“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel
Who owns the words “Mengele,” Auschwitz,” “Hitler, “Nazi” and “Holocaust?”
Is it Jews? Poles? Germans? Russians? Gypsies? Slavs? Who?
I say it is all of the above and more.
The death toll in World War II, including those who perished in Nazi concentration camps, was nearly 85 million people world-wide, most in China and Russia. 6 million Jews disappeared in Nazi concentration camps, but also 5 million non-Jews, such as gay people, priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Christians, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters, were also starved, worked to death, experimented on, tortured and murdered in these camps.
The “good” German was indifferent. The “good” German was silent.
Who spoke for the condemned, Jew or otherwise? Who speaks for them now? We all do. We all MUST.
Who owns the Holocaust? We all own it.
Our plague of cancel culture has reached a deadly crescendo. For uttering this word or that, no matter your status or context, there are those who would have your tongue.
If they had their way, cancel culture would clean up every errant thought and word from our brains, mouths and key strokes. How DARE we say and write politically and socially incorrect things? Who gave us that right?
American and other allied veterans who fought for the right to not only think different thoughts, but to speak our minds and hearts and souls as we see fit. They gave it. And they gave it with their blood, sweat, tears, limbs and lives.
My question is, who gave cancel culture the right to challenge my freedom of speech (and thought)?
It used to be we could agree to disagree and then go about our business, unharmed and proud in the knowledge that two people could actually disagree without ad hominem or hatred. No more.
Now, the thought crime of believing something out of the mainstream or cancel culture narrative can end your public communication privileges, and then weaken the collective mind.
Together, all thoughts, ideas, brainstorms and epiphanies can mean progress, discovery, insight, wisdom and VISION for a peaceful future. Being apart, segregated, censored, punished and alone we are doomed to repeat the ugliest and darkest times in our history. Why?
Because we weren’t allowed to speak; we weren’t allowed to utter the names and places and events that shall not be spoken but by a chosen, appropriate few.
Because someone may take offense, or suffer emotional trauma . . . because of the word, or because of the weakness of human emotions? Where is the objectivity?
Without speaking the unspeakable, or showing the unimaginable – the TRUTH, we are doomed to meet, in ignorant denial, a similar fate as did our ancestors. “It couldn’t possibly happen to us.” “They would never take our guns away.” “They would never attack our heritage, or rip down our monuments and memorials.” “I contribute to society, pay taxes, vote, and follow the law.” “Surely they would never treat us like the Jews and undesirables of the Second World War.” These are all famous last words.
When people begin to compare their wounds and wrongs, they lose sight of what’s more important, HUMANITY. A collective humanity demands basic rights of the individual to be heard, no matter the offense of the message, and especially if that message is painful.
Successful physical therapy includes PAIN TOLLERANCE. And without it, range of motion is lost. Viability is lost. Life is lost.
Learning history includes PAIN TOLLERANCE. Those who lack it fail to learn; fail to pass on essential life lessons. Those who say, “No, you can’t say that word or you will be silenced,” are least able to tolerate differences, change or grow. Why listen to them?
Is it better to listen to the one person who cries, “The Emperor has no clothes,” or to be cowed by the masses who claim the naked man is wonderfully dressed?
This is appeasement over substance; lies over truth.
This is what we are living now.
Imagine a world where thoughts were expressed and then people spoke, not to condemn the messenger, but to wax poetic on the message.
Those who attack the messenger don’t really care about the message as much as they care about hurting someone, anyone who is not part of the cabal, in order to preserve their own selfish thoughts. They aren’t mature enough to tolerate a different view. These are the people who should be shunned and then given a time out from the public square, not the lone truth tellers.
In medicine, if you don’t like what your doctor has to say, you can get a second or even third opinion – without being cancelled. Why then in society, social media, news programs, discussions or speeches, if we don’t like what is said, we are not allowed a second or third opinion?
If we eliminate the ability to speak the painful words, then we eliminate the ability to think about them. And when that happens, we expose ourselves to the evil ways of the past, and condemn ourselves to repeat the very deeds we say we abhor the most.
Rocky Point High School, Suffolk County, Long Island, NY, is a very patriotic place in a very patriotic community. Military veterans, volunteer firefighters, first responders, neighbors, and leaders of all kinds have contributed to myriad memorials and honors there since 9/11/2001.
The school boasts annual Veterans Day assemblies featuring veterans, high school band and small group music, multi-media presentations and rapt students.
The school has a 9/11 memorial outside it main entrance in honor of the sacrifice of community member on that day.
High School social studies teacher, coach and student leadership mentor, Mr. Rich Acritelli has spearheaded the school’s military honor wall, which highlight’s the school’s graduates who have joined the military service. This is in the main hallway and covers 50′ of surface on one side, and on the other facing wall is a similar tribute display for school staff members who have served. The picture plaques features color photos of the person in uniform along with their name and place in an are identified with their branch of service. There is also a small section dedicated to Navy LT Michael Murphy, a local deceased medal of honor winner from the War on Terror.
I have known Rich Acritelli for over 20 years, through high school athletics and then the military. Rich is a great friend and generous soul. I have been invited to speak at the annual Veterans Day Assembly a few times and am always impressed and amazed at the complete respect and sincerity of the students, staff and administration. The principal, Mr. Jonathan Hart was present for the entire ceremony and was engaged and supportive of Mr. Acritelli and the school participants and audience.
Mr. Acritelli told me I had 7-8 minutes for a speech to the audience of over 100 11th grade US History students. Rich has always been supportive of my service and a great fan of my book, “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay.” Here is my speech:
VETERANS DAY ASSEMBLY
ROCKY POINT HIGH SCHOOL
November 12, 2021
Thank you, Mr. Acritelli, and Principal Hart for inviting me here today to speak with you on the occasion of Veterans Day.
I am a three-times mobilized retired Army Major and served 22 years, starting out as a combat medic for five years, then Officer Candidate School, and then as a Medical Service Corps officer.
The last nine years of my service were spent in Military Police Enemy Prisoner of War liaison units, as the Field Medical Assistant, in charge of medical, preventive medical and environmental services for Enemy Prisoner of War operations.
After 9/11, I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint Task Force 160. In short, I helped take care of bad guys.
After my retirement from the Army in 2008, I became very disappointed in the media coverage about Gitmo. I felt the media unfairly portrayed the operation as less than humane, which I knew was simply not true.
My colleagues and I, from all branches of the US military, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard, were dedicated, well trained, and served with honor and integrity.
International Committee of the Red Cross physicians I worked with there told me, “No one does detention operations better than the US.” We were the best, and I knew it.
My frustration over the inaccurate reports about Gitmo led me to write a memoir about my time there called “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay.” It isn’t the whole story, but I like to think of it as a small piece to the big puzzle of the enigma we call Gitmo.
When last I spoke here I brought a few hard cover first edition copies of my book with me and donated them to the students and the school. I am here to do the same with the second edition, soft cover; one copy for Principal Hart as a dedication to your school library, and one to Mr. Acritelli to hold a raffle for interested students who might want a copy.
Not too long ago, a short documentary film was made about my experience at Gitmo, called “Heroes of Gitmo,” which is available on YouTube. Please check it out. Heroes of Gitmo.
I remember my service there as some of the most challenging times of my life, and I called it an emotional train wreck. In early 2002, at the beginning of the mission at Gitmo, we were told by then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, that even though the detainees, who were all at least unlawful combatants, were not entitled to the protections and privileges of the Geneva Conventions, we would treat them however, he said, “within the spirit of Geneva.” That’s all we needed to hear. We only trained one way, the right way. And even though we may have hated the detainees for taking us away from our families, friends and careers, we were duty bound to treat them with dignity and respect.
Detainees are given FREE, Qurans, prayer rugs and beads, white robes, beards, directions to Mecca, halal and Muslim holy holiday meals including lamb and baklava, services of US military Muslim chaplains, world class health, dental and vision care, recreation, books, TV, DVDs, correspondence, sports and more.
741 detainees have been released, about 39 remain and none have been executed or brutalized the way our enemies have treated US or allied prisoners. There is no moral comparison between Gitmo and how our enemies treat their captives.
With all this said, there was Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, or EIT performed on a handful of detainees at Gitmo in order to obtain valuable information that saved many lives. Those techniques have been labeled torture after the fact, and did not meet the internationally accepted definition of torture at the time. The techniques were not performed by Army personnel nor any Department of Defense personnel, but by CIA operatives trained in the techniques.
Torture is wrong, but at the time, the techniques used were legal and approved. Since then, the techniques have been outlawed and even though one technique, waterboarding, has been singled out as particularly cruel, it was used in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training for US personnel scheduled to deploy overseas who might be at risk of kidnapping by our enemies. The training was to help prepare US personnel for potential waterboarding by our enemies. It is not lethal unless performed by poorly trained individuals.
My advice to you though is to not take my word for it, but research for yourself about the US operation at Guantanamo Bay, which is still ongoing. There is plenty to read, but mostly from former detainees, trained to lie about their treatment in captivity. I know some of these men through social media, have read their books and shared mine with them. To this day, we agree to disagree about certain facts surrounding their participation in the Global War on Terror and their detention.
Veterans Day is a special day when we, as a society turn to say “thank you” to our veterans, who wrote a blank check to all of us for everything up to and including their lives. It’s been said that, greater love hath no one than this: that a person lay down their life for their friends.
Thank you for taking the time to honor me and the other veterans here today. I appreciate your kind attention and loyal support very much.
When you see a veteran, thank them for their service, welcome them home and ask them about their service. What job did they have? How was the food? Do you remember a funny story? Would you do it all over again?
Some veterans would jump at the chance to talk with a young person about their service, and some might not. But you never know unless you ask.
In closing, always remember to think for yourselves. Don’t let anyone discount your thoughts or feelings about things that are important to you. But be gracious in your conversations and seek to truly understand what the other person is trying to communicate. This takes patience, consideration and thoughtfulness. But don’t ever mistake kindness for weakness. It is the strongest among us who are also the most kind.
Thank you and God bless.
Montgomery J. Granger
Major, US Army, Retired
It was great to be a part of something so special with people who care so deeply about the sacrifice and dedication of veterans. Michael Murphy’s father, Dan was present and spoke before I did at the assembly. It was humbling to see a man so full of pride for his son, lost in the service of his country, taking up the standard of selfless service, honor and integrity – which his son displayed and demonstrated while in uniform in the service of his country.
The acting in the film “The Mauritanian” is superb. The look and feel of it are more authentic than not, with many accurate details. The production values and film making are excellent. Who would expect less from a part seasoned, part up-and-coming cast, accomplished director and solid production company? The film is a success, technically.
This issue comes with the claim in the opening credits that it is a “true story.”
That is a very high bar, considering the subject, Mohamadou Auld Slahi, unlawful combatant Global War on Terror participant, is known to have lied and changed his story multiple times during his incarceration at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Which truth are they talking about?
According to his own statements, and classified documents released by Wikileaks, published by the New York Times (Guantanamo Docket), Mr. Slahi is a trained al Qaeda operative, who may or may not have recruited at least three 9/11/2001 terrorists, led a terror cell in Germany, pledged Bayat (allegiance) to Usamma bin Laden, and planned the failed Millennial Bombing plot at Los Angeles International Airport. He is also under suspicion of having close associations with other known al Qaeda operatives and high-ranking officials.
In other words, Mr. Slahi was not an “innocent” foot soldier just following orders and kidnapped for bounty. Not that that would matter even if he were a lawful combatant POW. He was not.
According to the Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare, unlawful combatants are entitled to ZERO legal rights and may be shot on sight on the battlefield. If captured they may be denied habeas corpus and tried in a military commission as unlawful combatant war criminals. So how did it come to be that Mr. Slahi and 730 of his comrades were RELEASED from Gitmo, and NONE have been beheaded, executed, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive? All things our enemies have done to us, and/or our allies.
The movie mentions early on, an incident that occurred in 1942, during WWII, in which six of eight German saboteurs were caught dry-foot on US soil and then several weeks later, after being denied habeas corpus and tried by military commission, were executed by electric chair. The Mauritanian failed to mention that the saboteurs had actually never committed any acts of sabotage. They hadn’t hurt a fly nor destroyed any property. They simply had the means and will to do so. They were convicted as spies and of having broken the Laws of War and the Geneva Conventions. The Mauritanian used the incident as a segway into mentioning that the case against their hero, Slahi, would be a capital case seeking the death penalty. This is a disingenuous portrayal of the incident. The producers could have used the illustration to point out that unlawful combatants were vulnerable to war commissions (tribunals) and execution BECAUSE they did not follow the Geneva Conventions or the Law of War.
In fact, The Mauritanian never discusses applicable international or US military law. The German saboteurs were tried by the book, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ); the same standards and rights a US soldiers would be tried under should they be accused of crimes while on Active Duty. My colleagues and I were trained and ready to support tribunals at Gitmo, and fully anticipated doing so. But the focus, especially in the early years at Gitmo was not on prosecution, but on gathering information. Valuable information that could save many lives. Lawfare (using the American legal system to disrupt operations and gain early release) was the focus of detainees, especially those accused of war crimes.
In the George W. Bush years, following the attacks of 9/11/2001, Don Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, says in his autobiography, “Known and Unknown,” that he sought out the greatest legal minds of the time to help create an updated legal foundation for dealing with the detainees, especially the high value, “worst of the worst” that would be accused of war crimes. More a reaction to boisterous allegations of abuse and torture, and confusing legal basis of trying foreigners on foreign soil, they came up with the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This act gave unlawufl combatant Gitmo detainees additional legal rights not afforded in the Geneva Conventions, Law of War or UCMJ. Rumsfeld said he wanted there to be transparency and fairness in how the detainees were processed for adjudication.
When Barack Hussein Obama came along, he replaced the 2006 MCA with his own 2009 Military Commissions Act, which went even further in granting rights to the detainees accused of war crimes. In fact, the 2009 MCA gave detainees virtually the SAME rights a US citizen may enjoy in a federal court of law! Unheard of! Unprecedented! Outrageous! Absurd! But no one complained. And so here we are today, in 2021, several military judges and attorney’s later, still in pre-trial hearings for those accused of war crimes at Gitmo, and still with the 2009 MCA.
Slahi won a legal case against the US for the right to apply for habeas corpus (due process rights) and was ordered released, only to find his case bogged down again in federal legal red tape, and ended up serving another 7 years in captivity. His written confession to being a member of al Qaeda, and mapping out the terror network throughout Europe gained him special privileges at Gitmo (which, by the way would not have happened if they’d found he LIED about those things). But his claims of abuse and torture drowned out the reality of his association and participation in the terror network.
Just because you believe someone was “coerced” into saying things doesn’t make them FALSE. It simply calls into question their validity, which is why the information is VETTED. If INTEL feel the information was accurate, there are benefits and rewards given – which Slahi readily accepted, including television, laptop computer, DVDs, better living conditions, etc.
During WWII, the United States held over 400,000 mostly German lawful combatant POWs without charge or trial, “until the end of hostilities,” as per the Conventions and Law of War. No powerful Hollywood types came to their rescue or demanded their release; no movies were made of their plight. The claim by Jodie Foster’s portrayal of defense attorney Nancy Hollander in the beginning of the The Mauritanian that American justice was in play and anyone held by the US is entitled to be charged and defended, is an intellectually dishonest statement in light of the fact that Slahi was an unlawful combatant, and therefore not entitled to anything, but for the benevolence of the United States, and Obama’s 2009 MCA. The film does not adequately address the real military legal status of Slahi, nor under what authority (AUMF) he had been captured and was being held.
When my boss, the Camp X-Ray Commandant and I arrived to Gitmo in early 2002, Donald Rumsfeld told him and the Joint Task Force 160 staff, that even though the detainees were not entitled to the rights, privileges and treatment of the Geneva Conventions, we would “treat them within the spirit of Geneva.” That’s all we needed to hear, for we don’t train to mistreat detainees. We train one way, the right way.
The US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is the finest military detention facility on earth. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) physicians I worked with at Gitmo, and later on in Iraq, told me, “No one does [detention operations] better than the US.” There is no moral comparison between Gitmo and how our enemies treat captives. Our enemies do not keep their captives alive for long. Islamist Sharia Law allows only for the enslavement, conversion, tax or death of captured kafir (non-believers, deceivers).
The constant fake news, MSM, leftist assertions that Gitmo is a torture chamber, gulag, embarrassment are unfounded and erroneous, even after this “true story” makes outlandish and incredible assertions about Mr. Slahi’s treatment. That is my OPINION.
What do I know about it?
As the ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint Task Force 160, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I served from early February to Mid June, 2002. My job was medical S-1 (Personnel), supervision of good guy urgent care and sick call facilities, liaison between the Guard Force Command and the Navy Detention Medical Command, Camp X-Ray Medical Facility, military medical intelligence reporting, observation and control of detainee medical care from touchdown at Leeward Airport through in-processing at Camp X-Ray, assist with writing detainee medical SOP (Standard Operating Procedures), JTF Medical service asset, medical, preventive medical and environmental service observation and consultation of new construction of Camp Delta medical and incarceration facilities, and anything else that stuck to the wall.
My background is five years as a Combat Medic/Medical Specialist, and then 17 years as a Medical Service officer (think hospital administrator or Field Medical Assistant – advisor to field commanders on medical, preventive medical and environmental services). The last 9 years of my career (I retired at the rank of major in 2008) was spent with Army Military Police Enemy Prisoner of War liaison units, or Brigade Liaison Detachments (BLDs). We studied the Geneva Convention and Law of Land Warfare among military Field Manuals, regulations, SOP, DA PAMs, etc., all before 9/11/2001. We studied lessons learned from the Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), when Saddam Hussein’s weary, starving and ill-armed troops surrendered in droves, outstripping our ability to contain them all properly and challenging command and control efforts. Small 12 person liaison detachments (BLDs) were created to act as eyes and ears for the incarceration command brigade with the detention groups, or incarceration battalions. I served in two of these liaison detachments from 1999-2008, with deployments to Gitmo and Iraq.
On the civilian side, I am a husband, father of five, church trustee, and I have been an educator for over 35 years. Starting out as a teacher of health and physical education, Dean of Students and coach in New York City public high schools. Later, after moving to Long Island, NY, with my wife, a special education teacher, I became a public school administrator, including physical education department chair, sport chairman, Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics. After 9/11 and through my deployments I was promoted to District Administrator for Operations, which saw me take responsibility for facilities, school security and health services. I am a graduate of The University of Alabama, with a composite degree (Bachelor of Science in Education) in health, physical education, recreation and dance (also where I independently studied the Nuremberg Trials from transcripts of the proceedings). I earned a Master of Arts Degree in curriculum and teaching at Teachers College – Columbia University (also where I studied education law and the psycho-social aspects of human movement, and met my wife). I also completed coursework for a School District Administrator’s certificate at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
I initially became interested in war time incarceration when I was a teen, after having met a friend of my mother’s, Horst, a former Wermacht lieutenant who commanded a unit fo taube (deaf), jungen (youth), and elderly troops during and then after the Battle of the Bulge at the end of WWII. Horst was captured by US forces and told amazing stories of how well he was treated, which led him to seek and then obtain US citizenship after he was released at war’s end. I was also a Civil War buff, through my mother’s posession and writings of my 2nd Great Grandfather Freeman Woodman’s diaries of his service in the Union Army, and march with Sherman to the sea. I read about Andersonville, a living hell of a Confederate POW camp.
At Gitmo, I was involved with the very first detainee repatriation of a man who was found to be a cold turkey heroin addict and un-medicated schizophrenic form Afghanistan. Determined to no longer be a threat nor an intelligence asset, this detainee was released. Weeks later, the Island (Gitmo) Spooks (CIA) told my boss (Camp X-Ray Commandant), that the detainee we had released was executed upon his arrival in Kandahar, Afghanistan. That shocking news devastated us emotionally. Our whole purpose in life was to keep these guys (detainees) alive. Terrorist leader or wrong-place wrong-time foot soldier, our responsibility was the care and treatment of the detainees; to treat them with dignity and respect, to heal their wounds and to keep them “fat & happy.” I narrate this incident in a short documentary film on YouTube called “Heroes of GITMO,” from my book, “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior.”
Four weeks after the detainee’s release we found a news story online showing a picture of this detainee, healthy and happy and sitting on a Kandahar hospital bed and talking about how well he was treated at Gitmo! The Island Spooks had LIED. Why? Because they could, and it was fun to them to lie. It gives a person in authority extra power, in fact ultimate power. If you control information you control “the truth.” The same holds true for al Qaeda operatives who are trained to LIE about their treatment in captivity. We know this from captured training manuals we read upon arrival to Gitmo. All the tricks of the trade, the most powerful of which is the LIE. Mohamadou Auld Slahi had mastered this art.
This mission became an emotional train wreck for us, as many of us blamed the detainees for us being at Gitmo, and away from our families, while at the same time we were expected to care for them. Our orders said, “In support of the Global War on Terror,” and these guys were responsible for that. We hated them, some passionately so. That hatred was rarely if ever manifested in abuse, but it did happen.
What kind of abuse?
Some of the US Army Military Police guards would slap awake detainees in the Navy Fleet (detainee) Hospital 120. Blankets were whisked off of detainees, leaving them shivering in the well-cooled tent hospital next to the sea. These incidents were handled with the utmost seriousness and severity. Soldiers found to be abusing detainees were reassigned, sent home and/or prosecuted under the UCMJ.
Military Police resented the kind bedside manner of the Navy medical personnel who cared for the detainees. MPs are trained never to speak with a detainee unless directing him to do something. No conversations, no chit chat, no personal information. Navy medical personnel on the other hand were trained to use professional bedside manner, and to treat the whole person, not just the patient or ailment.
There are many reasons for bedside manner. One, it reduces stress and helps control vital signs in the patient, and can distract them from sometimes painful applications of medicine or therapy. Many detainees had been transported directly from the battlefield in Afghanistan and had war wounds in various stages of healing or festering. Two, medical personnel needed detainee’s cooperation – and approval for medical procedures, medications, physical therapy, etc. A friendly, supportive approach made for more effective healing.
There was an understandable mutual mistrust between captors and captives. Detainees were shackled in the wards, mostly to their beds. Medical personnel sometimes had to work with detainees who were NOT shackled, which caused high levels of anxiety among the medical personnel and the guard force who were sworn to protect the corpsmen. Most detainees were unfamiliar with modern western medicine, and refused procedures or medications out of hand. Translators said the detainees were afraid of being poisoned, a myth some of the detainee leaders perpetuated.
Guards perceived the chit chat between detainees and Navy medical personnel as giving comfort to the enemy. These were serious perceptions that worked into the psyches of the personnel. Detainees were sworn to DISRUPT detention operations, just like US personnel would be were the roles reversed. My daily trips to the Fleet Hospital to attend staff meetings and make hospital ward observations for the detention commanders were always tense.
This disruption by detainees manifested itself in them talking to each other in different languages (forbidden), trying to engage anyone around them in conversation, and stealing items to use as weapons or tools to escape with. Ballpoint pens could be both. Sharp medical instruments. Toothbrushes, the handles filed down to a razor sharp shiv. Stress? You bet. Professionalism saved the day, along with talking about thoughts and feelings in orientations and debriefings. But some US personnel couldn’t handle it. Troops were supposed to self-report violent feelings or abusive thoughts.
Shorthanded, it wasn’t always possible to transfer someone who wasn’t well suited for detention duty in the hospital. To make things even more challenging, there were mandatory troop rotations every few weeks for Military Police guards, and shifts were 12-14 hours days (including transition overlaps), 7 days a week. No days off. Month after month. This led to repeated similar stress-related issues with each new group assigned to Fleet Hospital 120.
I know Muhamedou Auld Slahi. He and I met on Twitter several years ago. We had direct message (DM) conversations about Gitmo and life. On the few occasions I wanted to ask him about al Qaeda, he would clam up, not respond. At one point we agreed to exchange books, his, “Guantanamo Diary,” mine, “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior.” He purchased a copy of his book online and then used my address as the shipping address. Smart. Since no book sellers were willing to send my book to Mauritania, I had to get DHL to deliver it. The only carrier who said they could do it. Finally, Muhamadou got my book.
Our conversations tapered off after I asked about al Qaeda once too many times. I had read the Guantanamo Docket on Slahi on the New York Times website and had questions about it. He was not engaging with me on it. I wonder if he would now?
The claim from the movie was, anything he may or may not have done, including murdering innocent people, were moot because he claimed torture and abuse at the hands of . . . none other than US Army Military intelligence officers, including female participants who sexually abused him.
In the film, Mohamadou is interrogated for years by a two person male, salt & pepper (one white and one black officer) civilian (CIA?) team. When the “special treatment” begins in the film, it is folks in US Army uniforms to do the beatings, sexual assaulting, water torture (not controlled Enhanced Interrogation Technique (EIT) waterboarding), stress positioning and sleep deprivation. My OPINION on this is that it is at least misleading and at worst fabricated to make us believe it was regular Army Military Intelligence personnel performing the worst of the abuse.
Why do I think this is a lie?
Not only my training, knowledge and experience, but in Donald Rumsfeld’s autobiography, “Known and Unknown,” he states that “No DoD personnel were ever trained in EIT. Only CIA were trained in EIT.” That includes ALL uniformed military personnel, and all civilian DoD personnel. So no Pentagon types are trained in those techniques. The Army are interviewers, not physical interrogators. That’s left to the alphabet soup guys, you know, the Spooks, Secret Squirrels, Shadow Warriors, the trained liars.
Why did the producers of the film, the director Kevin Macdonald and Jodie Foster allow this misleading portrayal into their film? Did Slahi tell them that’s what happened? Did the CIA tell them not to implicate them? Military Intelligence (MI) are the minor league team, CIA and other alphabet soup are the Show, the big leagues. Why would we go from big to small in the interrogation and expect better results, especially considering that the military are not trained in such techniques? It doesn’t add up, and for me it was an obvious attempt at deception. One leaves the film with a decidedly poor impression of the military, and a neutral or ambivalent impression of whoever the civilian personnel were supposed to portray – CIA, “The Agency,” FBI? The initial interrogation team could have been anyone, or no one.
Could Slahi’s story be true? Of course, but the portrayal sets off all sorts of red flags, bells and whistles. I believe there is a fair chance that anyone who came into physical contact with Slahi during interrogations, less the US Army Military Police escorting him from and then back to his cell, were CIA or other alphabet soup agents.
[Arter releasing this review I have been contacted by several individuals who I believe were in close contact with Slahi during his stay at Gitmo. These individuals have corrected some minor misconceptions, but have also revealed information that confirms my suspicions that the Army never abused Slahi.
As the JTF S-1 for medical I was supposed to track all incoming personnel medical records. I can’t tell you how many “Smith’s” and “Jones’s” were on my civilian roster with the “Agency” column left blank. Medical records? None.
What other deceptions are in The Mauritanian?
A lie can be very subtle. A mood, a look, a tone, posture, lack of a statement, statement of falsehood. You don’t know what you don’t know, so when a slick Hollywood film comes along with a tour-de-force female lead actress (Jodie Foster), teams up with a solid second (Benedict Cumberbatch), and third (Shialene Woodley), and a spectacular antagonist (Tahar Rahim), I felt like I was Custer riding into the Little Big Horn. I didn’t stand a chance. Off the bat, in over five months at Gitmo, and having observed every single incoming detainee from stepping of the plane from Afghanistan through in-processing at Camp X-Ray, I never saw one detainee with a hood over their head. There was no need. Detainees were dressed warmly for the cold 30,000 foot 18 hour flight, including knit cap, coat, gloves. And sensory deprivation items such as blacked out goggles and headphones – these help calm the detainee and create a safe environment for them and the guards. But no hoods. Ever.
The movie depicts the blackout goggles being removed from Slahi’s face an the tarmac briefly for cinematic effect (he claimed to have seen a sign at the airport which showed where he was). I never saw any detainees have their goggles even touched once until they were stripped naked to take a shower during the beginning of the in-processing at Camp X-Ray, when the goggles and other sensory deprivation items were removed. The movie depicted Slahi as having abrasions on his face that went untreated all the way to when he was first put in his cell. I thinking the abrasions were also for cinematic effect, to perhaps suggest he had been mistreated or mishandled. Any open wound, scratch or scrape was immediately given first aid during in-processing, he would have been no exception. Finally, another lie was the scene when Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley first go to see Slahi. Ominous music palys as they are escorted through the sally ports (locked sections of screened fencing) leading to the interrogation hut where Slahi was, led by a Lurch-looking, emotionless sergeant of the guard, when just as they arrive in the section housing the guard shack, a military working dog leaps out at them, barking and growling, creating a “jump moment.” Yikes! Military working dogs are NEVER around civilians. They work the perimeter of the camp. They are present at aircraft touchdown, during in-processing, but never around visiting civilians. It is moments like these that sadly prove that the film is 100% biased against the military. Their portrayal of soldiers and sailors, especially early in the film was ominous and insulting.
But what’s not to like? They spent pains getting Gitmo really close to what it is/was. From the soldier’s appearance, to the fencing, landscape, detention cells and amenities. Really nice job.
But they made US military personnel zombie-like, rude and discourteous in the beginning of the film, both misleading and unnecessary. Military personnel, especially Military Police, are exceedingly polite towards civilians. All civilians. We pride ourselves in being apolitical and nonjudgmental on duty. Why the producers, director and Ms. Foster felt they had to portray military personnel in this manner is beyond me, unless of course you consider the sympathy with the devil perception and an anti-American narrative.
Time and again Hollywood has portrayed US military in films as evil, incompetent, abusive, ignorant, damaged (PTSD), ugly and mean. That’s in the last 20-30 years or so. Bad guys are usually Marines or Army types gone astray or conflicted between orders and conscience. Movies like, “A Few Good Men,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Platoon,” “Full Metal Jacket,” “Hurt Locker,” and “Camp X-Ray.” Add “The Mauritanian” to this group.
Other lies include the portrayal of military personnel near the end of the film. After the “special treatment,” the military characters seemed to become more sympathetic towards Slahi, even to the point of saying, “I can’t tell you that,” (classified information), and then immediately telling him the classified information. A direct slap in the face to the integrity of the military. An unfair portrayal. To say the story is “true” means to the casual viewer that everything portrayed in the movie is the truth. It is not. It is crafted to portray the military in a bad light. The only sympathetic military characters are the ones who buck the system or quit.
What I don’t know.
I don’t know exactly what happened to Mohamadou Slahi. I wasn’t there when he was. I never met him face-to-face. But my trained and experienced OPINION is that very little if any of the harshest treatment happened to him, but if it did, it wasn’t perpetrated by Army personnel, and I doubt any DoD personnel participated in any abuse or EIT. I base that on what I have shared with you.
There is a lot more to say about it. My small piece to the big puzzle that is the enigma we call Gitmo, is my book. Rather than a true story, I call my book a REAL story. There are three sides to every story, yours, mine and the truth. I will let the reader decide what is true or not based on their own research, conscience and educated convictions.
The Mauritanian expertly tells the myths and deceptions of Mr. Slahi, who is shown spiking the football (figuratively speaking) at the end of the film as he is shown in a real video news clip of him being greeted by hoards of Mauritanian supporters upon his release in 2016, and then is shown doing a victory dance in the final credit scene. That infuriated me, sickened me and caused me, finally, to leave.
Since the original publication of this review I have watched the movie a second time at the invitation of the Motion Picture Association of America. I asked why I was selected and I was told because I was [at Gitmo] and wrote a book about it. I was given access to a special screening online which I could control. I stopped and started the film many times to gather quotes and watch again things that seemed interesting or anachronistic. I took five pages of notes and have integrated some of my findings into the body of this review, which I will continue to edit as new information comes to light. My mission is to gather as much factual information as I can and then share it with you in context of the film review so that you can decide for yourself what is credible and what is not. I encourage anyone with first hand knowledge of events portrayed in the film to come forward and DM me on Twitter at @mjgranger1. Thank you.
Post Post Script
Since the original publication of this review I have had the opportunity to witness a Zoom conference including Mohamedou Auld Slahi and Nancy Hollander through an event sponsored by Georgetown University’s “Bridge Initiative Team.” They titled the event: The Human Cost of Guantanamo Bay: In Conversation with Mohamedou Auld Slahi and Nancy Hollander.” It was an hour long presentation that included Islamocentric ideology, anti-US military propaganda and bashing, by the moderators and Nancy Hollander. Interestingly enough, Mohamedou was subdued, distracted occasionally by his beautiful young son, who would come up to his father, sit in his lap for a second or two, and then run away. “Mo” reminded everyone watching and listening that he felt “free” to express his faith at Gitmo, and that “Forgiveness equals freedom.” Leading up to the event I was asked if I wanted to provide any pre-screened questions to the guest speakers. I did, and sent them along via email. When the even started we were encouraged to provide additional questions, which I did immediately. In fact I posted the first six of about 13 or so event watcher questions, among them asking Nancy Hollander about whether or not she ever considered researching international and military law for her defense, and how much did she know about Operation Pastorious, and whether or not she had studied the Nuremberg Trials. For Slahi, I asked if he had any doubts about who abused him, military or CIA? None of my questions were asked. I felt frozen out of the whole event, even though I was invited to attend! All the questions were tainted softballs that were promptly hit out of the ballpark by Nancy Hollander, who couldn’t help herself from bashing the US government and military every chance she got. Moderator, John Esposito made a point at the beginning of the presentation to say Mohamedou had been “tortured by the military, not the CIA.” why would anyone need to make that disclaimer? Unless, it wasn’t true. In the end, I was flabberghasted at not having had the opportunity to have even ONE of my several questions asked, nor challenge the bias and prejudice of the event. I said as much in a series of tweets between myself and moderator, Mobashra Tazamal (@mobbiemobs), the who loved bringing everything back to an us vs. them, pro-Muslim narrative. Mo balked at getting too deep into US or non-Muslim-bashing, to Ms. Tazamal’s discontent. “What a waste of an hour,” I tweeted her. She was aggressive and insulting in return. I accused them of censoring my voice, and why would they be so terrified of what I had to say? No responses to my queries. I reminded them to please never invite me to these events again.
By Karen J. Greenberg and Joshua L. Dratel with research assistance from Julia Tedesco
Published January 24, 2020
Untrue, arbitrary, misleading and proof of Islamist apologists. Let’s take it one item at a time: 1) (Indefinite detention) Just because Carol Rosenberg, chief Islamist apologist, calls unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us, “forever prisoners,” doesn’t mean it’s true. Furthermore, “indefinite detention” is a MYTH. During WWII over 400,000 mostly German, lawful combatant POW’s were lawfully held without charge or trial “until the end of hostilities,” as per the Geneva Conventions and Law of War. Unlawful combatants, although not entitled to the protections of Geneva or Law of War, nonetheless were treated within the “spirit of Geneva,” due to the benevolence of the United States. Still, no indefinite detention. When hostilities end they may be repatriated unless accused of war crimes. Some might ask, when will we know when hostilities have ended? When all Islamists are either dead, or no longer have the will or means to kill us. And that’s pretty much up to them.
2) (A new legal language for the purpose of bypassing the law) Unlawful combatant detainees are called detainees because they did not earn the title of Prisoner of War, nor the rights and privileges thereof, because they did not follow the Geneva Conventions or Law of War in their hostilities toward the US and our allies. No “made up” language. Lawful and correct language based on FACTS.
3) (Legal cover) My deployment orders state, “In support of the Global War on Terror.” Because it’s a “Global War,” anywhere we find the enemy he can be killed or captured. Not by our choice, but by the choice of our enemies and the language of the AUMF.
4) (The sidelining and removal of professionals) You couldn’t be more wrong. It’s clear that we have a civilian led military. The President, as Commander in Chief, and the Secretary of Defense, both clearly in our chain of command; look at any wall in the HQ of any Army unit and you will see a line of photos, starting with the president and ending with the unit’s Command Sergeant Major. Knowing the chain of command is an inspectable piece of information that every soldier, from E-Private Snuffy to the commanding general is expected to know at all times. It was Donald Rumsfeld who told my boss, the Camp Commandant at Camp X-Ray while we were there, that we would treat all detainees “within the spirit of Geneva.” The command structure at the time, in early 2002, was two Joint Task Forces. One for incarceration, JTF 160, led by one-star (brigadier) general Lehnert of the US Marine Corps (Lehnert had been in charge of X-Ray back in the early 1990’s with the Cuban and Haitian boat crises). And a second JTF (170), with a two star (major) general, Dunleavy, in charge of intelligence and interrogations. The mission objective was to get as much critical information from the detainees as possible as quickly as possible in order to save lives, and then to keep the detainees safe, secure and healthy; the latter item being my area of responsibility. Not only were we all professionals, we had trained long and hard, and many in my brigade and detachment veterans of the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm), where tens of thousands of uniformed, lawful combatant Iraqi soldiers surrendered en mass in a matter of days after the first shots were fired. My unit, the 455th Military Police Detachment (Brigade Liaison Detachment), 800th Military Police Brigade (EPW), formed the essence of the Joint Detainee Operations Group at Gitmo in early 2002, which oversaw the detention operations for JTF 160, the on-site command group. Below us was the incarceration Military Police Battalion, which provided the inside the wire guard force. Incredible soldiers, led by an incredible battalion commander, who worked 12-14 hours days, 7 days a week for over 6 months straight. To the side of us were the various support elements from all other military branches: Marines were the garrison and Camp X-Ray security force; Air Force provided in-flight medical and supplemental JTF 160 medical services (flight surgeons), and also air space security and transportation to and from Gitmo; Coast Guard provided supplemental port security and ground operational guard force, protecting ground access to Camp X-Ray and other classified areas, and Guard Force medical support; The Navy had port security (after all Gitmo is a US Naval Station), ferry service to and from Leeward (airport) to Windward side of the base, hospital and fleet hospital (think navy M*A*S*H unit) for detainee healthcare, environmental and preventive medical support, Seabee’s (“We build, we fight!”) support and other base services, including transportation, recreation, communication and housing, to name a few.
5) (The use of military for detention operations) Is legal and proper, but remember, the Reserves and National Guard hold almost all combat support and combat service support units in the military during peace time. You don’t need Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) or many medical or transportation assets unless there is a war. So it takes TIME to train necessary regular unit types after the balloon goes up. Gitmo was used because of the prison riot in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. The Law of War dictates detention operations in the theater of operations UNLESS it is unsafe to do so. The prison riot proved it was too dangerous to keep detainees in a war zone; too much of a high value target for fratricide (enemy killing enemy), to stay in Afghanistan. My unit was one of the only EPW units in the Army, and the Army is the only branch that does EPW operations. Army military police who are not EPW trained are at least trained in military incarceration, but are not specialists. Just like a civilian police officer is not trained for full time corrections, they are familiar with incarcerating people. Marines were only perimeter guards and in the very early days some of the internal reaction and security inside the wire. The Army and Marines both worked the perimeter security, supplemented by the Coast Guard at check points. As things settled into a battle rhythm, the Army picked up the perimeter mission full time. Yes, things were put together quickly, and there may have been concerns, but inside the wire you had professional soldiers doing their jobs in all aspects of the mission better than any other force on earth. In fact, International Committee of the Red Cross physicians I worked with at Gitmo and later in Iraq, told me, “No one does [detention operations] better than the US.”
6) (Secrecy and the withholding of information) We hid things and kept secrets from the press because it was classified information essential for the safe, effective and secure operation of the mission. You only get to know what you need to know. I’ll never forget CNN correspondent Bob Franken threatening to “make it up” if we didn’t share classified information with him. We refused and so, almost on a daily bases, he filed FICTIONAL REPORTS. That’s right, pure FICTION! This is where I learned to loathe the MSM. The daily reports from Franked included things such as non-existent “riots” at Camp X-Ray, abuses, clandestine operations, complaints from the ICRC, and on and on. The kicker was when he insisted on knowing when we were going to move the detainees from the spartan Camp X-Ray to the new Camp Delta in the spring of 2002. He accused us of not letting him do his job. We accused him of trying to find out classified information to leak which would put the mission and those conducting it in unnecessary danger. We wouldn’t tell him, so he published a lie. We made sure the detainees were NOT moved when he said they were going to be moved, and instead of a two or three day operation, on the spur of the moment during the actual move, we decided to move them all on one day, a nearly 16 hour operation of continuous movement. Each detainee, nearly 300 of them, moved individually by two MP’s, one at a time, from their cells to a bus to their new cell. I observed every single transfer. Most of them thought they were being taken to be executed. Why? Because that’s what they would have done with us.
7) (Disregard for international law and treaties) As for international law and treaties, NONE of them were written to protect unlawful combatants. In fact, all of the detainees could have been lawfully shot dead on the battlefield. The Geneva Conventions nor the Law of War applied to them, virtually all of them technically clandestine operatives, spies, mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, etc. not a one of them a lawful combatant entitled to the rights and privileges of a lawful combatant POW. They were all lucky to be alive. 731 of the nearly 800 detainees were eventually RELEASED, and NONE of them beheaded, executed, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive. All things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies. They were all treated with dignity and respect and under the spirit of Geneva, as per Mr. Rumsfeld’s directive. They received FREE Qurans, prayer rugs/beads, directions to Mecca, time and space to pray, white robes, beards, halal and special holy Muslim holiday meals, featuring baklava and lamb, services of US military Muslim chaplains, world class health, dental and vision care, library, correspondence, TV, DVDs, video games, entertainment, recreation and sports. Club Gitmo indeed. All this and still guards would be sucker punched, spat on, and doused with Gitmo Cocktails – bodily fluids of detainees “splashed” onto them unawares. Unlawful combatant detainees earned no rights or privileges under any international law or policy. As for torture, there was none at Gitmo. And only a handful of detainees were waterboarded which provided valuable information which saved many lives. Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) were NOT torture, and were legal and approved when used at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and only by trained CIA operatives. No DoD personnel were ever trained on EIT and never performed EIT.
8) (Lack of accountability) As for accountability, no other country on earth treats its detainees or prisoners even half as good as the US does. We were as transparent as possible, even to the point where Don Rumsfeld wrote later in his autobiography, “Known and Unknown,” that he regrets the level of transparency shown the press at Gitmo. The early photographs exploited, mislabeled, misunderstood, misconstrued and mystified the place and the fine people who work there. Possibly one of the most emotionally challenging military missions, Gitmo presented myriad difficulties that some could not handle. In the end, Gitmo is a small but essential piece to the big puzzle of how we win the Global War on Terror. It is legal, ethical and moral. In fact, there is no moral comparison between Gitmo and how our enemies treat their captives. The Islamist equivalent to Gitmo is a PILE OF HEADS. Let that sink in. Sincerely, Major Montgomery J. Granger, US Army, Retired. Former ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint task Force 160, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Author: Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior.
18 Years ago today, Theodore was born. I barely got to hold him before I was off, two days later, for training prior to my first of three deployments in support of the Global War on Terror.
Where has the time gone?
We are not that much closer to even grinding out justice in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the supposed mastermind of the 9/11/2001 terror attacks. In pre-trial hearings, former CIA interrogators talk about how they feel what they did was necessary to save American lives. One said he would do it all over again.
Our President is being impeached based on no evidence, no crime, and decidedly false accusations.
Our economy is booming; 401k’s and 403b’s exploding. Energy independence, a wall, trade deals left and right. Yet the Left complains about unlawful invader’s “rights” and that “poor” people are asked to pay for anything.
What does Theodore have to look forward to? What will become of us, of KSM, of the President? Stay tuned! My high school senior is interested in all of it (thank God!).
Theodore just became an Eagle Scout! Just like his two older brothers before him, he finished the trail to the top, and now will survey the landscape before taking on the challenge of climbing yet another even higher mountain for his future.
One of my proudest moments was when Theodore accepted the role of Senior Patrol Leader for Boy Scout summer camp a few years ago, after his best friend and original SPL could not attend due to the passing of his mother, who had just lost a long battle with cancer.
Theo took the reins of the Troop, and with the help and support of the other boys and adult leaders, led us through a mindful and reverent week of learning and personal growth beyond what any of us could have predicted. Theo and the boy leadership kept our camp American flag at half staff all week in honor of their friend’s mother’s passing. They never spoke about it. They just did it, every morning, in reverent silence.
I blame myself for his love of NASCAR racing, infecting him early and often with watching races on TV and occasionally in person, buying him brightly colored die cast cars, playing with slot car sets, and then six years ago buying my very own convertible Mustang.
Theo wants to become a member of a NASCAR team, but is not sure yet in what capacity. He wants to study automotive engineering. A great start!
Theo is a loving, thoughtful and kind person, and I couldn’t be prouder of him and his brothers (he has three; two above and one below) and younger sister. Along with their mother, my companion of 35 years and counting, I am blessed with the fun, love and challenges of a big family; with three adult men, now, and everyone searching for their own way forward.
I retired from the military in 2008, after 22 years of good service, and three deployments, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (2002), Ft. Dix, NJ (2003), and Iraq (2004-2005). I left my family for about 2 1/2 years total for training and deployments after 9/11/2001.
I felt like a criminal leaving them, every time, but duty, honor, country called.
I am proud of my service, and proud of my wife for keeping things together while I was away. I still have no clue how she did it.
I am grateful for all my blessings, all my family, friends and social media acquaintances.
My hope for Theodore, on his birthday and all the days of his life, is that he will continue to strive for excellence in all that he does. That he will live a full and honest life, that he will show others the respect he expects in return, and that he will love passionately his family, friends and career.
He has learned a lot from life already, that it is not fair, that it is hard, but that there are rewards for integrity, hard work and loyalty.
40 years ago, on November 21, 1979, United States Marine Corporal Steven J. Crowley, who was guarding the United States Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, was shot and killed by radical Muslim extremists (Islamists), becoming one of the first casualties of the modern Global War on Terror (GWOT).
Muslim extremist “students,” having heard a false story about the US occupation of the mosque at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, gathered weapons and then boarded buses that would take them to the embassy.
Once at the compound, the Islamists stormed the complex and then set fire to debris collected on the first floor of the main building.
CPL Crowley was shot once through the head, just above his left ear, at approximately 1:10 p.m. local time, while on duty protecting the embassy from the roof of the main building. He was taken into the building and then brought to the safe room, or vault on the second floor.
At approximately 3:25 p.m. CPL Crowley was pronounced dead in the embassy vault, after an oxygen tank that was providing his threadbare connection to life ran out.
This group of Islamist “students” was later to be funded by none other than Osama bin Laden himself.
Steven was a tall, fit, blond-haired blue-eyed, chivalrous and cordial 19 year old graduate of Comsewogue High School, in Port Jefferson Station, Long Island, New York, who loved to run on the Cross Country and Spring Track Teams and who was a member of the Chess Club.
Steven Crowley Park, in Port Jefferson Station, was named for this brave neighbor of ours, and by cleaning up the park each fall we honor him and his brave and selfless service to our country. Cub Scout Pack 120 (Boy Scouts of America) has been cleaning up the park each fall at least since my 24 year old Eagle Scout son was a 6 year old Tiger Scout, 18 years ago and counting.
We tell the boys about Steven and his sacrifice to his country and to all of us.
Steven is a hero to all the nation, and his death marks one of the very first casualties in the Global War on Terror. The incident that precipitated Steven’s murder at the hands of Islamists shook the Muslim world just the day before, on November 20, 1979.
Overzealous Wahhabi’s seized the Grand Mosque at Mecca for about two weeks. Saudi Arabian commandos, with the help of French and American intelligence, eventually retook the mosque, ending the incident. But the erroneous story that the US had seized the mosque incensed hordes of Islamists throughout the Muslim world.
The incident at the US embassy in Islamabad was merely the first in a series of events that eventually led up to the attacks by Islamists on the United States on September 11, 2001, killing more Americans than died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, or died at Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Since then our enemies have mutated into the current Islamic State, but many other Islamic terrorist groups have emerged as well, each one determined to eliminate Israel, kill all infidels, and establish a worldwide caliphate.
In Steven’s memory, and for us, and for generations to come, we must fight the forces of evil that continue to harm us and our allies. Until all Islamists are dead, or no longer have the means or will to kill us, we must defend ourselves by any means necessary.
Thank you, Steven for your service, loyalty and sacrifice. We shall never forget your chivalry, integrity and self-less service to this great nation.
SGT George Grassman, 5th Infantry Division, 4th Squadron, 12th Cavalry, Ft. Carson, Colorado, did what every soldier is told NOT to do: volunteer. Yet there he was, a draftee mortarman (11C20) in 1965, in formation, listening to his infantry Platoon Sergeant lament about there not being enough horsemen to fill the saddles in an elite group of soldiers who would eat, sleep, live and breathe with one of the last cavalry outfits in the United States Army.
Little did George know at the time, he would be part of an original group of volunteers of the Ft. Carson Mounted Color Guard, whose motto, Semper Paratus means, “Always Ready.” The MCG celebrated its 50th anniversary in December 2015. The group’s founder Hugh Trabandt, was driven to reproduce the glory days of the horse soldier, after having been a member of the US Cavalry Horse Platoon in Berlin, Germany in 1954.
SGT George Grassman, center
George had always liked horses. Growing up, his uncle had horses and would take George riding, so volunteering for the cavalry came naturally.
The 4th of the 12th was assigned parade and ceremony duty from time-to-time, but 24/7/365, they cared for and fed Army (and some civilian) horses, and loved every minute of it!
George told me tales of dress-right-dress in a trot for this ceremony or that; very disciplined, very serious, with every detail, from the straps to the spurs, looking perfect.
The horse cavalrymen had to make most of what they used for ceremonies, including piecing together uniforms, scarves, trim, and dyeing Army green wool blankets navy blue for the horse covers. When all was said and done, no one could tell that the trimmings and tack were homemade – the Army simply did not procure or supply cavalry fittings anymore.
George told me about some of the more relaxed times, like one day, while out haying for the horses, the men of the unit, in civilian clothes outside the base in the hay fields, took turns to see how high they could stack the hay bales in the back of a pick-up truck to take back to the stables.
They got the hay so high that it caught the attention of a state police officer, who pulled the men over.
George says, initially the officer told them he was going to write them a ticket, and they would have to go back and get rid of some of the hay because there was an overpass down the road that would surely not accommodate their towering stack.
The driver of the truck, lower in rank than George, quickly pointed out that George was in charge and should get the ticket instead of himself!
The officer demurred when George told the officer it wouldn’t be a problem to lower the height of the stack. The officer put away the summons and told the men to be careful.
Such antics were unique to the Horse Soldiers. Proud of their mounts and of their special status as favored ceremonial troops, George said he really enjoyed the duty.
I would not be telling you about George and his service had it not been for his habit of volunteering for things.
Not too long ago, when my third Eagle Scout son, Theodore (17) was planning his project, George jumped up figuratively, and volunteered not just to help Theodore, but also to lend him his garage, tools, scrap wood, patio and barbecue!
George’s generosity and selfless service are second-to-none. George lives on Long Island, New York, and is married to Roberta, and they have three grown children; two boys and a girl who have given them four grandchildren.
We believe that George’s kindness had a halo effect around my son. The three of us, Eagle Scout project supply list in hand, went off to a local Home Depot to obtain what we needed for the project.
Theodore asked for the manager, Sue, who told him, “No problem,” when he asked for a donation or discount from the store for his project. Sue told him to get what he needed and then ask for her at the check-out.
Not long into the shopping, a tall, strapping gentleman, wearing a blue baseball cap with an eagle head on it, approached my son, who was in full Class “A” Boy Scout uniform, and asked him if he was shopping for his Eagle Scout project. Why, yes he was!
The gentleman, who introduced himself as Mike, asked Theodore what his project was about (banner hangers in our church – the First United Methodist Church of Port Jefferson, NY – for an abundance of church banners!), and when he found out it was for Theodore’s church (George and I are both Trustees of the church), Mike said, “Follow me.”
We followed him to the checkout, where he promptly purchased a $100 gift card for Theodore, handed it to him and said, “Someday, pay it forward.” We thanked Mike for his generosity and promised to invite him to Theodore’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor. A self-employed contractor, Mike admitted to being an Eagle Scout himself, and choosing an Eagle for his company’s logo.
But George’s good luck hadn’t yet worn off!
When we were finished shopping and then called for Sue at the check-out, prepared to pay partially with the gift card, Sue refused, saying, “It’s all on us.”
Needless to say, we were all blown away at Sue’s and Home Depot’s generosity. Sue told Theodore she wanted only one promise. Theodore had to swear to bring her photos of the finished project. Not a problem!
For the next two days we and about eight other Scouts (including Theodore’s younger brother, Hamilton (13), four more adults and Theodore’s two older brother Eagle Scouts, Benjamin (23) and Harrison (20), cut, sanded, nailed, glued and stained wooden banner hangers, ten of them, which would hold two banners each. George could still fit into his vintage Boy Scout shirt, and wore it during the project construction.
Theodore, second from left; George, second from right; Harrison, right; Hamilton, center (red).
Theodore and George
We went from George’s hand built stand-alone garage – looking good as new at some thirty-plus years old – to the back of the church’s choir room and then Theodore and George installed the hangers on the back wall.
Mounted banner holders!
Author, back, left; Theodore, back second from left; George, center; Benjamin, back center; Hamilton, front, second from right.
This wasn’t George’s first rodeo. Several years earlier, George had helped my second son, Harrison with his Eagle Scout project, installing energy efficient light fixtures in the church Community Room. George just can’t help volunteering for things!
This Veterans Day, seek out those veterans and their stories who might be right under your nose (maybe members of your own church or civic group), but are maybe too humble to mention their glorious past. You might be very surprised at what and whom you find.
It took mentioning an old magazine cover I spotted in George’s garage during Theodore’s Eagle Scout project to get him to talk about his heyday. I’m very glad I spoke up. Moreover, I am glad that George volunteered to be one of the original Ft. Carson Mounted Color Guard horse soldiers.
Never let it be said that we stand by and watch our comrades in arms struggle when we can give a helping hand. As military men and women, we have a common bond, and although we’ve not always been best of friends with the British, this time of year makes us reflect on our comradeship.
Therefore, I would be grateful for all my brothers and sisters at arms out there to please join me and help keep the legacy of a local World War I hero from being desecrated by a government council in Scotland.
Captain Ralph Hudson
Captain Ralph Hudson died 99 years ago, but there is no eternal peace for him after an unbelievable decision was made on the eve of Remembrance Sunday*. Now it seems that this Duke of Wellington Regiment’s soldier has one more battle to fight . . . from beyond the grave.
As part of his legacy, trustees for Captain Ralph Palliser Milbanke Hudson’s estate, left a piece of land to his local church to be used for burials of resident parishioner’s at no cost to them, but Scottish Borders Council (SBC) have just stopped the practice of free burials which first began in 1925.
Buried alive while marking for the Artillery opposite Messines in 1915, Captain Hudson suffered horrific injuries after surviving the German shelling and gassing.
Five years later, he sadly succumbed to his injuries and the Wolfelee estate between Jedburgh and Hawick bequeathed land to Hobkirk Parish Church in 1925 in his memory, which would enable local parishioners to have free burials.
There are around 60 plots left in the cemetery extension at the church, but the Scottish Borders Council has slapped funeral charges of up to £1000 on future burials; a move which has provoked anger among locals.
One of the locals who now lives on the estate is author and journalist Yvonne Ridley. You may know her as a former captive of the Taliban back in 2001, but she has also served as an officer in the Territorial Army.
She said, “I’ve looked in to Ralph’s family history and he was born in the same county as myself. We both served in the military as Captains, although thankfully, I saw no action unlike Ralph, and we both ended up living in the same house albeit a century apart.
“He, like me, valued the people in his adopted community in the Scottish Borders and his legacy should be preserved. I’m not even sure what the council is doing is legal and once we find the original documents or copies relating to the deeds we will prove this.
“I believe we have right on our side and if this council wants a battle then it will get one. They should remember the ‘Dukes’ motto: Fortune Favors The Brave!
“There will also be US soldiers reading this who are just as angry as me and I would ask for your help. Of course, the decent thing for SBC to do would be to capitulate and honor Ralph’s memory and legacy. This is, after all, the month of November when we remember and honor our war dead.
“Perhaps this is something the council bureaucrats would do well to remember.”
Before his death, Captain Hudson wrote a book on the history of Wolfelee, published by his family after his demise.
A preface to his History of Wolfelee says, “He was buried by a German shell whilst marking for the Artillery opposite Messines, and never really recovered from his injuries, dying from heart failure on March 25, 1920.”
SBC remains unrepentant. A spokesperson said after a council review in 2014 the authority saw that “Hobkirk was recognized as having been providing burial ground without a charge.
“The premise on which the ground was being given free was researched, including scrutinizing titles, historical records and Council-held files.
“What was established was that there was no legal basis on which the ground was being provided free of charge and that the Council was entitled to charge for the purchase of burial plots within Hobkirk.
“Charging was implemented at the start of the 2015/16 financial year and the rates are reviewed and updated annually as part of the budget setting process.”
However, campaigners say they are more determined than ever to get justice. Ms. Ridley added, “We are taking legal advice and will continue our fight for Ralph’s legacy.
“The council may want to forget all about the heroics of Captain Hudson but we will not and neither should parishioners because they have to walk past his grave for Sunday worship every week.
Farmer Donald at Captain Hudson’s Grave
“We will definitely be planning a fitting memorial to mark the centenary of his death and expect it could turn in to quite a significant event. Hopefully SBC will re-think its policy on this occasion and do the right thing.”
She urged anyone who wants to support Captain Hudson’s legacy should write to SBC’s Chief Executive Tracey Logan at her email address (Tracey.Logan@scotborders.gov.uk) and urge her to overturn the council’s decision to trash Ralph’s legacy.
Captain Hudson was born in October 1891 in Sunderland, the only son of Ralph Milbanke Hudson and Eliza Westropp Hudson. After graduating from Cambridge, he was commissioned into the West Riding Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant. The regiment was also known as the 3rd Duke of Wellington’s.
That year he went on active service to France in January 1915, but, in the same year, was invalided home after being shelled, gassed and temporarily buried alive.
He published a book of “Trench Yarns” under the pen-name “Peter” as well as a History of the Hudson family home, Wolfelee, published posthumously.
Captain Ralph Hudson and bride, Annie Charleston Goninan
He married Annie Charleston Goninan at Hobkirk in 1918 but never recovered from his injuries, dying from heart failure two years later.
Editor’s Note: If you are interested in helping the campaign to preserve Captain Hudson’s Legacy or have more information about him please contact the author. There will be a wreath laying ceremony for Captain Hudson a few days ahead of Remembrance Sunday.
*Remembrance Sunday is held in the United Kingdom as a day “to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts”. It is held at 11:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in November.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said recently that the Obama era plan to switch the picture on the US twenty dollar bill from President Andrew Jackson to abolitionist Harriet Tubman has essentially been tabled until after President Donald Trump leaves office. Maybe not even in circulation until 2028.
Now that’s what I call kicking the currency down the road!
Why the hubbub? Why the consternation? Why the sighs of relief?
It’s as if people have been lead to believe that it is an either/or proposition.
C’mon, folks! Think outside the (cash) box?
Harriet Tubman was a US Army pensioner. Heck, she led ARMED raids on slavers! This was no demure American hero. This lady ROCKED!
Pictured here on a mock-up of the current twenty dollar bill (sans Jackson) the artist has depicted Tubman as the brave, fearless, determined leader that she was.
Hand outstretched to lead those whom she saved to freedom and liberty. Pistol at the ready to deter or enforce against those who would stop her. Harriet Tubman was the quintessential American individual.
Depicted in history books as almost a school marm, Tubman’s real life embodied the honor, integrity and fortitude of a true leader.
For Jackson’s sake, some love him (Donald Trump), and some hate him (social justice warriors). A swashbuckling populist war hero, Jackson was rough and ready.
Ironically, he actually, probably shared numerous personality traits with Tubman. Both were passionate about their beliefs and convictions. So much so that they had many admirer’s and followers. Jackson could probably boast as many enemies and detractors, though even to this day.
Tubman in her own right, can probably not be criticized, and is a consensus choice for posterity through her living image on our currency. I for one would be extremely proud to carry “Tubman’s” in my wallet!
But herein lies the rub!
Why not give her her own denomination?
Doing so would eliminate angst among the Jackson-lovers clan (of which I am one, truth be told, middle-naming my fourth son after him), and would aspire the Tubman crowd to higher heights with . . . drum roll, please . . . a TWENTY-FIVE DOLLAR BILL!
That’s right, twenty-five! Why twenty-five? Because it’s a great number! We have quarter dollars (four of them equal a George Washington – $1 bill).
Four Tubman’s would equal a Franklin ($100 bill). Four $25’s would take up less space in the wallet than five $20’s. Fewer bills overall would need to be produced. ATM’s could carry more money!
At first, you could make 25 percent fewer Jackson’s, introducing Tubman’s slowly to gauge acceptance and utility. As the stats come in you could adjust the minting and distribution accordingly.
Think of the PR coup President Trump could enjoy! Keep the Jackson twenty AND produce the Tubman twenty-five! Have your cake and eat it, too!
Trump could engage the public with a “National Twenty-Five Dollar Bill Design Contest!” Come one, come all, and design the next new currency!
Using the traditional format for continuity, the possibility of colors and fonts and security details could abound.
My pick would be the hero Tubman in the picture. It’s perfect in every way. Her descendants could be the final arbiters of the design.
If you agree that Harriet Tubman should have her own denomination, and that it should be $25 (five more than Jackson!), then share this blog post on social media, email, with friends and neighbors!
Tell President Trump and Steve Mnuchin that there is a way forward that would be a win-win for everyone!