On Obama’s Bloody Hands: Six Air Force Dead

Almost unnoticed or only given a passing glance was the recent murder of six United States Air Force members, killed while on a security foot patrol around an air base in Afghanistan. The pain and frustration over these deaths will linger for a long time, especially with their families, loved ones, and among those with whom they served, but also with those of us who understand the significance of the circumstances under which they were killed.

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The dead include the female commander of the security patrol, Maj. Adrianna Vorderbruggen, 36.  Tech. Sgt. Joseph Lemm, 45, a veteran of two prior deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq , and a New York City police sergeant.  Sgt. Michael Cinco, 28, of Mercedes, Texas. Sgt. Peter Taub, 30, of Philadelphia. Sgt. Chester McBride, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia.  And SSgt. Louis Bonacasa, 31, of Coram, New York.

Coram is a few minutes from my home on Long Island. I was a school district administrator where SSgt. Bonacasa went to school. And although we did not know each other, any time a neighbor is killed it brings home the serious nature of the Global War on Terror.

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Bonacasa was a husband, and a father of a young daughter. I know the anguish he must have felt in leaving his family to do our nation’s most dangerous work, for I left a two day old son to serve at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, just months after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Later, I served on two more deployments, including one to Iraq in 2004-2005 which saw me away from home and family for 14 months. Whether or not I was ever coming home was in the back of my mind every day in-country.

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Bonacasa loved his daughter so intensely that he wrote a poem about her and then had it tattooed on his left rib cage:

 

Daddy’s little girl,

The most precious person in my life

I can’t wait until that first night

Holding you in my hands

Now it’s time to be a man

From your first breath to my last

I’ll be there for you any way I can

Your pretty smile will melt my heart

And your sad cries will always tear me apart

Daddy will be there to wipe away your tears

And there to protect you from all your fears

Your sweet little laugh will be music to my ears

A beautiful gift from God to watch you grow through the years

There will be times when daddy is not around

He will be somewhere with his boots on the ground

There so at home everyone is safe and sound

When daddy is gone baby please don’t cry

Because for your freedom my baby girl

Daddy will die

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This heartbreaking promise from a father to his child is evidence still that we are in a bloody War on Terror, not simply some struggle against “thugs and killers,” as President Barak Obama would have us believe. This enemy is multifaceted and insidious.

Why then does our President pretend we are engaged with “lone wolf terror” and “crazy people” with guns? Every attack is connected in obvious ways, by philosophy, culture and yes, religion.

If this is not true, then why do we operate the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, like a Muslim resort: prayer beads and rugs, Korans, halal and special Muslim holiday meals that include lamb and baklava, signs in Arabic on guard towers and green arrows painted on cell floors pointing the way to Mecca, white detainee garb for the well behaved, and counsel from U.S. military Muslim chaplains?

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Obama’s denials that we are engaged in a war against Islamists fuels a misperception that has led to an inoperably thin effort that puts our troops in unnecessary peril. Too many missions, including the one that claimed these six lives, are under served with armor and overwatch – protections that should have been employed on such a dangerous mission.

I grew up as a soldier in the Army with the mechanized infantry as a combat medic, being told by my Vietnam veteran medical platoon sergeant and by the G.I.’s I served with that “you are an 11B (military occupational specialty nomenclature for infantryman) until somebody gets hurt.” They put the “combat” into “combat medic.”

Combat Medic

I learned every weapon system except for mortars, and trained to fire them. I understood the tactical and technical requirements of mechanized infantry missions. Later, as an officer, my first command was as a leg infantry medical platoon leader, responsible for support of line companies, scouts, evacuation and aid station operations. Inherent in all of this was the number one most essential element to any military mission: security.

The last nine years of my military career I spent as a medical service officer with enemy prisoner of war military police units, small liaison detachments responsible for operational oversight of detainee operations, both in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and later in Iraq. Again, the number one most important concern was security.

Four of the Air Force personnel killed, including Maj. Vorderbruggen, were members of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations; think the Air Force version of NCIS, the criminal investigation folks. This leads one to think there is something more going on here than a routine security patrol around an air base. It leads one to believe there was an intelligence gathering mission going on. Why were the Air Force police on foot patrol? Why so many non-commissioned officers? Were there armored weapons platforms on overwatch or in reserve? Was there sniper cover? Helicopters? Drones? If not, why not?

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Was this patrol, like the thin defenses for our personnel and ambassador in Benghazi, politically motivated? Was the major being allowed to punch her combat ticket (gender and sexual orientation aside) for promotion?  Was she trained and experienced in such patrols or intelligence gathering? Was she a linguistics expert?

In my experience, it is highly unusual for a military major to be leading a foot patrol. Majors are field grade officers, and generally assigned to staff positions in headquarters units, not front line commanders leading troops into battle or on security patrols. Usually, the highest rank for an operational combat unit is captain, one rank below major.

Why were so many killed with one motorcycle improvised explosive? Were they grouped together too tightly? Were they following protocols? Who sent them on the mission and why?

We must perform all military operations with overwhelming force and with vigilant force protection. This idea from civilians at the Pentagon and in the White House that we can perpetrate a war with a tiny footprint and only Special Forces, bombs and drones is naive at best and deadly at worst.

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If our political and military goals are not the same, we will fail, and there will be more blood spilled needlessly.

As a former combat medic I know how difficult blood stains can be to remove, and it may take Obama a lifetime to get this blood off of his hands.

 

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When Artistic Expression Equals Death

The bodies lay where they were moments before innocently creating humor, or so they had thought. Militant Muslims, jihadis, terrorists or Islamists depending on your level of political correctness, had just murdered 12 artists in the offices of the French satirist newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

The comic newspaper had published cartoon images of Mohammad, the Muslim prophet, against the threats and warnings of Islamists. Charlie Hebdo had been warned against portraying the religious icon in physical form and against satirizing him. In fact, the paper had suffered a previous terrorist attack several years prior to this one, just nine months ago, but made no accommodation in their artistic expression to the sensitivities of those they knew would be violently offended at their art.

When does basic human decency, and sensitivity to others and the right to freely express oneself meet? When people ignore the entropy of equal parts responsibility with equal parts rights.

We’ve all been scolded at one point or another by a loving parent who taught us at a young age, “Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something.” Don’t we have a basic human responsibility not to purposely offend others, even if we feel we have a right to do so?

Apparently in the artistic world, limits and self-control do not apply. If they do apply, say militant artists, then it is not free expression and we are doomed as a society if we flinch in the face of bullying and terrorist tactics like those perpetrated against Charlie Hebdo.

In free societies we still have limits. There are limits to free speech in the United States. One cannot yell out “FIRE!” in a crowded movie theater if there is no fire without exposing onesself to legal prosecution should their negligence cause injury or property damage or financial loss due to stampeding patrons. One cannot maliciously write libelous and slanderous accusations about someone they don’t like without the potential for legal consequences.

So why is it that some artists feel they are immune to natural and moral limits on their expression?

In the Manhattan, New York, Park Avenue Armory, a military drill hall turned performance space, artist Laurie Anderson has created a multi-media expression of art that is highly offensive to a vulnerable segment of our society.

Ms. Anderson’s show includes the live projected image of a released Guantanamo Bay detainee by the name of Mohammed el Gharani. Gharani also speaks to the audience who roam the space, listening to Ms. Anderson’s music and Mr. Gharani’s “stories.” He is physically in West Africa, but his image is projected onto a white plaster likeness of a human being, presenting the frightening perception of his physical presence here, live, in the place where soldiers once trained and near the place where Mr. Gharani’s colleagues, on 9/11/01 destroyed more lives and property than did our enemies in WWII at Pearl Harbor and on the beaches of Normandy, France, on December 7, 1941 and June 6, 1944, respectively.

This would be like allowing neo-Nazi’s to perform mock executions of Jews in the preserved remains of Auchwitz, Poland, in the name of artistic expression.

Gharani’s stories include those of his alleged poor treatment at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, also known as Gitmo. In fact, Mr. Gharani was treated with dignity and respect from his very first steps into Camp X-Ray on February 8, 2002. I know because I was there, as the ranking U.S. Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint Task Force 160, seeing to his treatment after he fell/fainted in the detainee shower during his in-processing.

Mr. Gharani impressed me and my medical colleagues as a liar, someone who was behaving as the Al Qaeda manual on how to act when captured instructed him to – including disruption of detention operations, faking injuries, lying about treatment, claiming to have been tortured, hunger strikes, and lawyering up as soon as possible. I write explicitly about this encounter in my memoir, “Saving Grace a t Guantanamo Bay.”

Mr. Gharani had been captured in the Tora Bora section of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border in the fall of 2001, after U.S. and coalition forces invaded Afghanistan in an effort to destroy Al Qaeda the Taliban and then bring AQ’s leader, Usamma bin Laden to justice.

Gharani has a Department of Defense rap sheet ten pages long, and is a trained Al Qaeda foot soldier, suicide bomber and high level courier who interacted with bin Laden, and who was captured while engaged in hostilities toward the U.S. and coalition forces.

Lest we forget, these actions by the U.S. and later up to 39 other countries, were in response to the Al Qaeda’s planned and executed attack of September 11, 2001, which saw the murder of over 3,000 men, women and children, and the destruction of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in the very city where Ms. Anderson is producing her feckless show.

Insult to injury is the purpose and method of her insidious performance. Not too far from Ground Zero and the monuments and memorials of the dead from 9/11/, and housed in the hallowed space where a museum and artifacts of New York’s storied 42nd Infantry Division are preserved, and in fact in the place where I served military duty as a combat medic during the First Gulf War in 1991, Ms. Anderson is pulling off the perception of having a freed Gitmo detainee appear on U.S. soil.

It is illegal for Gharani, a former detainee, to be present in the United States, and this performance flaunts the spirit of that law, on purpose. And in so doing, Ms. Anderson rips open sensitive wounds of the victims of terror, their families and loved ones, of veterans and military personnel, and the memory and sacrifice of those who gave their lives in defense of this great nation so that people like Ms. Anderson could enjoy the benefits and privilege of freedom of expression.

This betrayal is on the same scale as that of (Hanoi) Jane Fonda’s stunt during the Vietnam War when she visited our enemies in Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam, while U.S. soldiers were being killed by North Vietnamese soldiers in the jungles of South Vietnam. Ms. Fonda was protesting the war, but at the same time giving aid and comfort to the enemy. To this day I have no idea why she was let back into the United States and then not prosecuted for treason – or at least a civilian version of “misbehavior before the enemy,” a military charge facing accused Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl.

Where does freedom of expression and artistic license end and common decency and respect to the sensitivities of others begin? Does it exist at all? Should it?

The Golden Rule of treating others the way you want to be treated, the foundation of the Judeo/Christian ethic that founded this great nation of ours, is being ignored, in favor of Ms. Anderson’s Pagan, utilitarian, humanist ethic of, “if it feels good, do it,” and “if it’s useful to ME, it is good.”

The result is damage to the hearts and souls of those who are rightfully offended at this insensitive mockery of the meaning and purpose of all that is good and wholesome about our country, our military and our City of New York.

Haven’t we all suffered enough? Must we continue to endure the irresponsible slings and arrows of self-righteous artists who claim the moral high ground by glorifying our enemies?

What’s next, Laurie, a candlelight vigil for the 19 highjackers at Ground Zero?

God forbid this artistic expression inspires the next senseless act of terror.Gharani.2Gharani.3

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center and explodes at 9:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001 in New York City. The crash of two airliners hijacked by terrorists loyal to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and subsequent collapse of the twin towers killed some 2,800 people. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 11: Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center and explodes at 9:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001 in New York City. The crash of two airliners hijacked by terrorists loyal to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and subsequent collapse of the twin towers killed some 2,800 people. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

This photo made during an escorted visit and reviewed by the US military, shows the razor wire-topped fence and a watch tower at the abandoned

This photo made during an escorted visit and reviewed by the US military, shows the razor wire-topped fence and a watch tower at the abandoned “Camp X-Ray” detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, April 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO/MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

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Was Bergdahl Addicted to Heroin? Why is he Being Sequestered? Detox?

While serving at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an Army Captain, and the ranking U.S. Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, in February 2002, I was aware of a detainee we called “Wild Bill” who came to us from Afghanistan a drug addicted schizophrenic.

It took us a while to figure out what his problems were. We were distracted by his bizarre behavior: eating his flip flops, hanging objects from his genitals, making strange, random sounds, and, like many other detainees, when they got the chance, throwing urine and feces on the guards.

Once it was determined that this detainee was ill, and his story stuck, he was determined to no longer be a threat to the United States, nor of any intelligence value, so he was scheduled for release.

As it turned out, “Wild Bill,” or Abdul Razaq, admitted to me and a few of my unit mates through an interpreter while hiding from the press before delivering him to his freedom bird on the leeward side of Gitmo, that he was a heroin addict in Kandahar when the Taliban came through and offered to support his habit if he picked up an AK-47, and then fought with them against the Northern Alliance and U.S. forces in the fall of 2001.

Razaq’s bizarre behavior at Gitmo was a result of a combination of schizophrenia and cold turkey withdrawal from his heroin addiction. The Taliban had used drugs to control him.

It was weeks after he was released that we saw a picture of Razaq in an online Newsweek article written by Sami Yousafzai, picturing him on a psychiatric hospital bed in Kandahar, and telling the interviewer about how well he was treated at Gitmo.

Fast forward to 2009, and the bizarre behavior of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. He walked off his U.S. Army post in Afghanistan, and then went in search of the Taliban. It was overheard on a radio monitored by members of his unit that Bergdahl was looking for the Taliban and that a villager thought he might be “high after smoking hashish,” a concentrated hallucinogenic drug. Bergdahl subsequently spent over five years with the Taliban off shoot known as the Haqqani.

While with the Haqqani, Bergdahl was observed carrying a loaded weapon and taking target practice with the Haqqani. Other reports indicate that Bergdahl “happily” played soccer with the Haqqani, and “bounded around the soccer pitch like a mad man.”

We have seen video of Sgt. Bergdahl both when he was with the Haqqani during his absence from his unit, and upon his release, when he was handed over to U.S. Special Forces personnel. In general Bergdahl appeared in decent health, yet mentally subdued and calm. While walking from the vehicle he was brought to his release in, towards the U.S. Blackhawk helicopter that took him away, he seemed to be able to walk brusquely and on his own power. Upon his release the White House even said that he was in “good” condition.

Why then has Bergdahl been sequestered since his release to the point where he has not even been reunited or in communication with his family, namely, his parents who were trotted through the Rose Garden by President Barack Hussein Obama upon the announcement of their son’s return to U.S. custody?

The Taliban are known to sedate hostages with drugs. U.S. Senators commented after seeing a “proof of life” video of Bergdahl that he “had been drugged.” It was reported that during Bergdahl’s time with the Haqqani he escaped and then spent five days away from them, and then after his recapture spent time in a “cage.” Could his return have been due to his need for drugs?

It is possible that Bowe Bergdahl has been drugged regularly either before and/or after his recapture by the Haqqani. It is possible that one of the reasons for his being sequestered since his return, and hospitalized in “stable condition,” is because he is going through detoxification. Until this is done it is highly unlikely that he is being debriefed vigorously regarding his five years with the Haqqani, which would be the next logical step in his reintegration into western and American military culture.

It is almost certain that Bergdahl’s enlistment contract has expired. He has been passed over for automatic promotion to Staff Sergeant probably both for the circumstances surrounding his disappearance from his unit in Afghanistan, and the lack of a non-commissioned officer evaluation, which requires no “flags” on his record and certain achievements to have been accomplished. A “flag” could be applied from an unsatisfactory physical fitness test or height and weight evaluation, performance deficiencies, or misconduct.

The next step after detox and debrief could be a hearing before a military Judge Advocate General (JAG) magistrate to first determine his status. Is Bergdahl legally still in the military? Was he summarily discharged during his absence? Why was he never categorized as either a Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA)? Will the United States attempt to declare Bergdahl an enemy combatant?

If the latter occurs, Bergdahl could be denied habeas corpus (due process rights) and then subject to trial by military commission. This would be the case if it were determined that he collaborated with the enemy and/or considered himself a “mujahid,” as some reports claim. It could also put him in jeopardy of being charged with treason; aiding and giving “comfort” to the enemy.

Heroin or other drugs may complicate Bergdahls status hearing. His attorney’s may argue that Bergdahl was a victim of being drugged and therefore cannot be held completely responsible for his actions. If he was summarily discharged he may be entitled to civilian representation, or either way may choose to represent himself.

It’s accurate to say there are many things we don’t know about Bowe Bergdahl and his current circumstances, but for me, based on my experiences and clues in the evidence available so far, I believe it’s possible he’s a drug addicted enemy combatant. We may only find out what the truth is when the U.S. government wants us to know. Until then, watch and listen for leaking clues to what may turn out to be the most fascinating military defection in history.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter ID: @mjgranger1

Obama, Bergdahl and the Betrayal of America

Let’s forget for a moment that President Barack Hussein Obama negotiated with terroristsbroke the law requiring Congressional notification when releasing a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, and by releasing five of the most dangerous enemies held at Gitmo. And let’s remember it cost American LIVES to capture those unlawful combatant Islamists in the first place

And it cost American LIVES (at least six) to look for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, for whom the Gitmo Five were released.

Honest military personnel don’t like it when their lives are taken for granted, or besmirched by a suspected deserter. It’s not good for morale to add to the already 600-plus RELEASED Gitmo detainees29 percent of whom are RECIDIVISTS. By the way, NONE of these detainees were executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up or dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, things our enemies did to previous captives, except for Bowe Bergdahl.

FILE - This file image provided by IntelCenter on Wednesday Dec. 8, 2010 shows a frame grab from a video released by the Taliban containing footage of a man believed to be Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, left. The nearly five-year effort to free the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan is scattered among numerous federal agencies with a loosely organized group of people working on it mostly part time, according to two members of Congress and military officials involved in the effort. An ever-shrinking U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has re-focused attention on efforts to bring home Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009. (AP Photo/IntelCenter, File) MANDATORY CREDIT: INTELCENTER; NO SALES; EDS NOTE: "INTELCENTER" AT LEFT TOP CORNER ADDED BY SOURCE

Among other ethos, the Soldier’s Creed insists that a U.S. Army soldier, “will always put the mission first,” “will never accept defeat,” and “will never quit.”

After just a few short days after his release, U.S. Army Sgt. (promoted in absentia from private during his captivity) Bowe Bergdahl’s warrior ethos is in question.

The circumstances surrounding his disappearance from his unit while serving in Afghanistan are suspect at best. In fact, there are no reports of him being taken by force by the Taliban. Sources contend that he left his post, walking away without his weapon, body armor or ammunition. Reports say he took only water, a compass, digital camera, personal diary and a knife.

From Wikileaks to those who say they served with Bergdahl, it appears that he just up and left his unit. In military terms, that’s called desertion, an offense punishable by death according to Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Furthermore, he may be suspected of committing treason, a Constitutional offense, also punishable by death, for providing “aid and comfort” to the enemy. This is something he may have done when questioned by his Taliban captors in relation to his unit’s strength, size and movements.

Reports also indicate that in the subsequent months, while his unit and others searched for Bowe,at least six U.S. soldiers died at the hands of the Taliban.

On Aug. 18, 2009, Staff Sgt. Clayton Bowen and Pfc. Morris Walker were killed by an improvised explosive device in the search for Bergdahl. Staff Sgt. Kurt Curtiss was killed on August 26; 2nd Lt. Darryn Andrews and Pfc. Matthew Michael Martinek were killed after being attacked in Yahya Khail District on September 4; Staff Sgt. Michael Murphrey was killed September 5 by an IED at the Forward Operating Base, Sharana.

This undated image provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The Taliban proposed a deal in which they would free the U.S. soldier held captive since 2009 in exchange for five of their most senior operatives at Guantanamo Bay, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai eased his opposition Thursday June 20, 2013 to joining planned peace talks. Credit: AP

His former unit mates indicate that after Bergdahl’s disappearance patterns developed in their searches for him, patterns that were immediately exploited by the enemy in increased IED attacks and base assaults when troops left to search for the missing American.

There are some who call for calm and empathy towards Bergdahl, including Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who said, “We will give him all the support he needs to help him recover from this ordeal.”

He also justified the exchange of five former detainees who were held at Gitmo, by saying, “Sgt. Bergdahl’s return is a powerful reminder of the enduring, sacred commitment our nation makes to all those who serve in uniform.”

This “sacred commitment” included the release of probably the highest-ranking enemies held at Gitmo who were not currently on trial for war crimes. The Long War Journal lists these detainees backgrounds and associations, but briefly they are:

  • Abdul Haq Wasiq, former Taliban intelligence official, central to the Taliban’s efforts to form alliances with other Islamic fundamentalist groups to fight alongside the Taliban against U.S. and Coalition forces after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
  • Mullah Norullah Noori, senior Taliban military commander who was engaged in hostilities against U.S. and Coalition forces in late 2001.
  • Mullah Mohammad Fazl, one of the Taliban’s most experienced commanders prior to his capture in November 2001. Gitmo officials warned in a February 2008 memo that is Fazl was released “he would likely rejoin the Taliban and establish ties with [Anti-Coalition Militia] elements participating in hostilities against U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.”
  • Mullah Kairullah Khairkhwa was one of Mullah Omar’s closest confidantes, and directly connected to Osama bin Laden prior to his capture. He represented the Taliban during meetings with Iranian officials seeking to support hostilities against U.S. and Coalition Forces.
  • Mohammad Nabi Omari, senior Taliban official who served in multiple leadership roles, member of a joint Al Qaeda/Taliban Anti-Coalition Militia cell in Khowst, Afghanistan, and was involved in attacks against U.S. and Coalition forces. Also maintained weapons caches and facilitated the smuggling of fighters and weapons.

 

Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, has called the release of the Gitmo Five a “great victory,” which aligns well with Sgt. Bergdahl’s father, Robert Bergdahl’s, Tweet: “I am working to free all Guantanamo prisoners.”

Bob Bergdahl, father of captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, speaks at the "Bring Bowe Back" celebration held to honor Sgt. Bergdahl in Hailey, Idaho, Saturday, June 22, 2013. Hundreds of activists for missing service members gathered in a small Idaho town Saturday to hear the parents of the only known U.S. prisoner of war speak just days after his Taliban captors announced they want to exchange him for prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Credit: AP

President Barack Hussein Obama seems to be on the same team. Exchanging one dubiously loyal captured American for five of the most dangerous Gitmo detainees seems like the deal of the century, if you’re Taliban.

With this exchange, Obama has continued to nail the coffin shut on the War on Global Terror. He closed the lid when he withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq and failed to obtain an agreement for a residual U.S. force to remain there.

Obama continues to deny we are at war with an enemy – that is gaining strength and shows no sign of weakness – through promises of ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan by 2016, and now the release of five high ranking Taliban officials.

What right-minded person could deny Obama’s complicity in handing Mullah Omar and the Taliban aid and comfort by the release of the Gitmo Five?

The nagging question is, “what now?”

What now shall we do to stem the tide of foreign policy contraction and near literal surrender to the forces of evil and death that flew planes loaded with innocent Americans into buildings full of more innocent victims, and into a field in Pennsylvania? These actions killed more Americans in one day than died at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, or on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

In the conflict that included those two days of infamy we finished the job, concluding World War II with the unconditional surrender of both Germany and Japan. But then afterwards created a road to redemption for both countries and others with our Marshall Plan of aid and infrastructure reconstruction, as well as military defense subsidies with our own troops and materiel. It was this and Ronald Reagan’s steadfast determination not to let the Soviet Union dictate global terms that won the Cold War.

US President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with General Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and US Forces Afghanistan, at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, during a surprise trip to visit US troops prior to the Memorial Day holiday. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

With U.S. forces currently in over 150 countries world wide, to claim the Global War on Terror is over is pure folly, but Obama doesn’t even mention the global war, or terrorists, or the enemy. To him our presence overseas is a burden to other nations rather than a way to project power and influence to maintain security and to defend our interests and foreign policy goals.

In fact in May, 2013, Obama declared the war “over.” Only he forgot to tell the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who continue to this day to try and kill us.

In other words, the man who is Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States of America has abdicated his ultimate responsibility to defend this nation against all enemies – foreign and domestic.

Obama has defiled any semblance of following the Soldier’s Creed himself: he is not putting the “mission first,” has accepted “defeat,” and has “quit,” on his soldiers and on his fellow Americans.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1

Convicted Terrorists: Your Next-Door Neighbors?

Son-in-law to Osama bin Laden, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, recently convicted of providing and conspiring to provide material support to terrorism and conspiring to kill Americans, in a federal criminal courtroom in New York City, was “the most senior Bin Laden confederate to be tried in a civilian court in the United States since September 11.”

The liberal left were unabashedly gleeful at the conviction, not because justice had been done, but that the trial took place on U.S. soil rather than by Military Commission at the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Location, location, location. This mantra is not lost on liberal Islamist apologists who act as though anyone ever held at Gitmo or accused of terrorism should be freed and compensated. This is similar to the 16 British nationals, including Moazzam Begg, who were awarded nearly 1 million pounds sterling each rather then be put on trial, which the British government said would have been “extremely expensive” and may have compromised “national security,” to hell with principle and true justice.

In this undated image made from video and provided by by Al-Jazeera, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, is shown. Osama bin Laden's son-in-law and spokesman still maintains that there was justification for the September 11, 2001 attacks orchestrated by al-Qaida upon the United States. (AP Photo/Al-Jazeera)

With the conviction of Abu Ghaith, we see repetitive behavior from the Obama administration with relation to giving aid and comfort to the enemy – this time in the form of a federal criminal court which could give him a light sentence and see him free to re-join his released and never caught brothers in years to come.

According to Human Rights First, the U.S. federal criminal courts have “convicted nearly 500 individuals on terrorism-related charges” since Sept. 11, 2001, yet there are only “over 300 individuals” in federal prisons on terrorism-related convictions.

My question is, where are the other nearly 200 terrorist convicts?

Were they deported? Did they go home? Did they go back to a life of jihad? Are they in your neighborhood?

We know some of the released Gitmo detainees have returned to the battlefield, such as Abu Sufian Bin Qumu, who planned and participated in the Benghazi attack which resulted in the murders of four U.S. personnel, including Ambassador to Lybia, Christopher Stevens. But the statistics on Gitmo recidivism, now at 29 percent according to the Director of National Intelligence, belie a troubling trend; releasing the enemy does not increase our safety.

Getty Images

But because “there is no defined entity responsible for convicted and released terrorists,” no one knows how many of these released federally convicted terrorists have gone back to the fight, have turned over a new leaf, or are living in your neighborhood waiting for the next call from Allah to strike.

This is the epitome of left liberal Islamist apologist Pagan humanist utilitarian sentiment towards the enemy in the Global War on Terror.

Logic says that the number of terrorists caught represents only a tiny percentage of all terrorists. Imagine then if you will that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the living of the two brothers who set off the bombs in last year’s Boston Marathon massacre, had not been caught. Let’s say he was still out there on the loose, plotting his next attack.

How “safe” would you feel if you were a Boston resident knowing this accomplished terrorist was free? How safe would you feel living ANYWHERE if Tsarnaev were free?

How do you feel about nearly 200 federally convicted terrorists that are now on the loose, legally? How about the 170-plus recidivists from the over 600 released Guantanamo Bay detainees?

In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, right, speaks with lawyer and U.S. Marine Corps Major Derek Poteet, a member of his legal team, while wearing a camouflage vest during the third day of the Military Commissions pretrial hearing against the five Guantanamo prisoners accused of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has told authorities he was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 hijacking plot, wore the woodland-style camouflage vest for the first time Wednesday, a clothing choice previously denied because of fears it might disrupt the court. Co-accused Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali is seen in the background, second from left. Photo Credit: Janet Hamlin/AP

Say what you want about Gitmo, or our federal prisons, but none of the Gitmo detainees or federal terrorism convicts have been executed, beheaded, hacked-to-death, blown up or dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, like those of us they have caught or targeted with planes, bombs, explosive belts, vests or long knives and meat cleavers.

The fate of the likes of Daniel Pearl, Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded by Khalid Sheik Mohammad while being filmed on video, is an example of the barbarity of the Islamists who want us all dead, and are the opposite of remorseful. In fact, they consider beheading or hacking to death of “infidels” to be a religious prerogative and duty, such as revealed in the statements made by the assailants of murdered British soldier, Lee Rigbyadmitting they were “Soldier[s] of Allah,” and that Rigby’s murder was “an eye for an eye.”

So-called human rights organizations, leftist Islamist apologists, and others who believe the U.S. must be a “beacon” for human rights don’t like to talk about the Daniel Pearl’s, the Lee Rigby’s or other victims of terror. They only want to discuss how “proud” they are that “justice” was done in the U.S. criminal courts.

They don’t care about how many convicted terrorists have been released, or about how many Gitmo detainees have been released and then have returned to the battlefield, because that would ruin their fantasies about righteous humanism, which is more devoid of moral foundation than had the September 11 terrorists.

We are not dealing with jaywalkers here, or even bank robbers. We are dealing with hard, cold, calculating murderers who have declared war on western civilization, making themselves unlawful combatants.

It’s not that the Taliban and al Qaeda can’t afford uniforms of their own, it’s that they CHOOSE to not let you see them coming. The Geneva Conventions were written to protect innocent civilians and property in time of war, not to protect those who PRETEND to be civilians in order to MURDER them. They are attacking overtly and covertly in an effort to TERRORIZE “non-believers” into accepting Sharia Law, and those who oppose them are better off dead. Simply, they are terrorists and should be tried in military commissions, not federal criminal courts.

How comforting is it to hundreds of the enemy that they are released to fight again, and to perhaps run off to a place like where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found, in your own backyard?

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter: @mjgranger1

Chemical Exposure and Gulf War Syndrome: Forgotten Illnesses, Forgotten Warriors?

I remember ramping up for the First Gulf War as a combat medic with the 102nd Medical Battalion, “Fighting” 69th Infantry Regiment, 42nd “Rainbow” Infantry Division, New York Army National Guard out of Manhattan, N.Y., back in 1990-1991.

I was helping teach a Combat Lifesaver course to the non-medical personnel in my unit and from other 69th units. The supply weenies (endearing term) were taking our measurements for “popcorn” desert camouflage uniforms, and our vehicles were being painted sand colors from their woodland camouflage pallet of black, green and brown.

Everyone thought there would be a protracted war with the Iraqis. They had entrenched themselves along the Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti borders and were holding their elite combat units in reserve. A classic, conventional defense that would prove a tough nut to crack, or so we thought. We were preparing for a drawn out and bloody trench war. Also, since Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against the Iranians in the nearly decade long Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and against his own Iraqi Kurds, we trained heavily and seriously for chemical warfare, including treatment and care of chemical casualties and decontamination techniques.

U.S. soldiers pose in their chemical suits. Photo Credit: Veterans Today.

U.S. soldiers pose in their chemical suits. Photo Credit: Veterans Today.

Before my unit got orders for mobilization, the war had begun and then ended 10 days later. Victory was swift and decisive, with few U.S. casualties that weren’t self-inflicted.

It took months and then years for stories of strange illnesses, later tagged as Gulf War Syndrome, to filter into the conversations of the reserve military medical circles I ran in. Several soldiers and officers I later served with in the 356th Field Hospital and then the 4220th U.S. Army Hospital (U.S. Army Reserve units) out of Rocky Point, Long Island, N.Y., who served in the Gulf War, talked about symptoms of unexplained headaches, body aches, lack of concentration, nausea, and gastrointestinal problems.

I remember reading about a hypothesis in a study in the Military Surgeon’s periodical that said the syndrome could have been caused by the consumption of diet cola sweetened with aspartame – heated above 84 degrees Fahrenheit in storage facilities prior to being served to troops, turning the artificial sweetener into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde poisoning was the guess. By the way, your body turns the aspartame into formaldehyde as well, which binds to some bodily tissues.

I read other studies and reports that pointed to exposure to nerve agent spread from demolition of an Iraqi chemical weapons plant proximate to U.S. troops, and destruction of a chemical weapons storage facility by U.S. troops. Still other guesses included biological infestations, exposure to mysterious airborne desert particles and smoke from the over 700 burning oil wells, set fire by retreating Iraqi forces.

U.S. Marines walk near burning oil fields in Iraq. Photo Credit: U.S. Marines Space Corps.

U.S. Marines walk near burning oil fields in Iraq. Photo Credit: U.S. Marines Space Corps.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs now lists over a dozen potential causes of illnesses associated with service in the First Gulf War. The VA offers a “free Gulf War Registry health examfor possible long-term health problems related to Gulf War service.”

Now I read that “medical experts cannot agree on a definition of the illness,” which adds to the stigma associated with complaints from nearly one third of all who served in that war.

The skepticism surrounding the illness has waned, but a definitive treatment is elusive due to the varying symptoms and lack of concrete evidence pointing to a cause. My gut instinct from stories I’ve heard and personal conversations with those who served in the First Gulf War is exposure to chemical nerve agent, which affects the central nervous system. These agents are persistent, which means they are oil based and therefore can be absorbed into human tissue. These symptoms can manifest as an allergic reaction, either mild or severe.

There is legislation pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 2510, which would address chemical exposure in veterans from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, but since it was introduced in Congress last June it has not been brought to a vote.

U.S. Army soldiers watch garbage burn in a pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah in Afghanistan Feb. 4. A judge recently dismissed 57 lawsuits filed by military personnel who said they were injured by toxic fumes from the pits. Photo Credit: Reuters

U.S. Army soldiers watch garbage burn in a pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah in Afghanistan Feb. 4. A judge recently dismissed 57 lawsuits filed by military personnel who said they were injured by toxic fumes from the pits. Photo Credit: Reuters

The bill instructs the Department of Defense to “create three burn pit centers of excellence to research, diagnose, and treat veterans who have been exposed to these toxins.” Thousands of veterans, who dutifully established and maintained burn pits under orders, are suffering, some need lung transplants. But the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense are denying long-term care for these dedicated and loyal military servicemen and women.

Please sign the petition and let House Majority Leader, Eric CantorSpeaker of the House John Boehner, and your representatives know you want those who made it home to have every bit of care they deserve, whether or not what ails them can be easily diagnosed. It is all of our responsibility to care for our wounded warriors.

When they wrote a blank check to their country, they didn’t ask if it would be easy, they knew it could cost them their lives, but no one ever told them if it didn’t they would be ignored.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Twitter @mjgranger1

BARACK vs VLADIMIR: AN UNFAIR MATCH

Not long after President Barack “empty chair” Obama warned Russian President Vladimir Putin NOT to intervene militarily in the Ukraine, and then Russia invaded anyway, our buffoon Secretary of State John Kerry called it an “incredible act of aggression.”

Really? How? No one was killed or even arrested when Russia blockaded the Ukrainian army and navy and seized important airports in the Crimea.

The move was rather stealthy, but should have been expected. A week before the incursion our intelligence service alerted the Obama administration that action on Russia’s part in the Ukrainewas “imminent.”

In this June 17, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

In this June 17, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland. Photo Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

 

But even so, what could a weakened U.S. do about it? And therein lies the rub – doing something about anything. Obama has so weakened our posture overseas that of course Russia will do whatever Russia wants to do, especially in its own sphere of influence.

It wasn’t that long ago that the former Soviet Union included the Ukraine and the Crimea, a decidedly Russian province, which holds the key to Russia’s influence in the central Asian and southern seas: the warm water port of Sevastopol. For without that outlet, Russia would be forced to send ships (and influence) from high on the eastern Baltic Sea at St. Petersburg.

The knee jerk reaction Putin exhibited when elected pro-Russian Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych fled the Ukraine for Moscow, was that of a mama bear defending its cub. The history of Crimea is decidedly pro-Russian, and Putin is happy at any opportunity to expand mother Russia’s influence and resources.

What is the Obama response so far? Impose sanctions on “individiuals and entities” responsible for Russia’s military takeover,authorized but not implemented travel bans and the freezing of assetssix F-15s in Lithuania, 12 F-16s and 300 troops in Poland, and a destroyer in the Black Sea; all that in response to Russia’s deployment of 30,000 troops.Ahem.

The ancient Chinese military genius Sun Tzu once said, regarding the employment of the military: “If it is not advantageous, do not act. If it is not attainable, do not employ troops. If it is not in danger, do not do battle.”

Cartoon.

Cartoon.

The Obama administration’s tough talk on Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine is not backed by virtually anything other than tough talk.

It would be profoundly unfair to law-abiding Russian citizens, many of whom have embraced democracy and capitalism quite successfully since 1991, to damage Russian Banks with western economic sanctions in an attempt to hurt Putin. And make no mistake, Obama’s current strategy is all about hurting Putin, his opponent, and with whom he is strikingly under matched.

Vladimir is playing chess while Barack is playing checkers. They might as well play tennis, where, presumably, the president may have a fighting chance because currently he is not merely outmatched; he is in another time zone, physically and figuratively.

While Obama was still asking who the heck Edward Snowden was, Putin was cutting deals with the American traitor. While Obama was in Washington watching Bob Costas’ eyes turn red in Sochi, Putin was back in Moscow negotiating an arms deal with the Egyptians. Check, check, and double-check! One more move and it’s going to be check mate!

At the risk of grossly oversimplifying this situation, imagine if you would, a game of Risk. Would you ever, even in your wildest imagination, GIVE BACK territory to your opponent while seriously trying to win the game? Of course not! Why then does Barack Hussein Obama think he can win the geopolitical game of risk he’s playing now after apologizing for us, having given away Iraq, promising to give away Afghanistan, balking at enforcing a “red line” in Syria, allowing four Americans to be slaughtered in Benghazi, removing tanks from Europe, and proposing budget cuts to the military?

CAMP PENDLETON, CA - AUGUST 07:  U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks during his visit at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base with troops and their families to thank them for their service on August 7, 2013 in Camp Pendleton, California. Obama announced today that he canceled a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow amid tensions over National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and other issues. Credit: Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks during his visit at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base with troops and their families to thank them for their service on August 7, 2013 in Camp Pendleton, California. Obama announced today that he canceled a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow amid tensions over National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and other issues. Credit: Getty Images

 

Obama’s actions as Commander in Chief would be laughable if they didn’t make you cry! All the while, Putin is toying with his prey like a tiger with a mouse!

“Easy to criticize, harder to come up with a plan that will work,” you say? How about this: first, turn back the clock and elect Mitt Romney. Remember him, the guy who said during the election debates that our most formidable geopolitical foe was Russia? Yeah, that’s the guy. Remember how Obama mocked him?

“The 1980′s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back?”

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin warned about Russia as well and was completely trashed in the liberal media for it.

Second, it’s the Cold War all over again apparently, with Russia supporting Syria and basically everyone else that we are politically allergic to. Then there’s China, testing limits to their east with disputes over Taiwan; Japanese waters and islands.

Then of course there’s Iran, you know, the country we used to have sandwiched between Iraq and Afghanistan? A strong presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and the western pacific would send the message that expansionist ideas would be dealt with swiftly and decisively.

President Obama with Russian President Vladimir Putin

President Obama with Russian President Vladimir Putin

 

Without power projection platforms in countries near disputed lands and a serious presence on the seas, we can’t influence diddly squat. Obama has us in retreat in every possible capacity. The chess game is lost. Risk is now unwinnable. Tennis anyone?

And that brings us full circle.

Whatever anemic things Obama comes up with at this point (the Crimean government is holding a referendum on joining the Russian Federation later this month, will probably have adopted the Russian Ruble by then as well, and undoubtedly have already kissed their cousins, nieces and nephews in the Ukraine!), will be completely inconsequential.

The European Union does NOT have the stomach to make any meaningful retaliatory moves (certainly none militarily), so Russia is free to explore their options, which at this point appear to be UNLIMITED, courtesy of the man of the hour, Barack Hussein Obama.

I am the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior,” and am a three times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major (Retired). Follow me on Twitter @mjgranger1.