Tuesday, November 11, 2014


For better or for worse, Remembrance Day always conjures up images of poppies, and as a consequence of World War One. It is no different this year, which is completely understandable since that conflict started a century ago.

While it is good and just that both World Wars remain etched in our memory most, since they are the "best" reminders of how utterly precious Peace is, I chose for this year's Remembrance Day post to highlight the War on Terror.

I do so because I am affronted by the gross and abusive lack of attention of the general public. This may well be the first war where the struggle of our combatants is treated as if they were performing non-hazardous routine tasks. Troopers are risking their lives every day, in defense of our way of life, and the general population is simply going about its business like if it was still September 10th, 2001 - most seems not to care, indeed, when asked their opinion about it they would be annoyed.

Below are some sober charts from icasualties dot org with western fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan:

 photo casualties_WOT_zpsf49400ae.jpg

Which means that the US military alone suffered some 6,400 plus fatalities in the War on Islamic Terror until now. As a rule of thumb, count at least three times that many wounded and maimed - Remembrance Day is for them too. Oh... and if that 'islamic' disturbs you, if you find it 'inappropriate' - I'm sorry for you. I just call it what it is.

Some may say, 6,400 dead is nothing compared to the charnelhouse that was WO I, and indeed, on the first day of the Somme Offensive some 20,000 Brits lost their lives, which means that on a single day they lost more than three times the number the US lost in thirteen years.

Yet I feel that thus minimizing the tale of human suffering behind the graphs above would be - can I say so, as a Christian? - a sin, nothing more or less.

I've been looking for a soldier to remember, and I came across Lance Corporal James Eric Swain, from Indiana. Here is an LDS obituary - James was a Mormon:

An LDS U.S. Marine from Indiana was killed during combat in Fallujah, Iraq.

Lance Cpl. James E. Swain, 20, of the Kokomo Ward, Lafayette Indiana Stake, died Nov. 15 "as a result of enemy action," according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

"It is such a loss, there is deep pain," said Lafayette Indiana Stake President Patrick Connolly.

Lance Cpl. Swain is survived by his parents, Daniel E. and Mona R. Warner Swain, a brother and two sisters.

A member of the Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Lance Cpl. Swain had reportedly been serving as an intelligence analyst in Osaka, Japan, before volunteering for combat duty.

"He wanted to be there and felt he needed to be there," his father, Daniel Swain, told the Kokomo Tribune.

A 2002 graduate of Kokomo High School, James Eric Swain was a member of the National Honor Society, was active in his school's drama club and was involved in many community projects.

Daniel Swain said his son was the type of person who unknowingly touched many lives.

 photo Lance_Cpl_Swain_zps0d053d55.jpg"James was an endearing person," the Marine's father told the Kokomo Tribune. "He tried to be invisible to everyone, even though he is 6-feet tall and a redhead. He was a practical joker."

Lance Cpl. Swain had reportedly hoped to study at Brigham Young University after finishing his military commitment.

A memorial scholarship in Lance Cpl. Swain's name is being created at Kokomo High School.

"It will be given to a student with good grades in a service position," Principal Harold Canady told the Kokomo Tribune. "James was so noted for his service to the high school. He was always involved in helping people."

Principal Canaday described Lance Cpl. Swain as an "All-American boy."
"He chose to serve his country and was willing to make the sacrifice."

Charlie Hall, a former coach at Kokomo High School, told the Kokomo Tribune that Lance Cpl. Swain was a person who would do anything that needed to be done, without hesitation.

"I bet he was one heck of a Marine," Mr. Hall said. "Anything he tried, he did to the fullest. He did well. I think it says a lot about the quality of our service people if there are people like James serving."

Memorial services were held for Lance Cpl. Swain on Nov. 23.

Lance Corporal James Eric Swain was just twenty when he fell. I won't use words to try to express some gratitude since they would ring false in my own ears. I will just say that I am ... incredibly humbled by the example of this young man.

One last word. What the graphs above do not show are the losses suffered by the Iraqi Army and Police and their Afghan counterparts. I have no data for the Afghans, but the tally for the Iraqis would have been close to 13,000. While I loathe anything islamic, I recognize the huge value of their sacrifice in combating an even seedier strain of their 'faith'. I do not publish here a number for the Iraqi and Afghan civilian deaths, which, believe me or not, I deplore immensely. But all these people ultimately died because of the incompatibility of islam itself within the upward movement of humanity through the ages. We in the West, we did not seek this war, all this suffering and death. The reason for it all merely lies in islam's inherent incapacity to offer its adherents a just, safe and prosperous society - AND in its inherent incapacity to live at peace with its surrounding civilizations and belief systems.

The sooner we realize that, the sooner the suffering will be over.

Pray for the dead and wounded and their loved ones.


Sunday, November 09, 2014


Last Friday, VTM News Online sported the following short video:

This video comes right on the heels of the news of the Belgian Air Force CINC change of command, since Lt Gen Claude Vandevoorde has just been replaced by Major General Fred Vansina, until then Chief Operations. After some 6 years at the helm of the BAF, general Vandevoorde now works in an advisory capacity for the new Minister of Defence, Steven Vandeput.

In the video, general Vansina explains that since the beginning of October, the Belgian F-16 detachment has carried out 58 missions and in the process attacked or destroyed 18 Islamic State targets. The most notable mission thus far was a night attack on November 3 whereby two of our jets were leading 6 other coalition aircraft in an airstrike on an IS facility. The facility served as an IED factory and a place where pick-up trucks were converted into the kind of 'technicals' first seen in Somalia: armed with a heavy machinegun in the back and provided with some armour plating. The general stressed that no collateral damage was to be deplored (although how they verify that I have no idea).

This is the ISIS facility in question:

 photo ISIS_target_zpsa9555c9b.jpg

The first bozo who finds this on Google Earth gets 10 randomly picked Playboy centerfolds from Outlaw's Famous Collection. Hint: according to the Belgian Armed Forces website it's in Iraq's north.

Another image released last week by the MoD:

 photo BAF_attack_zpsa47cae5d.jpg

On 31 October, Defence Minister Vandeput claimed that the Belgian airstrikes "make up 12 per cent of the number of interventions by the international coalition". I have no way to verify this, but given the huge number of US missions I assume that by 'international coalition' he means only the non-US flights. Anyway, with a military that has been starved for decades by successive center-left governments (and alas, center-right ones too), this percentage would constitute no mean feat.

Remains of course the question of how useful the coalition's airstrikes are. I would wager that up until now they have been absolutely necessary. ISIS has profiled itself thus far as an organization preferring open warfare involving movement of armor, large-scale infantry assaults, the seizing of strategic objectives and so on. In other words, they have picked up the kind of fights we like: where they are visible and therefore present decent targets.

Their choosing this way of fighting has certainly been an advantage for the coalition. It is for instance clear that the siege of Kobani ultimately ended in disaster for IS because of the airstrikes. As long as they continue to expose their military hardware, we can degrade their fighting capability. While they may be getting the hint that it's better not to present such easy targets, I do not see how they can radically change this kind of warfare without abandoning their goals, since IS has apparently committed itself to militarily act like a nation state. If you want to add territory, oil infrastructure, airfields, highways etc to your inventory, you are going for a wholly different game of ball than, say, Saddamite diehards planting IED's in the Sunni Triangle ten years ago.

The airstrikes should therefore go on, but I see no reason to deploy western 'boots on the ground'. After ten years of building up the Iraqi Army, they should be able to fend for themselves. In 1972, the South Vietnamese were able to stop the NVA's Eastertide Offensive with the help from massive airstrikes conducted by both USAF and VNAF. In the three-month period of the beginning of April to the end of June, 27,745 missions were flown in support of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) - 20,506 of these by the US Air Force. To the best of my knowledge, these missions stand even apart from the ones conducted under the Linebacker Operation, which targeted Northern Vietnams strategic assets - airfields, bridges, ports, roads, railway systems etc. Just like the Iraqi Army, the South Vietnamese Army had been trained for a decade too, and they were able to stand their own. No 'boots on the ground' were needed any more. No boots on the ground should be needed this time. Of course South Vietnam did collapse a couple of years later, but that was because the Democrats had cut off funding. The US should be careful not to make the same mistake again.

Of course the nascent Iraqi Air Force can in no way be compared to the well-oiled war machine that the South Vietnamese Air Force was (at its peak, in 1974, it fielded 2,076 aircraft of all varieties). Of course the Iraqi Army itself is a joke compared to the ARVN. But then, in the same manner IS is but a laughable opponent compared to the North Vietnamese Army. Plus, the IA is helped in no small part by Kurdish forces in both Syria and Iraq, which divert considerable IS resources. And to put things in perspective, after all IS fields perhaps only some 30,000 ~ 40,000 ground 'troops' - give and take 3 divisions, and they haven't even organised them as such. Possibly there's only a loose scattering of combat groups under the command of the biggest braggers who happen to be around. There may be some kind of general HQ, but I cannot imagine it's in any way comparable to a western army's HQ.

The best way for the West to manage this is therefore to simply continue, and pound. And pound. And pound. And pound. Eventually IS will crack. As for the Belgian F-16 detachment, it will in all likelihood stay over Iraq in 2015. I hope the other contributing countries will do the same.