Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 9 Comments

Next City: In a war, anything can be a weapon. In a particularly ruthless war, such as the conflict that has been raging in Syria for more than three years, those weapons are often turned against civilians, making any semblance of normal life impossible. Such is the case, experts say, with the way the nation’s water supply is being manipulated to inflict suffering on the population. According to an article posted by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, water…… [read more]

Replacing Kenneth Melson At ATF Is Not Enough

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

According to the WSJ, acting director Kenneth Melson’s head may be on the chopping block over the AFT gunrunner scandal.

The Justice Department is expected to oust the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, according to people familiar with the matter, amid a troubled federal antitrafficking operation that has grown into the agency’s biggest scandal in nearly two decades.

Moves toward the replacement of Kenneth Melson, acting ATF director since April 2009, could begin next week, although the precise sequence of events remains to be decided, these people said.

The shakeup shows the extent of the political damage caused by the gun-trafficking operation called Fast and Furious, which used tactics that allowed suspected smugglers to buy large numbers of firearms. Growing controversy over the program has paralyzed a long-beleaguered agency buffeted by partisan battles. The ATF has been without a Senate-confirmed director since 2006, with both the Bush and Obama administrations unable to overcome opposition from gun-rights groups to win approval of nominees.

In November, President Barack Obama nominated Andrew Traver, the head of the ATF’s Chicago office, as permanent ATF director. The nomination stalled in the Senate after the National Rifle Association said Mr. Traver had a “demonstrated hostility” to the rights of gun owners.

Mr. Traver is set to travel to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the people said. The administration is weighing whether to name Mr. Traver as acting director or choose another interim chief while awaiting Senate action on his nomination, they said.

The administration is attempting to handle three issues with one move.  First, the Obama administration is attempting to salvage what it can from the horribly failed project gunrunner and throw out a sacrificial lamb to the Congress.  We all know this.  Second, they are attempting to conduct another battlefield ruse.  This is merely a flanking action designed to help stop the Congressional frontal assault on the administration and justice department.  The WSJ article quotes Jim Carney again denying that Mr. Obama knew anything about the project.  But there is indication that there was understanding and approval not only from the justice department but also from the White House.  How high does the knowledge go?  Who knew about this in the White House, and when did s/he know it?  A special prosecutor is needed to flesh out these details.  It simply isn’t acceptable to throw Kenneth Melson under the bus and walk away from this.  Accountability must start at the very top and go to the very bottom of the chain of command on this.

Third – and perhaps more significant than any of these goals – the administration sees this as a timely opportunity to slip in Andrew Traver to the ATF.  Andrew Traver’s views are extreme, and he even wants the Centers for Disease Control to have oversight of the firearms industry.  If the administration cannot get what they wanted out of gunrunner, they intend to install someone else even more anti-firearm than Melson at the head of ATF.  Not only is there no repentance for sins committed, there isn’t even the hint of an attempt to change.  Several dead ATF agents and Mexican authorities, Melson thrown under the bus, a Congressional investigation, international embarrassment, and firearms flooding Mexico from this whole ugly affair – they are all just a few “broken eggs” for real change this administration intends to bring.

Prior:

The Deepening Project Gunrunner Scandal

Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse on Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

The Deepening Project Gunrunner Scandal

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

The laser focus of a Congressional investigation is deepening the Obama administration gunrunner scandal.  From The Los Angeles Times:

Mexican officials now believe that at least 150 Mexicans have been killed or wounded with guns smuggled in the operation, code-named Fast and Furious. Less understood is what happened to guns that slipped into the hands of suspected criminals in the U.S.

By the ATF’s own estimates, at least 372 guns sold to suspect purchasers have been recovered in Arizona and Texas, mainly at crime scenes. ATF Agent John Dodson has estimated that about a third of the guns sold as part of the operation remained in the U.S.

“These firearms will continue to turn up at crime scenes on both sides of the border for years to come,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which heard testimony from disgruntled ATF agents, the Justice Department and the family of former Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who died in a December shootout with Mexican bandits in southern Arizona. Two weapons sold under the operation, run out of the Phoenix ATF office, were found at the scene of the shootout.

Faced with the agents’ testimony, Assistant Atty. Gen. Ronald Weich backtracked on a letter he wrote in February asserting that “the allegation … that ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico is false.”

“Obviously, there have been allegations that call into serious question that particular letter … [although] everything we say is true to the best of our knowledge at the time we say it,” Weich told the committee. “Some of the testimony that was provided today is of great concern to the Justice Department,” he added. “We share the committee’s interest in getting to the bottom of these allegations.”

A series of emails released as part of the hearing show that acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson and deputy Bill Hoover were getting weekly briefings on the operation. Melson also had requested and been supplied with log-in information that would allow him to monitor the video surveillance of an Arizona gun dealership supplying weapons under the ATF’s watch.

“With this information … Melson was able to sit at his desk in Washington and, himself, watch a live feed of the straw buyers entering the gun stores to purchase dozens of AK-47 variants,” Issa’s office said in a statement accompanying the emails.

“Every agent from outside of the Phoenix field division, sir, as well as many in it, as soon as they came in, were appalled as soon as they learned” about the operation, Dodson said.

The documents to which Weich refers can be found here, and demonstrate conclusively that acting director Melson knew about and approved of the program.  But in sworn testimony, the counsel for the ATF has now said before a Congressional investigation that these revelations “call into question that particular letter,” referring to his letter of denial.

No lawyer wants to be in this position, but the ATF hung him out to dry.  The ATF wasn’t honest with him, and sent him out to deflect criticism with material false information.  This is not a trivial matter.

The scandal is deepening, and even the counsel for the ATF can’t defend their position any longer.  The acting director apparently knew about and approved of the program, a program that knowingly and intentionally violated federal laws.  The regulators can no more violate laws than can ordinary citizens, and this video seems to support Dodson’s testimony that other agents, when they found out about the program, were appalled.  And the following testimony conclusively demonstrates that the ATF knew that the weapons would be involved in multiple crimes before being retaken by the ATF.

With the highest levels of the administration being aware of the program, there is obviously criminal intent and prosecutable activity.  It’s time for a special prosecutor.

Mark Steyn and the Perfect Summary of 21st Century American Frustration

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 4 months ago

For anyone who is not acquainted with the work of Mark Steyn, you have an awful lot of catching up to do on a treasure trove of witty, insightful and provocative reading.

I have been a huge fan of Steyn for years but this piece, originally appearing in National Review, is, perhaps, his best, at least in regards to the current predicament of America in the 21st Century.

What predicament?

For any American who is knowledgeable about the extraordinary capabilities of the U.S. military, it is a constant source of frustration to contemplate the consistently mediocre results we get from employing those forces.   It is a classic case of underpeformance.   It is like, well, the Miami Heat:  stocked with arguably the NBA’s best talent, they cannot manage to roll over the Dallas Mavericks in the recent NBA championship series.    This was the team that was supposed to dominate like the Chicago Bulls of the Michael Jordan era.

But, to be fair to the Miami Heat, this is a poor analogy.   A more accurate one would be to imagine the College Football National Champion Auburn Tigers going up against the Rec League, Ellicott City Patriots B-Team.  Comprised of 11-year olds.   That’s how stark the difference is between the U.S. military and the kind of adversaries we have been going up against since the end of World War II.  When the Auburn Tigers can’t seem to put away the Patriots’ B-Team and it is dragging into overtime and a possible tie-game, the Auburn fans are understandably frustrated.

Or as Steyn puts it:

Why can’t America win wars? It’s been two-thirds of a century since we saw (as President Obama vividly put it) “Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.” And, if that’s not quite how you remember it, forget the formal guest list, forget the long-form surrender certificate, and try to think of “winning” in a more basic sense.

After summarizing Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, he remarks:

According to partisan taste, one can blame the trio of current morasses on Bush or Obama, but in the bigger picture they’re part of a pattern of behavior that predates either man, stretching back through non-victories great and small — Somalia, Gulf War One, Vietnam, Korea. On the more conclusive side of the ledger, we have . . . well, lemme see: Grenada, 1983. And, given that that was a bit of post-colonial housekeeping Britain should have taken care of but declined to, one could argue that even that lone bright spot supports a broader narrative of Western enfeeblement. At any rate, America’s only unambiguous military triumph since 1945 is a small Caribbean island with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. For 43 percent of global military expenditure, that’s not much bang for the buck.

Inconclusive interventionism has consequences. Korea led to Norks with nukes. The downed helicopters in the Iranian desert led to mullahs with nukes. Gulf War One led to Gulf War Two. Somalia led to 9/11. Vietnam led to everything, in the sense that its trauma penetrated so deep into the American psyche that it corroded the ability to think clearly about war as a tool of national purpose.

Steyn exactly identifies the source of the problem.   It is not that our military is incapable of decisive victory, the problem lies with our national leadership.  To return to the sports analogy, it is as if the Auburn coaches decided that it would not look good to grind those 11-year olds into the dirt, so the Tigers go to unbelievable lengths to not win but not lose either. That may be fine when it is simply a game of  football, but when it involves a deadly contest where Americans are being killed or maimed, handicapping yourself in such a way is criminal.   Or as Steyn puts it:

But in the nuclear age, all-out war — war with real nations, with serious militaries — was too terrible to contemplate, so even in proxy squabbles in Third World backwaters the overriding concern was to tamp things down, even at the price of victory. And, by the time the Cold War ended, such thinking had become ingrained. A U.S.–Soviet nuclear standoff of mutual deterrence decayed into a unipolar world of U.S. auto-deterrence. Were it not for the brave passengers of Flight 93 and the vagaries of the Oval Office social calendar, the fourth plane on 9/11 might have succeeded in hitting the White House, decapitating the regime, leaving a smoking ruin in the heart of the capital and delivering the republic unto a Robert C. Byrd administration or some other whimsy of presidential succession. Yet, in allowing his toxic backwater to be used as the launch pad for the deadliest foreign assault on the U.S. mainland in two centuries, Mullah Omar either discounted the possibility of total devastating destruction against his country, or didn’t care.

If it was the former, he was surely right. After the battle of Omdurman, Hilaire Belloc offered a pithy summation of technological advantage:

Whatever happens
We have got
The Maxim gun
And they have not.

But suppose they know you’ll never use the Maxim gun? At a certain level, credible deterrence depends on a credible enemy. The Soviet Union disintegrated, but the surviving superpower’s instinct to de-escalate intensified: In Kirkuk as in Kandahar, every Lilliputian warlord quickly grasped that you could provoke the infidel Gulliver with relative impunity. Mutually Assured Destruction had curdled into Massively Applied Desultoriness.

Here I part company somewhat from my National Review colleagues who are concerned about inevitable cuts to the defense budget. Clearly, if one nation is responsible for near half the world’s military budget, a lot of others aren’t pulling their weight. The Pentagon outspends the Chinese, British, French, Russian, Japanese, German, Saudi, Indian, Italian, South Korean, Brazilian, Canadian, Australian, Spanish, Turkish, and Israeli militaries combined. So why doesn’t it feel like that?

Well, for exactly that reason: If you outspend every serious rival combined, you’re obviously something other than the soldiery of a conventional nation state. But what exactly? In the Nineties, the French liked to complain that “globalization” was a euphemism for “Americanization.” But one can just as easily invert the formulation: “Americanization” is a euphemism for “globalization,” in which the geopolitical sugar daddy is so busy picking up the tab for the global order he loses all sense of national interest. Just as Hollywood now makes films for the world, so the Pentagon now makes war for the world. Readers will be wearily familiar with the tendency of long-established pop-culture icons to go all transnational on us: Only the other week Superman took to the podium of the U.N. to renounce his U.S. citizenship on the grounds that “truth, justice, and the American way” no longer does it for him. My favorite in recent years was the attempted reinvention of good ol’ G.I. Joe as a Brussels-based multilateral acronym — the Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity. I believe they’re running the Libyan operation.

This is it precisely.   The U.S. has, for whatever reason, decided that winning is unacceptable.  This is Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign stating that he does not like to use the word victory.   For all practical purposes, the U.S. has unilaterally disarmed.  Sure, we still have all those weapons and sophisticated arsenals of death lying around, and we may parade them about and fly them over the heads of Taliban fighters to try to put a good scare into them, but we have decided that actually using those weapons in the way that they were designed to be used, in the national interest of the U.S., is unacceptable.

Instead, Steyn points out, the U.S. has given in to what he terms, “Transnational do-gooding.”

Transnational do-gooding is political correctness on tour. It takes the relativist assumptions of the multiculti varsity and applies them geopolitically: The white man’s burden meets liberal guilt. No wealthy developed nation should have a national interest, because a national interest is a selfish interest. Afghanistan started out selfishly — a daringly original military campaign, brilliantly executed, to remove your enemies from power and kill as many of the bad guys as possible. Then America sobered up and gradually brought a freakish exception into compliance with the rule. In Libya as in Kosovo, war is legitimate only if you have no conceivable national interest in whatever conflict you’re fighting. The fact that you have no stake in it justifies your getting into it. The principal rationale is that there’s no rationale, and who could object to that? Applied globally, political correctness obliges us to forswear sovereignty. And, once you do that, then, as Country Joe and the Fish famously enquired, it’s one-two-three, what are we fighting for?

When you’re responsible for half the planet’s military spending, and 80 percent of its military R&D, certain things can be said with confidence: No one is going to get into a nuclear war with the United States, or a large-scale tank battle, or even a dogfight. You’re the Microsoft, the Standard Oil of conventional warfare: Were they interested in competing in this field, second-tier military powers would probably have filed an antitrust suit with the Department of Justice by now. When you’re the only guy in town with a tennis racket, don’t be surprised if no one wants to join you on center court — or that provocateurs look for other fields on which to play. In the early stages of this century’s wars, IEDs were detonated by cell phones and even garage-door openers. So the Pentagon jammed them. The enemy downgraded to more primitive detonators: You can’t jam string. Last year, it was reported that the Taliban had developed metal-free IEDs, which made them all but undetectable: Instead of two hacksaw blades and artillery shells, they began using graphite blades and ammonium nitrate. If you’ve got uniformed infantrymen and tanks and battleships and jet fighters, you’re too weak to take on the hyperpower. But, if you’ve got illiterate goatherds with string and hacksaws and fertilizer, you can tie him down for a decade. An IED is an “improvised” explosive device. Can we still improvise? Or does the planet’s most lavishly funded military assume it has the luxury of declining to adapt to the world it’s living in?

In the spring of 2003, on the deserted highway between the Jordanian border and the town of Rutba, I came across my first burnt-out Iraqi tank — a charred wreck shoved over to the shoulder. I parked, walked around it, and pondered the fate of the men inside. It seemed somehow pathetic that, facing invasion by the United States, these Iraqi conscripts had even bothered to climb in and point the thing to wherever they were heading when death rained down from the stars, or Diego Garcia, or Missouri. Yet even then I remembered the words of the great strategist of armored warfare, Basil Liddell Hart: “The destruction of the enemy’s armed forces is but a means — and not necessarily an inevitable or infallible one — to the attainment of the real objective.” The object of war, wrote Liddell Hart, is not to destroy the enemy’s tanks but to destroy his will.

Instead, America has fallen for the Thomas Friedman thesis, promulgated by the New York Times’ great thinker in January 2002: “For all the talk about the vaunted Afghan fighters, this was a war between the Jetsons and the Flintstones — and the Jetsons won and the Flintstones know it.”

But they didn’t. They didn’t know they were beaten. Because they weren’t. Because we hadn’t destroyed their will — as we did to the Germans and Japanese two-thirds of a century ago, and as we surely would not do if we were fighting World War II today. That’s not an argument for nuking or carpet bombing, so much as for cool clear-sightedness. Asked how he would react if the British army invaded Germany, Bismarck said he would dispatch the local police force to arrest them: a clever Teuton sneer at the modest size of Her Britannic Majesty’s forces. But that’s the point: The British accomplished much with little; at the height of empire, an insignificant number of Anglo-Celts controlled the entire Indian subcontinent. A confident culture can dominate far larger numbers of people, as England did for much of modern history. By contrast, in an era of Massively Applied Desultoriness, we spend a fortune going to war with one hand tied behind our back. The Forty-Three Percent Global Operating Industrial Military Complex isn’t too big to fail, but it is perhaps too big to win — as our enemies understand.

So on we stagger, with Cold War institutions, transnational sensibilities, politically correct solicitousness, fraudulent preening pseudo–nation building, expensive gizmos, little will, and no war aims . . . but real American lives. “These Colors Don’t Run,” says the T-shirt. But, bereft of national purpose, they bleed away to a grey blur on a distant horizon. Sixty-six years after V-J Day, the American way of war needs top-to-toe reinvention.

The worst news, however, is that we are such a divided nation in our sense of national purpose that I do not see any way that “the American way of war” will get anything like a “reinvention” as Steyn prescribes.   The American people are living in a fantasy world where we can continue to lavish entitlement spending on ourselves (and heap more on top of that with Obamacare) while contemplating a substantially reduced military, as if evil does not exist and America will never be threatened (and anyone who raises that specter is simply trying to scare the public for the benefit of the military-industrial complex).

But we know how these things end.    The Dot Com Bubble was created by the fantasy that internet companies with no revenues were, nonetheless, worth ridiculous share prices.   That Bubble burst.    The Housing Bubble grew from the fantasy that trillions of dollars could be lent to persons with bad credit and little prospect for repayment.   That Bubble burst.    The current fantasy about the nature of the world and America’s invulnerability will end, too.   And when it does we will finally regain the will to win.   I pray that we will still have the means.

Alcohol Use and Gun Ownership

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

A researcher at UC Davis thinks he has found a correlation between alcohol use and gun ownership.

Gun owners who carry concealed weapons or have confronted another person with a gun are more than twice as likely to drink heavily as people who do not own guns, according to a study by UC Davis researchers.

Binge drinking, chronic heavy alcohol use, and drinking and driving were all more common among gun owners generally than among non-owners, even after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, race, and state of residence.

But alcohol abuse was most common among firearm owners who participated in gun-related behaviors that carry a risk of violence, which also included having a loaded, unlocked firearm in the home and driving or riding in a vehicle with a loaded firearm.

The UC Davis study, which appears online in the journal Injury Prevention, analyzed telephone survey results for more than 15,000 people in eight states. The highest levels of alcohol abuse were reported by gun owners who engaged in dangerous behavior with their weapons. For example, gun owners who also drove or rode in motor vehicles with loaded guns were more than four times as likely to drink and drive as were people who did not own guns. But gun owners who did not travel with loaded guns were still more than twice as likely to drink and drive as were people who did not own guns.

“It’s not surprising that risky behaviors go together,” said Garen J. Wintemute, author of the study and director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. “This is of particular concern given that alcohol intoxication also impairs a gun user’s accuracy as well as his judgment on whether to shoot.”

Wintemute, a professor of emergency medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine and one of the world’s foremost experts on gun-related violence, analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Study data on firearms ownership and alcohol use came from telephone interviews done in 1996 and 1997 with people in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota and Ohio. Participants were asked if they owned a gun, as well as if they engaged in specific firearm-related behaviors. Respondents also were asked about their consumption of alcohol, including whether they have had five or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion; if they drove after consuming “perhaps too much” alcohol; or if they had 60 or more drinks per month.

The article suggests several reasons why dangerous behavior involving alcohol and firearms might be linked. Drinking can impair judgment and lead people to use firearms in ways that they would otherwise avoid. Alternatively, underlying personality traits, such as impulsiveness or an inclination to take risks, could lead to an increase in dangerous behavior involving alcohol and guns.

It’s difficult to know with precision how many gun owners there are in America and how many guns they own.  But estimates are that there are somewhere between 60 and 80 million gun owners, and they own more than 250 million firearms.  Gun ownership can virtually be correlated with anything.  Certainly, respondents wouldn’t have intentionally mislead researchers, now would they?

However, here’s a challenge for Mr. Garen J Wintemute.  Send me the raw data (and the calculations) and I will perform a battery of statistical tests on it, including a determination of whether the scores even pass the central limit theorem.  Care to take the challenge?

In the mean time, since we are all concerned about mitigating risk, perhaps the doctor or the CDC could tell us about their plans mitigate the 200,000 deaths per year caused by medical errors?

Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse on Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

Background

We all know about Project Gunrunner, as it is formally called by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).  We also know about the scandal it has been and is steadily becoming, with Congressional hearings pending and the bureau still stonewalling and using delaying tactics over Congressional inquiries.  We don’t know yet what will come of the hearings, but the BATFE and administration support troops have tipped their hand concerning their strategy.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer and Sheldon Whitehouse have issued a report entitled Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico.  Within a few days of releasing this study, The Washington Post and CNN parroted the talking points in respective articles.  The study itself is as remarkable for the misrepresentation of the facts concerning firearms trafficking to Mexico as it is for its recommendations for statutory remedies.

Analysis & Commentary

Before discussing the Feinstein recommendations it’s necessary to rehearse the demolition that Scott Stewart at STRATFOR performed of the myth that 90% of the weapons seized in Mexico were of American origin.

For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels, and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.

In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.

Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.

As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).

According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.

This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.

The most recent data that Feinstein cites, given to her by the BATFE, makes the same observation of the data, and that, by acting director Kenneth Melson.

There are no United States Government sources that maintain any record of the total number of criminal firearms seized in Mexico.  ATF reports relate only to firearms recovered in Mexico that were subsequently traced by ATF based upon firearms identifiers submitted to ATF by the Mexican government.  The Mexican government does not submit every recorded firearm to ATF for tracing …

Which point therefore makes the conclusions one can draw from the data very limited.  But that’s not how the Feinstein report paints the picture.  Right in the background statement, we read that “In a June 2009 report, the Government Accountability Office stated that around 87% of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced over the previous five years originated in the United States.”  The Washington Post was quick to pick up on the deconstructed meme, saying that “Of the 29,284 firearms recovered by authorities in Mexico in 2009 and 2010, 20,504 came from the United States, according to figures provided to the senators by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”  This is clearly not factually correct, as many more firearms were seized by the Mexican authorities than 29,284.

In testimony to the dictum that if you repeat a lie enough times it will eventually be taken as truth, the 90% myth is now mainstream, and I have called out The St. Petersburg Times for relying on the myth for their editorials (with no response).  Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse must be relying on the same dictum, because their wish list of increased firearms control measures is so expansive and draconian that it seems ridiculous to have connected all of this to a single effort.  The senators recommend:

  1. Closing the so-called gun show loophole in the laws.
  2. Redoubling efforts to enforce an import ban on weapons that fall into the category of military style weapons (e.g., with features such as pistol grip, forend grip, rails for tactical lights, high capacity magazines, etc.).  I have previously covered and commented on this ATF effort for shotguns.
  3. Reinstating the assault weapons ban.
  4. Multiple sales reporting to the federal government.
  5. Ratification of the The Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking of Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials (CIFTA).

And the justification for all of this?  Earlier in the report, Feinstein and staff discuss the laudable job that the ATF did with project gunrunner, but lament the fact that it alone cannot curb the trafficking of firearms to Mexico.

And now the loyal troops tip their hands.  To be sure, for a progressive, any increase in the power of government is a good thing.  All societal problems stem from a lack of regulation and oversight, all evil has its solution in more laws.  So the senators (and the administration) want what they can get out of this effort, if anything.  But something in the wind is foul.

With the coming Congressional investigations of project gunrunner and the illegality and inappropriateness of such a program, the administration and its troops see vulnerability.  Senators Feinstein, Schumer and Whitehouse are snipers picking at the advancing Congressional column with enfilade fire.  This effort is likely a decoy, a hastily designed effort to squeeze what they can from the failed gunrunner project, protect their flanks and split the advancing column.

Second amendment advocates must be diligent, and Senator Feinstein’s efforts should be monitored, analyzed and opposed.  But the real purpose of this report and its recommendations is to be a battlefield ruse.  With its lack of substantiation of the data, the lack of a basis for the recommendations, and the lack of analysis of the information, it’s as much of an admission of vulnerability and culpability as it is a last gasp effort to deny second amendment rights to American citizens.

Prior:

Project Gunrunner: White House and DoJ Knowledge and Oversight

Analysis of ATF Study on the Importability of Certain Shotguns

Legislation on High Capacity Magazines

Cost Cutting Ideas for the Federal Government

When It Comes to Pakistan, We Just Can’t Handle the Truth

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 4 months ago

Here is yet another example of the now infamous double-game being played by Pakistan, our so-called ally in the war against Islamic fundamentalism:

Twice in the last few weeks, US intelligence officials have provided the Pakistanis with the coordinates of bomb factories in the rugged tribal region of Waziristan, on the Afghan border — only to see the info leak to the enemy, who evacuated the sites before the Pakistani military arrived.

***

Incoming Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Pakistan Friday to discuss “rebuilding” the Pakistan-US relationship, and reportedly confronted his hosts with the evidence that they’d tipped off the Taliban about the bomb sites.

This is just getting tiresome beyond words.

Is it even worth keeping score any longer?  Why does the U.S. continue to allow the Pakistanis to get away with this kind of thing?

There is only one reason I can find: we just can’t face the consequences of putting the screws to Pakistan.

The Obama Administration is afraid that even a hint or threat of even reduced aid will push the Pakistanis over the edge and into the arms of the Islamofascists.   Which is to say that Pakistan would openly embrace the terrorists rather than just discreetly.

As the Captain pointed out years ago, if the U.S. had any strategic sense, it would have developed alternative logistical routes to Afghanistan that did not depend upon Pakistan.   As it is, we are precariously reliant upon the Pakistanis keeping the land route open for the bulk of supplies coming into Afghanistan.

Other than having to find a new route to keep the campaign supplied, the other consequence of denying aid to Pakistan would be the loss of what little presence Pakistan still allows to CIA operatives who help to track down and target terrorists inside Pakistan.  Is this limited capability so vitally important that we are willing to fund a government that actively works against us as much as it does with us?  Given the increasing restrictions placed on operations within Pakistan, it is doubtful that the gains at this point are worth the losses.   Would a drone strike from a CIA base in Pakistan really have much of an effect on the Afghan Campaign?   If the death of Bin Laden made no impact, what would?

Then there is the benefit of clarity.   Having Pakistan as a declared enemy in the Afghan Campaign would certainly not be welcome, but at least the U.S. could take actions in the porous border areas that it cannot with an “ally” that acts like an enemy.   Clarity can be a wonderful thing.   Ambiguity in this regard has left us in strategic knots, knowing where the Taliban are getting re-supplied and trained but unable to effectively do anything about it.

Finally, the U.S. may have far more to gain by cutting Pakistan loose and allying closely with India.  As it is, the U.S. must temper its cooperation and policies with India due to Pakistani sensitivities.   If Pakistan is determined to act like a rogue state, then the U.S. is far better off developing closer ties to India, not only in regard to Afghanistan (where India could become a major player and partner) but also as a strategic counterweight to China and Russia.

It is high time for Pakistan to decide whether it belongs to civilization or to the barbarians.  By the same token, it is high time that the U.S. faced up to the hard truth:  Pakistan, for whatever reason, is not willing to remove the terror bases from their territory and must be treated accordingly.

Cost Cutting Ideas for the Federal Government

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

There has been much consternation over proposed cost cutting and the pain it will bring to the American people.  But just to show how easy this could all be, I’ll give four cost cutting ideas right out of the gate.

First, defund the Department of Education law enforcement division.  They can turn to the FBI, state or local law enforcement to effect arrests.  The objection that local law enforcement has no authority to enforce federal laws is a red herring.  They can always arrest people who are the subject of a warrant.  And the Department of Education certainly doesn’t need a SWAT team.

Next, defund and disband the BATFE.  An agency that spends its time figuring out ways to prevent the importation of shotguns because they have a pistol grip is certainly a candidate for pink slips.  Giving people too much time and money to misbehave can create things like the gunrunner scandal.

Next, disband and defund the TSA and contract airport security to private companies.  We’ve covered the ineptitude of the TSA before, but it seems that every day is a new adventure in idiocy.

A Detroit father said agents with the Transportation Security Administration singled out his special-needs son for a pat-down while the family was headed to Disney World, MyFoxDetroit.com reported, an incident that the TSA admitted was a “case of bad judgment.”

David Mandy said agents at Detroit Metro Airport took his son Drew, 29, and asked him about the padding underneath his pants, which turned out to be adult diapers. Drew, who is severely mentally disabled, had trouble understanding the agents’ orders because his family said he has the mental capacity of a 2-year-old.

When the father tried to intervene and explain Drew’s disability, he said the two agents said, “Please, sir, we know what we’re doing.”

The agents confiscated a six-inch plastic hammer, something Drew had carried with him for 20 years for comfort. Agents called it a security threat, his father said, adding that they tapped the wall with it and said, “See, it’s hard. It could be used as a weapon.”

The family was told they’d have to ship the hammer if they wanted to keep it, David Mandy said.

As I observed when the TSA was caught groping a little girl:

Folks I have pointed this out before, but it stands repeating just so that everyone is aware of the facts.  As anyone is aware who has access to highly secure facilities, the practice you just watched has no positive consequence on security.  It adds nothing.  In fact, it detracts from security because it encourages rubes and morons to believe that something positive is occurring to enhance their safety and security.  The whole process is a farce – a lie.

Security can be achieved by X-Ray machines (used in airports), metal detectors (used in airports), luggage searches (used in airports), and explosive trace detection portals (not used in airports).  The most effective way to ensure real security is to fire people like the one you just watched groping the little girl and purchase detection portals.  But we would only do that if we cared about security rather than jobs programs.

Finally, terminate the support for the dope-smoking, menstruating monkey study which got $3.6 million in tax dollars.

So there you have it.  Four ideas that could save money.  In decreasing order of obvious waste:  (1) Department of Education SWAT teams, (2) the BATFE, (3) the TSA, and (4) dope-smoking, menstruating monkeys (which I think are more essential than the Department of Education, the BATFE and the TSA combined).

The Horrible, Horrible Afghan National Army

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

From The Boston Globe:

As one of the deadliest battles of the war in Afghanistan raged, Afghan soldiers ran, hid, and even stole personal items from the American soldiers fighting and dying at a remote outpost.

When the Oct. 3, 2009, firefight at Combat Outpost Keating ended near the Pakistan border, eight US soldiers were dead and 22 more were wounded. A military investigation released yesterday said the 53 Americans at Keating fought heroically, repelling hundreds of insurgents, but the investigation also faulted US commanders for leaving their troops in a vulnerable position. And the Afghan soldiers got a withering appraisal from soldiers interviewed by investigators.

The United States has spent billions since 2001 training and equipping the Afghan army and police. Afghan security forces capable of defeating insurgents and terrorists are an essential ingredient in the Obama administration’s plans to begin withdrawing American forces, and senior US national security officials speak optimistically of progress.

But first-hand accounts from the battle at Keating, detailed in witness statements included in the investigation, provide a different, highly critical view.

One of the harshest came from two Latvian soldiers stationed at Keating and responsible for mentoring the three dozen Afghan troops at the base in Nuristan Province. The Latvians told the US investigators that the Afghan soldiers lacked “discipline, motivation, and initiative.’’

Close to 300 insurgents attacked Keating at dawn with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and guns. As the chaos of combat enveloped the base, the Latvians said they saw three Afghan soldiers at the aid station waiting to be treated for minor scratches and cuts. An Afghan platoon sergeant was in a corner of the station, curled up in a fetal position, they told investigators.

Later, they opened a door to one of the buildings and found several other soldiers and Afghan security guards sitting on beds “anxiously waiting.’’ None of them had weapons at the ready or made an aggressive move when the door swung open.

In other buildings, they found Afghan soldiers “in ones and twos, hiding under blankets in the fetal position.’’

Protein drinks, digital cameras, and other personal items that belonged to the Americans were found in the overstuffed duffel bags of Afghan soldiers as they were being moved to another base on an Army helicopter after the battle had ended, investigators were told.

“A majority of the duffels contained materials that had been pillaged from the US soldiers’ barracks rooms,’’ said a memo summarizing comments.

In a summary of the findings, Army General Guy Swan said US ground commanders left the troops at Keating in a vulnerable position without adequate support. Swan recommended giving four officers letters of admonition or reprimand. A reprimand is more serious than an admonition. Both can negatively affect an officer’s career.

A discussion of COP Keating at Kamdesh in the Nuristan Province can be found here.  These Soldiers were indeed left in a vulnerable position, as was the case at Wanat in the Kunar Province.  But to the point here, I just can’t say anything more than what has been said to cast negative light on the ANA.  Running from the fight, curling in fetal positions in bed, and stealing things before they go.

What a sad commentary on a sad state of affairs.

Gates Indicts NATO While U.S. Stands in the Dock

BY Glen Tschirgi
3 years, 4 months ago

A fascinating speech by outgoing Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, on June 10 in Berlin at the Security and Defense Agenda think tank.

From this AP article:

BRUSSELS (AP) – America’s military alliance with Europe – the cornerstone of U.S. security policy for six decades – faces a “dim, if not dismal” future, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday in a blunt valedictory address.

In his final policy speech as Pentagon chief, Gates questioned the viability of NATO, saying its members’ penny-pinching and lack of political will could hasten the end of U.S. support. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed in 1949 as a U.S.-led bulwark against Soviet aggression, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggled to find a purpose.

“Future U.S. political leaders – those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost,” he told a European think tank on the final day of an 11-day overseas journey.

The Washington Post summarized it this way:

BERLIN — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates rebuked some of America’s staunchest allies Friday, saying the United States has a “dwindling appetite” to serve as the heavyweight partner in the military order that has underpinned the U.S. relationship with Europe since the end of World War II.

In an unusually stinging speech, made on his valedictory visit to Europe before he retires at the end of the month, Gates condemned European defense cuts and said the United States is tired of engaging in combat missions for those who “don’t want to share the risks and the costs.”

“The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress, and in the American body politic writ large, to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources … to be serious and capable partners in their own defense,” he said in an address to a think tank in Brussels.

There are several points worth noting in Gates’ speech. The most obvious one is aptly noted in both articles: European members of NATO have been starving their defense budgets for years and it is finally becoming painfully, no, embarrassingly clear to everyone by the Afghanistan and Libya campaigns. The AP story notes the contrast between the “mightiest military alliance in history” and the patent failure of this alliance to bring about any kind of victory against a third-rate, tin-pot dictator in Libya:

To illustrate his concerns about Europe’s lack of appetite for defense, Gates noted the difficulty NATO has encountered in carrying out an air campaign in Libya.

“The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country, yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference,” he said.

Is it any wonder that the Taliban have adopted a strategy of attrition? The only, credible military force in the field seems to be the U.S., the Canadians and the British and the latter, two have already indicated that they will be pulling out of Afghanistan entirely in the near future.

Add to this the assessment by Gates that, while all NATO member countries voted in favor of intervention in Libya, fewer than half those members have made any contribution toward the effort.

On a political level, the problem of alliance purpose in Libya is even more troubling, he said.

“While every alliance member voted for the Libya mission, less than half have participated, and fewer than a third have been willing to participate in the strike mission,” he said. “Frankly, many of those allies sitting on the sidelines do so not because they do not want to participate, but simply because they can’t. The military capabilities simply aren’t there.”

Afghanistan is another example of NATO falling short despite a determined effort, Gates said.

He recalled the history of NATO’s involvement in the Afghan war – and the mistaken impression some allied governments held of what it would require of them.

“I suspect many allies assumed that the mission would be primarily peacekeeping, reconstruction and development assistance – more akin to the Balkans,” he said, referring to NATO peacekeeping efforts there since the late 1990s. “Instead, NATO found itself in a tough fight against a determined and resurgent Taliban returning in force from its sanctuaries in Pakistan.”

So, to sum up what we have learned from Secretary Gates, the chasm between the military and political capabilities of the U.S. and its NATO allies has become so large that, for all practical purposes, NATO has become a toothless organization that cannot even fight a meager enemy like Qaddafi for any length of time without substantial help from the U.S. and cannot be counted on to supply meaningful levels of troops in hot zones like Afghanistan. And despite the strong punch delivered by Gates, at least some in Europe, according to The Washington Post are glad that it is being delivered:

[Jonathan]Eyal, of London’s Royal United Services Institute, said the speech would be “very welcome” in Britain and France, however, because “privately this is what officials have articulated for years.” Gates “identified the key problem, which remains Germany,” he said. “You can argue that there are many countries that do not contribute their fair share, but most of the others don’t matter, and smaller ones would likely fall into line if Germany did.”

Eyal said: “It’s a shame politicians say what they think only when they are about to depart, but the Europeans needed this cold shower, and if it’s up to Gates to administer it, so be it.”

The speech amounted to “an outburst of frustration that is bigger than bottom line of defense cuts,” he said. “It’s about the lethargic way the Europeans walk on the world stage,” lacking a sense of urgency and thinking that “at the end of the day the Americans will always be there and do Europe’s bidding.”

But the speech “hasn’t caused a great rift,” Eyal said. “Deep down, there is no one in Europe that doesn’t think that what Gates said is absolutely the truth. No one argues he’s exaggerating problem. It’s not a rift. It’s worse. It’s an act of indifference.” The missing reaction in Europe, he said, is to reconsider burden-sharing and “how the Europeans can contribute more to the common pot.”

All this is very well and needed to be said. But I cannot help but speculate that perhaps Gates had more than just the Europeans in mind when he made these statements.

Could it be that Gates was placing a shot across the bow of those in the U.S. (both in and outside of the Obama Administration) calling for reductions in U.S. military spending? Looking at Gates’ remarks as a rebuke to U.S. policymakers makes equal sense.

How did Europe become so militarily defenseless? It happened as an irresistible, default choice when European capitals opted for heavy social spending at a time of declining birthrates and economic productivity.

This is the very same choice that is facing the U.S. today. The U.S. Congress is at this very moment locked in a bitter struggle against an inescapable reality: there is simply not enough money coming into the U.S. Treasury to fund the present, enormous welfare entitlements and a robust military. The decision must be made and it must be made now to either gut our military or seriously reform the welfare state as we know it. In all likelihood, given the rate at which the budget deficit is growing (due in large part to a terrible compromise on the 2011 Budget and less-than-expected revenues from a stalling economy), the markets and foreign lenders will not be content to wait until the 2012 elections for a responsible plan to control the deficit.

So, whatever satisfaction we get, whatever approval we may have for Secretary Gates’ jabs at NATO members for their pathetic military budgets, the U.S. seems to be taking the very same road as Europe. There are already too many in Congress and in the political class class who gladly concede that the Defense budget should be subjected to deep cuts in order to preserve our welfare state. Here is a typical example from Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul. While this is expected from Democrats, even “conservatives” have been making similar noises. See this piece on Haley Barbour for example.

This is not to say that any cuts to the Defense budget are out of the question. The Captain’s Journal has long advocated smarter spending, as with the proposed, new landing craft for the Marines. Savings can certainly be found in better management and prioritizing. In light of Gates’ speech, it is worth re-examining the costs of keeping troops stationed in Europe versus the benefits of having troops pre-deployed close to the Middle East and to Russia. But, in the end, these savings will never amount to enough to reduce the Federal deficit in any meaningful way or balance the Federal budget.

The only way to do that is to either gut Defense or gut Entitlements.

I do not believe that the U.S. can make moderate cuts to both for the simple reason that the trajectory of Entitlement spending is such that it will eat up the entire Federal tax revenues by 2049. As shown in this chart from The Heritage Foundation (click to enlarge):

The U.S. faces now the very same choices that the Europeans faced some 50 years ago: guns or butter; continue funding social spending or provide for a credible military. We simply cannot do both and, as noted above, it is no longer possible to delay the decision. If we elect to cut Defense spending (and it will mean significant cuts) there should be no illusion about the results. We will soon be in the same position as Britain and France, sharing aircraft carriers; we will be unable to protect any national interest beyond our borders for any real length of time; we will be consigned to watching as thugs and fanatics remake the world into one of their liking. And you can be sure that such a world will not be to our liking. Unlike the Europeans, however, there will be no United States to come to the rescue.

The only answer, in the end, is to radically alter the welfare society that we have become.   Even if we were to gut Defense spending, that would be merely a sacrificial lamb to the ever-growing appetite of entitlements.  For proof we need only look to Europe to see that their decades of sacrificing Defense for social benefits has left them now facing the stark reality that there is nothing left to cut except the social spending.  But any attempt to do so results in riots and anarchy by a people too long accustomed to pampering and privilege.    God forbid that the U.S. reaches that stage of decay.
(more…)

Department of Education SWAT Raid on Kenneth Wright

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

From ABC News10 (KXTV in Stockton, CA):

STOCKTON, CA – Kenneth Wright does not have a criminal record and he had no reason to believe a S.W.A.T team would be breaking down his door at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

“I look out of my window and I see 15 police officers,” Wright said.

Wright came downstairs in his boxer shorts as a S.W.A.T team barged through his front door. Wright said an officer grabbed him by the neck and led him outside on his front lawn.

“He had his knee on my back and I had no idea why they were there,” Wright said.

According to Wright, officers also woke his three young children ages 3, 7, and 11 and put them in a Stockton police patrol car with him. Officers then searched his house.

As it turned out, the person law enforcement was looking for was not there – Wright’s estranged wife.

“They put me in handcuffs in that hot patrol car for six hours, traumatizing my kids,” Wright said.

Wright said he later went to the mayor and Stockton Police Department, but the City of Stockton had nothing to do with Wright’s search warrant.

The U.S. Department of Education issued the search and called in the S.W.A.T for his wife’s defaulted student loans.

“They busted down my door for this,” Wright said. “It wasn’t even me.”

According to the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General, the case can’t be discussed publicly until it is closed, but a spokesperson did confirm that the department did issue the search warrant at Wright’s home.

The Office of the Inspector General has a law enforcement branch of federal agents that carry out search warrants and investigations.

Stockton Police Department said it was asked by federal agents to provide one officer and one patrol car just for a police presence when carrying out the search warrant.

Stockton police did not participate in breaking Wright’s door, handcuffing him, or searching his home.

“All I want is an apology for me and my kids and for them to get me a new door,” Wright said.

This is difficult to swallow for one who doesn’t believe that the Department of Education should exist anyway.  So let me get this straight.  The Department of Education has a SWAT Team.  Special Weapons and Tactics!  And they are enforcing warrants with SWAT raids that pertain to payment of student loans, probably wearing “tacti-cool” gear and all swollen with their self-importance, pointing loaded weapons at innocent men.  And some judge actually issued a warrant for such a raid?

And so now Mr. Wright has traumatized children, a broken door, and probalby lost time from work to handle the hassle, and on top of that the Department of Education looks like jackbooted thugs.  And the Department of Education has a SWAT Team?  Seriously?

The one good thing that could come from this is that we’ve found the best place to start cost-cutting since the bridge to nowhere.

UPDATE #1: Note that I have previously called for a Congressional investigation into SWAT tactics in use in the United States.

I call on the House Subcommittee of the Constitution or the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security to investigate the militarization of police tactics within America, and whether such tactics comport with the constitutional rights of the citizens of the United States.

I reiterate this call.

UPDATE #2: From commenter Don Delis, we learn that the raid was not about student loans.  THAT didn’t take long!  The URL has been updated, since the News10 article has been changed and the report amended to refer to some unspecified investigation.  They have got to do better than that to justify the use of SWAT tactics when knocking at the door would have been sufficient.  This is about police officers playing combat operator, and there is no excuse for it.


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