Thugs, Mobs And Education

The news this week has been dominated by the Lara Logan story. Ms. Logan was the subject of   the most popular post in FRI history which can be found here. Reactions to the news that Lara was subjected to “a brutal and sustained assault and beating” have cost at least one knucklehead his job when he tweeted dismissively about what exactly those seven words mean. We don’t know what happened to Ms. Logan that day and it will be up to Lara Logan to set the record straight which is what some in the media are calling on her to do. You can read another account of a woman from the international media covering the same story on the same day at the same time here.   As she points out she was lucky, she was scared and I doubt she will ever place herself in a similar position. Ms. Logan has my heartfelt sympathy as does every human victim of mob violence. The specifics of the assault aren’t interesting because there is nothing for us to learn from them. Large crowds celebrating the overthrow of a repressive government are inherently dangerous in all times and in all places. Reasonable people avoid them.

What gets my blood boiling about this story is that CBS sat on the story for five days and only released it when other news outlets were about to do the same. I have no idea why CBS sat on the story and suspect it has more to do with the report that the crowd was yelling “Jew, Jew, Jew” then any concerns for Ms. Logan’s privacy. CBS has an agenda and when confronted with facts running counter to that agenda it reacts like every rich, powerful, arrogant, liberal organization in the world; it ignores the story or spins the details.

Navy Commander Martin Sepulveda with Zarmina and her sister Sharifa. Zarmina who is 12 or 13 years old is the local school teacher
Navy Commander Martin Sepulveda with Zarmina and her sister Sharifa. Zarmina who is 12 or 13 years old is the local school teacher

Which brings us to the protests by the Wisconsin state teachers union. If you want to read some professional liberal spin on the topic here it is from CBS news. If you want the truth you need to hit the blogs; Wisconsin native Ann Althouse is a good place to start and you can find her blog here. The people of Wisconsin, after years of democratic fiscal insanity. decided to bring the adults back to power. The new Governor, Scott Walker, introduced a bill that will dismantle the 50 year-old collective bargaining agreement for public employee unions. It is not like he has any alternatives; every majority democratic state in the union and most of the European Union has the identical problem; gold plated obligations to state employees and no money to pay for them.

I find the reaction from the teachers unions, public employee unions, and state democratic representatives to be repugnant. The crowds descending on Madison behaved like a bunch of thugs which is in stark contrast to the Tea Party movement. I’ll leave the political commentary to others but I have to point something out about the American educational system. The vast majority of state teachers union members should be fired because they have clearly failed to provide an education to our children. I’ll let Mark Styen make the point:

I think if you had to name one institution, which is probably the biggest structural defect in Western societies right now, and the one that places the biggest question mark over the future of Western civilization, if there was one institution you needed to take apart, it would be the education system.

There is no education system in Afghanistan but there are millions of kids who dream of becoming literate. So let me tell you a remarkable story about a little girl with an aptitude for languages and a desire to better herself and her   community through education.

Sgt Barbra Rangel, Zarmina and
Cpl Jessica Costilla, Zarmina, Sgt Barbra Rangel, and Sharifa

The Marines have built a school in Naw Zad but there are no female teachers in the area. The local people want their daughters to receive an education so a brave little girl has stepped in to fill the gap. Every evening at 1900 hours (7:00 pm) Zarmina’s father brings her and her sister to the Marine combat outpost and drops her off with the Female Engagement Team (FET). They spend an hour or so going over a reading, writing or a math lesson and the next day Zarmina teaches those lessons to other girls in Naw Zad.

I asked Zarmina’s father if I could put her picture and story in the blog and he proudly granted permission. Zarmina and her family are all in. The Marines came here; drove the Taliban out and told the people they will protect them for as long as it takes to bring lasting peace. If we pull out early the fate which awaits Zarmina and those like her from the Taliban is too horrible to contemplate. It will make whatever the mob in Egypt inflicted on Lara Logan seem tame in comparison. Zarmina and her sister have bet everything on the Americans seeing this through to the bitter end. The Marines are game – they won’t quit but they don’t have a vote in how this turns out. It is politicians like those in Wisconsin who abandoned their posts to thwart the will of the people who will decide if we stay or go. Recent history regarding peoples in war torn lands who have bet their lives on America sustaining her commitment to them is not positive. The odds are Zarmina and her father bet on the wrong side.

If you believe in prayer send a few extra ones topside for Zarmina and the children of Afghanistan. With friends like us those kids are going need all the help they can get.

Naw Zad

I just did something today which would have been suicidal 10 months ago. My colleague Little Mac and I, in the company of a Marine tank officer and Naval surface warfare officer (he’s a fires guy by trade) just strolled around the town of Naw Zad with no body armor, no helmets, no riflemen escorting us, munching on local bread and handing out candy to the kids. We are safer here than we would be in downtown Chicago. Naw Zad was once the third largest populated area in the province. By 2007 the civilian population had fled the area and there was nobody here except bad guys and a few hard pressed British and Estonian infantrymen.

This was the main street of Naw Zad bazaar a year ago. Offical USMC photo
This was the main street of Naw Zad bazaar a year ago. Official USMC photo


Naw Zad bazaar today

Fox company 2nd Battalion 7th Marines (Fox 2/7) arrived in Naw Zad to reinforce the Brits in late 2008 and were able to expand the security bubble but not by much.   The Brits, Estonians and Marines fought side by side to expel the Taliban from this fertile valley but were hampered by restrictive ROE pushed down from on high by senior officers in Kabul who lacked common sense and experience at counterinsurgency warfare. The Marines and their allies lost a lot of men because they did not have the mass or firepower to do the job correctly.   Way back then there was a lone voice in the blogsphere pleading with all who would listen to free up the combat power and let the Marines in Naw Zad fight.   His name is Herschel Smith and his posts at the Captains Journal can be found here.   It is worth your time to read them all.

Another view of the Naw Zad bazaar today

In the   summer of 2009 the U.S. Marines had deployed the 2nd Expeditionary Brigade to Afghanistan and their first move was to clear out Naw Zad and the surrounding hamlets of all Taliban. The 2nd MEB was commanded by BGen Larry Nicholson who I was fortunate to serve with as a young Lieutenant back in the 80’s. He had his own Tac Air, his own artillery, his own rotary wing transport and gunships and he had his own ideas about how to fight.  He didn’t have to go to the powers that be in Kabul or Kandahar because he didn’t need anything from them. He seeded the high ground overlooking the rat lines running into Naw Zad with sniper and recon teams in June. They immediately started collecting scalps and then on 2 July 2009 he launched Operation Khanjar dropping 2000 grunts onto Naw Zad and the surrounding villages to finish the Taliban off. The Taliban reacted as they always do when faced with superior forces – they broke contact and ran…into the sniper teams.

Fighting in the town of Naw Zad and its adjacent hamlets is long over. The Taliban can’t muster the manpower or firepower required to drive the Marines out so we are now deep into the “hold & build” stage of the operation and it is slow going. Every brick, piece of steel, bag of cement and all hand tools have to be trucked in from Camp Bastion or Lashkar Gah. My old battalion 1/8 has has deployed a rifle company (C 1/8)   to Naw Zad for the past six months facilitating the hold and build while expanding the zone of safety further into the hinterlands. Actually the rifle company headquarters is based here with what looks like a platoon or so in the district center proper. The three rifle platoons are working areas to the north and southeast.

The Dahanah Pass which is around 5 kilometers to the south. The ANP/Marine outpost on the left hand finger was in contact when I took this picture. It was a typical Taliban nusciance attack - they still really suck at fighting but they are getting better with the IEDs
The Dahaneh Pass which is around 5 kilometers to the southeast of Naw Zad. The ANP/Marine outpost on the left hand finger was in contact when I took this picture. It was a typical Taliban nuisance attack – they still really suck at fighting but they are getting better at planting IEDs

The roads to the south of Dahaneh are controlled by the Taliban. They cannot stand and fight the Marines like they do the army in the east because there aren’t enough of them, the terrain doesn’t facilitate ambushes, and they can’t run to Pakistan for sanctuary. So they use IED’s… a lot of IED’s which, as IED’s do in Afghanistan, strike disproportionately against the civilian population. In order to get building material into the valley local truckers insist on being escorted by Marines. The Marines know the Taliban are going to plant IED’s and they literally walk the convoys into the valley. The 65 kilometer trip from Bastion to Naw Zad takes two days; most of that time is spent waiting for the engineers to blow IED’s which have been seeded ahead of them.

In 6 months the Marines have lost 3 MRAP's but no men to IED's
In 6 months C1/8 has lost 3 MRAP’s but no men to IED’s


50% of the IED's made by the Taliban fail to function or blow up at some point in the deployment cycle. One metric of success for the Marines is the number of them which are pointed out or dug up and turned into the Marines. They are not paying money for these and each morning at the District Governors compound IED's are turned into the Marines for destruction
50% of the IED’s made by the Taliban fail to function or blow up at some point in the deployment cycle. The remaining 50% go into the ground.   One metric of success for the Marines is the number of them which are pointed out or dug up and turned in to the Marines. They are not paying money for these but still each morning at the District Governors compound IED’s are turned into the Marines for destruction

The villains have deployed countless numbers of IED’s targeting the Marines of 1/8. Only three of them scored hits but none have resulted in a fatality.   One can only wish IED’s were so ineffective in other areas of Helmand Province.   The Naw Zad area has been cleared; the hold and build underway. The Marines who are here would like to be somewhere else – preferably a place where the Taliban will stand and fight them.  Infantry Marines, even after ten years of constant deployment, still hunger for a good fight.   But that is not to be for 1/8 as they are stuck in place to do the hold and build. There was a time when Marines were dying here and there needed to be a lot more thrown into the fight. Now Marines are fighting and dying in other places like Sangin and they need more of their brother devil dogs to back them up.  Now many of the folks I correspond with are starting to see what I was talking about when I opined that you need a hold and build force working directly for the ground commander. This is where contractors can save money, time and lives by freeing up the gunfighters to do what they do best. Kill villains, protect the innocent, and unmask the evil who prey upon the population.

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