Archive for the ‘Wars’ Category
Straight from Gizmodo: “This aircraft is a peek at the future of unmanned aerial vehicles. Autonomous, stealthy, versatile.
The Phantom Ray made its 17-minute official maiden flight last week. It only zipped by at 204 mph at 7,500 feet—but the 36,500-pound drone is theoretically capable of reaching a cruising speed of 614 mph (0.8 Mach) with a combat radius of 1,200 nautical miles. It’s also meant to fly at 40,000 feet. Developed as a test platform for advanced and future unmanned aerial tech, the Phantom Ray is a stealth drone that’ll be able to fly and perform missions basically autonomously—no one has to sit at the controls while it’s up there, doing its deadly thing.
Right now, it’s designed to be capable of basically any kind of mission—from intelligence gathering/surveillance to suppression of enemy air defenses and electronic attack. There are a couple options for direct assault: Either two Joint Direct Attach Munitions or eight Small Diameter Bombs.
Part of what makes it radical is that it comes from Boeing’s Phantom Works, which rapidly prototypes and gets these things off the ground as fast as possible, even if when they’re not completely finished.
Monster Machines is all about the most exceptional machines in the world, from massive gadgets of destruction to tiny machines of precision, and everything in between.”
Straight from the Debka File: “Daryush Rezaee-Nejad, 35, who died Saturday, July 23, when two motorcyclists shot him in the head and throat in front of his home in Tehran, was a rising star of the new generation of Iranian nuclear scientists. debkafile’s Iranian sources disclose he was attached to one of the most secret teams of Iran’s nuclear program, employed by the defense ministry to construct detonators for the nuclear bombs and warhead already in advanced stages of development.
This was another in the series in the past year of mysterious attacks of top-flight scientists attached to the Iranian nuclear program.
Our sources disclose that while he may have fit the Iranian media’s description of “a university student studying for a master’s degree in electricity at the Khajeh-Nasser University, one of the defense ministry’s Institutes of Hydraulic Engineering and Structural Engineering,” that description applied only to one part of his work.
He was also to be found daily at the top secret Parchine nuclear and military laboratories in northeast Tehran, where most of the work on nuclear bomb components and operational warheads is conducted.
His employment in this dual capacity helped Tehran keeping these activities under deep cover.
It also accounts for the Iranian media’s conflicting accounts of Razaee-Nejad’s role.
Initially, he was described as “a nuclear scientist working for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.” That was Saturday shortly after his death. Sunday, they changed the story and called him “an electronics master’s student.” However, the Iranian Fars news agency alone suggested. “…the media had made a mistake in reporting Rezaee-Nejad’s specialty” and went on to insist that he had links with the defense ministry.
Further belying the claim that he was only a student, Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani Sunday delivered a furious diatribe against “the American-Zionist terrorist act “against one of the country’s scientists as yet another sign of the degree of American animosity.” He said: “America should think carefully about the consequences of such actions,” and urged Iranian security sources “to deliver a strong response to these evil moves.”
debkafile’s intelligence sources report that Tehran appears to have got in a muddle over the dead scientist’s job description after realizing that disclosing his connection with the nuclear program betrayed how deeply the scientific teams employed in uranium enrichment – and even the scientific manpower directly engaged in building a nuclear bomb – had been penetrated.
Iranian media experts tried hard to undo the damage by retooling that description for an additional reason: They needed to reassure the scientists employed on nuclear work and their families that they were not in danger lest they take fright and run for their lives.
Furthermore, neither the experts nor the public has forgotten that only nine months ago, on November 27, 2010, two leading lights of Iran’s nuclear program were targeted for assassination by the same method in the middle of Tehran: Prof. Fereydoon Abbassi, whom debkafile identified at the time as director of the uranium enrichment centrifuge facility at Natanz, and Dr. Majid Shariari, whom our sources revealed as in charge of the cyber war against the Stuxnet virus attacking the same facility.
Dr. Shariari died on the spot. Prof. Abbasi survived the attack and was appointed Vice President for nuclear affairs and Chairman of the Atomic Energy Organization.
Since Saturday, security has been tightened for Iranian nuclear experts and their families, using special units established for the purpose, according to debkafile’s sources. But this last assassination indicates that the security belt designed to protect them may too have been penetrated.”
Straight from Gizmodo:
Back in the late 80s, the United States and Libya were rabid enemies. This is the thrilling story of Brian Shul and his Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, as he zoomed through the skies of Qaddafi’s country, dodging anti-aircraft missiles.—JD
In April 1986, following an attack on American soldiers in a Berlin disco, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Muammar Qaddafi’s terrorist camps in Libya. My duty was to fly over Libya and take photos recording the damage our F-111′s had inflicted. Qaddafi had established a ‘line of death,’ a territorial marking across the Gulf of Sidra , swearing to shoot down any intruder that crossed the boundary. On the morning of April 15, I rocketed past the line at 2,125 mph.
I was piloting the SR-71 spy plane, the world’s fastest jet, accompanied by Maj Walter Watson, the aircraft’s reconnaissance systems officer (RSO). We had crossed into Libya and were approaching our final turn over the bleak desert landscape when Walter informed me that he was receiving missile launch signals. I quickly increased our speed, calculating the time it would take for the weapons-most likely SA-2 and SA-4 surface-to-air missiles capable of Mach 5 – to reach our altitude. I estimated that we could beat the rocket-powered missiles to the turn and stayed our course, betting our lives on the plane’s performance.
After several agonizingly long seconds, we made the turn and blasted toward the Mediterranean ‘You might want to pull it back,’ Walter suggested. It was then that I noticed I still had the throttles full forward. The plane was flying a mile every 1.6 seconds, well above our Mach 3.2 limit. It was the fastest we would ever fly. I pulled the throttles to idle just south of Sicily , but we still overran the refueling tanker awaiting us over Gibraltar.Scores of significant aircraft have been produced in the 100 years of flight, following the achievements of the Wright brothers, which we celebrate in December. Aircraft such as the Boeing 707, the F-86 Sabre Jet, and the P-51 Mustang are among the important machines that have flown our skies. But the SR-71, also known as the Blackbird, stands alone as a significant contributor to Cold War victory and as the fastest plane ever-and only 93 Air Force pilots ever steered the ‘sled,’ as we called our aircraft.
As inconceivable as it may sound, I once discarded the plane. Literally. My first encounter with the SR-71 came when I was 10 years old in the form of molded black plastic in a Revell kit. Cementing together the long fuselage parts proved tricky, and my finished product looked less than menacing. Glue, oozing from the seams, discolored the black plastic. It seemed ungainly alongside the fighter planes in my collection, and I threw it away.
Twenty-nine years later, I stood awe-struck in a Beale Air Force Base hangar, staring at the very real SR-71 before me. I had applied to fly the world’s fastest jet and was receiving my first walk-around of our nation’s most prestigious aircraft. In my previous 13 years as an Air Force fighter pilot, I had never seen an aircraft with such presence. At 107 feet long, it appeared big, but far from ungainly.
Ironically, the plane was dripping, much like the misshapen model had assembled in my youth. Fuel was seeping through the joints, raining down on the hangar floor. At Mach 3, the plane would expand several inches because of the severe temperature, which could heat the leading edge of the wing to 1,100 degrees. To prevent cracking, expansion joints had been built into the plane. Sealant resembling rubber glue covered the seams, but when the plane was subsonic, fuel would leak through the joints.
The SR-71 was the brainchild of Kelly Johnson, the famed Lockheed designer who created the P-38, the F-104 Starfighter, and the U-2. After the Soviets shot down Gary Powers’ U-2 in 1960, Johnson began to develop an aircraft that would fly three miles higher and five times faster than the spy plane-and still be capable of photographing your license plate. However, flying at 2,000 mph would create intense heat on the aircraft’s skin. Lockheed engineers used a titanium alloy to construct more than 90 percent of the SR-71, creating special tools and manufacturing procedures to hand-build each of the 40 planes. Special heat-resistant fuel, oil, and hydraulic fluids that would function at 85,000 feet and higher also had to be developed.
In 1962, the first Blackbird successfully flew, and in 1966, the same year I graduated from high school, the Air Force began flying operational SR-71 missions. I came to the program in 1983 with a sterling record and a recommendation from my commander, completing the weeklong interview and meeting Walter, my partner for the next four years He would ride four feet behind me, working all the cameras, radios, and electronic jamming equipment. I joked that if we were ever captured, he was the spy and I was just the driver. He told me to keep the pointy end forward.
We trained for a year, flying out of Beale AFB in California , Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, and RAF Mildenhall in England . On a typical training mission, we would take off near Sacramento, refuel over Nevada, accelerate into Montana, obtain high Mach over Colorado, turn right over New Mexico, speed across the Los Angeles Basin, run up the West Coast, turn right at Seattle, then return to Beale. Total flight time: two hours and 40 minutes.
One day, high above Arizona , we were monitoring the radio traffic of all the mortal airplanes below us. First, a Cessna pilot asked the air traffic controllers to check his ground speed. ‘Ninety knots,’ ATC replied. A twin Bonanza soon made the same request. ‘One-twenty on the ground,’ was the reply. To our surprise, a navy F-18 came over the radio with a ground speed check. I knew exactly what he was doing. Of course, he had a ground speed indicator in his cockpit, but he wanted to let all the bug-smashers in the valley know what real speed was ‘Dusty 52, we show you at 620 on the ground,’ ATC responded. The situation was too ripe. I heard the click of Walter’s mike button in the rear seat. In his most innocent voice, Walter startled the controller by asking for a ground speed check from 81,000 feet, clearly above controlled airspace. In a cool, professional voice, the controller replied, ‘ Aspen 20, I show you at 1,982 knots on the ground.’ We did not hear another transmis sion on that frequency all the way to the coast.
The Blackbird always showed us something new, each aircraft possessing its own unique personality. In time, we realized we were flying a national treasure. When we taxied out of our revetments for takeoff, people took notice. Traffic congregated near the airfield fences, because everyone wanted to see and hear the mighty SR-71 You could not be a part of this program and not come to love the airplane. Slowly, she revealed her secrets to us as we earned her trust.
One moonless night, while flying a routine training mission over the Pacific, I wondered what the sky would look like from 84,000 feet if the cockpit lighting were dark. While heading home on a straight course, I slowly turned down all of the lighting, reducing the glare and revealing the night sky. Within seconds, I turned the lights back up, fearful that the jet would know and somehow punish me. But my desire to see the sky overruled my caution, I dimmed the lighting again. To my amazement, I saw a bright light outside my window. As my eyes adjusted to the view, I realized that the brilliance was the broad expanse of the Milky Way, now a gleaming stripe across the sky. Where dark spaces in the sky had usually existed, there were now dense clusters of sparkling stars Shooting stars flashed across the canvas every few seconds. It was like a fireworks display with no sound. I knew I had to get my eyes back on the instruments, and reluctantly I brought my attention back inside. To my surprise, with the cockpit lighting still off, I could see every gauge, lit by starlight. In the plane’s mirrors, I could see the eerie shine of my gold spacesuit incandescently illuminated in a celestial glow. I stole one last glance out the window. Despite our speed, we seemed still before the heavens, humbled in the radiance of a much greater power. For those few moments, I felt a part of something far more significant than anything we were doing in the plane. The sharp sound of Walt’s voice on the radio brought me back to the tasks at hand as I prepared for our descent.
The SR-71 was an expensive aircraft to operate. The most significant cost was tanker support, and in 1990, confronted with budget cutbacks, the Air Force retired the SR-71.The Blackbird had outrun nearly 4,000 missiles, not once taking a scratch from enemy fire.
On her final flight, the Blackbird, destined for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum , sped from Los Angeles to Washington in 64 minutes, averaging 2,145 mph and setting four speed records.
The SR-71 served six presidents, protecting America for a quarter of a century. Unbeknownst to most of the country, the plane flew over North Vietnam , Red China, North Korea , the Middle East, South Africa , Cuba , Nicaragua , Iran , Libya , and the Falkland Islands . On a weekly basis, the SR-71 kept watch over every Soviet nuclear submarine and mobile missile site, and all of their troop movements. It was a key factor in winning the Cold War.
I am proud to say I flew about 500 hours in this aircraft. I knew her well. She gave way to no plane, proudly dragging her sonic boom through enemy backyards with great impunity. She defeated every missile, outran every MiG, and always brought us home. In the first 100 years of manned flight, no aircraft was more remarkable.
Approaching the Libyan Coast
With the Libyan coast fast approaching now, Walt asks me for the third time, if I think the jet will get to the speed and altitude we want in time. I tell him yes. I know he is concerned. He is dealing with the data; that’s what engineers do, and I am glad he is. But I have my hands on the stick and throttles and can feel the heart of a thoroughbred, running now with the power and perfection she was designed to possess. I also talk to her. Like the combat veteran she is, the jet senses the target area and seems to prepare herself.
For the first time in two days, the inlet door closes flush and all vibration is gone. We’ve become so used to the constant buzzing that the jet sounds quiet now in comparison. The Mach correspondingly increases slightly and the jet is flying in that confidently smooth and steady style we have so often seen at these speeds. We reach our target altitude and speed, with five miles to spare. Entering the target area, in response to the jet’s new-found vitality, Walt says, ‘That’s amazing’ and with my left hand pushing two throttles farther forward, I think to myself that there is much they don’t teach in engineering school.
Out my left window, Libya looks like one huge sandbox. A featureless brown terrain stretches all the way to the horizon. There is no sign of any activity. Then Walt tells me that he is getting lots of electronic signals, and they are not the friendly kind. The jet is performing perfectly now, flying better than she has in weeks. She seems to know where she is. She likes the high Mach, as we penetrate deeper into Libyan airspace. Leaving the footprint of our sonic boom across Benghazi , I sit motionless, with stilled hands on throttles and the pitch control, my eyes glued to the gauges.
Only the Mach indicator is moving, steadily increasing in hundredths, in a rhythmic consistency similar to the long distance runner who has caught his second wind and picked up the pace. The jet was made for this kind of performance and she wasn’t about to let an errant inlet door make her miss the show. With the power of forty locomotives, we puncture the quiet African sky and continue farther south across a bleak landscape.
Walt continues to update me with numerous reactions he sees on the DEF panel. He is receiving missile tracking signals. With each mile we traverse, every two seconds, I become more uncomfortable driving deeper into this barren and hostile land. I am glad the DEF panel is not in the front seat. It would be a big distraction now, seeing the lights flashing. In contrast, my cockpit is ‘quiet’ as the jet purrs and relishes her new-found strength, continuing to slowly accelerate.
The spikes are full aft now, tucked twenty-six inches deep into the nacelles. With all inlet doors tightly shut, at 3.24 Mach, the J-58s are more like ramjets now, gulping 100,000 cubic feet of air per second. We are a roaring express now, and as we roll through the enemy’s backyard, I hope our speed continues to defeat the missile radars below. We are approaching a turn, and this is good. It will only make it more difficult for any launched missile to solve the solution for hitting our aircraft.
I push the speed up at Walt’s request. The jet does not skip a beat, nothing fluctuates, and the cameras have a rock steady platform. Walt received missile launch signals. Before he can say anything else, my left hand instinctively moves the throttles yet farther forward. My eyes are glued to temperature gauges now, as I know the jet will willingly go to speeds that can harm her. The temps are relatively cool and from all the warm temps we’ve encountered thus far, this surprises me but then, it really doesn’t surprise me. Mach 3.31 and Walt is quiet for the moment.
I move my gloved finder across the small silver wheel on the autopilot panel which controls the aircraft’s pitch. With the deft feel known to Swiss watchmakers, surgeons, and ‘dinosaurs’ (old- time pilots who not only fly an airplane but ‘feel it’), I rotate the pitch wheel somewhere between one-sixteenth and one-eighth inch location, a position which yields the 500-foot-per-minute climb I desire. The jet raises her nose one-sixth of a degree and knows, I’ll push her higher as she goes faster. The Mach continues to rise, but during this segment of our route, I am in no mood to pull throttles back.
Walt’s voice pierces the quiet of my cockpit with the news of more missile launch signals. The gravity of Walter’s voice tells me that he believes the signals to be a more valid threat than the others. Within seconds he tells me to ‘push it up’ and I firmly press both throttles against their stops. For the next few seconds, I will let the jet go as fast as she wants. A final turn is coming up and we both know that if we can hit that turn at this speed, we most likely will defeat any missiles. We are not there yet, though, and I’m wondering if Walt will call for a defensive turn off our course.
With no words spoken, I sense Walter is thinking in concert with me about maintaining our programmed course. To keep from worrying, I glance outside, wondering if I’ll be able to visually pick up a missile aimed at us. Odd are the thoughts that wander through one’s mind in times like these. I found myself recalling the words of former SR-71 pilots who were fired upon while flying missions over North Vietnam They said the few errant missile detonations they were able to observe from the cockpit looked like implosions rather than explosions. This was due to the great speed at which the jet was hurling away from the exploding missile.
I see nothing outside except the endless expanse of a steel blue sky and the broad patch of tan earth far below. I have only had my eyes out of the cockpit for seconds, but it seems like many minutes since I have last checked the gauges inside. Returning my attention inward, I glance first at the miles counter telling me how many more to go, until we can start our turn Then I note the Mach, and passing beyond 3.45, I realize that Walter and I have attained new personal records. The Mach continues to increase. The ride is incredibly smooth.
There seems to be a confirmed trust now, between me and the jet; she will not hesitate to deliver whatever speed we need, and I can count on no problems with the inlets. Walt and I are ultimately depending on the jet now – more so than normal – and she seems to know it. The cooler outside temperatures have awakened the spirit born into her years ago, when men dedicated to excellence took the time and care to build her well. With spikes and doors as tight as they can get, we are racing against the time it could take a missile to reach our altitude.
Major Brian Shul is the author of Sled Driver, a fascinating account of his experiences as a pilot of the SR-71 Blackbird. The book has been out of print for two years now, but now you can buy one of the 3,500 limited edition copies—signed by Shul and other SR-71 legends—here. There are only a few left, so hurry up.
Excerpts via vfp62.com, a site dedicated to the officers and enlisted men who served with VFP-62, Light Photographic Squadron 62, Home Base Cecil Field (NZC), FLA. It’s full of great anecdotes and images.
In Love With the Blackbird
It is a race this jet will not let us lose. The Mach eases to 3.5 as we crest 80,000 feet. We are a bullet now – except faster. We hit the turn, and I feel some relief as our nose swings away from a country we have seen quite enough of. Screaming past Tripoli , our phenomenal speed continues to rise, and the screaming Sled pummels the enemy one more time, laying down a parting sonic boom. In seconds, we can see nothing but the expansive blue of the Mediterranean . I realize that I still have my left hand full-forward and we’re continuing to rocket along in maximum afterburner.
The TDI now shows us Mach numbers, not only new to our experience but flat out scary. Walt says the DEF panel is now quiet, and I know it is time to reduce our incredible speed. I pull the throttles to the min ‘burner range and the jet still doesn’t want to slow down. Normally the Mach would be affected immediately, when making such a large throttle movement, but for just a few moments old 960 just sat out there at the high Mach, she seemed to love and like the proud Sled she was, only began to slow when we were well out of danger.
I loved that jet.
This story was originally published in Gizmodo on April 2010. We are re-printing it because 1) it’s awesome and 2) it’s a good read in the light of recent events in Libya.
Straight from Gizmodo: “Psychological operations are important to the US military. Two highly unpopular wars are being fought among highly unfriendly populaces. But, under federal law, it’s illegal to use American psy-ops influence against other Americans. That hasn’t stopped us, Rolling Stone reports.
According to statements made by members of the Army with psy-ops training—the strategy of both propagandizing, influencing, and extracting information from others—a military team in Afghanistan used their powers against visiting politicians, including several prominent senators. On the list? John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Al Franken, Rep. Steve Israel from the enormously important House Appropriations Committee, and Admiral Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Top brass. To what end? Money.
These are politicians who’ve got the cash in their hands, and you can’t have a war without plenty of it. So the Army decided to play dirty (and illegally), claims Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes. When bigwigs arrived in Kabul, Holmes—whose self-described job is to “play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave—was directed by General William Caldwell to do just that. Get inside their heads:
According to Holmes, the general wanted the [Information Operations] team to provide a “deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds.” The general’s chief of staff also asked Holmes how Caldwell could secretly manipulate the U.S. lawmakers without their knowledge. “How do we get these guys to give us more people?” he demanded. “What do I have to plant inside their heads?”
Which is illegal. When Holmes balked, he found himself the target of both an internal investigation and a formal reprimand, and a found the backs of his superiors turned against him.
Whether effective or not, the mere existence of psy-ops warriors is serious business. Even if mind control methods are bunk, the fact that the government would be determined to wield this weapon against itself is ominous—and on your tax dollar dime. [Rolling Stone]“
Straight from Slashdot: “Not satisfied with the legal conclusion of the DOJ, the Obama administration found other in-house lawyers willing to declare a bomb dropped from a drone is not ‘hostile’. The strange conclusion has big implications in determining the President’s compliance with the law. If drone strikes are in fact hostile and the Libyan campaign continues past Sunday, he may very well be breaking the law.”
User guspasho comments on the Slashdot story: “I voted for Obama because he said he would end the presidential lawlessness, end the wars, end the abuse of “state secrets” to block justice through the courts, close Guantanamo Bay and end the 4th and 5th Amendment violations that it represented, and protect whistleblowers. But since he was elected he has done the exact opposite, attempting to assassinate US citizens simply by declaring them enemies of the state with no process whatsoever, escalating the wars and even claiming the power to start more wars without consulting Congress, increased the abuse of state secrets to even prevent cases from being heard, refused to do anything about Guantanamo Bay and even opened up the greater black hole at Bagram, prosecuting whistleblowers to a far greater extent than any previous president ever did, and trying to prosecute Wikileaks under the Espionage Act. All of this is the exact opposite of what he said he would do when we elected him.
The only power citizens have to punish presidential lawlessness is to refuse to reelect them, and when possible, elect the candidate who says they will undo the lawless behavior. And when the country did that, the guy we elected broke every one of his election promises and proved to be much, much worse. And Congress, as well as both parties, have proven to be enthusiastic supporters of all of this. Senator Russ Feingold, the only one who really cared about the rule of law, lost reelection last year. When both parties support government lawlessness, in Congress and the White House, when we elect those who promise to stop it and they turn around and expand upon that lawlessness instead, what option do we have?
The precedent, I’m afraid, has already been set. Nobody who matters supports the rule of law any more; not Congress, and not the courts, nor the mass media, who are all too deferential to presidential power to want to do anything about it, not the parties who both want that power for themselves when they win the White House, and certainly not the executive who reaps the benefits. That sort of unanimity among the branches of government is what establishes precedent for a very long time, generations if not indefinitely.”
Straight from the BBC: “Barack Obama overruled the advice of administration lawyers in deciding the US could continue participating in the Libya conflict without congressional approval, The New York Times reports.
The White House insists the president did not need congressional approval to authorise US support for Nato’s mission, because the military campaign is limited in scope.
Critics argue the action violates a Vietnam War-era law limiting military action without congressional approval to 60 days.
The newspaper report said Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson and acting head of the justice department’s Office of Legal Counsel Caroline Krass had advised Mr Obama that the US involvement in the Libya air campaign constituted “hostilities”.
But the US president opted to follow the advice of White House counsel Robert Bauer and state department legal adviser Harold Koh, who argued the US involvement fell short of “hostilities”, the paper said.
US presidents can override the legal conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel, but it is very rare for that to happen, analysts say.
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 states Congress must authorise participation in hostilities longer than 60 days, although the president can seek a 30-day extension.
Members of Congress have accused Mr Obama of violating that law since 20 May, when the 60-day deadline ended. Sunday marks 90 days since the US joined the Nato-led no-fly zone mission over Libya.
In a 32-page document delivered to Congress this week, the White House said that US forces involved in the Nato campaign were merely playing a supporting role.
That role, it said, did not match the definition of “hostilities” as described under the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
“US military operations are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the resolution’s 60-day termination provision,” it said.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the law in question had been the subject of fierce debate.
There was a “robust process through which the president received the advice he relied on in determining the application” of the War Powers Resolution, said Mr Schultz on Thursday.
“It should come as no surprise that there would be some disagreements, even within an administration, regarding the application of a statute that is nearly 40 years old to a unique and evolving conflict. Those disagreements are ordinary and healthy,” he added.
The revelation that key administration officials had wrangled over the legal implications of the Libya crisis could intensify anger in Congress over continued US participation in the conflict that is said to be costing the US some $10m a day, correspondents say.
On Thursday, John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives said: “The White House says there are no hostilities taking place. Yet we’ve got drone attacks under way.
“We’re spending $10 million a day. We’re part of an effort to drop bombs on Gaddafi’s compounds. It just doesn’t pass the straight-face test, in my view, that we’re not in the midst of hostilities.”
Libya is expected to be among the issues Mr Boehner and Mr Obama will discuss this weekend as they play a round of golf at an undisclosed location.
The US role in Libya involves helping Nato aircraft with refuelling operations and assisting with intelligence-gathering, said the White House.
The Obama administration insists that the US is not engaged in sustained fighting or “active exchanges of fire with hostile forces” that put US troops at risk.
Under the US constitution, the power to declare war lies with Congress.
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers is suing Mr Obama in federal court for taking military action in Libya without authorisation from Congress.
The lawsuit alleges the president has violated the US constitution by bypassing Congress.”
Straight from Fox News: “The White House responded Wednesday to a congressional outcry over U.S. military action in Libya, saying that President Obama has the authority to continue the campaign even without authorization from U.S. lawmakers.
In a detailed, 30-page report sent to Congress, the administration argued that the U.S. has a limited, support role in the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya. Because U.S. forces are not engaged in sustained fighting and there are no troops on the ground there, the White House says the president is within his U.S. constitutional rights to direct the mission on his own.
The White House said that the mission has cost the U.S. $800 million as of early June and estimated that a total of $1.1 billion will be spent through the beginning of September.
The administration’s defense of the Libya mission came in response to a non-binding House resolution passed earlier this month that chastised Obama for failing to provide a “compelling rationale” for U.S. involvement in Libya. A bipartisan group of lawmakers also filed a federal lawsuit.
The resolution gave the administration until Friday to respond to a series of questions on the mission, including the scope of U.S. military activity, the cost of the mission, and its impact on other U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The report for lawmakers marks the first time administration officials have publically explained why they believe the president can keep U.S. forces involved in the Libya mission without violating the War Powers Resolution. That measure prohibits the military from being involved in actions for more than 60 days without congressional authorization, plus a 30-day extension.
Obama did not seek congressional consent for U.S. airstrikes against Muammar al-Qaddafi’s forces, and House Speaker John Boehner sent Obama a letter this week stating that the 90-day window runs out on Sunday.
Boehner, however wasn’t satisfied with the report.
“The creative arguments made by the White House raise a number of questions that must be further explored,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement.
“Regardless, the commander in chief has a responsibility to articulate how U.S. military action is vital to our national security and consistent with American policy goals,” he said. “With Libya, the president has fallen short on this obligation.”
Senior administration officials previewing the report Wednesday said U.S. forces are not involved in the kind of “hostilities” for which the War Powers Resolution says the commander in chief must get congressional approval.
While the U.S. led the initial airstrikes on Libya, NATO forces have since taken over the mission, which is in its third month. However, the U.S still plays a significant support role that includes aerial refueling of warplanes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance work.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president expects congressional support for the Libya campaign will continue. With Qaddafi under pressure to leave power, he said now is not the time to send “mixed messages” about U.S. commitment to the campaign.
However, a group of 10 Republican and Democratic lawmakers sued Obama Wednesday for taking military action against Libya without war authorization from Congress. The lawmakers said Obama violated the Constitution in bypassing Congress and using international organizations like the United Nations and NATO to authorize military force.”
Straight from the Los Angeles Times: “Calling the U.S. military operation in Libya “limited,” the White House says that congressional authorization is not required to continue involvement in the coalition effort there.
That determination was explained in a 30-page memo sent to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, just shy of the 90th day of the engagement of U.S. assets in the Libya campaign.
Lawmakers have become increasingly uneasy over the administration’s interactions with Congress about the scope and duration of U.S. involvement in the NATO-led mission.
The House passed a resolution this month demanding a report from the White House on the military operation. A bipartisan majority in the House agreed this week to withhold funds for any military operation that does not comply with the War Powers Act, although the measure is unlikely to survive in the Senate.
House Speaker John A. Boehner sent the White House a letter this week saying the administration would be in violation of the War Powers Act on Sunday.
The White House says otherwise.
“Given the important U.S. interests served by U.S. military operations in Libya and the limited nature, scope and duration of the anticipated actions, the president had constitutional authority, as commander in chief and chief executive and pursuant to his foreign affairs powers, to direct such limited military operations abroad,” the memo states.
“The president is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of ‘hostilities’ contemplated by the resolution’s 60 day termination provision,” it continues.
The memo also documents what it describes as “extensive” consultations with the legislative branch, including testimony at 10 hearings, participation in 30 briefings with lawmakers and staff, and dozens of calls and emails with individual members.
In its initial response to the memo, Boehner’s office said President Obama had “fallen short” of his obligation to properly explain the U.S. involvement.
“We will review the information that was provided today, but hope and expect that this will serve as the beginning, not the end, of the president’s explanation for continued American operations in Libya,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the Ohio Republican.”
Straight from the Debka File: “Iran has struck another blow in its nuclear offensive against the world. Tuesday, June 7, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad termed Iran’s nuclear program “a train with no brakes or reverse gear” after Tehran announced the deployment of submarines in the Red Sea. Wednesday, Iran’s vice president and atomic chief Fereydoon Abbasi Davani said Iran’s 20-percent uranium enrichment work would be transferred from Natanz to Fordo this summer. Purification capacity would be tripled, he said, by improved centrifuges.
debkafile’s military sources report that this move further shortens Iran’s road to weapons grade uranium of 90 percent.
Last November, Abbasi Davani escaped an attempt of his life in northern Tehran, for which Iran held Israel responsible.
Fordo is a well-guarded underground facility situated near the military installations surrounding the holy city of Qom and protected by air defense missile batteries. It was burrowed deep into the side of a mountain. These features make the facility all but invulnerable to an American or Israel air strike.
The very name Fordo is a red flag for US President Barack Obama.
In Pittsburgh on Sept. 25, 2009, Obama appeared before the world media, flanked by the British prime minister of the day, George Brown, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to reveal the existence of the surreptitious Iranian enrichment facility at Fordo. He gave Tehran two weeks to open up the facility to full International Atomic Energy Agency inspection and disclose the plans for the site, failing which Washington, London and Paris would pursue joint action against the Islamic Republic.
The answer Iran gave was that the US president’s allegations were baseless and the nuclear watchdog inspectors were welcome.
The UN inspectors arrived at the Fordo subterranean facility a month later and returned to Vienna to report they found nothing – neither centrifuges for enrichment nor nuclear materials. Two more UN inspections produced the same result.
Iran’s announcement Wednesday demonstrates that in 2009, it made a fool of Western leaders, especially President Obama, and tricked the international atomic agency inspectors.Enrichment uranium to 20 percent meanwhile takes Iran another big step towards attaining the fuel for a nuclear weapon.
Three years ago, Obama accused Tehran of concealment and deceit. Today, the Iranians no longer bother to conceal the true function of the Fordo facility – or even that 3,000 advanced centrifuges will be working there when the plant reaches full capacity.
Iran’s rulers feel they can be afford to be barefaced about their activities because they are certain that neither the US nor Israel with take military action against the Fordo plant. They do not find the condemnation of world powers or the nuclear watchdog too burdensome to live with.”"
Straight from the Debka File: “A new and dramatic turn in the Syrian crisis;: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Friday night, June 10, ordered his army to move into northern Syria where battles were blazing in Idlib, Maarat al-Numaan and Jisr al-Shuhour. DEBKAfile’s exclusive sources report that the prime minister’s office and high command in Ankara are still working out how to define the Turkish military mission in Syria. One proposal is to evoke UN Security Council’s 1973 resolution which mandated the NATO operation in Libya to protect civilian lives against Col. Qaddafi.
Turkey would be acting to defend Syrian civilians against a crackdown which Erdogan called barbaric.
Ankara decided on military intervention Friday night, two days before Turkey’s general election, after learning about the latest turn in the showdown between the Syrian government and the opposition.
Most of the day’s reporting focused on the small northern town of Jisr al-Shughour near the Turkish border, where tanks blasted residential areas Friday night and killed an estimated 28 civilians to punish its residents for the 120 officers and soldiers killed in clashes with protesters Monday, June 6.
Away from the limelight, heavy fighting also raged in Idlib, west of Syria’s second largest town Aleppo, and Maarat al-Numaan, a small western market city located on the highway between Aleppo and Hama.
In these places, the Syrian army encountered the guns of a Muslim Brotherhood militia fighting alongside a group of defecting soldiers, according to our military sources.
In the late afternoon, Assad sent tanks and attack helicopters armed with heavy machine guns to strike rebel positions. The casualty toll in this northern battleground is believed to be the highest of any day since the start of the uprising in early April.
The Turkish expeditionary force in Syria will have three missions:
1. To stem the swelling stream of Syrian refugees fleeing massacre at the hands of government forces. Ankara has accepted over 3,000 refugees from Jisr al-Shughour who are desperate to escape certain slaughter; it is not prepared to take on tens or possible hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing from larger towns like Idlib, Maarat al-Numaana and the Kurdish regions abutting the Turkish border.
2. To mark out a military zone on the Syrian side of the border where the Red Crescent will set up camps for Syrian refugees to shelter under Turkish army protection;
3. Next week, the Turkish army will establish a military buffer zone in the Kurdish region of northern Syria near its main town, Qamishli.
The Erdogan government will be taking the chance of Assad deciding that the Turkish military incursion is an act of war. Fighting would then break out between the two armies.”
Straight from the Debka File: “Combat in Libya is winding down. debkafile’s exclusive military sources report that Muammar Qaddafi and the rebel commanders are close to concluding a series of accords for ending the war after two weeks of secret talks. Meanwhile, as NATO warplanes continued to pound Tripoli Wednesday night, May 25, fighting on the ground receded to small pockets where a few rebel commanders are still holding out. However the primary battlefields of Misrata, Brega and Ajdabia have fallen silent as the ceasefire begins to take hold.
The talks led by Qaddafi’s chief of intelligence Abdullah Sanousi made enough progress this week for both sides to agree to go public on the call for a ceasefire. This prompted Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi to send a letter to world leaders proposing an immediate UN-monitored ceasefire. He said Qaddafi’s regime is ready to enter into unconditional talks with rebels, declare an amnesty for both sides, draft a new constitution and create a different form of government. But first the fighting must stop. He made no mention of any plans for Qaddafi to quit.
Our sources report that the text of the prime minister’s letter was taken from the draft accords already covered by government and rebel negotiators.
In London, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed after they met Wednesday that Qaddafi should step down and leave Libya but they also admitted that to achieve this objective the fighting would be drawn out. “We may have to be more patient than people would like,” said Obama. Neither ruled out a possible ceasefire.
Meanwhile, NATO continues to bomb often empty buildings in Tripoli still hoping to kill the Libyan ruler and so cut the war short with a victory. This week, too, alliance bombers targeted Nalyut 230 kilometers west of Tripoli in the Nafussa Mountains where debkafile reports Berber tribes are fighting a secessionist war against Qaddafi unrelated to the Benghazi revolt.
According to our military sources, the rebel commanders decided to go for a deal with Qaddafi when they saw the Obama administration had no intention of contributing anything further to war and without the US, NATO would never defeat him. Negotiating for terms for ending the war looked like the better option.”
Straight from Fox News: “I’ve interviewed presidents, prime ministers, celebrities and superstars, and it’s been a privilege to talk to them all. But I’m not sure I would put any of them on a par with a man called Arthur Seltzer, a man whose story is as inspirational as it is humbling, the story of an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.
Not that Arthur was alone in his endeavors. He was one of tens of thousands of young Americans who on June 6, 1944, took part in the D-Day landings, an unprecedented invasion that took so many lives, but ultimately saved the world from being crushed under the Nazi jackboot.
Arthur, 84, of Cherry Hill, N.J. has only recently begun to talk about his traumatic experiences, and only then because his granddaughter unwittingly forced him to. She was doing a school project on the Holocaust and asked him if he knew anything about it. Arthur knew more than his granddaughter could have imagined. She wrote about his experiences and got an “A” for her assignment. She then called Arthur and told him she had told her teacher he’d be happy to come in and talk about his experiences. Arthur was terrified, not of standing in front of a class full of kids, but of reliving some of the most horrific memories of his life in public. But, being the man that he is, he couldn’t let his grand-daughter down, so he stood in front of them and told them the story he is now also sharing with FOX News, the story of what he calls “the longest day of my life.”
On June 6 1944, Arthur Seltzer, then just 19 years old, a communications specialist with the 4th Signals Battalion, was attached to a unit of the 29th Infantry. As they approached Omaha Beach at dawn the men on Arthur’s landing craft signed a dollar bill — 36 signatures, a signal of their bond, a lucky dollar in Arthur seltzer’s pocket. Minutes later they were in the water.
“We were in the 3rd and 4th wave going in,” says Arthur, “and we were told not to go out the front of the ship but to go over the side of the ship so I had 60 pounds of equipment on my back, soldiers had their stuff and so over the sides we went. I can’t swim. I wasn’t worried about getting shot, I was worried about not drowning. When we finally got to the beach there was no craters for us to hide in and naturally machine guns up there were firing. Omaha got the name ‘bloody Omaha’ because the only thing you could see was soldiers lying on the beach that were dead, blood all around you.”
I asked Arthur what thoughts were going through his head as he waded through the blood-red water and on to the beach, also littered with the bodies of his dead comrades.
“Well basically I believe each one was trying to say where can I go to be saved, where can I hide, where can I be that I won’t get hit.”
His main objective, he said, was simply to stay alive.
Arthur did stay alive, and later on that fateful day he saw the sergeant whose idea it had been to sign the dollar bill, a dollar bill Arthur has kept to this day.
“He says, ‘You and I are the only two survived from that landing craft,’ and I said to him. ‘You mean you lost your whole squad?’ and he says, “Yes I lost my whole squad.”
Arthur Seltzer’s war did not end on D-Day. He went on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, forever known as the greatest battle of the war, and on April 29, 1945, Arthur, who is Jewish, was with the American troops who discovered the Dachau concentration camp.
Arthur describes the scene as, “Dead bodies all around, naked skeletons, people dressed in these uniforms with black stripes, they were half starved, the odor was so bad you could hardly take it. The odor of death.”
Six and a half decades on, Arthur still suffers from post traumatic stress. But he’s learned to talk about his experiences, to pause when he needs to, to relieve the tension by pulling at a rubberband he wears on his wrist, something he did regularly during our hourlong conversation.
When I asked him how he deals with these anniversaries he became particularly emotional.
“Every June 6 the first thing I do is put my flag out.” Arthur then paused, clearly struggling with the memories. “That’s very important to me. It’s a bad day for me.” At this point he stopped, the tears began to flow and he pulled at the rubber band. Eventually he gathered himself and said simply, “It brings back a lot of memories.”
But Arthur Seltzer also told me he is ready to move on. “It’s a different generation.” I asked him whether we should forgive but not forget, to which he replied, “That’s correct. You never forget any anniversary, you don’t forget the friends you lost when you served over there you don’t forget the people who gave their lives to make this country a free country.”
Arthur Seltzer is not just an American hero, he is a world hero. As someone born in Britain I could have been born into a country where German was the first language, where Nazis ruled, had it not been for the efforts of Arthur and so many Americans like him. On this anniversary I owe him, and every D-Day veteran, a huge debt of thanks. We all do. To steal NBC anchor Tom Brokaw’s book title, they truly are The Greatest Generation.”
The Atlantic Monthly | November 1960
First Wave at Omaha Beach
When he was promoted to officer rank at eighteen, S. L. A. MARSHALL was the youngest shavetail in the United States Army during World War I. He rejoined the Army in 1942, became a combat historian with the rank of colonel; and the notes he made at the time of the Normandy landing are the source of this heroic reminder. Readers will remember his frank and ennobling book about Korea, THE RIVER AND THE GAUNTLET, which was the result of still a third tour of duty.
by S. L. A. Marshall – UNLIKE what happens to other great battles, the passing of the years and the retelling of the story have softened the horror of Omaha Beach on D Day.
This fluke of history is doubly ironic since no other decisive battle has ever been so thoroughly reported for the official record. While the troops were still fighting in Normandy, what had happened to each unit in the landing had become known through the eyewitness testimony of all survivors. It was this research by the field historians which first determined where each company had hit the beach and by what route it had moved inland. Owing to the fact that every unit save one had been mislanded, it took this work to show the troops where they had fought.
How they fought and what they suffered were also determined in detail during the field research. As published today, the map data showing where the troops came ashore check exactly with the work done in the field; but the accompanying narrative describing their ordeal is a sanitized version of the original field notes.
The Longest Day misses the essence of the Omaha story.
In everything that has been written about Omaha until now, there is less blood and iron than in the original field notes covering any battalion landing in the first wave. Doubt it? Then let’s follow along with Able and Baker companies, 116th Infantry, 29th Division. Their story is lifted from my fading Normandy notebook, which covers the landing of every Omaha company.
ABLE Company riding the tide in seven Higgins boats is still five thousand yards from the beach when first taken under artillery fire. The shells fall short. At one thousand yards, Boat No. 5 is hit dead on and foundered. Six men drown before help arrives. Second Lieutenant Edward Gearing and twenty others paddle around until picked up by naval craft, thereby missing the fight at the shore line. It’s their lucky day. The other six boats ride unscathed to within one hundred yards of the shore, where a shell into Boat No. 3 kills two men. Another dozen drown, taking to the water as the boat sinks. That leaves five boats.
Lieutenant Edward Tidrick in Boat No. 2 cries out: “My God, we’re coming in at the right spot, but look at it! No shingle, no wall, no shell holes, no cover. Nothing!”
His men are at the sides of the boat, straining for a view of the target. They stare but say nothing. At exactly 6:36 A.M. ramps are dropped along the boat line and the men jump off in water anywhere from waist deep to higher than a man’s head. This is the signal awaited by the Germans atop the bluff. Already pounded by mortars, the floundering line is instantly swept by crossing machine-gun fires from both ends of the beach.
Able Company has planned to wade ashore in three files from each boat, center file going first, then flank files peeling off to right and left. The first men out try to do it but are ripped apart before they can make five yards. Even the lightly wounded die by drowning, doomed by the waterlogging of their overloaded packs. From Boat No. 1, all hands jump off in water over their heads. Most of them are carried down. Ten or so survivors get around the boat and clutch at its sides in an attempt to stay afloat. The same thing happens to the section in Boat No. 4. Half of its people are lost to the fire or tide before anyone gets ashore. All order has vanished from Able Company before it has fired a shot.
Already the sea runs red. Even among some of the lightly wounded who jumped into shallow water the hits prove fatal. Knocked down by a bullet in the arm or weakened by fear and shock, they are unable to rise again and are drowned by the onrushing tide. Other wounded men drag themselves ashore and, on finding the sands, lie quiet from total exhaustion, only to be overtaken and killed by the water. A few move safely through the bullet swarm to the beach, then find that they cannot hold there. They return to the water to use it for body cover. Faces turned upward, so that their nostrils are out of water, they creep toward the land at the same rate as the tide. That is how most of the survivors make it. The less rugged or less clever seek the cover of enemy obstacles moored along the upper half of the beach and are knocked off by machine-gun fire.
Within seven minutes after the ramps drop, Able Company is inert and leaderless. At Boat No. 2, Lieutenant Tidrick takes a bullet through the throat as he jumps from the ramp into the water. He staggers onto the sand and flops down ten feet from Private First Class Leo J. Nash. Nash sees the blood spurting and hears the strangled words gasped by Tidrick: “Advance with the wire cutters!” It’s futile; Nash has no cutters. To give the order, Tidrick has raised himself up on his hands and made himself a target for an instant. Nash, burrowing into the sand, sees machine gun bullets rip Tidrick from crown to pelvis. From the cliff above, the German gunners are shooting into the survivors as from a roof top.
Captain Taylor N. Fellers and Lieutenant Benjamin R. Kearfoot never make it. They had loaded with a section of thirty men in Boat No. 6 (Landing Craft, Assault, No. 1015). But exactly what happened to this boat and its human cargo was never to be known. No one saw the craft go down. How each man aboard it met death remains unreported. Half of the drowned bodies were later found along the beach. It is supposed that the others were claimed by the sea.
Along the beach, only one Able Company officer still lives—Lieutenant Elijah Nance, who is hit in the heel as he quits the boat and hit in the belly by a second bullet as he makes the sand. By the end of ten minutes, every sergeant is either dead or wounded. To the eyes of such men as Private Howard I. Grosser and Private First Class Gilbert G. Murdock, this clean sweep suggests that the Germans on the high ground have spotted all leaders and concentrated fire their way. Among the men who are still moving in with the tide, rifles, packs, and helmets have already been cast away in the interests of survival.
To the right of where Tidrick’s boat is drifting with the tide, its coxswain lying dead next to the shell-shattered wheel, the seventh craft, carrying a medical section with one officer and sixteen men, noses toward the beach. The ramp drops. In that instant, two machine guns concentrate their fire on the opening. Not a man is given time to jump. All aboard are cut down where they stand.
By the end of fifteen minutes, Able Company has still not fired a weapon. No orders are being given by anyone. No words are spoken. The few able-bodied survivors move or not as they see fit. Merely to stay alive is a full-time job. The fight has become a rescue operation in which nothing counts but the force of a strong example.
Above all others stands out the first-aid man, Thomas Breedin. Reaching the sands, he strips off pack, blouse, helmet, and boots. For a moment he stands there so that others on the strand will see him and get the same idea. Then he crawls into the water to pull in wounded men about to be overlapped by the tide. The deeper water is still spotted with tide walkers advancing at the same pace as the rising water. But now, owing to Breedin’s example, the strongest among them become more conspicuous targets. Coming along, they pick up wounded comrades and float them to the shore raftwise. Machine-gun fire still rakes the water. Burst after burst spoils the rescue act, shooting the floating man from the hands of the walker or killing both together. But Breedin for this hour leads a charmed life and stays with his work indomitably.
By the end of one half hour, approximately two thirds of the company is forever gone. There is no precise casualty figure for that moment. There is for the Normandy landing as a whole no accurate figure for the first hour or first day. The circumstances precluded it. Whether more Able Company riflemen died from water than from fire is known only to heaven. All earthly evidence so indicates, but cannot prove it.
By the end of one hour, the survivors from the main body have crawled across the sand to the foot of the bluff, where there is a narrow sanctuary of defiladed space. There they lie all day, clean spent, unarmed, too shocked to feel hunger, incapable even of talking to one another. No one happens by to succor them, ask what has happened, provide water, or offer unwanted pity. D Day at Omaha afforded no time or space for such missions. Every landing company was overloaded by its own assault problems.
By the end of one hour and forty-five minutes, six survivors from the boat section on the extreme right shake loose and work their way to a shelf a few rods up the cliff. Four fall exhausted from the short climb and advance no farther. They stay there through the day, seeing no one else from the company. The other two, Privates Jake Shefer and Thomas Lovejoy, join a group from the Second Ranger Battalion, which is assaulting Pointe du Hoc to the right of the company sector, and fight on with the Rangers through the day. Two men. Two rifles. Except for these, Able Company’s contribution to the D Day fire fight is a cipher.
BAKER Company which is scheduled to land twenty-six minutes after Able and right on top of it, supporting and reinforcing, has had its full load of trouble on the way in. So rough is the sea during the journey that the men have to bail furiously with their helmets to keep the six boats from swamping. Thus preoccupied, they do not see the disaster which is overtaking Able until they are almost atop it. Then, what their eyes behold is either so limited or so staggering to the senses that control withers, the assault wave begins to dissolve, and disunity induced by fear virtually cancels the mission. A great cloud of smoke and dust raised by the mortar and machine-gun fire has almost closed a curtain around Able Company’s ordeal. Outside the pall, nothing is to be seen but a line of corpses adrift, a few heads bobbing in the water and the crimson-running tide. But this is enough for the British coxswains. They raise the cry: “We can’t go in there. We can’t see the landmarks. We must pull off.”
In the command boat, Captain Ettore V. Zappacosta pulls a Colt .45 and says: “By God, you’ll take this boat straight in.” His display of courage wins obedience, but it’s still a fool’s order. Such of Baker’s boats as try to go straight in suffer Able’s fate without helping the other company whatever. Thrice during the approach mortar shells break right next to Zappacosta’s boat but by an irony leave it unscathed, thereby sparing the riders a few more moments of life. At seventy-five yards from the sand Zappacosta yells: “Drop the ramp !” The end goes down, and a storm of bullet fire comes in.
Zappacosta jumps first from the boat, reels ten yards through the elbow-high tide, and yells back: “I’m hit.” He staggers on a few more steps. The aid man, Thomas Kenser, sees him bleeding from hip and shoulder. Kenser yells: “Try to make it in; I’m coming.” But the captain falls face forward into the wave, and the weight of his equipment and soaked pack pin him to the bottom. Kenser jumps toward him and is shot dead while in the air. Lieutenant Tom Dallas of Charley Company, who has come along to make a reconnaissance, is the third man. He makes it to the edge of the sand. There a machine-gun burst blows his head apart before he can flatten.
Private First Class Robert L. Sales, who is lugging Zappacosta’s radio (an SCR 300), is the fourth man to leave the boat, having waited long enough to see the others die. His boot heel catches on the edge of the ramp and he falls sprawling into the tide, losing the radio but saving his life. Every man who tries to follow him is either killed or wounded before reaching dry land. Sales alone gets to the beach unhit. To travel those few yards takes him two hours. First he crouches in the water, and waddling forward on his haunches just a few paces, collides with a floating log—driftwood. In that moment, a mortar shell explodes just above his head, knocking him groggy. He hugs the log to keep from going down, and somehow the effort seems to clear his head a little. Next thing he knows, one of Able Company’s tide walkers hoists him aboard the log and, using his sheath knife, cuts away Sales’s pack, boots, and assault jacket.
Feeling stronger, Sales returns to the water, and from behind the log, using it as cover, pushes toward the sand. Private Mack L. Smith of Baker Company, hit three times through the face, joins him there. An Able Company rifleman named Kemper, hit thrice in the right leg, also comes alongside. Together they follow the log until at last they roll it to the farthest reach of high tide. Then they flatten themselves behind it, staying there for hours after the flow has turned to ebb. The dead of both companies wash up to where they lie, and then wash back out to sea again. As a body drifts in close to them, Sales and companions, disregarding the fire, crawl from behind the log to take a look. If any one of them recognizes the face of a comrade, they join in dragging the body up onto the dry sand beyond the water’s reach. The unfamiliar dead are left to the sea. So long as the tide is full, they stay with this unique task. Later, an unidentified first-aid man who comes wiggling along the beach dresses the wounds of Smith. Sales, as he finds strength, bandages Kemper. The three remain behind the log until night falls. There is nothing else to be reported of any member of Zappacosta’s boat team.
Only one other Baker Company boat tries to come straight in to the beach. Somehow the boat founders. Somehow all of its people are killed—one British coxswain and about thirty American infantrymen. Where they fall, there is no one to take note of and report.
FRIGHTENED coxswains in the other four craft take one quick look, instinctively draw back, and then veer right and left away from the Able Company shambles. So doing, they dodge their duty while giving a break to their passengers. Such is the shock to the boat team leaders, and such their feeling of relief at the turning movement, that not one utters a protest. Lieutenant Leo A. Pingenot’s coxswain swings the boat far rightward toward Pointe du Hoc; then, spying a small and deceptively peaceful-looking cove, heads directly for the land. Fifty yards out, Pingenot yells: “Drop the ramp!” The coxswain freezes on the rope, refusing to lower. Staff Sergeant Odell L. Padgett jumps him, throttles him, and bears him to the floor. Padgett’s men lower the rope and jump for the water. In two minutes, they are all in up to their necks and struggling to avoid drowning. That quickly, Pingenot is already far out ahead of them. Padgett comes even with him, and together they cross onto dry land. The beach of the cove is heavily strewn with giant boulders. Bullets seem to be pinging off every rock.
Pingenot and Padgett dive behind the same rock. Then they glance back, but to their horror see not one person. Quite suddenly smoke has half blanked out the scene beyond the water’s edge. Pingenot moans: “My God, the whole boat team is dead.” Padgett sings out: “Hey, are you hit?” Back come many voices from beyond the smoke. “What’s the rush?” “Take it easy!” “We’ll get there.” “Where’s the fire?” “Who wants to know?” The men are still moving along, using the water as cover. Padgett’s yell is their first information that anyone else has moved up front. They all make it to the shore, and they are twenty-eight strong at first. Pingenot and Padgett manage to stay ahead of them, coaxing and encouraging. Padgett keeps yelling: “Come on, goddam it, things are better up here!” But still they lose two men killed and three wounded in crossing the beach.
In the cove, the platoon latches on to a company of Rangers, fights all day as part of that company, and helps destroy the enemy entrenchments atop Pointe du Hoc. By sundown that mop-up is completed. The platoon bivouacs at the first hedgerow beyond the cliff.
The other Baker Company boat, which turns to the right, has far less luck. Staff Sergeant Robert M. Campbell, who leads the section, is the first man to jump out when the ramp goes down. He drops in drowning water, and his load of two bangalore torpedoes takes him straight to the bottom. So he jettisons the bangalores and then, surfacing, cuts away all equipment for good measure. Machine-gun fire brackets him, and he submerges again briefly. Never a strong swimmer, he heads back out to sea. For two hours he paddles around, two hundred or so yards from the shore. Though he hears and sees nothing of the battle, he somehow gets the impression that the invasion has failed and that all other Americans are dead, wounded, or have been taken prisoner. Strength fast going, in despair he moves ashore rather than drown. Beyond the smoke he quickly finds the fire. So he grabs a helmet from a dead man’s head, crawls on hands and knees to the sea wall, and there finds five of his men, two of them unwounded.
Like Campbell, Private First Class Jan J. Budziszewski is carried to the bottom by his load of two bangalores. He hugs them half a minute before realizing that he will either let loose or drown. Next, he shucks off his helmet and pack and drops his rifle. Then he surfaces. After swimming two hundred yards, he sees that he is moving in exactly the wrong direction. So he turns about and heads for the beach, where he crawls ashore “under a rain of bullets.” In his path lies a dead Ranger. Budziszewski takes the dead man’s helmet, rifle, and canteen and crawls on to the sea wall. The only survivor from Campbell’s boat section to get off the beach, he spends his day walking to and fro along the foot of the bluff, looking for a friendly face. But he meets only strangers, and none shows any interest in him.
In Lieutenant William B. Williams’ boat, the coxswain steers sharp left and away from Zappacosta’s sector. Not seeing the captain die, Williams doesn’t know that command has now passed to him. Guiding on his own instinct, the coxswain moves along the coast six hundred yards, then puts the boat straight in. It’s a good guess; he has found a little vacuum in the battle. The ramp drops on dry sand and the boat team jumps ashore. Yet it’s a close thing. Mortar fire has dogged them all the way; and as the last rifleman clears the ramp, one shell lands dead center of the boat, blows it apart, and kills the coxswain. Momentarily, the beach is free of fire, but the men cannot cross it at a bound. Weak from seasickness and fear, they move at a crawl, dragging their equipment. By the end of twenty minutes, Williams and ten men are over the sand and resting in the lee of the sea wall. Five others are hit by machine-gun fire crossing the beach; six men, last seen while taking cover in a tidal pocket, are never heard from again. More mortar fire lands around the party as Williams leads it across the road beyond the sea wall. The men scatter. When the shelling lifts, three of them do not return. Williams leads the seven survivors up a trail toward the fortified village of Les Moulins atop the bluff. He recognizes the ground and knows that he is taking on a tough target. Les Moulins is perched above a draw, up which winds a dirt road from the beach, designated on the invasion maps as Exit No. 3.
Williams and his crew of seven are the first Americans to approach it D Day morning. Machine-gun fire from a concrete pillbox sweeps over them as they near the brow of the hill, moving now at a crawl through thick grass. Williams says to the others: “Stay here; we’re too big a target!” They hug earth, and he crawls forward alone, moving via a shallow gully. Without being detected, he gets to within twenty yards of the gun, obliquely downslope from it. He heaves a grenade; but he has held it just a bit too long and it explodes in air, just outside the embrasure. His second grenade hits the concrete wall and bounces right back on him. Three of its slugs hit him in the shoulders. Then, from out of the pillbox, a German potato masher sails down on him and explodes just a few feet away; five more fragments cut into him. He starts crawling back to his men; en route, three bullets from the machine gun rip his rump and right leg.
The seven are still there. Williams hands his map and compass to Staff Sergeant Frank M. Price, saying: “It’s your job now. But go the other way—toward Vierville.” Price starts to look at Williams’ wounds, but Williams shakes him off, saying: “No, get moving.” He then settles himself in a hole in the embankment, stays there all day, and at last gets medical attention just before midnight.
On leaving Williams, Price’s first act is to hand map and compass (the symbols of leadership) to Technical Sergeant William Pearce, whose seniority the lieutenant has overlooked. They cross the draw, one man at a time, and some distance beyond come to a ravine; on the far side, they bump their first hedgerow, and as they look for an entrance, fire comes against them. Behind a second hedgerow, not more than thirty yards away, are seven Germans, five rides and two burp guns. On exactly even terms, these two forces engage for the better part of an hour, apparently with no one’s getting hit. Then Pearce settles the fight by crawling along a drainage ditch to the enemy flank. He kills the seven Germans with a Browning Automatic Rifle.
For Pearce and his friends, it is a first taste of battle; its success is giddying. Heads up, they walk along the road straight into Vierville, disregarding all precautions. They get away with it only because that village is already firmly in the hands of Lieutenant Walter Taylor of Baker Company and twenty men from his boat team.
Taylor is a luminous figure in the story of D Day, one of the forty-seven immortals of Omaha who, by their dauntless initiative at widely separated points along the beach, saved the landing from total stagnation and disaster. Courage and luck are his in extraordinary measure.
When Baker Company’s assault wave breaks up just short of the surf where Able Company is in ordeal, Taylor’s coxswain swings his boat sharp left, then heads toward the shore about halfway between Zappacosta’s boat and Williams’. Until a few seconds after the ramp drops, this bit of beach next to the village called Hamel-au-Prêtre is blessedly clear of fire. No mortar shells crown the start. Taylor leads his section crawling across the beach and over the sea wall, losing four men killed and two wounded (machine-gun fire) in this brief movement. Some yards off to his right, Taylor has seen Lieutenants Harold Donaldson and Emil Winkler shot dead. But there is no halt for reflection; Taylor leads the section by trail straight up the bluff and into Vierville, where his luck continues. In a two-hour fight he whips a German platoon without losing a man.
The village is quiet when Pearce joins him. Pearce says: “Williams is shot up back there and can’t move.”
Says Taylor: “I guess that makes me company commander.”
Answers Pearce: “This is probably all of Baker Company.” Pearce takes a head count; they number twenty-eight, including Taylor.
Says Taylor: “That ought to be enough. Follow me!”
Inland from Vierville about five hundred yards lies the Château de Vaumicel, imposing in its rock-walled massiveness, its hedgerow-bordered fields all entrenched and interconnected with artilleryproof tunnels. To every man but Taylor the target looks prohibitive. Still, they follow him. Fire stops them one hundred yards short of the château. The Germans are behind a hedgerow at mid-distance. Still feeling their way, Taylor’s men flatten, open fire with rifles, and toss a few grenades, though the distance seems too great. By sheer chance, one grenade glances off the helmet of a German squatting in a foxhole. He jumps up, shouting: “Kamerad! Kamerad!” Thereupon twenty-four of the enemy walk from behind the hedgerow with their hands in the air. Taylor pares off one of his riflemen to march the prisoners back to the beach. The brief fight costs him three wounded. Within the château, he takes two more prisoners, a German doctor and his first-aid man. Taylor puts them on a “kind of a parole,” leaving his three wounded in their keeping while moving his platoon to the first crossroads beyond the château.
Here he is stopped by the sudden arrival of three truckloads of German infantry, who deploy into the fields on both flanks of his position and start an envelopment. The manpower odds, about three to one against him, are too heavy. In the first trade of fire, lasting not more than two minutes, a rifleman lying beside Taylor is killed, three others are wounded, and the B.A.R. is shot from Pearce’s hands. That leaves but twenty men and no automatic weapons.
Taylor yells: “Back to the château!” They go out, crawling as far as the first hedgerow; then they rise and trot along, supporting their wounded. Taylor is the last man out, having stayed behind to cover the withdrawal with his carbine until the hedgerows interdict fire against the others. So far, this small group has had no contact with any other part of the expedition, and for all its members know, the invasion may have failed.
They make it to the château. The enemy comes on and moves in close. The attacking fire builds up. But the stone walls are fire-slotted, and through the midday and early afternoon these ports well serve the American riflemen. The question is whether the ammunition will outlast the Germans. It is answered at sundown, just as the supply runs out, by the arrival of fifteen Rangers who join their fire with Taylor’s, and the Germans fade back.
Already Taylor and his force are farther south than any element of the right flank in the Omaha expedition. But Taylor isn’t satisfied. The battalion objective, as specified for the close of D Day, is still more than one half mile to the westward. He says to the others: “We’ve got to make it.”
So he leads them forth, once again serving as first scout, eighteen of his own riflemen and fifteen Rangers following in column. One man is killed by a bullet getting away from Vaumicel. Dark closes over them. They prepare to bivouac. Having got almost to the village of Louvieres, they are by this time almost one half mile in front of anything else in the United States Army. There a runner reaches them with the message that the remnants of the battalion are assembling seven hundred yards closer to the sea; Taylor and party are directed to fall back on them. It is done.
Later, still under the spell, Price paid the perfect tribute to Taylor. He said: “We saw no sign of fear in him. Watching him made men of us. Marching or fighting, he was leading. We followed him because there was nothing else to do.”
Thousands of Americans were spilled onto Omaha Beach. The high ground was won by a handful of men like Taylor who on that day burned with a flame bright beyond common understanding.
“It will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.”
With this Barack Obama openly, unreservedly and without a trace of irony or self-reflection adopts the Bush Doctrine, which made the spread of democracy the key U.S. objective in the Middle East.
“Too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people’s grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills.”
Note how even Obama’s rationale matches Bush’s. Bush argued that because the roots of 9/11 were to be found in the deflected anger of repressed Middle Eastern peoples, our response would require a democratic transformation of the region.
“We have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals.”
A fine critique of exactly the kind of “realism” the Obama administration prided itself for having practiced in its first two years.
How far did this concession to Bush go? Note Obama’s example of the democratization we’re aiming for. He actually said:
“In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process . . . Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region.”
Hail the Bush-Obama doctrine.
“President Assad now has a choice: he can lead that transition [to democracy], or get out of the way.”
The only jarring note in an otherwise interesting, if convoluted, attempt to unite all current “Arab Spring” policies under one philosophical rubric. Convoluted because the Bahrain part was unconvincing and the omission of Saudi Arabia was unmistakable.
Syria’s Assad leading a transition to democracy? This is bizarre and appalling. Assad has made all-out war on his people — shooting, arresting, executing, even using artillery against cities. Yet Obama is still holding out the olive branch when, if anything, he should be declaring Assad as illegitimate as Gaddafi. Clearly, some habits
of engagement/appeasement die hard.
“A lasting peace will involve . . . Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people.”
Meant to reassure Israelis that the administration rejects the so-called right of return of Palestinian refugees. They would return to Palestine, not Israel — Palestine being their homeland, and Israel (which would cease to be Jewish if flooded with refugees) being a Jewish state. But why use code for an issue on which depends Israel’s existence?
“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
A new formulation favorable to maximal Arab demands. True, that idea has been the working premise for negotiations since 2000. But no president had ever before publicly and explicitly endorsed the 1967 lines.
Even more alarming to Israel is Obama’s omission of previous American assurances to recognize “realities on the ground” in adjusting the 1967 border, meaning U.S. agreement that Israel would incorporate the thickly populated, close-in settlements in any land swap. By omitting this, Obama leaves the impression of indifference to the fate of these settlements. This would be a significant change in U.S. policy and a heavy blow to the Israeli national consensus.
“The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves . . . in a sovereign and contiguous state.”
Normal U.S. boilerplate except for one thing: Obama refers to Palestinian borders with Egypt, Jordan and Israel. But the only Palestinian territory bordering Egypt is Gaza. How do you get contiguity with Gaza? Does Obama’s map force Israel to give up a corridor of territory connecting the West Bank and Gaza? This is an old Palestinian demand that would cut Israel in two. Is this simply an oversight? Or a new slicing up of Israel?
Finally, in calling for both parties to “come back to the table,” the Palestinians have to explain “the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas. . . . How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?”
Not a strong statement about Washington rejecting any talks involving Hamas. A mere placeholder.
On the other hand, Obama made no mention here of Israeli settlements. A mere oversight? Or has Obama finally realized that his making a settlement freeze a precondition for negotiations — something never demanded before he took office — was a disastrous unforced error? One can only hope.”
Straight from the Debka File: “Israelis celebrate the 63rd anniversary of their independence this week in good cheer. Neither by word nor hint have its leaders referred to the challenge facing the country in the year to come: Barack Obama, President of Israel’s best friend and ally, has picked the Muslim Brotherhood movement of the Middle East as his chosen partner for promoting American interests in the Arab world in place of its ousted rulers. His courtship of this organization, which he regards as moderate, was the rationale, say debkafile’s Washington and counter-terror sources, behind his bold decision to get rid of Osama bin Laden, a step which his two predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, held back from although they knew where he was.
Many people forgot the vow Obama made in Cairo on June 4 to mend America’s fences with the Muslim world, but he meant every word. His White House has made forging a pact between the United States and the Muslim Brotherhood their ultimate policy objective, although they do not expect to achieve it in one fell swoop.
Bin Laden’s death was part of the US president’s unfolding game plan:
1. He needed to demonstrate unswerving resolve to eradicate the terrorist threat posed by Islamic extremists;
2. The Muslim Brotherhood and its national chapters needed to be held back from falling into the arms of Islamic radicalism if it were to qualify as the centerpiece of America’s new beginning with the Arab world.
Another part of the Obama game plan was the “Arab Spring” for paving the way to that beginning by making decades’-old autocratic rulers redundant.
Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak had to go first – and he was therefore the only Arab ruler whom the US president told bluntly to leave, unlike Muammar Qaddafi or even Bashar Assad – very simply because Egypt is the center of the many-branched Muslim Brotherhood’s and its Shura Council.
More than any other Middle East party or organization, the Brotherhood holds powerful levers of influence in Libya, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian arena and even in Saudi Arabia through its presence in national religious institutions and broad membership. It is therefore suppressed by all those regimes as it was in Egypt.
Mubarak’s fellow Arab rulers watched and noted how quickly and ruthlessly Obama disposed of him and mustered all their resources to defeat the US-backed revolts against their regimes before they too were tossed on the rubbish heap.
Saudi King Abdullah fought back with a divorce from Washington. He is bitterly hostile to the Obama administration – not just over Mubarak’s humiliating downfall, but because he believes that a US-Muslim Brotherhood pact would threaten the royal House of Saud by engulfing the clerical institutions which give the throne its legitimacy.
Libya’s Qaddafi tried to save himself by pointing to his common cause with the US against a rebellion penetrated by Al Qaeda and other Muslim extremists. When he realized that Washington did not share his view and favored the Muslim elements, he decided to fight back against the rebellion and defy their NATO backers.
Syria’s Bashar Assad, who represents a secular regime and creed, has resorted to tanks, artillery and live bullets for a ferocious crackdown to end what he regards as the continuation of the Muslim Brotherhood-led challenge to the Alawite Assad family rule launched first against his father 19 years ago.
Another piece of the Obama game plan was put in place in Cairo Wednesday, May 4, with the inking of the Palestinian unity pact by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas for Fatah and Khaled Meshaal for Hamas.
After Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Abbas that the Palestinians must choose between peace and Hamas, Abbas is reported by debkafile’s Cairo sources as privately asking why the Israelis complained to him. They should complain to Obama, he said. Hamas is an offshoot of the Egyptian and Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood branches. “I am only acting out his guidelines by helping the Brotherhood’s integration in Middle East government.”
The US president has taken certain steps to get his plan in motion. It will be far from plain sailing. In Israel and in some Western capitals, the military junta which has succeeded Hosni Mubarak in Cairo is not expected to tamely open the door to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian generals have meanwhile taken the lead in steering Palestinian moves in the hope of focusing the Muslim Brotherhood’s attention on the Palestinian issue rather than its drive for power. This device worked for Gemal Abdul Nasser in the 60s and 70s. But sooner or later, the Brotherhood and Washington will realize that the military rulers fully intend to hold onto power. Instead of standing aside for a Brotherhood presidential candidate, they will run one of their own. President Obama will then be confronted with a hard decision.
Sensing the supportive winds blowing in from Washington, Muslim activists attacked a Coptic Christian church in Cairo Saturday, May 7, sparking a violent sectarian clash that raged through Sunday night leaving more than 20 dead and raising fears of a Muslim power grab. With the White House busy juggling the balls of its primary Middle East policy, there is not much Israel can do. Therefore, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama on May 21and his speech to the joint Houses of Congress during his Washington visit are not expected to yield momentous changes.
There is not much point in his unveiling any new peace proposal as long as the Palestinians are stuck betwixt and between their next moves, or trying to warn Obama against a US-Muslim Brotherhood rapprochement. While a Brotherhood takeover in neighboring Arab countries, however gradual, would pose a direct threat to Israeli security, Obama in the full flush of success of his initial steps will not be receptive to Israel’s arguments.
Straight from Fox News: “Pakistan is lobbying Afghanistan’s president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan-and its Chinese ally-for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy, Afghan officials say.
The pitch was made at an April 16 meeting in Kabul by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who bluntly told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Americans had failed them both, according to Afghans familiar with the meeting. Mr. Karzai should forget about allowing a long-term U.S. military presence in his country, Mr. Gilani said, according to the Afghans. Pakistan’s bid to cut the U.S. out of Afghanistan’s future is the clearest sign to date that, as the nearly 10-year war’s endgame begins, tensions between Washington and Islamabad threaten to scuttle America’s prospects of ending the conflict on its own terms.
With the bulk of U.S.-led coalition troops slated to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the country’s neighbors, including Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia, are beginning to jockey for influence, positioning themselves for Afghanistan’s post-American era.
Pakistan enjoys particular leverage in Afghanistan because of its historic role in fostering the Taliban movement and its continuing support for the Afghan Taliban insurgency. Washington’s relations with Pakistan, ostensibly an ally, have reached their lowest point in years following a series of missteps on both sides.
Pakistani officials say they no longer have an incentive to follow the American lead in their own backyard. “Pakistan is sole guarantor of its own interest,” said a senior Pakistani official. “We’re not looking for anyone else to protect us, especially the U.S. If they’re leaving, they’re leaving and they should go.”
Mr. Karzai is wavering on Pakistan’s overtures, according to Afghans familiar with his thinking, with pro- and anti-American factions at the presidential palace trying to sway him to their sides.”
Straight from the Debka File: “Two days after the US President Barack Obama’s triumphal announcement that Osama bin Laden was dead, the White House was grappling with a serious credibility problem: Questions and contradictions are mounting about the how and why US elite SEALs killed the most wanted man in the world at his mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2. New information proving the first stories wrong comes not just from a defensive Pakistan government but also from US officials.
Dismissing the conflicting disclosures as “artificial stories” and “conspiracy theories” won’t wash – not just in the US but in Arab and Muslim countries after Washington was forced to retract data the president’s adviser on terrorism John Brennan put before the media on Tuesday. It was admitted tardily that bin Laden was not armed when he was killed, there was no firefight in the Abbottabad villa and his wife was not used as a human shield.
Pakistani sources challenged other parts of the original narrative and Wednesday, May 4, the dead terrorist’s daughter told Al Arabiya TV most damagingly that her father was captured alive and then shot by US forces.
Even before that, amid rising demands for evidence that Osama bin Laden was dead, White House spokesman Jay Carney confessed Tuesday night: “Even I’m getting confused.”
And no wonder. Monday, in his first statement on the operation, Obama stated: “And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.” Was he talking about a targeted assassination?
Brennan later said that in the firefight in the terrorist’s bedroom he had been asked to surrender and was shot dead when he did not answer. Another US spokesman said the SEALs were ready to take him alive.
Other US sources described the shooting as happening quickly – “in the blink of an eye,” said one. The Republican leader Mitt Romney remarked: “Osama bin Laden took one in the eye.”
His daughter’s evidence contradicted this jumble of American versions. Even though she must have had a Pakistani green light for the Al Arabiya interview, her testimony cannot be lightly dismissed because she was present and shot in the leg before being taken into Pakistani custody. Her version makes it look as though US troops executed her father in cold blood.
The backlash from her testimony will not do much good to the delicate relations between the Obama administration and Muslim rulers like Saudi King Abdullah which are already tested to the limit over US involvement in the Egyptian uprising and Libyan war.
Pakistani leaders are caught awkwardly between an effort to clear their intelligence service ISI of American accusations of collusion in concealing the al Qaeda leader’s presence in its midst, and domestic opinion, which is outraged by their government’s suspected connivance with Washington to betray a Muslim figure and permit American forces to violate sovereign territory.
Reporters in Islamabad heard from the Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir Wednesday, May 4: “We had indicated this complex (in Abbottabad) as far back as 2009 as a possible place,” after sighting suspected terrorist movements on the property. It was not known at the time that bin Laden was hiding there and there were millions of other suspect locations, he said.
Bashir also hit out at former CIA Director Leon Panetta’s comments that informing Islamabad in advance about the raid had been ruled out as “worrying.”
These comments are just the start of the war of words building up between the Zardari-Ghilani government and the Obama administration. Islamabad has one major advantage: The inmates of the Abbottabad villa and the injured persons present when bin Laden was killed are in Pakistani custody, some in military hospitals. They can be produced whenever necessary to rebut Arab and Muslim criticism of Pakistan’s conduct and fend off any attempts to undermine its ties with the Taliban, which has already vowed to avenge Osama bin Laden’s death in Pakistan and Afghanistan and outside those countries.
This verbal war will make further inroads on the Obama White House’s credibility.
Straight from the Debka File: “After giving up on US and Israel ever confronting Iran, Saudi Arabia has gone out on a limb against the Obama administration to place itself at the forefront of an independent Gulf campaign for cutting down the Islamic Republic’s drive for a nuclear bomb and its expansionist meddling in Arab countries, debkafile’s Middle East sources report.
Two US emissaries sent to intercede with Saudi King Abdullah – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on April 6 and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who arrived in Riyadh six days later – were told that Saudi Arabia had reached a parting-of-the ways with Washington, followed actively by Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
Abdullah said he could not forgive the Americans for throwing former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to the wolves in Cairo and for the unrest they were promoting against Arab regimes.
Saudi Arabia was therefore determined to lead the Gulf region on the road to a confrontation with Iran – up to and including military action if necessary – to defend the oil emirates against Iranian conspiracies in the pursuit of which the king accused US-led diplomacy of giving Tehran a clear field.
Monday, April 18, the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, asked the UN Security Council to take action for stopping Iran’s “provocative interference in their countries’ domestic affairs.” This “flagrant interference” posed a “grave security to, and risked flaring up sectarian strike, in the GCC countries.” The resolution went on to state: “The GCC will not hesitate to adopt whatever measures and policies they deem necessary vis-à-vis the foreign interferences in their internal affairs.”
The phrase “measures and policies deemed necessary” is diplomatic parlance for a military threat. It implies that Saudi Arabia and the rest of the regional group are confident that together, they command the strategic resources and assets necessary for a military strike against Iran. Our military sources report that the Saudis are convinced that their combined missile, air force and naval strength is fully capable of inflicting in-depth damage on mainland Iran. Their message to Washington is that the Gulf nations are now making their own decisions.
Iran has taken two steps in response to the Saudi-led Gulf challenge: Thousands of Iranian students, mobilized by the Revolutionary Guards and Basijj voluntary corps have laid the Saudi embassy in Tehran to siege for most of the past week, launching stone and firebomb assaults from time to time, but so far making no attempt to invade the building.
Then, Saturday, April 16, the Iranian foreign ministry summoned the Pakistani chargé d’affaires to warn him sternly against allowing Saud Arabia and Bahrain to continue conscripting Pakistani military personnel. Tehran claims that by offering exorbitant paychecks, Riyadh has raised 1,000 Pakistani recruits for its military operation in support of the Bahraini king and another 1,500 are on their way to the Gulf.
Iran also beefed up its strength along the Pakistani border to warn Islamabad that if it matters come to a clash with Saudi Arabia, Pakistani and its military will not escape punishment.
King Abdullah first defied the Obama administration’s policy of support for popular uprisings against autocratic Arab regimes on March 14 by sending Saudi troops into Bahrain to prop up the king against the Shiite-led disturbances organized by Tehran’s Lebanese surrogate, Hizballah.
This force has been expanded continuously, split now between units suppressing the uprising and the bulk deployed on the island’s coast, 320 kilometers from the shore of Iran. Saudi ground-to-ground and anti-air missiles have been transferred to the Bahraini capital of Manama and naval units, including missile vessels, positioned in its harbor.
Monday, April 18, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa announced that Saudi and allied GCC troops would stay in the kingdom until Iran no longer poses a menace. “Gulf force is needed to counter a sustained campaign by Iran in Bahrain,” he said.
Tehran-Riyadh tensions are rippling into other arenas: On April 11-12, the chronically disaffected Sunni Arabs of Ahwaz in the western Iranian province of Khuzestan (1.2 million inhabitants) staged a two-day uprising against the Iranian government. In their first crackdown, government forces killed at least 15 demonstrators before cutting off Ahwaz’s links with the outside world. Since incoming flights were cancelled, roads to the town blocked and telephone and Internet communications discontinued, no independent information is coming out of the province.
Tehran accuses Saudi and United Arab Emirate undercover agencies of fomenting the unrest in one of its oil centers.
So too does Syrian president Bashar Assad, who claims the spreading revolt against his regime, now entering its second month, was instigated from Riyadh.
debkafile’s Gulf sources report that King Abdullah has placed himself at the head of the Saudi-GCC political and military campaign against Iran. His team consists of Interior Minister, second-in-line to the throne Prince Nayef; Director of General Intelligence Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz; National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan; Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khaled bin Sultan; and the king’s son, Commander of the National Guard Prince Muttab.
According to our sources, Riyadh has not just given up on American action against Iran but also despaired of Israel and its passive acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran and the hostile military noose the Islamic Republic is drawing around its borders from Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Syria.
In the view of Saudi policy-makers, the effect of the Stuxnet cyber war on Iran’s nuclear facilities and the targeted assassination of some of the program’s key executives has been overrated. They characterize the two covert campaigns as causing limited damage at first and then acting as a fillip for accelerating Iran’s drive for a nuclear bomb.