Category Archive 'US Navy'
02 May 2011

Better Late Than Never

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Osama bin Laden was residing in a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 80 miles north of Islamabad. The compound was located just north of a hospital for women and children and a movie theater and roughly 800 feet to the east of the Cantt Police Station.

Just short of a decade after the 9/11 attacks, the United States has brought Osama bin Laden to justice.

Bin Laden was found by tracking a courier identified by Guantanamo detainees, according to “a senior White House official.”


After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “detainees gave us information on couriers. One courier in particular had our constant attention. Detainees gave us his nom de guerre, his pseudonym, and also identified this man as one of the few couriers trusted by bin Laden.”

In 2007, the U.S. learned the man’s name.

In 2009, “we identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated. They were very careful, reinforcing belief we were on the right track.”

In August 2010, “we found their home in Abbottabad,” not in a cave, not right along the Afghanistan border, but in an affluent suburb less than 40 miles from the capital.

“When we saw the compound, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound.”

The plot of land was roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area. It was built in 2005 on the outskirts of town, but now some other homes are nearby.

“Physical security is extraordinary: 12 to 18 foot walls, walled areas, restricted access by two security gates.” The residents burn their trash, unlike their neighbors. There are no windows facing the road. One part of the compound has its own seven-foot privacy wall.

And unusual for a multi-million-dollar home: It has no telephone or Internet service.

This home, U.S. intelligence analysts concluded, was “custom built to hide someone of significance.”

Abbottabad, Pakistan, named for the 19th century British officer General Sir James Abbott, who pacified and governed the district 1849-1853, is described in Wikipedia as “well-known throughout Pakistan for its pleasant weather, high standard educational institutions and military establishments.”

American justice (and military operations) proceed rather slowly. The courier was identified in 2007, his area of operation ws identified in 2009, Osama’s compound was identified last August, and they were planning the assault since February. The president and the National Security Council Five pondered what to do in the course of five meetings since Mid-March, and President Obama only finally gave the go-ahead order last Friday, April 29th.

The raid was executed by a U.S. Joint Special Operations Command Special Mission Unit (SMU) from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU — formerly known as Seal Team Six). The seal team unit arrived via two helicopters, one of which had mechanical difficulties and has been reportedly destroyed by US forces. Other US personnel operated as spotters on the ground, and a drone was deployed overhead just in case.

A firefight (yet to be described in detail) occurred in which Osama bin Ladin, one of his sons, two couriers, and a woman whom the ever-chivalrous Muslims attempted to use as a human shield were killed.

Amusingly, Sohaib Athar, a Pakistani who tweets as Really Virtual, essentially live blogged the attack on Twitter.

22 Feb 2011

US Navy Sending a Message to Iran

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The USS Enterprise makes an imposing presence in the Suez Canal. (AFP photo)

DEBKAfile reports that Iran’s recent decision to send two warships through the Suez Canal for “exercises” with Syria provoked an overwhelming display of naval force by the United States.

Thursday night, Feb. 17, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, escorted by missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and the fast supply ship USNS Arctic, headed south through the canal. By Friday morning, they were through and taking up position opposite the Kharg cruiser and Alvand missile destroyer of the Iranian Navy’s 12th Flotilla, which were waiting to enter the Suez Canal at the southern Red Sea entrance.

Furthermore, since the first week of February, the USS Kearsarge, another aircraft carrier, was posted in the Great Bitter Lake opposite Ismailia and the canal’s main routes with a large contingent of marines aboard.

The USS George Washington carrier and the USS Carl Vinson were additionally deployed in the Gulf of Aden, the latter having been moved from the Pacific.

A battle of nerves is therefore underway.

The Iranian warships found themselves cheek to jowl with a major concentration of America naval might piling up in the Red Sea and Suez and were not sure what would happen if they went forward with their mission to transit the Suez Canal for the Mediterranean for the first time in 30 years on their way to Syria.
Sunday night, the Canal authorities announced another 48 hours delay shortly after Tehran state TV claimed the warships were already through to the Mediterranean.

And, finally, the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier was quietly transferred from Bahrain, headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet amid the anti-government uprising, to a point opposite the Iranian Gulf coast.

This pile-up of US naval, air and marine might at strategic points in the Middle East is a warning to meddlers to keep their hands off the revolutions, uprisings and protests sweeping Arab nations. It carries a special message for Tehran that the Obama administration will not permit the Islamic Republic’s rulers to make military and political hay from the unrest – in Bahrain or anywhere else.

By positioning the Enterprise opposite Iran’s 12th Flotilla at the Red Sea entrance to the Suez Canal on Feb. 17 Washington has confronted Tehran with a hard dilemma, which was practically spelled out by US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley a day earlier: “If the ships move through the canal, we will evaluate what they actually do,” he said. “It’s not really about the ships. It’s about what the ships are carrying, what’s their destination, what’s the cargo on board, where’s it going, to whom and for what benefit.”

This was the US spokesman’s answer to the debkafile disclosure of Feb. 16 that the Kharg was carrying long-range surface missiles for Hizballah. It raised the possibility that the moment they venture to sail into the Suez Canal, the two Iranian warships will be boxed in between the Enterprise and the Kearsarge and called upon the allow their cargoes to be inspected as permitted by the last round of UN sanctions against Iran in the case of suspicious war freights.

07 Jan 2011

The Enterprise Video Affair

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Spook86 puts Captain Honors’ grabasstical videos in perspective, speculates on who leaked them to the Virginia Pilot and why, and points out that the lame-stream media generally failed to report a much more impressive scandal featuring an abusive female officer.

[W]hy didn’t anyone raise red flags three or four years ago when Captain Honors was producing those tasteless (but amusing) skits?

We’re guessing that the brass viewed Honors as an effective leader. Unit morale is one of the responsibilities of a ship XO (executive officer), and it looks like Captain Honors inherited a very unhappy crew on Enterprise. Apparently, most of the sailors appreciated his efforts and we’re guessing that the “Big E’s” efficiency improved under his watch. So, the brass was willing to look the other way.

Incidentally, we are not trying to condone Captain Honors morale efforts. While the videos that have found their way into the public realm, we’re also remind us that the Navy has its own, unique culture. Bawdy skits, offensive humor and other customs have long been used to relieve the monotony that sets in after months at sea. It was in this tradition that Honors produced his videos, and judging by the comments on various Facebook pages and other on-line forums, his efforts were appreciated.

But even if his motives were focused on crew morale and mission accomplishment, you still have to ask the essential question: what was Captain Honors thinking? We assume that the former carrier commander was aware that his videos were making their way around the fleet. And surely he knew it was just a matter of time before they showed up on YouTube. The fact they weren’t on-line (until the Virginian-Pilot got hold on them) is another testament to the popularity and respect that Honors earned from his sailors.

They understood that on-board “morale videos” were intended for the crew–and no one else. It was one more shared experience that bonded them together during months of training and long periods at sea. It’s a concept that is almost alien to anyone who hasn’t been a sailor, or part of the wider military community.

You see, there’s something about shared hardships and camaraderie that bring people together–or drive them apart. In that environment, you quickly discover which senior officers genuinely care about their troops, and the ones that are more interested in that next promotion. Captain Honors clearly fell in that latter category, even if his efforts at morale-boosting have been deemed inappropriate. …

As for the “source” of the tapes, it was clearly an inside job. We can’t point to a specific individual, but there are two prime categories of suspects. The first (and most obvious) are individuals who received a poor performance report from Captain Honors (former department heads on the Enterprise would be in that group, along with E-8s and E-9s who were evaluated by Honors since taking command, or during his previous tour as XO).

There’s also the possibility that Honors was torpedoed by one of his peers. As a Naval Academy grad, Top Gun graduate, decorated aviator and tours as a carrier XO and commander, Owen Honors was on track to become an admiral. Now, with his career in tatters, there is no chance he will ever reach flag rank. We’re guessing that Owens was up for his first star in the next year or so–and a presumptive choice for promotion, had the scandal not erupted. Instead, Owens is toast, and there will be one more opening when that board meets. It wouldn’t be the first time that a cut-throat Captain or Colonel has deliberately sabotaged a colleague, to enhance their own chances at promotion.

One final thought: if you’re so inclined, do a Google search for Captain Owens, then do the same thing for Captain Holly Graf. Readers will recall that Captain Graf was fired as skipper of the USS Cowpens last summer, for “cruelty and maltreatment of her crew.” That was the Navy’s description of her actions–not ours. Mark Thompson of Time correctly described her as a “female Captain Bligh” who verbally abused her crew and even throttled a Royal Navy exchange officer who served on her pr evious command, the USS Winston Churchill.

In case you’re wondering, that web search for Graf produces fewer results than a similar query for Captain Honors. But more importantly, much of the coverage of the Graf controversy was limited to Navy Times and military blogs (Time was a notable exception among the MSM). Outside of military circles, few have heard of “Horrible Holly” Graf. Meanwhile, the Honors scandal has been front-page news around the world. We’re not surprised.

26 Sep 2010

Helicopter Hotdogging Gets Pilots Grounded

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AOLNews reports that the Navy (which had to pay for some repairs) was less appreciative than millions of viewers on the Internet of those helicopter pilots’ daring and legerdemain. The helicopters were Sikorsky MH-60R Multi-Mission aka “Romeos.”

Two Navy pilots from San Diego have been grounded after their helicopters dipped into Lake Tahoe last week. The Sept. 13 incident was caught on a dramatic video, which shows the two choppers hovering just above the water. At one point, one of the $33 million aircraft seems to lose control and flip over into the lake, but the pilot manages to bring it back up out of the water.

Both helicopters droped into the lake because they did not have enough power to stay in their hovering positions. …

The helicopters were on their way back to the air station in San Diego after an air show in Sacramento. They were headed to Lemoore Naval Air Station south of Fresno for refueling when the incident occurred.

Afterward, the helicopters had to land at Lake Tahoe airport for repairs. The incident caused between $50,000 and $500,000 in damage to the choppers.

24 Oct 2009

34% Pregnant Sailors at Some Stations

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Spook86 discusses the impact of egalitarianism-at-all-costs on the Navy presently. Just wait until Obama makes his move and abolishes Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell for even more unintended consequences.

As the Navy brass prepares for a “co-ed” submarine force, they might consider the impact of human biology on other elements of the service.

Navy Times reports that some shore commands in Norfolk, Virginia are heavily staffed by pregnant sailors, and some commanders are complaining about the lack of proper manning to carry out their missions.

The problem–and leadership complaints–resulted in an investigation by the Navy IG. According to the IG report, some of shore-based organizations in the Norfolk area have pregnant sailors in up to 34% of their billets. And due to restrictions associated with their medical condition, the sailors (in many cases) cannot perform all of their assigned duties, placing an added strain on shore commands. …

Talk to Navy officers and senior NCOs and you’ll get a real earful on the effects of this problem. While acknowledging that many female sailors are simply trying to balance a naval career against their desire to start a family, others are gaming the system, they say. In some cases, they say female sailors become pregnant to avoid a projected deployment, or get out of an assignment they don’t like.

Years ago, sailors who became pregnant while on active duty were immediately dismissed from the service. By comparison, today’s family-friendly Navy goes to great lengths to accommodate pregnant sailors, and there’s not much a Captain or Master Chief can do except grit their teeth and suck it up.

You’d think the IG report would offer a cautionary tale for the submarine force and its plan for mixed-gender crews. Running an attack boat or a boomer takes an exceptionally well-trained, cohesive team of officers and enlisted members. Simply stated, the silent service can’t afford the kind of turnover caused by pregnancies in other Navy organizations.

But such concerns are being ignored in the rush to break down one last bastion of male service.

13 Apr 2009

Seal Snipers Pot Pirates at 30 Yards

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Washington Post:

The operation to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips involved dozens of Navy SEALs, who parachuted from an aircraft into the scene near dark Saturday, landing in the ocean. The SEALs were part of a group of Special Operations forces involved in the effort, according to military officials. …

At one point Saturday, the pirates opened fire on one of the smaller U.S. Navy craft that approached.

As the seas grew rougher, the Bainbridge offered to tow the lifeboat to calmer waters, and the pirates agreed, linking up the lifeboat to the destroyer with a towing cable that left 75 to 80 feet between the two vessels. Phillips at the time was tied up in the lifeboat, having been bound — and occasionally beaten — by the pirates ever since he had attempted to escape by jumping into the water on Friday, the officials said.

Meanwhile, one of the pirates, estimated to be between 16 and 20 years old, asked to come aboard the Bainbridge to make a phone call. He had been stabbed in the hand during an altercation with the crew of the Maersk Alabama and needed medical care. “He effectively gave himself up,” a senior military official said. …

Meanwhile, one of the pirates, estimated to be between 16 and 20 years old, asked to come aboard the Bainbridge to make a phone call. He had been stabbed in the hand during an altercation with the crew of the Maersk Alabama and needed medical care. “He effectively gave himself up,” a senior military official said. The Navy then allowed that pirate to speak with the others in hopes that he could persuade them to give up.

The three other pirates, however, showed signs of growing irritation, as the Bainbridge, 18 miles from shore, towed the lifeboat further out to sea. …

“In the last discussion, they said, ‘If we don’t get what we want, we will kill the captain,’ ” the official said.

Soon afterward, two pirates moved to one of the hatches of the lifeboat and stuck their heads out. The third pirate advanced toward the captain and pointed his AK-47 straight at Phillips’s back, the rifle touching it or inches away, the official said.

U.S. military observers thought that Phillips was about to be shot. SEAL snipers, who were positioned on a deck at the stern of the Bainbridge, an area known as the fantail, had the three pirates in their sights. The on-scene commander gave the snipers authority to fire.

“As soon as the snipers had a clear shot at the guy who had the rifle, they shot him and the other two in the hatches,” the senior military official said.

CNN 2:14 video

Even from the fantail of a destroyer rising and falling with the waves, 75-80′ (22.9-24.4 m.) shot with telescopic sight-equipped sniper rifles chambered in 7.62mm or .300 Winchester Magnum would be virtually unmissable. Those Navy snipers were shooting fish in a barrel.

It just doesn’t work to wave guns around, threatening a hostage, while trained marksmen have drawn a bead on your cranium.

All this shows that the pirates were more than a little naive, having evidently bought into an international image of a United States paralysed by moral inhibitions that proved to be exaggerated. The Obama administration does deserve credit for refraining from finding some advanced European interpretation of International Law declaring pirates to be a specially protected category of persons.

1:21 Seal sniper video

25 Jan 2009

More Catch and Release? US Navy Intercepts Iranian Rockets Meant For Gaza

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The Jerusalem Post story indicates that the Obama administration is, so far at least, willing to take limited action against Iranian surrogate operations aimed at Israel.

The interception of an Iranian arms ship by the US Navy in the Red Sea last week likely was conducted as a covert operation and is being played down by the US military due to the lack of a clear legal framework for such operations, an American expert on Iran told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening.

International media reported that an Iranian-owned merchant vessel flying a Cypriot flag was boarded early last week by US Navy personnel who discovered artillery shells on board.

The ship was initially suspected of being en route to delivering its cargo to smugglers in Sinai who would transfer the ammunition to Hamas in Gaza, but the US Navy became uncertain over the identity of the intended recipient since “Hamas is not known to use artillery,” The Associated Press cited a defense official as saying.

It was then allowed to sail toward the Suez Canal, where Egyptian authorities have been asked to conduct another search of the vessel, according to the report.

Debkafile (voice of Mossad) leaks:

The Iranian ship boarded by a US Navy Coast Guard team on the Red Sea last week before it could smuggle arms to Hamas is now disclosed by DEBKAfile’s military sources to have tried to trick the search team by enclosing its rocket cargo in secret compartments behind layers of steel. Furthermore, our sources reveal, the US has not yet found a harbor in the region for carrying out a thorough search. …

The Americans decided not to give the Israeli Navy a chance to seize the vessel and tow it to Eilat for fear of a Tehran ultimatum to Jerusalem, followed by Iranian attacks on Israeli naval craft patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. …

But the US and Egyptian governments are in a fix. To break the Iranian ship’s holds open and expose the rockets destined for Hamas, the facilities of a sizeable port are needed. It would have to be Egyptian because the other coastal nations – Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia – are hostile or controlled by pirates. Both the US and Egypt are hesitant about precipitating a full-blown armed confrontation with Iran. The timing is wrong for the new Barack Obama administration, which is set on smoothing relations with Tehran through diplomatic engagement. Cairo has just launched a campaign to limit Tehran’s aggressive drive in the Middle East but does not want a premature clash.

DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources disclose that the ship’s captain had orders not to resist an American boarding team but impede a close look at its freight. The Navy Coast Guard searchers first found a large amount of ordnance and explosives in the ship’s hold, which the Iranian captain claimed were necessary for securing Iranian freighters heading from the Red Sea to the Suez Canal. But then, the US searchers using metal detectors perceived welded steel compartments packed with more hardware concealed at the bottom of the hull.

The option of towing it to a Persian Gulf port for an intensive search was rejected because the Gulf emirates hosting US bases were almost certain to shy away from involvement in the affair. Moreover, Tehran would be close enough to mount a naval commando operation to scuttle the ship before it was searched.

Our military sources estimate that eventually the US government may decide to let the Iranian arms ship sail through the Suez Canal out to the Mediterranean for lack of other options.

Naturally. Mustn’t provoke the mullahs by interfering with their shipments of rifles to the Indians. Who knows? They might become hostile and start supporting terrorism or building WMD.

07 Dec 2008

Army Lost the Last Seven Times to Navy

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But enterprising West Point cadets exact some revenge by a daring daylight helicopter strike on Annapolis.

3:22 video

04 Dec 2008

Overheard on VHF During Air Flight


From Xavier:

This exchange was overheard on the VHF Guard (emergency) frequency 121.5 MHz while flying from Europe to Dubai.

Air Defense Radar: “Unknown aircraft at (location undisclosed), you are in Iranian airspace. Identify yourself.”

Aircraft: “This is a United States aircraft. I am in Iraqi airspace.”

Air Defense Radar: “You are in Iranian airspace. If you do not depart our airspace we will launch interceptor aircraft!”

Aircraft:; Roger that. This is a United States Navy F-18 fighter jet. Send ’em up!”

Air Defense Radar: …………… (no response … total silence)

29 Aug 2008

The Palin Strategy

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Noemie Emory, in the Weekly Standard, explains why the choice of Sarah Palin is a brilliant strategic move.

1. Steps on the story of Obama’s speech (and convention), and possibly the bounce coming from them, and wipes them off the news cycle. The Sunday news shows will be all-Palin, all of the time.

2. Sends Republicans into their convention on a huge head of steam.

3. Wipes out the image of McCain as the crotchety elder and brings back that of the fly-boy and gambler, which is much more appealing, and the genuine person.

4. Revs up the base AND excites independents, which no one else in the party, or perhaps in the world, could have accomplished.

5. Puts youth, change, and history on both of the tickets.

6. May detach some young people, especially women.

7. May attach some women pissed off about Hillary.

8. As a pro-life super-achiever, puts feminists in a tizzy.

9. Revives some of the double-edged nature of the Democratic primary, which featured a black vs. a female trail-blazer, and put both sides on notice on sensitivity issues. Democrats used to raising charges of racism against Obama’s critics may face charges of sexism and/or condescension if they try to diss her.

10. Steps on Obama’s claims to have been a reformer, as he reformed nothing (much less the corrupt mare’s nest of Chicago arrangements), while she was a dragon-slayer up in Alaska.

11. As a mother of five, one a Down Syndrome baby, helps her side take on the Democrats on abortion extremism and the Born Alive bill.

12. Reignites the deep and unhealed stresses inside the Democrats, some of whom will now wonder more loudly than ever why they didn’t pick Hillary.

13. Counters Michelle in a way Cindy couldn’t.

14. Counter-intuitively, makes the issue of Obama’s light resume more potent than ever. Her lack of experience is no more than his is. And he’s–to use a term from Alaska, and the Iditarod–their lead dog.

McCain displayed with this selection a boldness and willingness to gamble uncharacteristic of Washington politicians. It’s more in the spirit of the US Navy, going completely on the offensive and being willing to risk everything to deliver a decisive blow in a form the enemy could never have anticipated and prepared for.

I don’t think McCain came up with all of this himself, but he is clearly getting some very clever advice these days, to which he is paying attention. He may very well be president yet.


H/t to Karen L. Myers.

27 Aug 2008

US Navy Runs Off Russia’s Black Sea Fleet

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Chinese news service photo of USS McFaul delivering humanitarian supplies at Batumi

EarthTimes quotes an Interfax News Agency Russian press release indicating that the Russian Black Sea Fleet is “shifting positions” to the rear.

Elements of Russia’s Black Sea fleet shifted locations on Wednesday in an possible move to avoid a confrontation with a growing NATO warship flotilla near Georgia. Russian naval vessels operating off of Georgia’s coastline had moved from a station in the vicinity of the Georgian port Poti into “Abkhazian territorial waters,” said Sergei Menialo, commander of Russia’s Novorossisk naval base, according to an Interfax news agency report.

The shift took a group of some six to eight Russian warships that had been patrolling near the Georgian port of Poti out of the path of US warships reportedly planning to make a humanitarian aid delivery to the same location. …

NATO led by the US began a dramatic increase to its naval presence in the Black Sea in mid-August, after Russian refusal to abide by a Russo-Georgian ceasefire plan engineered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The NATO flotilla led by the American destroyer USS McFaul already has exceeded ten warships and will reach eighteen vessels in coming days, Kremlin officials citing Russian intelligence said Tuesday.

German, Polish, Spanish, and Canadian warships are among the members of the multi-national squadron being assembled in the Black Sea, according to Georgian media reports.

Russian admiral Sergei Kasatonov admitted the growing NATO naval formation would soon be stronger than the Russian Black Sea warships off Georgia and Abkhazia’s shore, but added the Kremlin could in case of a confrontation deal with the western vessels “using other forms of combat power, including aviation assets.”

Years ago, when I was working on military simulations games, a historical discussion got going within the development group, a gang of hard-core military history buffs, about the threat to US and Nato forces posed by a much-reported Soviet Naval build-up.

“When was the last time Russia won a major naval engagement?” sardonically asked one of the senior designers.

Despite the vast store of expertise on matters of this kind readily at hand, puzzlement ensued.

One authority suggest the Battle of Navarino in 1827 during the Greek War of Independence. But the example was rejected because Russia had merely participated in a combined operation with France and Britain, under British command.

Finally, smiling, one of the most knowledgeable people present, suggested John Paul Jones‘ 1788 victory over the Turks in the Liman arm of the Black Sea. “But, they won’t have Jones in command today, will they?” he concluded, reducing the crowd of analysts and prognosticators to gales of derisive laughter at the idea of what would happen to the Russian Navy if it tried taking on a naval service like our own, one with a firm and unbroken tradition of victory.

20 Apr 2008

P.J. O’Rourke on McCain

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P.J. O’Rourke visits an aircraft carrier and becomes a fan of John McCain’s.

Some say John McCain’s character was formed in a North Vietnamese prison. I say those people should take a gander at what John chose to do–voluntarily. Being a carrier pilot requires aptitude, intelligence, skill, knowledge, discernment, and courage of a kind rarely found anywhere but in a poem of Homer’s or a half gallon of Dewar’s. I look from John McCain to what the opposition has to offer. There’s Ms. Smarty-Pantsuit, the Bosnia-Under-Sniper-Fire poster gal, former prominent Washington hostess, and now the JV senator from the state that brought you Eliot Spitzer and Bear Stearns. And there’s the happy-talk boy wonder, the plaster Balthazar in the Cook County political crèche, whose policy pronouncements sound like a walk through Greenwich Village in 1968: “Change, man? Got any spare change? Change?”

Some people say John McCain isn’t conservative enough. But there’s more to conservatism than low taxes, Jesus, and waterboarding at Gitmo. Conservatism is also a matter of honor, duty, valor, patriotism, self-discipline, responsibility, good order, respect for our national institutions, reverence for the traditions of civilization, and adherence to the political honesty upon which all principles of democracy are based. Given what screw-ups we humans are in these respects, conservatism is also a matter of sense of humor. Heard any good quips lately from Hillary or Barack?

A one-day visit to an aircraft carrier is a lifelong lesson in conservatism. The ship is immense, going seven decks down from the flight deck and ten levels up in the tower. But it’s full, with some 5,500 people aboard. Living space is as cramped as steerage on the way to Ellis Island. Even the pilots live in three-bunk cabins as small and windowless as hall closets. A warship is a sort of giant Sherman tank upon the water. Once below deck you’re sealed inside. There are no cheery portholes to wave from.

McCain could hardly escape understanding the limits of something huge but hermetic, like a government is, and packed with a madding crowd. It requires organization, needs hierarchies, demands meritocracy, insists upon delegation of authority. An intricate, time-tested system replete with checks and balances is not a plaything to be moved around in a doll house of ideology. It is not a toy bunny serving imaginary sweets at a make-believe political tea party. The captain commands, but his whims do not. He answers to the nation.

And yet an aircraft carrier is more an example of what people can do than what government can’t. Scores of people are all over the flight deck during takeoffs and landings. They wear color-coded T-shirts–yellow for flight-directing, purple for fueling, blue for chocking and tying-down, red for weapon-loading, brown for I-know-not-what, and so on. These people can’t hear each other. They use hand signals. And, come night ops, they can’t do that. Really, they communicate by “training telepathy.” They have absorbed their responsibilities to the point that each knows exactly where to be and when and doing what.

These are supremely dangerous jobs. And most of the flight deck crew members are only 19 or 20. Indeed the whole ship is run by youngsters. The average age, officers and all, is about 24. “These are the same kids,” a chief petty officer said, “who, back on land, have their hats bumped to one side and their pants around their knees, hanging out on corners. And here they’re in charge of $35 million airplanes.”

The crew is in more danger than the pilots. If an arresting cable breaks–and they do–half a dozen young men and women could be sliced in half. When a plane crashes, a weapon malfunctions, or a fire breaks out, there’s no ejection seat for the flight deck crew. While we were on the Theodore Roosevelt a memorial service was held for a crew member who had been swept overboard. Would there have been an admiral and a captain of an aircraft carrier and hundreds of the bravest Americans at a memorial service for you when you were 20?

Supposedly the “youth vote” is all for Obama. But it’s John McCain who actually has put his life in the hands of adolescents on a carrier deck. Supposedly the “women’s vote” is . . . well, let’s not go too far with this. I can speak to John’s honor, duty, valor, patriotism, etc., but I’m not sure how well his self-discipline would have fared if he’d been on an aircraft carrier with more than 500 beautiful women sailors the way I was. At least John likes women, which is more than we can say about Hillary’s attitude toward, for instance, the women in Bill’s life, who at this point may constitute nearly the majority of the “women’s vote.”

These would have been interesting subjects to discuss with the Theodore Roosevelt shipmates, but time was up.

Back on the COD you’re buckled in and told to brace as if for a crash. Whereupon there is a crash. The catapult sends you squashed against your flight harness. And just when you think that everything inside your body is going to blow out your nose and navel, it’s over. You’re in steady, level flight.

A strange flight it is–from the hard and fast reality of a floating island to the fantasy world of American solid ground. In this never-never land a couple of tinhorn Second City shysters–who, put together, don’t have the life experience of the lowest ranking gob-with-a-swab cleaning a head on the Big Stick–presume to run for president of the United States. They’re not just running against the hero John McCain, they’re running against heroism itself and against almost everything about America that ought to be conserved.

I think PJ is getting a bit overenthusiastic about McCain, but he’s right enough on Hillary and Obama.

03 Mar 2008

Wasn’t There a Clue Here Somewhere?

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USS Benfold (DDG 65) Guided Missile Destroyer

If you are the US Navy, whom do you make a signalman on a destroyer going potentially into harm’s way in the Persian Gulf? Why Hassan Abu-Jihaad, of course!

But, I suppose, excluding someone from a high security assignment just because he has converted to Islam and was calling himself “father of Jihad” would be profiling, and we can’t possibly do anything so politically incorrect.


U.S. Navy commanders were wary as their ships headed to the Persian Gulf in the months after a terrorist ambush in 2000 killed 17 sailors aboard the USS Cole.

Passing the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow, busy shipping lane that often invited challenges from Iran, was never easy. Ship commanders decided to travel quickly at night after conducting a drill. Sailors took up machine gun positions and shut valves and hatches to limit damage in case of attack.

“We really weren’t sure what to expect,” said Lt. Commander Jay Wylie, who was on board the USS Benfold.

No one expected to find a threat from within.

But federal authorities say there was. A Benfold signalman, Hassan Abu-Jihaad, had provided suspected terrorist supporters in London with sensitive details of when U.S. ships would pass through the strait and their vulnerability to attack, prosecutors say.

Testimony last week in Abu-Jihaad’s trial has provided a window into the fears of top Navy officials after an explosives-laden boat rammed the Cole as it refueled in a Yemen harbor. It also revealed how heightened vigilance after Sept. 11 triggered an investigation that began in Connecticut and expanded to London before Abu-Jihaad and others were arrested.

Abu-Jihaad, 32, of Phoenix, has pleaded not guilty to federal charges alleging he provided material support to terrorists and disclosed classified national defense information.

Prosecutors rested their case Friday. Abu-Jihaad does not plan to take the stand Monday when his attorneys call one witness before closing arguments.

Abu-Jihaad, an American born Muslim convert, changed his name from Paul Hall in 1997. A year later, he was granted security clearance that gave him access to secrets, according to Navy officials.

Abu-Jihaad was one of the first sailors Petty Officer Josh Kelly met when he boarded the Benfold. Abu-Jihaad was chatty about where the ship was headed, Kelly says.

“We always wonder where we were going,” Kelly testified, noting the stress of life at sea.

But advance movements were a closely guarded secret. Dennis Amador, a quartermaster and Abu-Jihaad’s supervisor, told his wife where he was in code.

“We in the Navy are taught from the minute we come in that loose lips sink ships,” he said.

Those details were kept locked in a safe with a red sticker marked secret. But when the charts and travel plans were laid out, Abu-Jihaad could see them in his job as a signalman, Navy officials say.

The Benfold and other ships left San Diego in March 2001. Their first stop was Hawaii, where the sailors were treated to a luau feast.

As the ship headed toward the Middle East, Abu-Jihaad began to send e-mails to Azzam Publications, a Web site that authorities say provided money and equipment to terrorists.

While the Cole was the worst nightmare for commanders, Abu-Jihaad called it a martyrdom operation in one of his e-mails to Azzam and praised “the men who have brong (sic) honor … in the lands of jihad Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, etc.”

Abu-Jihaad signed the e-mail: “A brother serving a kuffar nation,” meaning nonbeliever or infidel, according to testimony. He also ordered graphic videos from Azzam that depicted Muslim fighters in Chechnya and Bosnia.

21 Feb 2008

Navy Missile Hits Falling Satellite

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A missile launched from a Navy ship successfully struck a dying U.S. spy satellite passing 130 miles over the Pacific on Wednesday, a defense official said. Full details were not immediately available.

It happened just after 10:30 p.m. EST.

Two officials said the missile was launched successfully. One official, who is close to the process, said it hit the target. He said details on the results were not immediately known.

The goal in this first-of-its-kind mission for the Navy was not just to hit the satellite but to obliterate a tank aboard the spacecraft carrying 1,000 pounds of a toxic fuel called hydrazine. …

Officials said it might take a day or longer to know for sure if the toxic fuel was blown up.

If Navy missiles can hit falling satellites, they can probably also hit descending ICBMs. Anybody else remember all the derisive hoots from the liberals about the absolute impossibility of developing a missile defense system? “Star Wars,” the establishment media labeled Ronald Reagan’s proposal derisively.

Well, today, it’s here, and it clearly works. So much for the wisdom of the liberals.

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