Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The 11th hour...

...of the 11th day of the 11th month...

Happy Armistice Day, everyone. May someday all war actually cease.
To the veterans among you, thank you, and to the rest, thank you for supporting us.

I was walking from class today. The air was crisp, and the flag in the quad fluttered gently at half mast. In that moment, I felt more melancholy than I have all week as I remembered a few veterans.

Staff Sergeant George Nickel. He's still in jail, looking at a possible plea deal being offered by the prosecutor (I refuse to speculate that she has realized she has an unwinnable case).

The combat wounded, combat dead at Fort Hood. I completely agree with Jules' take here.

Finally, let's remember a another soldier- a member of a religious minority who endured criticism and threats of violence for his beliefs after he enlisted in the United States Army. Let's remember a man who served his country willingly and well; a man who in spite of prejudice against his beliefs carried himself with distinction into the finest traditions of the military.

Corporal Desmond Doss

Bronze Star (2)
Purple Heart (3)
Congressional Medal of Honor

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Continuing Story

The VA jumped in to try to right the problems faced by thousands of veterans who switched over to the "Post-911 GI Bill" who then experienced delays in getting their money. This is now called the VA GI Bill Emergency Payment process, and it pays out a $3000 advance to anyone enrolled in college with post-911 active duty service. Unfortunately, it sounds like it can be hard to get banks to take the emergency checks.

Rock, meet hard place.

I'm so glad I didn't switch over this year.

In the time I save not having to worry about my GI Bill coming through, I read. I've got Children of Dust coming in the mail. Children is Ali Eteraz's autobiography, tracing his journey from Pakistan to America and back again. I'm looking forward to it- I got to meet Ali at the Blogworld Expo back in 2007, and I followed his blog at until he shut it down. (There's still a collection of links to his articles there, though.) He's a sharp guy, and I'm looking forward to reading his book.

George Nickel is still in jail. The Idaho Veteran's Network benefit is on the calender for 5pm on Saturday, Oct. 17th. If you're in the Boise area, swing by the Eastside Tavern at 610 E. Boise Av. for food and drink specials and a raffle with some sweet donated prizes. Monies raised will be put towards George's defense, as well as TBI awareness in Idaho.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Et tu, VA?

The Washington Times reports that thousands of veterans have been approved for GI Bill funds but have not received their money:

The Veterans Affairs Department blamed a backlog of claims filed for GI Bill education benefits that has left veterans who counted on the money for tuition and books scrambling to make ends meet.
Out of more than 277,000 veterans who have filed for the college tuition benefits this semester, more than 200,000 claims have been processed and approved, but fewer than 11 percent of the veterans have received the funding, according to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)

My benefits are fine. Of course, I filed well in advance of the beginning of the semester, and I chose to stick with my old Chapter 1607 for another year rather than switching to the new Post-911 GI Bill that was supposed to be so great but wasn't really all that great. I'm betting that's where the problem happened: there was a new GI Bill chapter on the books, and they weren't prepared to help the vets who wanted it. I'm even more glad I didn't switch over this year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


The Department of Defense may soon be releasing a comprehensive policy for social media. This would most likely include blogging, as well as Facebook and other social networking sites.

ROBERTS: And what is the current Pentagon policy on social media?

Mr. FLOYD: It currently doesn't exist. Right now, there is no policy on working with or in social networking sites or media. It's currently under review. It's on course to be finished within about two weeks, or at the end of the month, it's supposed to be done, presented to the leadership and a decision made. And that decision is supposed to be pushed out to all the combatant commands and all the people in the Defense Department soon after.

The entire segment is interesting. I'd never even heard of this, but it doesn't surprise me one bit:

Mr. SHACHTMAN: …and to other things. But the funny thing about the military policy is that it's really contradictory. And that's why the review, like the one Price has been talking about, is so important. For example, not only was - were many bases blocking YouTube because it took up too much bandwidth, they're also blocking the Defense Department's own answer to YouTube, which is a low bandwidth, totally secure, safe, no-bad-stuff version called TroopTube. They were blocking both YouTube and this military alternative. So, it just goes to show that, you know, when the military's blocking its own video-sharing site, we need a cleaner policy.

I'm hopeful that the policy, once it is established, will allow Acute Politics to continue posting the next time I find myself in a combat zone. That likely won't be for some time yet, but I'm still a part of the military, and there are still two wars being fought.

In the meantime, I've been reading a lot. I recently received copy of Racing Toward Armageddon, by Michael Baigent. I found most of the book familiar (it's often a rehash of previous dire warnings about apocalyptic cults). I grew up in a religious home; I've always disliked religious fundamentalism, and this book re-enforced that. Still, there's not a lot new here.
I also flipped through The Audacity of Help: Obama's Economic Plan and the Remaking of America, by John Wasik. Despite the title, the author remains fairly apolitical, which I like. Wasik examines the campaign promises of the President, the proposed legislation, and the bills that Congress actually passed. He then explores who benefits and who loses in each piece of legislation. It's not for everyone, but the author seems to have actually read through the legislation. Maybe we should send him to Congress.

Staff Sergeant George Nickel is still sitting in jail. For those of you who asked about his dog, Spike is safe in the care of family friends. George will appear in court today for a second hearing- I won't be able to go, but I'll post an update afterwards.

The Idaho Veterans Network has been great throughout all of this. They have continued to raise money for a legal defense fund, and they will soon be putting on a charity auction for that fund. I know that there have been some guns donated for the auction by fellow veterans, and it sounds like there may be some other large ticket items as well. When I find out a firm date for the auction, I'll post it.

In the meantime, if you would like to send George a letter of support, shoot an email to me at acutepolitics at gmail dot com and I'll bundle them for forwarding on to him.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Badger Update

Last week you read about SSG George Nickel. You know who he is and what he's been through. Many of you emailed and commented, asking what you could do to help.

The people from the Idaho Veterans Network have established the George Nickel Fund. This fund will go to pay the legal fees and costs that Staff Sergeant Nickel will incur.

You can make your donation at any Wells Fargo Bank or you can send it to the branch where the fund was established.

George G. Nickel Fund
Idaho Veterans Network Corporation
c/o Wells Fargo Bank
Idaho Center Branch
5607 E. Franklin Road
Nampa, Idaho 83687

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Badger's Forward is Back!

Long-time readers here remember Badger 6, my Company Commander while I was in Iraq. He extended for 6 months in Iraq after I left, and quit blogging on his return. Well, he's got more to offer us, and you can visit him at the updated address:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shadows of the War

I was driving late Tuesday night, heading home from seeing some friends. The lights were soundless as they came up behind me. I’d had a beer, and I pulled over and worried for a moment as the lights carried on past me into the night. Ahead of me, more lights flew by soundlessly, then more. As I pulled to the curb in front of my house, the first siren split the humid night air, and yet another set of lights burned down the road.

Let’s go back to 2006 and meet George Nickel. He’s been in the US Army a long time- he was a private in the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry back when the Tropic Thunder division still had an Air Assault regiment. When I met him, he’d already left the Army and come back to join the Army Reserve with friends of his from his work at Idaho’s State Penitentiary. He’s given this country of ours a lot. On February 8th, 2007, on a narrow road outside of Karma, Iraq, Staff Sergeant Nickel, USAR, very nearly gave it all. He was the lone survivor from the explosion of one of the largest IEDs ever placed in Iraq- his 12 ton bomb-resistant vehicle was thrown above the tops of the 10-foot high reeds that lined the road. Three other good men died- the truck’s gunner, just a foot away, was blown from the turret and died before he hit the ground. The sergeant riding shotgun was even closer to George- he too died instantly. The driver was the furthest from the point where the blast penetrated the armored hull- he lived long enough for a medivac helicopter to arrive, but he died en route to the combat hospital in Fallujah. George Nickel was separated from death by mere inches. Nearly every bone on the right side of his body was broken, and shrapnel from the blast tore his flesh.

George was a private man. He was the sort to get married to a woman, and only tell his best friends, the ones he had rejoined the Army with, when they noticed the ring he was wearing. Everyone who deploys overseas has a contact number on file, so if the worst happens, the military can begin the process of alerting loved ones of their service member’s death or injury. George gave the Army a number that he knew his wife wouldn’t answer, trusting his friends to tell her before the Army found her. In the end, that was exactly how it happened.

He arrived from Germany at Walter Reed Army Medical Center just after the neglect scandal broke there. There wasn’t enough room for him; the administration there wanted to send him home to continue his rehabilitation therapy. He was on canes then- his house was in the woods of Idaho, an hour from the nearest VA rehab facility, and definitely not handicap accessible. Instead, he was housed in one of the old hotels nearby that the Army had rented out to house the overflow of wounded warriors from Walter Reed. A cab took him to his temporary home- another wounded veteran helped him carry his meager belongings upstairs. He ate from care packages rather than trust the meal service. He finally came home to stay in Boise on July 4th, 2008.

Fast forward to July 28th, 2009. Boise’s finest are running towards the sound of guns, and at the end they find George, still running toward the sound of his own guns. Towards his own demons. He’s lost his dog, and he’s searching the nearby apartments for the pup. A bullet into the lock. A boot into the door. Staff Sergeant Nickel is searching buildings, clearing rooms just like he did in Iraq. Suddenly there’s bright lights and a voice yelling “Police! Put your hands up!” He doesn’t. They start shooting, and he takes cover. Suddenly the war has come home for everyone, not just George. Trouble is, this is America and not Iraq, and in America we like to pretend that soldiers are GI Joes- like they’re heroes who never need our help. George is in a new world now- one where he is the 'perp' and not the hero, but in this new world he still needs our help more than ever.

Edit: I rearranged the wording a bit in a couple spots and clarified a couple points.

Welcome, Diggers, B5 readers, and everyone coming in off of other blogs and twitter!
If you haven't read the reporting on this in the Idaho Statesman, go to these stories, read them, and leave a comment:
Mystery still surrounds Iraq vet's clash with Boise police
Armed Iraq veteran charged in apartment shooting in Boise
Man shot at by Boise police Tuesday night is an Iraq war veteran

If you like, go ahead and leave your thoughts on this quote from the BPD chief:
"This is bizarre behavior," Masterson said Wednesday. "I don't know what would push people to that (level of) desperation."

Digg my article

Monday, June 29, 2009

SOFA - Step II

Last fall, coalition forces began to turn over major military bases in Iraq to the Iraqi Security Forces.

Today marks the second major step towards fulfilling our obligations under the Status of Forces Agreement that has all combat troops out of Iraq by 2011. Today, the last bases inside the cities of Iraq will be turned over or closed. Today is one step closer to a free and sovereign Iraq.

It is not a day without trepidation.
Many Iraqis worry that the security forces will be up to the task of securing their safety. Some most likely worry that the simmering crisis in Iran will boil over, and refugees will spill over into an Iraq just barely beginning to come out of a al-qaeda inflamed sectarian crisis.

If you pray, pray for the people of Iraq, that peace and freedom may come quickly.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I don't even know what to say

1 dead, 1 wounded
at the US Army recruiting station in Little Rock. Police have a suspect in custody. Unsuprisingly, he is a Muslim convert. Surprisingly, CNN reports that.

My prayers for the victims and their families. Man, that sounds trite.

My congratulations to Fox news for identifying a semi-auto SKS as an "assault rifle". Idiots.

Next up: apologists explaining how the shooter is/was drunk/high/mentally ill/retarded/from a broken home/etc/etc/etc

Still reading... apparently apologists have their work cut out for them. This useless piece of scum has been to Yemen and back and had the FBI "keeping an eye on him".

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

I posted this last year. I don't see much to improve on this year.


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 2, 2000

Memorandum on the White House Program for the National Moment
of Remembrance

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

Subject: White House Program for the National Moment of Remembrance

As Memorial Day approaches, it is time to pause and consider the
true meaning of this holiday. Memorial Day represents one day of
national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died
while defending our Nation and its values. While we should honor these
heroes every day for the profound contribution they have made to
securing our Nation's freedom, we should honor them especially on
Memorial Day.
In this time of unprecedented success and prosperity throughout our
land, I ask that all Americans come together to recognize how fortunate
we are to live in freedom and to observe a universal ``National Moment
of Remembrance'' on each Memorial Day. This memorial observance
represents a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and
honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.
Accordingly, I hereby direct all executive departments and agencies,
in consultation with the White House Program for the National Moment of
Remembrance (Program), to promote a ``National Moment of Remembrance''
to occur at 3 p.m. (local time) on each Memorial Day.
Recognizing that Memorial Day is a Federal holiday, all executive
departments and agencies, in coordination with the Program and to the
extent possible and permitted by law, shall promote and provide
resources to support a National Moment of Remembrance, including:

* Encouraging individual department and agency personnel, and Americans everywhere, to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.
* Recognizing, in conjunction with Memorial Day, department and agency personnel whose family members have made the ultimate sacrifice for this Nation.
* Providing such information and assistance as may be necessary for the Program to carry out its functions.

I have asked the Director of the White House Millennium Council to issue additional guidance, pursuant to this Memorandum, to the heads of
executive departments and agencies regarding specific activities and
events to commemorate the National Moment of Remembrance.

William J. Clinton

Who do you remember today?

3 o'clock.

Lieutenant Colonel Jack Friedrichsen, US Air Force

Second bell.

Major Andrew Olmsted, US Army
Captain Thomas Casey, US Army

3 strikes for the hour.

Sergeant Ross Clevenger, US Army
Sergeant Jim Holtom, US Army
Private First Class Ray Werner, US Army

Today, I'll remember.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Acute Library, continued

Thanks to Jules Crittenden for the link last week. Jules has a great site, and he's a lover of books as well- Crittenden's Botique: Right-Wing Bookshop and General Store

I got two books in the mail on Tuesday- The Islamist and Horse Soldiers. Both look to be excellent- Horse Soldiers in the sense of the most timeless military history (by the way- check out In Harm's Way by the same author for the story of one of the most fascinating tragedies of WWII, the sinking of the USS Indianapolis). The Islamist reads worryingly. I'm only 70-odd pages in, but Ed Husain is already painting a picture of his path from bored western Muslim to extremist.

I had Army drill this weekend, and inbetween qualifying on my rifle and teaching new kids how to clean an M-16 (seriously... what do they learn in basic training now?), I read most of Militant Islam in Southeast Asia: Crucible of Terror by Zachary Abuza. Most of the book was good. I learned quite a bit about the religious and political history of Malaysia and Indonesia, and there is a wealth of extensively footnoted information detailing the spread of al-Qaeda in SEA and how AQ was able to co-opt local muslim extremists into part of the larger organization. That said, there are a lot of typos in the book- one (which is mentioned in an amazon review) made me laugh out loud when I read it out at the rifle range. The author claims that "15% of Cham Buddhists are Wahhabi", which makes about as much sense as saying that 15% of all trucks are bicycles. Overall, though... it was a good intro to the topic.

Speaking of Jules Crittenden and militant Muslims, here's Jules on Josh Marshall on homegrown terror:
It appears that this is one of those cases where the group was under surveillance for a very long time and helped along in what turned out to be a bogus plot orchestrated by federal authorities.

O, when will the feds stop persecuting Muslims and forcing them into man-caused-disasterism!

I'll tell you what... seeing "jailhouse converts" to Islam getting arrested while placing C4 bundles around a synogogue makes me real comfortable with the idea of moving Guantanamo detainees into American mainland prisons!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Library

I've always been a bookworm. My parents raised me in a house that had virtually every open wall covered up by a bookcase. I read through most of the Encyclopedia Brittanica as a kid, and I hit up old chemistry and linear algebra textbooks for what I could understand. We read classics at family dinners and on road trips- Swiss Family Robinson, The Wind in the Willows. I loved historical fiction, especially books from the age of sail.

Iraq was good to me on the reading front. I had a lot of spare time to fill, and instead of watching Simpsons, Girls Next Door or whatever $2 DVD the Iraqi vendor had just added to his lineup with a bunch of the other guys, I read. I got through Atlas Shrugged, The Face of Battle and The Mask of Command. I read Fiasco and The Golden Bough. I read through the Bible.

I haven't been as much of a reader since I've been home. College classes hit hard, and my perfectly delightful girlfriend occupies a good bit of my time as well. Still, though... I recently read most of the way through Martin von Crevelds The Culture of War (the library asked for it back before I quite finished). I enjoyed it, though longtime Clausewitz fans may disagree. The Al-qaeda Reader is on my nightstand, and Militant Islam in Southeast Asia is waiting for its turn. The Islamist and Doug Stanton's Horse Soldiers are in the mail.

Summer is coming.

Welcome, Crittenden Warmongers! Feel free to browse around.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I Just Fixed the Pentagon's Budget

So I came up with a great idea to save the military money.

Get rid of this abortion:

If you've never had the pleasure of sampling this questionable delight, let me just say this: there are hundreds of thousands of young men and women under arms in this country, and every single one of them will go hungry rather than eat this MRE.

The Pentagon buys something on the order of 50 Million MREs a year. Since there are 24 different varieties, that's on order 2.1M Cheese and Veggie Omelets per year. At an avaerage of $7.25 per MRE (I couldn't find a price for the CaVO by itself, so I used the cost of a box divided by 12), that is $15 Million a year spent on the excrement of Satan.

It's wasted. All of it.

Update: So according to Wikipedia, this MRE is already on its way out this year. That's the bright side (and trust me... it IS a bright side).

The downside is that the Pentagon kept it on the menu for 4 years. That's $60M of your money forgotten in storage lockers, discarded in the trash, and picking up dust.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Plank Walked

Three times, anyway. Courageous captain is safe.

Question: did these guys know they were pirating a US-flagged ship?
I keep hearing about how canny and technologically-advanced these pirates are- how they identify ships before they depart port, targeting those with valuable (read: worth a ransom) cargo. If all that is true... did they really expect hitting an American ship to end well for them?

I'm just glad this immediate situation is over. Now I don't have to listen to every pants-on-head retard suddenly turned hyperventilating armchair admiral blather on about how the Navy should have been ready to snipe those pirates and scoop the heroic captain from the water.

I'm not a expert on naval affairs, but I don't think I'm out of line saying that sniper teams are not part of the modern equipment issue on guided missile destroyers. Tomahawk cruise missiles? Sure. Sharpshooters in the topsails? Pretty sure those went out with the feather-plumed tri-corners.

Update: Those guided missile destroyers may not have snipers in the rigging anymore, but those amphibious assault ships have them in the holds. Sounds like the good captain bailed a second time, at which point a SEAL team promptly ventilated the pirates. I'm sure this means at least one or two armchair admirals will find it a good idea to tie up a SEAL team on every anti-piracy patrol boat.

Also worth mentioning: piracy was the immediate threat in this instance, and by nature demanded a response. The long view in Somalia must address the terrorist haven it is becoming. In the short term, sinking a few boats or something will satisfy the American people (just as bombing a couple afghan al-qaeda camps used to). Cathartic? I suppose so, if you take comfort in decisive battle. Effective? No. We also can't forget that we just rescued our guy- there are still hundreds of captives of other nationalities still in the hands of pirates, and any "anti-pirate" activities must consider the well being of those prisoners.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring Break!

I'm back in school now, after a 2 1/2 year break thanks to Basic Training and deployment. Most of my homework starts with this simple equation:
It gets more interesting from there. I just started Spring Break, though, so I have a week of relief.

I would be wrong not to mention that my last post is no longer valid- President Obama is no longer considering requiring combat wounded veterans with private insurance to use their policies for care "Based on the respect that President Obama has for our nation’s veterans and the principled concerns expressed by veterans’ leaders." Of course, a metaphorical 2x4 and (censored) WTF are you thinking!?! from Jon Stewart couldn't have hurt either.

(Note for Aprillini: the primary opposition to the proposal was not concern over coverage for veterans so much as it was concern about what would happen to the premiums of privately insured veterans once their insurers were forced to accept thousands of expensive pre-existing conditions, as well as concern over private coverage for families of vets forced to max out their plans for war wounds. The American Legion hit the opposition points extremely well.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

So Much For My Pleasant Demeanor:

Have a Purple Heart?

The government might be sending you a bill

Next up: billing for expended ammunition?

(Hat tip: Jules Crittenden.
I'd heard about this before, but refrained from posting because it seemed to be a lot of rumor and little substance. The American Legion meeting gives it a lot more weight)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Beating Up Old Ghosts

That was what the company 1st Sergeant called it last night, when he gave our toast to absent companions. That was why we were there- to talk, to drink, and to remember.

We've been 2 years on now, but there isn't a one of us who doesn't remember.