2-21: News Beefs

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What Passes for News These Days Is Driving Me Crazy

Two issues struck me as I listened to the radio during the day Monday. First, President Donald Trump is “walking back” his lunatic rant/Tweet about a terrorist attack in Sweden. Second, the hagiographic description of Michael Flynn I listened to was sickening.

No Terrorist Attack in Sweden

Because he says it doesn’t make it true. In a desperate, fear-mongering attempt to bolster his claims of worldwide acts of terrorism, Trump claimed over the weekend that we should “look at what happened in Sweden.” Well, apparently the Swedes looked at one another all around the country and wondered aloud, “Huh?” Nothing of the sort happened.

This prompted Swedish officials to contact the White House asking for an explanation. Realizing he was caught in a hyperbolic public display of disgrace, POTUS defended his dire warning by claiming that he had heard this information on Fox News.

So, what he said during the campaign turns out to be true. 1) He doesn’t take daily intelligence briefings because he doesn’t need them. 2) He gets his news from television. I have written this before, folks: This is scary.

Michael Flynn, Hero

I tuned in to conservative talk show host Michael Savage. For nearly an hour he bemoaned the fact that Michael Flynn, Trump’s erstwhile National Security Adviser, was pilloried by the liberal media and that is what forced him out of office. Make up your own mind on that, I have another fish to fry.

Savage referred repeatedly to Flynn as a hero, saying multiple times that he had served with the 82nd Airborne and jumped out of airplanes directly into harm’s way. I will not denigrate another veteran’s record. From everything I have seen, heard, and read Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (Ret.) served his country with honor and distinction.

But here is where Savage gets it wrong and I draw the line. When pictured in full dress uniform, including, ribbons, Flynn does not have a Combat Infantryman Badge. Keep your eye out for it when you view any member of the U.S. Army in uniform. The CIB sits atop all other awards. All of them. It indicates that the wearer—who must be an Army infantryman—has been in combat, hot combat, under fire combat, boots on the ground combat. The real deal.

Flynn wears a Ranger patch, which means he trained as a Ranger; it does not mean that he fought as a Ranger. He served with the 82nd Airborne, which means he jumped out of airplanes; it does not mean that he landed in combat zones. Fresh out of college in 1981, Flynn began his military career as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 82nd. That would have made him, at most, a platoon leader when President Ronald Reagan unleashed Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada. The 82nd was there.

Fun fact for military history buffs: more medals were awarded for that operation than the number of men and women who participated in it. Another fun fact: during this glorified field exercise the Department of Defense discovered that the various branches of service—Army, Navy, Air Force—could not communicate with each other. Their technology purchases had not been coordinated (they are now) and so they could not talk among themselves, so to speak.

When all is said and done,

Let’s urge our leaders—and ourselves—to consume news from various sources, not just the ones that flatter our already held positions. Evil does exist, that’s a fact. But hiding from it won’t make it go away. And let’s stop sanctifying all soldiers. I, for one, am grateful for and respectful of their service. Each and every one of them. But they are not all powerful, nor should they be, and they are not all wise.

There is a reason our commander-in-chief is a civilian. Think about it.

End

Release the tax returns!

[I write about politics in this blog because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

1-10: Why did he have a gun?

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece reported by Jay Weaver, Kyra Gurney, and Jim Wyss at the Miami Herald.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

The Miami Herald’s first reporting on the horrific shooting at a Florida airport this weekend bore this headline:

Airport shooter had mental health problems but no apparent ties to terrorism

I guess this falls into the bad news-bad news category. Given what we know so far about the perpetrator of this horrendous shooting spree, incredulity surpasses knowledge. In the coming days we can expect one of two reactions from the National Rifle Association, utter silence or contorted circumlocution about the right to bear arms and their go-to gibberish about a slippery slope. The Herald story begins,

Esteban Santiago told the FBI in Alaska two months ago that he was hearing voices [1st mental health reference] urging him to join an Islamic terrorist group, but federal agents scouring the social media postings of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooter have found no evidence linking his deadly rampage to terrorism.

Law enforcement sources said [1st law enforcement reference] that since the 26-year-old opened fire in the airport on Friday — killing five people and injuring six others — agents have discovered no information on Facebook and other online sites to suggest the Iraq war veteran [1st vet reference] was radicalized by the Islamic State or any other terrorist organization.

… a profile has emerged …

Instead, a profile has emerged of a mentally disturbed [2nd mental health reference] military veteran [2nd vet reference] who boarded a plane on a one-way Delta ticket from Anchorage via Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale to take deadly aim at fellow travelers in a baggage claim area. Investigators have no idea why he chose Fort Lauderdale as his target….

But Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who is working with the FBI on the airport shooting, [2nd law enforcement reference] pointed to mental health problems [3rd mental health reference] rather than to any terrorist connection in evaluating what set off Santiago.

I fully understand concerns of terrorism when public acts of violence rip apart our senses of decency and liberty. But I do not understand how a person with so much overt psychological and criminal baggage escapes into our midst to be discovered only after the slaughter of innocence. Yes, “a profile has emerged”; it was ignored; it emerged; it festered. It exploded.

“Something has to change,” Israel said Sunday on Channel 10 News’ This Week in South Florida. “People who are suffering from mental illness [4th mental health reference] should not be allowed, in my opinion, to purchase or have firearms at any time.” [3rd law enforcement reference] …

In the airport shooting, Santiago used a handgun that he retrieved from Anchorage police last month. Officers confiscated it in November [4th law enforcement reference] while he underwent a psychiatric evaluation [5th mental health reference]. The FBI had referred Santiago to Anchorage authorities [5th law enforcement reference] after he told them he was being pressured by the CIA to join the Islamic State militant organization and watch training videos.

Santiago was taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation [6th mental health reference], then transferred to the state-operated Alaska Psychiatric Institute. He was treated for a few days but received no follow-up therapy or medication, according to a family member.

… but they gave him back his gun!

Despite the alarming nature of his statements to the FBI, Santiago was not placed on any law enforcement watch lists or on the federal “no-fly” list [6th law enforcement reference].

Santiago’s semi-automatic firearm, a Walther 9mm — along with two magazines — was his only piece of checked luggage on the flight. After claiming it, he loaded the handgun in the bathroom of the baggage claim area, exited and opened fire….

Much of the investigation into Santiago [7th law enforcement reference] has centered on Anchorage, where he lived …

FBI and local investigators [8th law enforcement reference] flooded the residential community to search for evidence and question neighbors, who have been rocked by the news. Marlin Ritzman, the Anchorage FBI special agent in charge, said agents searched Santiago’s home and another Anchorage location: the Qupqugiaq Inn, a long-term rental accommodation where Santiago apparently recently stayed.

After a domestic disturbance last year in which Peterson told police he tried to strangle her [9th law enforcement reference], Santiago was forbidden from being in contact with her, according to a domestic violence complaint. Although Santiago violated that court order by living with her again, the case was dismissed [10th law enforcement reference] as long as he stayed out of trouble, according to the New York Times. Anchorage police responded to more domestic calls, but officers did not arrest him [11th law enforcement reference].

Do not Speculate.

The final two paragraphs of this piece summarize Esteban Santiago’s military service. I fear that the casual reader will infer from “was an Iraq War vet” that he has PTSD, which therefore explains everything. We simply have no way of knowing that. What troubles me is that he served from 2007 to 2016 and mustered out at the rank of PFC. Had he been promoted and then busted? Or, why did the military keep him so long if they did not deem him promotable?

Santiago, a former Army private first class, was an Iraq War vet who also served in Puerto Rico and Alaska between December 2007 and August 2016, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead of the Alaska National Guard [3rd vet reference].

Santiago served in Alaska for less than two years [4th vet reference], starting Nov. 21, 2014, and received a “general discharge” from the Alaska Guard on Aug. 16, 2016, “for unsatisfactory performance.” Olmstead did not elaborate….

Rest in Peace

Shirley Timmons, Terry Andres, Olga Woltering, Michael Oehme, (fifth Victim’s name unknown as of this writing)

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-20: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the Huffington Post.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

We live in a dangerous, complex time, as evidenced by the headlines and excerpted articles below—all of which appeared yesterday. One day’s worth of news. Some (may, I hope) assault our sense of being American citizens of the world. All affect our humanity and decency.

Terrorism in Turkey

Russian Ambassador Shot and Killed in Turkish Capital of Ankara

ANKARA, Dec 19 (Reuters) – The Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot in the back and killed as he gave a speech at an Ankara art gallery on Monday by an off-duty police officer who shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo” and “Allahu Akbar” as he opened fire.

The Russian foreign ministry confirmed the death of envoy Andrei Karlov, calling it a “terrorist act.” Relations between Moscow and Ankara have long been strained over the conflict in Syria, with the two supporting opposing sides in the war.

… and whom do Americans we support?

Russia is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its air strikes helped Syrian forces end rebel resistance last week in the northern city of Aleppo. Turkey, which has long sought Assad’s ouster, has been repairing ties with Moscow after shooting down a Russian warplane over Syria last year….

Deja Vu! Another Truck, Another Mass Killing

Truck Plows into Crowd near Christmas Market in Berlin

BERLIN, Dec 19 (Reuters) – A truck plowed into a crowded Christmas market in the German capital Berlin on Monday evening, killing nine people and injuring up to 50 others, police said….

The incident evoked memories of an attack in France in July when Tunisian-born man drove a 19-tonne truck along the beach front, mowing down people who had gathered to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day, killing 86 people. The attack was claimed by Islamic State….

Berlin police said nine people were killed….

… people praying …

Man Opens Fire in Zurich Mosque, Wounding Three People

ZURICH, Dec 19 (Reuters) – A man stormed into a Zurich mosque and opened fire on people praying on Monday evening, injuring three people, police said….

What happens to evacuees from a war zone?

Aleppo Evacuations Resume after Days-Long Standoff

Thousands were evacuated from the last rebel-held enclave of the city of Aleppo on Monday after a deal was reached to allow people to leave two besieged pro-government villages …

Convoys of buses from eastern Aleppo reached rebel-held areas of countryside to the west of the city in cold winter weather, according to a U.N. official and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group….

What does it mean to be victorious?

The recapture of Aleppo is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s biggest victory so far in the nearly six-year-old war, but the fighting is by no means over with large tracts of the country still under the control of insurgent and Islamist groups.

Buses Burned

On Sunday, some of the buses sent to al-Foua and Kefraya to carry evacuees out were attacked and torched by armed men, who shouted “God is greatest” and brandished their weapons in front of the burning vehicles …

 

Russian High-Stakes War Games, Playing for Real

Russian Military Plane Crashes in Siberia

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that one of its planes had crashed in northeast Siberia with 39 people on board as it tried to make an emergency landing near a Soviet-era military base….

Putin “Remilitarizing” the Arctic. Why? Does Oil Have Anything to Do with This?

Tiksi, a coastal town of around 5,000 people inside the Arctic circle, hosts a Soviet-era military air base that has been renovated in recent years as part of President Vladimir Putin’s drive to remilitarize the Arctic.

Killing the Old Fashioned Way

Suicide Bomber Kills At Least 49 Soldiers in Yemen

ADEN (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed at least 49 soldiers … in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden on Sunday … as Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

Nothing New

Officials said at least 60 other troops were wounded in the attack, which occurred near al-Sawlaban military base in Aden’s Khor Maksar district, where another Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up a week ago killing 50 soldiers….

What will we do in the near term in the Philippines?

Philippines’ Duterte: ‘Bye-Bye America,’ We Don’t Need Your Money

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told the United States on Saturday to prepare for repeal of an agreement on deployment of troops and equipment for exercises, declaring “bye-bye America,” and “we don’t need your money.”…

The firebrand leader was visibly upset and vented his anger on Washington because of a decision by the Millennium Challenge Corp (MCC) board to defer vote on the re-selection of Manila for compact development due to human rights issues.

“We do not need the money. China said they will provide so many,” he said. “The politics here in Southeast Asia is changing.”

And That Is Just One Day!

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

10-10: Snowden, The Movie

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]

Date Night

My wife and I saw Snowden the other night.

Fact Check

Oliver Stone, a Vietnam Vet and unabashed lefty (like myself), directed Snowden, and therefore one could argue that not everything portrayed in the “documentary” is literally correct. Having accepted that, if Edward Snowden did not exist and this was just a fictional “thriller,” it would still be a good movie. I liked it.

I believe the events in the movie actually happened. What cannot be ascertained are Snowden’s motives. What cannot be denied is the fact that his revelations about NSA spying on American citizens via cyber-technology has resulted in government introspection and legal challenges. CNN’s Supreme Court Reporter Ariane de Vogue wrote:

A federal appeals court ruled … that the telephone metadata collection program, under which the National Security Agency gathers up millions of phone records on an ongoing daily basis, is illegal under the Patriot Act.

The link that follows, rt.com, lists eight international embarrassments–to put it nicely and mildly–revealed through Snowden’s disclosures.

https://www.rt.com/news/163396-nsa-snowden-political-scandals/

8. Afghanistan & Bahamas: Wiretap Paradise

One is an economically prosperous island paradise which doesn’t even have a military, the other a landlocked and war-torn nation racked by poverty and an extreme climate. So what could they have in common? Both countries have almost all of their domestic and international calls recorded and stored by the National Security Agency (NSA) for up to 30 days….

7. Here’s to the Reset!

American spies operating out of the UK intercepted the top-secret communications of then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during the 2009 G20 summit in London. Barack Obama definitely came out of the situation looking as two-faced as Batman’s Harvey Dent, as Medvedev’s missives were seized just hours after his first meeting with the US president, where they struck a warm tone and promised a “fresh start” in US-Russia relations. The leaks came just before Obama met current President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of … the … G8 summit…. [Donald Trump raised this “reset” issue during his first debate with Hillary Clinton.]

6. Spying on Israel

‘America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East’ was seemingly taken for a ride when it was discovered that the NSA had been spying on the country’s leadership for years. “The secret is out,” Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said. “The US is systematically spying on the defense and diplomatic leadership here in Israel. Is this how friends treat each other?” …

5. What Was That You Said about Chinese Hackers?

The US has been beating the China cyber crime drum for years, so when it was revealed that the US was not only spying on the country’s top leaders, but also Chinese telecom giant Huawei, national banks, and the Chinese Trade Ministry, well, Washington had a lot of explaining to do….

4. Que Diabo??? Brazil Gets Quite Irate

Most leaders did their best to keep up appearances after finding themselves with NSA egg dripping down their faces, but Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff threw everything but the kitchen sink at her northern neighbor for spying on her, the country’s citizens, and its strategic industries…. For Rousseff, the issue was cut and dried: “The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country.” Ouch.

3. Ich Bin Ein Berliner?

For a child of the German Democratic Republic who grew up under the shield and sword, revelations that the NSA was tapping her phone were particularly hard on Chancellor Angela Merkel. To add insult to injury, the US government has refused to grant her access to her NSA file or even answer formal questions from Germany about its widespread snooping….

2. You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are …

Perhaps one of the biggest political rifts inspired by the Snowden scandal had nothing to do with actual NSA spying, but rather the fate of the whistleblower himself…. (He) … ended up stranded in the transit zone of a Moscow airport…. Moscow granted Snowden temporary asylum.

Snowden certainly didn’t start the US-Russia drift, nor did he create the massive rift that erupted this past February over Ukraine. But as things have gone from bad to worse between the two former Cold War rivals, Snowden’s definitely played a part in that drama….

1. City on a Hill, Landside on the Horizon?

At the very center of the NSA spying scandal has been the US public itself, which seems to have been overwhelmed by the lengths to which its leaders have flirted with being a security state at the expense of a free one…. Pew found that 70 percent of Americans didn’t believe they should surrender their freedom in order to be safe from terrorism. Those surveyed were virtually split, however, over whether Snowden’s disclosures helped or harmed the US…. 9The) US House of Representatives (has) passed the so-called NSA reform bill, intended to reign in the agency’s dragnet domestic surveillance programs…. As for Snowden, his goal was always to start the conversation, and whether America changes course or pushes full steam ahead, he has no regrets.

Go see Snowden for yourself.