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22 February 2012


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Bob Randolph

He's give us the facts, so what is his judgment?

mark safranski

Do the Israelis still retain the elan for such high risk operations or has that generation of leaders passed from the scene ?

Capturing Eichmann, the Six Day War, Entebbe and Osirak were a long time ago.

Michael Singer

Dear Pat, I opened your blog eagerly this morning in the hopes you would be responding to new reports from Camp Nama: electric shock, beating a man's spine, use of captives in a paint ball game, beatings with rifle butts, burns; these are the reported abuses by Spec.Ops soldiers at many black facilities in Iraq. They change their names, their unit names. They destroy their computer records. Who are they accountable to? The NYT story also reports the usual CYA outraged complaints and demands for a halt to these pracices from Cambone and the Admiral, el al.
But I ask, simply, how does this happen now ? What military minds at what level believe this is okay and they will exract useful intel. using torture? How could such extensive activity go on with upper level-Rumsfeld- not knowing? I then read the Major General (ret.) Paul Eaton's call for Rumsfeld's resignation in the op ed section of the NYT today. He is not the first. But the response to Rumsfeld is scattered overs three years and many different sources of news.
I remember conversations with you about Vietnam and torture. You said you saw it only once and stopped it. As I recall, these kinds of stories of U.S. Army structural, systematic torture camps never surfaced about Vietnam. There were no Camp Namas in Vietnam.
This new army has cancer in it. And I suspect Rumsfeld has allowed it to grow. The Pentagon is the petri dish and he injected the virus. It could grow to envelope more and more senior officers and then troops on the ground who look the other way, who refuse to contradict the prevailing behaviorsor orders, who are encouraged to unleash their most base impulses and get rewarded for it.
Doesn't that sound reminicent of another army we gloriously defeated in WW2?
I wonder when is enough, enough? When do the retired military: the Zinnis, Sansekis, DIA and CIA men and women, whose work and reputations are now being sullied with this awful brush are going to organize and make a definitive powerful public renunciation of Rumsfeld, his conduct and his leadership? He is undermining the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, values this country has stood for since the Revolution and his boss"W" approves.
This renunciation has to be done in public, by as many of you as can be gathered together in one place at one time. It has to be done in the open, in front of the media, the press for all to see and hear.Two, Three, Many John Murthas! Rumsfeld must go and these practices, this torture must stop. You and your cohorts must act. Michael Singer

W. Patrick Lang


About what? He gave you the facts and told you that the Israelis will not be useful in such an operation.

Knowing you, I suppose that you want him to make a judgment as to whether or not the US should take action against Iran. Rick is an intelligence officer by trade. His function is to inform. People like us don't tell people what to think. We tell them what information to think WITH.

The great sin of the neocon/Rummy/Bushie "team" in Iraq was to insist on forcing intelligence people to support the desired policy with policy driven analysis and information. Do you want that also?


Charlie Green

One theory surfacing on the blogs is that this whole issue has nothing to do with Iran's nuke program or invading them. The purpose is to shut down Iran's oil fields (located conveniently nearby).

Conventional weapons would have only a minor effect in accomplishing this goal even if a raid is successful. Dropping a nuclear weapon strategically would have the desired effect. Dr. Strangelove is still with us if this rumor is true.


Mark, as detailed on this blog and elsewhere, Eichmann, Entebbe and Osirak were much smaller scale than the necessary operation in Iran. It's beyond Israel not because of a lack of "elan." In John Robb's terms there's no proper ROI or ROR.

Charlie, what am I missing? Why would we want to shut down Iran's oil production?

W. Patrick Lang


Your outrage is misplaced. I hadn't heard of this until you pointed it out to me this morning.

You ought to think about your tendency to dismiss peoples' complaints about misconduct as "CYA." You and I are both prisoners of the VN War as is Randolph above. We should be careful about letting that drive our judgments.

"The task force was a melting pot of military and civilian units. It drew on elite troops from the Joint Special Operations Command, whose elements include the Army unit Delta Force, Navy's Seal Team 6 and the 75th Ranger Regiment. Military reservists and Defense Intelligence Agency personnel with special skills, like interrogators, were temporarily assigned to the unit. C.I.A. officers, F.B.I. agents and special operations forces from other countries also worked closely with the task force." Schmitt et al

I think the whole SOF thing is out of control. People should know by now that I am a retired Special Forces (Green Beret) officer. I, obviously, am favorably inclined toward them. I don't see them mentioned in the above cited NY Times article.

Unfortunately, what has happened since counter-terrorism became an obsession in this country is that units of commandos such as those described above have been given an independent role and an importance that is unjustified by the rather narrow perspective that the kind of raiding duty that they are designed for would justify. At the same time officers who come from that background have been elevated to very high ranks and posts (in one case to the highest post)for which their backgrounds have not prepared them. A career experience as a leader of commando troops does not prepare one to be a successor of people like George Marshall or Douglas MacArthur.

Last May, I said on 60 Minutes that if the brutalities reported from Gitmo were correct, then "this was a disgrace." My sainted father used to talk about the "ancient and honorable profession of arms." He was quoting his hero, MacArthur. Neither my father nor I could possibly understand that the behavior attributed to this SOF task force meets our understanding of what it means to be a soldier.


Incidentally, it was twice, not once.

W. Patrick Lang


They haven't fought anyone for a long time. It ia easy to be bold when you have no recent combat experience. pl


Would Israel bomb Natanz in full knowledge that a single surprise strike is all that's practical and has a less than good chance of significantly retarding the Iranian bomb program? Like the Osirak attack that depends to some extent on Israeli domestic politics.

Not that it matters much in Tel Aviv but I can't see how DC would benefit. The USAF can put a similar shot across Tehran's bows with far less collateral diplomatic damage. It could also stage a Desert Storm style campaign that would set the program back a decade and destroy Iran's military infrastructure.

Either probably has serious consequences. While Israel can brush aside Hezbollah the aftermath in Iraq could look like the Indian Mutiny with some AC-130 cover.


Francona's article eliminates the fiction of an independent Israeli Air Force attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities. Quite simply, they can't get there and back without some help, regardless of whether or not they can effectively destroy the targets.
The NYT torture piece joins a long line of similar articles since the Abu Gurayb revelations. As a retired soldier, I can't help but feel a sense of bewilderment because of all the classes about Geneva, Hague, etc. I sat through year after year after year. On the positive side, the military has released an incredible number of documents under the FOIA that show numerous investigations into the allegations of abuse. On the negative side, prosecutions are concentrated among the rank and file. As an aside, this is a strong reflection of personal responsibility for one's actions in the military-- 'I was following orders' is not a valid justification on its own. The question of how systematic the abuses are remains anecdotal until the first higher meets accountability in court.
The Colonel points out that SOF is a pretty big tent. Unfortunately, say SOF and most people picture a Green Beret, an important member of the SOF community but not its totality.

Norbert Schulz

my take is that when you say SOF today, people do not see a Green Beret, but the military equivalent of a SWAT trooper with more gadgets and better training - they see top notch assault troops.

IIRC the Green Berets are commandoes too, but trained in foreign languages and local cultural background, which sets them by default apart from the assault troops. Their approach is very different.

However, the special units, such as Delta, iirc recruit from that Green Beret pool. What strikes me as somewhat odd, they should have the respective qualities needed. If they are found lacking, that's probably because in the special units, just take the Navy's SEALs as true speecial assault troops, the special gear requires intensive and demanding training, leading to get the tropps to become weak on their 'soft skills'.
Sometimes I wonder how a modern commando would fare without his NVG and GPS.

I imagine a Green Beret in Iraq today drinking tea with tribals, trying to persuade them to kill foreign fighters, or to provide intel, or training Iraqi troops or guiding and advising a troop of Afghan or Kurdish fighters.

That requires a different type of soldier than the one needed for merely blowing up stuff. Without access to the locals the U.S. can as well forget about winning the 'war on terror'.

Norbert Schulz

PS: Of yourse, the SEALs , just like Army SOF troops, do much more than just assault ops - reconnaissance and many many other missions ... but I guess you get my point.

Norbert Schulz

PPS: I found that interesting article by Phillip Carter in my link collection; titled 'Guerrillas in the Mist' it closes with:

'But the United States has also overused the special forces to the exclusion of other forms of national power, as Dana Priest observed in her brilliant book, The Mission. As the military's abilities and influence overseas have expanded, America's abilities to act through diplomacy, intelligence work, and economic policy overseas have atrophied. Though the Green Berets may indeed be “Masters of Chaos,” as Robinson writes, the key to U.S. security may be to use all forms of national power—political, economic, military, and moral—to avoid international chaos by helping failed states and reinforcing collective security efforts.'




I think you misconstrued my comment. I spent eight years in USASFC between 3rd SFG(A) and 5th SFG(A). Perhaps we are both saying the same thing; we just approached from different angles.

Charlie Green


The China Connection is the answer in a nutshell.

Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran stand one-two-three in global estimated oil and natural gas reserves. Since we invaded Iraq, China's contracts with Iraq (for 13% of China's consumption) are void ; they have since inked a deal with Iran for oil and to build infrastructure in Iran. Iran in turn has quietly made agreements with the Iraqi government to refine southern oil and provide a billion dollar line of credit to Iraq. While we ostensibly control the purse strings in Iraq, the increasing trade with Iran in the eastern portion of the nation and the general instability makes enforcement problematic. OTOH, that same instability would hamper any assistance from Iran.

Nuking Iranian oil fields and nuke plants (a Cheney idea) will destabilize their economy and maybe their government, remove a source of China's oil supply (our new Cold War enemy), and prevent a switch of oil currency to the Euro (maybe the most important issue as it was in Iraq).

Lots more details at

As I said, Dr. Strangelove would feel right at home with all this. Like our invasion, the results of this action might not be what the neocons expect. I just hope they realize that.

W. Patrick Lang


I don't want to desparage anyone but I think the USASF is what is needed in a lot of tough situations and they did not get much of a play in Iraq. In Afghanistan they clearly played a big role. pl

Norbert Schulz

not so much misconstructed, but I wanted to stress that post 9/11 hysteria had severely impacted the rules for the use of SOF, as there are #1 'gloves are off', #2 'no more rules' and #3 'let's kick arabiac ass' have had their impact on the SOF community, and the use of these forces.

When you're used as assault troops primarily, that impacts your thinking. It's about short term gains. When your superiors want 'intel now', and pressure their subordinates to provide this, an agressive approach to meet the demand is not surprising. Junior ranks who want to make a career tend to do what their superiors seem to expect. The pressure from top has been intense; to see junior officers yielding to it is unsurprising.
Sadly, I see this at work every day (that said, I'm looking for better company). Such a climate leaves no room for, nor makes attractive, the slower approach. Probably, advising caution and going to work methodical and long term was not a career enhancing stance in Iraq. And then we are talking about personal integrity, again, top down.

When leaders, on top of the pressure to produce results, create diffuse rules about interrogation, by defining down torture with sophistry, and even have the president claiming he can order torture if 'found' neccesary, excesses and torture incidents are pre-programmed to happen one way or another.

What is reported about treatment of prisoners doesn't match what I learned in my army about the issue. Studying international law, I had never heared about 'enemy combattants' until U.S. gvt lawyers coined that phrase, probably to escape Geneva. The claim that Guantanamo, where U.S. paid people and servicemen handle prisoners, is out of U.S. jurisdiction because it is in Cuba is preposterous.
With that argument, Nazi Germany could have claimed it had no jurisdiction over Auschwitz, after all, it was in Poland. This line, even though not brought up in Nuremberg, probably would havbe not persuaded the allied judges.

The tune determines to a good extent how the people will dance.

What makes me double sick, is that this tune comes from America, the author of the Nuremberg principles.


Charlie, thanks for the response. Presumably the fear of skyrocketing oil prices would keep Cheney and Bush from attacking Iran's oil fields. It's been such a deterrent in the past.


PL - IMHO, the only way the IAF could carry this attack would require having a forward base in Saudi Arabia.


Any problem in the ME is a financial boon to the oil industry execs.


Should we assume that the trans-Caucasus re-fueling and recovery base would be Georgia?


If Israel neutralises the Jordanian air defence system, Google earth suggest a straight line distance of 843 Nautical miles to Isfahan tracking almost due East. This appears much more "doable" then 1200 miles! The track would follow the Saudi border (just outside it), giving the kingdom "plausible deniability" of complicity.

The track then crosses Iraqi airspace which is under the control of a helpless Iraq now, not the USA.

So Israels only real problem then is with Jordan. Maybe that could be neutralised by the threat of free passage or annihalation of Jordans airforce and the threat of "Forced Relocation" of the West Bank population (ie expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank and into Jordan)

No Gulf states are involved in the attack so Iranian retaliation in that direction is a Casus Belli for the USA.

So what has Israel to fear from Irans response? Iranian missiles? Iron Dome fixes that. Hezbollah? Only if they attack. The USA will veto any UN sanction resolutions. Iran can't respond without attracting the ire of the USA.

"Israel was left with no choice" scream the US media. "A measured surgical response to deliberate provocation by Iran" say the sober commentators. The ball is now in Irans court. "If Iran chooses to escalate the confrontation, then be it on its own head" says AIPAC. Congress passes resolutions calling on the President to attack if one hair on the head of an Israeli child is hurt by Iran, etc. etc.

What is not to like if you are Bibi?


Would the current Iraqi "government" ask the Iranian Air Force for help in repelling foreign (Israeli) aircraft? Would/could we (US) protect the IAF over Iraq?

Scenario: Iranian fighters attack IAF tankers over Iraq, at the official request of the Iraqi government.

Do we have plenty of ground-based AA still in Iraq? Or would we be scrambling fighters to shoot down planes sanctioned by Iraq, to protect planes Iraq considers enemy forces?

I'll be really pissed if we get dragged into this.


Easier to negotiate for bases in Saudi Arabia, an attack on Jordan will cause a huge political mess that even the U.S. will not be able to fix. Plus Iran will never forget...


Based on the fact that my IAF nephew has been in Kurdistan several times in the last 6 months, I am speculating on the following scenario. The IAF will fly straight across Syria(Israel has shown it can shut down Syria's air defense system when they took out the reactor)straight into Kurdistan. They will refuel at one of several airbases then launch straight into Iran. On return they will again refuel in Kurdistan and then fly home. The IDF and Mossad have been very active in helping the Kurds and this is the payback.

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