Harlandale continued

In an effort to f further spur new research in this area, I wanted to consolidate some of what we do know and point out some key issues with the original investigation as well as a few very interesting open questions.

We officially know about the house only because of reports given to Dallas Deputy Sheriff Buddy Walthers by his mother who lived a few houses a way and had been observing some strange comings and goings at the place for short period before the assassination.  I should note that virtually all her remarks were either corroborated or seem very credible.  The house itself (in the Oakdale area) had been recently rented – some two months previous – by a leading figure in the local anti-Castro, Cuban exile community.  One of the key occupants was Manual Rodriquez Orcarberrio, an Alpha 66 leader and major figure in efforts to buy serious weaponry for the exile groups.  He was the target of both an FBI sting and of an independent ATF investigation by Frank Ellsworth.  Full details of those efforts are in SWHT and we have a number of on both the FBI and ATF activities.  Yet what we do not have are any FBI surveillance or actual investigation records on Orcaberrio’s movements or his associates at the house on Harlandale.  One of the FBI’s primary subversive tasks in 1963 was cracking down on exile guy buys and we should have a large set of documents on that activity in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  What we do have from the FBI in regard to Walthers report is nothing more than a confirmation that the Cubans had been in the house and left almost immediately either before or after the assassination.  Of course that would be what went into the JFK investigation file; the total local office effort on gun running would be something separate.

It should also be noted that if Oswald was being used as a “dangle” by the FBI, one of the ideal ways for the Bureau to gain more information on these groups and on gun running would be to have Oswald engage with the group having very late night meetings at the Harlandale house (and for those of you who thought that was Mason, regardless of my friend Dick Russell’s remarks, we now have Masens photo and he looks very little like Oswald).  It is also interesting to note that JURE was also actively looking for weapons in Dallas, and the person playing the lead in that role was none other than Sylvia Odio.

Also, as I detail in SWHT, there is reason to believe that the FBI source on the house – and the person who told the FBI Oswald had never been there – was Orcabarrio himself.  Orcarberrio had come from Miami to Dallas and there are reports suggesting he was violently opposed to JFK.  The Harlandale house was used by both Alpha 66 and DRE members, many of the younger exiles belonged to both groups.  It should also be noted that Antonio Veciana, a major Alpha 66 figure, was in Dallas in the fall of 63 to meet David Phillips.  There has been much talk of his seeing Oswald with Phillips in Dallas, but that overshadows what else Veciana might have been doing in Dallas, as well as any contact he may have had with the local exiles.  Recently there has been some information emerging that he too may have been at the house on Harlandale and that we don’t yet have the full story from him on his activities in Dallas. Interestingly enough, we have witness reports of someone looking very much like Oswald at the Harlandale house and across the border in Oklahoma, with Orcarberrio and several other Cuban exiles.

While none of this may have had any direct connection to the attack on JFK, its pretty obvious that if there were Cuban exiles from Florida involved in that, their arrival in Dallas might well have involved at least spending some time on Harlandale or their presence might have been known to some of those there.  Given the degree to which gossip flourished in that community, it would certainly be understandable why the house itself was largely abandoned either right before or immediately after Nov. 22, 1963.

 

Loose Ends in Dallas and the House on Harlandale

I thought it would be a good break to return at least briefly to the JFK assassination and some loose ends from Dallas.  One of the things that frustrates me a good deal these days is very limited amount of new research that actually goes on in respect to many of the fascinating leads which have turned up in the document releases of the past two decades.  Perhaps its too much work, after all there is so much JFK content (much of it heavily dated and questionable) on the internet that its possible to be immersed in that forever (sort of like becoming addicted to computer games I suppose).

To that end, I’ll offer the following tidbits to those who would like to go off on some less traveled roads.

1)  J.D. Tippet – it would probably be news to most folks that in addition to his security job at the BBQ restaurant, Tippet had worked off duty security at the Stevens Park theater, owned by Manuel Avila.  What makes that especially interesting is that Avila was very much connected to Cuban exile activities at the House on Harlandale. The theater was reportedly a Spanish language show, attracting Latino’s and Cuban exiles as well.  Reportedly in addition to the movies downstairs, a prostitution business went on using facilities associated with the theater. Even more interesting is the apparent rumor that Tippet got into some problems involving one of the girls working that side of the business.

Avila’s activities had included serving as a translator for Cuban exiles in Dallas, apparently including visitors. Amelia Diaz, who had immigrated from Cuba in 1959, worked for Avila, was an active DRE supporter and reportedly moved into the House on Harlandale during the relatively brief period in which it was used by DRE and Alpha 66 members. Victor Murillo, another individual who did volunteer translations, he lived in a house with Domingo Benavides.

Jose Salazar had rented the House on Harlandale, served as vice president of the Dallas Alpha 66 chapter and was a friend of Oswaldo Aurelio Pino – Pino was one of those specifically questioned by the FBI about knowing and possibly visiting Sylvia Odio.  The FBI was particularly interested in Pino as he had been an important figure in Cuba (Chief of the Fuels and Lubrication Department at the Institute of Agrarian reform) following the revolution. He was suspected of involvement with Cuban G-2 inside Cuba and being an informant on anti-Castroites and anti-Communists.  After arriving in the US, the FBI investigated him as a possible Cuban intel agent. He was investigated by Dallas FBI agent Walter Heitman from June 63 to March 64 – the investigation was delayed because Heitman was pulled for JFK assassination investigation work.  If Pino was not a Castro agent, clearly he had become a very dedicated anti-Castro activist.

(side note:   virtually none of Heitman’s pre- assassination reports and files are available; yet he played the main role in FBI subversive investigations focused on Cubans in Dallas.  This is one of the most important and least pursued areas of JFK research…in case anybody is interested).

Pino admitted joining a variety of exile groups in Dallas including Alpha 66 / SNFE / MRP) and being Vice Secretary; this was confirmed by a series of FBI informants.

…….so, it seems rather interesting that J.D. Tippett might have been socially connected to a series of Cuban exile figures extending all the way to the House on Harlandale (where Oswald was reported) and it is also just possible that some of those individuals might have known of information on Tippet, pertaining to the theater, that would have given some access and even leverage over him.

2) Oswald at the El Fenix Mexican Restaurant – everyone knows that Oswald asked to be dropped off the cab a distance away from his apartment.  They should also know about the police report of the suspicious car in the back of that restaurant that left immediately when the occupants realized they were being observed.  It just so happens that Oswaldo Pino had worked at that restaurant, and also as a delivery drive to the restaurant (El Chico Food services) in 1963.

We often talk about an abortive contact at the Texas Theater, but the possibility arises that either  there might have been another potential contact point or that Oswald was being monitored by a variety of individuals, not just including Officer Tippet. There is a lot more to this part of the story.  The license plane noted at the El Fenix restaurant mystery car ties into a close friend of Tippet, who had seen him that morning – and has its own major mysteries related to it.  Indeed the El Fenix car incident – along with the activities at the House on Harlandale – may be one of the hottest loose ends remaining.  There is much more to be said about the House on Harlandale, and about FBI agent Heitman’s exile work – or there would be if somebody would get serious with these sorts of leads and move off of the same subjects (and photos) that have been so consistently discussed for decades (sorry, disclaimer, attitude showing – as my friend Jim Marrs said years ago – look, we know there as a conspiracy, there were multiple shooters and Oswald was not a lone nut…get on with it ).

– Larry

 

 

Boots on the Ground?

Eagerly monitoring news of the first strikes against ISIS in Syria, I watched the CNN reporting and viewed the first Pentagon briefings….followed eventually by video of the first strikes.  My initial reaction was “did nobody at Centcom take notes, they’re making the same mistake again, those buildings are empty!”  Now if you have read Shadow Warfare or the excellent books by Gary Schroen – “First In” and Gary Berntsen – “Jawbreaker” you know exactly why I was thinking that.

The initial two months of the US attack on the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan were among the worst and best American military efforts ever….   It begin with the insertion of a single CIA team to contact and establish relationships with anti-Taliban forces, a limited number of other teams followed along with a small number of military special operations teams.  The goal of those teams was literally “targeting”.

But the air campaign, run by CENTCOM, virtually ignored ongoing pleas from the CIA teams and for weeks made little or no use of the field targeting info, focused instead on “strategic strikes”.  The people on the ground simply could not understand why CENTCOM would not pay attention to them and focus on actual enemy fighters….using weapons designed for maximum personnel impact (OK, I know that sounds bloodthirsty but its the way wars are normally won, if you think otherwise you should not be fighting).  Only when there were no more airfields, command and control complexes, obvious storage hub etc did CENCOM start assigning major air assets to do what the CIA and Special Ops teams wanted – and within a matter of weeks, direct strikes on formations of fighters literally broke the back of the Taliban. Those strikes used some guided munitions but also massive bombing up to and including fuel air bombs.   In December, 2001 the Bush Administration was almost ready to give up on the effort; the CENTCOM commander offered little hope – suggesting that the anti-Taliban forces were probably not even trainable – but within the next two months of strikes,  guided by the small number of American boots on the ground, the Taliban was broken.

So far we are seeing what appears to be a repeat of the worst phase of the post-911 Afghanistan campaign.  Its politically correct warfare.  Its also a bad sign when you hear that in region only assets are being used – that means no gun ships, no Warthogs and none of the really broad impact weapons platforms (B-52’s come to mind). Certainly there is still time to turn the tide, our military knows how to do it….especially JSOC.   But at the moment it appears that CENTCOM, using well established practices which work against developed nations and enemies, is running the show rather than JSOC, who knows how to fight these sorts of battles.

At this point,  we appear to be making the horrible mistake of actually having no boots at all on the ground or if the covert teams are there, CENTCOM isn’t listening to them again.   One can only imagine what Schroen or Berntsen would have to say – but strangely enough the media news folks are only interviewing former Generals, nobody is talking to the guys that pulled off one of the most impressive American military feats in recent decades.  And if you don’t believe me, try the article below for a bit more detail.

http://www.newsweek.com/air-strikes-will-never-work-say-troops-fighting-isis-2744

UPDATE:  NOW THE GOOD NEWS / SOMEBODY IS THINKING AFTER ALL – A-10’S ON THE WAY – NOW IF THEY JUST SEND THE GHOSTRIDER GUN SHIPS ISIS IS DONE IN FIELD COMBAT…..

http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-usafs-much-maligned-a-10-warthogs-are-deploying-to-1640395280

 

 

Jihadi Threat

There are some good national security analysts at work and CNN’s Peter Bergan is one of them.  I just wish that Congress and the American public would pay some actual attention to what Bergan says.  He recently published and excellent appraisal of the overall Jihadi threat and I wanted to share it.  It clearly defines the lines between local jihadi insurgency and the more threatening pan-global groups who have the ability to attack anywhere including Europe and America.  I do think he underestimates the degree to which individuals in certain of the groups would strike at Americans and Europeans if given a chance, in efforts ranging from new plots to bomb airliners to beheading tourists or aid workers within their reach.   Bergan’s article actually estimates the size of the global Jihadi threat and I highly recommend it – with one exception:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/26/opinion/bergen-schneider-how-many-jihadists/index.html?hpt=hp_bn7

It wasn’t until I reached the very end of it that I drew back and shook my head at his statement that the historically the jihadi threat is relatively inconsequential.  His premise for that statement was to compare it to the 60 million man Soviet and Warsaw pact armies and the Soviet strategic nuclear capability. Based on that he concluded that today’s threat is not comparable to that faced during the Cold War. My objection to that view is that it’s not at all a relative comparison. The Soviets understood the “calculus of force” and by the time they achieved nuclear parity, they were actually quite satisfied by mutual assured destruction. While Stalin was a wild card in the early days, for most of the Cold War any military activity was between surrogates – and the Soviets never used their surrogates to actually attack the American homeland.  The Soviets accepted a state of Cold War, in contrast the jihadi movement declared itself to be literally at war with American in 1998 and continues to demonstrate that reality.   And as religious zealots, they are subject to no calculus of force nor amenable to a status quo.

Good analysis Peter, but comparing what the Soviets could have done with what the jihadi actually do on a regular basis is off base in my estimate.

 

 

Presidential Protection

Recent incidents involving White House security leave me concerned that for some reason the Secret Service is once again behind the threat curve in regard to presidential protection.  To assess that concern, its helpful to look back to presidential protection for JFK in 1963.  Vince Palamara has demonstrated that during the fall of 1963 there had been some apparently minor enhancements to White House Detail security during presidential trips – the addition of one or two new PRS (protective research services) staff to the traveling White House Security detail (whose jobs remain unclear even now) and additional staff for technical services work – apparently inspection of hotels and other locations for wire taps, bugs, etc. Beyond that, training and preparedness remained the same as they had for years, focused on protection from close up assaults or attacks while the president was exposed to crowds in public appearances.  Threats reported to the Secret Service were investigated and then indexed in a central file; agents assigned to presidential travel would check that file for outstanding threat suspects in a given city.  It appears that little thought was given to the possibility that individuals posing a threat might be mobile.  Protection also seems to have been very suspect oriented, the idea of a group being a threat seems only to have extended to demonstrations and protests, not to actual physical attacks. That explains why the majority of the threat protection in Dallas, Texas was oriented towards protests at JFK’s Trade Center speech.

The lack of any serous new protection measures in 1963 might seem like simple oversight if we had not become aware of some very specific threats that the Secret Service was aware of and others which they may well have been –  but where the relevant records have been destroyed (some as recently as the 1990’s).  Perhaps the most outstanding example is a threat passed from the FBI to the Secret Service relating to remarks by James Milteer that various militant right wing groups were actually preparing to attack the President and that they would do so with long range sniper fire from concealed positions in high rise buildings during a motorcade.  That report should have immediately surfaced the fact that close in crowd protection was not nearly enough for presidential security.  Beyond that we know that FBI informants were generating memos about ultra right rifle teams being formed and trained to attack the President. We also know that during JFK’s trip to Miami that fall,  threat reports out of Miami suggested that militant Cuban exiles might use explosives devices, either planted or literally thrown at the President.  On that same trip, Secret Service personnel panicked when items were indeed tossed into the Presidential limo – that turned out to be only candy but the risk of explosives tossed out of a crowd should have been clear.  There appear to have been other threat reports as well,  several of them suggesting rifle or bomb attacks on the president. We know that one individual in Chicago was investigated in regard to a potential rifle attack that fall and more importantly, it appears that another report related to the same trip, came from the FBI and was taken very seriously by the Secret Service – so seriously that personnel from the Secret Service and FBI field office stonewalled investigators from the Assassinations Records Review Board in the 1990’s and refused to discuss it.  At that point in time, against orders, the Secret Service destroyed several files relating to presidential travel in the fall of 1963.

The point in all that history is that there were new types of threats emerging, ones which the standard security practices were not capable of dealing with – as sadly proved in Dallas. Yet the Secret Service made no obvious (or known) changes in security protocol or practices to address such threats.  Whether it was due to a lack of headquarters intelligence coordination, the lack of a threat analysis group or simple inertia is impossible to say.  However, when we fast forward to 2014, when such things are supposedly in place and a major priority years after the attacks of 2001 what do we find?   We find that an individual with a history as a threat to the president can simply jump a White House fence and make it through an unlocked front door into the entry area of the presidential residence.  Does the fact that nobody routinely locked the front door to the White House cause you to shake your head?   Is the lack of any security immediately outside that front door hard to understand?   And how do you feel about the Secret Service response that they are “now” going to start observing passerby’s for individuals that don’t look like tourists?   Did they not get the message about radical Islamists wearing concealed explosive vests? Do they think experienced attackers will wear conspicuous clothing or carry signs?  We have numerous recent examples of “wearable explosives”, some quite powerful.  And of “belly bombs” which could be powerful enough to collapse the entry portico – such weapons have already been used overseas.  Did the Secret Service really not anticipate suicide bombers?   Beyond that, the same week we have a driver, again with a threat history, refusing to stop at the entrance – while the barrier might well have stopped his vehicle, given the amount of extremely high explosive that can be placed in a car trunk or built into the vehicle – not to mention a van,  what would be the propaganda impact of an explosion taking out the street facing wall of the White House.

Perhaps most strikingly, the two incidents occurred within days of the President effectively declaring war on ISIS and radical Islamists anywhere who might be preparing attacks on Americans domestically or overseas.  Did the Secret Service miss the fact that the nation had effectively gone to war? That may sound harsh but certainly in regard to White House security it really stretches the imagination to understand how front door remained unlocked following the President’s televised speeches – and the resultant personal threats from ISIS only days before. If the Secret Service was behind the threat curve in 1963, it appears – at least in terms of White House security – to have been even further behind in September, 2014.  We can only  hope that they catch up really fast…..

 

Beyond ISIS

Well I thought I would let Washington go first on the strategy thing – strangely they never called – so I’ll just following along with a few thoughts.

As I imagined, the Obama Administration chose to go tightly focused on ISIS rather than presenting a broader strategy for the much wider radical jihadi threat – which crosses North Africa and continues on into the Pacific, branching off through the now independent former Soviet Muslim republics across Pakistan and India into Kashmir.   Judging the stumbling response of Congress and much of what I’ve seen on the news the last two days that was the right choice – the American public truly does not understand the broader threat so its best to focus on ISIS.  I saw a tragically sad interview with the House leadership in which the interviewer simply asked why Congress was not moving to prepare not just a new authorization for military force but could not even seem to move on moving funding including  training of surrogates – given that they keep complaining that they want to be part of the process.  His answer was just sad, something to the effect that in the past they have always waited on the Commander in Chief.  Talk about both sides of the mouth…but I digress.

The lack of comprehension is also reflected in all the stumbling over terminology – look folks, it can’t be a “war” unless Congress declares it as one.  That is a Congressional prerogative – so if they want a broader and more aggressive strategy, as I kept hearing on FOX, well then they just need to declare war and fund it.   Of course on the ground it will look like war….would have been best just to say military action or combat and not get wrapped up in it.  Probably the closest to technically correct usage is the Administration portion that ISIS evolved from al Qaeda and the 2001 AUMF allows military action against those groups who organized and supported the 9/11 attacks.  Actually, unlike the military action we have been taking in Somalia, Yemen and in other African locations there is a good argument for ISIS.  Of course then they fell into the trap of implying the AUMF actually provided legal justification similar to Somalia and Yemen…..which it does not.

OK, now that I got that out of my system, there are two major things missing from the ISIS strategy.  The first is the lack of a cyber warfare campaign to eliminate the highly effective ISIS recruiting.  We ought to be taking down any server, email account, Facebook page etc ASAP.  Now clearly there are legal issues there…and the likelihood of offending international relationships.  If we had truly declared war it would be no problem, perhaps a new AUMF might address it but I don’t see Congress having the stomach for that.  All of which means we will be fighting with arm tied behind our backs. The second is even dicier,  the talk is about taking out their funding…..but that has been a goal since 2001 and clearly has not worked (have you asked yourself exactly how ISIS buys all those airline tickets to get its recruits to the fight)?   The only real, bruit force approach to disrupting funding would be to begin publicly identify all those individuals, groups and organizations which actually route money to them – knowingly or unknowingly (find out where the money for the tickets came from; most likely we already know all this).  But since that would embarrass too many of our Arab “allies” its just not going to happen.  So that leaves one arm and at least one leg tied behind the back as we start the combat.   Let’s just pray that nobody tries to impose the same geographic boundaries to actual combat we saw in Vietnam…..or that President Obama begins “channeling” LBJ.

 

 

War on Terror – Not

After thinking about it a bit, I’m going to have to tackle the “strategy” issue in two parts. This first segment will address the point that the United States is extremely limited – under existing legal and political constraints – in establishing and conducting a proactive military strategy against a global enemy which has declared itself to be at war with both America as a nation and beyond that with individual American’s wherever they are able to target them. For reference, in terms of military strategy I’m speaking of the standard definition – “the art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements in a war or battle.”
To define the enemy which a strategy would address, it’s necessary only to refer to their own declaration of war, issued in 1998. In February, 1998 a group of militant Islamists including radical figures from Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh joined Osama bin Laden in issuing a religious ruling calling for a crusade/jihad against the United States. The edict concluded with instructions to Muslims everywhere to carry out attacks against America on a global basis, “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies — civilians and military — is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it…. [E]very Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.”
In response to what was for all practical purposes a declaration of war against America, the United States Congress made no response at all. It did not declare war in return nor even pass a resolution authorizing certain types of defensive or offensive military action. It was left to President Clinton to respond, and he did so with limited military action (without a declaration of war or Congressional resolution, there are limits to presidential military action), a mix of covert operations and counter terror Executive Orders and budgetary allocations. The mix included a Presidential directive authorizing the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden, the first such directive since the Eisenhower Administration.
Following a series of successful jihadi network attacks against American installations, ships and individuals overseas, including an abortive airliner attack that would have killed some 3,000 Americans in planes over the Pacific, America itself was attacked in 2001. In response Congress did not declare war, reportedly they were briefed that President Bush did not wish such a declaration. What they did was to pass a resolution authorizing the use of military force (AUMF) – leading to what was termed the “war on terror” but which was legally not a war at all. In fact, the AUMF itself was extremely limited. The authorization granted the president permission for whatever military action he deemed to be appropriate to act specifically against those who had “committed, directed, authorized or aided in the 9/11 attacks”.
In reality the language in the AUMF specifically limited the actions of the president. In his assessment of the AUMF, written for Congress in 2007, National Defense Specialist Richard Grimmett noted that broad initial language in the initial AUMF drafts would have given the president open ended authority to act against any nation, group or individuals considered to be potential aggressors or terrorists – with no limits on the duration of the authorization. That language was altered and the final document was specifically worded to authorize action only against those “directly involved in aiding or materially supporting the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.” Grimmett makes it clear that the AUMF, as passed by Congress, was not written to authorize military action “against terrorists generally.”
The result of the Congressional AUMF action is that for well over a decade, first President Bush and then President Obama, have conducted limited military actions which actually have gone far beyond what they were legally authorized to do – leaving themselves open to legal challenges and political entanglement. Under their authority as Commanders in Chief, they have ordered individual military strikes against jihadi leaders and forces that were clearly not involved in the 2001 attacks but who have openly subscribed to the initial 1998 fatwa obligating jihadi attacks.
Both presidents also authorized extensive military assistance programs, aimed at preempting jihadi insurgencies from taking control of nations or territories which could become sanctuaries for staging global terror attacks. But what neither president has done, or legally can do with the lack of broader Congressional authority, is to “plan and direct a broad military campaign”. At best they are limited to specific operations – primarily targeting leadership which has declared its support of the original al Qaeda jihad or acting to defend American’s defined to be at risk. At present the actions in Iraq walk that fine legal line, which is why almost all presidential statements in regard to military action there refer to defending American’s stationed there. Of course that line can be pushed a long way – the Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorized only military action in defense of American forces and SE Asia and President’s Johnson and Nixon leveraged it into a decade plus warfare inside at least four separate nations, two of them neutral.
So – no real “war on terror”, no legal authority and no grand strategy. The basis for counter terror action remains in the legal foundation of the Patriot Act and certain revisions to the National Security Act of 1947 – which make jihadi and any other terrorism a crime. And it should be noted that the jihadist’s themselves in no way consider themselves terrorists; they view themselves as full-fledged combatants in a religious war. Which is why you consistently hear the presidents talk of “bringing terrorists to justice”, a legal action not an act of war.
In the next post I’ll return to some thoughts on actions that would be required to actually create a strategy – and give legal justification for unified military action, not only to combat ISIS but the broader jihadi movement of which ISIS is at the moment the most brutal example.

Syria Strategy

Time for more venting on Congresspeople – and media – who have learned nothing from recent history.  First point, strategy is not tactics.  Bombing ISIS vehicles and strong points is tactics, it requires some good intelligence and is even handier if you have trusted folks on the ground lighting up the target with a laser.  Otherwise you waste a lot of money and risk American military lives unnecessarily.  Bombing just for the sake of bombing is stupid at best…….read Shadow Warfare and CENTCOM’S bombing strategy for the first weeks of the post-9/11 mission to Afghanistan to fully appreciate that. Bombing with no true “forces on the ground” link to the bombing is tragically stupid and about as far from strategy as you can get – read the same chapter for Rumsfeld’s classic remark about …”.if we can’t find targets in Afghanistan there are plenty in Iraq”…..and run, don’t walk away from anyone who has that attitude (run even faster if its Rumsfeld himself or any Congressperson or politician who admires him).

Afghanistan is a perfect primer for how a good strategy against ISIS would be developed and worked.  The CIA guys and Special Forces who went into Afghanistan did a wonderful job with that and once they established a coalition effort with several warlords, demonstrated the true shock and awe of highly targeted bombing via laser and GPS info collected on the ground they broke the back of the Taliban in weeks – totally surprising Washington, the Bush Administration and CENTCOM who had refused to pay any attention to them.  Bombing without linkage to local forces on the ground is stupid (uh, did I say that enough already), if you are trying to oust a force that has embedded itself in the local population.

We have some good circumstantial information to suggest a solid Syrian strategy was being explored on back in 2012, with American CIA types on the ground trying to ID the non radical Syrian opposition groups and get them weapons.  At that point Senator McCain was meeting with the other guys, the jihadi types, and lobbying to ship them weapons – lesson to be learned, don’t take strategic or tactical advice from Congresspeople, and don’t be comfortable with a President who wants to run his own bombing campaigns as Johnson in Vietnam.  If you have to do something leave it to the professionals, and these days that means good Joint Special Operations Command personnel.   In any event, that initial effort in Syria largely got blown apart by Congressional politics and politicized media coverage following the Benghazi attacks (the CIA Benghazi base attack being the heart of the matter).  We deal with that in SW as well.

Which meant a big reset in Obama Syrian strategy, leaving time for Qatar and Saudi to take over control of weapons shipments into Syria and ensure that the good stuff went to their radical jihadi surrogates.  And yes we do have a real strategic problems with both those allies – if not the actual top levels of their governments, with their military intelligence which has a jihad oriented religious leaning – much as in Pakistan during the jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan – and all their very wealthy private donors….that’s another story unto itself.

Fast forward to 2014 and stopping ISIS…..that strategy is going to be complex, its going to involve working simultaneously – and on the ground – with a number of different local fighting forces, many with no special love for each other but now with a nicely formed sense of hate and self preservation against Isis.  But that is going to take time; the last thing we need is a repeat of the Gulf of Tonkin experience, where Johnson started a decade long war simply to win the upcoming election.  And if this all sounds like I woke up with an attitude – right on (a dated expression but then so am I).

Rather than responding to the Congresspersons – from either party – that  you hear on Sunday morning TV, I would recommend assessments such as the one at the link below:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/01/opinion/hertling-syria-isis-strategy-will-take-time/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

 

 

Operation Condor

If you have read or are reading Shadow Warfare, you know we deal with both the Phoenix project in Vietnam and even more deeply with Operation Condor in the Southern Cone of South America. With all the focus on other geographies in contemporary events, that history seems to have been largely forgotten.  However as insights into counter insurgency – what works and what doesn’t – they are some of the best checkpoints we have.  Those experiences are critical to understanding what may happen in Africa and the Middle East in regard to the insurgencies, Boko Harum or ISIS, evolving there.  While ISIS is inherently barbaric, its also important to see how broader insurgencies can be forced into that mold by the sort of tactics that emerged under Condor.

If you have are are reading about Condor, you should find the new material below an educational, if depressing complement:

http://cnnphotos.blogs.cnn.com/2014/08/21/shadow-of-operation-condor/?hpt=hp_bn14

 

 

 

 

Oversight

I’ve posted on Congressional oversight previously, including remarks about what I think it would take to enable objective investigations of crimes or malfeasance involving agencies or government employees – the current approaches just don’t work, for a great many reasons.  So I’m not going to bore with that again.  However David’s comment about oversight and transparency led me to think of some of the things I’m writing about in my next work, tentatively named “Surprise Attack”.

At present both the military and all major federal agencies do have a variety of internal oversight tools.  One level are the organization’s Inspectors General; they are chartered to look at practices and evaluate major performance problems and operational failures.  At another level  you have the GAO, which is more of an efficiency and spending tracking effort.  In spite of what is often said about government, both groups do some outstanding work.  As an example, the CIA’s Inspector General report on the Bay of Pigs was both cutting and highly accurate. Yet even though the report went on the record, the head of the clandestine directorate was allowed to oppose it and the CIA’ s Director essentially shoved it aside and let a counter report go into the record.  As a result, officers which had proved to be largely incompetent in both security and military practices were not disciplined and allowed to pursue similar operations in the future. The fact that the Agency in general refused to recognize its incompetence in large scale military operations led to officers being sent from JMWAVE to Laos and organizing military operations which were equally outrageous.  We go into that in Shadow Warfare.

But stepping forward in time, following the attacks of 9/11, the CIA’s Inspector General, the TSA/FFA’s Inspector General both performed solid studies, reported out points deserving of further investigation and probable disciplinary action – and the heads of both Agencies simply shoved it under the rug, refusing to pursue the IG reports.   Actually a number of GAO studies of the FBI both before and following 9/11 pointed out problems as well and the FBI stonewalled the GAO report.  It would be great to see a real history graduate student study the extent to which IG and GAO reports are ever really acted on.   Unfortunately in regard to 9/11, both NORAD and the FBI should also have had internal investigations but that’s another story entirely – and I do write about that.

Along those same lines, the GAO did excellent work in pointing out a large amount of malfeasance in Iraq and Afghanistan contracting and as far as I can tell nobody ever got prosecuted.  The Iraq scandals appear to have been far and above anything we saw in Vietnam yet the amount of investigate reporting to date has been pitiful  – is it me or does this just seem to happen whenever the Texans get into Washington?  Probably just me, it happens in a lot of administrations but the the scale seems to be different….

Back to my point, which is that actually some very good oversight is done inside government, but it has no teeth since the upper echelon can ignore it.   I would propose something equivalent to in independent Federal Attorney General’s office the IG and GAO reports and evaluates them for charges – it can’t be done in DOJ because Attorney’s General and their staffs clearly suck up (sorry) way to much to the President’s who appoint them.  I’ve noticed it was not always that day, as recently as the Eisenhower administration the AG would give president’s opinions which opposed their pending policies and just flat tell them it was illegal and it stopped there…..that just doesn’t happen much these days.

…….I ran across the following article today and felt that this post had to be updated to include it.  The article discusses the systems in place and some of the horrible failures in oversight related to military contracting and procurement.   In examining agency oversight is has to be acknowledged that human greed is an endemic factor that is sometimes hard to comprehend and often single individuals manage to compromise even well designed systems.  Its pretty depressing but if you have a strong stomach – read on:

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