Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hue 1968: Urban Warfare, Then And Now

Bing West, an author and Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, offers an interesting and enlightening piece in National Review on Mark Bowden’s new book Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam and the comparisons of Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 1968, more than 500,000 Americans and 800,000 South Vietnamese troops were fighting 400,000 Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese (NVA) soldiers. In early February, the enemy launched a surprise attack against dozens of cities and bases throughout the 400-mile length of South Vietnam. While most of the offensive was beaten back within days, it received enormous press coverage and badly shook the confidence of the military and political leadership in both Saigon and Washington.

Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam, the new book from Mark Bowden of The Atlantic, tells the tactical narrative of these events splendidly — albeit with a dubious epilogue focused on broader questions of strategy and foreign policy.

The most savage battle occurred inside the historic city of Hue in the northern part of the country. Ten thousand NVA seized the heart of the city, including the ancient citadel enclosed by stone walls 20 feet thick. For 25 days a confused, chaotic battle raged up and down the city’s streets. When it ended, most of the city was destroyed, and the death toll included approximately 250 Americans, 500 South Vietnamese and 5,000 North Vietnamese soldiers, plus 6,000 civilians killed in the fighting and another 2,000 executed by the NVA.

Bowden has stitched together dozens of riveting squad-level firefights, writing from individual points of view collected via dozens of extended interviews over four years of research. Via this accumulation of short stories depicting love, sacrifice, gore, madness, valor, blood, and horror, the reader follows the battle down the deadly streets day by day.

… In the book’s epilogue, Bowden writes, “the battle of Hue and the entire Vietnam War seem a tragic and meaningless waste. . . . As some of the nation’s more recent wars have helped to illustrate, ‘victory’ in Vietnam would have been neither possible nor desirable.” This exculpation by blanket denial is both mystical and bewildering. It does not fit with the focus (one significant 25-day urban battle) or the deep research of the book.

Yes, the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are comparable to Vietnam in two particulars. First, in all three cases America insisted upon democratic nation-building that was resisted by the indigenous cultures and eventually exceeded politically sustainable resources. Second, in Vietnam, we conceded a vast sanctuary to our enemy; in Afghanistan, we similarly allowed Pakistan to provide aid and refuge to the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

However, unlike North Vietnam, the Islamist terrorists pose a continuing danger to America. Defeating them cannot be dismissed as “neither possible nor desirable.” There must be “victory,” narrowly defined as an end state that is tolerable to our security interests. Tell me where we are in three years if I follow your strategy should be the directive the commander-in-chief issues to his generals. And most certainly Bowden’s aversion to nation-building should be heeded in regards to our future role in Syria.

… Bowden has written a classic narrative about the role of grit and the individual soldier in urban battle.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on the Vietnam War and the lessons learned for Iraq and Afghanistan via the below link:

Note: On one point I disagree with Mr. West. The North Vietnamese were in fact a threat to America. They were a communist client state of the Soviet Union, a nation that had dreams of communist world domination. This is a fact - the Soviet leaders said so, many times. The Vietnam War was but a battle in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. And America won the Cold War.   

The Doddering Don: 100-Year-Old Crime Boss Bears The Odds, Is Released From Prison

Michael Hechtman at the New York Post offers a piece on a 100-year-old mobster released from prison.

Geriatric gangster John “Sonny’’ Franzese — the oldest guest of the federal prison system — is a free man at the age of 100.

The Colombo family underboss was rolled out of the Federal Medical Center in Massachusetts in a wheelchair Friday and headed to the home of his daughter in Brooklyn, Newsday reported.

At the age of 93, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for shaking d own the Hustler and Penthouse strip clubs in Manhattan.

Authorities said at the time the doddering don — whom they believed responsible for the murders of between 50 and 100 people — could be released at the age of 100 if he behaved himself in the lockup.

Assistant US Attorney Cristina Posa doubted Franzese would live that long. She told Judge Brian Cogan, who sentenced him, that “for him to die now as a criminal in jail is not an inappropriate response to the lifestyle he lived.”

Posa added, “He is largely responsible for the glamorization of the Mafia over the past century.’’

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Coalition Forces Kill ISIS Financial Facilitator

The Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve released the below information:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, June 23, 2017 — Coalition forces killed a key Islamic State of Iraq and Syria financial facilitator with an airstrike in Abu Kamal, Syria, June 16, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials announced today.

Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi, a Syrian native and an experienced terrorist financial facilitator, moved millions of dollars for the terror organization's attack and logistics network. He owned the Hanifa Currency Exchange in Abu-Kamal, which he used along with a network of global financial contacts to move money into and out of ISIS-controlled territory and across borders on behalf of the group.

The Treasury Department, pursuant to U.S. Executive Order 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism, imposed sanctions on al-Rawi and his company, Hanifa Currency Exchange’s branch in Abu Kamal, Dec. 13, 2016. This was the first U.S. action specifically targeting ISIS-affiliated money-services businesses.

The Treasury Department designated al-Rawi for providing financial and material support to ISIS. Al-Rawi pledged loyalty to ISIS in 2014 and used his network of global financial contacts to help ISIS conduct weapons and ammunition deals at a time when the terrorist group was seizing land and committing atrocities across Syria and Iraq. In 2015, he facilitated ISIS financial transactions and money storage, including payments to ISIS foreign terrorist fighters; his property was also used by senior ISIS leaders for weekly meetings. As of May 2016, he was considered an ISIS finance emir, whose money exchange business was used for ISIS-related transactions.

Financial Network Disrupted

The coalition's efforts to disrupt and attack ISIS's financial networks have restricted the terror group's ability to move resources and export terrorism. Several of al-Rawi's close terrorist associates have also been targeted and killed by the coalition:

-- Samir Idris, a key ISIS financial facilitator for external terror attacks and an international money launderer, was killed June 7, 2017, near Mayadin, Syria. He was trusted by senior ISIS leadership to move funds across borders to pay for external terror attacks.

-- Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, a foreign fighter and external terror attack facilitator, was killed April 6, 2017, near Mayadin, Syria. He was a close associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and helped facilitate the high profile attack that murdered 39 people on New Year's Eve at the Reina night club in Istanbul. U.S. Central Command announced his death on April 21, 2017.

-- Abd al-Basit al-Iraqi, a senior external terror attack facilitator, was killed Nov. 12, 2016, in Raqqa, Syria. He was responsible for attacks across the Middle East, including against American, Turkish, and other European targets of interest, and was also involved in assassination plots, hostage situations and convoy reconnaissance and helped arm, fund and move terrorist fighters. U.S. Central Command announced his death Jan. 6, 2017. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Virginia Man Arrested And Charged With Espionage

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

Kevin Patrick Mallory, 60, of Leesburg, Virginia, made his initial appearance in federal court today on charges that he transmitted Top Secret and Secret documents to an agent of the People’s Republic of China. According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, Mallory, travelled to Shanghai in March and April 2017 and met with an individual (PRC1), who he believed was working for the People’s Republic of China Intelligence Service (PRCIS).

The announcement was made by Dana J. Boente, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Andrew W. Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

“The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious, and these charges should send a message to anyone who would consider violating the public’s trust and compromising our national security by disclosing classified information,” said Mr. Boente.

“Kevin Mallory was previously entrusted with Top Secret clearance and therefore had access to classified information, which he allegedly shared and planned to continue sharing with representatives of a foreign government,” said Mr. Vale. “Furthermore, he allegedly misled investigators in a voluntary interview about sharing of this classified information. The FBI will continue to investigate those individuals who put our national security at risk through unauthorized disclosures of information.”

During a voluntary interview with FBI agents on May 24, Mallory stated that PRC1 represented himself as working for a People’s Republic of China think tank, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS). Since at least 2014, the FBI has assessed that Chinese intelligence officers have used SASS affiliation as cover identities.

Mallory told FBI agents he travelled to Shanghai separately in March and April to meet with PRC1 and PRC1’s boss. After Mallory consented to a review of a device he had been using to communicate with PRC1, FBI viewed a message from Mallory to PRC1 in which Mallory stated that he had blacked out security classification markings on documents transmitted to PRC1. Analysis of the device also revealed a handwritten index describing eight different documents. Four of the eight documents listed in the index were found stored on the device, with three containing classified information pertaining to the same U.S. government agency. One of those documents was classified TOP SECRET, while the remaining two documents were classified SECRET.

Mallory, a self-employed consultant with GlobalEx LLC, is a U.S. citizen who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. He has held numerous positions with various government agencies and several defense contractors. As required for his various government positions, Mallory obtained a Top Secret security clearance, which was active during various assignments during his career. Mallory’s security clearance was terminated in October 2012 when he left government service.

Mallory was arrested this morning  and is charged with gathering or delivering defense information to aid a foreign government, and making material false statements. If convicted, Mallory faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Trial Attorney Jennifer Kennedy Gellie of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney John T. Gibbs for the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case. 

Trump And His Generals

Victor Davis Hanson offers his take on President Trump and his generals in a piece in the Washington Times.

Donald Trump earned respect from the Washington establishment for appointing three of the nation’s most accomplished generals to direct his national security policy: James Mattis (secretary of defense), H.R. McMaster (national security adviser) and John Kelly (secretary of homeland security).

In the first five months of the Trump administration, the three generals — along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO — have already recalibrated America’s defenses.

At home, illegal immigration is down by some 70 percent. Abroad, a new policy of principled realism seeks to re-establish deterrence through credible threats of retaliation. The generals are repairing old friendships with allies and neutrals while warning traditional enemies not to press their luck.

President Trump has turned over most of the details of military operations to his generals. According to his critics, Mr. Trump is improperly outsourcing to his generals both strategic decision-making and its tactical implementation.

But is Mr. Trump really doing that?

In his campaign, Mr. Trump vowed to avoid new ground wars while not losing those he inherited. He pledged to wipe out ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism without invading Middle Eastern countries to turn them into democracies.

Those are wide but nonetheless unmistakable parameters.

 Within them, the U.S. military can drop a huge bomb on the Taliban, strike the chemical weapons depots of Syria’s Bashar Assad, or choose the sort of ships it will use to deter North Korean aggression — without Mr. Trump poring over a map, or hectoring Gen. Mattis or Gen. McMaster about what particular move is politically appropriate or might poll well.

Other presidents have done the same.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: The top photo is of General McMasters. The middle photo is of General Mattis and the above photo is of General Kelly.   

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Washington Times Review Of Stephen Hunter's 'G-Man'

The Washington Times published my review of Stephen Hunter’s G-Man.

“Don’t shoot, G-Man,” Machine Gun Kelly cried out to the federal agents who were moving in to arrest him in 1933. The term later came to be synonymous with FBI special agents.

As Bryan Burrough noted in his excellent true crime book “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34,” J. Edgar Hoover publicly mandated that all agents have a law degree, but he quietly, and wisely, also hired Southwestern lawmen to compliment his lawyer-agents. These “Cowboys,” as they were known, were knowledgeable about firearms and had considerable experience with gunfights against armed and desperate criminals. As the federal agents were going up against violent bank robbers such as Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson and John Dillinger, the Cowboys were needed to back up the inexperienced agents with law degrees.

In Stephen Hunter’s thriller “G-Man” Charles Swagger, a World War I hero and sheriff of Polk County, Arkansas, is one of the Cowboys. The Justice Department’s Division of Investigation, later renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, needed men in like Charles Swagger to go toe-to-toe with the violent bank robbers and gunmen of the 1930s.

In Mr. Hunter’s series of thrillers about the fictional Swagger family, Charles Swagger is the grandfather of Bob Lee Swagger, a former Vietnam War Marine sniper, and father of Earl Swagger, a former World War II Marine Medal of Honor winner and Arkansas state trooper. All of the Swaggers are gunmen and Mr. Hunter, a gun enthusiast, writes knowledgeably about guns.

“G-Man,” the 10th in the series, alternates between Charles Swagger’s story in 1934 and Bob Lee Swagger’s present day story. Bob Lee Swagger is an elderly, tall, and lanky man, looking more like Clint Eastwood than Mark Wahlberg, who portrayed the former sniper in the film “Shooter,” or Ryan Phillippe, who plays Bob Lee Swagger in the TV series “Shooter.”

… All of the infamous criminals and famous lawmen from the Depression-era make an appearance in the novel and Mr. Hunter places Charles Swagger at the center of every famous gunfight.

You can read the rest of the review via the below link: