Uncensored exploration of the social, political, historical and personal issues concerning military veterans and their role in modern society, during and after service. This column also seeks to foster cultural awareness and fruitful communication between the civilian and military communities.
On the eve of yet another Middle East war, many Americans struggle to understand why Syria’s brutal, complicated civil battles necessitate U.S. military intervention. The 2 ½ year struggle to topple President Assad is at a tipping point. Chemical weapons have been deployed on both sides, and caught in the middle are the Syrian people.
100,000 have been killed and 2 million have fled the violence. The humanitarian crisis is unfathomable.
Western policy-makers and politicians argue America must support the Free Syrian Army and their noble cause. They say a moral responsibility to protect the innocent demands action, that order in the Middle East must be restored, and that warning other dictators chemical weapon usage has consequences will save more lives.
They claim Syrians want to be free and would be grateful for U.S. involvement.
But one truth often skipped by western media, which often labels opposition factions as “rebels” without distinction, is the frightening nature of the changing insurgency.
Western policy-makers and politicians argue America must support the Free Syrian Army and their noble cause. They say a moral responsibility to protect the innocent demands action, that order in the Middle East must be restored, and that warning other dictators chemical weapon usage has consequences will save more lives. They claim Syrians want to be free and would be grateful for U.S. involvement.
But one truth often skipped by western media, which often labels opposition factions as “rebels” without distinction, is the frightening nature of the changing insurgency.
President Obama was correct to highlight failures of Congress, but the government healthcare resources for veterans are inadequate, disorganized and in some cases corrupt, and are therefore incapable of providing for our nation’s veterans. Obama could have addressed this and proposed definitive action instead of exploiting his audience for a petty political agenda.
If President Obama wants to save this nation’s veterans from further slashes to budgets, he should never again propose destroying their healthcare while Washington continues to waste. Pretending current or future failures are a result of sequestration and not bureaucratic neglect is a shameful distortion.
The iPatched fix is a vinyl circle that clings to the surface of webcams and smart phones. It is removed and replaced without residue or damage to devices. The sleek patches replace the unsightly masking or duct tape that concerned users are currently employing to cover cameras.
By sheer happenstances, a 21-year old Egyptian student and organizer contacted me to clarify my misconceptions. Exhausted from the day’s events, the Cairo resident shared a slice of time hoping to clarify media’s misunderstandings and convey the general feeling on Egypt’s streets.
In a video sweeping the Internet, Aaron Weiss, an Iraq combat veteran and law enforcement officer, passionately addresses Dutchess County Legislature during discussions to repeal New York’s extreme gun-grabbing initiative, the NY SAFE Act. The video, recorded in March, is a stark, moving reminder of the difficult position legislators place both veterans and law enforcement oath keepers with extremist gun control measures.
On June 10, 2013, Daniel Somers, 30, a seasoned veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom wrote a chilling, heartbreaking address to his family before ending his life. His last words swept the Internet this week. Every American, particularly those that supported the wars of the last decade, should read it.
Jared Marcum, 14, appeared in court this week. The West Virginia resident and former eighth grader was arrested and suspended after refusing to remove his “fight for your right” National Rifle Association t-shirt. Charged with obstructing an officer, Marcum faces a $500 fine and a maximum of one year in prison.
In a 5-4 decision regarding Salinas v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a potential defendant’s silence can be used against them during police interviews prior to arrest and reading of Miranda rights.
“It’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead.
“Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.” - Edward Snowden
The revolutionary concept of 3-D printed firearms has been building momentum for months now. Online observers, innovators, investors and the generally curious celebrated as the first completely 3-D printed handgun became a reality. Since the blueprint for “The Liberator” hit the web, the file was downloaded more than 100,000 times in a few days. Today, the government shut it down.
Kiera Wilmot’s story raises a series of troubling questions. This could happen to any student. Classmates, the Principal and the student herself clarified this was no act of malevolence, but school administrators and law enforcement pursued charges to ensure “safety and security”. Have this nation’s schools become such mindless, bureaucratic prisons that all reason is forfeit?
The always patriotic U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham says the Boston bombing “is Exhibit A of why the homeland is the battlefield.” In an interview with the Washington Post: “It’s a battlefield because the terrorists think it is.” Referring to Boston, he observed, “Here is what we’re up against,” and added, “It sure would be nice to have a drone up there [to track the suspect.]” He also slammed the president’s policy of “leading from behind and criminalizing war.”
The genuinely curious can look no further than a well-written but misleading Huffington Post article titled, “Disarming Republican Anarchists” by contributor Bob Burnett. The right-wing is equally guilty of fear-mongering as the left, but this piece demonstrates why fruitful communication between both camps stagnates.
In the article, the author buttresses the left’s gun control argument with bad rhetoric and bizarre conspiracy theories about Republican inner-party politics. Burnett claims Washington cannot muster the will to restrict firearm ownership because the GOP is occupied by selfish, crazed insurrectionists. These “far right” lunatics are choking common sense gun control legislation.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) offered an amendment to exempt all U.S. military personnel and veterans from a proposed ban on “assault weapons”. The committee briefly discussed the future of American gun ownership. Cornyn highlighted the contradiction and inequality of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. The sponsors had deemed assault weapons too dangerous for civilian self-defensive purchase over safety and training concerns. But under the Feinstein Law, government employees and retired law enforcement are exempt from the assault weapons ban while hundreds of millions of Americans are not.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) concluded his nearly 13 hour-long filibuster on the eve of CIA Director John Brennan’s position approval. Soon after beginning his effort to delay the confirmation, Paul’s stand captured worldwide social media attention. Currently, #standwithRand remains the top trending hashtag on Twitter. The capital lockdown was not founded in partisan grandstanding over President Obama’s nominee choices, nor was he questioning overseas War on Terror tactics, despite claims from opposing politicians and mainstream media.
Paul’s intention was to highlight the administration’s eerie avoidance of questions regarding the legal authority to use drone strikes against citizens in the U.S.
Today, the White House press secretary replied to Senator Paul’s questions, “President Obama would not use drone strikes on American citizens on U.S. soil,” he said.
Eric Holder confirmed in his single-paragraph post-filibuster letter, “Does the president have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil?” the letter reads. “The answer to that is no.”
“I’m quite happy with the answer,” Paul said. “Through the advise and consent process, I’ve got an important answer.” He still has questions about the administration’s drone policy, but for now, “I’ve kind of won my battle.”
These responses satisfy Paul’s initial inquiries, but why was this filibuster even necessary?
While arguing for the disarming of Colorado college students, Democratic lawmaker Joe Salazar claimed women should rely on rape whistles, not firearms for self-defense against sexual attackers or violent predators.
“It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have [rape] whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at. And you don’t know, if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around, or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody,” Salazar said.
Salazar’s remarks enraged other lawmakers and constituents. A petition demanding his resignation has circulated while others expressed their anger on his Facebook page.
DALLAS, February 13th, 2013– The manhunt for ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner ended yesterday when fire consumed his final hideout. The military-trained suspect had allegedly sought refuge in the harsh elements of Big Bear, California’s near snow-covered ski areas. Dorner was accused of targeting law enforcement and their families in a revenge-inspired killing spree.
According to police, gunfire exchanges occurred after Dorner killed and injured deputies while evading capture. He reportedly barricaded himself inside a remote cabin and remained there as law enforcement surrounded his position. With the suspect inside, officials reportedly smashed windows and detonated tear gas or smoke canisters while urging Dorner to surrender.
Without reply, officials rammed the building with a special vehicle before hearing what they believed was a gunshot from inside. Flames systematically engulfed the structure, and though Dorner’s body has not been identified at this time, authorities confirmed no one escaped the blaze. Though the chase is over, analysis of the case will occupy investigative resources in the coming months.
As details are released, questions are emerging as to the origin of the cabin’s fire. The New York Times reported that the direct cause of the cabin fire was unknown while other outlets report “tear gas” and “smoke canisters” were deployed. Most outlets state simply that the “cabin caught on fire”, not that police officers intentionally set the cabin ablaze.
But as events were unfolding, journalist Max Blumenthal live tweeted a different narrative reportedly lifted from San Bernadino Sheriff Scanner Channel 7/8 via the 5-0 iPhone app.
The live feed Blumenthal catalogued appears to indicate officers had no intention of encouraging Dorner’s surrender. He wrote, “While media acceded to police demands not to provide direct details of stand-off w/Christopher Dorner, I used PD scanner transmissions to expose orders to burn his cabin hideout w/him inside. TL begins at bottom [sic].”
If the audio recording captured by Blumenthal is indeed from the incident, officers are overheard apparently discussing a pre-arranged arson attack. Per the audio, at around the one-minute mark, a male voice says:
All right, Steve (?), we’re gonna go, er, we’re gonna go forward with the plan, with, er, with the burn. We want it, er, like we talked about.
He then adds shortly afterwards:
Seven burners deployed and we have a fire.
A female voice responds:
Copy. Seven burners deployed and we have a fire.
At around 2min 20sec, a male voice says:
Guys, be ready on the No 4 side. We have fire in the front. He might come out the back.
At around 2min 50sec, a male voice requests a fire engine.
It was reported by USA Today that Dorner attempted to flee out of the back of the cabin, but was pushed back inside by authorities later demanding surrender. Authorities over the scanner confirm a shot fired from within the residence, followed by a sharp, unknown noise.
Another video surfaced allegedly featuring a recording of KCAL TV, an LA CBS affiliate, in which an unknown officer shouts angrily, “We’re going to burn him out,” and “Burn this mother***ker!” With the remarks airing live, the feed was silenced before the anchor explained apologetically that police officers were “understandably upset”.
An additional supposed recording from a police scanner was later pulled and posted via LiveLeak. The narrative includes numerous references to “burning him out” (29:30).
At this time, some have claimed references to “burning” Dorner out are police slang for tear gas canisters, not incendiary or smoke devices known to quickly start fires against wooden structures.
Because news helicopters acquiesced to zoom out requests despite confirmation from cabin owners that television, Internet or telephone communications were impossible, an aerial view is unavailable. It is reported by those listening that police scanners and media streams were jammed, but confirmation of this allegation is also unavailable at this time.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck accurately concluded, “This could have ended much better; it could have ended worse. I feel for the family of the deputy who lost his life.”
Undoubtedly, Americans join his sentiment. By his own words, Dorner was intent on inflicting as much damage and as many casualties as possible on law enforcement officers and their families without remorse. He was a murderer, and a continued danger to society while at-large.
Though an eerie rift between those viewing Dorner as a demented anti-hero and those supporting law enforcement’s actions has emerged, a larger issue looms; one concerning the decay of law enforcement-citizen relations Dorner warned of in his manifesto.
One rescinds their right to not be killed when actively murdering others, but if authorities intentionally “burned” Dorner out of his barricade with intent to kill and not capture, they have duty and obligation to honestly share their actions with the public. With the high publicity of this incident captivating the collective attention of Americans growing concerned about the shocking increases of police violence, this opportunity for transparency is extraordinary.
Not so long ago peace officers protected and served the citizens as guardians of justice, due process and order. The dangerous, desperate and unlawful actions of Los Angeles Police department while pursuing Dorner resulted in the attempted murder of three unarmed citizens. This horrifying “capture or kill” attitude is rarely exposed, leaving many to wonder how often such incidents occur. Police officers are not above the law they swore an oath to serve.
There were multiple agencies involved in the stand-off. The discrepancies the audio present may very well be justified, but at this time the public’s trust is broken. If the Los Angeles SWAT team and other affiliate law enforcement agencies involved in the Dorner manhunt fail to address this growing controversy, they miss a chance to repair their relationship with the public.
Without operational and post-situation clarity, Dorner’s complaints of systematic injustice and warped, vigilante desire to expose corruption achieved its purpose.
Christopher Dorner, the former police officer turned alleged murderer of three has shifted the nation’s attention to the historically corrupt Los Angeles Police Department. In his publicly released manifesto, he claims the LAPD destroyed his life, ruined his relationships and military career by siding with a white officer he reported for excessive force. An internal affairs investigation concluded the claim was false and he was released, but Dorner has set out to redeem himself and retaliate against the force and its bureaucratic protectors. He claims the conspirators participating in the police department’s rotten culture, institutionalized discrimination, are fair game for his violent, vengeful rampage.
Despite the lofty words of policy architects, perpetual war for perpetual peace is not a worthy ambition. Military resources are not statics. And battles, soldiers, bombs and wars are not merely considerations of policy. American tax dollars and military families are not endlessly expendable in pursuit of slippery enemies and nation-building fantasies. Israelis caught in the maelstrom of potential total war are not “collateral damage”, nor are the millions of innocents in Iran.
If the American people agree, they should bend their ear to those advocating for policy change instead of repeating the same actions and expecting different results. We must accept the world for what it is, and adapt accordingly instead of continuing the folly of crafting the Arab landscape in our Western image. The world we all live in may very well depend upon it.