Monday, June 20, 2016

AFTER ORLANDO

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If facts matter to you, please read on.

Otherwise, turn to Rolling Stone.

The smoke had barely cleared at the Pulse club in Orlando before the predictable yammering began: blame the tool rather than the perpetrator. 

The call to ban “assault weapons” and inflict other restrictions upon people who have broken no laws was absolutely predictable.  Yet every year we incur 30,000 motor vehicle deaths while nobody advocates banning automobiles—except some extreme Greenies.  So what’s the difference?

Well, first things first:

“Assault weapon” is a phrase used by liberals to delegitimize semi-automatic firearms.

Here’s the fact:

The United States Department of Defense has one gadget officially designated an Assault Weapon.  It’s called SMAW, the Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon.

It’s a rocket launcher.  Enough said? 

Meanwhile, Rolling Stone just published an article listing methods of addressing The Assault Weapon Problem.  Two focused on objects rather than human behavior: reinstituting the largely ineffective Clinton semi-auto ban, and prohibiting “high capacity” magazines.

To quote an attorney friend: “I trust that Rolling Stone has done a cost-benefit analysis, calculating how many lives would be saved by confiscating all those magazines versus how many lives would be lost in the attempt.

“I also have to admire the folks at Rolling Stone for believing so strongly in a principle that they are prepared to die for it.”

National schemes to ban or confiscate stuff have a terrible success record, starting with places like Lexington and Concord in 1775.  Few people still living remember Prohibition, which spurred violent crime sprees in the 1930s, but currently we have the 40-year War On Drugs.  How is that working for you?

Fact is: magazines are simple devices: a metal or plastic box with a spring and a follower.  Ignoring the millions already legally owned, the rapidly evolving 3-D printing technology easily could fill the gap.

Meanwhile, we keep hearing that the Pulse atrocity is “the worst shooting in U.S. history.”   (That’s a lie—the U.S. Army murdered 297 Sioux at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1900, using small arms and artillery.)  Note, however, that Pulse is far from the worst “killing” or the worst “act of terrorism.”

Non-Gun Mass Murders

For readers who still favor facts over rhetoric:

In 1910 a disgruntled union organizer killed 21 and injured 100 by blowing up the Los Angeles Times building with dynamite. 

Ten years later, on Wall Street, suspected anarchists killed 38 and wounded 143 using a horse-drawn wagon loaded with dynamite. 

Then in 1927 the Bath School bombing in Michigan killed 38 children and six adults—a worse toll than the Sandy Hook shooting.

In an incident bearing similarities to Orlando, in 1990 Julio Gonzalez killed 87 people at a club in New York City, mostly Hondurans celebrating Carnival.  Julio Gonzalez used a plastic bucket with $1 worth of gasoline, and a match.

On April 19,1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168  and injuring 680.  The weapon was a truck loaded with diesel fuel and fertilizer.

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing 2,996 and injuring more than 6,000.  No guns were involved; hijackers used boxcutters to seize the planes.

That was not the first attack on the World Trade Center, though.  In 1993, some Islamists tried to blow up the north tower, killing “only” six, but injured more than 1,000.  The weapon was a fertilizer bomb.

In 2013 the Tsarnaev brothers murdered three people in Boston but injured, maimed, or disfigured 264.  Their weapons were two pressure cookers containing homemade “kitchen table” explosives, ball bearings and nails.

We needn’t limit our survey to the United States.  In 1993 radical islamists killed 33 Turkish intellectuals and others by setting fire to a hotel.

During a largely-forgotten atrocity in barely three months of 1994, at least half a million Rwandans were murdered by tribal rivals mostly wielding machetes.

In 2003 an unemployed South Korean taxi driver started a fire in a South Korean subway, killing 198 people with nearly 150 injured.

In 2014, 33 Chinese were knifed to death in a train station.  Last year fifty were killed in a multi-attacker knife incident in a coal mine.

Do you see a pattern?

People who want to ban guns need to be careful what they wish for.  They think that the basic economic Law of Substitution will lead psychos who cannot get guns to use knives or sticks or rocks or something less lethal.  History shows otherwise.  Psychos without guns kill and injure far more people than those who use firearms.  They substitute things that are impossible to regulate, like gasoline, diesel fuel, plant fertilizer, household bleach, nails and pressure cookers.  

Foreign Firearms Mass Murders

After the June 2015 church attack in Charleston, S.C., Barack Obama said that mass shootings “just don’t happen in other countries.”

That’s a lie—not a mistake—it’s a lie.  And he said it in Paris five weeks after the shooting-bombing attacks that killed 130.

Furthermore…

Between 2009 and 2013, the U.S. ranked sixth in fatal rampage shootings per million population.

In 2004, Chechen separatists seized a Russian Federation school and killed 375 people with over 700 wounded.

Near Oslo in 2011 an assassin killed eight people by explosives and 67 by gunfire, injuring over 300.

The two Muslim attacks in Paris killed 147 people in 2015.  The combined toll of wounded was 380. 

If, somehow, authoritarians could confiscate every gun and “high-capacity magazine” in the country, mass violence would get worse, not better, because the substitute for guns is fire and explosives.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but when we hear about mass shootings, we probably should be thinking, “Thank God they only used guns; otherwise it would have been much worse.”

And consider this: if even half of gun-owners have a semi-auto firearm, banning "assault weapons" could turn about 35 million law-abiding, tax-paying Americans into criminals overnight.  Are police officers going to enter the homes of suspected illegal gun-owners to arrest them and confiscate their offending firearms?

Assuming that a semi-auto ban were passed, then what?  Consider that Great Britain and Australia are islands, both with strong gun laws.  Yet firearms still are brought ashore.  In the U.S., boatloads of AKs and ammo from around the world would land on remote stretches of Mexican coastline and reach the U.S. through the same methods used by drug smugglers.

We’ll barely mention the systemic problems that plague any government bureaucracy.  Last year in a test of TSA airport security, over 90 percent of imitation guns and bombs got through.  Furthermore, prohibited individuals purchased guns because of faulty paperwork, including the Virginia Tech and the Tucson killers.

So what’s the answer?

It’s the same as always: armed citizens adequately trained in safety and defensive shooting.  Three Saturday Night Specials could have saved nearly 3,000 people on 9-11.  And it doesn’t require armed citizens—it requires people willing to fight.  On the Belgian train in 2015, four unarmed passengers (three Americans) stopped a mass shooting though the islamist had an AK and a pistol.  Apparently there was no such resistance inside Pulse at 2 a.m. on June 16, although a variety of improvised weapons were available, from pool cues to fire extinguishers.

That noted firearms authority Bill Clinton declared that armed citizens would not stop mass shootings because concealed carriers would hit bystanders.  (Incidentally, soldiers state that Clinton expanded Bush 41’s ban on carrying loaded weapons on base—then came Fort Hood.  That policy has not changed.)  Aside from the fact that cops shoot vastly more bystanders than armed citizens do (New York City budgets millions to compensate NYPD victims every year), consider this: the world’s militaries acknowledge that 1 to 15 percent of battlefield casualties are caused by friendly fire.  The official term is “fratricide.”  So if in stopping a mass murder, a responder hits one or more potential victims —SO WHAT?  That’s vastly better than losing 13 at Fort Hood, 23 at Luby’s, 32 at Virginia Tech, or 49 in Orlando.

In nearly every instance, the survivors of mass shootings had one thing in common—they waited for men with guns to come solve the problem.  Think about that.  Twice.

And specifically for the anti-gunners: Imagine a world with no guns.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  The world was like that once.  Physical strength ruled the planet, and women were grapes to be plucked. 

It was called the Dark Ages. 

Be careful what you wish for.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

MEMORIAL DAY FOR HELLCATS

In 1996 Brassey's published my novel Hellcats, the second installment in my still uncompleted "Dauntless Trilogy."   For the dedication I wanted to represent ten Grumman F6F pilots who perished in helping win the Second World War, with pilots from ten squadrons on ten carriers who died from different causes.   It took some doing, but I met my criteria. 

One of the aviators had special significance to me: Ensign Paul Spradling of Buhl, Idaho, had been one of my father's room mates in Civilian Pilot Training before proceeding to the Navy.  Sometimes I wonder how many folks in Buhl still remember him.

There's another sentiment worth recording, the essence of today's message:

One of the epigrams is from the late Elvin Lindsay, an ace of VF-19 aboard Lexington (CV-16).  He said, "The one thing that bothers me 50 years later is when people say that all those young guys 'gave their lives' like my best friend Roger Boles.  He didn't 'give' his life--it was torn from him at an early age.  I never will forget that."

Boles was 27 years old: here is a tribute to him: 
http://www.cannon-lexington.com/Personal%20Stories/Roger%20Boles.html

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Dedicated to these ten, to the squadronmates they represent, and to those who still remember them as forever young.

Lieutenant Karl B. Satterfield (age 28)
VF-5, USS Yorktown CV-10
Killed in air combat over Kwajalein Atoll, 4 December 1943

Lieutenant George Formanek, Jr. (24)
VF-30, USS Monterey CVL-26
Struck trees while strafing over New Guinea, 23 April 1944

Lieutenant Commander Ernest W. Wood, Jr. (28)
CVLG-27, USS Princeton CVL-23
Lost to structural failure in combat near the Marianas, 19 June 1944

Ensign Frank T. Vitkusky (27)
VF-14, USS Wasp CV-18
Lost in water landing, Western Pacific, 12 July 1944

Ensign Joseph Kelley (24)
VF-19, USS Lexington CV-16
Murdered by Japanese cannibals in the Bonin Islands, 5 August 1944

Ensign Kenneth “C” Chase (20)
VF-11, USS Hornet CV-12
Killed by Japanese AA fire near Okinawa, 10 October 1944

Ensign Jack S. Berkheimer (20)
VF(N)-41, USS Independence CVL-22
Killed in night intercept over the Philippines, 16 December 1944

Ensign Paul K. Spradling (22)
VF-82, USS Bennington CV-20
Killed by US AA gunners off Japan, 16 February 1945

Lieutenant (jg) Irl “V” Sonner (25)
VF-29, USS Cabot CVL-28
Killed in flight-deck crash, Western Pacific, 22 March 1945

Lieutenant (jg) John J. Sargent, Jr. (26)
Formerly VF-18, USS Bunker Hill CV-17
Killed in kamikaze attack off Okinawa, 11 May 1945


Friday, April 22, 2016

THE LONG WAR

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This month’s blog entry comes from my younger brother, John L. Tillman, whose travels have ranged from Athena, Oregon to Stanford University, to Oxford, Afghanistan, and Chile where he presently resides.  As a Rhodes Scholar he takes a broad view of history and here offers some thoughts on our current 15-year engagement in The Long War.  (It’s instructive to note that in recent years, very few American politicians have uttered the knee-jerk phrase, “Winning the war against terrorism.”)

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It has become clear that "moderate" Muslims are the heretics.  Islam spread from its earliest centuries by the sword, in conquests of Jews, Christians, and pagan infidels sanctioned by the Koran.  Christianity by contrast attracted adherents with its message during its first 300 years.  Later, after becoming a state religion, it too advanced in part by military means.

Support for militants world-wide is much higher than the Western media admit.  Pro-jihadi sentiment varies by country, confession and commitment, but globally probably is not a majority.  

Still, given the practical impossibility of adequately vetting allegedly Syrian immigrants, wisdom seems to dictate that any refugees the U.S. welcomes should be the most persecuted, ie Christians and Yazidis.  Among the Sunni Muslims, Kurds would presumably be less likely to engage in terrorism against Americans.  Suffering Sunni Arab women and children deserve our aid, but immigration is risky.  Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev came here with his parents as asylum seekers.

Better in my opinion to provide humanitarian aid to Muslim refugees in Turkey and Jordan than to allow into the US large numbers without proper vetting.  The Gulf States should also be encouraged to help alleviate the suffering to which they have contributed in Syria and Iraq.

Yet, while it's prudent to restrict immigration to America from Islamic states where strife is rife, we do need the backing of pro-Western regimes in Muslim-majority countries effectively to wage the war on jihadi terror.  Indeed, if we intend to win that struggle in some meaningful way, we can't do it without such support.  Replacing the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt has helped. 

The American and allied troops I covered in Afghanistan in 2005 couldn't operate well without their interpreters.  One friendly terp compared Americans favorably with the Russians, but also said that some of our actions still alienated the tribal elders without whose cooperation the US Army couldn't beat the Taliban.  In my opinion however our whole strategy, in so far as we had one, in Afghanistan was flawed from the start.  Same at operational and tactical levels.

We should have recognized the hyper-decentralized nature of that buffer state from the outset.  Instead of trying to build a centralized national authority, we ought to have found local and regional war lords to back, as we ended up doing in many areas anyway.  The Taliban was already at war with tribal power structure anyway, not just against its northern enemies, but even in its Pashtun homeland. 

We went in with too small an initial force, then stayed too long in insufficient numbers.  In late 2001, I hoped, and naively expected, that all four light divisions of XVIII Airborne Corps, plus an armored brigade from its lone heavy division, the entire Ranger Regiment and a Marine division would have been deployed there as soon as possible after 9/11.  Then, I hoped further, most pulled out after killing Mullah Omar, bin Laden and their minions, so as to avoid the curses of mission creep and "nation-building", especially where there never has been a united state. 

At the time, the Army chief of staff correctly estimated that defeating the Taliban and occupying Afghanistan would require his whole service.  Rumsfeld, preaching the doctrine of "transformation", tried to do it on the cheap mainly with Special Forces, which were of course necessary, but insufficient.  Getting an army corps-worth of troops, equipment and supplies halfway around the world to state without rail connections to the outside would have taxed our logistical capabilities to the max, but it was feasible.  Only will was lacking, since the administration apparently was looking ahead to Iraq.

When the 173rd Airborne Brigade troops vaccinated goats in Zabul Province, the Taliban sneaked in from Pakistan, killed the goats and elders of the villages in which this animal health action had taken place.

Our "friends" were a problem, as noted with the local boy-raping National Police.  A provincial reconstruction team in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the Helmand, set up a girls' school.  Before I got there in 2005, the students, faculty and many locals protested violently for more money.

Rather than construct forward operating bases (FOBs) everywhere at great expense in order to support a long-term occupation, the thing to do was to keep just enough force in Kabul, Bagram, Jalalabad, and maybe Kandahar to support such war lords and keep the Taliban from being able to reconquer the non-Pashtun north, if need be.

The construction of FOBs, using Chinook helicopters to haul rock around the country, was outrageously costly, with questionable benefit, but still the contractors wished they could have just a few million more to improve the water system.  Stretches of the new but vulnerable ring road around the country are usually unusable due to Taliban actions.  Thus we're still reliant on helicopters despite the great cost of building and maintaining the highway.  In my opinion one reason the proposed pipeline was never laid across the country (which the Left said was why we intervened) is that the Taliban would keep blowing it up.

This is a long way of saying that if we intend to win, we have to work with traditional local Muslims, opposed to the brand of militant international Islamism advocated by Qaeda, ISIS and to a lesser but growing extent the Taliban.  I remember flying over villages in the Helmand, seeing girls playing in their family courtyards in brightly colored clothes, with their heads uncovered.  Boys flew kites and listened to radios.  The locals didn't like Taliban rule (especially not the elders so often bumped off), and were glad to be liberated at first, but the national police force and Afghan National Army we set up often alienated them, as did some of our own actions, as I mentioned.

Traditional society in both Afghanistan and Iraq is tribal, with customs of which the Taliban and Salafists such as ISIS disapprove.  This is true both in Fallujah, Anbar Province, Iraq and Zabul Province, Afghanistan, for instance.  Islam isn't monolithic, obviously, or Sunni, Sh'ia and Alawite Arabs, Turkomen and Kurds, Yazidis, Christians, Druze and other religious and ethnic minorities in Syria and Iraq wouldn't have been locked into a battle of each against all intermittently for going on 1400 years.

The Anbar Awakening and American troop surge in Iraq, relying on traditional Sunni tribal leaders, succeeded, but then we left precipitously without a Status of Forces agreement with the Iranian-puppet Shi'a regime in Baghdad.  The worst strategy is a lawyer-driven, muddling, middle way between washing our hands of the world from Morocco to Mindanao, just leaving the theater to its own devices, on the one hand and waging real, relentless war on the other.


It's unclear if the Turkish and Saudi-backed rebels in Iraq are substantially more "moderate" than ISIS.  The least bad solution there might be to divide up the state whose boundaries were drawn by the imperial powers Turkey, Britain and France, and which would already have blown apart without Soviet and Russian support of the minority (around 11%) Alawite regime.  While acknowledging that the aid of such moderates as may exist is essential to winning the Global War on Terror, the questions remain if we're still seriously fighting it and what would it mean to win it?