Michael's Dispatches Michael's Dispatches

Michael Moore Lawsuit Update

47 Comments

Published: 15 January 2009

We have not yet filed in court, but will very soon if Mr. Moore does not settle the matter immediately.  The court paperwork takes time, though my attorney informed me that Mr. Moore’s attorney, after seven months of delay, called us late yesterday.  Michael Moore’s attorney and mine, Mr. John Mason, are playing phone tag today.

Read more: Michael Moore Lawsuit Update

Education and Challenges in Afghanistan

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This is a great interview with General David Petraeus:

Gen. David Petraeus: In looking at which lessons learned in Iraq might be applicable in Afghanistan, it is important to remember a key principle of counterinsurgency operations: Every case is unique. That is certainly true of Afghanistan (just as it was true, of course, in Iraq). While general concepts that proved important in Iraq may be applicable in Afghanistan—concepts such as the importance of securing and serving the population and the necessity of living among the people to secure them—the application of those ‘big ideas’ has to be adapted to Afghanistan.

Please Click here to read the entire interview on Foreign Policy.com

 

Read more: Education and Challenges in Afghanistan

Michael Moore Lawsuit

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Due to many meetings and holiday travel, I am still working on pieces about the incredible U.S. soldiers who took me on some dangerous missions in December.  Also, my trip with Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, harvested important information.  I can say this about Gates, as someone who will spend a lot of time on the battlefields this year, I am very happy that both President Bush and President-Elect Obama tapped Gates on the shoulder.  Gates is a winner who is watching out for our service members as well as the United States.  I also had a long and important meeting with General (ret.) Barry McCaffrey.  His trip reports from Iraq and Afghanistan have been brutally honest.  I have great respect for this American warrior.  I had other important meetings in Washington with thought leaders such as David Kilcullen, Ph.D., and I met with Fred Kagan, Ph.D., in Bahrain.  I saw Fred Kagan on an elevator and immediately asked for a meeting, which proved valuable to me.  Over the past few weeks I’ve also talked with very high-ranking U.S. officers about Iraq and Afghanistan.  My confidence on Iraq continues to grow.  Still, there is much concern about Afghanistan-Pakistan.

During my trip to Washington, D.C., I had a chance to catch up on some matters neglected while I was overseas.  My attorney may have to file a lawsuit against Mr. Michael Moore.  In May we contacted Mr. Moore, through his counsel, about Mr. Moore’s unauthorized use of my work on his website.  He did not respond.  My attorney has written again.  If Mr. Moore and his counsel continue to ignore our correspondence, we will proceed with a lawsuit. 

This lawsuit, though, should not be a distraction from combat reporting; the proceedings should be easy and require almost zero hands-on work from me.  But it will be potentially costly.  I’ve never sued anyone in my life.  Looks like Mr. Moore might be the first.  I told one very important person recently about the possible upcoming lawsuit and he said something like, “Someone should drive a stake through that guy’s heart.”  It won’t be that bad, but copyright cases are interesting and we have to deal with them often.  If you want to help me as I both prepare to return overseas and take on this lawsuit with Mr. Michael Moore, please hit the PayPal button.  This lawsuit could be expensive for Mr. Moore, as well.  My attorney advises that our position is strong.  It is senseless for Mr. Moore to ignore this matter.


 

Red Flag

54 Comments

A missive arrived to me from a well-placed British officer.  I know this officer well, and respect his abilities.  He has been to both Iraq and Afghanistan.  In part, the missive said:

“Please have a look at the attached from the UK Times.  Regarding the Rachel Sylvester piece, we have not been able to find any such document/memo although it is possible that an e-mail exists somewhere that refers to such a matter – more likely to be a warning not to dick about regarding what extra troops the UK might be able to find for AFG and raise unrealistic US expectations.”

Rachel Sylvester US doubts about UK military effectiveness 6 Jan 09.pdf

The Special Relationship Times leader 7 Jan 09.pdf

Read more: Red Flag

Godspeed to Paula Loyd

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Published: 08 January 2009

Word just came to me that Paula Loyd died.  The word came from a close mutual friend who currently is in Afghanistan.  Godspeed to Paula.  Those who knew Paula said many great things.  I was told she was engaged to be married.  Now Paula is with God.

Please click here

[Note from Webmaster: In the original draft Paula's name was mispelled "Lloyd". Corrected 12 January 2009.]

Border Bullies

155 Comments

The Department of Homeland Security in Action
04 January 2009

A Thai friend with whom I have traveled in Europe and Asia took time off from her job to meet me in Florida over the holidays.  This was a good time for me, as it was between reporting stints in the war. My friend, Aew, had volunteered to work with me in Afghanistan or Iraq, but I declined because many people around me get shot or blown up.  So we were looking forward to spending some vacation time together.  She comes from a good family; and one that is wealthier than most American families.  She didn’t come here for a job.  Well-educated, she has a master's degree and works as a bank officer in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Aew was excited about the prospect of visiting America for the first time, though she had traveled to many other countries and had the passport stamps to prove it.  She had no problem getting a U.S. visa, and she was paying her own way to fly.

Read more: Border Bullies

Afghan Bravery

Write a comment It’s hard to say how much of this fight belongs to the Afghans, and how much is ours. It should be theirs. It won't succeed until it is their fight -- even if they need some back-up help from us. One thing is certain: We are not “rebuilding” Afghanistan; it was never built to begin with. Centuries of repelling invaders kept the country free. But, perversely, it also meant that Afghanistan never benefited from the advances that most colonial power brought to the remote, primitive places they colonized.  And thirty years of war, from the day the Soviets marched in, in the winter of 1979, though the internecine battles of the past decade, has destroyed much of what was there -- from the roads, to the mud compounds to a certain amount of the culture, generosity and spirit of the people.

Read more: Afghan Bravery

The Clinic

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In Iraq, there were always a few journalists who would see signs for humanitarian projects like this clinic, translated into to English, and would wax cynical, claiming that it was just propaganda to mask the uglier side of the occupation.  I've heard people say things like "This is just for the cameras and the journalists who will devour lies.”  Of course, if these signs were not translated into English, an equally cynical person might say, “Look, they aren’t even smart enough to translate the signs into English.  How do you expect people to know about the good things you're doing?”

Read more: The Clinic

Dumb Signs

2 Comments Published: 14 December 2008

Soldiers and their humor: living at the edge of civilization requires a highly developed sense of irony. Dumb signs all over Iraq and Afghanistan are always good for a chuckle.

This sign just came to me from a friend in Ramadi, Iraq.  Before the war ended, Ramadi was in chaos beyond easy description.  Now, some service members who are in Ramadi complain to me that they are bored.  Apparently some of them even forget their weapons.  (My friend confirmed that the forgetful soldier got his rifle back.)

This story can also be found covered at Pajamas Media.



Sniff Test

23 Comments

Published: 09 December 2008

Here is a rare and curious thing: an antique British [WB-57] bomber flying over Afghan skies. These planes flew in the 1950s and 60s, performing top of the atmosphere reconnaissance. The U.S. Air Force retired the WB-57 decades ago.  But NASA owns two, which it uses for an odd group of missions, including collecting cosmic dust from extremely high altitudes.  It seems doubtful that NASA came all the way to Afghanistan to collect cosmic dust, but this would be an interesting region in which to search for traces of nuclear debris, drifting upwards from Iran, Pakistan, various Central Asian states, China, or India.

This story can also be found covered at Pajamas Media.

 

Afghanistan: The War Grows

21 Comments

Published: 08 December 2008
Zabul Province, Afghanistan

While Americans sleep tight in their beds, this time of year U.S. soldiers sit shivering through the frigid, crystal clear nights at remote outposts in places most of us have never heard of and will never see.  Often they head out into the enveloping darkness, to hunt down and destroy terrorists, who continue to kill innocent Afghans, Americans, Aussies, Balinese, Brits, Indians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Spanish….in short, anyone who opposes their violent tyranny.  Their greatest weapons are ignorance and terror.  Witness the latest unprovoked attack on our friends in India.

These enemies have no wish to reconcile with their fellow countrymen, or compromise in any way that would diminish their control of the lives of the ordinary Afghans who don't share their feral vision of life.  They throw acid in the faces of little girls whose only crime is that they go to school.  So we must continue to send our toughest men to confront them eye to eye, while performing the difficult balancing act of not alienating those who intend us no harm.  This is particularly difficult in Afghanistan, a proud nation with a deep tradition of antipathy toward outsiders -- even those who are here to help, though I am finding many Afghans clearly do not want us to leave.

The hard work is especially difficult when our troops are spread perilously thin. Over the last nearly two weeks I’ve spent time with teams whose nearest ground support is too far away, and too small anyway, to help them when they get into serious trouble, which happens all the time.  Some of these groups are too far out for helicopters to reach within any reasonable amount of time, and so their only choice often is “CAS,” or Close Air Support: Jets with bombs.  Sadly, despite the extreme precautions I have seen our people taking in Iraq and now Afghanistan, we are bound to make some mistakes, which the enemy exploits to full potential.  In fact, there are reports that I believe credible that the enemy is actively trying to bait us into bombing innocent people.  Such is the savagery of the Taliban and associated armed opposition groups (AOGs).  

Few Afghans can tell the difference in uniform or equipment between Germans, Americans, Brits or Estonians or any of the other dozens of nations here. And similarities in vehicles and equipment can cause confusion among U.S. and Canadian forces, themselves.  So we can't really expect illiterate, Afghan civilians to tell the difference between an American and a French jet at midnight.  But you know the result: when bombs or bullets fly off in the wrong direction, which inevitably happens in a hot war, when there is an occasional overuse of force, it gets blamed on Americans -- or the "U.S. led coalition" -- with the implication that the U.S. engineered the error.  This is partly a function of the expert propaganda machine that the Taliban and its fundamentalist allies bring to bear -- and, of course, of a world media eager to exploit such stories.

For our part and to the credit of our leadership, the U.S. is reluctant to publicly correct the record, since finger-pointing can only cause friction in the coalition.  At a moment when Afghan policy is hanging in the balance, with a new Administration thinking about what they ought to do to move toward stability, we walk a tightrope between offending our allies by criticizing their actual shortcomings -- and the even more important problem of overstepping very sensitive boundaries in Afghanistan. If we are going to be able to finish the job we started, we can't afford to create problems for the Karzai government.

Rules of Engagement, discipline, training and moral boundaries vary drastically between nations.  Sophisticated readers should know that “U.S. led” does not necessarily mean that an American called in the target, or had anything to do in dropping the bomb.  But I will say that a small American team told me recently that it was a French jet who came to their aid during an ambush, and expertly dropped a bomb straight onto a Taliban position.

This story can also be found covered at Pajamas Media.



The Art of the End of War

21 Comments

The Art

of the

End of War

 

Published: 01 December 2008
Zabul Province, Afghanistan

(Travel from Iraq to Afghanistan, and needless bureaucratic delays, nearly killed this dispatch.  Though many photos were made during the recent journey in Iraq, none are included here.  Bureaucracy unrelated to our combat forces continues to steal frontline photos and words from your screen. We seem to have two Armies: One Army of true soldiers moving mountains to win wars, while the other Army does everything possible to break the machine while playing soldier.  Though I am with excellent U.S. forces in the hinterlands of Afghanistan, this dispatch describes my final “mission” with outstanding soldiers in Iraq.)

Read more: The Art of the End of War

Down with Barriers, Up with Iraq

12 Comments

25 November 2008

On November 13th I covered a mission in south Baghdad with soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division.  General Petraeus once told me during the height of the fighting, back when violence was the lingua franca and victory was very much in question, that this area was the canary in the mineshaft.  In his exact words regarding what Lieutenant Colonel Pat Frank had to deal with in one of the toughest places in Iraq, “SW Baghdad...has every challenge imaginable -- AQI, JAM, micro-fault-lines, good/bad ISF partners, good/bad neighborhood leaders, and Route Irish!  It will be the canary in the mineshaft; if they can pull it off, this will be doable....”

Read more: Down with Barriers, Up with Iraq

Happy Thanksgiving

8 Comments

24 November 2008

Michael called by satellite phone.  He is in a remote area of Afghanistan with US and Afghan forces.  Michael reports that his satellite internet gear is non-functional.  He has no access to internet.  Please see his dispatch in the New York Post today.  Michael did mention that morale among US and Afghan forces is high.  More Later.

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