Monday, February 28, 2022

My Crime Fiction: Olongapo

The below short story appeared originally in American Crime Magazine. 

Olongapo 

By Paul Davis

As a young enlisted sailor on route to the Philippines aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in 1970, I was warned by older sailors that Olongapo was a rough town.

One had to be very careful, I was told. There were pickpockets, thieves, con artists, and armed robbers that preyed on American sailors. Shoeshine boys will hold a razor against your heel until you handed over your wallet. Bar girls will rob you if get too drunk. And so on.  

These older sailors had visited Olongapo on the previous combat cruise, so they were able to advise me of the dangers and pitfalls, as well as the many delights, of Olongapo. It was so easy to be robbed, cheated and even murdered in the wide-open sin city that lay next to the U.S, naval base at Subic Bay. 

I recall a particularly shocking illustration of just how rough Olongapo could be on my second visit to Subic Bay. A shore patrol jeep pulled up to the carrier’s enlisted brow as I was departing the ship and out stepped a young sailor who appeared to be naked under a gray blanket that was wrapped around him. 

He looked as if he were in shock as hundreds of American sailors and Filipino yard workers and vendors laughed wildly at him as he walked up the brow. To make matters even worse, a cruel sailor grabbed the tip of the blanket and yanked it off of him and tossed it into the water. The humiliated young sailor, now naked, covered his crotch with his hands and ran up the brow. He was then escorted away from the laughing crowd. 

I learned later from the ship’s “scuttlebutt,” which is what sailors call gossip, that the sailor had passed out drunk in a hotel room and a Filipina prostitute robbed him of everything from his glasses and watch to his underwear and socks. The hotel clerks pulled the crying sailor out of his room and threw him into the street naked. The Shore Patrol showed up, placed a blanket around him and brought him back to the aircraft carrier. 

To add insult to the proverbial injury, the sailor was reprimanded for losing his Navy ID card and went to Captain’s Mass, a sort of naval hearing. The captain busted him down a rank, but his real punishment was that he was ridiculed by nearly everyone on the carrier for the rest of his time on the ship.    

I felt sorry for the kid, although I was only 18 years old myself at the time and this young sailor might have been a year or two older than me. But I was a street-smart South Philly kid. Being robbed of all of my possessions, including my clothes, would never happen to me. 


The Kitty Hawk was sent to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and served long line periods on “Yankee Station” in the Gulf of Tonkin in the South China Sea off the coast of North Vietnam in 1970 and 1971. The aircraft carrier’s launched aircraft performed combat sorties against the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong in support of American and allied ground forces and interdicted the flow of weapons from North Vietnam to the south on the famed “Ho Chi Minh Trail.” 

The Kitty Hawk was relieved periodically from Yankee Station by another aircraft carrier and sailed off to make port of calls to Hong Kong and Sasebo, Japan for R&R periods. The Kitty Hawk also visited the American naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines on several occasions to take on weapons and supplies and do needed repairs before heading back to Yankee Station and the war. 

The port calls to Subic Bay also provided a reprieve for the bent-up sailors who went wild in Olongapo.

Olongapo in the early 1970s was Dodge City, Las Vegas, and Sodom and Gomorrah all rolled into one. Subic Bay was called “Septic Bay,” by the sailors due to the high rate of VD cases. 

American sailors walked from the naval base to the city of Olongapo on a bridge over “Shit River,” so called due to the pungent smell. On the other side of the bridge, sailors encountered Magsaysay Drive, where there were numerous bars and nightclubs, hotels, restaurants and plentiful attractive women calling out for the young sailors to enter their particular bar. 

Magsaysay, the main drag of the city, was always crowded at night with passing sailors, shoeshine boys, drug dealers, street vendors, including those selling “monkey meat” on a stick (actually beef and chicken), and the ubiquitous “jeepneys,” the colorfully decorated jeeps that carried the sailors across town. 

Pretty Filipinas gathered outside of the bars on Magsaysay and enticed sailors to enter the bars with hugs, kisses, swaying hips, pushed out breasts and shaking bottoms, as well as more strongarm-style tactics. Come inside and enjoy the music, the dancing, the Sam Miguel beer, and the sweet companionship of the bar girls, the sailors were told by the hawking and preening girls outside of the bars.

The music from the Filipino bands flowed out from the bars into the streets. The Filipino bands were incredible mimics and covered popular bands’ hit songs, sounding eerily like the original musicians. Once inside a bar, the bargirls, called "hostesses," rushed up to the sailors and tugged them towards their tables. The sailors bought the girls “whisky” (actually Coke) and champagne (actually 7-Up). This is how the girls made their money, and it was so inexpensive that few sailors cared. 

During the early evenings some sailors opted to pay the bar’s mama-san so they could take the girls to a hotel room for “short-time,” as it was called. Most sailors partied with the girls until the end of the evening when the girls could leave the bar without charge and would accompany the dipsy and happy sailors to near-by hotels. The American dollar was like gold then and one could spend a wild and sinful night in Olongapo drinking, eating and buying companionship for about $20. 

On this, my third visit to Olongapo, I left the carrier and headed into town with some friends. One was Mike Hunt, a 3rd class radioman from California. Hunt and I became friends when the carrier was stationed in San Diego. We were both amateur boxers. At 6’2” and nearly 200 pounds, Hunt fought in the heavyweight class. Weighing in at 165 and just under six feet, I fought in the middleweight class. 

Also with us was another 3rd class radioman named Owen Trent, a tall, lean and quiet Texan. I called him the “Tall-T,” which he found amusing. Hunt and Trent had been to Olongapo on the previous combat cruise. 

“Dino” Ingemi, a big, burly, easy-going and funny guy from the Bronx, also came with us. As I was half-Italian on my mother’s side and I grew up in a predominantly Italian American South Philadelphia neighborhood, I called Dino my paisan.    

On my previous visit to Olongapo I met a bargirl named Zeny. She had long, raven hair with bangs cut just above her dark, sultry eyes. She also had a pretty face and a nice figure. Zeny was beautiful, smart, sexy and funny. I called her “Zany Zeny,” but I don’t think she ever got the joke. We spent three fun days together before I had to head back to sea. 

On this visit, I and my friends visited the Stardust and Zeny rushed up to me. She kissed and hugged me, and she pulled me to a table. Hunt, Trent and Ingemi had corralled girls and we all sat at the table and ordered San Miguel beer. The band was outstanding, and we all danced and drank and had a good time until a seaman named John Bland from our division staggered in. His face was bruised and bloody and his shirt torn. 

Bland came to our table and the girls got up and left to go the rest room. 

“What the fuck happened to you?” Ingemi asked.    

Bland explained that he had gone into an alley with a street girl who promised him fellatio. Two Filipinos must have followed them into the alley, and they beat Bland and stole his money and watch. 

Ingemi asked what the girl’s name was and what street she hung out on. Bland told him. 

“I think it’s time for a little payback,” Hunt said.

Hunt told Bland to stay at the Stardust and he said we should visit the street corner and confront the girl and her two friends. 

“She’s wearing a bright, red dress,” Bland said. “You can’t miss her.” 

I didn’t like Bland. He was an ingratiating guy from a Philadelphia suburb. He thought he was clever, and he was always trying to scam people over small things, like a Coke or a minor work detail. I was certain that he thought he had scammed the girl by convincing her to perform the sex act in the alley for nothing. Yet, I joined eagerly the avenging patrol and we headed out to the other bar.    

It was decided that Trent would talk to the girl on the corner as Hunt and Ingemi slipped into the alley. Trent would then allow her to take him into the alley, as she had done with Bland. 

As I was the youngest guy in the group, Hunt told me to stand at the foot of the alley and keep a lookout for the Navy’s Shore Patrol and the Olongapo police. 

“I can take care of myself,” I told Hunt. 

“I know you can handle yourself, but we need you as a lookout. Dino and me will handle these creeps.” 

Trent approached the girl in the red dress on the corner. After a brief discussion, they walked up the alley. Only a moment or so later, two Filipinos, one about average height and lean, and the other looking like a sumo wrestler, charged into the alley. 

As the two bruisers jumped on Trent, Hunt and Ingemi came out of the shadows and pounced on the two Filipinos. I stood sideways at the foot of the alley, one eye on the fight and the other eye on the street looking for Shore Patrol or local cops. 

The girl ran up the alley in a panic and as she passed me, I kicked her in the ass with the side of my foot. She fell forward and splayed out on the ground. 

I looked back down the alley and saw the lean Filipino break from the fight as Hunt, Trent and Ingemi beat on the sumo. The lean one ran up the alley as I stepped into the middle and dropped my right hand at my side. 

The Filipino ran right into my short right and I heard two clonks. The first clonk was when my fist hit his chin and the second clonk was when he fell backwards and his head hit the ground. 

I looked past the knocked cold Filipino and saw that Hunt, Trent and Ingemi had finally laid out the sumo. Hunt took off the three watches that he was wearing, went through his pockets and took all of his cash. 

Hunt then took two watches off the lean one I knocked out and took his money as well. 

We went back to the Stardust. Hunt laid the watches on the table and Bland picked out his. He also said they stole $100 dollars from him, although I suspected the actual figure was $10. Hunt gave him $100 from the money he had taken from the two robbers. He gave the other watches to the girls. 

He held up the rest of the cash and proclaimed, “The rest of tonight is on the girl in the red dress!”  

  

After the Stardust closed, Zeny and I headed to a nearby hotel. We took a room and had a fine time until I passed out from drinking far too much San Miguel beer. 

I woke up the following morning and saw that Zeny was gone. Also gone was my watch, my wallet, and all of my clothes. The only thing left was my knife, which I had placed under my pillow the night before. I was taken aback. I knew Zeny from my previous visit, and I trusted her. 

I panicked. I thought of the poor sailor who had returned to the ship naked under a blanket. This could not happen to me. I was too smart. Too streetwise. Too cool. 

But it was happening to me. I wrapped a sheet around my middle and paced the floor, wondering what I was going to do. I cursed. I punched a wall. I looked out the window, hoping to see one of my friends. 

It was perhaps only a half-hour, but it seemed like an eternity, when there was a knock on the door.   

I opened the door and there stood Zeny holding my brightly polished shoes in her right hand and holding a hanger with my cleaned and pressed shirt and slacks in her left hand. My chain and dog tags hung around her neck and my watch hung loosely on her wrist. My folded underwear and socks were under her right arm. 

She told me that she took my clothes to her home and cleaned and pressed them. She shined my shoes. She said she didn’t know that my slim black leather wallet, which held my Navy ID and cash, had been in my pants pocket. 

I kissed her full on the lips and hugged her.


As I walked down Magsaysay back towards the naval base, I saw other returning sailors staggering along, hung over and disheveled.

I smiled as I knew I looked sharp in my polished shoes and cleaned and pressed clothes.

© 2022 By Paul Davis


Note: You can read my other crime fiction stories via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: My Crime Fiction Stories  

Sunday, February 27, 2022

A Little Humor: In Response To Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine, Biden Announces He Will Move To Unfollow Putin On Twitter

The Babylon Bee offers a satirical piece on President Biden's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—After Putin led Russia in an unprovoked attack on Ukraine, Biden addressed the world and outlined the steps he'd take to stop Russia from rampaging through Eastern Europe. 

"Listen, folks, I was hoping I wouldn't have to do this, today I directed my social media manager to unfollow Putin on Twitter," said Biden. "That Putin guy is a major internet influencer and we need to hit him where it hurts. We have no other choice. God have mercy on us."

Biden then directed his staff to "unfollow" President Putin on Twitter, warning that if Putin doesn't stop what he's doing, he will also "unfriend" him on Facebook. 

"You want to have no friends, Vlad? 'Cause that's where you're headed, buddy! That's no fun! Trust me, I know! You'd better watch your step, bud!" Biden said angrily before tripping on the carpet of his house and faceplanting into his bronze bust of Neville Chamberlain. 

Biden has promised to engage in further talks with world leaders once aides finish changing his Depends. 

You can read other Babylon Bee humor pieces via the below link:

The Babylon Bee | Fake News You Can Trust 

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Bold Ukrainian Sailor Spoke For The Rest Of The World When He Told Russians To 'Go F**k Yourself'

The bravery and defiance of the Ukrainian people was illustrated well when Ukrainian sailors guarding Snake Island refused to surrender to the overwhelming force of Putin’s Russian forces. 

There is a recording going around the world of a brave Ukrainian sailor responding to the Russians after they radioed and ordered the Ukrainian sailors to lay down their weapons and surrender. 

“Go Fuck yourself,” one of the Ukrainian screamed. 

The Russians reportedly killed all 13 Ukrainian sailors, but the New York Post suggests the Ukrainian sailors are still alive. 

Note: The above photo of Vladimir Putin is from the satirical TV program, Spitting Images. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

Two Shotgun-Wielding Carjackers Who Attacked Rideshare Driver And Passenger Near Philadelphia Zoo Federally Charged

 The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia released the below information:

PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Alex Fernandez-Pena, 32, and Juan Jose Rodriguez, 20, both of Philadelphia, PA, were arrested and charged by Indictment on charges of carjacking and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence stemming from an incident earlier this year in the Parkside section of Philadelphia. Both defendants were taken into federal custody and will make their initial appearances on these charges tomorrow, February 24, 2022.

On January 3, 2022, the defendants used their Honda Accord to bump the rear bumper of a Lyft vehicle, an Infiniti G37, that was transporting a passenger on the 1100 block of North 40th Street. After the Lyft driver exited his vehicle, Fernandez-Pena allegedly pointed a 12-gauge shotgun at the driver-victim and then drove off with the Lyft vehicle after its passenger escaped through a rear door. The driver-victim, who had a license to carry a firearm, shot Fernandez-Pena before the defendant drove away in the victim’s vehicle. The victim then shot Rodriguez, the suspect who allegedly initiated the attack by rear-ending the Infiniti, after Rodriguez threatened to run the victim over with his Honda. Philadelphia Police officers subsequently captured both defendants nearby. The attack occurred in broad daylight around 2:30 p.m., less than a mile away from family attractions like the Please Touch Children’s Museum and the Philadelphia Zoo.

“As we have said many times since launching the #AllHandsOnDeck initiative, our Office and our federal partners are doing everything we can to support the Philadelphia Police Department and prosecute cases federally when appropriate,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Here, the defendants allegedly committed a brazen carjacking at gunpoint in the middle of the afternoon in busy neighborhood; an offense that certainly meets the criteria for federal indictment. We are committed to bringing the full might of the federal justice system to this battle.

“ATF’s main objective will always be keeping our citizens safe,” said Matthew Varisco, Special Agent in charge of ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division. “This indictment is indicative of ATF’s continued efforts working with our partners and proudly serving as part of the joint carjacking task force, being led by the Philadelphia Police Department. We will continue working with our local, state, and federal partners in making sure violent individuals are held accountable when they threaten the safety of the community.”

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison, as well as a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years’ incarceration.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael R. Miller.

An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Cal Thomas: Dictators Like Putin And Hitler Only Know Power, Resolve And Resistance

 Cal Thomas compares Putin to Hitler in his column in the Washington Times. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the sovereign nation of Ukraine under several pretexts reminds me of Adolf Hitler’s rationale for invading and annexing Sudetenland in 1938 and his invasion of Czechoslovakia and Poland a year later. Then, as now, the excuse was that German-speaking people (then) and Russian-speaking people (now) wanted to be part of Germany (then) and Mother Russia (now).

 

In both cases, the excuses for invasion, occupation and murder were just that — excuses. Some commentators say there has been nothing like Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine since World War II. There are dwindling numbers of people alive who lived through that period and witnessed the evil of Nazi brutality and genocide.

 

President Ronald Reagan lived through that era. This is why he coined the phrase “evil empire” to describe the Soviet Union. It’s one thing to read about evil in history books, but it is quite another to have witnessed it. One need only listen to Holocaust survivors for a powerful lesson in how deep human depravity can sink if it is not opposed.

 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

New York Post Editorial Board: Putin Must Be Stopped NOW

The New York Post offers an editorial calling on President Biden to act against Russian aggression in the Ukraine. 

If a chance for peace was possible with Vladimir Putin, it vanished Monday with his recognition of two “breakaway” states in eastern Ukraine and his sending of “peacekeepers” — read: Russian troops — into the region.

There are no niceties here: He’s invading Ukraine.

President Biden sanctioned any investment or trade with the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, but he should pull the trigger on that “mother of all sanctions” he has promised before. There is no leverage with a madman. Punishment is now the only way. 

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

The Post says: Putin must be stopped NOW (nypost.com) 

Monday, February 21, 2022

It’s George Washington’s Birthday, Not Presidents Day: Celebrating The Indispensable Man

Although the holiday was changed to President’s Day, for me, this day is a celebration of the first and best president in our history, George Washington. In American history, he is truly the indispensable man. 

Michael McKenna offers this shared view in his Washington Times column:

 

In the deep of a cold night almost 250 years ago, the remnants of an army waited for their turn to cross a river and head toward their enemy in hopes of surprising them on Christmas. Most troops had less than a week left in their enlistments and were already preparing to head home.

The fading prospects for American independence would go with them.

 

It would have been easy for those soldiers to have slipped off into the night, to not have gotten on the boats for this one final, probably pointless battle. However, just about all of them stayed to cross the Delaware, march to Trenton, and surprise and defeat the Hessians there on Dec. 26, 1776. More than any other, that victory changed the fortunes of the Revolution.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Wife Of Maryland Nuclear Engineer Pleads Guilty To Espionage-Related Offense

 The Justice Department released the below information:

A Maryland woman pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to communicate Restricted Data related to the design of nuclear-powered warships. Her husband pleaded guilty to the same offense on Monday, Feb. 14.

Diana Toebbe, 46, of Annapolis, was arrested on Oct. 9, 2021, for knowingly and voluntarily joining a conspiracy with her husband, Jonathan Toebbe, to communicate Restricted Data to a foreign nation. During the course of the conspiracy, Diana Toebbe served as a lookout while her husband serviced three “dead-drops.”

According to court documents, at the time of his arrest, Jonathan Toebbe was an employee of the Department of the Navy who served as a nuclear engineer and was assigned to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, also known as Naval Reactors. He held an active national security clearance through the Department of Defense, giving him access to “Restricted Data” within the meaning of the Atomic Energy Act. Restricted Data concerns design, manufacture or utilization of atomic weapons, or production of Special Nuclear Material (SNM), or use of SNM in the production of energy – such as naval reactors. Jonathan Toebbe worked with and had access to information concerning naval nuclear propulsion including information related to military sensitive design elements, operating parameters and performance characteristics of the reactors for nuclear powered warships.

According to court documents, Jonathan Toebbe sent a package to a foreign government, listing a return address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, containing a sample of Restricted Data and instructions for establishing a covert relationship to purchase additional Restricted Data. Jonathan Toebbe began corresponding via encrypted email with an individual whom he believed to be a representative of the foreign government. The individual was really an undercover FBI agent. Jonathan Toebbe continued this correspondence for several months, which led to an agreement to sell Restricted Data in exchange for thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency.

On June 8, 2021, the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Jonathan Toebbe as “good faith” payment. Shortly afterwards, on June 26, Dianna Toebbe acted as a lookout while Jonathan Toebbe serviced a dead drop by placing an SD card, which was concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich and contained military sensitive design elements relating to submarine nuclear reactors, at a pre-arranged location. After retrieving the SD card, the undercover agent sent Jonathan Toebbe a $20,000 cryptocurrency payment. In return, Jonathan Toebbe emailed the undercover agent a decryption key for the SD Card. A review of the SD card revealed that it contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors. On Aug. 28, Jonathan Toebbe made another “dead drop” of an SD card in eastern Virginia, this time concealing the card in a chewing gum package. After making a payment to Jonathan Toebbe of $70,000 in cryptocurrency, the FBI received a decryption key for the card. It, too, contained Restricted Data related to submarine nuclear reactors. The FBI arrested Diana Toebbe and her husband on Oct. 9, after she acted as a lookout while Jonathan Toebbe placed yet another SD card at a pre-arranged “dead drop” at a second location in West Virginia.

Diana Toebbe pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment charging her with conspiracy to communicate Restricted Data which carries a maximum statutory penalty of up to life in prison, a fine up to $100,000, and term of supervised release not more than five years. Pursuant to her plea agreement, Diana Toebbe will serve a sentence of not more than 36 months of imprisonment in federal prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service are investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Matthew J. McKenzie and S. Derek Shugert of the National Security Division's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jarod J. Douglas and Lara Omps-Botteicher of the Northern District of West Virginia and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Lieber Smolar for the Western District of Pennsylvania are prosecuting the case.

You can also the press release regarding Jonathan Toebbe via the below link:

 Paul Davis On Crime: Maryland Nuclear Engineer Pleads Guilty To Espionage-Related Offense 

Saturday, February 19, 2022

The Last Platoon: A Novel of The Afghanistan War: My Counterterrorism Magazine Q&A With Former Combat Marine And Author Bing West

Counterterrorism magazine published my Q&A with Bing West, a former combat Marine and author of The Last Platoon: A Novel of Afghanistan.    

You can read the Q&A via the below pages or text:






My Q&A With Bing West

A graduate of Georgetown and Princeton Universities, Francis J. “Bing” West fought as a Marine infantry officer in the Vietnam War and later served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs under President Reagan. He is also the author of best-selling books about war and the Marine Corps. 

His books include “The Village,” which has been on the Marine Commandant’s Reading List for 40 years; “The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq,” “The Wrong War,” a history of the Afghanistan war, “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” written with General James Mattis, and his current novel, “The Last Platoon: A Novel of the Afghanistan War.”

 

He was awarded the Public Service Award and the Department of Navy’s Distinguished Civilian Service Medal. He is also the recipient (twice) of Marine Corps Heritage, the Colby Military History Award, the General Goodpaster Prize for Military Scholarship, the Free Press Award, the Father Clyde Leonard Award, the Marine Corps Russell Award for Leadership, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Media Award.

 

He has covered numerous wars as a combat correspondence and his articles have appeared in The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The National Review, The Washington Post and other publications.

 

He is a member of the Hoover Military Historians Working Group at Stanford University, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Infantry Order of St. Crispin.

 

He was interviewed by Paul Davis.

 

IACSP: How would you describe your excellent novel about the war in Afghanistan, “The Last Platoon?”

West: “The Last Platoon” is my effort to tell a story so the reader understood the complexity and the tragedy of Afghanistan. I set out to do a metaphor for the entire war. I tried to show what a captain on the ground was doing, how his ambitious colonel wanted him to change, and how out of touch the White House and the Secretary of Defense were with what was going on the ground. And how the Taliban were tied into the drug dealers, including Pakistan. I pulled all those threats together and tried to show the real chaos of a tough firefight.

IACSP: I liked how you went from the White House down to a Marine captain and the sergeants. I particularly like your portrayal of the ambitious and incompetent colonel. I’m a Navy veteran and a retired Defense Department civilian, and I once worked for this awful Air Force colonel, in a noncombat situation, and I saw him in your character.

West: Actually, the colonel in the book was my colonel in Vietnam. Other grunts who read the book have written to me and said we finally nailed that son of a bitch. Everyone in the unit knew who he was.

IACSP: Is he alive? Has he responded to your negative portrayal of him?

West: No. But in my other books, “The Wrong War,” and “One Million Steps,” I have had the generals respond to me sharply, saying, you know tactics, but you don’t know operations or strategy. I responded back to them and said, you lost the war. So don’t tell me about not understanding operations and strategy.

IACSP: Yes, but didn’t politics play a significant role?

West: I have a different view. All the way until the end, the presidents deferred to the generals. President Bush loved them. President Obama was exasperated, but he did not contradict the generals. He shortened the timeline, but he did not contradict the strategy they were trying to lay out – nation building. President Obama complained about it, but he didn’t take concrete actions to make a difference. Finally, I would argue, beginning with General Dunford, our military got it right. They cleared the decks and just kept a small number of special operators to conduct raids and bombed the daylights out of the enemy and gradually trained the Afghan army.

The tragedy to me was we finally got it right in 2020 and then we have two presidents who dislike one another viscerally but have one thing in common. Both President Trump and President Biden wanted nothing to do with Afghanistan and understood nothing about it. They were both equally stubborn. At the time when we finally had it right, two presidents gave up on it because it had been going on too long.

IACSP: Did the way we pulled out of Afghanistan hit you like a gut punch? To me, it felt like Vietnam all over.

West: It was a shame and disgrace to our country. President Biden asked what our interest was there? My answer is, we had Bagram Air Base, which was huge, and it was in the backyard of Russia, Iran and China. Therefore, the Iranians, the Russians and the Chinese always had to be looking over their shoulders, because we could see what they were doing. We had a fantastic base and President Biden gave it up for no reason.

IACSP: You mentioned nation building, and I’ve read in your published articles that you think the military ought not to be involved in nation building.

West: The military changed its doctrine in 2005 to say our soldiers will be nation builders as well as warriors. From 2005, I have argued strongly against that. It diverted us and it led to shambles both in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was the wrong call by our generals.

IACSP: Nation building worked in Japan, Germany and South Korea, why didn’t it work in Iraq and Afghanistan?

West: Nation building worked in Japan, Germany and South Korea because we dictated who all the leaders were going to be, and we stayed there. We’re still there. We went many decades being the power behind the throne. I believe the American political landscape in the 21st Century would not tolerate us staying the way we stayed in South Korea for years to build the nation the right way. We simply would not have the patience. Therefore, I believe we would not do what we did in South Korea. I was opposed to nation building. I didn’t believe the body politic would stick with it.

IACSP: What is your view of the airlift operation from Kabul in comparison to the airlift operation from South Vietnam in 1975?

West: I was the special assistant to Jim Schlesinger, the Secretary of Defense, in 1975. He was a wonderful man. Long before Saigon fell, he ordered a full airlift for as many South Vietnamese as possible before our forces left. People don’t recognize that, but he did that for a month. In the case of Afghanistan, our Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did nothing. The facts are damning.

We all knew for many years that the State Department was incompetent in terms of approving the visas. When President Biden declared in April that he was going to pull everyone out, there were 18,000 visas in the State Department system. In July, six months later, there were still 18,000. No movement in six months. General Miley says, well, we didn’t expect Kabul to fall in a month. My point is our military did nothing for six months before that, so the idea that they are going to say they believed that given another six months, they would have gotten everyone out, is deceitful. The evidence was clear for six months and they hadn’t done a damn thing.

IACSP: Prior to President Biden, what is your view of President Trump’s withdrawal plan and agreement with the Taliban?

West: I believe that President Trump had some good policies and a terrible character. He was so emotional that you couldn’t predict what he was going to do. What he was doing in Afghanistan was as wrong as what President Biden did. We have no way of knowing what President Trump would have done, as he wasn’t reelected. For President Biden to blame President Trump is passing the buck. This was President Biden’s decision and no one else. No one in the military supported it. But on the other hand, no one in the military resigned. General Mattis resigned when he disagreed with President Trump

IACSP: I never met President Trump, but from what I’ve read about him, your portrayal of the president in “The Last Platoon” was spot on.

West: Thank you. Our politicians are strange ducks to begin with. I don’t cut any of them any slack, and I certainly didn’t in the book.

IACSP: Do you think we will see an increase in terrorist attacks now that terrorist groups can regroup in Afghanistan? And do you think we will be returning to Afghanistan in the future?

West: I have no crystal ball. There are too many variables there. The Taliban is a cancer inside Afghanistan. Al- Qaeda would like to be a pandemic far beyond Afghanistan, but the Taliban would like to stay just where they are. Al-Qaeda are the ones that would try to hit Western Europe and the United States. I think it is too early to predict. But I’m not an intelligence expert, I was a warrior. I just as soon kill them and be done with it.

IACSP: One other thing I liked in “The Last Platoon” was your description of Afghan heroin dealing.

West: When I was in Afghanistan, we all knew what was occurring with the Taliban and drug trafficking. Both Iran and Pakistan profited immensely.

IACSP: Thank you for your service and thank you for speaking to us.

Paul Davis, a longtime contributor to the Journal, writes the IACSP Threatcon column



The Iranian Cyber Threat: My Counterterrorism Magazine Piece On Iranian Cyber Operations To Influence 2020 Presidential Election


Counterterrorism magazine published my piece on the Iranian cyber threat. 

You can read the below pages or text:





The Iranian Cyber Threat: Iranians Indicted for Cyber Operations

to Influence the 2020 Presidential Election

By Paul Davis

While most of the attention has been on Russian interference in the 2020 election, a federal indictment this past November zeroed in on Iran’s cyber operations.

An indictment unsealed in New York on November 21st charged two Iranian nationals with involvement in a cyber-enabled campaign to intimidate and influence American voters, and undermine voter confidence, as well as sow discord, in connection with the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

According to Court documents, Seyyed Mohamad Hosein Musa Kazemi, aka Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazem, aka Hosein Zamani, 24, and Sajjad Kashaian, aka Kiarash Nabavi, 27, obtained confidential U.S. voter information from at least one state election website; sent threatening email messages to intimidate and interfere with voters; created and disseminated a video containing disinformation about purported election infrastructure vulnerabilities; attempted to access, without authorization, several states’ voting-related websites; and successfully gained unauthorized access to a U.S. media company’s computer network that, if not for successful FBI and victim company efforts to mitigate, would have provided the conspirators another vehicle to disseminate false claims after the election.

“This indictment details how two Iran-based actors waged a targeted, coordinated campaign to erode confidence in the integrity of the U.S. electoral system and to sow discord among Americans,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The allegations illustrate how foreign disinformation campaigns operate and seek to influence the American public. The Department is committed to exposing and disrupting malign foreign influence efforts using all available tools, including criminal charges.”

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York stated, “As alleged, Kazemi and Kashian were part of a coordinated conspiracy in which Iranian hackers sought to undermine faith and confidence in the U.S. presidential election. Working with others, Kazemi and Kashian accessed voter information from at least one state’s voter database, threatened U.S. voters via email, and even disseminated a fictitious video that purported to depict actors fabricating overseas ballots. The United States will never tolerate any foreign actors’ attempts to undermine our free and democratic elections. As a result of the charges unsealed today, and the concurrent efforts of our U.S. government partners, Kazemi and Kashian will forever look over their shoulders as we strive to bring them to justice.”

The FBI’s Cyber Division’s Assistant Director Bryan Vorndran added, “The FBI remains committed to countering malicious cyber activity targeting our democratic process. Working rapidly with our private sector and U.S. government partners and ahead of the election, we were able to disrupt and mitigate this malicious activity – and then to enable today’s joint, sequenced operations against the adversary.”

According to the Feds, from about August of 2020 to November 2020, Kazemi, Kashian, and other co-conspirators coordinated a campaign to undermine faith and confidence in the 2020 presidential election. The Campaign had four components:

“In September and October 2020, members of the conspiracy conducted reconnaissance on, and attempted to compromise, approximately 11 state voter websites, including state voter registration websites and state voter information websites. Those efforts resulted in the successful exploitation of a misconfigured computer system of a particular U.S. state (“State-1”), and the resulting unauthorized downloading of information concerning more than 100,000 of State-1’s voters,” the Justice Department stated.

“In October 2020, members of the conspiracy, claiming to be a “group of Proud Boys volunteers,” sent Facebook messages and emails (the “False Election Messages”) to Republican Senators, Republican members of Congress, individuals associated with the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, White House advisors, and members of the media. The False Election Messages claimed that the Democratic Party was planning to exploit “serious security vulnerabilities” in state voter registration websites to “edit mail-in ballots or even register non-existent voters.” The False Election Messages were accompanied by a video (the “False Election Video”) carrying the Proud Boys logo, which purported, via simulated intrusions and the use of State-1 voter data, to depict an individual hacking into state voter websites and using stolen voter information to create fraudulent absentee ballots through the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) for military and overseas voters.

“Also in October 2020, the conspirators engaged in an online voter intimidation campaign involving the dissemination of a threatening message (the “Voter Threat Emails”), purporting to be from the Proud Boys to tens of thousands of registered voters, including some voters whose information the conspiracy had obtained from State-1’s website. The emails were sent to registered Democrats and threatened the recipients with physical injury if they did not change their party affiliation and vote for President Trump.”

The Justice Department further stated that On Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the conspirators sought to leverage earlier September and October 2020 intrusions into an American media company’s (Media Company-1) computer networks. Specifically, on that day, the conspirators attempted to use stolen credentials to again access Media Company-1’s network, which would have provided them another vehicle for further disseminating false claims concerning the election through conspirator-modified or created content. However, because of an earlier FBI victim notification, Media Company-1 had by that time mitigated the conspirators’ unauthorized access and these log-in attempts failed. 

According to the Justice Department, Kazemi and Kashian are experienced Iran-based computer hackers who worked as contractors for an Iran-based company formerly known as Eeleyanet Gostar, and now known as Emennet Pasargad. Eeleyanet Gostar purported to provide cybersecurity services within Iran. Among other things, Eeleyanet Gostar is known to have provided services to the Iranian government, including to the Guardian Council.

“As part of his role in the Voter Intimidation and Influence Campaign, Kazemi compromised computer servers that were used to send the Voter Threat Emails, drafted those emails, and compromised the systems of Media Company-1. Kashian managed the conspirators’ computer infrastructure used to carry out the Voter Threat Emails campaign and he purchased social media accounts in furtherance of the Voter Intimidation and Influence Campaign,” the Justice Department stated.

Kazemi and Kashian were both charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, intimidate voters, and transmit interstate threats, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of voter intimidation, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison; and one count of transmission of interstate threats, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Kazemi is additionally charged with one count of unauthorized computer intrusion, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and one count of computer fraud, namely, knowingly damaging a protected computer, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

“Concurrent with the unsealing of the indictment, the Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Emennet Pasargad, Kazemi, Kashian, and four other Iranian nationals comprising Emennet Pasargad leadership pursuant to Executive Order 13848.

Kazemi and Kashian are both wanted by the FBI. The State Department’s “Rewards for Justice Program” is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information on or about their activities.

Back in October of 2020, Treasury’s OFAC designated five Iranian entities for attempting to influence elections in the United States.

“The Iranian regime has targeted the United States’ electoral process with brazen attempts to sow discord among the voting populace by spreading disinformation online and executing malign influence operations aimed at misleading U.S. voters. Components of the Government of Iran, disguised as news organizations or media outlets, have targeted the United States in order to subvert U.S. democratic processes,” the Treasury Department stated.

The Treasury Department designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), and Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute (Bayan Gostar) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13848 for having directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The Iranian Islamic Radio and Televisin Union (IRTVU) and International Union of Virtual Media (IUVM) were designated pursuant to E.O. 13848 for being owned or controlled by the IRGC-QF. The IRGC, including the IRGC-QF, has been designated under multiple authorities since 2007.

“The Iranian regime uses false narratives and other misleading content to attempt to influence U.S. elections,” said then-Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

According to the Treasury Department, the Iranian regime’s disinformation efforts have targeted a global audience through a variety of covert media organizations. Disinformation campaigns run by the Iranian regime focus on sowing discord among readers via social media platforms and messaging applications, and frequently involve mischaracterizing information.

Since at least 2015, Bayan Gostar has served as a front company for IRGC-QF propaganda efforts. In the months leading up to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Bayan Gostar personnel have planned to influence the election by exploiting social issues within the United States, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and denigrating U.S. political figures. As recently as summer 2020, Bayan Gostar was prepared to execute a series of influence operations directed at the U.S. populace ahead of the presidential election.

IRTVU, a propaganda arm of the IRGC-QF, and IUVM aided Bayan Gostar in efforts to reach U.S. audiences. In addition, IRGC-QF outlets amplified false narratives in English, and posted disparaging propaganda articles and other U.S.-oriented content with the intent to sow discord among U.S. audiences. IUVM also posted conspiracy theories and disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a result of the designations, all property and interests in property of the persons are blocked, and U.S persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. In addition, foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate significant transactions for, or persons that provide material or certain other support to, the persons designated today risk exposure to sanctions that could sever their access to the U.S. financial system or block their property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction. Additionally, any entities 50 percent or more owned by one or more designated persons are also blocked,” the Treasury Department stated.

The National Intelligence Council’s “Foreign Threats to the 2020 U.S. Federal Elections” last March assessed that Iran had conducted a covert influence campaign during the 2020 elections.

“We assess that Iran carried out a multi-pronged covert influence campaign intended to undercut former President Trump’s reelection prospects – though without directly promoting his rivals – and undermine public confidence in the electoral process and U.S. institutions, and sow division and exacerbate societal tensions in the U.S,” the assessment stated. “We have high confidence in this assessment. We assess the Supreme Leader Khamenei authorized the campaign and Iran’s military and intelligence services implemented it using covert messaging and cyber operations.”

About the Author

Paul Davis, who writes the IACSP Threatcon column, is a longtime contributor to the Journal.