With John Kerry currently working to salvage a nuclear deal with Iran in Lausanne before tomorrow’s deadline, consider just how much the White House has been willing to sacrifice to get to this point. Even those supportive of the White House concede that some sort of general collapse is underway in the Middle East. They avoid those words like “collapse” or “chaos”, preferring metaphors like the “shifting” of “tectonic plates” (this example from the Center for American Progress’s Brian Katulis) implying that, as with volcanos and earthquakes, the Obama administration didn’t cause what is happening, and can’t do a darn thing about it anyway.
There is no journalist covering the military I’d rather be reading right now than Andrew deGrandpre. In a five-part series being published this month at Military Times, deGrandpre is re-reporting the story of the infamous “Task Force Violent.” That was the nickname the members of the Marine Corps’ first special operations company to deploy overseas (to Afghanistan, in 2007) gave themselves. The deployment ended with the unit being accused of war crimes, brought home early from Afghanistan, and subjected to an official Court of Inquiry.
Anyone who was reading the Military Times in 2008 remembers this unit, because story after lurid story (“MELTDOWN AT ‘TASK FORCE VIOLENCE’: Uncovered—the hidden story of the MarSOC Marines who shamed the Corps” was characteristic) painted them as a trigger-happy band of cowboys who overreacted to an ambush and negligently killed Afghan civilian bystanders. The sources for these stories were often members of the unit’s own special operations chain of command in Afghanistan, speaking on background to Military Times reporters. At a time of peak counterinsurgency theory enthusiasm in the military, these disgraced Marines were held up as Exhibit A in a demonstration of How Not to Fight a War.
This past Sunday 60 Minutes aired a piece on the integration of women in U.S. combat units, and specifically into the Marine Corps infantry. They got tremendous access to the Marine Corps’ secretive Infantry Officer Course, or ‘IOC’ (to my knowledge, what can be seen in this segment is the most detail about IOC ever to be revealed to journalists, let alone to a television camera crew), spoke to the course director on the record, profiled a tough young female lieutenant trying to make it through the training, and visited the enlisted infantry course in Camp Lejeune, which has also been opened to women on a trial basis.
It was a thorough and interesting story.
Marine sniper Rob Richards died last August, not long after being compelled to depart the Marine Corps at the reduced rank of corporal. Richards had been a sergeant—not to mention a Purple Heart recipient, reportedly nominated for the Bronze Star, and a veteran of three combat deployments—when a video was put on the Internet showing him and three other Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters.
Yesterday the news broke that the U.S. Embassy in Yemen was shutting down its operations and evacuating American personnel under pressure from the Iranian-backed militia that has seized the capital, Sanaa. It appears that the evacuation is now complete, and that it was a disorderly affair in which U.S. vehicles were seized by the rebels, and Marines tasked with guarding diplomatic personnel were ordered to turn over their weapons to the Houthi gunmen at the airport. CNN reports:
In April the Army will open its famous Ranger School to women, and some are concerned that the Army is tilting the evaluation to ensure that female students will graduate the course.
Sixty female soldiers will attempt the course as part of the Department of Defense’s effort to open ground combat arms units to members of both sexes. This April’s mixed Ranger School class is a “pilot program,” and the results will be used to determine whether or not the Army will open the school on a regular basis in the future.
The popularity of Clint Eastwood’s new drama ‘American Sniper’ has boosted the sales of pro-military clothing. A number of pro-military retailers said they had seen a noticeable spike in sales since the movie premiered across the country last weekend. One retailer had even seen his orders more than double.