggests mental health crises are widespread, too — the suicide rate, at around 17 deaths per 100,000, is about 40% higher than the national average.
Police encounters with the homeless often end in citations or arrests. Of homeless people with mental health conditions, anywhere from 62.0% to 90% of them will be arrested, per one journal review of homelessness studies. They may end up in jail, not in treatment or housing, and thus begins the cycle of incarceration that doesn’t benefit either party.

Around 25% of people killed by police show signs of mental illness, according to one study

CAHOOTS was created in part because of another disturbing statistic — around 25% of people killed by police show signs of mental illness, according to a journal review of the Washington Post’s extensive officer-involved shootings database.
The Eugene Police Department has been criticized in years past for shooting and killing people with mental illnesses. Most recently, in February, the city won a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a man who was shot by police. His loved ones said he was a veteran with PTSD who’d threatened suicide. (Skinner was appointed chief in 2018, three years after the shooting.)
Most of CAHOOTS’ clients are homeless, and just under a third of them have severe mental illnesses. It’s a weight off the shoulders of police, Skinner said.
“I believe it’s time for law enforcement to quit being a catch-base for everything our community and society needs,” Skinner said. “We need to get law enforcement professionals back to doing the core mission of protecting communities and enforcing the law, and then match resources with other services like behavioral health — all those things we tend to lump on the plate of law enforcement.”

Its staffers are unarmed

There’s no such thing as a “typical” CAHOOTS shift these days, said Ben Brubaker, who worked as a CAHOOTS crisis worker before assuming the senior role of clinical co-coordinator at White Bird.
Staffers respond to substance addiction crises, psychotic episodes, homeless residents and threats of suicide. They make house calls to counsel depressed children at their parents’ request, and they’re contacted by public onlookers when someone isn’t in a position to call CAHOOTS themselves.
Unlike police, CAHOOTS responders can’t force anyone to accept their aid, and they can’t arrest anyone. They’re not armed, and their uniform usually consists of a White Bird T-shirt and jeans — the goal is that the more “civilian-like” they look, the less threatened their clients will feel.
Their approach is different, too. They’re taught in training to abandon the “pseudo-professional” affect that staffers inadvertently take on in talks with clients. And aside from an extensive background in medical care or mental health, all CAHOOTS employees are judged by their “lived experiences,” Brubaker said — people who’ve dealt with many of the situations CAHOOTS clients find themselves in are better able to empathize and serve those people, he said.
Building that rapport and trust with clients is part and parcel with their clinical work.
“That can be tricky,” Brubaker said. “We show up in a white van.”

The demand for its services continues to grow

Cahoots crisis councilor Ned White, left, and EMT Rose Fenwick wrap up a day shift with a stop in Eugene in December 2018.

For most people they assist, though, that’s still preferable to a police cruiser.
They can call police or EMS for assistance if the case requires a “higher level of care” than CAHOOTS can provide, he said. But much of it they can do on their own. They can transport clients to hospitals, shelters or White Bird Clinic, where they’ll have access to medical and dental care and counseling.
Support continues to swell — CAHOOTS receives about $2 million, which Zeiss says is almost three times what its budget was when he retired in 2014. And CAHOOTS a few years ago expanded to serve neighboring Springfield.
But the program is still working with just three vans, which are staffed 24/7. The workload can be overwhelming, Brubaker said.
The high demand, low capacity model is holding CAHOOTS back, said Ibrahim Coulibaly, a former White Bird volunteer who serves as the president of the Lane County NAACP chapter. Expanding CAHOOTS’ services so it had its own campus, too, could improve its reach, he said.
With more funding, he said, reallocated from the police budget or another source, the program could respond to even more crises, with even more employees and, hopefully, at least one more van.
CAHOOTS could use more than another van, though, said June Fothergill, a pastor at a Springfield church who calls CAHOOTS to pick up the homeless people or people with substance use issues that stop by for free meals.
Fothergill said while CAHOOTS does its part well — providing immediate services to someone in crisis — there’s still a void when it comes to long-term solutions.
“You can call someone for the crisis, but what are they supposed to do for it — where can they take them except for jail?” she said. “That doesn’t necessarily provide much treatment.”
They’re better equipped than police to care for the people she serves, she said. But if there isn’t space in affordable housing, Eugene’s detoxing center or mental health facilities, those clients will turn into regulars.
“They’re doing what they can do,” she said. “There’s wonderful work going on, but it isn’t adequate at the moment.”

It says a partnership with police is essential

The idea of “defunding the police” crept into the mainstream just one month ago, since the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests against racism and police brutality. But what the term means depends on who you ask.
20200617-defund-the-police-gfx

What would the US look like without police? 02:17
Advocates for limiting the role of police have pointed to Eugene as an example of social service providers and law enforcement working in harmony.
But a growing group of dissenters feel there’s little room for police in the movement to fundamentally change the American criminal justice system. Services like CAHOOTS, they say, may function better and more broadly without the assistance of police.
Zeiss isn’t sure he agrees.
“Partnership with police has always been essential to our model,” he said. “A CAHOOTS-like program without a close relationship with police would be very different from anything we’ve done. I don’t have a coherent vision of a society that has no police force.”
He said the current movement has seemingly pitted service providers like CAHOOTS against police, which may stoke suspicion among police over “whether we’re really their allies or their competitors,” he said.
“In some sense, that may be true. But I think we still need to focus on being part of a system, and a system that includes police for some functions,” Zeiss said.
Skinner, the Eugene police chief, said reallocating funds from Eugene police would stifle the department, which is already money-tight, and its ability to do the work to defend CAHOOTS when situations turn violent.
“Anytime you’re thinking about what meaningful change looks like, especially that’s sustainable, it takes a significant amount of engagement from stakeholders,” he said. “While I totally understand people’s desire to do something very, very quickly, we kind of need to keep our eyes on the prize here. If we want to reform police, we have to do it methodically and strategically.”

It’s become central in the ‘defund the police’ debate

Coulibaly said community leaders are in talks over what to do about police — should their funding go to CAHOOTS, or should more funding be directed toward better educating police about deescalation techniques? They haven’t reached a consensus, he said.
“If the city doesn’t have enough money to fund CAHOOTS, probably they should think about reallocating some of the funds that go to police to support CAHOOTS,” he said.
Brubaker said the relationship with police remains strong, but CAHOOTS is evaluating the calls for change from the public, who’ve directed their support toward the program. He said staff are figuring out what shape the program will take going forward, but there’s no clear path.
“We’re not trying to be the face of a mainstream institution,” he said. “We’re just people serving people.”

Other cities are trying to develop a similar model

The idea of a separate entity in charge of alternative care is more enticing than ever as cities mull over the efficacy of their police departments.
CAHOOTS has met the moment. Brubaker said he’s consulting with cities on how to implement their own CAHOOTS-inspired program, subbing White Bird Clinic for a local organization that serves a similar role.
There are a few criteria, though, that Brubaker considers immutable: The CAHOOTS stand-in should be operated by a local non-profit separate from the government that already has an established, positive rapport with the community, and it should ideally be staffed by people who reflect the diversity of that community.
CAHOOTS consulted Olympia, Washington, on the creation of its own Crisis Response Unit, which is staffed by two social workers. Denver is piloting a program, also inspired by CAHOOTS, led by a local social justice organization.

… but there is no one-size-fits-all solution

White Bird Clinic and CAHOOTS coordinators can’t go into other communities and set up copies of CAHOOTS. What works in Eugene wouldn’t work in New York, or in Miami, or in larger cities more diverse than Eugene (less than 2% of the population is Black, according to census data).
Brubaker knows that a “fill-in-the-blank” style of reform wouldn’t work. But CAHOOTS does provide a template.
“I guess the role that I see for our agency isn’t to go in and tell other communities what they need to do and should be doing,” he said. “Our role is to assist those communities to have a conversation with each other about what they need and what that response can look like.”
It’s not an immediate fix. Zeiss said it took a lot of “patient plotting” for CAHOOTS to really have an impact.
“At this point, we’ve patiently waited out an entire generation of police officers,” he said. “There’s nobody on the Eugene police force today who can remember being a Eugene police officer without CAHOOTS. It’s been that slow of a process.”
That doesn’t mean other cities shouldn’t try.
“You have to start,” he said. “You can start immediately by creating something and expand it as confidence in it grows.”
Another city’s CAHOOTS may not be called CAHOOTS at all, though it’ll probably use another cutesy acronym. It’s not likely to satisfy advocates who want to defund the police entirely. But, if done right, it could change the lives of some of a city’s most vulnerable people.
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Police, Prisons, and the Pentagon https://militarytruth.org/police-prisons-and-the-pentagon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=police-prisons-and-the-pentagon https://militarytruth.org/police-prisons-and-the-pentagon/#respond Wed, 08 Jul 2020 17:57:59 +0000 https://militarytruth.org/?p=7564 WOW this ONE article taking on THREE “Sacred Cow” issues: Pentagon Spending... a “pet issue” of my own which I hope 2020’s election will start changing... Police Over-militarization and the 1033 Program!

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It’s time to defund our wars, both at home and abroad. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

It’s time to defund our wars, both at home and abroad. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Think of it as a war system that’s been coming home for years. The murder of George Floyd has finally shone a spotlight on the need to defund local police departments and find alternatives that provide more genuine safety and security. The same sort of spotlight needs soon to be shone on the American military machine and the wildly well-funded damage it’s been doing for almost 19 years across the Greater Middle East and Africa.

Distorted funding priorities aren’t the only driving force behind police violence against communities of color, but shifting such resources away from policing and to areas like jobs, education, housing, and restorative justice could be an important part of the solution. And any effort to boost spending on social programs should include massive cuts to the Pentagon’s bloated budget. In short, it’s time to defund our wars, both at home and abroad. 

The High Cost of Police and Prisons

In most states and localities, spending on police and prisons outweighs what the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., once described as “programs of social uplift.” The numbers are staggering. In some jurisdictions, police alone can account for up to 40% of local budgets, leaving little room for other priorities. In New York City, for instance, funding the police department’s operations and compensation costs more than $10 billion yearly—more, that is, than the federal government spends on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide, more than $100 billion annually goes into policing.

Now, add to that another figure: what it costs to hold roughly two million (yes 2,000,000!) Americans in prisons and jails—roughly $120 billion a year. Like policing, in other words, incarceration is big business in this country in 2020. After all, prison populations have grown by nearly 700% since 1972, driven in significant part by the “war on drugs,” a so-called war that has disproportionately targeted people of color.

The Elephant in the Room: Pentagon Spending

In addition to the police and prisons, the other major source of American militarized spending is, of course, the Pentagon. That department, along with related activities like nuclear weapons funding at the Department of Energy, now gobbles up at least $750 billion per year. That’s more than the military budgets of the next 10 countries combined.

Just as prisons and policing consume a startling proportion of state and local budgets, the Pentagon accounts for more than half of the federal government’s discretionary budget and that includes most government functions other than Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. As Ashik Siddique of the National Priorities Project has noted, the Trump administration’s latest budget proposal “prioritizes brute force and militarization over diplomatic and humanitarian solutions to pressing societal crises” in a particularly striking way. “Just about every non-militarized department funded by the discretionary budget,” he adds, “is on the chopping block, including all those that focus on reducing poverty and meeting human needs like education, housing, labor, health, energy, and transportation.”

Spending on the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the deportation of immigrants through agencies like ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Customs and Border Protection totals another $24 billion annually. That puts U.S. spending on police, prisons, and the Pentagon at nearly $1 trillion per year and that doesn’t even include the soaring budgets of other parts of the American national security state likethe Department of Homeland Security ($92 billion) and the Veterans Administration ($243 billion—a cost of past wars). Back in May 2019, Mandy Smithberger of the Project on Government Oversight and I had already estimated that the full national security budget, including the Pentagon, was approximately $1.25 trillion a year and that estimate, of course, didn’t even include the police and the prison system!

Another way of looking at the problem is to focus on just how much of the federal budget goes to the Pentagon and other militarized activities, including federal prisons, immigration enforcement, and veterans benefits. An analysis by the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies puts this figure at $887 billion, or more than 64% of the federal discretionary budget including public health, education, environmental protection, job training, energy development, housing, transportation, scientific research, and more.

Making the Connection: The 1033 Program

Ever since images of the police deploying armored vehicles against peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, hit the national airwaves in 2014, the Pentagon’s program for supplying “surplus” military equipment to local police departments has been a news item. It’s also gotten intermittent attention in Congress and the Executive Branch.

Since 1997, the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, as it’s called, has channeled to 8,000 separate law enforcement agencies more than $7.4 billion in surplus equipment, including Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles of the kind used on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, along with rifles, ammunition, grenade launchers, and night-vision devices. As Brian Barrett has pointed out at Wired, “Local law enforcement responding to even nonviolent protests has often looked more like the U.S. Armed Forces.” Political scientist Ryan Welch co-authored a 2017 study suggesting, when it came to police departments equipped in such a fashion, “that officers with military hardware and mindsets will resort to violence more often and more quickly.”

Under the circumstances and given who’s providing the equipment, you won’t be surprised to learn that the 1033 program also suffers from lax oversight. In 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) created a fake law enforcement agency and was able to acquire $1.2 million worth of equipment through the program, including night-vision goggles and simulated M-16A2 rifles. The request was approved within a week of the GAO’s application.

The Obama administration finally implemented some reforms in the wake of Ferguson, banning the transfer of tracked vehicles, grenade launchers, and weaponized aircraft, among other things, while requiring police departments to supply more detailed rationales describing their need for specific equipment. But such modest efforts—and they proved modest indeed – were promptly chucked out when Donald Trump took office. And the Trump administration changes quickly had a discernible effect. In 2019, the 1033 program had one of its biggest years ever, with about 15,750 military items transferred to law enforcement, a figure exceeded only in 2012, in the Obama years, when 17,000 such items were distributed.

As noted, the mere possession of military equipment has been shown to stoke the ever stronger “warrior culture” that now characterizes so many police departments, as evidenced by the use of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams armed with military weaponry for routine drug enforcement activities. It’s hardly just SWAT teams, though. The weaponry and related items provided under the 1033 program are widely employed by ordinary police forces. NBC News, for instance, reported that armored vehicles were used at least 29 times in response to Black Lives Matter protests organized since the murder of George Floyd, including in major urban areas like Philadelphia and Cincinnati. NBC has also determined that more than 1,100 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles have been distributed to local law enforcement agencies under the MRAP program, going to communities large and small, including Sanford, Maine, population 20,000, and Moundsville, West Virginia, population 8,400.

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has similarly documented the use of Pentagon-supplied equipment in no-knock home invasions, including driving up to people’s houses in just such armored vehicles to launch the raids. The ACLU concluded that “the militarization of American policing is evident in the training that police officers receive, which encourages them to adopt a ‘warrior’ mentality and think of the people they are supposed to serve as enemies, as well as in the equipment they use, such as battering rams, flashbang grenades, and APCs [Armored Personnel Carriers].”

Who Benefits?

Companies in the military-industrial complex earn billions of dollars selling weapons, as well as building and operating prisons and detention facilities, and supplying the police, while theoretically dealing with problems with deep social and economic roots. Generally speaking, by the time they’re done, those problems have only become deeper and more rooted. Take, for example, giant weapons contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon that profit so splendidly from the sales of weapons systems to Saudi Arabia, weaponry that, in turn, has been used to kill tens of thousands of civilians in Yemen, destroy civilian infrastructure there, and block the provision of desperately needed humanitarian assistance. The result: more than 100,000 deaths in that country and millions more on the brink of famine and disease, including Covid-19.

Such major weapons firms have also been at the front of the line when it comes to benefiting from America’s endless post-9/11 wars. The Costs of War Project at Brown University estimates that the United States has spent over $6.4 trillion on just some of those overseas conflicts since 2001. Hundreds of billions of those dollars ended up in the pockets of defense contractors, while problems in the U.S., left far less well funded, only grew.

And by the way, the Pentagon’s regular budget, combined with direct spending on wars, also manages to provide huge benefits to such weapons makers. Almost half of the department’s $750 billion budget goes to them. According to the Federal Procurement Data System’s latest report on the top recipients of government contracts, the five largest U.S. arms makers alone—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics—split well over $100 billion in Pentagon awards among them in 2019. Meanwhile, those same five firms pay their CEOs a total of approximately $100 million per year, with hundreds of millions more going to other top executives and board members.

Meanwhile, in the Trump years, the militarization of the border has become a particularly lucrative business opportunity, with General Atomics, for instance, supplying ever more surveillance drones and General Dynamics supplying an ever more intricate and expensive remote sensor surveillance system. There are also millions to be made running privatized prisons and immigrant detention centers, filling the coffers of firms like CoreCivic and the GEO Group, which have secured record profits in recent years while garnering about half their revenues from those two sources.

Last but not least is the market for even more police equipment. Local forces benefit from grants from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase a wide range of items to supplement the Pentagon’s 1033 program.

The True Bottom Line

Much has been written about America’s failed post-9/11 wars, which have cost trillions of dollars in taxpayer treasure, hundreds of thousands of lives (American and otherwise), and physical and psychological injuries to hundreds of thousands more. They have also propped up sectarian and corrupt regimes that have actually made it easier for terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS to form and spread. Think of it as the ultimate boomerang effect, in which violence begets more violence, while allowing overseas terrorist organizations to thrive. As journalist Nick Turse has noted with respect to the militarization of U.S. Africa policy, the growth in American military operations on that continent has proceeded rather strikingly in conjunction with a proliferation of new terrorist groups. Put the best light on them and U.S. counterterror operations there have been ineffective. More likely, they have simply helped spawn further increases in terrorist activities in the region.

All of this has, in turn, been an ongoing disaster for underfunded domestic programs that would actually help ordinary Americans rather than squander their tax dollars on what passes for, but obviously isn’t, “national defense.” In the era of Covid-19, climate change, and an increased focus on longstanding structural racism and anti-black violence, a new approach to “security” is desperately needed, one that privileges not yet more bombs, guns, militarized police forces, and aircraft carriers but public health, environmental protection, and much-needed programs for quality jobs and education in underserved communities.

On the domestic front, particularly in communities of color, police are more often seen as an occupying force than a source of protection (and ever since the 1033 program was initiated, they’ve looked ever more like such a force as well). This has led to calls for defunding the police and seeking other means of providing public safety, including, minimally, not sending police to deal with petty drug offenses, domestic disputes, and problems caused by individuals with mental-health issues. Organizations like the Minneapolis-based Reclaim the Block have put forward proposals for crisis response by institutions other than the police and for community-based programs for resolving disputes and promoting restorative justice.

Shifting Priorities

Sharp reductions in spending on police, prisons, and the Pentagon could free up hundreds of billions of dollars for programs that might begin to fill the gap in spending on public investments in communities of color and elsewhere.

Organizations like the Movement for Black Lives and the Poor People’s Campaign are already demanding these kinds of changes. In its moral budget, a comprehensive proposal for redirecting America’s resources toward addressing poverty and away from war, racism, and ecological destruction, the Poor People’s Campaign calls for a $350 billion annual cut in Pentagon spending—almost half of current levels. Likewise, the platform of the Movement for Black Lives suggested a 50% reduction in Pentagon outlays. And a new youth anti-militarist movement, Dissenters, has called for defunding the armed forces as well as the police.

Ultimately, safety for all Americans will depend on more than just a shift of funding or a reduction in police armaments. After all, George Floyd and Eric Garner—just two of the long list of black Americans to die at the hands of the police—were killed not with high-tech weapons, but with a knee to the throat and a fatal chokehold. Shifting funds from the police to social services, dismantling police forces as they now exist, and creating new institutions to protect communities should be an essential part of any solution in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s presidency. Similarly, investments in diplomacy, economic assistance, and cultural exchange would be needed in order to help rein in the American war machine which, of course, has been attended to in ways nothing else, from health care to schooling to infrastructure, has been in this century. When it comes to both the police and the Pentagon, the sooner change arrives the better off we’ll all be. It’s long past time to defund America’s wars, both abroad and at home.

William HartungWilliam D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He is the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (Nation Books, 2011). He is the co-editor of Lessons from Iraq: Avoiding the Next War (Paradigm Press, 2008).

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The Cursed Platoon https://militarytruth.org/the-cursed-platoon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-cursed-platoon https://militarytruth.org/the-cursed-platoon/#respond Wed, 08 Jul 2020 17:32:30 +0000 https://militarytruth.org/?p=7535 A long, but VERY well-researched article... a prime example of an on-the spot definition/interpretation problem of “a legal order,” as stated in every enlistee’s contract. See “Enlistment Contract, DD Form 4” this website, but in a battlefield environment! Blind acceptance by the troops of an officer’s order and the fallout, including an illegal/unjustified intercession/pardon by Cadet Bone Spurs.

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The Cursed Platoon

By Greg Jaffe, Washington Post, July 2, 2020

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/national/clint-lorance-platoon-afghanistan/

(Interjection – A long, but VERY well-researched article… a prime example of an on-the spot definition/interpretation problem of “a legal order,” as stated in every enlistee’s contract. See “Enlistment Contract, DD Form 4” this website, but in a battlefield environment! Blind acceptance by the troops of an officer’s order and the fallout, including an illegal/unjustified intercession/pardon by Cadet Bone Spurs. ~ Don Chapin)

“The Cursed Platoon,” Part 1

Clint Lorance had been in charge of his platoon for only three days when he ordered his men to kill three Afghans stopped on a dirt road.

A second-degree murder conviction and pardon followed.

Today, Lorance is hailed as a hero by President Trump.

His troops have suffered a very different fate:

  • Depression
  • Fatal car crash
  • Shooting death
  • Cancer
  • Hospitalizations
  • Drug abuse
  • PTSD
  • Arrests
  • Alcoholism
  • Suicide

the cursed platoon - image of platoon members

Members of the 1st Platoon James O. Twist, Reyler Leon, Joe Morrissey, Andy Lehrer, Mike McGuinness, Dallas Haggard (kneeling) and Brandon Krebs pose with a flag in Afghanistan in 2012. (Courtesy of the Twist family)

The Platoon

Clint Lorance, First Lt./Platoon leader

Lucas Gray, Specialist/soldier

Mike McGuinness, Staff Sgt./Squad leader

James O. Twist, Specialist/soldier

Samuel Walley, Private first class/soldier

Mark Kerner, Private First Class/soldier

Matthew Hanes, Corporal/soldier

Keith Ayres, Sgt. First Class/platoon sergeant Dave Zettel, Specialist/soldier

Joe Fjeldheim, Specialist/medic

Jarred Ruhl, Corporal/soldier

Zach Thomas, Private First Class/soldier

Nick Carson, Private First Class/soldier Joe Morrissey, Specialist/soldier

Only a few hours had passed since President Trump pardoned 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and the men of 1st Platoon were still trying to make sense of how it was even possible.

How could a man they blamed for ruining their lives, an officer the Army convicted of second-degree murder and other charges, be forgiven so easily? How could their president allow him to just walk free?

“I feel like I’m in a nightmare,” Lucas Gray, a former specialist from the unit, texted his old squad leader, who was out of the Army and living in Fayetteville, N.C.

“I haven’t been handling it well either,” replied Mike McGuinness on Nov. 15, the day Lorance was pardoned.

“There’s literally no point in anything we did or said,” Gray continued. “Now he gets to be the hero . . .”

“And we’re left to deal with it,” McGuinness concluded.

Lorance had been in command of 1st Platoon for only three days in Afghanistan but in that short span of time had averaged a war crime a day, a military jury found. On his last day before he was dismissed, he ordered his troops to open fire on three Afghan men standing by a motorcycle on the side of the road who he said posed a threat. His actions led to a 19-year prison sentence.

He had served six years when Trump, spurred to action by relentless Fox News coverage and Lorance’s insistence that he had made a split-second decision to protect his men, set him free.

The president’s opponents described the pardon as another instance of Trump subverting the rule of law to reward allies and reap political benefits. Military officials worried that the decision to overturn a case that had already been adjudicated in the military courts sent a signal that war crimes were not worthy of severe punishment.

For the men of 1st platoon, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, the costs of the war and the fallout from the case have been profound and sometimes deadly.

Traumatized by battle, they have also been brutalized by the politicization of their service and made to feel as if the truth of what they lived in Afghanistan — already a violent and harrowing tour before Lorance assumed command — had been so demeaned that it no longer existed.

Since returning home in 2013, five of the platoon’s three dozen soldiers have died. At least four others have been hospitalized following suicide attempts or struggles with drugs or alcohol.

The last fatality came a few weeks before Lorance was pardoned when James O. Twist, 27, a Michigan state trooper and father of three, died of suicide. As the White House was preparing the official order for Trump’s signature, the men of 1st Platoon gathered in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the funeral, where they remembered Twist as a good soldier who had bravely rushed through smoke and fire to pull a friend from a bomb crater and place a tourniquet on his right leg where it had been sheared off by the blast.

the cursed platoon - James O. Twist

James O. Twist poses with local children during his deployment in Afghanistan in 2012. (Courtesy of the Twist family)

They thought of the calls and texts from him that they didn’t answer because they were too busy with their own lives — and Twist, who had a caring wife, a good job and a nice house, seemed like he was doing far better than most. They didn’t know that behind closed doors he was at times verbally abusive, ashamed of his inner torment and, like so many of them, unable to articulate his pain.

By November 2019, Twist, a man the soldiers of 1st Platoon loved, was gone and Lorance was free from prison and headed for New York City, a new life and a star turn on Fox News.

This story is based on a transcript of Lorance’s 2013 court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C., and on-the-record interviews with 15 members of 1st Platoon, as well as family members of the soldiers, including Twist’s father and wife. The soldiers also shared texts and emails they exchanged over the past several years. Twist’s family provided his journal entries from his time in the Army. Lorance declined to be interviewed.

In New York, Sean Hannity, Lorance’s biggest champion and the man most responsible for persuading Trump to pardon him, asked Lorance about the shooting and soldiers under his command.

Lorance had traded in his Army uniform for a blazer and red tie. He leaned in to the microphone. “I don’t know any of these guys. None of them know me,” Lorance said of his former troops. “To be honest with you, I can’t even remember most of their names.”

The soldiers of 1st Platoon tell their story

[We asked veterans to respond to The Post’s reporting on Clint Lorance and his platoon. Here’s what they said. ]

An ‘entire month of despair’

the cursed platoonSoldiers from the 1st Platoon fire a mortar during a firefight with Taliban in April 2012 in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

The 1st Platoon soldiers came to the Army and the war from all over the country: Maryland, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Indiana and Texas to name just a few. They joined for all the usual reasons: “To keep my parents off my a–,” said one soldier.

“I just needed a change,” said another.

A few had tried college but quit because they were bored or failing their classes. “I didn’t know how to handle it,” Gray said of college. “I was really immature.”

Others joined right out of high school propelled by romantic notions, inherited from veteran fathers, grandfathers and great- grandfathers, of service and duty. Twist’s father served in Vietnam as a clerk in an air-conditioned office before coming back to Michigan and opening a garage. In his spare time Twist Sr. was a military history buff, a passion that rubbed off on his son, who visited World War II battle sites in Europe with his dad. Twist was just 16 when he started badgering his parents to sign his enlistment papers and barely 18 when he left for basic training. His mother had died of cancer only a few months earlier.

“I got pictures of him the day we dropped him off, and he didn’t even wave goodbye,” his father recalled. “He was in pig heaven.”

Several of the 1st Platoon soldiers enlisted in search of a steady paycheck and the promise of health insurance and a middle-class life. “I needed to get out of northeast Ohio,” McGuinness said. “There wasn’t anything there.”

In 1999, he was set to pay his first union dues and go to work alongside his steelworker grandfather when the plant closed. So he became a paratrooper instead, eventually deploying three times to Afghanistan.

McGuinness didn’t look much like a paratrooper with his thick, squat body. But he liked being a soldier, jumping out of planes, firing weapons and drinking with his Army buddies. After a while the war didn’t make much sense, but he took pride in knowing that his soldiers trusted him and that he was good at his job.

Nine months before 1st Platoon landed in rural southern Afghanistan, a team of Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden.

the cursed platoon in Afghanistan June 2012Jarred Ruhl, Dallas Haggard and Mike McGuinness in Afghanistan in June 2012. (Courtesy of the Carson family)

Samuel Walley, the badly wounded soldier Twist pulled from the blast crater, wondered if they might be spared combat. “Wasn’t that the goal to kill bin Laden?” he recalled thinking. “Isn’t that checkmate?”

Around the same time, Twist was trying to make sense of what was to come. “I feel like the Army was a good decision, but also in my mind is a lot of dark thoughts,” he wrote in a spiral notebook. “I could die. I could come back with PTSD. I could be massively injured.”

“Maybe,” he hoped, “it will start winding down soon.”

But the decade-long war continued, driven by new, largely unattainable goals. When McGuinness saw where the platoon was headed — just 15 or so miles from the spot in southern Afghanistan where he had spent his second tour — he warned the new soldiers they were going to be “fighting against dudes who just really f—ing hate you.”

They were told by commanders they were waging a counterinsurgency war in which their top priority was winning the support of the people and protecting them from the Taliban. But no one seemed entirely sure how to accomplish that goal. They helped build a school that never opened because of a lack of teachers and willing students. They met with village elders who insisted they knew nothing about the Taliban’s operations or plans.

the cursed platoonAn Afghan girl watches as soldiers from the 1st Platoon walk by during a mission in April 2012, in the Zhary district of Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

In May 2012, they moved to a new compound near Payenzai, a remote Afghan village west of

Kandahar, which consisted of little more than mud-walled houses, hardscrabble farmers and the Taliban.

So began what Twist described, in a blog post written years later, as an “entire month of despair.”

Four soldiers were severely wounded in quick succession. On June 6, Walley lost his leg and arm to a Taliban bomb. Eight days later, yet another enemy mine wounded Mark Kerner and 1st Lt. Dominic Latino, the platoon leader. Then, on June 23, a sniper’s bullet tore through Matthew Hanes’s neck, leaving him paralyzed.

The platoon was briefly sent back to a larger base a few miles away to shower, meet with mental-health counselors and pick up their new platoon leader. Lorance had served a tour as an enlisted prison guard in Iraq before attending college and becoming an infantry officer. He had spent the first five months of his Afghanistan tour as a staff officer on a fortified base.

This was his first time in combat.

1st Lt. Clint Lorance during training at Fort Bragg before the deployment to Afghanistan in 2012. (Photo by Alan Gladney)

1st Lt. Clint Lorance during training at Fort Bragg before the deployment to Afghanistan in 2012. (Photo by Alan Gladney)

“We’re not going to lose any more men to injuries in this platoon,” he told then-Sgt. 1st Class Keith Ayres, his platoon sergeant, shortly after taking over on June 29, according to Ayres’s testimony.

His strategy, he said, was a “shock and awe” campaign designed to cow the enemy and intimidate villagers into coughing up valuable intelligence. When an Afghan farmer and his young son approached the outpost’s front gate and asked permission to move a section of razor wire a few feet so that the farmer could get into his field, Lorance threatened to have Twist and the other soldiers on guard duty kill him and his boy.

“He pointed at the child . . . at the little, tiny kid,” Twist testified. He estimated the child was 3 or 4 years old.

“The Cursed Platoon,” Part 2

On Lorance’s second day, he ordered two of his sharpshooters to fire within 10 to 12 inches of unarmed villagers. His goal was to make the Afghans wonder why the Americans were shooting at them and motivate them to attend a village meeting that Lorance had scheduled for later in the week, his soldiers testified.

His real motive, though, seems to have been cruelty. “It’s funny watching those f—ers dance,” Lorance said, according to the testimony of one of his soldiers. Lorance didn’t pull the trigger. Instead, he stood by his men in the guard towers, picked the targets and issued orders. His troops finally balked when he told them to shoot near children. They refused again a few hours later when he ordered them to file a false report saying that they had taken fire from the village.

“If I don’t have the support of my NCOs then I’ll f—ing do it myself,” Lorance exclaimed, according to testimony, referring to noncommissioned officers.

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Ayres looks over maps with other soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division in April 2012, before a joint mission with the Afghan army in Kandahar province. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Ayres looks over maps with other soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division in April 2012, before a joint mission with the Afghan army in Kandahar province. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

On the day of the killings for which he would be convicted, Lorance posted a sign in the platoon headquarters stating that no motorcycles would be permitted in his unit’s sector. The platoon’s soldiers were falsely told before the day’s patrol that motorcycles should be considered “hostile and engaged on sight.” Several soldiers testified that Lorance told them that senior U.S. officials had ordered the change. At least two sergeants recalled the guidance had come from the Afghans and did not apply to U.S. forces. Due to the conflicting testimony, the jury of Army officers acquitted Lorance of changing the rules of engagement. Still, Lorance’s actions left soldiers confused on the critical, life-or- death question of when they were authorized to open fire.

The mission that day was a foot patrol into a nearby village to meet the elders.

Less than 30 minutes after they rolled out of the gate, three men on a motorcycle approached a cluster of Afghan National Army troops at the front of their formation. Lorance and his troops were standing about 150 to 200 yards away in an orchard, tucked behind a series of five-foot-high mud walls on which the Afghans grew grapes.

At the trial, Lorance’s soldiers recalled how he had ordered them to fire.

“Why aren’t you shooting?” he demanded.

A U.S. soldier fired and missed. The motorcycle carrying the three men, none of whom appeared to be armed, came to a stop. Upon hearing the shots, McGuinness began running toward Lorance, who was closer to the front of the U.S. patrol, to see why they were shooting.

The puzzled Afghans were now standing next to the stopped motorcycle, “trying to figure out what had happened,” according to one soldier’s testimony. Gray, who was watching from a nearby armored vehicle, recognized the eldest of the three men as someone the Americans regularly met with in the village. He recalled the Afghans waving at them.

Todd Fitzgerald testifies during Clint Lorance’s 2013 court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Todd Fitzgerald testifies during Clint Lorance’s 2013 court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C.

“Smoke ’em,” Lorance ordered over the radio.

At first Gray and the other soldiers in the armored vehicle weren’t sure whom Lorance wanted them to shoot. “There was a back and forth with the three of us in the vehicle,” Gray recalled in an interview.

Then Pvt. David Shilo, who was in the turret of the armored vehicle just inches from Gray, fired, striking one of the men, who fell into a drainage ditch. Because the platoon had been told that morning that motorcycles weren’t allowed in their sector, Shilo testified that he thought he was acting on a lawful order. Shilo declined to be interviewed.

The two surviving Afghan men bent to retrieve their dead colleague when Shilo cleared his weapon and shot again, killing a second Afghan. The third man ran away. Two U.S. soldiers testified that it was possible that an Afghan soldier also fired.

A few minutes later, a boy approached the dead men and the motorcycle, which was standing on the side of the road with its kickstand still down. Lorance ordered Shilo to fire a third time and disable the bike. This time he refused.

“I wasn’t going to shoot a 12-year-old boy,” Shilo testified.

David Shilo testifies during Clint Lorance’s 2013 trial at Fort Bragg, N.C.

David Shilo testifies during Clint Lorance’s 2013 trial at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Relatives of the dead were now on the scene screaming and crying. Lorance’s immediate superior officer, Capt. Patrick Swanson, who was two miles away and couldn’t see what was happening, ordered him over the radio to search the bodies.

Lorance was convicted of lying to Swanson, telling him that villagers had carried off the corpses before his men could examine them. In fact, Lorance’s troops searched the bodies of the dead Afghans and found ID cards, scissors, some pens and three cucumbers, but no weapons, according to testimony.

The troops continued their patrol into the village while McGuinness and a small team of soldiers provided cover from a nearby roof. About 30 minutes after the first shooting, McGuinness spotted two Afghan men talking on radios.

“We have to do something to the Americans,” one of the men was saying, according to U.S. intercepts. McGuinness and his troops received permission from the company headquarters to fire and killed the two men. The platoon cut short the patrol and returned to the base.

At the outpost the soldiers were shaken. “This doesn’t feel right,” Gray said.

“It’s not f—ing right at all,” McGuinness replied.

A few minutes later Lorance burst into the platoon’s headquarters ebullient. “That was f—ing awesome,” he exclaimed, according to court testimony.

Lucas Gray, Joe Fjeldheim and Mike McGuinness in Afghanistan 2012. (Courtesy of the Carson family)

Lucas Gray, Joe Fjeldheim and Mike McGuinness in Afghanistan 2012. (Courtesy of the Carson family)

“Ayres looked sick,” one of the platoon’s soldiers testified. McGuinness was furious.

The lieutenant tried to reassure his sergeants. “I know how to report it up [so] nobody gets in trouble,” he said, according to testimony.

Lorance’s soldiers turned him in that evening, and at the July 2013 trial, 14 of his men testified under oath against him. Four of those soldiers received immunity in exchange for their testimony. Lorance did not appear on the stand, and not one of his former 1st Platoon soldiers spoke in his defense. The trial lasted three days. It took the jury of Army officers three hours to find him guilty of second-degree murder, making false statements and ordering his men to fire at Afghan civilians. The jury handed down a 20-year sentence.

In response to a Lorance clemency request, an Army general reviewed the conviction and reduced the sentence by one year.

‘Why do you care so much?’

Dave Zettel reveals a tattoo of a lighter to represent the 82nd deployment outside his home in Blythewood, S.C. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Dave Zettel reveals a tattoo of a lighter to represent the 82nd deployment outside his home in Blythewood, S.C. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

The war crimes and their aftermath followed Lorance’s soldiers home to Fort Bragg and, in some cases, into their nightmares. On many nights Gray woke up to the image of a group of Afghan soldiers surrounding his cot and emptying their rifles into his sleeping body in retaliation for the murders.

“I dreamed it,” he said, “because I thought that’s what would happen.”

Dave Zettel wasn’t on the patrol when the killings were committed but was in the guard tower when Lorance ordered him and another soldier to fire harassing shots into the neighboring village. On his first full day back in the States, Zettel went out to a dinner with a large group from the platoon and their families.

By the end of the night, the soldiers, rattled from the tour, the stress of Lorance’s upcoming trial and the return home, were intoxicated and emotionally falling apart. Zettel held it together until he was alone in a taxi with his wife and brother. In the quiet of the cab, he felt a crushing guilt that he had made it home unscathed.

“I just lost my s—. I felt like a failure,” he said. “I felt abandoned and so f—ing angry.”

In Afghanistan, Army investigators, who were primarily pursuing Lorance, threatened Zettel with aggravated assault charges for the shootings in the tower. And they showed McGuinness a charge sheet accusing him of murder for killing the Afghans who were talking on the radios about targeting Americans.

The threats of prosecution hung over them for months. Eventually, the Army concluded that McGuinness’s actions were justified. Prosecutors never pursued charges against Zettel.

Instead the Army issued administrative letters of reprimand to Zettel and Matthew Rush, the soldier who fired the rounds at the civilians from the tower. Zettel had watched from the tower but did not shoot.

The Cursed Platoon: The 1st Platoon leadership team in Afghanistan in May 2012. From left: Dan Williams, Mike McGuinness, Chris Murray (sitting), Keith Ayres, Dominic Latino and Jace Myers (sitting, right). (Courtesy of the Carson family)

The 1st Platoon leadership team in Afghanistan in May 2012. From left: Dan Williams, Mike McGuinness, Chris Murray (sitting), Keith Ayres, Dominic Latino and Jace Myers (sitting, right). (Courtesy of the Carson family)

Ayres and McGuinness — the senior sergeants in the platoon — received disciplinary letters, which can hinder or delay promotions, for their failure to turn Lorance in sooner or stop the killings on the third day.

McGuinness legally changed his surname, which had been Herrmann, in an effort to shed the stigma of the crimes. “I wanted to get away from the entire situation and I thought I’ll change units and no one will know,” he said. But, because of the investigation and trial, McGuinness’s orders to report to an airborne unit in Italy were canceled. “I ended up staying. People didn’t forget,” he said. “It was awful.”

Shilo, who fired the fatal shots at the men on the motorcycle, was granted immunity and left the Army not long after the trial.

The Cursed Platoon: Lucas Gray and James O. Twist in Afghanistan in 2012. (Courtesy of the Twist family)

Lucas Gray and James O. Twist in Afghanistan in 2012. (Courtesy of the Twist family)

Even those who weren’t punished or even on the patrol that day felt tainted. To some of their fellow troops they were the “murder platoon,” a bunch of out-of-control soldiers who had wantonly killed Afghans. To others they were turncoats who had flipped on their commander. Gray was waiting for a parachute jump at Fort Bragg when he overheard a lieutenant colonel deride the platoon as nothing but a bunch of “traitors and cowards.” Gray was just a low- ranking specialist, so he kept his mouth shut.

The unit had seen some of the heaviest fighting of the long Afghanistan war, but received no awards for valor. There was no recognition for Twist, who had pulled Walley from a blast crater and applied a tourniquet to the remains of his arm and leg. No one acknowledged Joe Fjeldheim, the platoon medic, who had cut a hole in Hanes’s neck and inserted a breathing tube after a sniper’s bullet left him paralyzed and choking for air.

“Not a single write up. The only thing we received were Purple Hearts for the guys that got messed up,” Zettel said. “We were treated like we had an infectious disease. The Lorance issue evaporated any support from the Army when we got back, and it was absolutely crushing to those who needed help.”

Lucas Gray at home in Pulaski, Va. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

“I think when you see stuff like that sometimes it just flips a switch in some people and you’re just not the same. … I almost drank myself to death for two years,” said Lucas Gray at home in Pulaski, Va. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

A group from the unit gathered regularly at Zettel’s apartment off post to drink. Some Saturdays Fjeldheim would show up at 9:30 a.m. with booze and a plan to stay numb through the weekend. When the troops were too hung over to make it to mandatory morning formation and training, he would administer intravenous drips in the barracks.

“I was working at Macy’s, and I’d dread coming home because someone was doing something stupid or crying in the bathroom,” said Zettel’s wife, Kim. Often, it fell to her to offer a bit of empathy.

The soldiers blamed the killings when they were passed over for promotions or stripped of rank for drinking too much or missing formations. In early 2014, Gray was hospitalized for alcohol withdrawal and put on suicide watch. He had been drinking a half-gallon of whiskey each night to fall asleep. “It was my off switch,” he said. A few days into his hospital stay, when he was still dosed up on Valium, an officer visited him.

“Why are you like this?” the officer pressed. “They are just dead Afghans. Why do you care so much?”

The question infuriated Gray. Before the war crimes, he had believed he was helping Afghans and defending his country. “It’s like you’re this hardcore Christian and some entity drops from the ceiling and says it’s a sham,” he said. “That’s how it was for me. I thought of the Army as this altruistic thing. I thought it was perfect and honorable. It pains me to tell you how stupid and naive I was. The Lorance stuff just broke my faith. . . . And once you lose your values and your faith, the Army is just another job you hate.”

‘You need to stop running your mouth’

Mike McGuinness at home in Raeford, N.C. McGuinness legally changed his surname, which had been Herrmann, in an effort to shed the stigma of the crimes. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Mike McGuinness at home in Raeford, N.C. McGuinness legally changed his surname, which had been Herrmann, in an effort to shed the stigma of the crimes. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

McGuinness tried to intervene on behalf of his soldiers. He talked to Gray’s new commanders, who McGuinness said wanted to run him out of the Army for being drunk.

“Did you ask him why he’s drinking too much?” McGuinness pressed them.

Zettel asked McGuinness to meet with his new platoon sergeant when the Army, without explanation, blocked him from attending Ranger School.

McGuinness also spoke up for Jarred Ruhl, who had been one of his best soldiers in combat. Ruhl came home from Afghanistan with orders for Hawaii and a promotion to sergeant. But he soon began skipping morning formation, was demoted twice to private first class and forced from the Army.

“I just don’t know how to deal with everything that happened,” Ruhl told him. He had been standing next to Lorance when the lieutenant gave the orders to kill the Afghan men.

The Cursed Platoon: Jarred Ruhl holds an M203 grenade launcher mounted on his rifle as Dallas Haggard works the M240B machine gun while on duty in Afghanistan in June 2012. (Courtesy of the Carson family)

Jarred Ruhl holds an M203 grenade launcher mounted on his rifle as Dallas Haggard works the M240B machine gun while on duty in Afghanistan in June 2012. (Courtesy of the Carson family)

McGuinness, who said he felt like a failure for not stopping the killings or shielding his men from the fallout, was also self-destructing. “I was mouthy and insubordinate,” he said. He felt distant from his two young children and said he was drunk “six days a week.”

When conservatives rushed to turn Lorance into a hero, McGuinness felt as though the last shreds of his integrity were under assault. Former Lt. Col. Allen West, who had been relieved of command in 2003 for staging a mock execution of an Iraqi prisoner and was later elected to Congress in the tea party wave, blasted Lorance’s conviction in a Washington Times op-ed as a product of the Army’s “appalling” rules of engagement.

The rules were drafted by generals who worried that high civilian casualty rates were driving Afghans to support the Taliban. But West insisted that the rules put U.S. troops at undue risk and reflected President Barack Obama’s “outrageous contempt for the military.” West didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Fox News’s Sean Hannity took up Lorance’s case, calling the conviction a “national disgrace.”

In 2014, McGuinness was out drinking with an Army friend, and when the friend went home, stayed at the bar until he had downed enough booze to “sedate a rhino.” A military police officer found him later that night, sitting in his truck on All American Parkway, the main drag through Fort Bragg, with a gun in his mouth.

A nurse in the psychiatric ward at Womack Army Medical Center asked him if he really wanted help. “If you tell me that to get better, I’ve got to eat a 100-pound bag of gummy bears, then I’m going to eat 100 pounds of gummy bears,” he recalled telling her. “I just can’t do this s— any more.”

It was the end of a 16-year Army career.

The Cursed Platoon: Matthew Hanes during his deployment in Afghanistan in May 2012. (Photo by Dave Zettel)

Matthew Hanes during his deployment in Afghanistan in May 2012. (Photo by Dave Zettel)

Soon the platoon began to suffer losses at home. First Kerner, who was wounded in a bomb blast with the unit’s first platoon leader, died in March 2015 of cancer at age 23. Doctors discovered the malignancy when they were treating his combat wounds. Five months later Hanes, who was paralyzed by the bullet he took to his neck, died of a blood clot at age 24.

“Saying I love you doesn’t even scratch the surface of how much you truly mean to me,” he wrote in a note to the platoon three months before he fell into a coma. His closest friends from the unit — Zettel, Dallas Haggard and Fjeldheim, the medic who saved his life — were at his bedside in York, Pa., during his final unconscious hours.

At the funeral there was heavy drinking, just like at Bragg, but now that many in the platoon were out of the Army and no longer had to worry about drug tests, there was also cocaine to numb the pain.

Wives traded tips about how to persuade their husbands to go to therapy and talked about hiding their guns when they grew too depressed.

Ruhl complained to McGuinness that life at home felt empty. “Are you in therapy?” asked McGuinness, who was seeing a therapist and getting ready to start college at age 33.

“I don’t know if I can do it,” Ruhl said.

“It doesn’t f—ing matter what you think you can do,” he pressed. “It can’t make things worse.”

The Cursed Platoon: Dallas Haggard and Jarred Ruhl while on a long patrol in Afghanistan in June 2012. (Courtesy of the Carson family)

Dallas Haggard and Jarred Ruhl while on a long patrol in Afghanistan in June 2012. (Courtesy of the Carson family)

A few months later Zettel, who had finished college and was commissioned as an officer, stopped in to see Ruhl at his home in Fort Wayne, Ind. Zettel was on his way to a leadership course for new Army officers in Missouri.

Ruhl’s stepbrother told him that Ruhl had pulled a gun on a woman in a traffic dispute just days earlier. “Take his gun,” Zettel advised Ruhl’s stepbrother. “Take it apart and hide the pieces so that he can’t get it.” It was impossible, the stepbrother said. Ruhl took his gun everywhere.

Ruhl confided to Zettel that there were days when he couldn’t stop thinking about killing himself.

“How are we going to fix this?” asked Zettel, who helped Ruhl sign up for counseling at a VA hospital.

Before he could start, Ruhl pulled his gun on an acquaintance at a party. His stepbrother tried to wrestle it away and the firearm discharged, severing Ruhl’s femoral artery. He died before paramedics arrived.

“We kind of got betrayed,” said Dave Zettel outside his home in Blythewood, S.C. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

“We kind of got betrayed,” said Dave Zettel outside his home in Blythewood, S.C. “We were pegged as if we were like a rogue unit. Which we clearly weren’t. It was kind of disheartening.” (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Zettel came back for the funeral, then returned to Missouri to finish his five-month leadership course. Four years had passed since the war crimes, but the murders and their aftermath still seemed inescapable. A captain teaching Zettel’s class on rules of engagement used Lorance as a case study, telling the new officers that Lorance had been trying to impose discipline on a platoon that had lost control after one of its soldiers was shot in the neck. The captain was referring to Hanes, who had given Zettel his first salute when he was commissioned as an officer.

Lorance’s soldiers, the captain continued, had violated the rules of engagement and now Lorance, who hadn’t fired a shot, was serving a 19-year prison sentence.

Zettel blew up. “I was there and you need to stop running your mouth,” he recalled shouting at the instructor.

The instructor suggested they step out of the classroom. Zettel grew angrier.

“If I ever see Lorance on the street,” he said. “I am going to rip his f- –ing throat out.”

‘Y’all are being led the wrong way’

Sean Hannity of Fox News arrives in National Harbor, Md., on March 4, 2016. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Sean Hannity of Fox News arrives in National Harbor, Md., on March 4, 2016. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Six days after Trump was inaugurated as president, Hannity asked him in a White House interview about pardoning Lorance. “He got 30 years,” Hannity said incorrectly. “He was doing his job, protecting his team in Afghanistan.”

“We’re looking at a few of them,” said Trump of the case.

In the months after his conviction, Lorance had begun to receive support from United American Patriots (UAP), a nonprofit group that represents soldiers accused of war crimes. UAP helped Lorance find new lawyers who claimed in an appeals court filing that they had uncovered evidence showing that the younger victim was “biometrically linked” to a roadside bomb blast that occurred before his death. The sole survivor, the lawyers said, took part in attacks on U.S. forces after the Americans tried to kill him.

“The Afghan men were not civilian casualties . . . but were actually combatant bombmakers who intended to harm or kill American soldiers,” the lawyers wrote in their appeal.

In 2017, a military appeals court dismissed the biometric data as irrelevant because Lorance had “no indications that the victims posed any threat at the time of the shootings.” The judges found that the surviving victim’s decision to join the Taliban after the platoon tried to kill him probably would have helped prosecutors by demonstrating “the direct impact on U.S. forces when the local population believe they are being indiscriminately killed.”

But the biometric evidence and support from UAP helped Lorance’s mother and his legal team get on Trump’s favorite television shows — “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity” — where they offered a new account of the killings that differed dramatically from the sworn testimony. In their telling, the motorcycle wasn’t stopped on the side of the road with its kickstand down, as testimony and photos from the trial demonstrated, but was speeding toward Lorance and his men when he ordered them to fire.

“He’s got to make a split-second decision in a war zone,” Hannity said on his television show. “How did it get to the point where he got prosecuted for this?”

“I feel if he had not made that call,” Lorance’s mother replied, “my son today would be called a hero, killed in action.”

Hannity turned to Lorance’s lawyer, John Maher. “Was there anybody in the platoon that was with Clint that said that was the wrong decision?” he asked.

“That I don’t rightly know,” replied Maher, who had reviewed the platoon’s testimony.

“Then who made the determination that this was the wrong thing to do?” Hannity pressed.

“The chain of command,” Maher said.

“People that weren’t there,” Hannity concluded. Hannity and a Fox News spokeswoman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In a recent interview, Maher said his response to Hannity’s question had been “potentially inartful.” Lorance was in prison because the 1st Platoon soldiers turned him in and testified against him.

But Maher maintained that Lorance had made a split-second decision to protect his men from an enemy ambush. Some of the 1st Platoon soldiers said that the Afghan men had been standing on the side of the road for as long as two minutes before the U.S. gun truck opened fire on Lorance’s orders. Others, including Lorance, estimated they had been stopped for only a few seconds.

“That’s probably an eternity sitting here in the safety of this environment,” Maher said. “But I assure you that it’s not like that under volatile, uncertain, unforgiving conditions where life and death are right around the corner and a tardy decision results in death or dismemberment.”

The Afghan men were about 150 to 200 yards from the U.S. position when they were killed. To reach Lorance and his troops, they would have had to scale multiple shoulder-high mud walls.

The Cursed Platoon: Aaron Deamron, right, and Zach Thomas run for cover as they are fired upon by Taliban fighters during a mission in Zhary district of Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan in April 2012. Thomas would receive a concussion in the incident. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Aaron Deamron, right, and Zach Thomas run for cover as they are fired upon by Taliban fighters during a mission in Zhary district of Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan in April 2012. Thomas would receive a concussion in the incident. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

Zach Thomas, who had been standing just yards from Lorance when he gave the order to fire, was driving to community college in 2017 when he heard Hannity talking about the Lorance case on the radio.

“My blood just started boiling,” he recalled.

Thomas had spent his last day in the Army testifying against his former platoon leader. He was just 18 when he left for Afghanistan, and like many in the unit, his return home had been difficult. He drank to blunt his PTSD and depression. Two of his sergeants were so worried about him that they let him move out of the barracks and spend his last two months living at their house. His plan after the Army was to forget about Afghanistan and start a new life in his hometown of Crosby, Tex.

 

The Cursed Platoon: Zach Thomas and Jake Jensen before their deployment at Fort Bragg. (Courtesy of Zach Thomas)

Zach Thomas and Jake Jensen before their deployment at Fort Bragg. (Courtesy of Zach Thomas)

Thomas pulled over on the side of the road and looked up the number for Hannity’s radio show in New York City on his cellphone.

“I’m a big fan, but y’all are being led the wrong way,” he told a producer for the show. “This isn’t some innocent guy.” The producer asked him if he knew about the biometric data Lorance’s lawyers had uncovered.

“I don’t know about any of that information, but I was there and these people were not enemy combatants,” he said. He could tell he wasn’t convincing the producer so he gave her McGuinness’s cellphone number and urged her to call him. She talked with McGuinness as well but never invited him on the show.

A handful of other soldiers from the platoon did their best to counter Lorance’s story. Todd Fitzgerald, who was also standing near Lorance when he ordered the killings, took to Reddit to defend the unit. He and several other soldiers spoke to the New York Times for a story that detailed the inaccuracies in Lorance’s defense. Fitzgerald, McGuinness and Gray were interviewed for a documentary about the case, “Leavenworth,” that aired on the Starz Network.

In April 2018, the platoon suffered its fourth death since returning home when Nick Carson, 26, crashed his car late at night.

Carson had been with McGuinness in Afghanistan on the day of the killings, and like his squad leader had been threatened with war crimes charges.

“I don’t know what’s fixing to happen, but our platoon leader is making us all out to be murderers,” he told his parents in a 2012 phone call from Afghanistan. “Just know, I am not a murderer.”

The Cursed Platoon:  Nick Carson eats a meal during his deployment in Afghanistan in May 2012. (Photo by Dave Zettel)

Nick Carson eats a meal during his deployment in Afghanistan in May 2012. (Photo by Dave Zettel)

Carson’s mother and stepfather were at Fort Bragg a few months later when he returned from the war. “He got off that big plane, hugged us and cried and then he said, ‘I love y’all but I need to be by myself. I just need to go,’ ” recalled his stepfather.

Carson stayed in the Army after the combat tour, but he struggled with PTSD, depression and anger. He and Ruhl had been best friends and were supposed to go to Hawaii together when they returned from Afghanistan. After Ruhl’s death, Carson tried to explain on the platoon’s private Facebook page why he was skipping his friend’s funeral. “It’s not that I can’t physically be there,” he wrote. “I won’t let my last memory of Jarred be at his funeral. I am sorry for that. Most of you know how close Jarred and I were, so this has been extremely difficult to accept.”

On the night of the car accident that killed him, Carson had been drinking and wasn’t wearing a seat belt. His parents said he may have fallen asleep while driving. The platoon blamed the war crimes and the deployment.

In Afghanistan, the platoon had dubbed themselves the “Honey Badgers” after the fearless carnivore.

Back home, they began to refer to themselves as “the cursed platoon.”

‘Who is it this time?’

A loaded pistol on a side table in the home of Lucas Gray in Pulaski, Va. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

A loaded pistol on a side table in the home of Lucas Gray in Pulaski, Va. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

On October 23rd at 2:44 a.m., Twist’s wife, Emalyn, messaged Sgt. 1st Class Joe Morrissey, who had been Twist’s team leader with the platoon in Afghanistan.

“James committed suicide tonight,” she wrote from the hospital where the doctors were preparing to harvest his organs. “Could you let his other Army friends know. . . . This is a fucking living nightmare.” It was the platoon’s fifth death since returning home four years earlier.

Morrissey woke to the message at Fort Bragg and began sobbing. His soon-to-be ex-wife knew immediately that another member of the platoon was gone. His first call was to McGuinness, who was returning home from a late-night shift as a bouncer at a Fayetteville bar. The two immediately began calling the rest of the platoon, which was scattered across the country.

The deaths had imbued them with a grim fatalism. “Who is it this time?” a few answered when they saw the 5 a.m. calls from Morrissey’s phone.

“It’s James,” Morrissey said again and again.

At Fort Jackson, Zettel was administering a predawn fitness test to recruits when he got the call. He punched a fence and rushed back to his office so the new soldiers wouldn’t see him fall apart. Alone at his desk, Zettel thought about the steady stream of calls and texts Twist had sent him over the past five years, and he wondered if the messages were an indirect way of asking for help.

McGuinness caught Gray as he headed off to his job at a weapons arsenal in southwest Virginia. His wallpaper on his work computer was a photo of Twist and him in Afghanistan, their rifles slung across their chests. “Back when we were cool,” Twist had written when he texted it to Gray.

The hardest call was to Walley, the soldier Twist had dragged from the blast crater. “What’s wrong?” his fiancee asked him when he got the call. “It’s Twist,” Walley told her. She tried to hug him, but he pushed her away. “I need to take this in alone,” he said.

Samuel Walley with his fiancee Hannah Smallwood in their garage in Buford, Ga. Walley lost his right leg and part of his left arm in Afghanistan. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Samuel Walley with his fiancee Hannah Smallwood in their garage in Buford, Ga. Walley lost his right leg and part of his left arm in Afghanistan. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

At the funeral, Walley spoke first for the platoon, rocking back and forth on his prosthetic leg. Walley was wounded a month before the murders, but they had affected him too. At times, he felt abandoned by those who had tried to distance themselves from the unit, the murders and the war. “I have to wake up every single day and look in the mirror. Every single day I am hopping in a wheelchair,” he often thought. “I don’t get to forget.”

In January 2016, he was drunk and despondent in his apartment outside Atlanta and accidentally fired his pistol through the ceiling and into the apartment above him. After the shooting, Walley cut back on his drinking and returned to college. He was just one semester from graduating.

He stared out at the packed and silent church.

“Twist would probably give me a little bit of crap right now for having not wrote a speech,” he began. “But I figured I’d just tell a story. It’s a little bit of a harsh story, but I think it needs to be told.”

The Cursed Platoon: Members of the 1st Platoon at James O. Twist's funeral in Grand Rapids, Mich., in November 2019. From left: Joe Fjeldheim, Jake Jensen, John Twist, Zach Thomas, Dan Williams (holding left side of flag), Alan Gladney (wearing glasses), Lucas Gray (partially visible), Reyler Leon, Samuel Walley, and slightly behind him is Dave Zettel, Brandon Krebs, and Mike McGuinness (in sunglasses), Brandon Kargol, Joe Morrissey, Dom Latino, Dallas Haggard, Brett Frace and Zach Nelson at the far right. (Courtesy of the Twist family)

Members of the 1st Platoon at James O. Twist’s funeral in Grand Rapids, Mich., in November 2019. From left: Joe Fjeldheim, Jake Jensen, John Twist, Zach Thomas, Dan Williams (holding left side of flag), Alan Gladney (wearing glasses), Lucas Gray (partially visible), Reyler Leon, Samuel Walley, and slightly behind him is Dave Zettel, Brandon Krebs, and Mike McGuinness (in sunglasses), Brandon Kargol, Joe Morrissey, Dom Latino, Dallas Haggard, Brett Frace and Zach Nelson at the far right. (Courtesy of the Twist family)

Walley had spent dozens of hours reconstructing every second of the day he was injured. Eight years after the blast, he and his fellow soldiers would still argue over the smallest details: What kind of bomb had caused his wounds? Was it a pressure plate or remote-detonated? What exactly did Morrissey say as he and Carson lifted Walley into the helicopter? For Walley, the details were sacred. Remembering brought him comfort.

He took a breath and described the explosion and its aftermath. “My right leg was about 20 feet away. It was completely removed. My left leg, the tibia ripped through the [skin]; my foot was facing toward my butt,” he said. His right arm was mangled.

“Twist ended up coming through this cloudy haze,” Walley continued. “He was the most selfless man that I ever knew on this planet. He did not care if he died. He did not care if his limbs were to get ripped off. He didn’t care. He just cared that his guys were okay.”

A few minutes in a combat zone can define a life for good or for ill. “I believe that 10 minutes defined Twist,” Walley said.

Morrissey spoke next of Twist’s successes as a soldier, state trooper and father. “Those of us who knew Twist were extremely proud,” he said. “Unfortunately . . . underneath it all, the demons are still there, still tearing away at us day in and day out.”

‘The men and women in the mud and dirt’

President Trump welcomes Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, left, at the Republican Party of Florida’s Statesman Dinner in December 2019, in Aventura, Fla. Both soldiers were granted full pardons by Trump. (Joyce N. Boghosian/The White House)

President Trump welcomes Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, left, at the Republican Party of Florida’s Statesman Dinner in December 2019, in Aventura, Fla. Both soldiers were granted full pardons by Trump. (Joyce N. Boghosian/The White House)

The 1st Platoon soldiers were still filtering home from Twist’s funeral when Pete Hegseth, a “Fox & Friends” co-anchor who had advocated on Lorance’s behalf, tweeted that Lorance’s pardon was “imminent.”

The actual release came two weeks later on Nov. 15.

“It’s done. It’s a political move,” one of the 1st Platoon soldiers wrote on the group’s private Facebook page. “Time to move on.”

Ayres, who had skipped all five of the platoon’s funerals, agreed. “Not worth any of our time,” he wrote. “What matters is that everyone that matters knows he is a piece of s—. Let’s move on and enjoy life.”

For McGuinness it wasn’t an option. He couldn’t bear the thought that Lorance was being hailed as a hero by Trump and others, while soldiers like Twist were being forgotten. “I’ve buried people that struggled with what happened, and whether through their own hands or their actions, they’re gone,” he said. “I’m not going to sit quietly while he gets paraded around and they’re not recognized.”

He texted with Gray, who wasn’t on Facebook.

Lucas Gray: Fuck it all. The one reprieve we had is gone.

Mike McGuinness: I feel so shitty right now.

Lucas Gray: I’m going to drink until I can sleep.

Mike McGuinness: I might do the same.

Others in the platoon argued on social media with pro-Trump friends, who insisted Lorance was innocent. “You realize I was f— ing THERE, right?” one soldier wrote to a fellow veteran. “Like you realize I was one of the godd— WITNESSES who testified, right?!”

Later that evening, Twist’s father, John, called McGuinness, hoping to talk about his son and the pardon. McGuinness shared his memories of Twist, who came to the platoon when he was just 19. “We put so much work into him,” McGuinness said. He talked about Twist’s quirks — his irritating tendency to correct McGuinness when he got a minor fact wrong about a weapons system.

Twist’s father asked whether the murders and the trial might have contributed to his son’s torment. Twist wasn’t on patrol the day of the killings, but McGuinness believed that what had happened with Lorance had wounded him too. “Twist had a big heart. He was like Gray. He wanted to do good,” McGuinness said. “When Lorance took that away, he took a little part of Jimmy, too.”

Mike McGuinness at his home in Raeford, N.C. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

“You don’t go into the military thinking you are going to be part of a war crimes case,” said Mike McGuinness at his home in Raeford, N.C. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

“This is absolutely amazing,” Lorance said as his car, escorted by the county constable, rolled to a stop in the high school parking lot.

“It’s a hometown hero’s welcome,” said his cousin from the back seat.

Lorance climbed atop a flatbed trailer. Someone from the crowd gave him an American flag. The vice commander of the local VFW handed him a microphone.

“God Bless Texas!” Lorance yelled. “God Bless America!”

At his side was the head of UAP, the group that had worked to free him. Lorance’s case and the publicity generated helped the group boost annual donations by about 150 percent, from $1.8 million in 2015 to more than $4.5 million in 2018.

Lorance, who was wearing his crisp, blue Army uniform — his pants tucked into his boots, paratrooper style — knew exactly what his backers wanted to hear. “We finally have a president who understands that when we send our troops to fight impossible wars, we must stand behind them,” he told the crowd.

“Amen!” cried a voice from the high school parking lot. “Amen is right!” Lorance answered.

Former 1st Lt. Clint Lorance addresses a crowd as he returns home to Merit, Tex., on Nov. 16, 2019, after he was pardoned by President Trump. (Courtesy of Farmersville Fire Department)

Former 1st Lt. Clint Lorance addresses a crowd as he returns home to Merit, Tex., on Nov. 16, 2019, after he was pardoned by President Trump. (Courtesy of Farmersville Fire Department)

For those in the parking lot that night, Lorance’s freedom was proof that Trump would stand up for them and their town, population 215, at a moment when large swaths of the country seemed to hold them and their way of life in contempt. “You know how many people just want to see that someone cares,” said Tiffany West, 37, who was standing feet from the stage.

Lorance thanked his family and the lawmakers who pressed for his release. He talked about Trump and Vice President Pence, who had called him at the penitentiary to tell him that they were setting him free. “We had a nine-minute conversation,” Lorance said. “Yeah, I was timing it. . . . They took time out of their busy day to ask me what I was going to do with the rest of my life.”

He blasted the craven “deep state” military officers he blamed for his conviction. “That’s not really the military. That’s the politicians who run the thing,” he said. “The men and women in the mud and dirt. That’s the real U.S. military.”

He was still talking nearly an hour later when the television news crews from Dallas, about 60 miles away, began packing up their equipment.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I know it’s cold.”

“Go ahead!” a voice shouted.

“You’re home!” added another.

Soon the crowd began drifting away for the night, past Merit’s post office, its volunteer fire department, its recently shuttered convenience store, and the decaying wood clapboard building that once held its cotton gin. Lorance handed the microphone back to the local VFW’s vice commander, a Gulf War veteran who had organized the gathering and would now get the final word.

“There’s going to be people out there that are going to try to use this against Trump,” he warned. “Well, we’re going to throw it right back in their faces!”

Lorance visits the set of “Fox & Friends” in New York on Nov. 18, 2019, after receiving a presidential pardon. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Lorance visits the set of “Fox & Friends” in New York on Nov. 18, 2019, after receiving a presidential pardon. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

The next morning Lorance boarded a plane for New York City, where he appeared on “Fox & Friends” and Hannity’s radio show.

In December, he joined Trump onstage at a GOP fundraiser.

In interviews after his release, Lorance insisted that the soldiers who testified against him were pressured by the Army or had turned on him because he was an exacting commander and they lacked discipline. “When I walked into the guard tower and the soldiers didn’t have their helmet or body armor on, I told them to put it on,” he told Blue Magazine, which advocates on behalf of police officers. “And they didn’t like that, they didn’t like taking orders like that, but I was brought in there to enforce the standard.”

‘There’s almost always more to every story than we know’

The Cursed Platoon:  John Twist created a wall in his living room memorializing James and other family members who served in the military at his home in Grand Rapids, Mich. The flag was signed by members of James's platoon after his funeral. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

John Twist created a wall in his living room memorializing James and other family members who served in the military at his home in Grand Rapids, Mich. The flag was signed by members of James’s platoon after his funeral. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

In Grand Rapids, Twist’s father spent much of the winter trying to unravel the mystery of his son’s death. His dining room table was covered with foot-high piles of papers from James’s life.

There were old report cards, passports and programs from high school wrestling matches. A second pile from the Army included a spiral notebook that his son had used as a diary when he was going through basic training. A third pile contained a printout of the essay — “The Invisible War Inside My Head” — that his son wrote the day before he died.

In it, Twist wrote briefly about the killings that had “rocked and split up” his platoon. The longest section of the essay recounted the day Walley lost his arm and leg. “I found Sam in a small crater,” he wrote. “He was missing his right foot and all the muscle and skin around his right tibia/fibula.” That image, he said, played again and again in his head when he returned from the war.

“I really don’t understand what PTSD is,” his father said. “You can read about it, but I don’t get it. So far the only thing I can get is that it’s like having . . . poor Sam Walley getting blown up” playing in your head over and over. “And how do you get rid of that?”

James O. Twist with his son Ben, celebrating his first birthday in August 2019. (Courtesy of the Twist family)

James O. Twist with his son Ben, celebrating his first birthday in August 2019. (Courtesy of the Twist family)

Twist’s wife, Emalyn, 27, also had been thinking about the meaning of her husband’s life and sudden, violent death. In early March she was sitting alone in the parking lot of a nearby Target. Her three children — ages 1, 3 and 5 — were with a friend. She balanced a Starbucks coffee in one hand and hit record on her cellphone camera.

“It has been kind of a bad week, filled with a lot of ‘it shouldn’t have to be that way’ kind of moments,” she said. Earlier that morning, she had turned over their house keys to the new owners. Her 5-year-old son spotted the family’s moving trucks in the driveway and panicked, yelling for her to “stop them.”

Twist’s children remembered their father as a dad who liked to wrestle and sing them to sleep. Emalyn couldn’t forget her husband’s insecurity, bouts of self-loathing and verbal abuse. On the night her husband took his life he was upset with her for going to see a therapist and terrified that she was going to divorce him. In a blog post, Emalyn described him slamming his head into the kitchen counter until blood was running down his face. Then he stormed to their bedroom and shot himself.

Emalyn pressed a pair of leggings to her husband’s head in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding. With her other hand, she dialed 911. As she listened for the sound of approaching sirens, she stifled the urge to vomit and prayed that their children would not wake.

Emalyn Twist writes about her experience following Twist’s death in Emalyn's Blog: Words of a Young Widow. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

Emalyn Twist writes about her experience following Twist’s death in Emalyn’s Blog: Words of a Young Widow. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

“I couldn’t stand to live in that house or sleep in that bedroom when I had seen so much in there, and that just makes me mad, because I loved that house and I loved that neighborhood,” she said to her cellphone camera. “And I shouldn’t have had to leave. I shouldn’t have had to pull my kids out of their little social circle and all those people who loved them. It shouldn’t have to be that way.”

For years she had helped her husband hide his pain from family, friends and even his fellow soldiers. Now she was determined to be honest. “I just don’t have to keep up this facade of the grieving widow all the time, even though that’s also what I am,” she said. “There’s almost always more to every story than we know. It’s important to pay attention to that.”

She stopped recording, turned on the ignition and picked up with her day.

‘I love you’

The Cursed Platoon: Dave Zettel at home with his wife, Kim, in Blythewood, S.C. The couple are expecting their first child. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

 Dave Zettel at home with his wife, Kim, in Blythewood, S.C. The couple are expecting their first child. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

In April with the country locked down by the coronavirus, McGuinness arranged for a dozen of the guys from the platoon to get together on a video call for beers. He and Walley were finishing up their last few college courses before they graduated. A couple of the soldiers and wives were expecting their first children. Two were in the early days of divorces.

An hour into the call almost everyone was drunk or stoned — except for the pregnant wives. One soldier kept streaming as he sat on the toilet. When he was done everyone screamed at him to wash his hands. Another soldier vomited and curled up on the floor.

“This is better than getting together at funerals,” McGuinness said cheerily.

The troops talked about their plans for the future. Morrissey was just back from another tour in Afghanistan, where he mostly sat on base while the Afghans fought each other. “There’s no war left there anymore,” he said.

“What are you going to do when you retire?” McGuinness asked him.

“Let me finish, before you laugh,” Morrissey replied. “I’m going to go to school to be a barber and open one of those high end barber shops where you can get a drink, a real gentleman’s haircut and shave with a straight razor.”

Walley tried to talk, but everyone was talking over him. “No one listens to me,” he joked. “Everyone just stares at the guy with two limbs.” He and his fiancee were planning their wedding for the spring of 2021. They had already reserved a “mansion where we can fit the whole platoon,” he said.

“Just tell me the day and I’ll be there,” McGuinness promised.

Zettel and his wife were expecting their first child on Aug. 10. He was planning on leaving the Army for good in October. “It’s not going to join the Army,” Zettel said of his unborn child. “I’m going to burn everything so it doesn’t even know I was in the f—ing Army.”

The soldiers talked about the guys they had lost to suicide and self- destructive behavior. And they spoke briefly about Lorance, who has a memoir titled “Stolen Honor” that is going to be published by Hachette Book Group in the fall, when Lorance has said he is planning to start law school. A blurb for the book, posted by the publisher, calls Lorance “a scapegoat for a corrupt military” and asserts that “his unit turned on him because of his homosexuality.” Lorance’s lawyer said there was no evidence that homophobia played a role in conviction.

“We looked,” Maher said, “and we came up with nothing.”

In interviews, troops said that in Afghanistan they didn’t know Lorance was gay and wouldn’t have cared.

“We took s— from so many people for so long,” McGuinness said. “I’m not letting that happen anymore. I’m going to fight back.”

The soldiers shared tips about how to find a good therapist and promised to look out for one another so that there would be no more funerals.

“You guys mean everything to me,” McGuinness said. “We have to do this more often. We have to look after each other. If you guys are hurting, hit me up. We can do this instead of just letting things fester.”

He rose from his desk chair — a little wobbly from all the beer. It was 2:30 a.m., and they had been talking for more than four hours. “I love you a–holes,” he said, and signed off the call.

An American flag decorates a roof along a country road in North Carolina. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

An American flag decorates a roof along a country road in North Carolina. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

 

Credits

Julie Tate contributed to this report. Story editing by Peter Finn and Steven Ginsberg. Photos by Bonnie Jo Mount. Photo editing by Natalia Jimenez. Video by Jon Gerberg. Video editing by Jesse Mesner-Hage. Design and development by Madison Walls. Design editing by Matt Callahan. Copy editing by Tom Justice and Wayne Lockwood. Project management by Julie Vitkovskaya.

Greg Jaffe

Greg Jaffe is a national political reporter for The Washington Post, where he has been since March 2009. Previously, he covered the White House, foreign policy and the U.S. military for The Post

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Repositioning the Military Budget https://militarytruth.org/repositioning-the-military-budget/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=repositioning-the-military-budget https://militarytruth.org/repositioning-the-military-budget/#respond Fri, 03 Jul 2020 19:14:19 +0000 https://militarytruth.org/?p=7487 FINALLY, there may be some action on repositioning the military budget! The priorities of the U.S. government have been wildly out of touch with both morality and public opinion for decades, and have been moving in the wrong direction even as awareness of the crises facing us has inched upward. The U.S. government is expected […]

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FINALLY, there may be some action on repositioning the military budget!

The priorities of the U.S. government have been wildly out of touch with both morality and public opinion for decades, and have been moving in the wrong direction even as awareness of the crises facing us has inched upward. The U.S. government is expected to spend, in its discretionary budget in 2021, $740 billion on the military and $660 billion on everything else: environmental protections, energy, education, transportation, diplomacy, housing, agriculture, science, disease pandemics, parks, foreign (non-weapons) aid, etc., etc.

Both Houses Working to Move Money Out of Military

We haven’t seen this sort of thing in Washington, D.C., since the days of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, with support from Congresswomen Pramila Jayapal and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has introduced a resolution to move $350 billion per year out of militarism and into useful things. >> Full Text of Resolution and List of Cosponsors

On a smaller scale, but with the potential for a more immediate result, Senator Bernie Sanders has said he will introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to move $74 billion a year from militarism to human needs.

Where would the money come from? According to Rep. Lee’s resolution:

  1. eliminating the Overseas Contingency Operations account and saving $68,800,000,000;
  2. closing 60 percent of foreign bases and saving $90,000,000,000;
  3. ending wars and war funding and saving $66,000,000,000;
  4. cutting unnecessary weapons that are obsolete, excessive, and dangerous and saving $57,900,000,000;
  5. cutting military overhead by 15 percent and saving $38,000,000,000;
  6. cutting private service contracting by 15 percent and saving $26,000,000,000;
  7. eliminating the proposal for the Space Force and saving $2,600,000,000;
  8. ending use-it-or-lose-it contract spending and saving $18,000,000,000;
  9. freezing operations and maintenance budget levels and saving $6,000,000,000; and
  10. reducing United States presence in Afghanistan by half and saving $23,150,000,000.

Whatever funding is needed to aid anyone in the transition from military to non-military employment will be a small fraction of the whole.

Moving $74 billion would result in $666 billion on militarism and $734 billion on everything else.

Moving $350 billion would result in $390 billion on militarism and $1,010 billion on everything else.

Where would the money go?

It would cost about $30 billion per year, according to UN figures, to end starvation on earth, and about $11 billion to provide the world with clean drinking water. Less than $70 billion per year would wipe out poverty in the United States. Spent wisely, $350 billion could transform the United States and the world, and certainly save even more lives than are spared by taking it away from the military.

RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Frances Fox Piven, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.

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