Veterans Day Remembered: Forced Fun

(Presented as a message sermon at the First United Methodist Church of Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York, Sunday, November 11, 2018 by Montgomery J. Granger, Major, US Army, Retired. Video: https://www.facebook.com/pjfumc/videos/502873243555742/ Start at about 19:20)

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Good morning!

Happy Veterans Day!

Would all the Veterans here today please stand? Thank you for your service and Welcome Home!

Let’s please remember, Memorial Day is for remembering those who either gave their lives in battle or who have otherwise passed on. Veterans Day, today, started 100 years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, and known as Armistice Day at the end of World War I, is to show appreciation for those served and who are still with us.

I would also like to remember Army Veteran Shirley Leonard, and my good friend PFC Wayne F. Hurley.

I am a former US Army Medical Service Officer who started as a combat medic, and then after five years as an enlisted soldier went to Officer Candidate School and then served 17 more years as a Medical Service Officer, the last 9 of which were with a Military Police (Enemy Prisoner of War) Brigade Liaison Detachment, whose job it was to take care of bad guys, which we did with Christian spirit and professional acumen, contrary to what you may have heard from the mainstream media. After 9/11, from February to June, 2002, I served at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint Task Force 160, in charge of coordinating medical, preventive medical and environmental services for detainees and the guard force at Gitmo. I served again from February to June 2003, at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and then again for 14 months, from October 2004 to December 2005 for a tour to Iraq, where again I found myself coordinating services for detention operations there, in Baghdad, at Camp Victory, in Abu Ghraib (after the scandal there, my unit was sent to help clean it up), in Al Basra, at Camp Bucca, and in Ashraf, at Forward Operating Base Spartan.

In deference to my father-in-law, a Korean War veteran with the Air Force, and who is at home today dealing with COPD, among other things, he would want to know how long my message was going to be. 15 minutes Bob, and you can start timing me now!

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Fair warning, this is a participation message, and may have some repeat after me moments.

Forced Fun

Forced fun is when you are ordered to do something that if you weren’t ordered to do it you probably wouldn’t do it.

November, 2008, a month before I retired from the Army after 22 years of service, including nearly 2 ½ years of deployments since 9/11/2001, and I had never participated in a parade. This time there was no escape.

Like a Commander’s Ball, no one could get out of it. With a wink and a nod the command had made it abundantly clear that from the very top general in the region, “everyone” would participate in the annual Veterans Day parade in New York City.

The uniform of the day would be the battle dress uniform, at this time it was the pixeled pattern we called the Lego pattern of light green and tan. It would be cool, but according to the powers that be, not cold, so no field jackets or anything worn on the outside of the uniform. You could however put layers on underneath and wear gloves. But if one person wore gloves, everyone had to wear gloves. If one person forgot their gloves no one could wear gloves.

Head gear would be the black beret; in other words, cold ears.

With temperatures in the 40’s in the morning prior to the march we would be shivering a bit.

There’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” in the military. This was no exception. The parade would start at 11:15, at around 26th Street and 5th Avenue, and then conclude at 46th Street, a distance of a little over a mile.

Report time? Zero 8:30, or 8:30 a.m. for you civilians.

“Don’t complain,” I told a colleague, “we’re getting paid and we’re not getting shot at.”

“Hooah!” Came the answer. Hooah! Is Army speak for just about anything except “No.”

For example, “How are you?” Hooah! “How’s the chow?” Hooah! “Did you get the beans and bullets?” Hooah! “Good morning,” Hooah! Question: Hooah? Answer: Hooah!.

I know you want to, so go ahead and try it one time: Hooah? (Audience: Hooah!)

So, from now on, when you hear my question, Hooah? You may answer back, “Hooah!” It will let me know your still with me. Hooah?

That’s the Army for you, simple and direct, efficient and effective. No wasted words or energy.

“Conserve the Fighting Strength” was the Medical Service Corps motto, and we put that to work every day.

I remember at the parade that not everyone had brought their gloves. Bad news. Good news: we could wear our gloves if we brought ‘em BEFORE the parade started. We could also go, a few at a time, to local coffee shops or kiosks and get coffee. That helped.

When it was time to march a strange feeling of nervousness grew amongst us. Some had been in parades before and told those of us who hadn’t that it was no big deal. Just look straight ahead and march. We would be singing cadence, so the march will go by quickly, and before you know it it will be over.

We heard drums and a band, and we saw costumed high school students with batons and flags and instruments. Giggling girls and serious boys, scrambling to form up.

We had been standing in formation for over two hours. Army people can never just stand around in a blob, looks bad don’t you know? And when we stand in formation we always keep one foot anchored to the ground in line so that if need be, in an instant we can form up and look like perfect little soldiers.

The commands were given, “Group, at-TEN-SHUN! Right, FACE. Forward . . . MARCH!” And off we went, left foot first then right. “Left . . . Left . . . Left, Right, Left.”

The cadence caller warmed up and then began to sing. When you sing in the Army it’s more like military rap. Most guys can’t carry a tune, so the caller usually just sticks to monotone and simple words:

“One, two, three, four,” was the call, and the reply, from almost all veterans and folks who’d been in 10, 20 or 30 years, was “You can’t count to five!”

And you can imagine the echo amongst the tall buildings coming from hundreds of soldiers.

“One, two, three four,” “Can’t count to save your life!”

So you get the idea, when cadence is called, the caller sings and the group repeats. So, let’s try that.

“Here we go again (Audience Repeats), same old stuff again (AR), marchin’ down the avenue (AR), one more mile and we’ll be through (AR). I’ll be glad and so will you!” (AR) Excellent! Easy, isn’t it? You could all be soldiers! Hooah!

On we went, singing our souls out, loving the tremendous echo we were sure traveled all the way down to the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan.

We stopped and started with those ahead of us, never longer than a minute or two. It seemed that whenever we got into a rhythm we’d have to stop.

Police stood at intersections, intermittently allowing foot and vehicle traffic to sever the parade stream, and then as quickly let it flow again.

Between 26th and 34th streets there seemed to be a decent crowd of people watching with interest and clapping from the sidewalk. That gave us a warm good feeling inside, despite the chill. There they were, perfect strangers, standing, smiling, clapping and waving.

“It’s great to be an American,” I thought. Hooah?

As we moved further uptown, the crowds thinned and then got sparse, as the band up ahead moved off at the end of the route, by the time we reached the end, only passersby were left, walking and going about their business, not seeing a mass of hundreds of uniformed soldiers marching, and then dispersing.

My wife and family were waiting for me at the end, and we smiled and hugged.

We all came to see Daddy in the parade, and to attend a free showing of the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular, at Radio City Music Hall, sponsored by the United Service Organization or USO.

Walking to the theater, my wife told me how shocked she was that when we, the soldiers got to the end no one but them and other families were clapping. In fact, she said, one woman passerby came up to her and asked what was going on. “It’s a parade,” she said to the woman. “It’s Veterans Day.” “Oh,” the woman said, and then moved along.

It’s Veterans Day.

In line for the show, which stretched around the block into Rockerfeller Center, there were many uniformed folks all around, from all branches of service.

I actually ran into an Army chaplain I had known from my service in Iraq. We were both very surprised to see each other, as the Chaplain was from Atlanta, Georgia, but had come north to visit family who had obtained tickets for the show.

The Chaplain and I had served together at Forward Operating Base (or “FOB”) Spartan – “Come home with your shield or on it!” Was the motto, a nod to the ancient warrior class of Greek Spartans. The metaphor was honor. Come back with your honor or don’t come back alive. Hooah?

These were serious dudes we served with. The FOB, a security and detention operation of Active Duty Military Police, had the reputation for being the most disciplined FOB of any American outpost in Iraq. And it was so.

Strict Army discipline was observed. Attention to detail was the order of the day. Paying attention to detail in a war zone saves lives. Hooah?

The FOB was so, well, Spartan, that we had to have daily LOG runs, or logistical convoys for supplies, such as beans, bullets and water. Twice a week we made two trips a day. The spring and summer of 2005 were perhaps the most deadly up to that point in Iraq.

Insurgents were pushing in places like Falluja, Baquba, and the Airport Road in Baghdad. IED’s, or Improvised Explosive Devices were common, sometimes hidden inside the dead carcasses of large animals left roadside, frequently stopping log convoys such as those to and from FOB Spartan.

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I was on convoys to and from our log base once or twice per week to coordinate medical, preventive medical and environmental services for FOB Spartan.

The log base was Camp Anaconda, about an hour from our FOB and over the Tigress river, in the land of the birthplace of civilization and the stories of Babylon, and the Garden of Eden.

Compared to FOB Spartan, Anaconda had civilization. Swimming pool, Movie Theater, mall, barber shop and fast food. It was an oasis.

I remember entering the MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation hall) there for the first time.

Lots of board games, video games, ping-pong, magazines, TV, DVD check out, popcorn machine and Movie Theater.

There were no tickets, and no charge for anything.

Army soldiers and Marines wandered inside, dusty, sweaty and tired. And some with that look in their eyes, the look coined in WWII as the Thousand Yard Stare. The person was there, but not there.

When I entered the movie theater inside the MWR, a large room really, inside the airplane hanger-sized building, it was pitch black, between scenes in a movie. When the flicker of the film returned it lighted the faces of dozens of soiled, exhausted men, almost every one of them . . . fast asleep.

The convoys certainly took it out of you, whether an 18 hour schlep to Al Basra to inspect a detention facility at Camp Bucca, or an hour long ride to and from Anaconda the stress of not wanting to “Get blowed up,” took all of your energy. Hooah?

The stress was so intense that it was common for drivers and soldiers to fall asleep at the wheel once inside the wire and before parking the vehicles. Energy drinks such as Red Bull were encouraged.

***

The Chaplain and I hugged, and asked about family and introduced everybody to each other. It was really great to see her.

She was a staple at FOB Spartan, offering Bible study, prayer groups and two Protestant services on Sundays, one traditional and one contemporary.

I was more familiar with the traditional services, so I attended those at first, and then I got curious about the contemporary services, which ended up reminding me more of my mega church experiences as a young Christian teen growing up in Southern California.

I’ll never forget one Sunday when the Chaplain invited everyone to a baptism.

She had convinced a visiting group of combat engineers to dig a hole, about four feet, by four feet, by four feet, lined it with a tarp, and then filled it with water. She had ministered to some of the Pakistani cooks at the FOB dining facility, and several wanted to convert to Christianity! Now that’s doing God’s work! Hooah?

Did someone say “Crusade?”

No, we did not, but Christian soldiers were there to accomplish a mission, and even created one there in the arid land where God put the first of us.

Beside the door to the tent/chapel was a wooden sign with the 91st Psalm painted on it. Many of us there had the 91st Psalm, what we called the Psalm of protection, printed on camouflaged scarves we kept with us on convoys.

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That worked for me.

Prayer also worked. Hooah?

I’d like to thank the Worship Committee again for asking me to share my thoughts with you this Veterans Day Sunday.

If any of you know a veteran, ask them about their favorite Veterans Day, or their most memorable. If they can’t think of one, help make a memorable one for them.

It’s OK to ask us about our service. It shows interest and appreciation, and it makes us feel . . . normal. Many of us have some fond remembrances and some funny stories. Yes, there were some scary parts, but talking about it helps us make connections that are important, especially with family and loved ones.

I hope this was better than forced fun for you, and that through my stories you’re able to see veterans as normal people, and not just as a group of folks who are mysterious or scary.

We are just like you in most ways. And one thing many veterans have in common is the belief that every day is truly a blessing. That God’s gifts are sweeter and more vivid in the light of day after service.

What a blessing it is to be safe, secure and not worrying about getting “blowed up.” Hooah?

Thank you!

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(Major Granger is the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior” http://sbprabooks.com/montgomeryjgranger/ )

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Osama bin Laden, 5 Years Gone

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It was five years ago that we learned Osama bin Laden had been killed by Navy SEALs in an overnight raid to his compound in Pakistan.

Before the year was out President Barack Obama withdrew all U.S. military forces from Iraq without a Status of Forces agreement that would have secured the peace in that tortured country.

A few years later, in 2013, Obama unilaterally declared “The Global War on Terror is over,” after announcing an end to U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan.

Now, just weeks after the death of a United States Marine in a fire base in Afghanistan, Obama has announced 250 more troops to Iraq and Syria. The fire base by the way was not part of the official count of troops in Iraq. The administration hadn’t said anything about the fire base or the Marine artillery units set up there to support a mainly Iraqi assault on nearby Islamic State held territory.

Days later, during the assault, and before engaging the enemy, Iraqi forces withdrew in a panic, leaving U.S. advisors with no one to advise there.

Meanwhile, things in Syria are getting worse. What to do?

Send in 250 more troops. What kind? No one is saying beyond that some of them are Special Forces.

Those of us with military backgrounds know that for every combat troop it takes from 5-7 support troops to keep that soldier at the tip of the spear fed, clothed, paid, accounted for, lead and supplied with ammo, INTEL, COMMO, security and transportation. In other words, there are not 250 more Boy Scouts camping in the desert.

What is our objective in Iraq and Syria? What end state is desired?

I’m not big on numbers or time, so I’m not asking how many troops or when we’ll be out. I’m results driven. I want to know the end game.

Military folks like to plan from the end. Where do you want me to be and when do you want me to be there? The rest is nuts and bolts, but commanders are supposed to communicate their intent to their subordinates, who carry out the mission.

Soldiers don’t like it when you don’t tell them details about the mission. The American Army has frustrated opponents since the Revolutionary War. We don’t play by conventional rules. We are creative on the battlefield. We fight, we win.

However, when your boss says it’s day when it’s night, it’s hard to trust whatever else follows.

 

The announced death of Osama bin Laden was an emotional thing for me to hear. Staying up late, unable to sleep when after 10 p.m. on May 1, 2011, I saw on social media announcements that the President had scheduled a hasty news conference.

I listened and watched, rapt and in shock.

Strange feelings of sadness and relief crept over me. It’s as if I didn’t know how to react.

After a few minutes the news began to sink in, bin Laden was dead.

I became euphoric after a while, remembering all the things in my life that had changed since 9/11/2001. I lost my job, I was deployed for about 2 ½ years over five years, and my relationship with family members, friends and colleagues had all changed as well, and none for the better.

I was angry at bin Laden for all of this, and for putting me in harm’s way at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for six months, and then in Iraq for nearly a year. It was all his fault, and I was very happy that he was dead.

Or was he?

Why didn’t they show us official pictures of the dead body they say belonged to the evil terrorist?

Thrown overboard? In the sea? Why?

Were they hiding him? Did he actually survive?

Did they tranquilize him and then spirit him away to an undisclosed location to see how much information they could get from him? Why martyr him?

I still carry some of those thoughts.

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After Saddam Hussein’s sons were killed we saw gruesome photos of them. We saw photos of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Saddam Hussein after they were captured. Why nothing on bin Laden.

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It bothers me there is no closure, visually, to this person who caused so much death, destruction and heartache.

Saddam Captured

Five years gone, but still alive in a soldier’s memory. All of it. From the bloody devastation of 9/11, to the deployments, to the raid, to today. Nothing has changed for the better. In fact things are worse now and not getting better.

 

Gitmo Detainees to the U.S.? The New American Islamist Mecca

The friends, family and nefarious colleagues of Gitmo detainees would surely follow them were they to be transferred to the United States. Through immigration, migration, or as refugees; as students, asylum seekers or vacationers, they would come.

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)

They would come to support and lobby for the release of unlawful combatant detainees. They would wage protests, peaceful and otherwise, and they would wage legal challenges to detainee incarceration. They would demand visitation rights and call for release time and parole.

Wherever detainees would be held would become the new hajj destination, an American Islamist Mecca.

They would probably launch violent attempts to free their brothers, just like they did on April 2, 2004, at the Battle for Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. This attempt saw several platoon sized elements of insurgents attempt to breach the wall at Abu Ghraib, where hundreds of in-country detainees were being held during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Blocking positions of improvised explosive devices were placed on avenues of approach to the prison, and two M1-A2 Abrams tanks patrolling near-by were diverted, so we could not quickly reinforce the prison garrison. At least 78 incoming projectiles (rockets and mortars) were tracked into the prison by Marine counter battery radar, yet there were no U.S. deaths in the battle, but over 70 enemy dead.

The garrison of U.S. Marines, some of the finest human beings on planet earth, went out of the prison in armored vehicles twice to kill every single attacker. Two Army AH-60 Apache helicopters finally arrived, but just after the Devil Dogs inside had completed the mission. I witnessed the attack via radio, from the 18th Military Police Brigade Tactical Operations Center at Lost Lake, Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq, one night after leaving duty at the prison on April 1, and later viewed insurgent and U.S. video of the attack.

If you bring unlawful combatant Islamists to this country, we will need to be prepared for the same type of attack.

The idea of bringing Gitmo detainees to the U.S. reminds me of three simple but illustrious stories. First, imagine an Islamist version of “If you give a mouse a cookie.”

This story addresses the fact of human nature that altruism does not result in gratefulness; it results in a sense of expectation and entitlement. And in this case, allowing unfettered and flawed immigration, migration and refugees, would result in the aid and comfort of our sworn enemy.

They will always ask for more, and the liberal politically correct media, human rights groups and radicalized Muslims will constantly demand extra-legal privileges, habeas corpus, and other rights that detainees are not entitled to according to the Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare.

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The second story, “The Camel’s Nose,” is similar, and is the example followed by the Left regarding mission creep, or the incremental deterioration of will. They will, like the sheikh portrayed in the story, give in to the braying of those who would destroy us by claiming they are “cold” and need to come in from the chill of the night. Once you allow the camel’s nose into the tent, the rest of his stinky body will surely follow. The enemy is coming, and they are coming in droves. By claiming refugee status they are playing on our generosity and benevolence. We should not even let their nose into the tent!

Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, said in early 2002 that he knew the detainees were not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, but that we would treat them “within the spirit of Geneva.” This American generosity and benevolence afforded basic rights to detainees at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, even though they were not entitled to them.

All Gitmo detainees are at least unlawful combatants, and by international law and the Law of Land Warfare are not entitled to the protections of Geneva. Geneva was written to PROTECT innocent civilians in time of war, NOT to protect those who PRETEND to be civilians in order to murder them. Violators of the Conventions may be shot on sight or prosecuted for war crimes.

Over 660 detainees have been RELEASED from Gitmo, and NONE have been executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets or burned alive. All things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies.

At least 30 percent of released Gitmo detainees have returned to the fight as recidivists in the Global War on Terror. My question is, what about the other 70 percent we don’t know about. Where are they? Mixed in with the 200,000 “Syrian” refugees headed our way?

The third story, “The Scorpion and the Frog,” illustrates what our fate would be should we bring Gitmo detainees to the United States with their minions to follow.

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the

scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The

frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion

says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream,

the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of

paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown,

but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”

Replies the scorpion: “It’s my nature….”

Scorpion and the Frog

It is in the Islamist’s nature to kill you.

They are demonstrating, as they have done since the 7th century, A.D. that all infidels must perish, and if they die in the effort, so be it, they are going to paradise.

Until all Islamists are dead or no longer have the means or will to kill us, we must defend ourselves, and Gitmo is a small price to pay for our safety and security.

But it won’t do us any good if we let free all those who are sworn to murder us. Bringing these enemies to our shores will surely create a new wave of Islamist activity, but this time – directly in our midst.

Don’t give a mouse a cookie, keep your tent closed tightly at night, and never give a ride across the river to a scorpion.

Back to Iraq? One Soldier’s View

“The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” – Chris Hedges

That opening quote from “The Hurt Locker,” the Academy Award wining best picture of 2008, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and staring Jeremy Renner, is a truism that most soldiers who’ve been in combat can relate to.

Soldiering in general can be addictive, but even more so in a war zone. To be ultimately effective one must resign oneself to death. Accepting one’s death is an emotionally significant event that finds one mourning and going through the typical stages of accepting death and dying.

Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Bargaining. Acceptance.

For some each stage is distinct and vivid. For others, they blur. For soldiers, reaching the final stage, acceptance, can mean the difference between life and death, for oneself and/or for one’s comrades.

The addictive part is truly the essence of the culture of soldiering. Life is simple. You don’t have to worry about what you will be eating, where you will be going, or what you will be doing.

You have your uniform, your gear, and your weapon. Also known as your skin, your stuff and your best friend.

Every day is so similar that it’s difficult and even superfluous to count days or pay attention to the calendar until you get “short” and have very little time left. Time-wise, the battle rhythm in combat is the only thing that matters. Being on time and hitting start points and checkpoints is mission critical. And make no mistake; the MISSION isn’t just EVERYTHING it is the ONLY thing.

This is the root of the devastating pain of having left Iraq BEFORE THE MISSION WAS COMPLETE. We are still in Germany and Japan nearly 70 years after the end of WWII because the objective of the mission was LASTING PEACE. Those two countries, former deadly enemies, are now more prosperous and peaceful than nearly any other on earth.

The eradication of the enemy, unconditional surrender, and the taking away of the will and means for the enemy to resist, were military and political goals in the 1940’s. Today, the military and political goals of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) are polar opposites. Our president and his administration of rookies with respect to military and foreign policy matters are at war with our own military – ideologically speaking.

Barack Hussein Obama is completely ambivalent to the military mission in the GWOT, and even denies that it exists. He, cavalierly stated upon the exit of the last of the U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, “Anyone trying to derail the progress in Iraq will fail,” a completely impotent and foolish statement.

Today we are looking at an Iraq that has politically and militarily failed. Mozul and Tikrit have fallen to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), an Al Qaeda off-shoot of Sunni Muslims, or, more accurately, Islamists, who claim responsibility for the taking of these Iraqi cities and forcing over half a million resident Iraqi citizens to flee for their lives.

The Islamists are threatening the capital city of Baghdad, now vulnerable and exposed.

Who will save Iraq?

Will the U.S. go back to finish the job it started and then abandoned?

I would; were I not married with five children, 52 years old and retired six years from the military, my addiction would have its way with me. The burning desire to FINISH the mission in Iraq would take me over and draw me back to the smoldering heat, dust, and infectious smiles and gratefulness of the Iraqi people.

You wouldn’t know it from reports by the Mainstream Media, but the average Iraqi was quite grateful for our presence in Iraq. We had helped them rebuild and then improve the entire infrastructure we destroyed upon entry in 2003.

We had suppressed Al Qaeda.

And then Barack Hussein Obama was elected and the whole thing went down the toilet. The military mission that had started so brilliantly, turned into SNAFU (firing of the Iraqi Army), and then was fixed (surge); and then after we left rapidly deteriorated and then just went away, like the end of a dust storm, quiet, so quiet, and clear, and still.

But, it didn’t take long for the wolves to smell the carcass and then come running for a taste. Bombing began almost immediately upon the dust settling behind the last U.S. military vehicle crossing the border back into Kuwait. And then a crescendo of killing recently when bombings murdered scores of innocent Iraqi citizens, paying the price for their ambivalence toward the lack of a deal with the U.S. for security and a lasting peace.

Everything was “fine” back in 2011, just like the eerie calm before the tornado hits. And hit it did, and hard, and it looks like the “Big One” is yet to touch down in that desolate place, a place of blood and sand.

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). FB 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.

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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

Obama’s Trust in Our Enemies Could Kill Us

Punish Syria for using chemical weapons, President Barack Hussein Obama cried. Any resolution in Syria must include the removal of Assad, he insisted. Supporting the opposition was his strategy.

If blathering were a sport, the president would be world champion. And if using thoughtful common sense were a prerequisite for being Commander in Chief of the only world super power, Obama has failed out of the gate.

Instead of punishment, Vladimir Putin came to Assad’s aid with regard to Obama’s threats of military action, and now 49 percent of raw materials for chemical weapons in Syria have been removed. Had Obama had his way and perpetrated a military strike, there would be blood and bone strewn about and all chemical weapons materials would still be in Syria.

If the U.S. had armed and then trained the Syrian opposition there would be a very good likelihood that our recent Al Qaeda enemies, some fresh from Club Gitmo, would have been the beneficiaries. Now they just get logistical support from us.

Fighters of al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant carry their weapons during a parade at the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, near the border with Turkey January 2, 2014. Picture taken January 2, 2014.     REUTERS/Yaser Al-Khodor

Insisting upon the removal of a sovereign head-of-state while he deals with a civil war smacks of neo-colonialism. At least in Iraq the U.S. enjoyed a unanimous United Nations Security Council Resolution and 39 countries signed on to go in with us. Syria could well have been President Obama’s Bay of Pigs, with his “red line” nonsense, especially considering Syria is supported by Russia, Iran and China.

Remembering that in the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) Assad provided the Coalition with the Syrian 9th Armored Division and a Special Forces Regiment to oppose Saddam Hussein in the liberation of Kuwait is far from Obama’s recollections, as well as from the memories of the mainstream media and most Americans. How soon we forget who our friends and allies were now that public opinion, shaped by the liberal media and an even more liberal Obama administration, has swung against the military and political actions of said Syrian former ally.

If we look at the slew of Arab teammates who helped perpetrate war against the rogue Hussein (Saddam, not Barack for those of you keeping score), we find Saudi Arabia (Islamist misogynists), Kuwait (same), Qatar (yup), United Arab Emirates (uh, huh), Oman (yes), and Egypt (not so much), all gave blood and treasure to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991.

Where are they now when the fire is again in their back yard, or at least in their neighbor’s back yard? Perhaps they are doing what we should be doing – letting the Islamists in Syria attrition themselves into extinction. And then, when there’s nothing left, do business again with Assad, their brother.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, meets Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, left, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. The Russian ITAR-Tass news agency on Wednesday quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying that Syria told Russian officials the material it handed over shows "rebels participating in the chemical attack" but that Russia has not yet drawn any conclusions. Syria has turned over materials to Russia which aim to show that a chemical weapons attack last month was carried out by rebels, a top Russian diplomat visiting Damascus and a Syrian official said Wednesday. Credit: AP

There is an old Arab saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Not in the case of Syria if Assad is our enemy. And if Assad is our enemy, what (or who) changed that between 1991 and 2011?

Islamists engaged in the Syrian conflict against Assad are not much different than Al Qaeda in Iraq; opportunistic “foreigners” trying to score credibility points by taking out “bad boy” Assad. It’s a bit cannibalistic, but leave no doubt that for us to get involved with any of the opposition factions is tantamount to playing the amphibian to the Islamist arachnida in the old proverb, “The Scorpion and the Frog:”

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.”

The frog is satisfied, and they set out. But in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp “Why?”

Replies the scorpion: “It’s my nature…”

It is the nature of Al Qaeda and other Islamists to sting the frog, killing them both if necessary, for, according to one version of the parable the scorpion replies after the drowning frog protests, “it is better that we both should perish than that my enemy should live.” This is the common sense reason why we should never ally ourselves with those who would just as soon kill us as look at us.

Why then cannot the scorpions fight the king scorpion, Assad? Why involve the frog at all? Because the frog is prey.

Obama is being devoured by his own naïveté, and now by the wolves (Russia and Iran) as well as the Syrian opposition scorpions. And heck, all he did was offer them a ride across the stream, right? Ever hear Leo Durocher say, “Nice guys finish last?” Obama apparently has not.

(Photo credit: MAXIM SHIPENKOV/AFP/Getty Images)

So, Putin has his way with Crimea and Egypt (signed an arms deal with Egypt while the world – and Obama – were distracted by the Olympics), the Mullahs have their way with nukes in Iran, and Assad plays carrot with Weapons of Mass Destruction.

In the mean time, Assad waits him out, watching as the opposition scorpions keep trying to convince Obama to take them across the stream. Assad is supported by the Russians, who havemore reason than ever to thumb their nose at the U.S. (economic sanctions over the Crimea/Ukraine situation). Assad is supported by Hezbollah and the Iranians, and still apparently enjoys some gravitas from Arab neighbors due to Assad’s ganging up on fellow Ba’athist Saddam Hussein in Desert Storm.

Assad played that card to prevent Israel from taking advantage of Iraq’s instability and invading Syria during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Assad eventually gained approval from Syrians for that move, and bought himself twenty years of relative peace.

If he’s not careful, in the end, which is neigh, Obama will be left drowning in the middle of a stream, asking “why?” as his muscles turn to stone and his lungs fill with water. My question is, if that happens, where does it leave the rest of us?

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