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The Forever War We Need to Keep Waging

The Forever War We Need to Keep Waging

There’s little that Democrats and Republican Trumpers agree on to be sure, but on one issue at least they may be united: the need to end America’s forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, in each of which we’ve been involved for almost two decades. 

Trump has threatened to abandon both places. He’s already betrayed the Kurds in Syria who fought so well and loyally essentially as our infantry against Daesh, and he seeks to do the same by withdrawing all American forces from the country in which the plan for 9/11 was hatched.. But Trump is an idiot and his desire to withdraw from Afghanistan has less to do with strategy or a hardheaded reassessment of our commitments abroad than winning brownie points with his base before a tough re-election campaign. But such a withdrawal from Afghanistan would be a serious strategic and moral mistake and I really hope a Biden administration, if there is one, will agree, even if it means the commitment of a modest force indefinitely.

Of course the case for staying isn’t helped by the fact that its strongest advocates are some of the same nincompoops whose enthusiast cheer led us into the 2003 Iraq invasion ordered by George W Bush, such as Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute and retired army general Jack Keane joined by a guy I’d hoped never to see or hear from again, Joe Lieberman and we all know how that went (although as an ardent opponent of that war it would be churlish indeed not to acknowledge that the United States plucked a solid military victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to the 2006 surge of forces under a more capable general and the fortunate timing of an alliance with the Arab Sunni Awakening; but at a bitter cost to both Iraqis and Coalition forces). We still live with the unpleasant reality that the principal beneficiary geopolitically has been Iran who lost a formidable enemy and found a new best friend in the now Shia-dominated Iraqi government.  

But just because they were wrong about Iraq doesn’t mean they’re wrong now and O’Hanlon in particular makes a compelling case for retaining the current residual force of between 5-10,000 American and NATO forces.  And whilst both O’Hanlon and Keane emphasize the critical counter-terrorism role of such a force, and rightly so given the ongoing threat of Daesh (ISIS-K) and the ever present possibility of a rejuvenated al-Qaida, I would argue that we should also help to thwart a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. We can do this by continuing to provide training, logistics and even air support to Afghan forces. And let’s not forget the all-important moral support our presence provides. 

Why should we do this? Because of the effort and sacrifice our Allies and ourselves have made to the cause; and because Afghanis, especially women and young girls, have come too far to be sent back to the 15th century by the fundamentalist rigidity of another Taliban regime. And make no mistake, that is the alternative if we fail to continue helping the Afghans.

Fulfilling our obligations and commitments is not a partisan issue, it’s an American issue. And betrayal doesn’t sit well with us, nor should it.

Hiroshima 70 Years ago Today, America started the Nuclear Era by Bombing Japan

Hiroshima 70 Years ago Today, America started the Nuclear Era by Bombing Japan

via The Guardian – Rain of Ruin,

The United States remains the only country to ever vaporize tens of thousands of civilians with an atomic bomb. America did it to bring an end to a long, costly war. Three days later they dropped another one on Nagasaki just to make sure Japan got the message. Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945.

The Atlantic has a lengthy article about how the war bureaucrats made the cold-hearted decisions to bomb the two cities.

Hiroshima, a city of 318,000, held similar appeal [as the much larger industrial city of Kyoto]. It was “an important army depot and port of embarkation,” said Stearns, situated in the middle of an urban area “of such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged.” Hiroshima, the biggest of the “unattacked” targets, was surrounded by hills that were “likely to produce a focusing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage.” On top of this, the Ota River made it “not a good” incendiary target, raising the likelihood of its preservation for the atomic bomb.

The meeting barely touched on the two cities’ military attributes, if any. Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, had no significant military installations; however, its beautiful wooden shrines and temples recommended it, Groves had earlier said (he was not at the May 10 meeting), as both sentimental and highly combustible. Hiroshima’s port and main industrial and military districts were located outside the urban regions, to the southeast of the city.

Many people argued then and continue to argue now that the killing of 20,000 soldiers in Hiroshima, and the incineration of the two cities that killed around 200,000 civilians was the right thing to do because it saved tens of thousands of lives of American servicemen who have been killed if the US had invaded Japan. Others argue that Japan was near the end anyway, and would have surrendered soon – atomic bombs or not.

From what I’ve read, I agree with the latter. The bombings were the most horrific acts of violence in the history of warfare.

Most of the images we see in today’s news focus on the mushroom clouds and the distant views of the devastated cities. Not many show the very horrible close-up images, like this one.

Nagasaki photo by Yasuke Yamahata
Nagasaki photo by Yasuke Yamahata

You know how to find more images if you want to. One is enough for me today.

The Battle of the Bulge was won by the tenacity and bravery of US soldiers in a hundred places that most Americans have never heard of.

The Battle of the Bulge was won by the tenacity and bravery of US soldiers in a hundred places that most Americans have never heard of.

Tuesday, December 16th marked the 70th anniversary of the greatest battle fought by soldiers of the United States army in the Northwest European Theatre in World War II following D-Day.

Despite the crushing defeat of the German armies in Normandy in August 1944 and the pursuit of the remnants to the very borders of the Reich, the Allied autumn advance had ground to a halt. Long supply lines which created a logistical nightmare, the still formidable fortifications of the Siegfried Line, the resilience of the German army, and foul fall conditions of rain, cold and mud combined to make further progress tediously slow and very costly.

Meanwhile Hitler, believing that a shattering counter-blow in the west could change Germany’s sagging fortunes, mustered a formidable reserve containing some of the best divisions in the German army and settled on the Ardennes, scene of a successful German breakthrough in 1940, as the location for such an offensive, and Antwerp to split the Allied armies in two, as the ultimate objective.

Although the offensive met with some initial success against a completely surprised and lightly held American front, determined defense by US troops slowed the enemy advance and bought time for the arrival of reinforcements to first halt the Germans and then drive them back. The battle lasted about a month and cost each side 100,000 casualties and 7-800 tanks and other armored vehicles. Heavy though these losses were to the Americans, they were disastrous for the Germans who had little strength left with which to oppose the final offensive into Germany.

My family and I visited parts of the Ardennes battlefield in the summer of 2013 including Bastogne, Belgium, where the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division made their epic and successful stand to deny the Germans this key road centre.

But we also visited a town called Stavelot further to the north that was the scene that cold December of a lesser known but equally important and epic battle waged by a single US infantry battalion (6-800 men) of the 30th Infantry Division.

Ambleve River, Stavelot, Belgium
Ambleve River, Stavelot, Belgium

A powerful kampfgruppe (or battlegroup) of the German 1st SS Panzer Division under ace panzer leader, Joachim Peiper, had penetrated deep into the American rear and threatened to reach the Meuse River, a potentially disastrous development. But in the constricted topography of the Ardennes, bridges over rivers and streams were critical to Peiper’s advance, and plucky bands of US engineers had seriously hindered the column by destroying several on his preferred routes to the Meuse.

Peiper seized the critical bridge over the Ambleve River at Stavelot, Belgium, against poorly led and disorganized American opposition. But after the bulk of his force continued west towards Stoumont along a single narrow road, the 1st Battalion of the 117th Infantry Regiment with attached companies of tanks and tank destroyers descended on Stavelot from the north and retook the town, thereby cutting Peiper off from the rest of 1st Panzer. Under fire, they also managed to blow the all-important Stavelot bridge.

There followed a fierce battle as the American troops fought furiously to simultaneously fend off efforts by the rest of the 1st SS Panzer Division to the south to force the Ambleve and retake the town, while resisting determined attacks from the west by elements of Peiper’s force sent back to restore his line of communication and supply.

But the Americans would not yield. Under attack by other American forces, what was left of Peiper’s kampfgruppe (800 out of an original force of 5800) eventually escaped on foot, abandoning all their vehicles and heavy weapons. The rest of the battered 1st SS Panzer Division ceded Stavelot to the indomitable men of the 1st Battalion, 117th. The spearhead of the 6th Panzer Army, designated by Hitler as his main effort, had been defeated.

Remembering the Americans who fought in Operation Market Garden

Remembering the Americans who fought in Operation Market Garden

On the morning of 17 September 1944 amid the droning sound of hundreds of aircraft, the clear skies over southern Holland were suddenly filled with what resembled a myriad of snowflakes. Operation Market Garden had begun.

Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, commanding the British/Canadian 21st Army Group, planned to leap the Lower Rhine River (the Nederrijn in the Netherlands) and outflank the German Siegfried Line on Germany’s borders with France and Belgium for a concentrated thrust into the North German Plain.

The US 82nd and 101st and 1st British Airborne Divisions would provide an airborne carpet along a sixty mile route from Eindhoven via Nijmegen to Arnhem capturing bridges over several major waterways. The paratroopers would then await relief by the ground forces of the British 2nd Army’s XXX Corps led by General Sir Brian Horrocks attacking north along a single road.

The 1st Airborne had the most dangerous assignment since their objective, the road bridge at Arnhem, was the farthest from XXX Corps; however, the two US divisions had the complicated task of both securing a number of vital bridges, and defending the road against German counterattacks from both flanks (which in the event they did, heroically).

The success of the plan was jeopardized by the presence of two battered yet powerful German SS panzer divisions that were refitting near Arnhem. Ultimately, these units and German proficiency at improvisation would determine the outcome of Market Garden.

The two American airborne divisions achieved most of their initial objectives but the 82nd Airborne, which had secured key bridges over the Maas River and Maas-Waal Canal, and vital high ground needed to block German counterattacks from the Reichswald Forest, lacked the manpower to move immediately on the road and rail bridges over the Waal River at Nijmegen. By the time they did, it was too late – German SS troops had arrived from Arnhem to strongly fortify the approaches to both bridges.

The 1st British Airborne whose drop zones were 6-8km from Arnhem, encountered strong German opposition and only managed to get an understrength battalion, perhaps 700 men, under Lieutenant Colonel John Frost to the north end of the bridge. The rest of the division was unable to break through and soon found itself in a fight for its life against ad hoc German battle groups, as did Frost.

Meanwhile the ground offensive by XXX Corps encountered strong German resistance in its attack from the Meuse-Escaut Canal.

Already behind schedule when they reached Nijmegen, the British joined the 82nd in attacking the road and rail bridges but made little progress. So confident were the Germans that they decided not to demolish the bridges but to defend them for use in future operations.

On the fourth day with time running out for Frost’s gallant band, a battalion of the 82nd launched a daring assault in daylight across the 250-metre wide Waal downriver from Nijmegen in flimsy British canvas and plywood boats. Under intense German fire, about half of the craft managed to reach the north bank. The surviving paratroopers stormed ashore and charged towards the north end of the bridges where they met tanks of the Guards Armoured Division who, along with other American paratroopers, had finally cracked the German defences south of the bridges. German attempts to demolish the latter failed. The Nijmegen bridges were in allied hands.

By then, however, Frost’s band had been overwhelmed. And to the fury of the American paratroopers who had sacrificed so much to capture the Nijmegen bridges, XXX Corps did not attack north for 18 hours while they regrouped. By then the Germans had blocked the way to Arnhem.

The British reached the Nederrijn but could not reinforce the 1st Airborne across the river. Two thousand survivors of the 10,000 who landed were evacuated on the night of 25/26 September. Market Garden had failed.

The 82nd and 101st suffered 3,500 casualties but had performed brilliantly, solidifying their reputations as two of the finest divisions fielded by any army in World War II. That Market Garden achieved 90% of its objectives, as Montgomery later put it, was due in no small measure to their efforts. Unfortunately, the other 10% was the difference between success and failure.

For the cinematic version of this story, watch Richard Attenborough’s 1977 film, A Bridge Too Far, starring Anthony Hopkins as Lieutenant Colonel Frost, Edward Fox as Lieutenant General Horrocks, plus Sean Connery as Major General Urquhart.

D-Day Remembered on 70th Anniversary

D-Day Remembered on 70th Anniversary

Friday, 6th of June is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, when a fleet of aircraft and an armada of ships delivered an invasion force of American, British and Canadian soldiers to liberate France and the rest of Western Europe from Nazi German occupation.

Airborne troops preceded the seaborne invasion to secure vital bridges, causeways and approaches to the beaches. Unlike their British allies, the US paratroopers were badly scattered in the drop but this fact actually served to confuse the Germans and impede a coordinated response.

To the east, the British and Canadians at Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches, and the Americans in the far west at Utah Beach were met by relatively light resistance, which enabled a speedy deployment inland. But American troops at Omaha Beach found themselves subjected to a cauldron of machine gun, mortar and artillery fire directed from the heights above the beach, and the issue remained in doubt for the balance of the day. But even here the assault would succeed and the Allies would go on to build a beachhead from which they would never be driven.

With the passage of time it’s easy to forget the enormity of the task and risks that confronted the allied soldiers on that day in June 1944 and thereafter. Before them Fortress Europe, defended by arguably the best army in the world, formidable even in this 5th year of the war. Whilst German infantry formations were of uneven quality, many had a cadre of battle hardened veterans that made them tough on defense. This was particularly so in the confined countryside of what would be the American sector of the beachhead in the west of Normandy, characterized by fields bordered by almost impenetrable hedgerows – the bocage. The Germans would also deploy some of their best armored (panzer) divisions in Normandy. These were exceptionally well equipped and possessed of high quality personnel.

Allied air superiority would be overwhelming, and especially useful in attacking and delaying German reinforcements to the Normandy front. However, airpower was also used indiscriminately at times by the Allies and the people of Normandy would suffer grievously, such as in the bombing that all but destroyed Caen.

Most American divisions lacked battle experience and this would prove brutally expensive in lives lost as they struggled against a well-entrenched enemy who skilfully utilized the defensive advantages afforded by the confining and claustrophobic bocage country.

By occupying the more open country to the east, the British and Canadians would draw the formidable German panzer divisions. In a slugfest of epic intensity both sides would be pummeled but, critically, the elite German units would be pinned down, to afford the Americans time to mount the decisive breakout offensive which would lead to the defeat and near destruction of the German forces in Normandy.

My family and I had the privilege to visit Normandy in the spring of 2010. We stayed in the lovely town of Bayeux. We visited the British and Canadian military cemeteries, saw the Pegasus Bridge secured by British airborne troops in the wee hours of June 6th and drove the length of the British and Canadian D-Day beaches. We stood atop the bluffs scaled by US Army Rangers at Pointe du Hoc near Omaha Beach, and saw Utah Beach from which American forces advanced to secure the vital Contentin Peninsular.

View from concrete bunker overlooking Omaha Beach close to where the Rangers scaled Pointe du Hoc.
View from concrete bunker overlooking Omaha Beach close to where the Rangers scaled Pointe du Hoc.

On a grey, drizzly day that somehow seemed appropriate, we visited the US military cemetery at Omaha Beach, with its myriad rows of white grave markers facing west – towards the country that sent those who lie beneath them.

For those interested in reading more on D-Day and the Normandy campaign there are many fine books. My favorites are:  Six Armies in Normandy by John Keegan, Eagles and Bulldogs in Normandy 1944 by Michael Reynolds, and Antony Beevor’s D-Day The Battle for Normandy.

What’s the Bombing Syria Debate really all about?

What’s the Bombing Syria Debate really all about?

Tom Tomorrow pretty much nailed it in this week’s edition of This Modern World.

TMW War air quotes frames 4-5

Click on the comic to read all six frames.

And Jon Stewart got it right in this segment from the September 3rd show.

“Oh right, we have to bomb Syria because we are in seventh grade.”

And about that red line Obama drew about a year ago: “The red line that they crossed is actually a dick-measuring ribbon.”

Yes, we are upset that Assad is an asshole dictator who uses heinous methods to kill his political opponents and any women and children that happen to be nearby. We wish he would stop, but does the United States have to bomb Syria and kill even more people to make him stop? I don’t think so.

This week there was a an opening for a diplomatic solution to the global-attention-getting, chemical-weapons problem proposed by Secrtary of State John Kerry.

Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week. Turn it over. All of it, without delay. And allow the full and total accounting for that. But he isn’t about to do it.

Turns out maybe he is about to do it. We’ll have to wait and see, but let’s hope he does.

We cannot tolerate the use of poison gas against fellow human beings

We cannot tolerate the use of poison gas against fellow human beings

A Huffington Post piece (9/1/13) carries this description of the effects of sarin gas or similar agents that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has employed, not once but several times, against his own civilian population:

Inhaled or absorbed through the skin, the gas kills by crippling the respiratory center of the central nervous system and paralyzes the muscles around the lungs.

The combination results in death by suffocation, and sarin can contaminate food or water supplies, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which notes that antidotes exist.

“Sarin is 26 times more deadly than cyanide gas. Just a pinprick-sized droplet will kill a human,” according to the World Health Organization.

Exposure symptoms include nausea and violent headaches, blurred vision, drooling, muscle convulsions, respiratory arrest and loss of consciousness, the CDC says.

Nerve agents are generally quick-acting and require only simple chemical techniques and inexpensive, readily available ingredients to manufacture.

Inhalation of a high dose — say 200 milligrams of sarin — may cause death “within a couple of minutes,” with no time even for symptoms to develop, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Exposure through the skin takes longer to kill and the first symptoms may not occur for half an hour, followed by a quick progression.

Even when it does not kill, sarin’s effects can cause permanent harm — damaging a victim’s lungs, eyes and central nervous system.

The latest attack killed an estimated 1400 civilians including hundreds of children.

Poison gas is a largely ineffective military weapon but against civilian populations it is devastating, both in its ability to kill or maim and as a weapon of terror.

In a war zone where heavy artillery shelling is a daily fact of life, civilians instinctively heading for the relative safety of cellars are actually entering death traps because sarin and other gases are most lethal at ground level and below. For maximum effect, Assad’s army would shell a target area with conventional munitions initially and then follow up with poison gas to catch more people taking shelter in cellars.

There are geopolitical as well as humanitarian reasons why President Obama must win the vote in Congress for the authorization to strike Syria. America’s credibility is at stake whether we like it or not. Inaction in this case will not only embolden Assad but send a message to other tyrants and totalitarian regimes that the world lacks the will to intervene when weapons of mass destruction are employed. Iran will no doubt take note of America’s reluctance to act.

Ironically, we will have gone from invading a country based on merely the suspicion of possession of WMD by one tyrant to turning away when another actually employs them against women and children.

Many in America ask: why us yet again? The obvious answer is that there is nobody else. We have the military power. We’ve paid for it and we’re proud of it. We’ve given this gold-plated military an ability to strike with massive land and sea-based airpower that is unrivalled.

We’ve also assumed a leadership role in the world. It would be nice if others could step up: Canada maybe, or Britain or Sweden. Somebody. But they are all shielded from confronting a singular evil such as Assad’s poison gas attack on his people by their military weakness even if they had the will to act – which they do not. If we want to escape the responsibilities we’ve assumed in the world then maybe we should slash our defense budget so we can be similarly shielded.

Another objection is that Syria’s agony will continue whether we strike or not; that 100,000 have died and nearly all of them through the use of conventional munitions: artillery shells, machine gun bullets, bombs. Why is gas different they ask? My answer: Because it is.

The world has not outlawed war but it has deemed that the use of poison gas (the terms chemical weapons is rather anodyne in describing what we’re really talking about) is beyond international norms and its use constitutes a monstrous act against humanity.

I understand the reluctance to become embroiled in yet another Middle East war particularly after being bamboozled into invading Iraq in 2003 for bogus reasons. I understand the slippery slope fears. And nobody understands better than President Obama who has been accurately termed the reluctant warrior. He has wound down our involvement in one war started by his predecessor and is the process of winding down a second.

These are plenty of excuses we can conjure not to act. But Assad and his army must be punished because their actions cannot be allowed to stand. More importantly, they must be deterred from ever using poison gas again. And if the first strike doesn’t do it then we’ll need to follow up with more until he gets it. I also agree (gulp!) with Senator John McCain that any strikes must be more than pinpricks. They must do serious damage to Syria’s military capability to deliver poison gas and, as a bonus, do something meaningful to assist the Syrian Free Army. That means going beyond cruise missiles.

I didn’t have much time for Margaret Thatcher’s political philosophy but at times like this I wish she was still around. She would have been appalled at the parliamentary vote in Britain rejecting a military strike against Syria. “Britain may have gone wobbly” she might have said to America at this difficult time, “but for all our sakes don’t you.”

Obama As Drone Warrior Irks Krauthammer

Obama As Drone Warrior Irks Krauthammer

I usually don’t read Charles Krauthammer. His columns about President Obama in particular are too often marked by high levels of vitriol and meanness, not to mention wrongheadedness, which simply make them distasteful.

A column published on May 31 in The Washington Post titled: ‘Barak Obama: Drone Warrior’ is fairly typical. Presumably with the aim of undermining Obama’s sterling record on the war against al-Qaida, he manages to find a way to sully and trash Obama’s role in finding and killing Osama bin Laden. He also has a problem with Obama’s direction of the drone strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. It’s not that Krauthammer has a problem with these drone strikes; no, his problem is that Obama doesn’t have a problem with them.

Krauthammer, you see, scorns the fact that Obama stopped the torturing of terrorist suspects in detention following his criticism of George W Bush for doing so, yet personally orders drone strikes that will assassinate terrorists in the field. His reasoning is that this represents a muddled morality on Obama’s part. How is one any better or more moral or legal than the other? He also is critical of the reliance on drones to kill rather than capture terrorists, thereby foregoing the opportunity to seize terrorists and wring from them valuable intelligence.

However, I think it’s Krauthammer who, as usual, is muddled.

The use of armed drones was, as we all know, initiated by the Bush administration. Obama simply took an effective tool and put it on steroids. The strategy has enabled the United States and NATO to eviscerate al-Qaida’s leadership in Pakistan and to deal serious blows to the Taliban as well other terrorists groups or al-Qaida branches (such as in Yemen).

What do all the countries in which drone strikes occur have in common (you can probably add Somalia to the list)? In none of them does the government exercise full control of the whole country; and in those bits they don’t control, terrorists offer armed resistance against the host government whilst plotting against western countries in general and the United States in particular. For example, strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan would be unnecessary if the government controlled them.

The drone strikes are a rationale and reasonable response to the threat of al-Qaida et al. In an unconventional war in which the enemy is a trans-border terrorist group rather than a specific country, using armed drones to strike at them makes perfect sense. And whilst civilian casualties cannot be entirely avoided, great pains are taken to minimize them, certainly compared with most previous wars (including Iraq where civilian deaths and injuries as a result of our invasion were horrific). The ungoverned areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are both the battlefields and the bases of the terrorists. It was the right-wing who insisted that we elevate al-Qaida to the level of warriors. Obama is simply doing what any Commander-in-Chief would do, namely directing the killing of unconventional enemies by whatever reasonable means we are able.

Torturing those in our power who can no longer do us harm is an entirely different kettle of fish and Obama is right to make the distinction. Killing our enemies in their havens is both moral and legal; torturing them in our prisons is neither, no matter how Krauthammer tries to cut it.

Regarding the supposed intelligence windfall Obama is foregoing by killing rather than capturing terrorist leaders (as argued by others on the right, including the CIA officer who ordered the destruction of the tapes which showed waterboarding of key al-Qaida detainees) this argument is equally spurious.

Most of the targets are deep in hostile areas of foreign countries. Is Krauthammer really suggesting that American Special Forces regularly violate Pakistan sovereignty, for example, to snatch them? We did it once to kill OBL and the stink caused by that raid was enough to almost destroy the US-Pakistan relationship. Not to mention the danger to our forces if anything went wrong. Capture by ground forces, no matter how skilled, in most cases is simply not a viable option either in terms of the potential collateral damage or the risk.

President Obama’s has waged a stellar campaign against al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations. And nobody can take that away from him, no matter how much it sticks in Krauthammer’s craw.

Santa’s Bag of Goodies is Stuffed with Machine Guns

Santa’s Bag of Goodies is Stuffed with Machine Guns

Christmas Machine guns

Santa with shotgun

So much for satire.

Gun Club’s Santa Delivers Machine Guns, Year After Year

From Fox News in Phoenix:

The Scottsdale Gun Club is inviting people to enjoy Santa and Machine Guns.

The family event allows people to take a holiday card picture with St. Nick — and a high-powered fire arm.

Santa poses against a backdrop of an $80,000 Garwood minigun.

Families can choose to pose with other firearms, ranging from pistols to modified AR15s.

They also get a chance to test out the machine guns.

Dress your kids up like little Christmas Soldiers

So dress up the kids in camo and hurry on down to the Scottsdale Gun Club’s Family Christmas Photo Special to get the perfect family photo for your Christmas card, because nothing says “Merry Christmas” quite like you and your family flanked by Santa and his machine guns.

Sitting on Santa's lap, pointing an assault rifle at your children's mother's head. CUTE!

John McCain says Torture had Nothing to do with Finding Osama bin Laden

John McCain says Torture had Nothing to do with Finding Osama bin Laden

John McCain had something to say in his May 11th Washington Post column about the claim that the Bush Administration’s use “enhanced interrogation” techniques provided the key information leading to the killing of Osama bin Laden:

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey recently claimed that “the intelligence that led to bin Laden … began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information — including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden.” That is false.

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, non-coercive means.

And regarding the morality of torture and the ideals Americans claim to uphold, he said this:

Ultimately, this is more than a utilitarian debate. This is a moral debate. It is about who we are.

I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to forget that best sense of ourselves. Through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss, we are always Americans, and different, stronger and better than those who would destroy us.

I agree with his statements that torture is wrong and that waterboarding, “which is a mock execution and thus an exquisite form of torture,” must never be used by Americans under any circumstances.  I’ve always argued, like McCain did in his column, that torture is a moral issue and that it is never – under any circumstances – the right thing to do.

If you read the first few paragraphs of his column you will find that he thinks the military personnel who authorized or carried out orders to use enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, should not be prosecuted.  I disagree with him on that point.  Why shouldn’t they be prosecuted?   What is to stop anybody in the U.S. armed forces from torturing again if those who are known to have done it and those who are known to have approved and ordered the torture of captives are never held to account for their heinous crimes?

I say prosecute them all, but start at the top not the bottom.  You know which guys I’m talking about:  Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Yoo, and anyone else in the “Justice” Department who wrote twisted interpretations of US and international law to justify the crimes committed by the Bush Administration.